Sunday, December 14, 2014

Of Facing the Facts and Forced Vacations

Okay. So. I'm going to preface this by saying that this is a post that I had really hoped to avoid writing.

Like, ever.

But I feel it's something that I finally need to explain, if only because I need to take some of the pressure off of myself where this third book in the Variant Series is concerned. (And also, to an extent, because I feel like I owe you an explanation as to why my projected timelines keep getting stretched further and further into the future.)

Not to worry, book three will still be released in early 2015, come hell or high water (or hospital visits, but we'll get to that part in a moment). It's far enough along that—baring some pretty serious extenuating circumstances that I should be able to avoid—it will be ready for publication relatively soon.

I just need y'all to understand what's happening with me, and I need to finally explain why it takes me so dang long to get my books out to you.

The self-publishing world is pretty fast-paced. At times, the process of traditional publishing seems to move at a snail's pace in comparison.

That's part of the beauty of it. Self-published authors are able to speed things up exponentially, just by virtue of being the sole authority on their writing and publishing process. They can provide their readers with new material almost as fast as they can write and polish it. There are indie authors out there who manage to publish multiple books (sometimes an unbelievable number of them) in a single year.

You guys have probably noticed by now—I am not that kind of indie author.

I just can't write my novels that quickly. And in a market that often expects two or more new titles a year from self-pubs.... Well, it can put a lot of pressure on a writer to live up to that standard.

For the past three years, I have tried and failed to live up to that particular expectation. And it's probably time I explained why.

Like I said at the outset, this is not something I originally wanted to tell you about.

I'm a relatively private person, and this is a topic that I usually avoid talking about whenever possible. It's an issue I deal with daily, but that I try very hard not to let others know about. Mostly because there's very little to be gained by talking about it. It is what it is, and everyday I do my best to deal with it and live my life like it isn't much of an issue.

Most days, I succeed. Some days... not so much.

At times in the past, I've mentioned that my health really isn't the best. If you follow me on Twitter, you've likely noticed a tweet or two referencing this fact.

For the last two years, I've been receiving an IV treatment once every eight weeks to help control an autoimmune disease. (I actually need to receive this treatment at least once every four-to-six weeks, but the insurance company refuses to pay for it to be administered any more often than every eight—and at roughly $2,500 per dose, I'm kind of at their mercy, here. {Really. You gotta love the American health care system.})

For the most part, this treatment program has been successful at keeping me feeling pretty good (if not particularly great) and has kept me out of the hospital for nearly two years.

Unfortunately, the last two treatments I received haven't worked as well as they usually do and it's resulted in a pretty major relapse and the return of some of my worst symptoms. When you add in a run of bad luck and a few personal losses that have caused my anxiety issues to soar to new heights (lows?), and the fact that this particular disease (like most chronic illnesses) is made exponentially worse by heightened stress-levels....

Um... Well... Yeah. I'm kind of in a not-so-good way, at the moment.

I'm currently eight days away from my next treatment and in an attempt to ensure that I make it to that next dose without being admitted to the hospital, I'm going to be taking a short vacation.

A vacation from basically everything, except for sleep, books, and a nonstop marathon of the best movies and TV shows Netflix has to offer.**

I need to take it easy for a bit. And I hope you can understand and forgive me, but that means that all things book-three related are going to be placed on the back burner until I can get my health back in working order.

I could have waited to admit to all this until early next year... And, heck, if everything goes the way I'm hoping it will—and I bounce back from this quickly enough to remain on schedule—I might not have needed to say anything at all.

But the truth is, I needed to finally come to terms with the fact that my health will always be a factor in the speed at which I'm able to publish my novels. And with all the love and support you guys have shown me over the past few years, I felt like I owed you some sort of explanation as to why I keep making you wait such a long time in between books. (Especially after that rather cruel cliffhanger I left you dangling from at the end of Resistance... Seriously, y'all. It's killing me not to just break down and spill my guts here on the blog about what happens next, just so I can put an end to the suspense!)

Thanks again for all the love you've shown me lately. You guys totally rock.

I'll see you all again in the new year!

**And if you have any recommendations of your own Netflix faves, or of books that I absolutely have to read, send them my way! I'll adore you for them. Okay, I'll probably adore you, anyway, but if you help me find some fun distractions during the next few weeks, you're likely to be upgraded to Hero status. :)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Of Sleep Deprivation and Updates

I don't mean to alarm anyone... but I woke up at 4:30 this morning.

Like, on my own. And by that, I mean without the aid of a window-rattling sonic boom or the smell of coffee. One minute I was sleeping soundly and the next it was all... OHDEARGODWHYAREPEOPLEEVENALIVETHISEARLYINTHEMORNING.

I would have been happy enough to go back to sleep, but the muse had other plans.

She was all like...

Because apparently my muse is Daria Morgendorffer. No surprise there, really.

*sigh* I'm happy (if a bit exhausted) to report that I have reached that point in the writing process of this book.

The #NoSleepTillBOOK-lyn part. (*rereads her absolutely terrible pun* *decides that it's excusable since it was written before the sun was awake*) In other words, the brakes are off and we're officially on a crash course with completion. Woo!

I'd be much happier about this if my muse kept normal office hours.

Anyway. Just thought I'd check in real quick and let you guys know we are definitely on track for the mid–February release date. For now, anyway. *knocks on wood*

How are y'all? You good? I hope you're good.

I've got a book to write and coffee to acquire, so I'll end this here. Big, BIG thank-you's to all of you for being so patient and supportive up to this point! I would have cried uncle ages ago, if it weren't for all of you! Thanks for all the love you've sent my way lately!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Of Check-In's and Writing Retreats

*pokes tentatively at wi-fi connection*

*realizes link to the outside world has been restored*

*busts a move*

HEY, GUYS! Long time, no check-in. Sorry about that.

I'm currently on the second leg of my vacation/writing-retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where I have every intention of writing the crap out of this stubborn novel.

To give you an idea of just how stubborn Book 3 has been to write thus far.... I actually began writing it well over a year ago. It's been half-written, then re-written, then remixed, and then sliced and diced until it became the workable, half-finished draft that it is today.

The good news? I've written almost ten thousand new words in the five days since I arrived in the mountains—and they're all (knock on wood) keepers. I'm making progress. And it feels amazing.

The bad news? Even at this rate, it's going to take a flippin' miracle to have the book ready to publish before New Year's.

...Not that I'm giving up on that particular goal. It really just comes down to whether or not I can get the book through edits fast enough to release it on time. And honestly... edits aren't exactly something you want to rush through.

I want this book to be the best it can be. I want it to be something you guys will enjoy reading. And that can take time...

So here's the deal. From now on, we'll be aiming for a mid–February release date.

And if the book happens to be ready a little earlier... Well. Who am I to make y'all wait? :-)

Also, in an effort to keep me on track in the face of my newly reacquired wi-fi connection, I'm bringing back the progress bar. *points to the upper left corner of the blog*

Don't be too worried by the current percentage—there's actually a bit more than that. I'm not counting the scenes I've written, but haven't added in to the manuscript yet, and there are quite a few of those.

For the next week, I ought to be updating that bar daily as I write. With any luck, it will be at 75% or higher before I head back home!

So. Yes. With that in mind, I should probably get back to work, eh?

Have a wonderful Wednesday, y'all!

*wanders off in search of words*

Song of the Week: Arsonist's Lullaby by Hozier (aka the perfect song for the Variant Series' character, Carson Brandt. Fave lyric: "Don't you ever tame your demons, but always keep 'em on a leash." Do you guys have a song that reminds you of a certain character? If so, let me know in the comments!)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Of Book Signings and Grand Openings

Hey, guys!

If you've been following me on Twitter or here on the blog these last few months, you'll have noticed that I've been a bit... distracted lately.

Much of the last 90 days has been spent planning, organizing, and setting up a new gift shop and boutique here in my hometown of Tampa, Florida. (Not so great for the writing schedule, but a wonderful, much needed source of new income, nonetheless. One day I'll make enough to cover all of my expenses through my writing—until then, the day job beckons!)

We finally opened our doors a couple of weeks ago, and now we're gearing up for our official Grand Opening Celebration on Saturday, September 13th!

We've been selling my novels here in the store, and I've already promised a handful of our customers that I will be in attendance on the day of our Grand Opening, and that I'll be available to sign books and chat with readers.

Once I realized that the book signing would be one of the features of the event (along with some great giveaways, samples of our gourmet food and teas, and discounts throughout the store), I decided to go ahead and advertise it here on the blog.

SO! For those of you that will be in or around the Tampa Bay area on Saturday, September 13th, I will be at the Willow Veranda gift shop and boutique from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., signing books for anyone that might be interested!

Here's a link to the Willow Veranda Grand Opening event page on Facebook, in case you'd like more details (our address, event hours, etc.).

Hope to see a few of you there! :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Of Missing Emails and Embarrassed Authors



After a very confusing hour-long chat with my webhost's tech support yesterday.... I discovered that the settings for my [@] email addresses hadn't been set up correctly.

...Which came as something of a surprise to me, considering they haven't been changed in over two years, and I had been sending and receiving emails—I thought—just fine the entire time.

Except that I wasn't.

Some emails were being slightly delayed, and some of the emails you guys sent me (not many, but at least a few) never made it to me at all.

My initial reaction to the news.

My reaction once I realized my webhost was responsible for the screw up.

So this is just a quick note to say: If you've ever sent me an e-mail, and you didn't hear back from me, you have my apologies! 

I do my absolute best to answer each and every email I receive, and the thought that some of you wrote me and heard nothing back, worries me a lot.

The settings should be correct now, so if you write me and fail to hear back within 1-2 weeks, please let me know here on the blog!!!

I always love hearing from you guys! :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Of Birthdays and Expectations

Updates and Musings

I have nearly an entire week off starting today... And I could not be happier about it.


It's been a busy few weeks.

My mom and I finished setting up (and subsequently opened up) a new gift shop & boutique, my health took a spin on the roller-coaster ride from Hades, one of my best friends had her beautiful baby boy, I met a ton of amazing people... and I learned that working 50 or more hours a week and trying to keep on a writing schedule (while also battling extreme anxiety and a chronic disease) is not only impossible, but hazardous to my health and seriously damaging to my sense of calm.


And I turned 30 last weekend.

So, there's that.

I can pretty much guarantee that had I actually had time to mourn the loss of my twenties, I would have been way more upset about that particular development. Instead, I only briefly noticed the transition.

(And anyway, I still struggle to convince people that yes, I am legally old enough to buy that fruity alcoholic beverage at Bahama Breeze, so please stop eyeballing my driver's license like it says "McLovin"...)

When you have the perpetually chubby cheeks and dimples of a little kid, worrying about growing older has less to do with laugh lines and more to do with your utter lack of accomplishments upon reaching those merciless temporal milestones. Something that I was trying very hard not to think about.

Publishing two books counts as some sort of accomplishment, right?

Do I get Grown Up points for that? Because I'm pretty sure the fact that I'm unmarried, am renting an apartment, and have no family of my own is threatening to put me in the negative.

It's made me think, though...

I mean, true, I may be the only one of my friends that hasn't gotten married yet.

And, okay, I'm also probably the only one left without a 401K or a decent retirement plan.

Fact is, I'll probably never have that white picket fence, 3.2 kids and a dog thing that society keeps telling me I should want...

But does that really matter?

For the moment, at least, I'm happy with my choices—which is more than I can say for some of the people I know.

So my life didn't turn out exactly the way society said it would. So what? It's taken me thirty years, but I'm finally beginning to understand...  Those detours I keep taking are what make my life interesting. And what's a good story without a few unexpected twists and turns?

So to my thirties I say, "Bring it. And be sure to keep it interesting." Because as far as I'm concerned—to quote my girl, Alex—normal is terribly overrated.

Giveaways Galore

A few of you have been lamenting the fact that you missed the giveaway here on the blog we did a couple weeks back... Well, to that I say—I've totally got you covered.

The kind, generous, and ever-so-lovely ladies over at the TeamNerd Reviews blog are currently celebrating I HEART YA 2014!! And so in addition to the amazing posts by and about YA authors, they're also hosting five—count 'em, FIVE—giveaways!

Click here to check out the interview I did with them and then scroll on down to the bottom of the post for a link to the I HEART YA giveaways page where a signed copy of Resistance is currently up for grabs!

And if that's not enough, TeamNerd's amazing reviewer Bridget was kind enough to create this fantastic promo image for Resistance!

Perfect promo is perfect. Just sayin'.

Also, be sure to stay tuned, because we'll be doing another giveaway over on the Jena Leigh Facebook page, just as soon as it hits 500 likes!

This Week's Playlist

I've been listening to Alt-J a lot lately, so they've earned two spots on this mini-playlist... Can't get enough of them while I'm working. Pandora introduced me to both of the next two songs and now they've been stuck in my head off and on for ages. And last, but not least, the beautiful harmony that is my current writing song—"Storm Comin'" by The Wailin' Jenny's.  Hope you find a song or two to enjoy!


Alt-J—Left Hand Free

Aranda—Still in the Dark

Eli Young Band—Oklahoma Girl

The Wailin' Jenny's—Storm Comin'

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Of Giveaways and Happy Hearts


Hey guys! In a recent post I mentioned that the Jena Leigh page on Facebook was still slowly gaining likes, and that I hoped to do a giveaway once we hit 500. And we will! As soon as that 500th fan clicks "like," I'll put together something special for my Facebook followers...

In the meantime (to help us get a little closer to that goal of 500 likes), I'll be running a giveaway here on the blog! (And sorry international folks, but this time around it's just for residents of the US and Canada... One day, I'll be able to afford to ship these prizes anywhere in the world! Until then, I just can't swing it. Not to fret, though—I'll be doing another giveaway soon that will be open worldwide! So stay tuned!)

The prize up for grabs this time is a signed paperback copy of Resistance (The Variant Series, #2), along with two Variant Series bookmarks, and a $10 Barnes and Noble gift card!

Yep. On August 11th, I'll be giving away a whole bunch of goodies to one lucky reader who enters the Rafflecopter giveaway below! So be sure to enter for your chance to win!

I made sure there are plenty of ways for you to rack up points—and let's face it, since the giveaway will be exclusive to the Jena Leigh blog, in all likelihood there will be roughly five entries all together. Like, total. So if you do enter, the odds will definitely be in your favor. Just sayin'... :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I've written and rewritten this part of the post roughly four times, now.

It's not that I don't have anything to say. I can think of plenty. It's just that all the things I'm inclined to tell you about are coming across as either whiny or depressing. Or both. And that's not the sort of post I wanted to make today. So instead, let's just summarize the bad as quickly as possible so we can move on to some more enjoyable stuff, shall we?

The situation in a nutshell is this: For the next month or so, I haven't a snowflake's hope in Hades of meeting my current writing goals without subjecting myself to a mind-numbing stretch of extreme stress and sleep-deprivation. One that will likely result in my health taking another nosedive.... and/or a full-on nervous breakdown. Whichever comes first.

There are only so many hours in the day and—sadly—I haven't yet figured out how to clone myself.

As soon as we get this store up and running (and have hired enough help), I'll be settling back into my normal writing routine and that shiny purple progress bar for Book 3 will be back on the blog!

Until then, for the sake of my sanity, I'll be writing what I can, when I can, and trying very hard not to feel guilty about it.*

Pins and Posts

So, in case you hadn't noticed, half of my tweets lately have consisted of pins that caught my eye on Pinterest.... The other half, of course, are the exceedingly random posts I found amusing on Tumblr.

Lately the Internet has surpassed both books and TV as my chosen method of work-related detox.  I've noticed that when I finally make it home in the evenings I'm too tired to even watch a 30-minute-long television show, much less compose a pithy collection of words in 140 characters or less. So recently my online presence has taken on a less direct form... Reblogs.

Cause, y'see, making an intelligent comment when you're half dead and longing for sleep is hard. Scrolling through a mind-boggling number of pins and posts, however, is as easy as dragging your thumb across a cell phone. And that, I can totally handle.


Out of all my pins and posts this week I stumbled across a couple of favorites I thought I'd share with you here on the blog.

First up is this little gem Wil Wheaton reblogged on Tumblr...

(It's sadly lacking a source, though the name at the bottom reads "Sweatpants & Coffee". If you know its origin, please send me a link!)

There has been so much talk online and in the news lately about whether or not we should be embarrassed by the genres and age classifications of the books we choose to read. About whether or not adults should be ashamed to read YA fiction.

You know what I say to that? You should feel absolutely no shame at all in reading whatever you like—whatever makes you happy. And if other people don't like it, they can stuff it.**

I can't tell you how many times I've had adults (most of whom are aged mid-40s and above) approach me and tell me how surprised they were that they enjoyed my book.

"I saw the Young Adult label and just assumed it was for kids," they'll say. "I wasn't expecting to enjoy it so much, at my age!"

But that's the thing. 

YA, middle grade, children's stories... It doesn't matter what the age classification is—a good story is a good story.  If the story is enjoyable, meaningful, relatable, or clever, it can easily transcend the limitations of its assigned age level.

So should I, as an almost-30-year-old, be embarrassed to wander the YA aisles at my local bookstore? Should I be ashamed to be seen reading a Harry Potter novel or Maggie Stiefvater's latest book in public?

Of course not. If someone has a problem with it, then that's their problem, not mine.

I appreciate a well-told story. Full stop.

An age classification is a suggestion, not a rule. And thank God for that. I shudder to think what amazing adventures I might never have experienced, and all the extraordinary characters I might never have met, had I followed those so-called "rules."

Anyway. That's my two cents' worth.

...I've shared a Tumblr reblog, so let's wrap this section up with my favorite pin from last week:

 (Love this. Surreal and brimming with possibilities... Oh, the stories I could write...)

Stuck in My Head

Two songs this week, the first is a song from Swedish DJ Avicii, with vocals provided by my favorite voice in bluegrass music today—Dan Tyminski. (You might recognize his voice from the song "Man of Constant Sorrow" off the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.) The song's called "Hey Brother" and is from the Avicii album True.

Avicii - Hey Brother

Next up, it's absolutely the most oddball song I've heard in ages. Over the course of the last few days, it's inspired some glorious off-key shower vocals, as well as some horrendously awkward dancing in my car... And all I can say is, thanks, Pandora. Thank you for always playing the weirdest songs imaginable in my QuickMix. You provide me with so much awesome $#!@.

 Milky Chance - Stolen Dance

What's not to love?

Okay, guys. Time to wrap up this monster of a post!

I'm working on another post about my writing process that I hope to publish here on the blog in the next week or two, but either way, you'll hear from me again next weekend. Hope you all have a fantastic week! :)

*I haven't stopped writing. Far from it. I wrote another 800 words, just this morning. I merely need to give myself some room to breathe and take a break when I require it. The "accountability" method is wonderful and effective, and I'll be returning to it ASAP... Just as soon as my other responsibilities calm down a bit. In the meantime, I'll continue trudging along, even if I'm not talking much about my progress. :)

** Yeeeahhh. What I really wanted to say to that included a lot more cursing and a few obscene gestures. None of which translate well on a blog where the appropriateness rating is traditionally kept at PG-13 or below. But you get the picture.