Changes to The Extra series!

I’ve made some changes to The Extra series!

Now that the series is sixteen books long (and a prequel, and an alternate history, and three box sets, oh my), it was getting intimidating for new readers to begin. Probably that happened a while ago, let’s be honest, but I didn’t know what to do about it until a solution presented itself.

The series has now been broken up into four separate series, all still contained in the same world, known as the Gabbyverse. I’d been using that term internally for a while, but now it’s the official umbrella term for the books that used to be The Extra series.

If you’re a person who was too intimidated to start, or who wasn’t wild about The Extra but might want to try some of the different books in the world, this is for you! You can now start with any of the first in series: Su-Lin’s Super Awesome Casual Dating Plan, Beauty and the Bassist, or Ex on the Beach.

Check out the full breakdown on my romantic comedy page.

Save Me (For Later) is available now!

If you’ve been waiting (and waiting) for the next Extra Series book, I have good news! Save Me (For Later) is now available. You can read it now on Kindle or in KU, or order a print copy from Amazon. Even if you haven’t read the other books in the series, this is a friends-to-lovers, childhood sweethearts summer camp romance, and it stands alone, so it’s a great place to start!

In addition, the next book in the series is also available for pre-order. These two books are close companions, and I’m thrilled to share this story with you, coming in February.

Thanks for your patience with me during the wait for the next book! I hope to be able to get them out on a regular basis (about six months apart), going forward.

The Gift of Not Feeling

I want to tell you a story about my friend Brandon.  It’s been eighteen years since this happened, and in the intervening time I’ve told this story to fewer people than I can count on one hand.  I have kept it to myself largely because I know Brandon isn’t the kind of person who wants the good things he does blasted to the world, and I never wanted to embarrass him.  And if that’s what I’m doing now, I’m sorry for it. 

Last week, someone wrote an essay I won’t link here (as you’ve probably read it and I don’t like giving it clicks) that treated my friend at once like a circus freak who lacks feelings and also somehow as someone who is uninteresting and undeserving of attention. The article also treated two separate communities I love with contempt. I seethed about it for a couple of days, but I didn’t really entertain the idea of saying anything online, because it’s not my place and responding to the media is not professional. 

Then yesterday I read this, and I finally had something I wanted to say.

I met Brandon Sanderson when I was twenty-two years old.  I was just finishing my undergraduate degree and he was just finishing graduate school, and we had some classes that overlapped.  From there, we were in a critique group together and were part of a social group where we all hung out quite a bit.  None of us had families yet, and Brandon’s first book would come out during those couple of years, so none of us had intense career demands yet either. 

At that time in my life, I was a mess.  I had arrived at adulthood with several chemical and behavioral disorders that I did not yet understand.  My brain would sometimes and without warning explode in a horror show of fear and shame and pain so strong it felt physical.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me—indeed, I had been suffering from the depression and anxiety for so long that, in my mind, they were me.  I had no way to separate what was happening inside my head from a reality outside of it.  To me, everything I felt was real.  Because my mind filtered everything that happened outside of me through a lens of terror and agony, the world was terrifying and torturous.  In short, I was living in hell.

Most people, when I tried to describe what was happening in my mind, reacted in unhelpful ways.  I don’t blame them—very few people are equipped to know what to say to someone suffering as intensely as I was.   They would try to minimize it in an effort to minimize their own discomfort.  They would try to fix it, when it wasn’t something anyone could fix.  Or, worst of all, they would react in horror, having deep and terrifying feelings of their own about what was happening to me.  It was empathy, but it only reinforced to me that I was scary, Iwas broken, I was wrong.

And then there was Brandon.  Brandon has the fine distinction of being the first person in my life to suggest to me that what I was reacting to, the reality I was living in, was not in fact real to anyone but me.  His first and honest reaction to what was happening inside my head was genuine and unfeigned interest.  It didn’t matter how big or terrifying the emotion was.  I could tell him I hated him (and did) and his reaction, every time, would be to say, “That’s so interesting that you feel that way.  Why do you feel that?”

Why indeed?  I didn’t know why I felt that.  Brandon taught me the words “cognitive distortion.”  He taught me that reality could warp as it entered my brain, that the reality I was reacting to might not be real at all.  It might be all in my head.

Of course, it’s not helpful to tell a depressed person that their problem is all in their head—when it’s done in a dismissive way.  But Brandon wasn’t dismissing me.  He believed I had a genuine and difficult problem—but that problem wasn’t me, and it wasn’t the world around me, either.  It was as if I had spent my entire life living in a box, and I didn’t even know it.  I thought the box was the real world.  I thought the box was me.  I thought the box was all there would ever be to life, and, I think reasonably, I didn’t really want to live it anymore.

But along came Brandon Sanderson. He opened the lid to the box, looked around with interest, and said, “it’s so interesting that you live in here.  Do you know that there’s a whole world outside of this box?  Do you know that other people don’t see you the way you think they do?  Do you know that you exist, separate and independent of this box? Do you know that the box isn’t you at all?”

My whole life I had assumed that my illness and I were synonymous.  Everything that happened inside my head was me, so if it was bad and wrong and a mess, then I was bad and wrong and a mess.  There was no escaping from it, because everywhere I went, my entire life, I would always be me, and it was me.  And then my friend looks at me and says, as if surprised, “Why would you think that’s you?  It’s not you at all.  It’s happening in your head and it isn’t normal and you exist completely separately from it and it doesn’t have to be this way.”  It was as if he assisted my will save to disbelieve the illusions, and suddenly I could see it:  The horror I was living in was just chemicals in my brain.  It was just thoughts in my head.  And yes, depression is real in the sense that chemicals are real, and thoughts are real. And I would never want to minimize the very real effect it can have on the people who suffer with it. But it wasn’t reality.  It was a powerful illusion, but it was only an illusion, and if I could learn to think outside of that box I was trapped in, I could be free.

I could tell you about the other help I needed at that time.  I could tell you about how I needed to move, and Brandon found me an apartment.  I could tell you how I needed medical treatment (obviously), and Brandon helped me navigate resources to make that happen.  I could tell you about the time he sat with me in the ER and told me that the doctors weren’t taking me seriously, and they should be, and I needed to keep talking to people until somebody did.  But none of those things are the point of the story.

The point of the story is this: Brandon gave me the most important gift anyone has ever given me in my entire life—a gift that I am absolutely certain is the only reason I am still alive today.  It’s a gift that has made every good thing in my life possible every day since.  He gave me the gift of not feeling.  Instead of getting carried away in his own emotions when he saw what was happening to me, he gave me the gift of reflecting back to me a logic and patience that a person can only have when they keep their emotions in check.  I owe everything to that gift, so you can imagine the fury I feel toward anyone who would denigrate it.  Brandon is not a freak.  He’s also not the perfect paragon of virtue people sometimes present him as.  He is a person—flaws and all—with a very powerful gift that saved my life, and I doubt very much I am the only one.

Here’s the rest of the story: it took me a couple of years to climb out of that box.  I had professional help.  I did CBT.  I learned to retrain my brain to see the world outside of the lens of depression and anxiety.  For a long time, when a depressed thought would come into my mind, I would ask myself, “What would Brandon say about that thought?  Would he accept that as reality?”  And if I knew he wouldn’t, I would make myself reframe the thought, hammering it into shape until I found a thought about myself that I believed Brandon would accept.  I wanted so badly to live in his reality, the one he saw outside of that box.  I wanted to be able to see myself the way he saw me, as a person with a problem and not a person who was a problem. 

After a few years, I got my mental health to a place where I no longer lived in a constant emotional crisis.  At almost all times in my life since then I’ve been somewhere on the healthy part of the mental health spectrum.  Notable exceptions were during the postpartum period with both of my kids, and one year during the pandemic when I got hit with several personal crises at once.  Even then, I knew I was not the illness.  I knew I existed separately from it.  I knew I could crawl out of the box again, because it was only a box, and not the true reality I knew existed beyond it.

Here’s the thing about my friend Brandon—I owe everything to him, and I’ll never be able to pay it back.  He wouldn’t want me to.  He would be horrified if he thought I felt like I had to.  I joke about Brandon asking me for a favor when he asked me to finish Bastille for him—because that “favor” did a lot more good for me than it probably did for him.  But the truth is, if I am able, I will always do a favor for Brandon Sanderson.  Not because I feel like I have to pay him back, but because it feels so good to give literally anything back to a person who gave me so much.  (And that’s not even counting all the professional opportunities, or the fact that he talked me into dating my husband.) 

But really, I will never be able to pay this back.  Never ever.  So I do my very best to pay it forward.  When I encounter people who deal with similar issues, I do my very best to give them the gift of not feeling.  To sit with them and let them say all the scary things in their heads, and to react with genuine interest, but without emotional reaction.  I have sat with people who want to die, and done my very best to reflect back to them that I’m not afraid of their feelings, that I will of course want to make sure they are physically safe, but that I don’t think it’s scary that they have those thoughts, and that I think they are a real, whole person outside of those thoughts and those thoughts will never define them.  That skill has served me well.  I may never be a person who experiences little emotion (ha!) but I have learned to be a person who can set aside emotion when it’s necessary, and I learned that from Brandon, too.

So I am grateful for that gift.  The gift of not feeling. Because not feeling most definitely does not mean not caring.

Over the years, I have listened to a lot of opinions about my friend Brandon.  I have heard people say things with authority in both the positive and negative, things that I knew to be both true and false.  I’ve never felt the need to correct these things—he’s a public figure and people are going to see the persona and think what they want about him and it’s not my place to try to turn that ship.

But if I could tell you just one thing about my friend, it’s that he’s wonderful. Not because he writes books, and certainly not because he’s perfect, but because he’s a person, and like all people, he has unique gifts that enable him to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Bloodborn is now out in audio!

Hey all! I’m happy to announce that Bloodborn is now out in audio, which means ALL of the books in the Five Lands Trilogy are now available to audio listeners! It’s a great time to finish the series if you’re an audiobook person (and also a great time to start if you haven’t already!

(If you weren’t aware, I write under the pen name Cara Witter with my co-writers Megan Walker and Lauren Janes.)

We’re excited that Kenton and Daniella’s story is finally available in this format, and we hope you’ll give it a listen!

The Bollywood Lovers’ Club is now available!

It’s a big day, guys. The Bollywood Lovers’ Club is officially out in the world.

I met James Goldberg in graduate school back in 2008. We took a young adult fiction writing class from Chris Crowe, and James workshopped the first few chapters of a book about a Sikh girl. I fell in love with the book, but James went on to write other things, and he never finished it.

Years later, James and I were still doing writing group together, and I was still bugging him about finishing that book. It became clear to me I was more invested in the idea than he was, and I resigned myself that I would never get to read the rest of it. And then, one day, I asked if he wanted to write it with me, and James, somehow, said yes. At the time, neither of us had written a book with a co-author before, and the prospect was daunting.

This experience taught me how to write a book with another author, and was also my first experience writing about characters whose ethnicities differed from my own. I use the things I learned writing this book in every project I work on now, and I’m so, so grateful to James for the experience. James is an incredible writer, and it was a huge honor to get to write this book with him.

Most of all, though, I’m proud of the work we did. Dave and Amrita are amazing, and this book went through a lot of drafts to get all the aspects of their story lined up just right. It’s young adult, but it’s also a departure from my other work. It’s a love story, but not a romance, a story about standing at a crossroads with someone else, falling in love, and then making the choices you know are right for you. I know we did right by Dave and Amrita (finally!) and I’m SO HAPPY To be able to share them with you.

Before you can reach for your dreams, you have to choose them.

Amrita Sidhu belongs: in her Indian extended family, in her Sikh faith, in her California home. But when a family fight makes up her father’s mind to take a job across the country in Ohio, she’s torn from the fabric of her community and left to find her footing in a new high school and a new life.

In Ohio, Amrita meets Dave Gill, who’s funny, part-Indian, and also Mormon. At a series of Bollywood movie nights with friends, they begin to connect—despite the pressure they both feel not to date outside their own faith.

As Amrita stares down diverging paths for her future, she knows only one thing for certain: she can’t hold on to everything. She’ll have to choose between her relationship with Dave, her family’s good opinion of her, and her place in her own community—

And once she makes the decision, there will be no going back.

Grab your copy in hardcover, paperback, or e-book, or read for free in KU!

2020–The year in which everything was harder than I thought it would be.

I don’t usually do these year in review posts, but this year I’m going to, and it’s because it’s been, well A YEAR.  I suspect this is a year I’m going to want to look back and have some kind of record of, because living through history, while thoroughly miserable at the time, is something we’re all curious about in retrospect.  Also, because as I was reflecting about 2020 to myself, I had to admit that, while it was clearly a mire of suck that we all had to trudge through that feels like it has gone on FAR too long, for me it was also a really, all around, pretty good year.  But also a year I can sum up in one sentence: that was a lot harder than I thought it would be.

Here are the highlights.

Professionally, I had a really phenomenal year.  It didn’t feel that way going through it, because, well, every single thing I worked on this year turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be.  But it doesn’t change that, at the end of the year, I am in a far, far better place than I was last December. 

Last year in January my business partner Megan and I sat down and had a reckoning about how our business model was not working.  We’d been publishing our flagship series for about eight months at that point using a free first in series model, and we just weren’t seeing the read through we needed to justify our ad spend.  We weren’t making a profit, and none of the tools I had available were going to make us make a profit.  We needed to switch up our model and try something entirely different. 

Folks, when you have eight books out, making a pivot like that is not easy.  It required us to add books to our schedule, rearrange everything, change all the backlinks, redo our ad strategy…everything.  We spent months doing it.  But our new strategy (Kindle Unlimited with a free magnet book that is related to, but not in, each series) is now making us a profit.  We paid ourselves for the first time in 2020.  Sales fluctuate, but we are continuing to turn a profit now, even in the low months.  We still have a little ways to go before we will have paid back our investment, but we’ve found a model that works.  Last year around this time, I was facing a massive failure (we spent a lot of money proving that model didn’t work) and unsure if there was anything I could do that would work.  This year, I’m staring down the daunting task of learning to scale.  BUT WE HAVE SOMETHING TO SCALE!  I cannot even tell you how exciting that is.  It has taken me years and years and years to get to this point, and I’m excited about it, even if it means 2021 is going to be a whole lot of work. 

Megan and I (and our friend Lauren) also launched our epic fantasy series this year.  We put out six books in four months over the summer (including two in our rom com series), and had a week-to-week schedule that was (apparently) doable, but also a little soul-crushing.  I knew epic fantasies were harder to write than romances, but we already had them written.  What I did not expect was how much harder the production on them would be.  I knew they were *longer,* but they are only twice as long as our romances, and yet still managed to be about five times the amount of work.  The continuity was a big part of that.  There’s a lot to keep track of in a world that big, and we spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to make sure all the right things are capitalized, all the distances were calculated correctly, and how to get our characters across that river we forgot was there until we got to the galley stage and weren’t going to rewrite the chapter now.  It was, as they say, a hell of a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.  But we did it!  And those books started profiting (modestly) right out of the gate.  Megan and Lauren had been working on those books for decades, and I’ve been on board for about six years.  Having them finally published (and doing well!) is a triumph.

Because we are crazy, Megan and I ALSO thought it would be a good idea to launch our paranormal romance series this year.  We were hoping to ride a wave that might follow Midnight Sun.  If that wave exists, we did not catch it, but that’s the danger of chasing trends, I suppose.  We put out Sinking City, a book Megan wrote and I revised and I’m really, fantastically proud of.  We then started work on the sequel in November and, well, friends, it’s been a lot harder than I thought it would be.  It’s single-handedly managed to be the hardest thing either Megan or I have ever written, and we’ve written some really hard books.  It’s kicking both our asses on a regular basis.  We’ve been working on the outline for months, have produced a lot of words that won’t be in the book, and some that I dearly hope will, because this book has a deadline.  We won’t release it unless it’s good.  I’m not worried about that.  But what it’s going to do to us over the next few months trying to make it good is its own question.

I quit ghostwriting back in the spring, partly because I was pretty burned out, and partly because I couldn’t do that and launch all this other stuff and I thought taking a gamble on myself was worth the risk.  I put all the time I would have put into ghost writing into my personal projects.  I thought when I quit I had maybe four months before I would have to go back to it.  Eight months later not only have I managed to stretch this far, but I’ve also secured income which means I have another whole YEAR to get my stuff going (barring personal financial catastrophe) so that I don’t have to go back to writing other people’s stuff.  That’s something I didn’t think I could do, but I did, and I’m thrilled about it.

BUT that doesn’t mean I’m not writing in other people’s worlds.  I had some real motion on some of my not-with-Megan co-writing projects this year.  James Goldberg and I are gearing up to finally release our YA Bollywood novel, which we’ve been working on for a long, long time.  I am so excited to finally share that book with the world.  I’m really proud of what we accomplished. 

A couple years ago I was offered the opportunity to co-write the last book in Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series.  Brandon had written the first few chapters and run into some road blocks, and he wanted me to take his notes and his beginning and rework it and then finish it.  I was super excited about it—I’ve been a huge fan of the series since before the first book came out (on which I was a beta-reader).  I love the characters, the world, everything.  I took Brandon’s chapters and notes, re-read the series to make more notes, and then wrote the first half in about a week, then took a break of a few months and wrote the second half in another week.  I got some notes back a long while later and did another draft on it in another week.  (This is an Alcatraz tradition.  If I remember correctly, Brandon wrote the first draft of the first book in about ten days.)  The thing was a joy to work on start to finish, and remains to this day the most purely fun thing I have ever written.  The news this year is that the book is FINALLY under contract with a publisher, and has a tentative release date.  (Spring, 2022–now delayed until Fall 2022.)  Finally having something to tell people when they ask when that book is coming out feels pretty damn good.  I’m so thrilled to have been part of the series, and having a release date makes the whole thing feel a lot more real.  There have been times over the last few years when I wondered if writing that book really happened.  But it did!  And next year, you will get to read it.

The other really exciting news is that this year I was offered three tie-in “novellas” to write in Brandon’s Skyward world.  The books are directly related to the original series and follow all the side characters while the main character (Spensa) is away from them for all of book three.  The books interact with the main series in some really interesting ways, which makes them both exciting and challenging to write.  I wanted to have more time to write them, but contracts, folks, turn out that they’re a lot harder than I thought they would be, and I’m just now getting started writing book one.  (These are supposed to be done in July.  We Shall See.)  I knew these were going to be harder to write than Alcatraz, for many reasons, but friends, they are a lot harder to write than I thought they would be.  Mostly, I think, because I psych myself out too much about living up to the original series.  What I need to do is let myself write first drafts that are bad and then fix them.  And what I’ve written so far is real bad, so that’s a triumph of its own I suppose!  I’m better at fixing bad writing than I am at writing good stuff to begin with, so that’s to be expected.  It will be good before I turn it in, and if it isn’t, then I’ll get feedback and THEN make it better, long before it’s published.  These books will not see the light of day until both Brandon and I are satisfied with them.  But it’s downright terrifying, and also beyond exciting, and dealing with that maelstrom has been a hurricane and a half.  It’s a real good problem to have, though, and I’m excited to keep having it over the next six months.  (I really still think I can get it done in six months, but I’m also still grappling with the catastrophe that is the Sinking City sequels at the same time.  So.)

I think that’s about it professionally.  So on to personally.  And, oh yeah…

There was a pandemic this year, that has pretty much turned everyone’s lives upside down.  On the surface, this has affected me far less than most people.  My kids already did online school.  (Third grade and preschool this year, through K12 and Upstart.)  My husband and I already work from home.  We are used to all being on top of each other all the time.  BUT we are also used to having social support systems that became next to non-existent.  I had to quit my weekly writing group which I had continued, uninterrupted, since 2005.  We indefinitely paused our weekly roleplaying group, which had been meeting, uninterrupted, since 2005.  Both of those things, it turned out, were really good for my mental health, and not having them is . . . not.  My kids haven’t seen their friends in months, and it will be more months yet before we get to be vaccinated and the world can begin the slow slant toward normal again.  We will get there.  But when the world shut down in March, we hoped we would be there by July.

It’s possible we were right, we just were thinking of the wrong July.

There have been some really horrifically low moments, like the day I had to tell my kids they couldn’t play with their friends anymore (which I cried about and likened to being on Survivor and every week voting someone else you love off your island.)  We lost my mother-in-law in April when the shut down was tightest, and couldn’t even really have a funeral.  (Her passing was not COVID-related, but the timing made it much more difficult to grieve.  I miss her, and I probably always will.)  There was the moment back around May when my daughter earnestly asked me if things would ever go back to normal, and I sat down and explained to her what a vaccine was, and why the world probably wouldn’t go back to normal until we had one, and exactly how long that was likely to take.

But, through all of it, there have been some bright moments, too.  After that conversation, my children both started asking in their prayers for a vaccine.  They prayed and prayed and prayed for it, and you should have seen the light in their eyes when I told them that not only had a vaccine been developed faster than ever in the history of mankind, but that it was much more effective than anyone would have guessed it would be.  My kids, on the whole, have been incredibly adaptable and mature about the whole thing, and while I still hear some whining about when we’re going to be able to go to the pool again, or other such things, they do a whole lot less whining about the whole thing than I do.   When the George Floyd protests happened this summer we also had a lot of conversations about prejudice that were really good to have, and I extended those conversations outside my own house to friends and acquaintances, and with only a couple of exceptions those conversations were good and meaningful and productive.  I wish there weren’t horrible things happening in the world that necessitate those conversations, but since there are, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to talk about them.  A harassment scandal I was involved in also got kicked up again this year, and while I did not enjoy having to deal with that whole host of emotions again, I was able to engage with it in different ways than I did last time, and that was good for me, even if it wasn’t fun.

The pandemic and its general mismanagement by governments at many levels has been horrific, and in no way am I glad it happened.  But I definitely know a lot more about epidemiology than I did in January 2020, and that’s been really interesting to learn, even if I wish it was under purely academic circumstances.  I have nothing good to say at all about the election of 2020, which was horrific on all levels, except that I am very, very glad that Donald Trump will no longer be president of the United States, and that is thankfully happening very soon.

Overall, the loss of my usual life patterns have forced me to find different ways of connecting.  Last January I built a Little Free Library and installed it in front of my house.  I was grateful for the timing when the public libraries closed in March.  It’s been a wonderful way for me to feel like I’m still a part of my community without ever actually contacting anyone.  In August I was offered the opportunity to take over as admin of my local Buy Nothing group, and that, too, has given me a way to serve my community without ever having to leave my house, and has been incredibly rewarding. 

I bought a fire pit when the weather started turning cold, so that I could see some people on occasion and still be outside where risk of COVID transmission is lower.  I was a girl scout for twelve years, but it had been decades since I’d built a fire.  It’s been so fun to teach my children fire skills, and let them roast marshmallows, and sit with friends and talk in a safer way.  I never would have done that if it wasn’t for the pandemic. 

I’m an outing mom.  I’m not great at playing on the floor, but I am great at taking my kids places and having adventures.  When everything shut down, I stared in horror at a life cooped up in the house with my kids, and I knew I had to make some changes.  We usually use the heck out of our museum passes, but with all that closed, I did some research and took my kids hiking for the first time.  Turns out we love it.  It was such a respite over the summer and in the fall to get out into the mountains where we could both avoid people and explore.  We discovered some great places, our favorite of which was Dripping Rock in Spanish Fork.  We’ll definitely keep doing that even once we can get back to the swimming pool and our museum passes, but I don’t know that I ever would have gotten over the hurdles of figuring out where to go without the desperation caused by the lockdowns. 

Our holidays are usually pretty limited—we’re kind of holiday hermits and do our little, tiny celebrations with our little, tiny group of people.  We had to be even more limited this year, which was sad, but ours weren’t impacted as much as some people’s.  On Halloween, though, we decided not to trick-or-treat, mostly because at the time Utah’s mask compliance was not at a level we were comfortable with.  Instead, I made a scavenger hunt for the kids (which is on the list of things that are Mom-extra that I would never do in a regular year), and my kids loved it. They didn’t really miss trick-or-treating.  It was my personal favorite Halloween ever.  (I told my kids we could do this instead every year and my daughter, clever as she is, announced that we should do BOTH!  So I may be paying for my ingenuity next year in added work for myself, but the memory was worth it.

As winter set in, I started losing my mind a little.  We couldn’t really go hiking anymore (though I have seriously thought about acquiring snow-shoes, I have not yet braved my anxieties about figuring THAT out) and the walls were closing in.  I was having a hard time working (not helped by the stressful nature of the work in question, as I’ve been trying to nail down the plots of not one but TWO YA fantasy-action series), and generally sliding into depression, something I hadn’t felt in MANY years.  I’m used to losing my mind a little after I have a baby, but general winter depression was different.  I remarked to a friend that it felt like we were all squirrels who arrived at the winter with empty trees.  This year, friends, was obviously harder than we thought it would be.  My reserves were gone.

As fate would have it, that was also around the time that my friend Brandon released book four in his Stormlight Archive.  Folks, I love those books.  When book three came out I was knee deep in prep to put out both The Extra Series and the Five Lands Saga, and I just couldn’t commit to a book that big.  I was sad about it then, and extra sad that yet ANOTHER book was coming out and I couldn’t read it.  It had been long enough that I needed to start back at the beginning of the series, and that is a LOT of words that I didn’t have time for.

I was tired of being sad about things, so I decided I was going to read the books one chapter a day.  It will probably take me more than a year.  I’ve been at it for months and I haven’t finished book one yet, though I am getting close.  It has been SO FUN to reread The Way of Kings.  I’m catching all kinds of things on this read that I didn’t catch on the first time through, before I knew generally where the series was going.  I’ve been discussing with my husband as I read, because he remembers much better than I do, but there are all kinds of discoveries I’m making that he had also forgotten.  It’s a little spark in the dreary winter, and I’m so incredibly grateful for it.

It wasn’t quite enough to shake me out of my funk, and nothing gets me excited like a project.  I was a couple weeks into my read-through when I desperately wanted to make dolls of the characters.  Megan and I have dolls for all our characters, and we pre-write by roleplaying with them.  We have way too much fun, but I’d also always admired the doll designers who make one-of-a-kinds that aren’t supposed to be played with, which is a whole other skill set.  This would require more time and money than I had to devote to such a thing, but it quickly became apparent that if I didn’t do something to engage my creative brain, it was going to be a very terrible winter indeed, so I found the resources anyway.  Making those dolls presents a challenge that keeps my brain always going, and it’s been enormously helpful in relieving the depression, which is now almost entirely gone.  I’ve made four dolls with two more almost finished and another six acquired and waiting in my queue, and even more ideas after that.  It’s huge and ambitious and not exactly what I would have prescribed for myself in the middle of huge ambitious writing projects and a world-wide pandemic, but I’ll take the medicine where I can find it, I suppose.

Sinking City is now available!

I’ve been slow to update this site, but I wanted to make sure you all knew that my new YA urban fantasy series with Megan Walker is now available. Sinking City is now available, and we’re hard at work on the sequels, Drowning City and Rising City, which will come out later this year.

Sinking City is the story of Zan, son of the head of a magical mafia in Venice. And check out our cover quote from Brandon Sanderson!

Sinking City can be purchased on Amazon in e-book and paperback, and is also free to read in Kindle Unlimited! I hope you enjoy this new series!

Sexual Harassment, Consequences, and our Culture

I posted back in 2018 about my experience with Myke Cole at an agency dinner at the World Fantasy Convention back in 2009.  Here’s a link to that, for those just catching up.

As I’ve watched events unfold over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about what, if anything, I want to add to what I’ve already said.  The conclusion I’ve come to is that in 2018 I was speaking from a place of personal pain, working on personal healing.  I stand by what I said in that post, in that the personal apology I received from Myke was enough for me to forgive him and move on.  I haven’t felt the weight of emotion surrounding this incident in the years since.  I have no personal issue with Myke any longer. 

But I’ve also realized that I do have more to say now, because I don’t want anyone to assume from my earlier post that I don’t support the other victims, or the consequences Myke is facing now.  My personal reactions are my own.  No one else is obligated or likely to have the same personal reactions, as their circumstances are each unique.  I think it’s absolutely appropriate for Myke to receive consequences for things that have subsequently come to light.  My lack of problem with Myke doesn’t absolve him of anything he has ever done.  There should be consequences for the way he has behaved and the people he has hurt. 

I’ve also been thinking a lot about something else I said back in 2018.  I argued at the time with my agency that it would be hypocritical for them to drop Myke based solely on what happened to me because the entire incident was witnessed by Joshua Bilmes, the head of the agency, who said and did nothing, and therefore it would be hypocritical of them to make a scapegoat of Myke.

I still believe this in part.  I think it would have been deeply hypocritical for them to scapegoat Myke without admitting their part in it.  Now, though, seeing more clearly around my own personal pain and recovery, and having a greater understanding of the ways that systemic sexism functions and persists, I believe what I said was incomplete.

What I should have asked for in 2018 was that both Myke and the agency be expected to answer for their actions.  I love JABberwocky.  I am proud to be a JABberwocky client.  I have been universally treated with respect by all of the agency’s employees to the best of my recollection.

Except that time.  I don’t think in 2018 I was ready to deal with just how much the culture surrounding the harasser supports and permits the harassment to continue uninterrupted.  To me, this is no longer about Myke.  It’s about the culture and the system that invites and supports abusers and harassers.  It’s about a culture that needs to change, including but not limited to the culture at my own agency.

I have reached out to my agent and asked, as I wish I had back in 2018, that they admit publicly to the cultural problems within the agency that contributed to Myke’s behavior going unnoticed and unchecked.  Holding Myke accountable was an important step, but only a first step.  I’ve asked that they hold themselves accountable as well. 

If the cultural problem were limited to my agency, I would end the post there.  But unfortunately, given the vast array of circumstances within the publishing industry in which women have been inappropriately treated, the problem is obviously spread far and wide.  It’s not enough for my agency to own up for their part in the cultural problem.  We all need to take a long look at the ways in which we contribute to the culture.  Expelling harassers from conventions, canceling their contracts, and dropping their representation are all good and necessary steps.  But until we have a culture that rejects rather than protects these behaviors, there will always be another harasser stepping up to take their place.  Personal consequences are good and right, but they only hurt the perpetrator, and do nothing to protect the current and future victims. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about a phenomenon I’ve observed, in which harassment can happen in a room full of people, and the observers don’t even realize it’s happened until after the fact (if they ever realize it happened at all).  It feels as if some of us are in one parallel dimension while the others inhabit another.  In one dimension, everything is fine.  In the other, things are terribly wrong, and no one in the “fine” dimension can see it.  It’s the stuff of nightmares, really, but it’s reality for those of us who find ourselves on the end of treatment that seems to be invisible even to those who are witnessing it. 

Until all members of our community can see harassment for the hurtful behavior it is and step in to intervene at the moment it’s happening, nothing is going to change.  More victims will be hurt.  More perpetrators will be punished.  But the problem is cultural, and if the culture doesn’t change, the result will remain the same.

To me, that change has to start with truth.  Until people who have observed harassment and done nothing can look back, see what they have done wrong, admit to it, and make a plan to behave differently in the future, nothing will change. 

Everyone in the culture needs to look at themselves and see what they are doing that ignores the pain of victims.  If you witness an interaction that makes you uncomfortable, you can say so at the time.  If you are wrong about what’s happening and feel stupid, that pain will be temporary compared to the potential pain of a victim who is left wondering for years if she imagined what happened.  If you witnessed inappropriate treatment but failed to speak, you can go to both the victim and perpetrator and call it out as soon as you realize that failing.  If you failed at it years ago, you can still do this.  It’s never too late to do the right thing, even if it’s always better to have done it at the right time.

The victim may tell you everything’s fine.  In fact, they probably will, even if it isn’t true.  This is the human brain’s desperate attempt to make things be okay when they are obviously not.  You never know who will look back at moment differently because someone saw the pain they were in, the pain they couldn’t even admit to themselves existed in that moment.  In 2009, there was one person who saw what happened to me.  He approached me after the fact and said, “I’m sorry about that asshole at dinner.”  I told him it was fine, even though it wasn’t.  That has meant everything to me since, though, because I knew it wasn’t in my head.  Someone saw.  Someone said something.  Other people should have and didn’t.  We’re all learning and growing, and we all need to step up and change.

I want to address one more sentiment that I’ve seen floating around on Twitter, the idea that these accusations stem from a mob mentality.  “Who is going to hold these women accountable?” they ask.  “How do we know they aren’t doing it for attention?”

For the purposes of this post, I am going to treat these like serious questions.  I can tell you from extensive personal experience that no one wants this kind of attention.  I don’t want it.  I never did.

But, in answer to the first question: I am the one who holds me accountable.  What happened wasn’t my fault.  I didn’t ask to be in that situation.  I don’t owe any individual my time, my energy, the days of my life I’ve spent drafting these posts and dealing with the emotional fallout. 

But I am a member of this culture, and I am responsible for the footprint my actions (or lack of action) have on the people and culture around me.  I hold myself accountable, and so I speak anyway, even though the internet is forever, even though on some random Thursday morning I can be trying to play Animal Crossing with my eight year old and discover that all this is back, and I have a responsibility to try to use my influence again to make things better.

We all have an influence on the culture around us.  This is my accounting for my own influence.  This is the way I’m trying to change. 

Please join me in taking an honest stock of your own influence, your own mistakes, your own failings.  Be honest about the way that you’ve hurt people, even if by your silence.  Especially by your silence.  Make specific plans to change. 

There will always be serial abusers.  We can’t count on them to take responsibility for their actions.  We need to take responsibility for our own culture, and stop protecting them, even with our silence.

Only then will things begin to change.

What I’m Working On

I get asked a lot if I’m working on anything new.  You guys, I am working on all the books, but they’re all at in between stages, so it’ll be a little while before I can share them with you.  Here’s the rundown:

Epic Fantasy!

For the last three years, I’ve been working on an adult epic fantasy series with my friends Megan Grey and Lauren Janes.  You guys, I am so excited about these books.  We have three books done, and three more in late stages.  These are on submission now to publishers, so we’ll see if they get picked up.  (The market, guys.  It’s rough.)  If they don’t get picked up, we’ll start publishing these in 2019.

Contemporary Romance!

Megan and I have also been working on a contemporary romance series that’s also out on submission to publishers.  We have four books done (including one novella) and two more polishing up in the next couple of months.  If these don’t get picked up, we’ll also start putting these out in later 2019.  (It’s going to be a big year, either way.)  I am so excited to share these books with you.

The Bollywood Lovers’ Club!

Ten years ago my friend James Goldberg started a brilliant book that I was in love with.  Seven or so years later I finally got so frustrated that I couldn’t read the end of it that I offered to co-write.  It’s been so amazing to work with James, and finally get this book finished.  It still needs to go out to publishers, so we’re at least a year out from being able to share this with you, but it’s going to be amazing.


I’ve also taken up ghostwriting in my copious spare time.  It should come as no surprise that money is scarce in publishing, and it’s pretty awesome to write words and be immediately paid for them.  I’m having fun writing various books for other authors (mostly romance).  No, you won’t ever know who I’m writing for.  I’m not even always sure.  Call it selling out, call it a mid-life crisis, but I call it doing what I love for money, and I’m comfortable with that.

Assorted projects that are waiting for me to get to them!

As if that isn’t enough, I also have a number of YA books waiting for me to revise them, both single-author and co-written.  These will have to wait until some of these other projects get to later stages, because right now writing two extended series plus promoting my existing books plus revising the Bollywood book plus writing copy to pay the bills and oh, you know, taking care of my kids and doing homeschool and making sure my house is only a slight total disaster and also GMing my gaming group until my campaign ends and I can hand off that responsibility…that’s basically all I can handle.  But there are stories I love in there, so I’ll get to them.  Eventually.

So yes.  I am working on all the new things.  Thanks for asking.  And I’m thrilled to be able to share them with you, possibly as soon as next year!