Thursday, March 15, 2018

To Share or Not to Share

I made a decision at the end of 2017 to make a major change.

I am still not sure if I am doing the right thing. It's not going to matter much in the grand scheme of things... but it might. I don't know.

It's not life ending drastic or massively earth shattering, this change. But it is probably going to be controversial. I don't know. Perception of others is never predictable.

I decided to change the covers on the four main Southern Scrimmage books.

I have to admit that this has left me feeling guilty, and sad. I actually might not change Six Ways, but... sighs.... I had to reformat Offside Chance. I formatted the print version wrong and it's nearly twice the size it should be. I could have asked the original artist to resize the spine. And I seriously considered doing just that.

Then I read through it and even after two full edits I still found terrible mistakes.

So I sent it for a third round... okay, just an intense proofreading. And there might still be some issues. I'm not changing anything. I haven't rewritten anything, even to fix inconsistencies in the timeline. I left all of that. And yes, there are several inconsistencies in the timelines of the first three books. I did a major retcon of the timeline and set the definitive timelines in Bootleg Diva, for Levi and Jude, and in Any Given Sunday for Bo and Dylan... which matches Levi's timeline. Last Man Standing was written immediately after Diva and has the correct timeline. I have a huge spreadsheet now with everyone's timelines and birth dates and when they played and when they met and when whatever happened. I didn't mean to have timeline discrepancies in the originals, but shit happens. I also didn't intend for this to be a series. But here we are.


Announcing the complete re-branding of the Southern Scrimmage Series.

Starting in the middle... because reasons. The first one will be the last one. Because... reasons.

Cover artist: Jay Aheer

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Years ago I used to feature authors on my blog. I stopped. Not because of the authors. My life whipped upside down and around and I just stopped everything. We've talked about that a lot lately.

And honestly, I regret closing out my author friends. So starting now, I'm hauling my ass out of seclusion with a new feature.

Book Deal of the Day

I featured LaQuette a few years ago when she was first starting out. Lovely lady. 

A while back she released her first MM book. It has a gorgeous cover and it was a finalist for the Passionate Plume award last year.

So, giving a shout out to my lovely friend LaQuette and letting y'all know her first MM is on sale for $1.99 right now. And hopefully, it won't be her last.

You can find out more about LaQuette and her books HERE

And pick up Love's Changes HERE  
I just did. 
Thanks, LaQuette, for the heads up!

A Handy-Dandy Guide to Surviving the Publishing Industry


Do you want to publish your great American novel?
Do you want to get rich and famous and live the glamorous life of a best-selling author?
Do you want to retire from your day job and go to conferences and writer retreats and meet the rich and famous and have champagne and caviar and have movies made of your book and win an Oscar and and and

Record scratch... brrrrpppttttt

Well, sure, that's all a gorgeous lovely dream isn't it? And honestly, it is obtainable. It is. I swear it is. But honest to god y'all it's like winning the lottery. But tougher.

You can't hope to win if you don't play. This is true. You can never be any of that above if you don't write a book first. I mean that is absolutely necessary. You have to have a book to sell to a publisher. Absolute necessity.

What? You thought you could sell a book idea, for a three book series, and send in a basic outline and get a million dollar contract lickety-split and be contacted by movie producers and get to sit in on the casting of your hot hunky hero... Hugh Jackman will be fifty next year, y'all. He's not getting any younger and he needs to be in the book you see him in while he's still mostly young enough to play your twenty something stud.


Reality check here to slap you in the face.

That is never going to happen. It's not. I'm not trying to be a killjoy or a Debbie Downer. But this is reality. The only writers who get million dollar contracts right out of the box are big time celebrities with ghost writers who have time sensitive exploitable stories to sell. Cold stop. Right there.

But Nora Roberts, and James Patterson and Stephen King.... they get that don't they?

First, I don't know if they get million dollar advances for books. I'm sure they get really nice advances for their books. But one thing I do know for fact, they didn't get anywhere near a million bucks for an advance with their first book. Or maybe even their tenth book.

They earned the contracts they have over several years because they successfully delivered the books they contracted in the time they promised and those books did well, and so on and so forth until those writers became bankable stars in the publishing world. And, I'll bet you one more little detail, I'll bet you that one of those big named best selling authors doesn't get anywhere near as much as the other two do in an advance, even if she does sell the same or more than the other two, in high heels...backwards.

The publishing industry is over run with people just like you with an idea for a book or a fully written novel or five novels or ten novels. Or even twenty novels. Trying to get that first book contract.

It is quite literally teeming with minnows flinging books at them. Buy me. I'm the next_______.

Ever walk through a Barnes and Noble and look at the books in the genre in which  you write?

Ever notice that, for the most part, you are still seeing the same authors you saw last year, and five years ago, or ten years ago, or even twenty?

New York publishers, called traditional publishers, or the Big Five, always say they're looking for fresh voices or new and different. But they're not. They are looking for exactly what they already have. And they are going to publish exactly what they already have until that author cracks up, has a major scandal attached to their name, or kicks the bucket. Because they are going to make back the advance they paid those authors. Guaranteed. These new people, that readers browsing through, have never seen or heard of, are names on a spine. Easily overlooked for that brand new __________.

And even if you have something exactly like what you see in the bookstore it doesn't guarantee that people are going to want it because it's just like________. Even if in the same breath they're saying that they go to _________ because they know_________ will always write the book they want to read.

I started writing twenty-one years ago-ish. Alaina was still in diapers. She'll be twenty-three in June. God I'm old. And twenty-one years ago, there was no such thing as ebooks or epublishers, or Amazon. Maybe there was, I didn't have a computer twenty-one years ago. I'd never seen the internet twenty-one years ago. God I'm pathetic. But if there were epublishers around back then, they were not a thing. The ebook revolution was still a few years away. And places like Ellora's Cave were in their infancy or not even a gleam in their creators eye yet.

Twenty-one years ago there were more than five New York publishers. And you didn't have to have an agent to get to some of them. I learned to write query letters and synopses synopsi? whatever the plural of synopsis is.

One page query letter to introduce yourself and sell your book. You had about five paragraphs to do this in. Intro/hook. Who this book is about. What this book is about. Closing paragraph, usually stating your credentials. If you've published. Who with. If you're in writers organizations. If your book is finished... remember that part about having a finished book... if your book is part of a series or stand alone. How you planned to market your book.... stuff. Short, sweet, to the point, with the absolute best face you could put in those five paragraphs. Never put things like mom of sixteen unless you're writing about being a mom of sixteen and you are running out of J names for the next seven you plan to spawn, I mean that probably worked... once.

You had to know your target publisher, and what they published, and who the target acquisitions editor was, and if they were still there, or if they were open to submissions and you had to send your letter with a self addressed stamped envelope if you wanted a reply. No you did not send your synopsis unless the editor specifically stated in their bio that they preferred to see the synopsis with the query letter.

Then you mailed it and you waited and waited and waited and waited. And sometimes you got back a short not interested, form letter. And you did it again and again and again, because back then they said they didn't accept submissions that were sent to other editors or agents and you did the process one editor at a freakin time and you waited...........

And then if you were lucky, you wrote the synopsis. Three pages. No more. One inch margins. Single space justified. And you told the editor your story to the best of your ability in three pages, no more. And if you were luckier still, they wanted the first five pages of your story. Double spaced, justified, one inch margins. And you sent that in a flat mailer paper clipped together with your real name, your pen name, your telephone number, your address, and the title... because the editor might put it down and lose it and never know who sent in this masterpiece in five pages... and you sent a flat mailer with exact postage self addressed, for the return of said synopsis and partial... because really, you needed that back... and you hoped that you had it as error free as possible, and that you had a hook to end all hooks and your voice shined like the sun as seen from Mercury on a summer day and... if you were really damn lucky you would hear back in a couple of months, or maybe a couple of years. And if you were exceptionally lucky the editor asked for your entire manuscript.

And you freaked the hell out and questioned life and wondered if you should go buy a lottery ticket, or fall down and thank the major deity of every religion and a few minor ones just to be safe. And you sent your manuscript plastered between two slim pieces of cardboard wrapped in rubber bands with your name and title on every page. And it cost a damn fortune. And you sent return postage, AND a single business reply envelope with return postage, in case they wanted to buy your book and keep the manuscript. And.... that happened to me twice.

I had one book almost sell to Silhouette. In Canada. I spent a fuckton of money to ship that manuscript three times, and receive it finally rejected a third time. My western romance was rejected by Pocket, even though the editor said she loved the hero and thought it could be made better, but they were no longer accepting American historicals. She wished me luck elsewhere. No publishers were accepting American historicals that year. She said she'd gladly accept any Scottish Highland romance I might have lying about. I don't know nothing 'bout writing no Scottish Highlanders Sassenach.

And if you want to pursue any of the New York publishers or Harlequin/Silhouette this is pretty much how it is twenty-one years later. Most editors will only accept agent represented queries. And I'm sure they've updated to electronic submissions by now. I don't know. I stopped pursuing New York about eighteen years ago.

And the ebook industry was gearing up to take over the world about that time. Ellora's Cave was starting to make news. People... women were writing erotica, branded romantica by them. Other small presses sprang up. Some did well. Others folded. Some did very well. There was a lot of money to be made in the ebook industry. Women were making bank. Big bank. At EC. And then Amazon got into the business. And then Amazon introduced the Kindle. And then in 2010... Amazon won the ebook industry... and self publishing happened. And people were making some serious damn bank self publishing books. And small presses were doing very well with Amazon and small presses sprang up like Waffle Houses. (Southern joke)

And people who couldn't get with New York because honestly, in twenty-years, New York has not kept up with the times. They are trapped in the past still trying to figure out what happened and waiting around for print books and seven percent royalties to come back.

And everything was incredible and awesome and people were getting rich and Fifty Shades of Grey proved that anyone could write and self publish a book and end up with a movie contract and


Not all epublishers were honest. A lot of those people making bank were never paid even half of what they were owed. Some, like me, with a huge bestseller, were robbed almost completely of all royalties by the publisher.

Self publishing is hard. It costs a lot of money to self publish a book. And a lot of the time the free lancers you can afford are not as good as they say they are. And all of the promotion is on the self publisher. And those authors who made tons of money, like EL James, had a massive promotional budget and probably a huge team behind them.

Even in self publishing you don't just put a book out and make millions of dollars.

I'm going to be honest with you here, I've made a half-million dollars over the past seven years. I made most of that as a self-published author. And I've paid one hundred thousand of that in taxes. And I've spent more than fifty thousand dollars, maybe even seventy-five thousand dollars to fund my self publishing endeavor. I'll let you know after I finish my taxes for this year and I have all of my receipts and... when it ends, it ends and there's no coming back from that.

Because, there is one hard and fast rule that I've learned in this business over the last twenty plus years... nothing stays the same. Except New York. And hell, they might actually make a comeback the way things are going.

So, I'm going to tell you some hard facts I learned the hard way.

This business is toxic.

It is toxic on all levels. It will eat you up and spit you out and grind you under it's heel and spit on you again.

You have to have a thick skin. A very thick skin. And you have to be able to ride out the storms. Because there will be storms. Not all of your publishers will be honest. Not all of your publishers will be profitable. Not all of your publishers will have your back. If you're lucky you'll find a publisher that will treat you like a human being. If you're lucky that publisher will weather the storms and keep the same staff and you'll be fine.

I was not that fortunate. I had one publisher out of five that was decent to me. I had one publisher that was so toxic I still haven't recovered. Robbing, gaslighting, cheating, threatening to dox me, threatening lawsuits, threatening my career, turning authors against authors.

It happens. And it keeps happening and it will keep right on happening. Greed is a powerful motivator. All that free cash coming into their bank accounts. Tell the ones who are most likely to fall for your lies that they will be paid if they do what they're told and watch the fun begin.

Other authors are not your friends, not really. And they're not your competition... but... they are. We are all competing against each other for visibility. And this makes people do crazy things. Authors can be toxic. People are people. And if you are lucky you will make some real friends in the business, but for the most part, you make alliances. Sometimes this is good, sometimes not so much.

You have to figure out where your line in the sand is. How far are you willing to go to sell some books?

Can you look in the mirror and do the things that you're reading about in social media?

This industry is toxic as hell. And it will not ever change. How you present yourself in this is up to you.

Book publishers will close. This is not an exaggeration. More book publishers have folded in the past couple of years than were around when I sold my first ebook. And that's just twelve short years ago.

Most of the larger small presses are gone now. Samhain. Loose ID is closing by May first. So many smaller presses. Honest presses. Gone. Their authors left with IOUs and books that are no longer published and maybe the press won't declare bankruptcy and they'll get paid.

But there's one thing that's just as true, you can spot when there's trouble.

If they close to submissions. That is a flag. It might not be a red flag, but it is a warning of some kind. If there are no rumblings behind the scenes, assume the flag is not red. But, once a publisher closes submissions there is trouble behind the scenes. It could be as simple as the business is on the downturn, as it is right now for everyone, and they have too many books under contract. But again, they are going to take the chance on authors they know can make bank. They are going to back the authors who keep them afloat for one more year to ride out the downturn. If they re-open submissions, it'll be fine. They'll make it. At least for a little while. Most all publishers will close to submissions at one time or other.

It's the rumblings that you listen for, from their authors, from their staff. If they release a lot of staff, yeah, it's not a good sign. There is always a revolving door in the staff department at publishers. But you never hear about most of the editors who leave or when they change their elite staff. Or anything minor. People leave. They go where there is better opportunity. They move. They have children. Or illnesses. It's when lots of people are let go at one time. That's a major red flag. If they are closed to submissions at the same time. If they just sold the company and are re-organizing. If all of these things happen without out author grumblings, then things are not good financially. If none of this happens yet you start hearing rumor that authors are not being paid. Yeah, that's going to end only one way. Rinse and repeat and rinse and repeat.

I can tell you right now that I expect to hear that two presses will fold this year. And that was before the events of today.

Crimson Romance, announced they were closing. Crimson Romance is a division of a New York publisher and not a company I watched.

If there is strife with the staff... run. Seriously. RUN. Don't make excuses. If the upper management are at each other's throats... you're in a toxic quagmire of a situation that will only end one way. Ugly.

You're not immune. And it's not your fault.

You did the homework. And you asked the questions. And you did your honest best to hold up your end of the contract.

Learn how to pay attention.

And listen to me, this business is toxic, and it will tear out your soul if you let it. You don't have to sign the first contract you are given. If you don't know how to read it, ask someone, a contract lawyer is a suggestion, they might charge you a fee.

You should never sign anything with lifetime rights. Or anything with a 'right of first refusal clause'. Or anything that states that they own your pen name. You should have a clear breach of contract clause. For both parties. You should know when your contract is up, and how to get your rights back, if you choose to end your relationship.

And agents: I've never had one. You don't need an agent to sell a book to an epublisher. And you're giving them fifteen percent of your forty percent of the publisher's seventy percent, if that's what you want to do. I wouldn't.

I'm a control freak. And I'm a loner introvert. And I've been burned so badly by this industry. And I don't have the ability to trust any goddamned person anymore. I don't trust a single person in this industry because that's what the past seven years have done to me. And I will guarantee you that you will find more people like me, than those who've never had a bad experience of some kind or another. You're going to find people who will tear you up and spit you out and you can only hope you survive to write another day. And every single time shit happens like is happening now, every one of those skin flaying soul crushing experiences come back to haunt you... but that could just be me.

My conscience is clear. I might not ever sell another book but I never harmed another person. And that's all I can say when it's all said and done.

But after all that, and I can say one thing, it's been worth it.

If you want to write and publish a book, there is no sugar coating this, it's hard damned work. Hard work. It might take years to get anywhere. You might never get there. Do your homework. Research everything. Join writing groups. Make friends and network. Go to conferences and conventions and take classes and workshops, and learn your craft. Learn how to promote. Learn how to revolve with the ever changing book times. Try to rise above the toxicity. I pray you can avoid it. Learn to manage finances, in case it happens, because when it happens, you need to know how to keep more of your money. Learn about self-employment taxes because even if you get a New York contract you are still self employed and self employed people pay twice as much taxes up to about $118,000.00 then you pay triple. I know this because I didn't know this. There was no one to tell me how to protect myself. There was no one to tell me any of this. Because publishers want their secrets kept and we all are contractually obligated to keep those secrets. Until we're not and then it's bad form to write about money. I made half a million dollars in six years and it stopped in the seventh because I wasn't paying attention to the clues that were right in front of my face and I am in debt to the IRS for the next four years because I didn't pay enough in.

But all I want to do is write my stories and pay my bills and feed my children. And maybe in the end I made someone else's life better because I can tell a story.

Is this for you? What do you expect? Are you willing to work for what you want? And learn? And grow? Then, yeah, go for it. But what will you do if it doesn't happen? If you never have a best seller. If you never make any money? Most authors never make much money. It's so hard to tell what makes people buy one book over another.

So... is this what you want?


Friday, March 9, 2018

Why I don't do 'Groups'

It never fails, at least three times a week I am added to a Facebook group by someone I don't know. New promo groups. Or groups for other people, not just authors, it's not an author thing. Most authors have to battle the surprise group adding monster, so we don't add without asking first, or being asked. You'll see me or other authors throw up the 'reminder' every now and then. For me that's usually when I had too many at one time and spent time going through and deleting myself from said groups. No, I don't even look at them. If I had a nickel for every group I've been added to without permission I probably could make a car payment. Not exaggerating. I'd love to say I was exaggerating. I'm not. It's just that bad.

If I stayed in every group I've been 'invited' to I'd have a couple of thousand groups. Most serving the same function. Most of them are promo groups with no real interaction. Just book promo. I see a lot of that for free on my wall. I see more on twitter. Sure, I miss a lot because both twitter and facebook like to pick and choose who we see.

The 'invite' button over at FB doesn't invite people to your group, it puts people in the group. It doesn't say hey, there's this group, you might like it, care to join... nope it automatically starts filling your wall with posts from this group and you have to figure out who and where and why and is this something you chose... I have blocked chronic offenders of the groups adding. Once or twice is an accident. Five times is offensive.


Simple answer: I don't like groups.

I don't. I don't like being in groups. I don't like having to participate in groups. I don't like to wade through nine million posts a day that I can't follow because I have other things I need to be doing. And social groups end up with nude pictures that I can't have just pop up before nine at night. I have a child. Even then, I have a family and I don't want my adult daughter to walk in when a dick pic springs up anymore than I want my husband or the rare times I access FB on my phone away from home and the first thing I see is an erect dick.

But it's more than that. Really and truly. Back in the beginning of Mercy I did all that. I joined the groups and promoted and tried to play along.

I've had two personal author groups over the years. I tried so hard to play that game. I put the groups on unfollow or ignore or no notification and I forget they exist. Because it's too much coming at me all at once.

But honestly, it's more than that. Back in the day I belonged to a couple of groups that were full on toxic. I had a 'friend' who tried so hard to keep me in my place back then. I guess she forgot that I was in some of her groups when she went full on destroy Mercy mode.

I've been in publisher groups that were more than toxic. I was kicked out of the Silver group after I blew the whistle. I still have the screen shots... "That Fucking Mercy Celeste... I want her fucking head on a fucking silver platter." I know who said it. I know exactly who went after me for doing the right thing.

I can't do groups. I can't. More often than not they become toxic little clique factories.

I can't do a personal author group because I can't perform at the level other authors can. I have tried. I can't paste on a smile and put on a show for fans or readers or anyone.

I can't play that game.
ARC groups and reward groups and adore me groups. My ego isn't that developed.

Over the years the toxicity gets to a person. I came home from GRL in San Diego three years ago and shut down. I don't have the ego or the stamina or the desire to be THAT kind of author. I can't compete with the charismatic authors who run huge groups. I write books. I publish books. I promo some. I move on. If you like my book a review would be nice. I'm okay if you don't review it.

I often feel that I'm not cutthroat enough to be in this field. I'm not even going to drag the MM community, because it's not just MM, it's all romance. It's the Sci-Fi community. I don't know about the mystery community I've never heard of any meangirlboy factions in mystery. But hell, the Sci-Fi community is in the dictionary beside the word Toxic.

Why does the writing communities feel the need to 'eat their own'?

I've never understood it.

I am an empath. I have severe social anxiety. And I'm shy. Yeah, you'd never guess that from my Facebook posts. I can hide behind words. I do hide behind words. I try so hard not to hurt people with my words. I try so hard to be nice to everyone. I don't engage much anymore. I managed four years in an increasingly toxic environment before I figured out that I can't play the game and I was killing myself trying to.

I don't understand why people need these huge groups to support anything. Fandoms for my favorite shows almost kill my love for shows. Tumblr is full of fandoms. Toxic fandoms deriding the producers, writers, actors, or whoever isn't following their preconceived notion of where that show needs to go. Go on twitter and read the comments people post to any celebrity.

I have shows and books and singers and movies that I love. Actors not so much. Authors not so much. I mean, yes I have favorite authors. And I can squee like crazy when they put a new book out. And if that book isn't something that interests me, I move on. Because it's just a book. If I'm lucky there will be another book that is more to my tastes. Same for singers. And actors. And shows and movies and life is funny like that. I've never felt this urge to be best friends with Anne McCaffrey, tho I would have liked to have met her at least once. Or Bono. Or P!nk. I have never had an urge to go out and trash anyone for doing what they do. I've never been pissed off because some author didn't answer my email or write a book exactly how I told them to write a book. Or succumbed to my threats to never read them again if they did_____.

I get more letters like that than I get warm and fuzzy letters. And I do get warm and fuzzy letters. I've never had anyone attack me for the company I keep. But I've seen it happen. Recently. To a friend. I've seen authors attack readers and readers attack authors. And the doxxing and catfishing and... it's all toxic. All of it.

I left all groups years ago because it's not new. This game we play to sell books. We pit authors against authors. We tear down others to build us up. We beg, steal, cheat our way to the charts.... for what purpose?

I am not cutthroat enough to play this game. I never have been. And the more toxic it becomes, the more I withdraw into my bubble of just me and a small select group of people who don't try to drag me down, and don't kiss my ass because they think I can further their career, when I struggle every day to keep mine afloat.

I'm writing this because it's been building in me for a long time. Since GRL San Diego. This succeed at all costs mentality. You fan a certain author... go for it. You don't like another... leave them alone and let them go about their business. Your feelings get hurt because some author doesn't know you exist in a sea of thousands... why?

What you see from me is all there is to see. I only post publicly on Facebook and Twitter. I don't have a fan group. I've never sicced anyone on anyone. Never. I've done my best to do my best and to help others and promote others... until I couldn't anymore. It all wore me down.

I write books. If you enjoy my books, that's awesome. If you don't, I'm sure there's someone out there who writes what you like. Enjoy them.

And like Bill and Ted said... Be Excellent to Each Other.



Thursday, March 8, 2018

Epiphany and other Epiphanies

I've been trying to finish the book I started for NaNo in November. Epiphany. You might remember me talking about publishing it months ago. Well, it is still not finished. I sort of stopped working on it for three months.

I don't understand this story. It's running me around in circles. It's not a romance. But it is a romance. There's no sex. Not really. Nothing graphic. The hero isn't what he seems. And there's a second love interest. So it's going to be my first love triangle, that doesn't become a menage story. The guy in the middle will make a choice. But he's not choosing between two options... and then a secondary character came in and made her presence known and became central to the plot and now I have two main characters and two secondary characters and two thirdendary characters and a cast of others that are driving me around a twist... and it doesn't know what it is... and it's not ever going to end. And the leprechaun. Let's not forget the leprechaun. I am not kidding about the leprechaun. He's not a joke. I joke a lot... not about leprechauns. I take my leprechauns seriously.

So I gave up trying to define this one. I'm world building for a series. And that always works well for me. That was sarcasm. I world built two books nobody hardly read. I will one day write the sequel to one of those. It's on my bucket list.

But... I'm writing these shorts for Patreon and the Scrimmage boys are coming back to life for me. And I'm writing Blindsided completely wrong. Oh, the story I want to tell is there, but it's not right. That's why I've been struggling with the book. It's going to be long. It's going to be complicated. It's going to tear me apart to write. It's supposed to be from Jude and Levi's POVs. Alternating. It's supposed to be their story. It's supposed to end all story lines that involve Levi. But they all involve Levi and there's no way Bo and Dylan can be minor players in this story like they were in the last three books. Dylan and Levi are central to this story. Dylan and Levi are the two broken wheels in this whole trip. Dylan has to have a POV. And then there's the fourth couple... Sully and Raf. Sully has to be in this one, his story collides with Levi's.... and how the fuck do you bring home a series in one story? I wrote Bootleg Diva and Last Man Standing with hopes that I could make Blindsided tighter... I can't. It's going to kill me. It's going to be one thousand pages long... I might not be kidding there. I hope to god I'm kidding.

But I'm writing these shorts and right now I'm writing a scene from Dylan's POV as a follow up to Levi's POV in the Stuck in Traffic serial. And Dylan has a lot to say. His mind is agitated.

Sometimes I wonder if readers understand that Dylan is broken. I've tried to convey that he's not fully recovered throughout. I need to write him a full backstory. I need to write what would have been Sunday Schooled, picking up where Any Given Sunday ended. From his POV. But in those first months he didn't have a POV. He didn't have anything but rage and pain or periods of nothing. For a long time. that's how it would work with someone who went through what he went through. And I don't know if I can write his story. I don't know if I can breathe life into him in the way that he needs. I get Levi. Levi in a way is me. Eli from Let it Go, is the closest to me you're ever going to get. His abuse is my abuse. Levi... Levi is part of that. Levi is the child who was abandoned by the parent who lived in the same house with them. Levi is the extreme of my experience. Levi I get. Dylan... not so much. They both suffer severe PTSD. Levi hides his behind Liv. Dylan doesn't hide his.

Blindsided isn't a romance. And it will tear everything apart before it puts them back together. There's no other way to put that. If you've read the books and read between the lines, you see that coming.

If you didn't get that... I failed as a writer.

Anyway, so much other little things going through my head today.

I'm aware of the drama. There is always drama in the MM writing community. Funny how it's always one of two topics. Always. Women shouldn't write MM or catphishing. Every damn time. You'd think after six or seven or twenty of these little scandals we'd all be used to it by now.

So, yeah, Mercy is a pen name. Never said it wasn't. My real name is in my bio and has been for years. I am exactly what I say I am. 49 year-old, mother of four, with three cats and a Dawg. What you see on social media is real. What you don't see is private and will always remain private. For whatever that is worth.

I'm going to finish Epiphany this month if it kills me. And I'm writing short Scrimmage stories for Patreon. The link is in a post somewhere. I'm cheap. Just want to afford to pay editors and maybe put out another audio book eventually. Trying to make people happy and stay sane. It's what I do.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Why is this Patreon thing a big deal and why should we care?

I'm no expert on Patreon. Far from it. I'm a novice, with a side of paranoia inherited from my mother. I don't trust... also inherited from my mother with some of my father as a bad example thrown in... a paranoid schizophrenic and a sociopath got married and had kids... it did not turn out well.

Anyway, I have this thing where I don't half ass anything. I whole ass it. If I do well, I do well big. If I fail... I do it spectacularly. There is no in between. Well, there is. There's inaction. I am an expert at inaction. And procrastination. I could teach master's level classes on both topics. One day.

I am never the first to know something. I am never on the cutting edge of anything. Especially anything new fangled and technological, because I am Gen X and I have to be suspicious of it first. What's this button gonna do? Will it explode? I don't mind if it explodes. I really don't. I do mind if I get caught in the explosion so tell me how long I have after I push this button to get my fat ass to safety or you can forget me pushing this button. We Gen Xers came from the Silent Gens and the Boomers. We are kinda stuck somewhere between take over the world but not really in a hurry to do it. We were left to our own devices to entertain ourselves. We were the first latch key kids. We were left home alone in the middle of nowhere. We were fearless and independent and fuck you for even suggesting I need someone to take care of me, I've been taking care of myself since I was seven-years-old thank you very much... that might be more the whole fucked up parentage thing than gen xer description...

But, this Patreon thing, I've been watching it. For a little more than a year. Because I am all hip and trendy like that. Also because I am completely out of touch with what is going on anywhere other than my own bubble.

I've been watching Patreon while I've watched the publishing industry slowly disintegrate around me.

Let's go back a few years and tackle my lovely track record in the publishing industry. It explains so much about me.

I sold my very first book to Cerridwen Press in 2004. Cerridwen Press was the brand new imprint from Ellora's Cave for non erotic romance novels. My book was the thirteenth book published by Cerridwen Press when they eventually launched. And if that doesn't explain everything I don't know what does. No, I'm not superstitious, you are.

Cerridwen Press folded about three years later. Give or take. I can't find the actual date, but if I remember correctly it was in '08 or '09. So three or four years. All CP books were changed over to the newly launched EC Blush line. I wasn't offered my rights back. Or asked my permission. Nothing changed. My contract was for five years with Cerridwen, and they didn't exist anymore. I tried to get my rights back around the time the contract was up, but was told that all contracts were lifetime. Mine said five years. Or when the book stopped selling 150 copies a year. My book didn't sell 150 copies in five years and they still wouldn't give me my rights back.

And my dumbass self gave them another book in 2009. My second published story came out in 2010. And didn't sell anything. I think it might have sold twenty copies in the first year.

I got my rights to both books back in 2016 when Ellora's Cave went tits up in spectacular fashion. Of course I had to threaten them with lawsuits and other fun things to get the rights back. Not that it matters, there has been no interest in the books at all since I republished them... but they're mine again. That's all that matters.

Then there's my third publisher. Cobblestone Press. The house that bought The 51st Thursday and In from the Cold and never published them anywhere but their site. Despite publishing to all sites until the year before. And the publisher who hired an editing service so bad they butchered Cold striking out entire paragraphs and rewriting trite shit without my permission. I mean, rewording a perfectly good sex scene using the term throbbing member. I WOULD NEVER USE THAT TERM!. I was told to do the edits or they'd bury the book. I got my rights back before six months were up. I had to go public to do it. Strangely, they are still open for business.

Then my fourth lovely publisher. Silver Publishing. Such a lovely experience that was. They bought Beyond Complicated and chose not to publish it in wide release without telling me that they considered it too taboo to publish when they offered contract, or anytime after. They bought Behind Iron Lace... and it had a beautiful cover and it stayed in the top five on Amazon's top gay charts for 90 days. Yes I counted. I still have the graphs from Amazon saved. That book made into the top 100 of ALL books on Amazon. It was my biggest selling book ever. And the owner stole nearly every single dime in royalty from me.

That publisher stole every dime he could hide from all of his authors.

That was the single worst experience of my life. MY LIFE. The 18 months of pure hell I went through dealing with that man.

I've been with five publishers.

I've had issues with all but one of them.

Liquid Silver was the absolute best small press. I'm sure they're still open. I see their covers every now and then.

I pulled all of my books from all publishers as soon as my contracts expired because I never wanted to be in a situation like I found myself in with Ellora's Cave and Silver Publishing. Cobblestone barely rates a mention compared to those two experiences.

I was sort of pushed into self publishing. Kicking and screaming. Because in 2011 we were still in that whole self pubbing as last resort smear tactic era. Those who can't, self publish.
I did very well self publishing my books.
Yes, there have been misfires, and editing issues, and learning it all from the ground up and making up what wasn't available to learn.

I was one of the first in my genre to go entirely self published. And I absolutely will not give up control of my stories ever again. Good or bad or ugly. I will stop writing if I ever get to a place where I have to go back to a publisher.

Because I do not have the ability to trust anyone anymore. Small presses are going under every month. Some because they can't compete. And some because they are like Silver was.

The market for books has changed. It changed at the end of 2016 and no one noticed. I noticed. And watched helplessly as it continued to spiral downward.

Kindle Unlimited changed how people buy books. And how people publish books. I believe Amazon created the self publishing monster to force the big publishers to do their bidding. And now they are looking to kill the beast they created. 99% of all ebooks are bought from Amazon. And more than half of those are 'free' books through KU.

The problem is, Amazon unwittingly opened a market for book scammers that they have not been able to close, or even seemingly care to close. Quick, cookie cutter, cheap novels started appearing, by impossibly named authors (said Mercy Celeste) one after the other, two a month, three a month, twenty books in six months, with similar covers, and similar styles, and other similarly named authors popping up when those names were outed as not what they seemed, writing the same books with the same covers with the same impossible names. and brothers, or sisters, how many sets of brothers or sisters now write romance? All with the same style. And let's not forget book packing... one short story with five or six more short stories not mentioned in the title, so that what looks like a five hundred page story is really a bunch of short stories, some already for sale as their own stand alone title... and when one goes down another comes up.

Fast, cheap, cheaply produced, cookie cutter formulaic romances are now quite literally a dime a dozen.

Authors, like me, feel the pressure to compete. We can't. I can't anyway. Two or three books a year is about all I have time to write.

And let's talk about censorship.

Because it's not fun to have a book you can't publish anywhere. Yet Game of Thrones exists. I have a book that was banned from Amazon WHILE it was number one in the gay charts and number 80 in the overall chart.

Can you find that book? Do you know where to look for it? It's available. You have to visit my blog to find the only legitimate place to buy it.

It sells maybe twenty copies a year.

But this post was about Patreon and why artists are turning to it and why it matters.

So, one of the things I do when I start to figure out what to do next is to take some time and explore this new medium.

Remember I had to be dragged into self publishing in 2011, and again in 2012 even though I had been scorched by three small press publishers.

I didn't just jump into Patreon. I read other author's blogs on the medium. I talked about it with a couple of author friends. I looked at what other authors were doing. And tried to pretend it wasn't something I needed while four of my last five books completely failed (as compared to every single Mercy book before them except for the EC books but even then not much better).

I don't write fast enough. My books aren't 99 cents. I spent one fourth of what I earned last year on book covers, editing, promotion, and one audio book. I didn't go to a conference. I couldn't afford it. In years past I made significantly more than I spent. And really even last year wasn't bad, until you compare it with the two years before and you notice the pattern of dying sales. Not in cash. In book units sold. In 2016 I sold half of the number of books that I sold in 2015. In 2017, I sold one quarter of what I sold in 2016, with more books released.

It's not about writing more. I wrote more. I didn't write 20 books in one year. Or in six months. I can't afford to release eighty to one hundred thousand word novels for 99 cents. KU pays less than half a cent per page read. And the market is dominated by those authors who release 20 books in half a year.

Patreon, at least in my non-expert opinion, is just a new medium, in which I can release work that I can't on Amazon. Short serials. Material Amazon would ban. Special editions. Stuff like that. It lets me experiment with my art.

But most importantly, it allows me to control my art.

No one is holding a gun to anyone's head and forcing them to support my Patreon. It's a volunteer basis only. Much like buying a book on Amazon. You pledge a bit. And you get a bit.

I've seen a lot of ugly commentary on the topic.

I read a twitter thread where it was called extortion. The person already supported the author in question by buying their book on Amazon, or getting it through KU, as I believe the commenter stated. Why should they go to this other place and give real money... right there. real money.

Because two years ago authors could make a living and now we can't because Kindle Unlimited does not pay real money for pages read.

And now they've done a KU thing with Audio books.... One author stated that they were paid one dollar for 1000 minutes listened to through that program. One dollar. My only book in audio is my longest published book. It's one hundred ten thousand words. The audio has a run time of three and a half hours. That's 210 minutes. 1000 minutes is roughly five copies of that one book, and that author said they were paid one dollar for what amounts to five whole one hundred thousand word novels.

It cost me out of pocket, nearly $3000.00 to fund that one audio book. I have made $200.00 in profit on that one audio book and it took nearly a year to do that at Audible's already dismally low royalty split rates.

I want to write. I want to write all the stories. I want to produce the best quality work that I can. I predict that I will sell even fewer books in 2018 than I did in 2017. And costs to produce those books will go up.

So, I went to Patreon, you don't have to follow me there. But nothing that I share on Patreon will ever be available elsewhere. And if I can figure out how to make a living without Amazon... well, one can only dream.

Thanks for playing along.
Yes, I know I ramble.
This is not new, you have seven years of experience in my ramblings.

But really, if you want to keep up with anything new from me right now, Patreon is where it's going to be. Who knows, that second twin book might be there. One day. Or, honey, I can write smut til the cows come home if you're not interested in plot or editing or covers.