How to Recognize and (Maybe) Avoid Burnout

The amazing and delightful Liz Argall, who draws the comic Things without Arms and without Legs, draws while she listens to panels. She did this wonderful sketch of one panel I was on at SFWA’s Nebula Conference. All the panels I was on ended up being wonderful, but this one was particularly amazing. The topic was “Burnout: How to Recognize It and Maybe How to Avoid It Next Time.

It’s a somewhat clunky title, but really wonderful for the topic. Because something that came out of the discussion – moderated by Laura Anne Gilman and including RR Virdi, Tina Connolly, and Rachel Hartman – was that creative burnout is really difficult to extricate ourselves from and not so easy to avoid.

Laura Anne, who did an amazing job of moderating, asked us all to tell our stories of creative burnout or coming close to it, and the commonalities were striking. This was mine:

For twenty years I balanced a career day job as an environmental consultant with writing. I usually wrote 1-2K words/day before switching to the day job. I slowly built my career, making more money each year, and I kept thinking that eventually I’d make enough to quit the day job. Every writer’s dream! Then my team got cut, and I was laid off with decent severance. My company offered to help me find a new job, but I wanted to see if I could make it as a full-time writer. I figured that, ,without the day job absorbing my attention and energy, I could easily double my daily wordcount.

(At this point, the entire room groaned. It was kind of hysterical that this collection of all writers foresaw the error in this.)

I was writing 4-5K/day, building up a self-published series and working up new stuff for trad – and the money was okay – but by July I was feeling ragged. I was sitting in the sun in San Diego, at the RWA Conference, having wine with Thea Harrison. She asked me how I was doing saying, “I hear you’re a full-time writer now – how exciting for you!” And I started to cry. Because I wasn’t having fun and I didn’t understand why. She told me I was starting to burn out and that I needed to get a grip and fix it, that she’d burned herself out and it took years to recover.

The remarkable thing was, for each and every one of us, someone else recognized the burnout and said something. A friend or family member had to point it out. Also, there was crying mentioned in every case, except for RR Virdi, who manfully laid claim “only” to deep depression.

We discussed ways of recovering and avoiding creative burnout, which mostly involved rediscovering play, and the simple joy of creating. Which meant divorcing it from monetization. Sometimes that meant something creative that was NOT writing, or at least, not writing anything that someone else expected or would evaluate.

At the very end, Laura Anne hit us with a statistic from the Mayo Clinic. The number one cause of burnout? Self-identification with your work.

Writers much?

So the final thing we discussed is keeping the boundaries clear, that we are not our books and stories. That’s one reason I try to be very careful to say “My book is a finalist” or “My book won an award,” rather than me. Small measures add up.


Excerpt from Thea Harrison

Another excerpt today! This time from Thea Harrison.

I loved this story for all the reasons I love Thea’s stuff. Great hero, with his gruff exterior and tender heart, his noble striving to do the right thing. And Lily is a wonderful heroine. Smart and determined, also striving to do the right thing. I love how she exercises her powers and surprises him with her abilities. I would have eaten up their story as a novel, frankly, but I loved it at this length, too. 


“You might as well order an early supper,” Wulfgar said to Gordon. “Have Jada bring two plates for the priestess and me. I want you to prepare quarters for her. After we eat, we’ll get her settled for the night. I want her close by.”

Once again, he was disposing of Lily as if she were a possession. Frowning, she opened her mouth, but Gordon spoke first.

“Shall I prepare my tent?” he asked. “Since it’s beside yours, it would be easy enough for the guards to keep watch over her as well. I can make a pallet for myself in here, if that would suffice. Or, if you would prefer, I’m sure Jermaine will be amenable if I bunk with him. You’ll have to send for me if you want something.”

“Go ahead and bunk with Jermaine,” Wulfgar told him. “Once supper arrives, I won’t need your services until morning. And be sure to add another brazier and plenty of fuel to your tent. Extra bedding as well.”

“Very good, sir.” Bowing his head, Gordon slipped out.

Sucking a tooth sourly, Lily contemplated the contents in her goblet. When Wulfgar turned to her, she could feel his attention, almost as if it were a physical touch.

“Now what does that expression imply?” He sounded amused.

She took a sip, more to procrastinate for a few moments than from any real desire to drink. She knew what Margot would do—Margot would fume at the preemptory treatment and probably start another argument, but that didn’t seem productive.

The warm wine was an explosion of flavor, spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and orange. After she swallowed, she said cautiously, “I’m not used to being talked about as if I’m not in the room, or disposed of like a… a trunk full of books. But I’m also not experienced at being a liaison for anybody, so…”

“Point taken. Next time I’ll include you in the discussion.” He took a seat, letting his long legs sprawl, and drank wine. “What do you see your role as?”

She shrugged. “I’m not a servant, but I’m not an official ambassador either. I— We— Basically Margot told me to try to behave myself and explain anything you needed to have explained.”

“And assess my camp. Assess me.” His gaze was penetrating. She felt as she had back on the dock, that he was taking in every detail about her and probably seeing more than she wanted him to see. That thought brought a wash of warmth to her face.

“Yes,” she admitted.

“So… assess me.” He gestured at the empty seat across from him. “What do you see?”

Moving to take the seat, she studied him. The black linen shirt revealed the strong, clean lines of his throat and the swell of muscle at the top of his pectoral. Even in such a relaxed pose he conquered the space, the tip of his boots almost reaching hers. His dark hair fell on his forehead, giving his hard features a somewhat boyish look.

No, that wasn’t the right word. There was nothing boyish about the dangerous man lounging so casually across from her.

Roguish. That was the word. The disheveled hair seemed to bely the discipline he had shown so far. He was amused by her.

She said, “You carry a great deal of rage, and you’re driven to accomplish what you have set out to do. It couldn’t wait until the spring—you needed to take action immediately. You won’t turn back or turn aside. But you’re disciplined about it, and despite your anger you’re thinking about the welfare of your men. From what little I’ve seen, you have a code that you are determined to live by, at least when you can. I haven’t seen enough of you to know what might happen to that code when you’re under duress.”

As she spoke, the roguish gleam in his gaze faded, and she fell silent, suddenly uncertain. Maybe she had read him wrong. Maybe he hadn’t really wanted to hear what she thought. But if he hadn’t, then why had he asked her?

She wanted to flail. She was no good in any social situation.

“Don’t stop now.” He tossed back the last of the wine in his goblet. “You just got started.”

So that meant he truly did want to hear the rest of it. Right?

Biting her lip, she continued. “You’re not above seizing every opportunity that comes your way, and you never stop thinking about how to turn things to your advantage. You’re a strategist. I’m no good at strategy, so I would be wary of playing chess with you because you’re always thinking four steps ahead. Your words carried a ring of truth when you said you did not kill the lord of Braugne. You haven’t said specifically who you believe did, but it is clear you see the king of Guerlan as your antagonist, so naturally there are inferences to be drawn. And yet this campaign of yours is about so much more than just avenging your lord’s death. You have the soul of a conqueror.” She hesitated, and then made herself say the rest of it. “I don’t think you will rest until you have taken all of Ys under your rule.”

As she finished, he watched her with the same hard, grim expression he had worn on the barge. Unpredictable. Uncompromising. The wolf in his psyche watched her as well, tension in its figure as if it were about to pounce.

He said in a soft, even voice, “That was unexpected.”


Copyright © Teddy Harrison LLC

All rights reserved

Holiday Goodness Coming Your Way!

At last, the preorder links are live for AMID THE WINTER SNOW! You can get it at:

Google Play
Barnes & Noble

This is an amazing collection of Fantasy Romance stories, with lots of magic and cozying up while snowstorms rage outside. I’ve read the other three stories and they’re all so delicious. And meaty! They’re all substantial novellas. I hope you all love them just as much. 

Here’s a little excerpt from mine, The Snows of Windroven.


“I never intended to cause you pain, Ami,” I told the top of her head as she worked to clean the cuts. Brutally insufficient words to describe the depth of what I’d never intended. Beginning with laying a finger on her royal, unblemished skin. Even with her tending me out of simple sympathy, in broad view of the travelers on the main highway, the least brush of her fingers on my skin brought up the insatiable lust for her, hard and hot.

She looked up at me and creaked out a smile through still damp eyes. “I know that. And you’ve made me so happy.” She took a deep breath. “I always understood, though, that this was temporary.”

“We both understood that, from the first night by the lake.”

Her smile went tremulous. “When I seduced you, despite your better judgement.”

I laughed, though it never comes out right. It always sounds more like a groan scraping out of my scarred throat. “Everything with you has been against my better judgement, Ami. And I’ve never been able to help myself. You burn so bright.”

“Like staring into the sun,” she said, an oddly sorrowful crease at the corners of her eyes. Her innate magic made her beautiful even in tears and other extremes of emotion—and my passionate queen ranged through many extremes—so rarely did she look as she did now, smudged with unhappiness, dented by my careless handling of her. “Do you remember when you said that to me? You said you were afraid you’d come away burned and blinded.”

“I remember,” I allowed. I did so much better with silence. I should never have broken my vow. If I hadn’t, we wouldn’t have come to this pass.

“You said that if you stared into the sun too long, you’d be immolated, and the only freedom for you would be to stay far, far away.”

Never mistake that a mind sharp as a sword lies behind that pretty face. She likely remembered every word I’d ever said to her, both the wise and the incautious.


Out December 12!



A Delicious Appetizer for the Holidays

Winter is setting in, the scents of baking and wood fires fill the air, and those of us in the U.S. are preparing for Thanksgiving. In my corner of the world, I’m preparing to hit the road and drive to Tucson to visit family for the holiday – and doing the final assembly on AMID THE WINTER SNOW!

This anthology of midwinter holiday fantasy romance stories is finally complete. We’re doing the formatting and checking the balance of the gravy. Within the next few days, it will be up for preorder with a release date of December 12, 2017. The preorder price will be $4.99, and will go up to $5.99 on release day. Grace Draven, Thea Harrison, Elizabeth Hunter and I will be posting links as they’re available.

These are stories of finding love, redemption, peace – and a little magic – in the midst of anger, war, and the onslaught of deepest winter. Apropos for this difficult year. 

As the snows fall and hearths burn, four stories of Midwinter beginnings prove that love can fight its way through the chilliest night…


The mark Jahna Ulfrida was born with has made her a target of the cruel and idle all her life. During the long, crowded festivities of Deyalda, there’s nowhere to escape. Until a handsome stranger promises to teach her to save herself…

THE CHOSEN, by Thea Harrison

In her visions, Lily sees two men fighting for her tiny country’s allegiance: the wolf and the tiger, each deadly, each cunning. One will bring Ys chaos and death, one a gentler path—but she’s destined to love whichever she chooses. The Midwinter masque is upon them, and the wolf is at her door…

THE STORM, by Elizabeth Hunter

When her soul mate died in a massacre of the half-angelic Irin people, Renata thought she’d never feel happiness again. She’s retreated to the snowy Dolomites to remember her hurts—until determined, irrepressible Maxim arrives to insist on joy, too. And before she can throw him out, they discover a secret the Irin have to know…


As a blizzard threatens their mountain keep, the new Queen Amelia of the Twelve Kingdoms and her unofficial consort Ash face their own storm. Ash knows a scarred, jumpy ex-convict isn’t the companion his queen needs. But when a surprise attack confines them together in their isolated sanctuary, the feast of Midwinter might tempt even Ash into childlike hope…

I’ve loved working on this collection with these amazing writers – and I think you all will gobble up (tee hee hee) these stories. If you’re on the review list, you should be receiving your ARC very soon!


If you like to listen to podcasts, I was interviewed by Lindsay Emory of Women with Books. You can listen at any of these places:




To help Lindsay out with her efforts, you can also:

Click this link toRate and Review ‘Women with Books Podcast’ on iTunes. (Reviews help other readers find the podcast.)

Subscribe to the podcast HERE

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Finding Balance and Accommodating Change

Today is the last day to grab the SFWA Fantasy Story Bundle! It goes away at midnight US Eastern time tonight, November 2, 2017, never to be assembled in this grouping at this great price again. The response to this has been fantastic – earning money for the authors and for SFWA grants, so thank you all for supporting this effort! I did a post about my contribution, and how being in SFWA assisted with my worldbuilding, so you can check that out here

I had coffee with my stepsister Hope the other day. I was in Tucson to give a workshop, so we met up at one of our favorite Starbucks before I headed to the airport Monday morning. (We share no genes in common, but are identical in our Starbucks love.) She mentioned that she rarely reads my blog anymore because she’s not so interested in writing stuff.

For the record, this was not meant to be guilt-inducing. She said it in passing by way of talking about a post she DID see and enjoyed, the one on why I think people should enter RWA’s RITA contest. She thought it said a lot to non-writers, too, about how it’s easier sometimes to fall into the habit of not trying for things, for fear of failure or disappointment. The result then, naturally, is that you don’t win, either. She drew some parallels with her own life, which I found interesting.

And it made me realize how far I’ve drifted from how I used to blog, which was more about these kinds of thoughts and daily minutiae. So, I’m going to try to get back into that. A lot of it, of course, will still be about writing, since that’s a huge part of my life, but that’s not ALL I do. Not most days anyway…

I’ve been doing some schedule reassessing and rearranging in general, anyway. On October 23, I passed my two-year anniversary of leaving the day job to write full time. It’s funny that I still feel like I’m adjusting to that new reality after two full years. In fiction we condense time so much that I think I forget sometimes how long real human beings take to really change. When I was in Tucson, I chatted with Frankie Robertson, a member of that local RWA chapter, the Saguaro Romance Writers. She’d been reading THE TEARS OF THE ROSE and commented on the heroine Ami’s character transformation. 

I should mention at this point that Ami is probably my most disliked heroine – by readers, not by me. In contrast, of the entire Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms series, this is the only one to receive a Top Pick GOLD from RT Book Reviews, their highest possible rating. 

Frankie mentioned reading one of the one-star reviews on this book – and how the reader just hated Ami for her vanity, selfishness, and shallowness – and how she felt that person read a different book than she did. Because yes, Ami starts out that way, and then she *changes*, which is really the whole point of the story, and what Frankie loved about it. Then Frankie also pointed out that Ami changes really fast, over the course of a few months, and we both laughed about compressed fiction time.

That’s all a bit of an aside, but goes to how in real life, changes take a long time to accommodate. So, here I am, two years later, and still discovering how it works for me to write full time, what kind of daily word count I can sustain, and how to best both use and enjoy my time.

Because that has been one effect of my change in schedule – I have more time off, sleep more and according to a natural calendar and I do recreational things. But I’m still figuring out how to balance my traditionally published work with the self-publishing projects, which produce different sets of deadlines. 

I’m not quite sure why blogging began to feel like too much to keep up with, but I’d like to change that.

For you reader types out there, I know that I’ve been bumping deadlines around a lot. Much of this has come from the new traditional publishing projects edging out the self-pub projects. I have legal contracts with them, and outside expectations, which tend to trump take precedence over (will we ever be able to use that word again???) my internal deadlines.

At any rate, THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN is completely done! That will be in the holiday anthology AMID THE WINTER SNOW with Grace Draven, Thea Harrison, and Elizabeth Hunter. We’re looking on track to have that release December 12, 2017, with preorders live in a couple of weeks. 

I’m also working on the third Missed Connections book, which is Amy’s story. A different Amy – I didn’t realize I did that! My other Ami is Amelia and this one is Amanda, so… hey, it happens! This one will be called SINCE LAST CHRISTMAS and it *will* be out before Christmas.

I do hope to get book four of Sorcerous Moons out in early next year, but I have a book due to my traditional publisher that I have to write before that. This is for my new high fantasy trilogy, THE LOST PRINCESS chronicles. I’ve turned in the first book, PRINCESS OF DASNARIA – which has been declared “fantastic,” so I think you all will like it – and I need to write the second book, EXILE OF DASNARIA. But I really do promise to get back to Lonen and Oria! Thank you all for bearing with me on that.

Speaking of change, some of you may have seen on Facebook that my mother-in-law, David’s mother, passed away on Halloween. It was not unexpected, as she’d been in a nursing home and had been declining. Still, David’s father and older brother also died in the past several years, so there’s been a lot of loss in the family. I’m hoping this makes three and we’ll be done for a while. So, we’ll be heading up to northern Wyoming for the funeral, and to spend time with family.

This is my favorite photo of Leona. I’m big on showing people how they were in their prime, not as they were when death came to claim them. The daughter of French and Irish immigrants, Leona grew up on a ranch in Montana next to the Crow Reservation. She was ever a tough and determined woman, and she leaves behind a large family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 


Exciting New Project!

I shared this video in various places, but I wanted to share it here, too, because it amuses me so much. Jackson had been snoozing in the shade and apparently decided a warm-up was called for. I looked up from my screen and he was lolling out there, soaking up the sun on his belly, king of his little universe.

That cat just cracks me up.

I’m popping in here today to let you all know about an Exciting New Project! (Hence the title. *cough*) The fantastic Thea Harrison has asked me, Grace Draven, and Elizabeth Hunter to participate in an anthology for the midwinter holidays!!!! It’s going to be called AMID THE WINTER’S SNOW. <- I love this title. Don’t you love this title? It’s very Enya to me.

We’ll each contribute a novella from our fantasy worlds, the story taking place around some sort of midwinter festival. Release date: December 12, 2017. We should have it up for preorder about a month before that. We’re working on a cover now, so stay tuned for that!

I’m also going to have some exciting news soon on a whole new series, but I can’t spill yet. Woo hoo!


Releases! Awards!! Ohhhh Myyyyy!!!

THE FORESTS OF DRU, book 4 in the Sorcerous Moons fantasy romance series is out today! Whee!!!

Buy the Book

Also, I’m feeling like it’s a serendipitous day (maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket??) because RT Book Reviews announced that THE PAGES OF THE MIND was nominated for Best Fantasy Romance of 2016 in their Reviewers Choice Awards!!!

I’m particularly pleased to be sharing that honor with two friends who also write books I adore – Grace Draven and Thea Harrison. (CS Pacat was also nominated for the final book in her Captive Prince trilogy, but I haven’t read or met her.)

Very excited to be listed with these gals!

Finally, I’m over at Suzanne Johnson’s blog, talking about *cough* when to end a series. Which I clearly don’t know much about…