Fighting a cold today and couldn’t concentrate on my sci-fi project. So I toyed around with this because it was fun. Also because I miss Aren.
Warning: First draft and written under the influence of cold meds.
Aren’s POV #1
The stone in the blacksmith’s hand glows blue as he drags it along my sword one last time, sharpening the blade with his magic. The metal is dark and unevenly shaded, not pure and pretty like the Court fae’s. But this is the way it should be. It will kill just as efficiently.
The blacksmith hands the weapon to me.
“Aren,” someone calls out. I recognize the voice, and I roll my shoulders, loosening my muscles before I turn. It’s Isyll, one of our palace spies.
“You’re early,” I say, keeping my voice calm and unconcerned. Isyll jogs toward me, breathing rapidly. Edarratae flash across her skin, protesting her presence in the human world. The bright blue lightning looks agitated, and the sweat beading on her forehead indicates she fissured multiple times to get here. Good. We can’t afford the Court fae learning our location.
“The king knows,” Isyll says when she reaches me. “He knows we learned the shadow-witch’s name.”
The blacksmith curses, and a murmur runs through the other fae who are near enough to hear her words. Trev, a fire-thrower who’s even more impatient than me to kill the shadow-witch, rises from the edge of the porch of the abandoned inn we’ve taken over.
“We learned her name too easily,” he says, moving to my side. “The king has set a trap for us.”
“The king has made a mistake,” I say, loud enough for everyone to hear. “Wait here.”
I open a fissure and disappear into the slash of white light before anyone says another word. The chill of the In-Between sharpens my mind, and an instant later, when I step into my room on the inn’s third level, I know exactly what we will do.
I grab a bag from a trunk in the corner and leave the room. Via the door, not a fissure. I can’t risk the In-Between stealing the contents of the bag.
Taking the stairs three at a time, I make it back to the front door within a minute of my departure.
“We go after the shadow-witch, now,” I say, striding onto the porch. I loosen the drawstring on the bag then toss it to the ground. Dozens of anchor-stones spill out. “They’re imprinted with the location of her school. We’ll take her there.”
“That’s not our plan.”
Trev and the other fae straighten when they hear Sethan’s voice. I don’t. I hop off the porch, pick up one of the anchor-stones, and toss it to my friend, the Realm’s future king. “I made a secondary plan.”
Sethan catches the stone in the air. “When-”
“Naito looked up everything about her he could find.” Which, admittedly wasn’t much. “She has a class schedule. We’re going to disrupt it.”
Sethan’s brow furrows while he weighs my words. He has more concerns than I do. More responsibilities. He has to think about the repercussions of my actions, how they’ll be interpreted by our allies, and even by our enemies. I don’t care what the others think. I have one objective: to keep this rebellion alive and thriving. To do that, I have to take out the shadow-witch. She’s tracked down and killed too many of our fae.
“No.” Sethan shakes his head. “We need her to be alone. We’ll wait at her home.”
“The king won’t let her return to her apartment,” I say.
“We’re not certain the McKenzie Lewis we’re targeting is the king’s McKenzie Lewis.”
“Naito’s looked at all the possibilities. This one is the best candidate.”
“I don’t want-”
“Sethan,” I interrupt. “We need to do this. We need to eliminate her. She almost tracked me. If she crosses paths with you, and reads your shadows, everything you’ve worked for will be lost. This rebellion will end.”
He isn’t convinced yet. It takes everything in me to stand my ground, not to push him too hard on this. He’ll come to the same conclusion I have in time. But time is the enemy. If the king knows we know the shadow-witch’s location, he’ll send his swordmaster to save her. I would relish that fight, but not today. Today, we need to cripple the Court fae.
“The nobles who support us are growing nervous,” Trev says beside me. “They’re afraid of the shadow-witch. They think she’s immortal and infallible.”
I fight to hide my smile. Perfect timing, Trev. Political pressure will bring Sethan to my view.
“This opportunity won’t come again,” I say, just one more small nudge.
Sethan closes his eyes, and my adrenaline spikes. I’ve won.
“Stay invisible,” he says. “Watch your weapons. I want no human witnesses.”
I palm an anchor-stone. Trev and ten other fae do the same. I scan their faces quickly then meet Sethan’s gaze.
“We’ll have only one human witness,” I tell him. “And she’ll be dead in a few minutes.”
Grinning, I draw my sword then open a fissure. The king will soon learn what it feels like to lose a valuable asset.
I learned a new bookish term today: sleeping hero legends.
I came across a link to this article on Facebook. It’s written by Jack Campbell, who writes an awesome military science fiction series. Seriously. Awesome. It holds my attention and keeps me breathless on the edge of my seat. And it doesn’t even have romance in it. A book that can do that these days is really, really awesome.
Campbell’s Lost Fleet series is a sleeping hero legend. The premise is that a spaceship captain dies saving a fleet from total destruction, but a century later, his escape pod thingy is found. He’s awoken from a long sleep and learns that his “last stand” has granted him hero status, and that the fleet idolizes him and his war strategies. It’s a really cool idea, and very well executed.
Another sleeping hero legend that I adore? Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair. Again, this is science fiction, but it has romance! And it’s more of a space fantasy, so I think it probably appeals to urban fantasy/paranormal fans.
In this book, the heroine saves a planet in an epic space battle that leaves her presumed dead, but she’s thrown 300 years into the future and quickly learns she’s been turned into a goddess by the people she saved. I always have trouble figuring out which Linnea Sinclair book is my favorite, but usually, I choose this one. I’ve reread it at least four times, and for someone who very rarely rereads books these days, that’s something.
I want to read more Sleeping Hero Legends. Anyone have any recommendations? Amazon and Google both are failing me.
Around about a year ago, authors started banding together and releasing multi-author ebook bundles together. They priced them super cheap, usually $0.99 for six or more books. It’s a great deal, incredibly hard to pass up, and several of these bundles have gone on to hit the big lists: New York Times, USA Today, Amazon’s lists, etc.
I’ve bought several of these bundles. They were $0.99 so why not? I even thumbed through them on my Kindle.
But that’s all I did: thumbed through them. I haven’t read one full length book from a bundle.
I’m not entirely sure why. Usually, I bought bundles from authors I didn’t know. I was testing them out. Maybe I didn’t stick with the books for more than a page or two because I was extremely picky, and I had five or more other books from the other authors that I might have liked better?
I’m wondering if I’m a rare case. If most people who buy bundles usually read one or more books. Maybe they find their new favorite authors from the bundle?
If you have time, I’ve created a quick survey below. Let me know in the comments if you complete the survey and I’ll randomly draw a winner for a $10 Amazon Gift Card.
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.
1. Honor’s Knight. Still reading this, only because I’m a slow reader and my kids exhaust me in the afternoons so much that I tend to collapse into bed after they go to sleep. The book is just so, so good, though. It’s one of those books that makes me ask myself, “What the hell do I even try to write?” The characters are so distinct and well developed, I love the action, the mystery, the tension. And Devi is still fantastic. She might be my favorite heroine ever.
And I have a winner for this week’s giveaway!
Send an email to sandy AT sandy DASH williams DOT com with your address and your choice of Fortune’s Pawn or Honor’s Knight, and I’ll get the book to you next week. Hope you love it!
2. My Keurig. It’s actually my husband’s Keurig since he got it for Christmas, but I use it every morning. It’s how I’ve broken my terrible Diet Coke habit. I used to drink Diet Coke for my morning caffeine, but after having one, I’d have another. And sometimes another. Every day of the week. Even though I know how terrible it is for you. I just couldn’t drink water in the morning, and I’ve always hated coffee. But apparently, I just didn’t know how to drink it. With a bit of milk, truvia, and a tablespoon of Belgium Cookie syrup, it’s awesome. And I swear it’s saving me a fortune on Diet Coke and Starbucks’ Frappucinos.
3. Les Mills Combat. I’ve been exercising 5 days a week for the last three weeks. Before that, I did Jullian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. Only the first level, because the second kicked my butt. Never attempted level 3. But my husband bought Combat a while back, so I decided to give it a try. It’s fun! It makes me feel tough, and I’ll admit it. Sometimes I channel Ramie Ashdyn – the kickass heroine from my current book – when I’m kicking and punching. It’s definitely not an easy program, though. My form pretty much sucks, I have to modify everything, and my back and shoulders have been perpetually sore since I first started it. But it doesn’t annoy me at all and I feel stronger, so WIN.
4. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Discoverability Series. Kris Rusch is an author who writes about publishing every Thursday. For the past couple of months, she’s been talking about Discoverability – how authors get readers to discover their books. What she writes is really smart, based on her experience and interviews with others, and it resonates with me on an intellectual level. I might not agree 100% with everything she says, and everything she says might not work for every author, but I love the perspective on the business of being an author. If you are a writer or aspiring author, her Thursday posts are a must-read.
5. Rykus, the hero from my work-in-progress. He’s such a hard, emotionless man most of the time, but Ash has clawed her way under his skin, and he’s such a softy on the inside. It’s coming out more in his thoughts. I particularly liked this little snippet I wrote this week.
Goddamn it, he wanted her. He couldn’t stop his thumb from sliding across her skin. Her arm looked small in his hand, undeniably soft and feminine. How was it possible for someone to be so fragile and yet, so strong?
Her hands shook again. He wrapped his around them.
She tilted her head up to meet his eyes. A hot wind blew strands of hair into her face. He resisted the urge to tuck them behind her ear. It would only have been an excuse to touch her cheek, an excuse to slide his fingers down that half-hidden lock of braided hair. He wanted to say so many things. He wanted to apologize for the bastard he’d been – the bastard he’s always been – and for not believing in her. He wanted to tell her she was safe now, she no longer had to fight, he’d take care of everything. Instead, he said the thing he knew she needed to hear the most.
What are you loving lately?
(Honor’s Knight is still awesome! There’s so much tension and angst going on. I love it! I know the covers make it look like there’s not much romance in the books, but trust me, it has the perfect amount. You can still enter to win either the first or second book in this series here.)
I’m still searching for more clothes to wear to conferences. Because I hate shopping and only bought one shirt in my first Stitch Fix, I signed up for another one. I updated my profile so that I wouldn’t receive any jewelry this time. Not that I don’t need it, but I wanted more clothing options to select from. I also mentioned that I wanted to try out this whole legging/jegging thing that’s going on. (Yep. It’s been going around for a while; I’m just so fashionably challenged I only noticed it recently.)
So, when I peeked at my Stitch Fix account and saw that they were sending me a skirt, I was all, “For realz?” In the feedback on the dress sent in my first fix, I mentioned that I almost always wear jeans and that it would be extremely hard to find a dress that I felt comfortable in. Same thing with skirts, so I was all ready to be disappointed.
But I was a trooper and tried on the skirt with an open mind.
Mystree Trist Chevron Striped Swing Skirt ($58.00)
Surprise, surprise, I really liked it! It looks a little short in some of these pictures, but it didn’t feel or look short in the mirror. Problem is, I have twin two-year-olds. To be blunt: there’s no way in hell I’m wearing this with them around. That leaves conferences, date nights (what is THAT?), and maybe church? Plus, I’m not sure what shirt to wear with it. I’m not sure if the ones in these pictures work at all. The note from my stylist says a big comfy black sweater, which I don’t have, nor do I have anything like what is pictured on the styling card. On the other hand, I do not own a skirt. Not one. So… maybe.
Collective Concepts Esten Button-Up Sleeveless Blouse ($54)
Kut From the Kloth Marquis Slub Knit Dolman Sweater ($48)
These two were in my three top picks, but like the skirt, I could come up with a reason why I shouldn’t get them. For the sweater. Well, it’s a sweater. It’s almost March and I live in Texas. Plus, I don’t think it photographs well. If I wear this to a conference, chances are I’ll end up in a picture. On the other hand I don’t photograph well in general, so that might be a moot point. lol It is super comfy, though, and since I usually freeze to death in hotels, it could still work during the summer.
I was really on the fence about the sleeveless blouse. It’s expensive AND it’s dry clean only. Still, I thought it would look cute in the summer with white shorts and I love the collar on it. I was so close to buying it anyway… and then I saw these pictures. Um. Not flattering at all, is it? Whew. Glad I talked myself out of that.
41Hawthorn Colibri Solid Tab Sleeve Blouse ($48)
Pomelo Bixby Dot Print 3/4 Tab Sleeve Blouse ($48)
Not bad. And maybe the stylist did listen to my request for leggings because the pink shirt is long enough to work with them. I’d bought an experimental pair at Target the other day, so I put them on with it…and liked the outcome. I’m also loving the pattern on the other shirt and – woah – that upper right pic makes me look skinny-ish!
But, Houston, we have a problem.
Both turn me into ZOMBIES!
I can’t move my arms any further forward than that. They’re too tight on my shoulders, which is weird. I don’t usually have that problem with shirts. Too bad. I really want to make these work, but even though zombies would be totally accepted at the conferences I go to, the look just doesn’t work on me.
So. Choices, choices. My $20 styling fee goes toward anything I purchase. If I don’t purchase anything, I lose it, which would be okay if I hated everything. The zombie shirts are a complete no-go. The sleeveless shirt I really, really want to like. If it was around $20, I might buy it, but not at $54.
That leaves the slub knit sweater and the skirt. My super awesome friend, Shelli, insists I buy the skirt. I’m torn on the slub knit. If it photographed well or if it was almost January instead of almost March, I’d buy it, no problem. But maybe I should save the money for another fix? I’ll still have some gift card money left over.
What do yall think?
* THANK YOU to the person who signed up for Stitch Fix using my affiliate link. I get $25 when someone signs up, and it was an unexpected email this morning. I hope you love your Fix! And if you want to, let me know how it goes for you.
(Started reading Honor’s Knight last night. Ohmyfreakingod! So good! I hit 11% and had a major freak out. Like, oh no, the SHIT is going to go down! Ahhh! Watch out Devi!!! Can’t wait until the boys’ go to bed tonight so I can read more! Giveaway for this book or the first in the series is still going on here.)
I’m working on my time management skills. Too often, I feel like I don’t accomplish anything during the day. I’m lucky enough that I’m able to stay home and write full-time (not because my writing pays the bills, but because I have the most awesome and supportive husband on Earth). It seems like I should be able to pump out all the books, but even though I spend the day in front of the computer, I hardly ever hit my thousand word a day goal. I understand that I’m a slow writer. It’s something I’m working on, but also something that I have to accept about myself.
But I also NEED to feel like I’m using my time wisely, and I don’t feel that way at all. So yesterday I broke my day up into 30 minute segments. Here’s where my time went:
30 minutes checking/responding to email
30 minutes writing yesterday’s giveaway post
30 minutes cleaning the house (the house so could have used more time)
15 minutes checking blog posts/reading the web
60 minutes eating lunch and watching the Frontline documentary on Generation Like, a documentary Cindy Dees’ (she gave a FABULOUS presentation at our RWA meeting on Saturday) said ALL authors should watch. It’s interesting and scary.
45 minutes exercising. I’m doing Les Mills Combat! I like it!
60 minutes grocery planning/shopping
105 minutes writing.
That’s 1 hour and 45 minutes of writing. 1 hour and 45 minutes out of a 7 hour work day. 45 minutes of that work day are missing. I know some of them went to transitions – figuring out what I was going to work on next and writing and/or reading something just a couple of minutes past the buzzer, but it still seems like a lot of missing time, and writing less than two hours a day is ridiculous for a “full-time” writer.
But I don’t see today’s time breakout being much different. Instead of that hour of grocery shopping, I’ll spend about that amount of time sending out swag for the Swag-for-Brag contest that just ended.
Oh, yeah. And I wanted to make breakfast burritos for the freezer. That will take out a good chunk of time, too.
I like working in 30 minute time blocks, though. I think it might help me get more done. As I said, I’m oh-so-easily distracted, but when I have a timer set, I concentrate on one activity. I’ve also pre-planned my blocks of time today, so I’ll see how that works.
Do you know where your time goes? Have you ever tried working in time blocks? If you have any time management suggestions, I would love to hear them!
Today is a happy release day! Honor’s Knight, the second book in Rachel Bach’s Paradox series is now on my Kindle!
I raved about the first book, Fortune’s Pawn, in my Goodreads review. I’ve been waiting for this sequel since I finished this last page of the first book. I even pre-ordered it, I was so excited. I almost NEVER preorder books. But Fortune’s Pawn was that awesome. It was everything I look for in a book – hot, mysterious hero, strong and smart heroine, awesome plot, spaceships, action, and romance!
I can’t wait to read Honor’s Knight. I want more books like this. If you’re a fan of Linnea Sinclair (you have read her books, haven’t you?), you’ll love this. And this is exactly the type of book I want my current project to be. I want to appeal to this same readership, readers who want smart, capable heroines, fast-paced and intriguing plots, lots of action and a good, heavy dose of romance. Crikey! I get excited just listing off all the awesomeness.
And because I’m so excited, and because I want to shove Rachel Bach’s book into every reader’s hands, I’ll giveaway a copy of winner’s choice of either Fortune’s Pawn or Honor’s Knight (you definitely want to read the first book first). Just leave me a comment telling me what you love about sci-fi romance, or if you haven’t read any sci-fi romance, why you haven’t tried it yet. I’ll choose a winner on Friday.
(Just FYI: I use affiliate links in this post. But all my opinions and excitery is genuine and my own. )
Not much writing is getting done this week due to preparation for traveling (i.e. new hair cut!). I’ll be flying out to Daytona on Thursday for Coastal Magic Con. There will be a signing that’s open to the public from 5pm to 7pm on Saturday. If you’re in the area, definitely stop by!
I’m looking forward to the flight on Thursday so I’ll have some uninterrupted and undistracted writing time. I’m still hard at work on my urban fantasy set in space (you can read the first few pages of that on my guest post on The Darkest Reader (scroll halfway down)), but I keep toying with my other urban fantasy (You could think of it as a New Adult Urban Fantasy). I thought I’d post the first chapter here for a rare Teaser Tuesday from me.
First draft, rough draft warning. This might not end up in the book at all.
For the first time that semester, I wanted to be sitting through one of Dr. Campbell’s lectures. Boring was good. Boring was safe. Boring meant I wouldn’t say the wrong thing and start an interspecies war.
I picked up a pen from my parents’ desk, clicked it on and off, and Nora Lehr, the only daughter of Octavian Lehr, the alpha werewolf of the New England Territories and quite possibly the strongest alpha on the continent, turned away from the arched window and stared at me over the desk, waiting.
“Could you say that again please?” I asked, making my voice as sweet and naïve as a freshman taking a seat in her first college class.
Nora’s green eyes narrowed. When I didn’t look away, she clenched her teeth and her jaw jumped. Spiders crawled up my spine, not because I was intimidated – her dominant-gene juju didn’t work inside the hotel – but because I could practically hear the warning my mom gave me over and over again when I was a kid: Don’t antagonize the paranorms, Kennedy. They can eat you on the way to school.
They could, but they wouldn’t. I’d learned that in 6th Grade P.E.
Nora lifted her chin and straightened her shoulders, her signature alpha-stance. Her posturing had always annoyed the hell out of me in high school. Apparently, two years of college hadn’t made it any less irritating.
I really wanted to be in Campbell’s class right now.
“On May 16th,” Nora said, leaving a small, but pointed gap between each word. “I will be wed in the Garden Courtyard. The reception will immediately follow in the Silver Ballroom. You will reserve a block of sixty rooms and twelve suites. I’m prepared to pay all costs now. In cash.”
I held her gaze for another three seconds, just so she knew I wasn’t intimidated, then I set my pen on the desk, taking the time to make sure the Hotel Rain logo was face up.
Those weren’t the words I needed Nora to repeat. It was the other part, the part where she said the name of the prospective groom, that had me inwardly freaking out. Outwardly, though, I couldn’t let her see I was rattled. Don’t show weakness in front of the paranorms, Kennedy. That’s what my dad had taught me.
I took a few extra seconds to make sure the pen was lined up precisely parallel to the edge of the desk.
I adjusted it half a millimeter.
Then half a millimeter more.
“You will do this, Kennedy Rain.”
I looked up. Nora was such a snob. So privileged. She expected everyone to do what she said, when and how she said it. The aggravating thing was, everyone dropped what they were doing to make her happy. Yes, part of the reason for that was people – or, rather, paranorms and a very tiny group of humans – knew her father was in charge of the Northeast Pack, but men and women who had no clue about the underworld went out of their way to follow her orders. Not only had she been born with the alpha-gene, but she’d been born beautiful, too.
I had every right to resent her. Even if it wouldn’t cause an interspecies war, I wouldn’t want her getting married in my parents’ hotel.
But, it’s never a good idea to say the word “no” to a paranorm, so I tried to hedge.
“Would do this,” Nora cut me off. “It doesn’t violate the treaty.”
Technically, no, but good God. Her father would flip. Jared’s master would flip. The hotel, its workers, and my family would be caught in the middle, treaty or no treaty. This was not a decision I could make.
And it was not a decision I should be dealing with. I should be across town in Campbell’s class while my parents handled this lunacy.
My parents excelled at handling lunacy.
I glanced at my cell phone. My mom still hadn’t answered my text. I didn’t know where she and my dad had run off to. Just that it was somewhere with very poor service. They’d been gone for over a week and all I’d received was a handful of texts saying they were busy.
The last time I’d received a handful of texts saying they were busy, they’d been on a second honeymoon.
Or a third or fourth one. I didn’t ask details. I didn’t want the details I already had. The only reason I had them was due to a tragically timed pocket dial – one of them had apparently rolled over in bed.
“At least they still love each other,” my roommate had told me, laughing. I’d thrown my phone at her head.
I kind of wanted to throw it at Nora’s head now. She didn’t have her supernatural reflexes inside the hotel. I bet I could hit her.
“Put the date on the schedule, Kennedy,” she said.
I rolled my eyes toward the computer screen. May 16th was, unfortunately, wide open.
“Can’t you just marry somebody else?” I asked.
Nora’s smooth expression finally cracked. That made her look more human than stepping into the hotel’s null-zone.
“Seriously?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, standing. “Seriously. Jared’s, what? Three centuries old? You can’t have anything in common.”
“He’s two centuries old,” Nora snapped. “And we have everything in common. You don’t know him.”
“I know he’s a vampire.”
“He’s a person.”
“He’s Arcoro’s scion. His second in command. His freaking henchman. Your dad will kill both of you.”
“I’ll handle my father.”
“Really?” I asked, skepticism riding heavy on the word. “Because I doubt that. I’ve met your dad. He’s kind of a hard ass, Nora.”
“And shouldn’t a man who’s two centuries old ask permission to wed someone’s daughter?”
“I don’t need to ask permission.”
“Jared does. Come back when he has it.” Or, come back any time later, when my parents are back home and I’m across town sleeping through Campbell’s class.
I rolled the chair under the desk, intending to walk around it and show Nora the door, but before I took a step, she grabbed the briefcase she’d brought with her and slammed it down hard on the desk.
“Just put us on the damn schedule.”
Her green eyes blazed with so much fury that, for a moment, I thought the null-zone might have shattered. It was almost intimidating.
A second later, when she opened the briefcase, it was intimidating.
“Um,” I said so eloquently, “I don’t think we accept cash deposits.”
I held her gaze, she held mine, and I could suddenly hear the ticking of the clock on the wall behind me. If my parents chose this moment to walk into their office, my mom would freak out. She’d tell me I was asking for trouble and go on and on about how fragile the peace between the paranorms was, and how this hotel – our hotel – would become a battleground if the treaty was ever broken. All the paranorms wanted The Rain. It was the only place on Earth where vampires could see the sun rise and where werewolves could stay human during the full moon. If Lehr or Arcoro broke the treaty, the hotel would burn to the ground, and the vamps and wolves would lose their oasis forever.
Or so the legend said. I’d never seen the treaty. I wasn’t even sure it existed, but if it did, I’m sure the whole burn-to-the-ground thing violated all sorts of fire codes.
The briefcase of money lay open between me and Nora. I wanted to look at it – I was, after all, a starving college student – but I’d stopped submitting to paranorms years ago. I might not live in The Rain anymore or be immersed in the world of vamps and wolves, but I wasn’t about to back down.
“Please,” Nora said on a heavy exhale of air. She still held my gaze, but since I was fairly certain she’d never uttered that word before, I took it as a submission.
And as a sign of something else.
“You’re really in love with him, aren’t you?” I asked.
Her nostrils flared, and I swear to God her eyes turned glassy.
“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t,” she said quietly.
“And your father doesn’t know? Arcoro doesn’t know?”
Nora closed the suitcase and straightened. “Not yet.”
I caught a flicker of fear in her eyes.
Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. I’ve always a sucker for tragic love stories. If she and Jared were really serious about each other, it could turn out to be Romeo and Juliet to the extreme.
“I’ll put you on the schedule,” I told her, “but my parents will take you off.”
“They won’t,” she said, lifting her chin and sounding one thousand percent confident. Welcome back, spoiled little rich Were.
I countered her chin-lift with a raise of an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you printed up save the date cards already.”
She gave me a tight-lipped smile. “You should check the hotel’s financial records.”
This week, I sat down to calculate my writing expenses for 2013. This is the first year I’ve had a separate bank account for my business, and it made it so much easier to keep track of my expenses. I used my debit card for everything except for tips and vending machines while traveling, and I set up a Mint.com account and created a “budget” for each of my spending categories.
I’m use the word “budget” loosely. I didn’t really have one last year because I didn’t have a good idea of what I spent in 2012. (I could have looked at my taxes, but I was lazy.) The reason I set up the budget was so that I could easily categorize my expenses. I went through each transaction in Mint and added it to 1 of 12 categories.
Here is an overview of my spending. My explanation for the categories follows below (click to embiggin)
2013 Writing Expenses with Salary
2013 Writing Expenses without Salary
Writing Expense Categories
1. Conferences: A big expense. I went to the RTBooklovers Convention in Kansas City, MO last year, and this category includes hotel, airfare, travel to and from the airport, food, conference registration, etc.
2. Office supplies: Exactly what it sounds like. I spend a lot on ink and paper.
3. Promotion: I include bookmarks, romance trading cards, giveaway prizes, online fees like Rafflecopter’s upgrade, and a few other things in this category. I think I really overspent in this category this year. Part of the reason for that is because I tried out a few new-to-me things. I think I’ve finally decided what I’m going to do for future promo, and this category will be a lot less this year. I’d like to cut it in half.
4. Salary: I pay myself! I’m lucky enough that my family doesn’t have to survive off my writing, so I keep my paycheck small. I’m not providing numbers on everything here, but I will say that I pay myself $500 a month. I chose that number because I felt like I could write for another year or two without running out of money, and without having another advance from New York.*
5. Shipping: This was surprisingly small. I think the reason I’m surprised is because most of my shipping expenses have occurred in January of this year, and it feels like I’m paying out the wazzoo for shipping. I am actually paying out the wazzoo. I decided to open up all my blog tour giveaways internationally – I always feel bad when people overseas miss out on my giveaways – and the expense is crazy. I’ve also learned one very important thing.
I’ve probably spent more in January on postage than I did all of last year. I haven’t decided if I’ll continue keeping giveaways open internationally. I probably will, but not on a blog tour; I’d rather that expense be spread out over time.
6. Web Maintenance: A relatively large expense. This includes site registration and a few other fees, but a good chunk of it is for my web designer, Croco Designs, and she’s worth every penny in my opinion.
7. Education: I almost choked when I saw this expense. It’s as big as my conference expenses. But this year, I went to a Margie Lawson Immersion Course in Colorado. Airfare, hotel, registration, food, and other expenses are included in this category. I don’t intend to travel this year for education, so this will be much, much smaller in 2014.
8. Advertising: I’ve had Croco Designs design me a few graphics this year. That expense is included in this category as well as a few advertisements on Facebook. Most of it is from promoting posts on Facebook, though. You all know Facebook has changed it’s way of doing business, right? A very small percentage of fans see page posts anymore. It’s annoying and aggravating and definitely a subject for another post.
9. Business Books: A tiny category. I bought The Naked Truth About Self Publishing, the Emotion Thesaurus, Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict this year. And another book I can’t remember at the moment. This category will probably be bigger in 2014. I have a number of books on my list I’d like to purchase and read.
10. Assistant: I hired Carmel of RabidPr.com to help me out with my book release this year. She was worth it. She took so much stress and pressure off of me! I’ll definitely be hiring someone again in the future.
11. Professional Dues: This is RWA organization and chapter dues.
12. Agent: I almost forgot about this one because the expense doesn’t come out of my bank account. This category is big, but my agent more than made up for this expense when she doubled the first offered advance on The Shadow Reader. Plus, I adore her and value her advice and insight into publishing.
Your categories may vary depending on your preferences and spending pattern. I could have combined Business Books and Education, but I chose to keep them separate. It’s up to you how you want to track your expenses.
Also, expenses will vary from author to author. As I mentioned above, I don’t need my writing income to survive, so I wasn’t as thrifty last year as I should have been. Plus, I still consider myself a new author. I’m experimenting with things and deciding what I like and will continue doing, and what I don’t like and won’t invest in anymore.
And I don’t make a ton of money off my writing. I’m grateful for what I have made, but my advances don’t cover the cost of daycare for my twins. If I was a New York Times bestseller with dozens of books to my name, I’d likely be spending much more than this.
It’s important for authors to know where their money is going. Once you sit down and see how much you are spending in each category, you can decide whether that expense is worth it or not. I’m looking closely at my Conferences, Promotion, and Advertising categories because those are the three categories where I’ve felt like I could have either spent less, or spent with more intention (especially with Facebook advertising).
Unfortunately, my Conference expenses will be high this year. I’m traveling for three conferences: Coastal Magic Con this week in Daytona, the RTBooklovers Convention in New Orleans in May, and the RWA National Conference in San Antonio in July. This will be my first year to attend RWA, and I’ll evaluate afterward if it’s worth the expense. If next year’s RT wasn’t in Dallas, I’m pretty certain I’d make this year my last. (If you’re interested in why this RT would be my last, let me know in the comments and I’ll write a post about it.) Coastal Magic Con is a smaller, reader-centric con. I haven’t been to one of these before, so I’m excited about it! If all goes well, I’ll try to fit one small, reader-centric con into my future budgets.
Do you have a separate bank account for your business expenses? How do you keep track of your expenses? What categories for spending do you have or what categories do you think I might be missing?
* My business bank account was funded by my advance on The Sharpest Blade. I also had a few foreign sales that helped me earn out my advance on The Shadow Reader, so my very first royalty check went into this account as well. Yay for royalty checks!!!
1. Worldbuilding is hard. Like, really hard. One of the things readers like about my Shadow Reader books is the worldbuilding, but the Realm and fae came easily to me in those books. Not so much with this sci-fi project. I’m having to make up names for weapons, ships, planets, create a military structure, uniforms, multiple political systems, etc. And I have to do it all without it feeling like I’m doing it. What I mean is, I can’t just throw a bunch of stuff out there or it’ll overwhelm the reader (and me), so I have to worldbuild subtley. It’s one of the things that’s making the writing of this book so slow. I’m hoping that, when I finally finish it and move on to book two, everything will be in place and the writing will go much quicker. *crosses fingers*
2. I have a huge, huge amount of swag to send out. If you’re waiting on something from me, I’m going to try my best to get it in the mail today. If not today, Monday. Assuming my family stays healthy!
3. Our Keurig stopped working yesterday. We’ve only had it a little over a month, and it stopped working completely. I read the manual, googled for help, then finally called customer service. Customer service was awesome.
Customer service was awesome.
I had to say that twice because I so rarely have a reason to say that sentence, but the girl on the phone didn’t talk down to me at all, which usually happens with customer service people. She just ran me through one trouble shooting thing, and when that didn’t work, she said, “This shouldn’t be happening so soon. I’m sending you a new Keurig.” Hurray! The only problem is I have to wait a week for it. Boo! I’ve just now learned how to drink coffee, and I was using my morning cup to get me off of Diet Coke, which I’m addicted to and which is, apparently, the devil’s brew. I went four days without one. Now that the Keurig’s broke, I’m back to one for breakfast. I guess I’ll start over on that resolution when the new Keurig comes.
4. I’ve been doing pretty well with my exercising and calorie-watching. I exercised every day this week except yesterday – the broken Keurig REALLY threw me off. I’ve also stayed well under my calorie count, too, until, well yesterday. I’m not going to let yesterday ruin my week, though. It’s going to count as a free day, and I’m going to move on and do go today and tomorrow. Then it’ll be a new week!
5. Toddler B made me cry this morning. Ever since he stayed home sick last week, he hasn’t wanted to go back to daycare. He was perfectly fine this morning until we got in the car and I opened the garage door. Then he got mean and defiant, yelling “No!” like it was a curse word and spitting. I carried him into school – fortunately, Toddler A was being an angel – and nearly dropped him because he was fighting me when I set him on the other side of the partition in the daycare room. I felt horrible for leaving him with the teachers like that, and I just don’t know what to do with him when he throws those fits. When I’m home, I can lock him in his room until he calms down and is ready to “be happy and make good choices.” (Is locking a child in his room child abuse? It’s usually no more than five minutes, and I monitor him either outside the door or on the video monitor.) But I can’t take him home for time out when we’re out. I can’t stop the car when he’s throwing a fit. I don’t know what to do with him, and this morning, I just felt entirely unqualified to be a mom. What do you do with a tantruming toddler?