Hello my lovely readers, it’s time for a rare blog post. I’ve totally abandoned my blog in the past few months because I’ve been working on a lot, and posting elsewhere. Namely on Twitter, three different Facebook groups (Get Hasselled, Team Swole – a spinoff of the Twitter hashtag #romancefit, and H2), and Patreon (where I post lots of exclusive shorts, early excerpts and news, and host bimonthly chats, etc). Things got a little hectic.
But anyway, I’ll start out with a tip: For those who don’t already do so, I strongly encourage you to participate in the weekly Romance Writer Chats on Twitter (@RWchat). I look forward to it every week because not only is it a time to see what other romance writers are saying about the biz, it’s a time for me to stop and reflect on my own processes. I think reflection is important for everyone, not just writers, but for us I truly think it helps us to get some clarity about our craft and our goals.
What are we doing? Is what we’re doing effective? How do we feel about what we’re doing? What would we like to change? And then creep on what other people are saying to get really helpful tips.
Last week’s RW Chat focused 2016, and our writing journeys. Up until then, I hadn’t really sat and processed the roller coaster ride of this year. But I’m glad I did.
My career up until now feels like it’s been on fast forward. This is partly because once I decided to write professionally, I added writing (the thing I used to do for free and for fun) into my workaholic tendencies and have spent the past two years murdering myself with my schedule. I can tell you now, publishing 7 books in a year and a half ain’t easy. And writing/editing 7 more for 2017** ain’t easy either. The way I approach it also isn’t healthy (I have a full-time day job, two chronic health problems, and I don’t sleep or eat very much. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s unhealthy), which is why this reflection time was necessary. I need to stop living on coffee, protein shakes, and cookies.
Out of everything that happened in 2016, I think what I’m most proud of is my internal growth and confidence in my decisions. For a long time, I constantly worried what people thought of my choices. I worried so much that I didn’t do things I wanted to do or write things that I wanted to write. I didn’t want to be labeled a “sell out” by folks who’d known me since I was writing free fiction. That concern will likely never fade but this year, over time, I stopped letting it hold me back.
Instead of worrying that my writing and my style was changing, I embraced those subtle changes. I want to write gritty romance like Five Boroughs, but I also love writing the romantic emotional journeys found in Cyberlove. And writing The Barons, my sports series releasing with Berkley/InterMix next year, has honestly been the most enjoyable solo writing experience I’ve had in a long time, and it’s also my most romantic series to date. So even though I worried about people accusing me of “chasing trends” or “selling out” by writing popular subgenres, it was a good move for me.
My biggest surprise in 2016 was the attention both Five Boroughs and Cyberlove has received. Both the outpouring of love and emotion from Five Boroughs readers who related to those characters, and the attention Cyberlove received from authors I admire and mainstream media (We were in the Washington Post! Whoaa!), blew my mind. As a M/M romance writer I realize this is a small measure of success compared to the super star romance authors out there, but I’m proud of it nonetheless.
Another big surprise in 2016 was deciding to go to my very first convention. That’s right, guys. The mysterious Santino made an in-person appearance at Shameless Book Con (No, I didn’t wear a mask. Yes, people saw my face. NO, there are no pictures of it. People were VERY respectful at SBC), and I loved it.
I got to hang out with people I’ve become grateful for meeting and befriending this year (namely Megan Erickson, Karen Stivali, and Amy Jo Cousins), meet enthusiastic readers, and got to know fabulous writers I admire but had only ever spoken to on social media. I honestly hope I can go to another con in the future. Out of everything, I count that trip as the most positive experience I’ve had in a long time. In general. Not just in terms of writing. I spend a lot of my life closeted, hiding things so people won’t learn about my second career, and only getting to talk about my greatest love (writing) with a few people. But at Shameless, I was surrounded by people who love writing and reading romance. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I could be myself.
My biggest discoveries in 2016 were 1) self-publishing, 2) Patreon, and 2) Pacemaker. Okay, I know I self-published AFTER MIDNIGHT but I did that without knowing what I was doing. There was no marketing plan, no real strategy. With Cyberlove, me and Megan have really made a push to get those books out there. And you know what? I loved the process.
As for Patreon… its honestly been a blessing. How it works is people pledge at different levels to get access to different content with a monthly subscription. The lowest level of access grants readers access to exclusive short stories, excerpts, and more. Other tiers open up for reader chats, buddy watches, and special requests. It’s a lot of work, don’t get me wrong. In December, I wrote 15K of original material for my patrons, but they loved it and so did I. I even got inspired for an entire novel based on the short I wrote! Not only that, but the additional income has helped me a lot. I don’t talk about my issues a lot, but besides massive debt, mortgage, and other stuff, I have ridiculous medical bills that come from having been through chemo and radiation with quarterly MRIs and what not. Not to mention two chronic illnesses–one of which is my back. That was another big 2016 surprise for me! Instead of me having a messed up back due to a wreck, it turned out… my back was already a mess! My constant pain I lived with wasn’t normal. *eye roll at self* SO anyway, Patreon has been a godsend. Or a spirit send. It’s just been fucking amazing.
And Pacemaker… WELL. This program is incredible. I don’t even know how to describe it. Let’s just say, I tend to push myself a lot to write X amount until I’m a wreck if I don’t reach it. I try to plan but my plans fall apart. I’ve been using Pacemaker since the beginning of December, and I’ve managed to hit every goal, pace myself without wanting to rip my hair out, and plan a calendar for future projects. You can look at my profile to get an idea of what I mean.
If I had any regrets for 2016, I would say it’s not pacing myself more. I’m in that frame of mind where things have been going well as I try to carve out a place for myself in this huge genre, and I’m so afraid of missing out that I’ve been taking on more than I can reasonably handle for someone who is writing a full-time book load on a part-time basis.
So what are my goals for 2017? Slow the fuck down. Uh, after I write out my 8 contracted books, anyway (3 left!). I don’t want to blow my load in the first two years of my goddamn career (or, as normal people say, burn out). I want to enjoy the small successes I’ve had and give myself more time to work on things I care about. I also want more time to READ. I’ve greatly fallen behind on that this year.
So that’s it, folks. That’s my year in review. Let’s hope I meet some of my goals or at least try to do so. And uh, let’s also hope I start using this blog more instead of spreading my posts around at other places.
**A full list of my upcoming releases can be found on my Books page!