Here we are, in 2022. Good bye 2021! You will not be missed. At all. This is a LONG BLOG. You’ve been warned!
Before we go to my goals for the new year, I need to release a confession to the world, an admission of 2021 that I’ve been holding on to so tightly that it’s become painful. I need to say this before I can walk clearly into 2022. I probably shouldn’t get into it, but I need to release this. I have to open up about this struggle so I can walk into this new year with my head held high and ready for whatever the future may hold, good and bad. This is vulnerable to write. I’m pretty open and transparent about my struggles as a human and author, so here we go.
If you want to skip the personal stuff, just go down to the 2022 point. (Though, I’m an author, so… I guess everything I do is personal because I am the brand and all my decisions comes from a place of being personal etc)
One of my biggest disappointments of in my time as an author happened in 2021.
Servant of the Blood released… and almost none of my readers picked it up and gave Everly a chance.
A new series, a book I was immensely proud of where I tried something a bit new, something a bit different, but still I hoped to hit something in my readers to give it a chance. It’s part of my plan for the future of my world, which will be my entire career for the next decade, if not more…
And I heard crickets.
Cue the late-2021 depression from my disappointment in myself, my work, and my passion. Missed deadlines, stress, an inability to focus on my work because it didn’t feel good enough anymore. Writing shorts for the newsletter? I keep making promises but this unending depression makes it a little impossible. Cue me wondering if I was going to cancel a second series or find someway to condense or trim down the series length so I could finish it sooner rather than later. Flashbacks of Witch of the Wild West happened. Did I try something new that no one cared about? Giving a one-day bad ass character a rough start, forcing her not to just be emotionally strong but incredibly careful and intelligent sounded great, but no one wanted to try it out.
I hear it all the time “I’m tired of reading the same thing all the time”. This is great to me, because I refuse to write the same type of lead character on the same journey all the time. The same themes might appear in their journeys, but who they are when they start are wildly different. They begin at different points in their character arc, have different cores. Jacky was avoidant and reluctant. Kaliya was a go-hard, obsessive, risk taker. Everly was normal, intelligent, has a bit of anxiety, and a lack of confidence and I loved the premise for the start of her journey. She’s skilled in ways the others aren’t. And I love writing different people.
So I tried to give something different… and practically no one tried it. In fact, it was a worst release than Bounty, Kaliya Sahni’s release, which doesn’t bode well for the future.
Cue another thought: Am I a one hit wonder in whatever genre or trope I write? The Redemption Saga killed Kingson Pride and Age of the Andinna in sales. But I chalked that up to my early career and a major genre change. TRS was UF RH, and Age of the Andinna was definitely an epic fantasy with a much different building for the RH.
But Everly Abbott is UF Romance. Psychological thriller-vibes UF, but UF Romance nonetheless. Just like Jacky Leon. Just like Kaliya Sahni. In the same world, with cross over characters and a deeper exploration of the vampires, showing their good sides and their bad, and forcing a human to go beyond what she believes she’s capable of and find her own power to succeed. I thought people would be interested. I’ve been writing this world for over 2 years. I should have a good group of people ready to dive deeper.
But Servant of the Blood was a flop compared to nearly every other book I’ve ever written (With 2 exceptions: Witch of the Wild West and Wolves of Wild Junction). It’s certainly the worst Tribunal Archives launch ever. With over 300 reviews from those committed readers that read and review everything I do, it actually doesn’t have the sales to match.
My confidence, with that release, dropped to an all-time low and kept taking hits for a few months. I’ve seen it in the careers of other authors. Write one good series? No one trusts you to write another and your career is only that one series. Was that my fate? I accepted that Jacky Leon was going to be more popular than Kaliya for a lot of reasons, but I had hope for Everly. So much hope that she could give Jacky a run for her money. (She did worse than Kaliya, actually). In a weird way: It makes me hate Jacky sometimes. Not while I’m writing her, but when I’m trying to anything else. Trying to do something else but so many people say “but it’s not Jacky. She’s not the same as Jacky, she’s not as good as Jacky or as badass as Jacky” and you’re right, a new character isn’t Jacky. That’s the point. I love Jacky and her story, but I’m not going to copy her into every book. I would burn out. I would get bored. The books and my passion would suffer.
Writing Everly’s book 2? It took 2 1/2 months because I was… a bit broken, in the best way to describe it. I could barely work for the months of September and October (and this was coming off a really hard summer). I couldn’t look at my manuscript. Why would I want to? Readers (in my group) were saying things like (paraphrasing) “vampires? meh.” or “I thought it would be another generic forced vampire romance”.
It felt like readers had no faith in me. No trust to try something different from me. I asked for honesty and I got it. (remind me never to do something so foolish ever again). I got the book done, and I’m so happy with it, but it started as such a struggle because I had to momentarily overcome this deep sensation of failing.
It killed me and it killed my hope for the Tribunal Archives to take readers on a journey through a world that would stay with them for years. Not something they could consume quickly and move on from, but a world they could invest in with me.
Cue another painful question: Is the Tribunal Archives worth it? Do people want something like this? Or should I stop telling people they’re in the same world? Should I pretend they aren’t and force people to figure it out themselves?
Do you want to know how this world started? I just got tired of having to build a new world every time I wanted to write a new series (which I do frequently, because I’m indie. I can publish pretty quickly and by 2 years into my author journey, I had created 4 worlds).
So I left space in Jacky Leon’s series to let me fold in my planned naga series, my hope for a witch-y series, my hope for a vampire series and more. That’s all. I just wanted to make a big world so I could live in it for a while.
I’m still not sure of the answer, but I’m committed. I really am. I have so many stories in my head that I feel would leave me unfulfilled if I don’t write them. A decade of books, definitely over 80-90 full length novels, with who knows how many shorts, novellas, or whatever else. I’ve got plot lines for side characters that will grow over that entire decade.
And I don’t want to fail myself, because in the end, I never started writing for other people. I write for me. (there’s a long and personal blog explaining why I’m an author and how I became one: Lifeblood) I start these stories with their hopes I write the story I want to write in a good way. Jacky and Kaliya have confidence and power, but Everly needs to find confidence and power. Writing that journey, finding one’s self, finding one’s power? That’s moving to me, because I’ve been on that journey myself and will go on it again, because we people are constantly evolving and changing.
The second thing I think about has evolved over the years but right now? I hope that story reaches out and touches someone else the way it’s important to me.
That second thing is the one that keeps me driven most days.
To those who have fallen in love with Everly Abbott, thank you. She reached out and connected with you and that tells me… I did it right for you. Through all of this, I’ve heard your encouragement, your excitement, and I can’t wait to continue her journey with you. The journey I plan and book two is going through editing, exactly the book I hoped it would be. I won’t cut the series shorter. I won’t cancel it. She found you.
While I felt readers had no faith in me, but that’s not the most painful part.
I lost faith in myself and I’ve had to find it again.
Recently, another author (the hilarious Sami Valentine) finished Servant of the Blood, and her reactions brought me so much joy. She freaked out at the twist, she was taken by surprise, and she loved the book. She’s excited for the next book. Another author, who I just met in November who said (again: paraphrasing) “well, I write vampires. I’ll see what you did with them” when she bought a signed copy from me. And I connected with someone new, who understood what I wrote, why I wrote it. Not one of my closest friends, who saw me workshop it for months, not one of my betas, who devour whatever I do. Not my consistent readers that read and review everything I do. Someone new.
It doesn’t completely wipe away the problems, but it was nice to hear, nice to have happen. I worry about a lot. I pay the bills for my family, I am part of other’s incomes, I have to keep readers happy at the same time as meeting my responsibilities. Everything piled on top of me for 4 months and I couldn’t breathe. I’ll keep having those days in the future because it’s who I am to consider the future and worry about whether I can be the person I promised to be and fulfill those responsibilities. And every time someone says to me “I’m waiting for the series to end” or “Finish this other series first then I’ll start that one”, I feel the crushing weight of it.
I often think about one thing all the time now. Jacky Leon, my best selling series (ever), will end one day. I know exactly how it does end. We’re halfway there. I am terrified for that day. Terrified that no one will stay with me for the stories of other characters. Stay with me for new journeys. Luckily, it’s a long way off. Jacky Leon’s last book will probably release in 2026. Four years away because 2 books a year and 8 books left. But I can tell you I’m not looking forward to that day, not because Jacky is ending and I’ll never write her again (I will, just not at the main character). No, I’m terrified because when she ends, it feels like everyone is going to walk away from the world and I won’t be able to continue this amazing work, because I have responsibilities that come before my happiness.
A problem for tomorrow.
Edit: I should add that during all of this, my father was in and out of the hospital with a number of problems for half of the year and I live on the other side of the country from him. It added to these issues of depression. I’m not getting into it right now, but it’s important to note.
And now we’re in 2022. Finally. That explanation dragged out like the damn year of 2021 did. I’m sorry.
What is 2022 going to be?
Well, in a jolt of fear: Kaliya Sahni’s last book is this year and that means a new series will start in November 2022 to take the May/November release spaces. Will I follow my heart and write the story I plan? Yeah. Will it start as a flop like Everly? Possibly. I’ll have to take it on the chin if it does. Will my late 2022 be exactly like my late 2021? The possibility is real. Can’t magically get over this sort of stuff.
Also in 2022, I plan on making a huge change to my writing, but nothing that will change my series. I’ve struggled with wanting to write short content for a long time. POVs, short stories, novellas. I want to write it. I want to write stuff that doesn’t go “in a book”, but continues to explore the world I love. So, something is coming. I can’t do it for free anymore, not consistently (as we’ve seen). It’s work and it’s for nothing in return except good faith and complaints. Oh, the complaints. People not checking their email folders for the newsletter (or even simply searching my name in their inbox?), never opening the emails (therefore being automatically unsubscribed after missing several), missing the downloads through no faulty of mine, asking for me to resend them when I was clear that wouldn’t happen or asking me to make special concessions about previous announcements. When I missed sending out a planned newsletter, the complaints came raining in and this one, I really understood, but it’s on the pile of “wow, this system isn’t working for me”.
It’s also incredibly frustrating to be someone else’s tech support. No one bothers to message my PA.
So there’s a plan, which I will announce in February, to roll shorts and novellas permanently into my schedule. They’ll be exclusive for a year after I write them, then they’ll go on the new Tribunal Archives website I launched in late 2021 for everyone to read. Novellas will go on sale after their year of exclusivity. But more on this February 1, 2022.
2022 is the year where I’m going to not rethink my life and work as an author and I’m going to try and stop letting fear freak me out and shut me down. I’m insane. I’m going to double down, because I know I can succeed even more than I have. It’s really important for me to remember, I have been successful. I’m doing pretty damn well and I have to hold on to that. Time for that goals/plans list.
Goal: Launch my short and novella plan with success and keep it going with the help of passionate and wonderful readers. This goal is actually going to help the next one. Again, more on this February 1, 2022.
Goal: Hire someone to manage my websites part time or full time, especially the Tribunal Archives website. Adding content, updating it, and really giving readers a place to go and feel like “wow, this is a well developed world. I could live in this place for weeks/months/years”. Clearly, I can’t do the website by myself. It wasn’t intended to be my private job. I built it, but it’s definitely a team project.
Goal: Find those readers who want this sort of world, this sort of reading commitment that they can rely on for the next decade. Can’t find anything to read? Well, the Tribunal Archives world by that one author always has something new to dive into. “Oh, new shorts have uploaded since the last time I checked the website, too!”
Goal: Be me and write the stories I need and want to write, as I’ve always done. Keep on keepin’ on, I guess.
Goal: Step back from social media and this one will probably be the most controversial to you.
I will be (mostly) inactive in the Facebook Reader’s Group.
Facebook Reader’s Group, you belong to the modmins (moderators and admins) now. I want you, as readers, to talk to each other. Not wait for me to make an appearance. I want you to throw theories at each other. There’s been a conflicting feeling with the group for me recently, too. It’s like some really want me there and some shut down the moment I comment on something.
And remember how I mentioned everyone skips all the wonderful people helping me and come directly to me with their problems? One person starts and the next 50 people think that it’s the perfect time for everyone to troubleshoot with my help. Suddenly, I’m not getting important work done (writing the books you want) because I’m trouble shooting for you and a dozen other people for hours. I understand that you have a problem and you want it fixed, but I can’t do it every time. This isn’t that you won’t get helped. There’s just better options to get help, more options than replying to my comments and posts with your problem.
You can find this list in the members section of the read group or just type mod or admin in a comment and they will come.
Andi Jeffree(my personal assistant), Becca Janowicz (a best friend of mine and volunteer), Erika Sexson (a best friend of mine and handles all of my audiobooks). Dawn, Susan, Talia , and Jozanne (moderator team). They have the answers, can get the answers if they don’t, and they will help you. I asked them to do just that. They’re there just to do that. It’s like skipping customer service to go directly to the CEO. They’re there for you. Use them. Help me help you. I’m tired. I really am. I want to write good books and interact with you about those books.I’m not tech support. It’s probably the one thing that keeps me from focusing on writing on a consistent basis.
If you, readers, want to reach out, You still can! You can comment on the blog when they go up (links will still be provided in the group, clearly). I try to reply to as many comments on recent blogs as I can (though old blogs do lock comments because old information might not be relevant anymore). You can also use the website contact form. I will have spoiler blogs where you should expect comments from me, while the Spoiler Event in the group will be Reader Only.
In short, the Reader’s Group is a time sink I can’t afford anymore. On a professional and a personal level. Professional: A place where people think I’m there to solve problems, taking me away from the work I want and need to do. Personal: An emotional investment I’m not built for anymore. Be everyone’s friend all the time with a smile on my face, even when people are rude or demanding or inconsiderate or give me a laundry list of complaints about something I have already addressed.
If I want to stay an author, I just can’t be surrounded with something that feels so negative to me now. And that’s the reader’s group. It’s just a well of negativity to me right now, not even because most people mean for it to be. It just is due to a combination of so many things.
I’m a human being. If I want to stay a sane human being, I have to step back.