Leaving the Day Job

001This is a pic of my Cadmus and EPA colleagues in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2011, the same week my first Carina Press book, SAPPHIRE, released. Environmental consulting for The Cadmus Group has been my day job/primary career for 18 years, as of October 1.

Today was my last day.

Talk about a huge life change for me!

I originally took this job for what I thought would be a year or two until I could support myself as a writer. Guess THAT took a little longer than expected, huh? Eighteen years later, I’m finally taking the leap into writing full time.

However, I want to be honest with you all, because it greatly bothers me when writers represent themselves as “being a full time writer” without disclosing other sources of income. It’s a badge of honor in the writing world, to say one writes full time, as so few writers are able to make a living wage at it. Many “full time writers” are people who’ve retired and are able to live on their pensions, or those who have a salaried and benefitted spouse to take up the income slack. I feel it creates an unfair expectation in aspiring writers when people claim the badge of honor without admitting to those other income streams that allow them to pay the bills.

So, my reality is that I’ve been laid off. I’ve known about the possibility for a long time. The major project I worked on, my niche expertise in drinking water that took me to Puerto Rico, was axed right after that trip. Since then I’ve been scraping for work. Environmental consulting works much like law does – if you don’t have billable hours, you are SOL. I’ve been working on a whole variety of projects over the last few years, but nothing consistent. EPA’s priorities have shifted with money going to different and fewer projects.

Though I was originally hired in an office in Wyoming, I’ve worked from home since 2004, when Cadmus closed that office because the principal there was finally laid off for lack of billable hours. That’s been a great gig for me, as it allowed us to move to Santa Fe so my husband, David, could go back to school after early retirement and have a second career as a doctor of oriental medicine. It also allowed me a flexible schedule to write.

Over a year ago I went to full-time hourly at the company, due to lack of work. As long as I averaged 24 hours per week, I could retain my benefits. If I fell below this for more than two months in a row, then I would lose those benefits. Some months I had more work, some months less. But overall, my day job income has decreased dramatically. This hasn’t been easy as David is still building his practice (he’s about three years in) and his income varies also. Because he took early retirement, his stipend is pretty meager. For the last six years, I’ve been the primary wage earner.

After a very lean August and September at Cadmus, it came as no surprise when I got a call from one of my higher-ups. She said that I could be laid off with a severance package or go to part time hourly, with no benefits.

All these years, with the writing income gradually increasing, I’d always thought there would come a day when the writing money exceeded the day job money and I would give my notice. It never once occurred to me that I could be laid off with severance.

(A big part of me figured I’d be fired for screwing something up, frankly. I managed multi-million dollar contracts and there were so many ways to do something wrong.)

Reader, I jumped at my chance to be free.

It’s been a great experience, in all truth, with people referring to my “sterling record” and the desire to “keep me close as a valued alum.” I may subcontract back in the future if they need my niche expertise again. Because it’s a no-fault layoff, I get the severance money, plus I can cash in my stock options and also file for unemployment. A number of very smart people have advised me not to be too proud to take that last. David has had health insurance via COBRA from his retirement and I can insure both of us through the Affordable Care Act (SO glad we can do this now!) for less than the extortionate sum he’s been paying.

I’m hoping I can pull this off. If it doesn’t work, I can always look for another day job. But I’m tremendously hopeful. I’m going to try to write 5K/day, which will allow me to get some more things in the pipeline. I’m greatly looking forward to having one career and the increased mental energy of focusing on one pursuit. I’m planning to read more books, too. Maybe get some projects finished around the house.

Mostly, I feel joyfully free!

Delicious Quotes and Reviews

BxGc3zrIEAAG7nkI love how Carina Press puts together these quotes from the books for release week.

As part of the ongoing celebration of the culmination of Rogue and Gwynn’s adventures in the Covenant of Thorns, I’m at the Carina Press blog today, talking about the best way to end a series. I’m also over at Jen’s That’s What I’m Talking About blog with an excerpt from Rogue’s Paradise and there will be a review posted there later today. Speaking of reviews, the fabulous E and Has at The Bookpushers came out with their joint review of Rogue’s Paradise today – very fun to read!

Chat, Nom, Party!

1461_1535-classic-cinnamon-rollsRelease day for Season of Seduction and Five Golden Rings is tomorrow!

To celebrate, the five of us with stories in the anthology and sponsoring a chat and giveaway. Whee! Our prizes are copies of the anthology (OF COURSE), plus gift cards to Wolferman’s Gourmet Desserts – order online and they SEND YOU NOMS. It’s brilliant.

You can enter via the Rafflecopter below. Or just stop by the chat and say hi!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dream Casting the Movie

Armitage_New_York_December_2012I’m on the Carina Press blog today, talking about who’d I’d cast to play Rogue and Gwynn in the movie. Stop by to add your votes for alternative casting or for the secondary characters!

Tomorrow, I’m heading to Las Vegas (VIVA!) to attend the Nevada Writers Fiction Writing in the Digital Age Conference, where I’ll be giving a workshop on Saturday, More than Wham, Bam, Thank-You M’am – Wooing the Female Reader and signing swag at the Atomic Book Signing on Friday night.

If you’re in the area, come on by!

Carina Press (Mostly) Uncensored!

Carina-Uncensored_graphic

I’ll be participating in this very fun panel discussion at RWA next week for those of you going. We’re to be frank and answer what you REALLY want to know about publishing with Carina. See you there!

I’ll also be signing Ruby at the literacy event Wednesday night. You don’t have to be attending the conference to stop by – so if you’re in the Atlanta area, please come and say hi! I love to chat with people!

On Juggling Projects, Starting New Novels and Title Angst

HEA USA TodayWhat’s that? Oh, just Ruby as a recommended read at USA Today. 😀

Okay, I might be a little THRILLED AND GIDDY!

*ahem*

This has been a bit of a transition week for me. On Saturday I finished making the additions to Oro that Carina asked for and sent that off.  That one will be in the Erotic Holiday Anthology (which I’ve been referring to as the Ero Ho Ho Antho), scheduled to release November 21. With that production deadline looming, the Carina team has been busy with getting cover ideas and, sadly, retitling the story. Apparently a surprising number of people out there don’t know that Oro means gold in Spanish.

~drums nails on desk, looking mean~

I haven’t ever dug in my heels on a title before – and, now that the ever-patient Carolyn Crane talked me out of my tree – I won’t now. But that story will always be Oro in my heart.

So, I’m also aware that, after ORO, I don’t have anything contemporary or erotic romancey lined up for next year. Thus I spent a few days this week working up new project ideas. With the brainstorming and insightful feedback of my lurvly CPs, Carolyn and Marcella, I’ve now got concepts for six novels. One would be a contemporary romance trilogy and the other three would be new installments in the Facets of Passion series – but longer stories. And now all six are sketched out.

I know, I know. Can this really be me? Is the non-plotter actually pre-plotting?

Noooo… Don’t be silly. These are just overall road maps. But I am getting better at preconceiving how a story will go. It takes a different kind of writer muscle, but I think I’m developing it. Fabulous Agent Pam will take those out on the road, so I’ll keep you posted!

Then yesterday, I started in on Book 2 of The Twelve Kingdoms. This is the sequel to The Middle Princess, which I’ve been calling The Flower Princess. Those names will change, but that’s what they are to me until then. I set up my storyboard for Flower Princess – which meant retiring all the notes for Master of the Opera, which is pretty much done now, except for line edits, etc. – and dug into the opening scene.

It feels less huge now, but it’s always interesting to start a project I know I’ll be working on for the next three months or so. I expect developmental edits for Middle Princess during that time, but those two should dovetail nicely. In fact, I’m delighted by that timing as it will let me really submerge in that world.

It also occurred to me yesterday that, with turning in Flower Princess by November 1 and with the Book 3, The Sword Princess, due May 1, that I’ll have the whole trilogy written before most readers ever see the first book (out in June). In some ways I think that’s a really good thing for me. I’ll have less of a sense of anyone looking over my shoulder. I felt a lot of that in the Covenant of Thorns cycle, when I wrote Rogue’s Possession, with Rogue’s Pawn being out for so long. Twelve Kingdoms will be in more of a bubble. I’ll be interested in the difference.

What I am noticing is that I’m also getting much better at compartmentalizing projects. A very useful skill to have, the way I’m wanting to get these different stories out there.

So, that’s a rambly recap of where I’m at right now. Apropos of nothing, really.

You all have a fab weekend!

In Which I Catch You Up on ALL THE NEWS

eK lunchAnother photo from the RT Convention. This is me (in the yellow hat, if you don’t know) going out for barbeque with the eKensington group. I’m standing next to Alexandra Nicolajsen, who is the Digital Content/Marketing Manager for Kensington. The rest are other authors, except for the lady kneeling by the pig’s snout. That’s Alicia Condon, Editorial Director of Kensington’s Brava line. Just in case any of you want to stalk her at a conference. 😉

I feel like I have a lot of news to catch up on. I’ve been posting things in dribs and drabs, but I’m not sure where I posted what or who I told which thing. So, it seems like a Fridayish, wrap-the-week up kind of thing to list it all here. Forgive me if this is stuff you all already know.

So…

RUBY, Book 3 in the Facets of Passion series, releases on Monday!!!!Ruby_final  There have been a lot of great reviews already, so I’m really excited for this one to hit the world. I’ve also been giving copies away on Twitter this week to people who sing back the songs to me when I post lyrics. Pretty fun! Maybe I should do it on Facebook, too?

Along those lines, Book 4 in Facets of Passion, ORO, will be in Carina Press’s erotic holiday anthology coming out in December that Angela James is editing. I’m just thrilled about that, especially about the stellar writers I’ll be keeping company with: Christine d’Abo, Jodie Griffin and newbie writers to Carina, Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis.

 This weekend (starting today, in fact) is the Southwest Book Fiesta. I’ll be hanging at a booth with my local chapter, the gals from LERA. I’m the Featured Author at the booth from 11 to 12 Saturday, May 11, and again from 5 to 6. Also, at 2pm, I’ll be on a panel with some other romance authors, including the fabulously famous New York Times Bestselling Author Miss Darynda Jones. I fully intend to bask in any glory she happens to reflect.

By way of promoting the Book Fiesta, I was interviewed on local TV. It’s kind of fun to watch – and very brief!

When I was at the World Fantasy Convention last fall, I met this Australian gal, Em Craven, who has a popular website called the E-book Revolution. She later interviewed me via Skype and posted the podcast recently. It’s about an hour long, but we had a really interesting conversation. She comes at things from a more fantasy/science-fiction perspective, a group of readers who’ve been oddly slow in embracing eBooks, especially as compared to the romance community.

In other news, I have confirmation now that my modern retelling of The Phantom of the Opera will officially be called MASTER OF THE OPERA. It will come out in January 2014, in six digital episodes, releasing every two weeks. SO interested to see how it’s received. I’m working on edits for it now and having a great time with my new Kensington editor, Peter Senftleben.

After that, Book 1 of The Twelve Kingdoms will come out in trade paperback in June 2014, with Book 2 in December. Book 1 is the one I called The Middle Princess, but that title will change. The spin-off story Negotiation, a prequel to the trilogy, will be out in an anthology, THUNDER ON THE BATTLEFIELD, Volume II,  in June – eBook first, followed by mass-market paperback.

I’m auctioning off two things in Brenda Novak’s big online auction to benefit diabetes research. One is a one-on-one mentorship with me, for you aspiring writers out there. The other is the opportunity to have a meal (your choice, as schedules allow) at the RWA convention in Atlanta with me and the fabulous Carolyn Crane. We’ll treat and you can bring one friend along – or keep us all to yourself! – and dish with you on any topic you like.

Finally – and this is funny – I’ve been talked into having a Street Team. For those who don’t know, this is just a loose association of readers who want to pimp my books to the world. Because this concept always makes me think of Westside Story, the team is officially the Jeffe Jets. Yes, you can absolutely sing the theme song and I think we *have* to get the jackets at some point. At any rate, if you want to play, let me know. If you want to coordinate, even better because I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

Whew! I think that’s everything. A lot, right?

Have a great weekend, everyone!