In anticipation of Torn in Flames releasing in a few weeks, I have a question for you all. I have a map of where all the pertinent dragon territories are in the U.S. My beta readers and editor found it helpful to keep track of clans in the story. There are more mentioned in this installment than previous ones.
Keep in mind, it is a generic map I altered with colors, name labels, and territorial lines for my purposes. It’s out of my price range to have a professional do it, unfortunately, but it does the job. I referred to it many times while writing the novel. I just can’t include it in the ebook because I got the country outline from a separate source. This map does not list every clan that exists because if they have no relevance to the story or my personal notes then I’m not taking the time to name or outline them. So a blank area does NOT mean it’s free of dragons. I already had this question and they know who they are, though in their case they were just messing with me. I will say the Cast by Flames (book 7) map has an even more comprehensive map because I did have to add a lot more clans for that due to the plot, but you won’t get to see that one yet.
Also considering creating a Torn in Flames character list explaining who is who if there are enough interested people. I make a spreadsheet for each novel I write, but those have a lot of details that are for me. This would be a cleaner version in a PDF document with a couple of details on who each person is for this installment to use as a quick reference for readers.
Please let me know in the comments below (or on Facebook) if you all would be interested. It would take extra work on my part, but I would be happy to do so if readers think they’d find the map and/or character list helpful.
If this does happen, I’ll let you all know when the document(s) are ready and email them to those who wants them prior to the book release.
Those who are in my Facebook Fan group got a few updates on the reasons for this over the years, but I recognize no one else did. I considered explaining this sooner, but I knew it would be a lengthy post and would take away from writing time. Plus, once you know what I’ve been going through, you’d probably wonder how I could possibly publish a decent book. I figured it was best to let you read Captured in Flames first to see for yourself.
My long time readers are aware I suffered fertility issues for a long time. After trying to conceive for ten years, the doctors finally told me I’d never have children. Ironically, a short time after that, I became pregnant with my son Adam (now 4 1/2 years old). This was a few months after I released Christmas with Dragons and right after publishing Destined for Shadows. I managed to get another book in the Dark Destiny Series released before my son was born, but then he consumed much of my time over the next six months. He was one of those babies who didn’t sleep well and when he did it had to be while you held him. Only once he began crawling did he begin to assert a little independence.
Then a friend of mine with a son close to the same age helped out so I could write again. I managed to get the final book in the Dark Destiny Series out thanks to her watching Adam a few days a week for a while. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pay her much and she eventually had to get a regular job. While some authors of young children have great support systems to help them keep working, I do not. Some of my relatives can help for a couple of hours in an emergency or if I have a doctor appointment, but none are able do it as a regular thing. We couldn’t afford daycare.
Plus, Adam was a lot to handle in his first couple of years. He was very attached to me, and he didn’t do well with others to include my husband. Even my friend who helped for a while struggled with him. He also remained a terrible sleeper and napper, which made it difficult to set a schedule. It wasn’t until around the time he turned two that I began to find opportunities to work because he’d begun to sleep through the night. My husband was able to help more as well. In fact, I actually managed to write up to chapter 30 of Captured in Flames about two and half years ago. The momentum was great. I really thought I’d get the book out back then.
But I got pregnant again and I’m no good at writing during the first trimester because I’m so exhausted and sick. Then I lost the baby at around nine weeks. That was a tough time and just when Covid-19 started spreading. My husband started working extra hours since he was an essential worker, and I was on my own with Adam. He’d reached the age where he liked to do fun things like climb everything, dump as many toys as possible in the fish tank (it’s now locked down like Fort Knox), and he was just very high energy. I couldn’t turn my back for a moment.
Six months after losing the baby, I discovered I was pregnant again. This time, the pregnancy continued without any significant complications. It was at the height of the pandemic, though, so I couldn’t get any help with Adam. It was exhausting taking care of him while carrying another baby. I couldn’t manage writing time and keep up with chores around the house. My energy was limited, so I had to choose. Keep in mind I was forty years old at this point and pregnancy is a lot more draining at that age.
Dean was born in April of last year, and he was a little easier to handle than Adam as a baby, but he still needed breastfeeding every two hours and loads of diaper changes. I also had a c-section with him that required a lot of time to heal.
For the first ten months of his life, I concentrated on learning how to juggle two children. Unlike his older brother, Dean did like to keep a better and more predictable sleep schedule much earlier. I found I could get a little work done during his naps because Adam had gotten better at entertaining himself at four years old so he could give me some space. Also, he causes less trouble now than as a toddler.
That’s when I finally began to get back into working on Captured in Flames. It was slow at first because I had to refresh myself on the series and the mostly written book. Also, the chapters that had been written needed extensive revisions. So I worked during Dean’s naps and late at night, or when my husband could spare a couple of hours on his days off work to keep the boys out of my hair.
I have absolutely loved getting back into writing. During my long hiatus, I missed it so much. Every time I saw a message asking about the series, I’ll admit it caused a lot of anxiety because I wanted to give them an answer, but I had none. For a long time, I could not see a way to write. My days were just non-stop busy with the boys. I take care of all the cooking, cleaning, and yard work. My husband will help now and then with the boys, such as to keep them out of the way while I cook, or watch the youngest so I don’t have to take him to the grocery store. It’s just I take the bulk of the home duties. Dean has been teething so he’s awake A LOT a night and the hubby will take over when I get too exhausted to handle a screaming toddler, but I’m usually the one up and comforting him.
When I say I work when Dean is asleep, I should caveat other things have to be done during that time as well. That’s when I might shower, for instance. Most of the time, I have to do dishes when he’s in his crib because otherwise he will run up and start throwing everything out of the dishwasher. I can’t sweep or mop when he’s awake without him in the way. There is a list of regular chores that must also be done during the same times I use for writing. It can be tricky deciding which gets the priority.
I’ve attempted putting my laptop on the kitchen counter to work while he’s awake, but that results in him clawing at my legs trying to reach it. A couple of times he woke from his nap while I was on a roll writing and I hated to lose my momentum, so I took a chance and brought him in the office so I could finish. That usually goes something like this…
I do everything I can to push through chores while he’s awake so I can get more writing during his sleeping time. Some days I’m more successful than others. A week and a half ago, both boys came down sick with RSV. There was a lot of sneezing, coughing, runny noses, fevers, etc. Adam missed a couple of days of school (he just started pre-k last month). Neither of them could sleep well, so I had my hands full and couldn’t work. Then Adam developed a very rare complication from the RSV just as he began to recover. He woke up and couldn’t walk without a lot of assistance. It was scary how he struggled to take steps even while I held his hands. I called the pediatrician’s office, and they said to take him to the ER right away.
I called my cousin and asked if she could take Dean so I could focus on Adam. Thankfully, she was able so I rushed to pack the diaper bag with everything he might need while there. Then I drove to the next town over to drop him off and then to the hospital. My husband was at work during this time and couldn’t get away on such short notice.
I sat with Adam in the ER while the doctors and nurses checked over him, stumped as to what caused the problem. They took video of him trying to walk and sent that to outside specialists to get advice. Then they ran a bunch of tests, including taking swabs from his nose, drawing vials of blood, and doing a head CT. Several hours later, we found out Adam had rhabdomyolysis. The RSV had infected his muscle tissue, resulting in it rapidly breaking down and flooding his blood stream. He had to stay in the hospital for another day as they pumped him full of IV fluids to prevent kidney failure. It was a very scary time.
That evening my husband got to the hospital and took over sitting with Adam so I could go to my cousin’s and get Dean. He did great for them, but he let me hear all about it when I arrived. I’d never left him for over eight hours in his life, maybe two hours before and that was with his father at home. The poor guy didn’t understand what was going on and he was sick with RSV as well, having been running a low fever before I dropped him off (I did give him Tylenol to bring it down). So I got him home for some love and rest before we returned to see his brother the next morning. My husband was able to get the day off to help me with the boys.
Adam didn’t get out of the hospital until that afternoon when he could finally walk without support (though shaky). We concentrated on taking care of the boys, and I had a load of chores that piled up during this time that had to be done. Things like cat litter boxes do not empty themselves for some reason and the house had been a mess when I rushed out to the hospital. Adam stayed out of school for a couple of more days until the pediatrician cleared him to return. He’d doing much better, but we’re keeping a close eye on him just in case. His teacher has said he takes extra long naps right now and they let him. Honestly, I’m proud of him because he was so brave through all of it.
So these are some of the things that have been going on in my life. We’ve taken a major hit to our finances while I didn’t publish. That has made things tough while taking on more expenses with children. There are highs and lows, but I wouldn’t trade my two boys for all the money in the world. They have brought a lot of love, laughter, and joy for me. I’m sorry that it meant waiting a lot longer than expected for me to resume the Dragon’s Breath Series. Please believe that I will continue to work every chance I can to get the next book out to you because I love the characters and world and want more than anything to keep going with it.
Also, I’ll try to keep you more updated on things in the future. I got a tubal ligation, so no worries there will be any more pregnancy surprises. I’ve got my hands plenty full and I’m happy with the two boys I’ve got. Plus, I’m down to 2.75 dining room chairs (from the original 6) and don’t think my furniture can handle another kid.
I’ve been getting quite a few messages from readers over the last couple of weeks, but I haven’t had much time or energy to respond. Please know I am reading them. There has just been a lot going on in my life. Last week my grandfather fell off the back porch and broke his shoulder. This was unusual for him because despite being 90 yrs old, he was rather steady on his feet. Still, we wrote it off as his age catching up to him. I helped get him to the hospital and assisted my father with taking care of him after we got him home. Looking back now, we should have known it was a precursor to something much worse.
Last Friday, I came over for our usual Friday night dinner we always had together. I found him collapsed on the ground with my father kneeling next to him and on the phone with 911. The way my grandfather looked…I knew it was bad. He was breathing erratically and not responding when we tried talking to him. When the paramedics arrived, he did manage to mumble a few words. That gave me a little hope, but it was completely dashed once he arrived at the hospital. He was comatose by that point. A nurse asked me if he normally looked that way. I understood why she asked, considering his age, but his mind was as clear as could be until then. Just the night before I’d sat by his bed, keeping him company since his broken shoulder had taken a lot out of him. We talked about all sorts of things–life, politics, the weather. I’m glad I had that time with him because I’d had no idea it would be our last conversation.
At the hospital, they ran a ct scan on him and discovered he’d had a massive stroke. They showed the scan to us and said there was almost no chance he could come back from it. I stared at the screen. You didn’t have to be an expert to see it looked bad. We had to make the tough decision everyone with loved ones fears and tell the doctors not to put him on life support. He’d specifically told us he didn’t want that and he’d signed a DNR. All we could do was make him comfortable and sit by him.
I knew he’d lived a long and good life, but seeing him like that was tough. He was such a strong man and he’d always been a part of my life. Staring at him lying in that bed, struggling for every breath, I cried. Then I tried to pull myself together because other relatives were there. Someone suggested we should talk to him. I leaned over next to him and whispered that it was okay. That I loved him. He didn’t have to stay and he could go whenever he was ready. Not that I wanted him to go, but I didn’t want him to suffer, either. Everyone stood around in a sort of death watch. The doctors said it would likely be hours, a few days at most. My family played that game of trying to stay strong and not cry so as to not set anyone else off. I gave up and went to the corner of the room and slumped against the wall. I couldn’t help it. I broke down and let myself cry for a few minutes before pulling myself back together. He was there on that bed and his body was still fighting to live, but I knew I’d already lost him.
I can’t decide whether it was the longest or shortest night of my life, but somewhere near one in the morning he took his last breath and passed away peacefully. The nurses came and checked his pulse and called his time of death. They were so quiet and professional about it. God bless them both. They gave us time after that. I asked everyone to leave the room so I could say my goodbyes. It was hard. What do you say to a man who has been such a huge part of your life? He’d always been there for me. I’d always shared everything with my grandfather. Even when I was far away in the military I’d called him at least once a week to check in with him. For the past few years, I’d been over at his place for dinner every Friday night and for brunch every Sunday afternoon, in addition to other random times I stopped by. I’d spent as much time with him as I could and he’d always been happy to see me. His degree had been in journalism (though he never worked in that career) and he’d been so pleased with my decision to become a writer.
And I’d lost him. His body lay there in the hospital bed, cold and unmoving, but I had to talk to him one last time. I told him I loved him, hoping his spirit was lingering somewhere nearby and that he could hear me. There was more, but I can’t remember everything I said. Part of the time, I just cried. Then I let me father have the room so he could say his goodbyes.
Since then, we’ve been working on putting a memorial together for this weekend. I’ve gone through hundreds of pictures, sorting certain ones to use for a video I’m putting together. Something to commemorate his life. Once in a while, I have to stop and take a breath. I’m happy he lived his life so fully, but it’s hard to think about how he’s gone now. How can someone who seemed larger than life just disappear so quickly? I’ve gone in his bedroom a few times, sat in his chair, and just took in the last rays of his presence. His cat continues to lie on his bed. He doted on her so much and I have no idea if she realizes he’s gone. I give her as much attention as I can. She looks so sad, as if she is waiting for him to come back.
I have to put a program together for the memorial. I found a template and got special paper, but filling it in is harder than I imagined. There’s a part where you can put details about the person and their accomplishments. It shouldn’t be that difficult, but despite being a writer I have no idea what to say. It took me this long just to put together this blog post. I’m only doing this much so you all know what is going on with me and why I may not respond to your messages right away. I must get this program finished by tonight so it can be printed tomorrow. My father and I have managed to get almost everything else arranged. There are just a few final details left. I don’t know what else to say other than I’m feeling numb at the moment. Hopefully, things will get back on track with me and my writing soon. I know my grandfather wouldn’t want me to put off working on my books because of him. He often bothered me more than anyone about how I was going with them. I do think I’ll dedicate Darkness Wanes to him. He would like that.
Recently I had a visitor to the website who asked several questions about my self-publishing experience. There wasn’t a good way to keep my responses short, though I tried at first. Instead I’m putting my answers in a regular post so that anyone else who is curious can read them as well. Here goes:
“Could you please talk about your experience?”
Publishing is a lot like riding a rollercoaster. Some days I’m on top of the world writing good stuff and hearing back from readers who enjoy my work. Thanks to all those awesome people who commented on my last post! Other days I might have trouble moving forward while working on a scene and/or catch some criticism of one of my books that makes me think I’m the most horrible writer in the world.
There are days I can’t imagine having any other job and that it’s the absolute best. Then I have days where I question why I released my stories for anyone else to read because, obviously, I completely suck. What was I thinking letting anyone see the crazy ideas that come into my head?
Writers have to be deeply in touch with their feelings in order to produce quality work. This is important, but can also make the whole experience more difficult from an emotional standpoint. If a reader is disappointed with your latest book you feel like you let them down though you honestly wrote it the way you believed it had to be written. I thank God for all my encouraging fans. They’re what has kept me releasing the next ones, though I’d probably never stop writing regardless.
“How you went about it. What was the process like? What pit falls did you encounter?”
For how I went about it, you must keep in mind I was writing for a few years before I published and that Darkness Haunts was not my first book. It was simply the first I thought worth sharing with the world. So when I made the big decision to publish I waited nearly a year from the time the first draft was completed before self-publishing it. I queried agents, entered it into ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards), and also learned everything about publishing I could.
I researched cover artists, editors, ebook formatting, paperbacks, and a lot on marketing. Though I refused to change to a genre that might be more salable (people were saying urban fantasy was a dying genre), I did study my market so as to gauge my expectations. I also followed other authors and read about their experiences, soaking up every bit of information I could. At the end, I even changed the title to something more fitting and catchy than the original. It wasn’t Darkness Haunts until two months before I released it.
The author community is buzzing with the latest news about Kindle Unlimited (KU). A $9.99 a month program Amazon released a few days ago where readers can borrow an unlimited number of ebooks (though they can only keep ten at a time).
From a reader’s standpoint it’s not a bad deal. It gives them the opportunity to try out books they might not have otherwise and if they don’t like them? They can return them, never to see those works muddy their Kindle again. If they do like them, they may even go on to pick up more from the author. Amazon has managed to include some well-known titles in an effort to expand the selection (currently at 600,000) and tempt readers into giving the program a chance. Having said that, you’ll still find more than a few favorites not available.
For independent authors, there is a good reason their books may not be there. Most self-published novels (with a few exceptions) are required to be exclusive to Amazon if they want their book in KU. What exactly does that mean? An author must pull their participating ebooks from all other retailers so that the only place they can be found is Amazon. For some writers this isn’t a big deal, but for others it is asking a lot.
There is also the question of how much an author can earn within the program. As it stands now, a short story will earn the same as a full-length novel for each borrow. No one is quite sure how much that will be, but estimates are as low as 30 cents a download (after the reader passes the first ten percent of the book). This gives less incentive for authors to put their longer works into the pool. In fact, it may give rise to a greater number of serial books where it would require more downloads to get the entire story, thereby earning the author more money.
I know some of you may choose to sign up for KU and I do think that’s great. Heck, I’ve considered it myself as a reader and may give it a shot. For now, though, I won’t be putting any of my own books into the program. There seems to be a lot of kinks that still need to be worked out and I’m not interested in limiting my work to just one retailer. I do have fans who prefer Nook, Kobo, or iTunes and I don’t want to force them to make a decision as to how to obtain my books…or not.
How things play out in the future I cannot say. I might write a stand-alone novel that I feel is a good fit for KU or I might experiment on something with other urban fantasy authors for a different kind of work. But for the Sensor Series (and any of the shorter spin-offs), it’s going to be staying out unless some of my concerns are alleviated. Particularly the exclusivity factor.
I hope that this doesn’t inconvenience any Amazon readers who decide to try KU and that they will continue to pick up the Sensor books as they release. If you’ve got your own thoughts on the new program, feel free to leave a comment below. I am curious to hear what others think.