#WriterWednesday – My Journey Through Publishing (Part 2)

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In part 2 of this post for #writerwednesday, I’ll continue talking about my publishing journey. If you haven’t read part 1, you can catch up here.

I see a clear divide in my publishing career – before 2014 and after 2014. In August 2014, I was writing for Ellora’s Cave. I was riding high and my books were doing well. Without going into too much detail (I can’t for legal reasons), I had an email from editor at EC saying there would be an announcement soon about the company, but it wasn’t looking good. She warned me about sending other manuscripts to be queried until I’d heard the announcement. I didn’t have anything ready at this point anyway, so it didn’t make a difference to me.

The issues with Ellora’s Cave have been widely documented online, but it was a really stressful time for the authors. I saw some sporadic royalties for a few months and then they stopped coming altogether.

So why didn’t I just write for someone else? This was the point where Kindle Unlimited was really taking off, so why didn’t I just start writing  stories for other publishers/platforms? My problem – I was contracted to give EC first refusal on any erotic/steamy romance story I wrote. I couldn’t write as Scarlett Sanderson (not that I wanted to write anything at all, I was so devastated), and I couldn’t buy myself out of the contracts because I just didn’t have kind of money. 

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Looking back now, it was the darkest time in my publishing career. My books were in limbo for 2 years. I couldn’t write anything else and honestly, I didn’t want to. I lost my joy. I had no interest in publishing. I felt so sorry for my readers, people who were enjoying the Mission Pleasure trilogy, who’d invested money in the series, and were waiting for the last book. I was paralyzed, unable to dig my way out of the hole. 

The worst part, I didn’t know how long this was all going to last. It was a mess.

Finally, in December 2016, I got the rights back to all my books. I had to forgo any royalties owed, but at this point I just wanted my stories back.

Ellora’s Cave finally closed its doors. Despite what had happened and the bitterness, I still felt sad. I’d had a blast working with EC. I had a great editor and enjoyed my time with them so much. I read their books long before I began writing for them, so I was very sad when EC closed.

In 2017 I began my self-publishing journey – a journey I’m still on now as an indie author, and boy, has it been a steep learning curve! I’ve republished my books and released new ones. I’ve had to learn publishing from the bottom up. I’ve had to learn about keywords, and cover art, and marketing. I can’t say it’s been easy, but it’s been a lot of fun. And I enjoy the control I have over every part of the process.

The incident made me very wary of publishing houses. Although, I had a book published with Totally Bound in September 2019, I’m still skittish of publishers.

Over the past two years, I’ve learned to let the past stay in the past.  I write because I have to, because I love it. I won’t let fear or my past stop me from achieving my dreams.

It’s been a long road to where I am now. I’ve had highs and terrible lows. I forgot the core of why I write – to feed my joy, to write because I like it. 2017 felt like starting all over again, but I didn’t have the heart for it. 2020 has been a new start for me. A fresh attitude. Despite the pandemic, contracting COVID and losing my Mom, I still managed to get out 2 books, with another 2 due November 1st and December 1st respectively. Go, me!

I finally have the heart and I’m moving forward into a new chapter of my career with joy instead of looking back with fear.

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Additional images thanks to: Styled Stock Society

#writerwednesday – When it all starts to go wrong

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It’s July. We are more than halfway through this strange and crazy year. And it’s #campnanowrimo. I didn’t take part in April because I was laid up with COVID-19. I’m still struggling with the after-effects, but have been writing for a few months. I’ve spent those months (since I received my rejection from Mills & Boon at the end of April) working on getting my MC romance trilogy ready for release over the coming months. I’m so pleased that after a number of YEARS working on it, it’s finally done. Sinful came out on July 1st, and will be followed by Taken (September 1st) and Possession (November 1st).

This meant I was free to start a new project for #campnanowrimo. Last November I set a goal of 1000 words per day and managed to stick to it despite having lupus and going to my day job. For July I set a goal of 750 words per day. I’m still recovering from COVID, my Mom is gravelly ill, and the world has gone to hell in a hand-basket, so 750 words a day seemed like a nice, manageable number.

For the first 9 days I smashed my target, often writing 1400 words in two 20 minute sprints. I had it. I could do it. I was amazing. I was riding high and the writing was flowing despite everything else. Then I hit a wall. My chronic fatigue flared up so badly I could barely move off the sofa, let alone think about opening my laptop.

The mind was willing – I had so many thoughts and ideas, so many ‘things’ I needed to be doing as a writer: promote new books, promote back-list, get a cover made for a upcoming Christmas release, write new words. On top of that, I have a number of things going on with my Mom’s personal home care to sort out from a distance, and dealing with my own recovery. Yet I still continued to push myself – I needed to keep up my morning routine (yoga, journal, meditate) because I believe it made me more productive and that’s what successful authors do – have a morning routine. I baked, I gardened, I wrote, I promoted, I cleaned like a whirlwind.

And I burnt out. Again. If I could smack myself on the forehead without causing myself more pain, I would. I have this cycle. Doing, doing, doing, bust. Burnout. I ignore the signs of my body telling me to rest because I put all these expectations on myself. Especially as an indie author trying to build my community and producing consistent releases. If I take one day off from the schedule I’ve set myself, regardless of what is happening in other areas of my life, I berate myself – I’m not good enough, I’ll never make it, I’ll never be good enough to write full time and make a career out of it, I’m just lazy.

Because of that nagging voice, I set myself gruelling schedules – for all areas of my life. And then I get burnt out and the cycle starts all over again. It’s classic boom and bust, which then leads to me not doing anything writing wise for months.

The last few days I’ve taken a complete rest, mainly because for a few days I could barely move. It’s made me re-assess. Again. Cut things from my schedule. Focus on what I really want to do. What my body and mind can handle. I don’t have to do ALL THE THINGS. Just a little every week. I need to be more mindful of recognising the signs. Of not fighting my body. It’s not failure to take some time for rest or self-care. I need to realise this more.

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This week sees the beginning of a new schedule. A gentler, slower schedule. I enjoy meditating and journaling, so I’ll keep that in my morning routine, but I also like to read. So I’m taking out yoga and putting in reading. I’m going to write 3 times a week in longer chunks, immersing myself in the story instead of stopping at a designated word count. The other four days I’m dedicating to resting and self-care activities – gardening, baking, knitting, yoga on 2 days and a walk on most. Movement helps me mentally and gives my inspiration, so it’s something I’d like to keep up – body dependant.

My new schedule is more about flow and doing what I feel like doing rather than what I SHOULD do. It’s probably going to be trial and error again, but I’m not going to give up.

I wanted to write about this for #writerwednesday because I want this blog to be real. In the past I’ve wrote about how my new daily writing schedule was amazing, and productive, and totally working for me. And it was. Until it wasn’t. As writers it’s okay to let go of what doesn’t work for you anymore. There are so many videos and articles talking about the hustle – the need to go, go, go to be successful. Sometimes you go through periods like that, but it’s not sustainable for different seasons of your life. It’s okay to change your writing habits. It’s okay to let go and try something new. You are not a failure if you want to try a gentler, slower flow.

So I may not meet my #campnanowrimo goal this month, but I’m going to keep doing what I love – writing, creating – and I’m going to listen to my body, listen to my mental health. Being a writer is about being in it for the long haul (for me anyway).

My mantra for the rest of the year: it’s a freaking marathon, not a sprint.

Here is to a slower, gentler, more focused and creative month.

My experience with COVID-19 – the symptoms, the fear and the aftermath

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What strange times we are living in. I truly hope you and your families are all well and safe. I’m sending hugs to everyone who is struggling at this difficult time – whether will illness, finances or the emotional toll this is taking on all of us.

 

I’m writing this blog post to share my own experience of COVID and how it’s affected me physically and mentally. I’ve had suspected COVID-19 and complications since March 13th – 74 days and counting. It’s been one of the scariest, most frightening times, and it’s still dragging on. For people who think “it’s just the flu”, I am telling you now, I’ve had flu, I’ve even had walking pneumonia and I have never experienced anything like this.

As many of you know, I have lupus. This means it isn’t unusual for me to take time out of writing. I can be gone for months at a time whilst dealing with a flare-up, or a particularly busy time with work and my mother (who has terminal cancer). But usually, in the background, I’m still hammering away writing. Since March 13th I haven’t been able to do anything. COVID hit me hard and I’m still experiencing symptoms 74 days in.

The first week I got sick I had a temperature, a bit of a cough and a tight, sore chest. For 7 days I foolishly believed that it wasn’t so bad. That I could manage it like I do my lupus – with rest, painkillers and fluid. By the second week I was struggling to breathe. On the Thursday of the second week I was gasping for breath so much, my husband had to call an ambulance. The sheer terror of not being able to get air into my lungs and having a paramedic dressed in full protective suit (complete with respirator) was one of the scariest things I’ve ever been through. Although my oxygen levels were good, because of the underlying lupus they recommended I go to hospital. However, I refused. There is no guarantee I would have been tested and without the need for oxygen at that point, I was at more risk of infection if I went to the hospital. After all, although everyone was pretty certain I had COVID, what if I didn’t? I chose to stay at home and continue with antibiotics, painkillers. I also had a very irrational fear – what if I was taken to hospital alone and never came out?

I just want to say a big thank you to the Yorkshire Ambulance Service here. They arrived quickly, we’re amazing and stayed for a few hours to make sure I was okay. I cannot thank them enough for their assistance at such a scary time for me and my husband. They were brilliant. And immensely reassuring.

I won’t bore you with the mundane details, but some of the symptoms I was having over the following weeks including extreme fatigue (and this from someone who deals with fatigue on a daily basis), shortness of breath which meant I could barely walk a few steps without panting, a chest so tight it felt like my lungs were being constricted, vomiting and upset tummy. At one point in the last few weeks I even had conjunctivitis.

74 days in and I am still getting some of those symptoms. Yes, my temperature is down. Yes, I’m not coughing as much. The breathing, however, can still be horrific on some days. And the tiredness is off the charts. If I try and do too much, I’m back on the couch, symptoms reoccurring with a vengeance. This is 74 days in. That’s not taking into account the total paralysing fear that comes with having shortness of breath flare up – is it coming back? Am I reinfected? How bad is it going to be? Is this the time I’m going to have to go to hospital and risk being put on a ventilator? With no guarantees of immunity, I’m living in daily fear of a killer I cannot see.

In the grand scheme of things, I am lucky. So, so lucky. I’ve not been in hospital, I’ve not been in an intensive care unit, but the aftermath of dealing with the disease is debilitating. I’m still not working my day job as I can’t manage more than an hour or so at my computer. I need to sleep lots and physical activity is very limited.

My husband has been amazing. He’s supported me every step of the way. He lifts me up on days I’m sobbing and don’t feel I can stand another episode of breathlessness. He goes out to the supermarket to get food and prescriptions, risking his own health so I have food and medicine. He’s taken over all the household duties, despite still working from home. He is truly my rock. I can’t thank him enough or tell him how amazing he really is. He is my ultimate romance hero.

The other thing this disease has robbed me of is visiting my sick mother. She lives miles away and since lockdown has been in place, she’s been extremely ill. And I’ve been unable to travel down and be with her as I would be risking her and myself. The guilt is almost as crippling as the symptoms of COVID. My Mom is my best friend. Not being able to hold her, hug her when she’s crying or in pain, is one of the worst things imaginable.

Relatively speaking, I am so much better than I was at week 4 or even week 8. It’s been a tough ride. There have been setbacks. There are going to continue to be setbacks if you read the reports about people recovering from COVID. It’s comforting to know it’s not just me.

One thing this journey has made me realise is the life I was living before lockdown wasn’t serving me. I was super stressed out about the smallest thing. Day job stress was through the roof. I was bouncing from one thing to another – home, work, my sick mother, hospital appointments for me, always doing, doing, doing. Yet all the time resenting myself because I wasn’t taking care of myself or my mental health. I wasn’t taking small, productive steps towards the life I want for myself – becoming a full time writer. And all of that was leading to resentment.

During lockdown I’ve reorganised some of my priorities. Sure, I have days when all the fear and doubt and resentment comes back into play, but I know what I want now. I know how I want to feel in life.

Joyful. Creative. Calm. Resilient. Optimistic.

My priorities are my health, my husband and family, my creativity.

With these in mind, I’ve completely re-thought how I structure my days. Obviously this will change once I am back at the day job, but that’s where resilience comes in. Go with the flow. Don’t sweat the smaller stuff. It doesn’t matter what people of think of me (having a chronic illness makes me over achieve, over perform, so people don’t think I’m lazy), it only matters how I feel about myself.

The past three weeks have seen me take a completely new outlook on writing. Even though I’m still sick, I’ve managed through small steps to finish editing two books of a trilogy I’ve had written for a while, and create a whole marketing plan for those books. I’m now on to editing the 3rd book and every single day I feel joyful to get to work. To be creative. I’m even finding joy in doing the things I used to hate like writing blurbs, creating teasers images and revamping my website.

One thing I am grateful to COVID for – giving me back my passion and joy for creativity.Untitled design (4)

There is a long road ahead in which there will be illness and grief, but there is also light and laughter and joyfulness. There is hope.

Take care and stay safe,

Scarlett

Writer Wednesday – writing year review for 2019

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For the last #WriterWednesday of 2019 I thought I’d do a post on my writing year in review. It’s been a rocky one – ups and downs galore – but I’m happy to admit I’m ending 2019 on a writing high 🙂
So, let’s start with January.

In January I decided to get my sh*t together and create a plan (okay, so the plan didn’t come together until the end of January, but hey, it was still January!). I love watching YouTube videos from the author, Sarra Cannon. She has a craft channel called Heart Breathings. She is such a breath of fresh air with videos on the craft and the realistic life/goals of a writer. I love her because she is so generous to her fans – always creating work books for free – and not being constantly all about the hustle, hustle, hustle. She is real and talks about the real struggles of writing when you have other commitments – a job, family, school, chronic health issues.

She has a system called HB90. You plan your writing goals for 90 days at a time and be laser focused for those 3 months.

I could do this. It would give me structure and 90 days was a good period of time.

So I planned. I planned my 3 monthly goals.

  1. Increase sales and engagement
  2. Finish and release the first book in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy
  3. Plot and write first 3 chapters of a Mills & Boon Dare submission

Easy. Sustainable.

Err…not. I failed. Oh, for the first month I wrote, I promoted and then I got lazy. Life happened. I got sick. Mom got sicker. Work got crazy. Life got in the way and I didn’t make writing a priority. It came way down my list of commitments.

Lets skip to June. I did some editing and started that Mills & Boon story while I was soaking up the sun in Santorini with Mister Scarlett (who wouldn’t want to write in such a beautiful setting?!), but it never got past 1,000 words.

santorini

Fast forward to August. I’m writing here and there. Book 1 in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy, Sinful, is complete (first draft only though). I made the decision not to release it until the other two were finished. I did add some words here and there, but nothing substantial. All the while the sales on my old titles have dwindled to nothing.

In September, I release an old story with Totally Bound.

By the time November rolls around I’m determined to get my ass in gear and do NaNoWriMo. As I explained in my other post, due to numerous things, I couldn’t commit to 50000 words. It just seemed too…insurmountable. So I made my own goal – 30000. 1000 words per day. Again, I charted my progression in another post (but I’m happy to say I hit it!).

One thing NaNo did for me was create a manageable, sustainable goal. I had to commit to just 30-45 minutes per day to getting the words down. That’s it. Just 30 minutes.

And you know what? It worked! By the end of NaNo, I had 36000 words. I’m happy to say as of Saturday just gone, I completed the first draft of the Mills & Boon submission I’ve been wanting to write for so long. Whoop, whoop.

Compared to this time last year, I feel in such a good place. I’m not doing 1000 words per day now, but I’m aiming for 750 a day. Mister Scarlett asked me how I was going to be accountable to myself now that NaNo is over and that’s a good question. After all, it’s easy to slip back into old habits. I’m a known slipper. Always have been. There is always something else I can find to do – binge Netflix, read, scroll through Instagram, watch YouTube videos, nap.

So for the end of the year and first few months of 2020 I have a manageable, sustainable (you seeing a theme with the buzzwords here?) plan.

From now until 31st December – I’m working on an erotic Christmas romance that I started in 2018. 750 per day, and I want to try and hit 10000 words by the end of the month. That’s with taking the holidays off. I started on Monday and I’m already 4063 words in.

word count tracker

January 2020 – I’m going to finish the Knights of Hell MC trilogy. 750 words per day. 20000 word target.

February – editing the Mills & Boon submission, working on the synopsis and putting together a trilogy proposal.

See? A plan. Manageable. Sustainable.

One of the things I have found in 2019 is the joy of writing again. It sounds like a cliche, but I lost that for so long.

Some days it’s still hard, but there are the days when it flows and the words fly onto the page, and there is such a joyous feeling inside me when that happens that I can’t explain it to people. The consistency helps the words fly. If there is one thing I’ve learnt over the past year it’s consistency is the key to the words. The more I do it, the easier it gets (not always, but mostly). The writing has also been helping me, mentally, deal with a lot of stuff. It’s an outlet. A sorely needed one.

As 2019 draws to a close, there have been ups and downs, I haven’t published anything new, but I have lots of things coming together. The best thing about 2019 is I’ve rediscovered why I write. I’ve rediscovered the joy and that makes 2019 worth it!

I hope your 2019 has been everything you imagined. Let me know if you have any plans for 2020. I’d love to hear them!

 

Writing, WIP, libraries and EXCLUSIVE excerpt from Sinful

Greetings, everyone!

I realise it’s been another long period of time between posts. I promise to ‘try’ and get better at writing more regular posts.

It’s been another busy few months! I’ve been really ill a few times, but the latest bout of sickness really knocked me off my feet. I had a terrible chest infection and was on pneumonia watch for a while. That slowed my writing/editing down considerably. Boo.

It does mean I’ve been reading a lot though. I’m more than half way through my 2019 reading challenge on Good Reads.

reading challenge

I’ve become addicted to Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. Can’t get enough of it! I’m trying to pace myself with them so I don’t binge read them too quickly.

A new author discovery for me is T.M. Frazier. Just read the first 2 books in the King series and oh, my…*fans self* Love her characters. So dark and raw. Yum.

There has also been lots of stuff going on with the house. We are finally getting the garden landscaped. More on that in another post, and about our experiments with the perfect pizza dough! The most exciting thing, after a year of being in the house, we finally got the library shelving fitted. I have a library!

book shelving

A comfy snuggle chair is arriving tomorrow, and then I’ll have the perfect reading room. I’ve always dreamed of having a library/reading room. I’m so lucky to be able to have one thanks to the wonderful Mister Scarlett. Although he may lose me to the room…haha

Publishing wise, I’m still working on editing the first book in the Knights of Hell MC trilogy. As I said at the beginning of the post, after a great January, February/March has been a really slow starter.

However, here is a sneak peek excerpt to keep you going. I’m definitely going to have the first book, Sinful, finished before Spring is through.

She climbed her porch steps and fumbled with her keys. She unlocked the door, stepped over the threshold and turned for the medical kit.

He put it beside her on the floor and idled against the frame. He leaned towards her, filling her personal space. Crowding her. She could step back, away from his masculine presence, but she didn’t want to. She was completely enraptured by him.

“So, Grace, how did you know that Jay needed help? It’s well after midnight. Shouldn’t good girls like you be in bed dreaming of pretty princes?”

She bristled at his patronizing tone. “I was getting a glass of water and saw you come back. I saw the blood in the light and came to see if I could help. It’s what I’m trained to do.”

Not a complete lie, but not the whole truth either. He didn’t need to know she’d been spying and drooling.

“So you haven’t been sitting up in your window seat for the past four weeks watching us?” His amber eyes blazed with heat.

Busted.

Heat rushed to her cheeks. “I beg your pardon?”

He reached up and flicked a strand of her hair. “At first I wondered, new tenant in the neighborhood. A woman who likes to spy. Maybe a threat. Maybe sent by the authorities. But now I understand.”

His soft, baritone voice lulled her. She watched his sensual lips move. Zeke was dangerous. Extremely dangerous. She knew that, yet she couldn’t move back. Moth and flame came to mind, and she was going to get singed.

“What do you understand?” Her voice sounded huskier than she wanted it to be.

Her breasts swelled and tingled inside the confines of her bra. She yearned to reach out and run her palm across his bearded jaw. Feel the wiry hair abrade her skin.

“I understand you aren’t a threat. You’re a voyeur. You like to watch don’t you, Grace? When you came into the kitchen, I wasn’t sure which one of us you wanted to fuck. Rafe and Gabe are real pretty. You wouldn’t have to choose between them—they’d do you together if that’s your thing. But it’s not them, is it?” He didn’t wait for her to answer. “It’s me you want to fuck.”

She inhaled, started to protest even as her body screamed yes.

He stopped her with a finger pressed to her lips. “Ssshhh. No need to lie to me.” He rubbed the pad of his thumb across her lower lip. “If I kissed you now, I’d have you naked and under me within five minutes. I’d probably be the fuck of your life. I like sex. I like beautiful women.” He waited a beat, rubbed her lip some more. “But there is one problem.”

“What’s that?” Her mind was still trying to process the image of him, naked and hot. She had no doubt he’d be an excellent lover.

He pushed the tip of thumb gently inside her mouth. “I don’t fuck good girls.” He cupped her cheek. “I’m not a good man, Grace. I’m bad and dangerous and damaged. You may think you want me, but you don’t. Now go back to bed, get out your conventional vibrator and bring yourself off thinking about me. And then forget I exist. I’m not for you.”

He brushed his lips across her cheek in a tender, brief kiss that ignited her senses. And then he was gone. He’d set her body on fire, and then destroyed her with his words.

Arrogant, conceited asshole.

Anger bubbled in her gut. Where did he get off presuming to know her?

She called after him. “Zeke?” When he stopped and looked over his shoulder, she continued. “I’m not a good girl.”

She flipped him the bird then slammed the door. Good riddance to the misogynistic asshole.

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Over the next month you can find me taking part in The Romance Reviews anniversary party. Head on over for a chance to win tons of prizes until March 31st.

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Finally, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter! You get all the exclusive news, sneak previews and stories. If you sign up, you get a FREE copy of BEG ME delivered straight to your inbox!

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That’s all for now.

Until next time, take care.

Scarlett