Life Stuff

Cutting this week’s post VERY short because I am working on way too many things, and sometimes I need to set something aside for the sake of my mental health and well-being.

I’m still working on the first draft (which is partially edited) of Fill the Empty Spaces, because the story keeps getting longer and also the characters don’t seem to have a stopping point in mind. I might have to put my foot down. Meanwhile, Trey Damone and his son Mikey, along with Zane Wolfskin, from my Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series and the novel Chance Met, have just made a cameo appearance…

I’m also finishing up proofreading on the re-edited version of Try the Tofu (Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat 4), which will be up for preorder June 22 and will be released July 13.

And, on the not-writing-life side, I’m working on applications for graduate school. I finished my Bachelor’s degree in 1992 and then let a combination of trauma, life circumstances (including abuse, hence the trauma), and raising my kids keep me from going any further. For over a decade now, I’ve thought about becoming a mental health counselor, and I’ve decided if I don’t make the effort now, I probably never will. So I’m applying to various Master’s degree programs to try to make this my new career. And the application process is a LOT more intensive than I anticipated, so it’s taking a LOT of my time and mental bandwidth. But it will be worth it if I get accepted.

There are other life things going on that I’m not ready to talk about yet. But all of the above plus the things I’m keeping to myself mean that I don’t have as much time or “spoons” as I would like, so I’m going to end this blog post here.

Time Management

Time management…where what often happens is my time manages me.

analog clock

That’s something I’m working on, but I’m neurodivergent (I haven’t been formally diagnosed with anything, but multiple medical/mental health professionals have said that I am almost definitely autistic, along with living with Complex PTSD which also affects how my brain functions). There are numerous factors that go into my relationship with time and accomplishing things, and some of those factors fluctuate day by day. For example, I have fibromyalgia. If it’s a higher-than-typical pain day, more of my mental bandwidth goes into just being capable of things like preparing a meal or walking to the bathroom; I don’t have anything left over to focus on writing a story or doing paperwork or whatever was on that day’s agenda. If it’s a day I’m scheduled to work at the daycare center where I’ve just taken on a one-day-a-week gig, I have to get up at 4am and probably won’t be able to concentrate on anything by the time I get home at 4pm. (To clarify: I’m not working a 12-hour shift. I get up at 4 because I prefer to have time to ease into the day rather than getting up and immediately rushing out of the house; I leave a little before 7 and have to fight city-area rush hour traffic to get to the center by 8. I leave work at 3 and then have to fight the beginning of afternoon rush-hour traffic to get home.)

In addition to the “do I have the bandwidth today” thing, I also have some issues with executive functioning. I might have a task in mind but not be able to sort out where to start (e.g. do I make the spreadsheet first, or look up the info that goes on the spreadsheet and write it down and then make the spreadsheet, or…), which isn’t a case of “just figuring it out” or “making a decision,” it’s literally my brain being unable to put multiple steps of a process into the most logical and efficient order.  That difficulty also crops up when it comes to determining which task of the several on my list should be done first. I do have a daily “task list” (I hate calling it a “to-do list” because then I feel crappy if I don’t get everything done), but I’ve found that trying to schedule the tasks at certain times of day leads to a further break-down of brain cooperation because I start feeling trapped, which pings one of my CPTSD buttons and can even trigger a full-on PTSD flashback/panic attack. But *not* scheduling the tasks sometimes leads to me spending 5-10 minutes just staring at the day’s list trying to decide what to do first.

This is becoming more of an issue for me because I’ve added things to my figurative plate. I’m still trying to write, though my writing brain seems to be on a bit of a break (I’ve done a couple of short stories recently and hope to start working on another novel by the end of the month). I’m promoting the books I’ve already released. As noted, I’ve started working one day a week at a daycare, and that might not be the *same* day every week; they’ve said they’ll try to let me know the week before which day they’ll want me the following week. I’m looking into going back to school for a Master’s degree in social work or mental health counseling, and yes, I am aware that going back to school with my particular combination of mental and physical health issues along with the neurodivergence and associated executive dysfunction might be a recipe for frustration, if not disaster; meanwhile, I’m trying to organize myself and my time to allow for researching different schools and their requirements and then actually completing the application processes for the schools I choose. (I’ll worry about how to manage the program itself once I’ve applied and been accepted and figured out how to finance it…)

A lot of times when I talk about trying to organize my time and tasks, I get advice like “Use a planner!” or “Just figure it out!” or “If you really wanted to do these things, you wouldn’t be having such a hard time.” None of which is helpful, and none of which even remotely acknowledges that executive dysfunction and physical or mental health conditions are not a CHOICE. I didn’t choose to be repeatedly and relentlessly traumatized at home and in other settings from pretty much birth until my mid-30s. I didn’t choose to be born to two neurodivergent parents (neurodiversity often has a genetic component). I don’t choose to feel trapped and panicky when I try to follow an intensely structured schedule, and I don’t choose to have a messed-up memory that sometimes results in me not even remembering to write things in a planner, let alone look in the planner to follow the plans. I definitely don’t choose to be unable to figure out how to sequence the steps of a process or to take longer to sequence the steps than it ultimately takes to complete the task itself…

Over the years, I’ve learned some accommodations and routines that help, but none of the issues I deal with are choices. I’ve also learned to give myself compassion and make allowances for the things that are genuinely outside of my control.

I Took a Trip

When I decided to start blogging (again… I used to have a blog on the old Karenna Colcroft site years ago),  my intention was to do it weekly.

Obviously I forget sometimes. Or things happen that lead to me not writing a post.

Last week, I didn’t have a blog post because I was traveling. I took a trip to Canada to visit my kid, who is in veterinary school there. This was my fourth visit to the city and province where they’re studying, and the first time I actually stayed at their house. I really enjoyed the visit, and while I was there, I wrote two short stories! I’ll be sharing those in my next two newsletters (which will be sent out on April 13 and 27; if you haven’t subscribed, visit the “Free Short Story” page to sign up for the mailing list and get a Kyle and Tobias short story). Before I left, I finished writing the first draft of Fill the Empty Spaces, and I didn’t anticipate writing anything while I was gone. But the story deities proved me wrong!

I also spent some time visiting cousins I haven’t seen in over four years, visiting a bookstore that had offered to carry the Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat books (which fell through for the moment because the store has to move from its current location, so the owner isn’t currently taking any new stock), and just enjoying peace and quiet.

My mother was from Nova Scotia, and I spent a week or two there each year when I was growing up. I’ve always felt more at home in the Maritimes provinces than anywhere else. Will a move there happen? Anything’s possible; I have dual US and Canadian citizenship, so I could in theory relocate if I wanted. Meanwhile, I enjoy my visits there!

(I didn’t get any pictures this time around; this one is from a previous visit.)

Musing About Marketing

As a self-published author, the responsibility for marketing my books is entirely mine. Even years ago when I worked with publishers, much of the marketing responsibility fell on me; small publishers don’t have the budget to put a ton of marketing muscle behind their authors, especially the authors whose sales aren’t in the higher levels. Which is me.

Marketing is something I’ve always struggled with, mainly because I don’t completely understand what I’m supposed to do. “Write blogs.” Okay, but then don’t I have to get people to read the blogs? How do I do that? Likewise with “Have a newsletter.” I do have one, but that’s also something I have to market because otherwise people won’t subscribe to it. Having to market a marketing tool I’m supposed to use to market my books doesn’t make sense to me. (I do have a newsletter. If you go to the page on this site that’s titled “Free Short Story,” you can sign up to get the Real Werewolves short story “Kale and Karaoke,” and thereby be added to my newsletter mailing list.)

When I ask people what to do to market, I often get vague answers like “You know, let people know you have books.” Yes, I know that’s what I need to do… but HOW? “Post on Facebook.” Which is like whispering into a hurricane; there are literally millions of people posting about their books on Facebook.

“Connect with people.” Okay… how does one do that? This is the most frequent piece of marketing advice I receive, and it, like the concept of marketing a marketing tool, makes no sense to me. I am neurodivergent. I grew up being severely bullied and not understanding how to “human,” so to speak, and as an adult who lived through fourteen years of an abusive marriage, I never had much opportunity to develop any healthy ways of connecting to people. I didn’t learn the social intricacies most people take for granted. I’ve been told that I don’t *appear* awkward in social situations, but I sure as hell feel awkward…and anxious that the figurative mask I’ve put in place will slip and people will see how awkward I really am. Not to mention that even as an adult, even after leaving that abusive marriage in 2006, I’ve continually encountered people in work and social setting who find me an easy target for bullying. (Children are not the only ones who bully; some grown-ass adults never got over the high-school mean kid mentality.) So what little bit I understand of what “connect with people” means is something I’m disinclined to do, because it’s complicated and not something I’m even sure how to do, and there’s always the risk of more bullying. Not in favor of that.

So I bungle along trying to market my books doing the same things I generally do, because those are the things I know how to do. I join Facebook groups and sometimes interact, but I don’t form out-of-group connections with anyone. I mention my books on my profile and Facebook page, as well as (very occasionally, when I feel comfortable–which is rare) on my profile on another social networking site.  I blog and send out my newsletter, and when budget allows, I book blog tours for my new releases.

I know other authors who seem very at ease with marketing, and judging from what I’ve seen about their sales, they do it quite well. I watch and try to learn from them, but at the end of the day, I’m me and have to do what I’m able to do. Which is not bringing my books the attention I would like for them. But here we are.

What marketing advice have you heard? If you’re an author, or someone who has a business or product, how do you market?

Release Week! And Some Upcoming Changes

This is it! On Thursday (March 23), Chance Met will officially be released! The book will be available in Kindle and print formats on Amazon! I have a couple of reviews scheduled, and I can’t wait to see what the readers and reviewers think of single dad Trey Damone,  his son Mikey, and Trey’s new love interest, psychic Jeremiah Crawford. (Honestly, I want to know what readers think, even if they think it sucks. I’m not thin-skinned, and I don’t go off on ranty explosions online if someone gives me a negative review.)

Meanwhile, I spent the weekend looking at the release schedule I’d planned. Originally, Chance Met was supposed to be released on March 9. However, because of some personal life stuff that happened, and the fact that Trey and Jeremiah decided their story needed to be over twice as long as the version that was published in 2013, it took longer than anticipated to ready the book for publication.

My next release, Try the Tofu (Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat 4) was originally planned for May. But because of the delay with Chance Met, that would have given me two releases within six weeks, unless I pushed back Tofu, which would have meant needing to push back my July release, and so on. (It got confusing.)

Instead of moving every upcoming release back by two weeks or so, I decided to just bump Try the Tofu to July. This gives me a little breathing room in my schedule, and also enables me to change my plans for the entire Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series. When I started planning the rereleases of the previously-published books of this series, and then decided I was going to write new RWDEM books as well, I thought it sounded like a good idea to do 3 Real Werewolves books a year. However, when I looked at the other things I have planned to write or rerelease, I felt overwhelmed. Since overwhelm was at the root of the 7-year hiatus I took from writing anything at all, my priority this time around is to *not* get overwhelmed.

So I will be releasing 2 Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat books per year, in January and July (which started this year with Hummus on Rye’s January release), until Kyle and Tobias stop giving me ideas. In September of this year, I’ll be rereleasing Lost Soul, a novel which originally predated Chance Met (Jeremiah Crawford is a secondary character in Lost Soul) but is now a follow-up, though it doesn’t focus on Jeremiah and Trey. And in November, I’ll release Fill the Empty Spaces, a new paranormal novel I’ve been working on, about a man who has lost his partner and is struggling with grief. Fill the Empty Spaces is more paranormal than romance, but there are romantic elements.

The good thing about self-publishing is I have the power to rearrange things as needed. Hopefully it won’t be needed again any time soon!

Chance Met Preorder Is Available!

Working on Chance Met was an adventure. The original version, published in 2013, was a novella that came in at well under 20,000 words. It was written as part of a Valentine’s Day thing my publisher at the time was running, and I wasn’t entirely happy with it because I felt like the characters, one of whom is a single dad, fell into bed together way sooner than I was comfortable with. But it was supposed to be a short piece, and the characters having sex was kind of expected.

When I decided to add it to my roster of rereleases, I wanted to do something about the insta-lust aspect. I also wanted to expand on some facets of the story that I’d given short shrift in the original due to length constraints. So I set out to expand the story…

…and it expanded quite a bit more than I thought it would.

That isn’t a bad thing. The new version is around 53,000 words, long enough for me to feel justified in publishing a paperback version as well as Kindle.  Although the heat between Trey and Crawford still escalates quickly, it isn’t as rapid or out of the blue as in the original. And there’s some conflict between the two of them, unlike the original where everything just happened smoothly over the course of a few days.

My plan for this release was initially a March 9 release date, with the Kindle preorder going live on February 23. Because of the length of the expansion, plus some personal life things that interfered with my ability to work on the book, that didn’t happen. However, as of March 9, the Kindle preorder is live! And the official release date, for both Kindle and paperback, will be March 23.

You can preorder the Kindle version on Amazon.

Trying to Connect with Characters

Sometimes when I work on a story, the words just flow. I barely even need to think about what I’m going to write; I sit down, put my fingers on the keyboard, and off we go. It’s as if the character has become a real being and is dictating the words to me. All I have to do is type them.

Other times, the story doesn’t flow as easily. That’s partly because I tend to get a little too perfectionistic; I have to have exactly the right words and phrase things exactly the right way, and if I’m having a day when my language center crashes, finding those “right” things is a struggle that sometimes leads to me writing a sentence or two if I’m lucky. (And then often either deleting those sentences or agonizing over rewriting them the next day.) The perfectionism, in turn, comes from my dislike of editing, which isn’t a helpful dislike when it comes to writing quality stories that I’m happy to have people read. The oppositional part of my brain tells me that the better I write something the first time, the less editing I’ll have to do after I finish the first draft. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to the first draft either never getting finished or taking far longer than it needs to, because I agonize over the words and get bogged down.

The lack of flow is also sometimes because I don’t feel as connected to the character I’ve created. Maybe I haven’t fleshed them out as well as I need to; maybe they’re very different from the type of character I usually write, so I’m having a hard time getting into their head. Without that connection, not only does it become more difficult to write the story, but I’m not as interested in it, which makes me less likely to work on and finish it. I write partly because *I* want to see what happens; although I do usually have at least a vague brainstorm of where I think a story will go, once I start writing, I don’t necessarily stick to the brainstorm. The story and characters sometimes carry me off in a different direction, and I’m okay with that. But if I don’t feel a connection to the character, I’m not as interested in seeing what happens to them.

As the author, it’s up to me to create characters my readers want to read about–and that I want to write about. Even though some of my characters feel like they’ve become autonomous beings who tell me their stories–I’m looking at you, Kyle Slidell–ultimately they are the creation of my own mind. And if I don’t feel enough connection to a character to write about them, it’s up to me to either forge that connection or forget about writing that character’s story.


Someone Likes My Books!

I belong to a bunch of Facebook groups that are related to writing in general, reading/writing romance, or specifically male/male romance. Some of the groups are discussion only; one doesn’t even permit authors to identify themselves as authors, partly so readers will freely discuss their opinions and partly to avoid becoming yet another group that’s all promotion all the time. (Unfortunately, even groups with the best of intentions sometimes turn into just a bunch of authors and assistants shouting ads at each other…)

Some of the groups I’m in allow authors to promote their books only on certain days of the week or only when the group admins announce that promo is permitted. In two of those groups this past week, I posted things promoting books in my Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series.

And on each of those posts, someone commented saying how much they love the series!

I’ve had readers tell me they enjoy the books, but the readers I usually hear from are people I know personally or have known online for a long time. In one of the cases this past week, it was someone I didn’t know at all; the other commenter was someone who has reviewed all three of the currently-released RWDEM books and said she can’t wait for the next one.

Can I just say how amazing it feels to have readers tell me they like my books? How amazing it feels to know that people are *reading* them?

About six months ago, I had an experience that I still pull out of my mental filing cabinet when I feel discouraged. In my non-writing life, I’m a rideshare driver; it’s how I support my writing habit. I had a passenger one day back in September-ish who asked me what I do when I’m not driving, and I told her I’m an author. She asked me what I wrote, and I gave her a one-sentence overview of the Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series. (At the time, I had only rereleased Salad on the Side and Veggie Burgers to Go, along with the two related hetero romances.) Sounding excited, she asked me for my pen name; I glanced in the rearview and saw that she had her phone out, presumably looking me up on Amazon, so I gave her the name…

…And she stared at her phone, then said, “Oh, my gosh, I just read one of your books!” She went on to tell me she loved Salad on the Side and thought Kyle was an awesome character.

I think no matter how popular an author becomes, no matter how much they earn from their books, hearing/reading a reader saying they love the books feels incredible. Years ago, before my long-term hiatus from writing, I told my husband that if I ever stopped being excited to hear that someone had read and enjoyed my books, I would know it was time to quit.

Posting reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. helps authors because it tells other readers about that author’s books and whether they’re something people should read. (Reviews are NOT for authors, though some of us do get something out of reviews, even the negative ones.) But telling an author, either in a message or a conversation or a comment on a Facebook post, that you love their books can also help far more than you might realize.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

And happy first blog post to me!

Well… not my first *ever* blog post. On the original Karenna Colcroft website, I had a blog where I posted regularly. That blog, along with the site itself, was taken down during my hiatus from writing. When I set the site back up in early 2022, I debated whether to include a blog and decided against it.

But now I’ve decided to give it a go. I’ll be posting weekly about what’s going on in my writing and my life. Books I’m working on, books I’m reading. What’s coming up, plans I’ve changed, and so on.

It’s a blog. It’s going to be kind of like my brain. A bunch of things.

Right now, I’m working (still) on getting Chance Met ready for a March release. This book was planned for March 9, but due to extenuating circumstances, I’ve moved it to March 23.

When I sat down with the book in December, the plan was just to edit and update it as I’d done with the Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat novels. Chance Met was originally published in 2013 as a tie-in Valentine’s novella; Trey Damone, one of the main characters, is (in the in-universe timeline) the newest member of the Boston North Pack to which my vegan werewolf Kyle Slidell and his mate, the Alpha Tobias Rogan, belong. The other main character, Jeremiah Crawford, was originally introduced in my novel Lost Soul, which was published in 2012. (Because I’ve reconfigured the series timelines a bit, and wanted to reintroduce Trey and Jeremiah first, I’ll be doing some rewrites on Lost Soul and plan to rerelease it in July of this year.)

In its original version, Chance Met was a short novella, a bit under 20,000 words. As part of the updating, I decided I wanted to expand it a bit. And the characters and storyline decided the expansion would be more than “a bit.” As of this post, I’ve more than doubled the length of the story. I’ve rearranged some of the plot points, added new ones, and strengthened the ties to the Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series; although Chance Met is not part of that series, it is associated with it, and Trey and Jeremiah’s relationship is referenced in the rest of the RWDEM books. So that was extenuating circumstance #1: The book turned out to want/need more rewriting and more new content for the expansion than I’d initially thought.

Extenuating circumstance #2 actually happened before I started working on Chance. At the beginning of December, my mother passed away. I’ve been spending a fair bit of time trying to help my dad deal with the aftermath of that, as well as trying to help him clean out nearly 5 decades of STUFF from the house he and my mother shared so he can move into more beneficial housing. It’s been a process, and between the time it’s taking and the mental impact of grief and of worrying about my dad, my writing has been impacted.

And finally, extenuating circumstance #3 was a round with Covid in mid-January. This was my second bout with the thing; two years ago when I had it, I had no symptoms at all and was completely functional. But this time, it kinda knocked me on my ass for a few days. Thinking barely happened, never mind writing!

So with all of that, my planned March 9 release for Chance Met had to be moved. But the book is just about ready now, and I will be releasing it March 23. And here’s the cover!