Hey There. Come Here Often?

[pulling out the Dory voice] Well, hi!

It’s uh… been a bit of time since I’ve posted here so I thought I’d check in, crack open a drink, and have a conversation with you all.

The last few months have been extremely hard for me, I’ll be honest. Some stuff happened that redefined the way I look at people I know in a serious way. There were police investigations (closed now) and the fallout will continue for years to come, but the initial whirlwind of holy shit has subsided. I’m relieved and disappointed, angry and fearful, determined and protective. It’s an exhausting mix of emotions, to be honest. All I have to say is thank god for Kate. She has always been and always will be my rock in stormy times. Things are looking up, at least somewhat. I’m trying to be a positive, immovable wall of reliability for those who need me. It’s difficult, and in quiet, solitary moments, I break more often than I’d care to admit, but those moments are becoming less frequent at least. Maybe we’ll all be okay with time and perspective.

Then of course there’s the election of our new Dark Lord POTUS and the fallout from that, which will also have ramifications for years. I stand in shocked disbelief on a daily basis since Lord Cheeto took office. But I also see the protests, the activism, the phone calls to representatives, the sheer rising up of our nation to keep the new PEEOTUS from sinking us all, and it gives me hope. I cling to the hope sometimes, because it feel like the only thing I have, this tiny little lifesaver ring in the face of racism, sexism, cronyism, nepotism, and discrimination. And also batshit crazy. Because Bannon is fucking insane and he’s Wormtongue, whispering his evil into the King’s ear.

But! I don’t want to get into all that political shit in this post. This is more of a hey, what’s up? thing. I’ve been working as a virtual assistant the last couple months, too. The book sales are still decent, but they don’t stretch the way they used to, so I picked up some extra work to even out the valleys and make it easier to save during the peaks. This is also the reason Kate and I have started a Patreon, so we can worry less about scraping together money for bills by doing side jobs and devote that time to the actual writing. It’s been a bit stressful, if I’m honest, but hopefully in the next few months, we’ll have a little more breathing room. Honestly, the Patreon is a lot more fun than I anticipated. I have lots of ideas for it, just need the time to execute.

I’m 42,000 words into Restraint (PE 4) and I’m predicting it’ll be around 100,000 words. This one is not quite as dark as the first three (quite possibly another reaction to the last few months. The darker real life gets, the fluffier I write. Maybe. If I could ever be classified as “fluffy,” which I think is a stretch. More like Addams family dark rather than Ted Bundy dark.) I’ve been having fun with the research for Restraint though. It’s set in Seattle, which is a city that’s always fascinated me. In fact, Kate and I have tentative plans to move there for a couple years when the kids are in college, and before we go to England. Assuming the US still exists by then.

I’ve also got the second Long Fall of Night queued up and ready to begin as soon as Restraint is released. Honestly, I need to write it before what I’ve had plotted for 2 years now comes to pass and I get accused of taking advantage of sick and twisted times. It’ll be quite the roller coaster, for sure.

After that, I have a few ideas. There’s a possible Reaping Havoc 3, a PE spinoff with a character from Restraint (plus another spinoff from Consent with a couple of those characters), and then the beginning of a futuristic slave epic I’ve been kicking around for months now, tentatively called Genesis Rising. That one, I cannot wait to sink my teeth into, but the plot is slow in coming, and I’m taking my time with it so as not to force anything. It’ll be a flop if I don’t do it right. I’m also considering whether or not to make it a menage. I haven’t written a poly relationship in a long time, and never for more than a scene in a work I’ve published. I miss the dynamics of it, and I would love to explore all the facets of it again. It’s such a beautiful kind of love.

I’ve also been knitting and listening to audiobooks. I’ve got intentions of getting audio production going for my backlist in 2017, but that depends on a lot of factors, so I can’t make promises at this point. I wish I could, because I want to hear Gavin come to life in a bad way, but patience is the name of this game.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Trying to keep my head above water and hold on tight in these changing, somewhat troubled times. I’d love to report Casa Rose-Aaron smells of roses and freshly printed money and is filled with the sounds of books being written at a lightning pace, but the reality is much more mundane and less exciting.

I do want to know what you all have been up to, even if it’s not glamorous or exciting, or even if you think it sounds like complaints. You know what? We’re all in this together and can share strengths. So come sit by me. Tell me a little bit about your worlds and what you hope happens in the next few months. I’ve missed you guys.

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Perchance to Patreon

There’s been a lot of controversy the last week in the m/m world concerning authors who have Patreons set up. Patreon is basically a service artists (from all walks of life, like photographers, musicians, painters, filmmakers, models, you name it) can employ for fans who wish to support them in ways beyond buying their end product.

Patrons have been around for thousands of years. Shakespeare had patrons, and considering some of the salacious rumors surrounding just how much of himself he shared with his patrons, it’s possible he took it to levels well beyond what the modern patron does through the Patreon website. The artists of the Renaissance had patrons, and how many of you have seen the Starz network TV show Spartacus? Ilithyia, Glaber’s wife, became a patron of the House of Batiatus, promising enough money to completely cover the expense of training and caring for one of the gladiators. While parts of that show are not historically accurate, this detail is, and Spartacus lived a hundred years before Christ’s birth.

So patronage is not a new thing, though it has morphed into something the modern artist can take advantage of digitally, and in ways people from all walks of life—not just the rich—can take advantage of.

Being writers, we don’t get a fixed income. I know 60 days in advance what I’m going to get from Amazon. Payments from Draft 2 Digital—my distributor through Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Inktera—are monthly, so we know what we’re getting there as it hits our accounts. ARe were great at telling us what to expect each quarter, until they decided to keep it all instead. And my French publisher is still in the process of translating Power Exchange.

There is little margin for error in living like this. The most I get is 2 months’ notice that what I’m bringing in isn’t going to pay the bills—less than that if I switched to KU for my income, because Amazon only decides what they’re paying those authors two weeks after the month-end. Two months is nothing if you need to scramble to find a job, start working, and earn your first paycheck before then.

“So, if you can’t cover your bills through writing, get a job that does cover them,” some people might say.

I released 2 books in 2016. That’s the same output I had when I was working full time as a corporate drone, not the doubled quantity I’d hoped for when I was laid off and in a position to really have a go at the writing gig. Why?

Because I have gotten another job. 2 of them, in fact. I’ve picked up transcription work and have also become a virtual assistant for a multitude of clients… a lot of whom are like me, artists who are trying to free up their time from the doldrums of business running so they’ll have more time for their creations. I’ve also watched my wife, who only released one book at the beginning of 2016, become completely inundated with virtual assistant work to the detriment of her writing career. Kate has a post about her side of this as well, and you can read it here.

We are killing ourselves to make ends meet, and not because we’ve mismanaged funds, or because we’ve sat on our asses eating ice cream in front of the TV all day. Kate spent thousands to move here and a few months later, she had to have emergency surgery, adding thousands in debt to our situation because in this country, healthcare even for non-chronic issues can be enough to bankrupt a person. Amazon keeps changing the algorithms on how they feature books that are selling in order to support their Kindle Unlimited model, which is a royalty vampire for all but the biggest of names involved in it. Those algorithms are what put our books in front of new readers when people are browsing for what to read next. A writer friend of mine said the other day, “Is it any wonder only 15 of the top 100 books on Amazon’s rankings are not KU products?” All Romance eBooks decided to make off with our (and a bunch of others’) royalties for the last quarter of 2016. For Kate, Scribd changed their model in an attempt to compete with KU, and also nixed most romance books out of their inventory (which is why now only 2 of my titles are in it anymore) and that cut our royalties from them down by hundreds.

More $ going out + less $ coming in = unsustainable bill paying + AJ & Kate getting side jobs that have quickly become full time jobs because the paycheck is monthly as opposed to every 60 days for Amazon and descending amounts at varying points in time from the smaller vendors.

So while this might seem to some to be coincidental timing given the latest brouhaha, Kate and I have set up a Patreon after months of waffling back and forth on it. We waffled in part because we’ve seen grumblings like what has become a swell of voices this week decrying the practice, and in part because we keep trying to cover ourselves with “one more client” on both our VA client rosters. And I’ll be honest, there’s a little fear on my part that we’ll do this and the response will be chirping crickets.

We’ve decided to go into this jointly, because it’s all for the same household, and together, we think we can give patrons double the bang for the support—with new writing each month from the both of us, ebooks, signed paperbacks, and swag (plus we might come up with other ways to offer our talents and gratitude to patrons as we get better at this) depending on the tier patrons subscribe to.

For those who think this method of interaction between reader and author is nothing but bribery for content that “should be done out of love” or a demand for more from readers who already buy our works, I totally respect your decision to stick to supporting your chosen authors by buying their distributed works as you see fit. For those who think you’d be interested in helping support Kate and I in exchange for more content in the form of short stories, scene flashes from future works and WIPs, and perks above and beyond the traditional exchange of money for a formatted and edited ebook, check out the link to our Patreon and see if it’s something you might consider supporting.

On another note, as a result of the ARe closure, I realized my readers who prefer the PDF version of my books have no venue from which to purchase them. I’ve taken immediate steps to correct this, joining the Sea to Sky Books family in the hopes of providing readers with another choice in book buying options. My Books page has been updated with the new links to each title. I hope those who once used ARe as a source for buying books will consider this new option, run by Tina Haveman who is the owner/operator of eXtasy Books publishing. I’ve had extensive conversations with Tina and feel this could be the beginning of a good working relationship for both me and my readers alike. Happy reading!

 

Intermission

So it’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and I imagine a lot of people are still in family mode. The kids are breaking in their new shoes or figuring out their new electronics or draining the batteries on the new toys at record rates. The parents are probably looking around their houses and wondering how it takes so long to clean and only seconds to destroy again. Grandparents are likely watching their whole broods with pride in their eyes and reveling in spoiling those they love.

Me, I’m kind of in planning mode for the food we make on New Year’s Eve. Since I was a little kid, New Years meant a table full of finger foods and movies, and then we’d drag ourselves sleepily off the couch, pat ourselves on the back for (barely) making it to midnight, have a glass of fizzy non-alcoholic grape juice, and take ourselves off to bed.

As I got older, the food was the one thing that stuck. We never went bar hopping (the door covers were outrageous, as were the crowds) so a friend would sacrifice their house and we’d fill it with people, booze, and food. Some years there was drunken snow sledding at 1 am, some years there was dancing in the living room, and some years, New Years Day was warm enough for a pickup basketball game in the driveway once we weren’t too hungover to move.

These days, it’s much tamer. There’s still no way I could brave crowds in a public place New Year’s, and it’s Kate’s birthday, so I try to make it more about her than about rolling over another year (although this year, I may go streaking through the neighborhood and whooping for joy at seeing the ass end of 2016, because Jesus it’s been a shit year). So our New Year’s Eve will consist of more finger foods than we can possibly eat, a rendition of Happy Birthday, some gifts, and at midnight, champagne for the adults and sparkling grape juice for the kids before we ship them off to bed and hope the next year beats the pants off this one in terms of good stuff. Lord we all need a good year.

I wish everyone a happy and safe New Year’s Eve and all the blessings to come in the new year. If you’re the resolution type, I wish you the fortitude to succeed.

My resolution: get more books out. Two in a year is pathetic. I want to double that.


Many of you already know, but voting is going on for the M/M Romance Group Goodreads Member’s Choice Awards. Click this link to vote, if you’re a member of the group.

A huge thank you to those who nominated me for the following 5 categories!

Best Hurt/Comfort: Defenseless
Best Paranormal: Reaping Fate
Best Established Couple: Mitch and Nate (Reaping Havoc series)
All Time Favorite Romance: Reaping Fate
All Time Favorite Author

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Get voting! Polls close December 31.

What’s Up?

So wow, the last month or so has been kind of nuts, hasn’t it? I don’t know about you, but busy doesn’t begin to describe it.

In the last several weeks, Kate moved to America to be with me, I finished a book, we got married, and I released the book. I won’t bore you with details about paperwork and editing and driver’s licenses and book covers and bank accounts and all that jazz, but let’s just say holy shit. There’s a lot going on up in here.

Reaping Havoc

Because of this, I’ve been hit and miss around social media, and while I’m trying, it’s not liable to get better for a little while. I’m in the midst of planning what to write next, and with the holidays coming up, I know we all get a little hectic.

But it’s the what’s up next bit I want to talk to you all about. Remember this post about what a dick my muse is? Well, it appears I’mma hafta cutabitch and take away his ecstasy, because he’s still not playing ball. He apparently luuuurves Nate and Mitch, because now, there’s a sequel to Reaping Havoc banging around in my head and oh my god I can hardly wait to start it!

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So here’s what’s up with The Long Fall of Night series.

I have every intention of finishing it, but because of the depths of detail required for the next installment, I cannot focus enough on it right now with everything else going on (more gov’t paperwork, traveling for the holidays, life/health insurance, car stuff, you name it we’re doing it) to do the book justice. I absolutely refuse to phone it in on any story I write just to keep to a schedule. That makes me miserable, makes the story suck, and readers can totally see it in the writing. I know there are those of you who are waiting for The Dark Before Dawn (LFoN 2), and it’s at the top of the pile. However, this may be one of those books (or series) I have to work on at the same time as working on something else, because it’s intense to write, intense to research, and it’s slow. I can’t do slow and still keep up with reader expectations.

So my intentions are these: I will continue with the Reaping Havoc world while the muse (that fucking dickhead) is moved by it, work on The Long Fall of Night series with slow and steady determination so as to get the next installment out sometime in 2016, and book 3 out the following year, all while keeping readers on the edge of your seats with new releases every three or so months. I have plans. There’s more Mitch and Nate, the Power Exchange spinoff, the rock star story, the co-written one with Kate (possibly, if her schedule meshes), a ménage, an assassin story, another paranormal world to build regarding ghosts that might fit into the Reaping Havoc world but it might not… Oh, the list goes on.

I promise you, my favorite ever readers, there will be no lack of new work coming from me. It’s just not in the order I planned. Viva la variété!

A Piece of Me

I’m over at Diverse Reader today talking about my feelings from before the UK Meet, and sharing something I’ve held close to the vest since the beginning of my career. Take a peek and drop a comment. Come say hello, maybe make a face with me.

When the Muse Does His Own Thing

My muse is kind of a bastard.

First, he (yes, he) gives me ideas that make my jaw drop, my eyes glaze over, and my heart trip hammer. But I’m driving. Or otherwise somewhere where I cannot write the idea down. Thankfully, I’ve circumvented this by having my phone on me at all times, so I can either dictate a note (driving) or tap out a quick text to myself while I’m waiting in line at the store.

Second, when I decide to sit down and write the story for which I got so excited, it’s not always the story the muse is up for exploring at the moment.
Muse: Oh! That character trait would work so much better on Donovan, your musician for that birthday fic you were writing Erin.
Me: But that was supposed to be for her only. Something special so she’d know how much I lurve her.
Muse: So? Ask her if you can turn it into a book, because damn!
Me to Erin: Hey, muse is being a dick again; can I turn your bday fic into a book? I’ll dedicate it to you because you’re so fawesome, but yeah, it kinda blew up and hey, here’s my visual inspiration. [throws her into Google Images to look up Sir-Blue-Eyes with the innocent face but oh my god, he’s beautiful with the not-so-innocent voice or body language]
Erin: Oh my word, he’s breathtaking. YES! MAKE ME A BOOK, WOMAN!
Muse: [smug grin]
Me: I knew you’d understand. [adds to the growing list of books to be written]

Third, publishing schedule? What publishing schedule?
Muse: Nah, I don’t feel like it today.
Me: Listen, asshole. I haven’t written in a month, since Long Fall of Night 1 came out, and I cannot afford to take these breaks. Do you want me to get stuck going back to Corporate America because you were coming down from ecstasy and now all your happy is gone? That’s really fucking selfish.
Muse: Are you threatening me? Because I can play much harder to get if you know what I mean.
Me: [narrows eyes] Oh really? Because I can think of a few things that make you pretty fucking unhappy, too, bitch. Like switching to something else. I bet I could write a knitting book. I wasn’t a half bad photographer, either.
Muse: You said the knitting was for family and for charity. And photography? What the fuck? You shoot three weddings and suddenly think you’re some big shot? You said other creative stuff would never come between us.
Me: What’s to come between? You’re on some kind getaway where all the other muses go to get high, fuck each other, and abandon your writers, so there’s practically a whole continent between us at the moment. If you’re gone, I have to do something. I’m not going to wait around for you to be ready for me. Two-way street, and you. are. failing.
Muse: Fine. But you’re not writing that. You’re writing this. [shoves new idea at me and makes the characters so loud, I have no choice but to comply]
Me: But! No! That’s not fair! I have readers, dude. They want the second LFoN book next! I can’t do a reaper story.
Muse: [grinning deviously] You wanted to write again, right? You can and you will.
Me: Fuck. [puts another tick in the Muse’s column]

Fourth, he knows I have exactly six hours before real life intrudes in which to get my daily quota (self-imposed) in. So he fiddle-farts around for four of those hours, and when I get exasperated and push in hour five for something productive despite his flighty attention span, he begrudges me a little bit of inspiration. In hour six, he opens the floodgates and oh my god this is so much fun, this is flowing, I’m in love with these characters and holy fucking hell they surprised me, and then I look at the clock, have about six ideas on where to go next, and see I have five goddamn minutes before I have to leave. So I scramble in those five minutes to write down the direction I want to go. Seriously, I have three notebooks on my desk at my fingertips, all with various stories, scene flashes, bits of character development, or plot points, plus four sticky note pads with the same, that I have grabbed in haste to keep from forgetting something. And when it’s time to use that inspiration, I can’t find it in the pile. Switching to a dry write board helped, but they’re full now, and because I have moved to story ideas at the muse’s whims, the notes on them are old. I can’t get rid of them because the second I do, that’s when the dick will want me to go back to it, and I don’t want to lose that work.

What’s the point of all of this? To let you, my dearest readers, know that The Dark Before Dawn is still at the top of the pile… just not the very top. Mitchell Seeker, reaper extraordinaire, is talking my ear off, and demanded to be written now, because he’s angsting about Nate, the ski instructor he’s trying so hard not to fall for. Nate has some interesting baggage of his own, and man, these two are fucking with my head. So!

I’m working. There will be a book out soon. It’s just not what I led you to think was coming next. The Dark Before Dawn is after that. And goddammit, if my muse doesn’t let that one just pour out of me when reaper stuff is complete, I will cutabitch. I’ll take away his ecstasy. That shit’s bad for you anyway.

Interview (the Last Step)

Kate​ is in Scotland with her family on holiday but has received word that her interview with the US consulate in London is scheduled for September 3rd.

This is the last hurdle in our application for a fiancée visa for her to come to the US so we can marry. This is where they talk with her to verify our intentions and that we’re honest, really a couple, and won’t be a burden on anyone. The forums she’s been reading up on say they pretty much know if they’re granting approval or not by the time the interview rolls around, and that approval comes swiftly, if not the day of the interview, then within the week. For us specifically, they’ve requested no further documentation, and they’ve not had further questions on existing documentation. We have no reason to think there’ll be a negative decision.

This is it, folks. Now, I’m pretty sure Kate’s going to knock this out of the park, even if she’s nervous (she handles this stuff like a champ). I’m the one that’s a fucking basket case (mainly because all of this is out of my hands and I can only sit here and watch). There’s so much riding on this, not the least of which is our future together, and lemme tell you, this is where I would usually curse my jump-in-with-both-feet attitude.

When I first told Kate I had bigger feelings for her almost three years ago, she thought I was a guy (long story for the new peeps, and those who’ve been around awhile, you know already), there was a damned ocean separating us, same-sex marriage was not federally recognized with DOMA still in place, and most states did not recognize ssm. I think 8 states had equal marriage laws. In the last three years, it seems the obstacles in our path have simply gotten out of our way, with DOMA falling in June 2013, then the state I live in passing marriage equality in late 2013, and finally, SCOTUS declaring it this year in all states. I know at the heart of it all are couples who fought for all of us to be able to love equally, and I am forever grateful to them. My point is that so much was against us from the beginning, and now, we’re 24 days away from the last step. One more thing, and then that ocean can stop being between us.

I can’t find it in myself to curse my leap-without-looking mentality about this. After having toed the line for the first basically 30 years of my life, I refuse to do anything but live out loud, love as hard as I can, and go after the life I want to have. I’m fucking beside myself with the shakes, because I need her like air, and this is it. We have no reason to doubt the visa will be approved, but this is that moment. The one where the music crescendoes and the characters, who’ve been moving around the game board to get into position, do their thing to get their moment of victory. Yeah, that sounds hyperbolic, but in this case it’s not.

A yes means she comes back with me when I fly home from the UK Meet next month. A yes means we get married in October, before the paperwork has time to expire. A yes means I never have to say goodbye to her in an airport again with the stretch of months and an ocean to conquer before we are together again.

Yes means our Happily Ever After.

In 24 days.

Nerves Ahoy

I was on the phone with a dear friend yesterday and the subject of the various romance cons came up. He asked me how long it was until I fly to England to participate in the UK Meet. I was shocked to realize it’s a mere six weeks away.

What’s more shocking is I’m less afraid than I expected to be at this point in time. I’m honest-to-god looking forward to it.

It’s no secret I have anxiety, which manifests in many ways but never more quickly and more ferociously than in social settings. The very day I signed up for the con, I went to take my ruffians trick-or-treating, thinking it would be the usual family affair it had been in years past, only to unknowingly walk into a costume party with a potluck dinner, for which I wore no costume, nor did I have a dish to contribute. After taking the kids to get their candy on, I got out as soon as I could so no one could see me hyperventilating and near tears, almost too panicked to drive.

I had no idea what I was walking into that night, so it blindsided me, and while I knew everyone at the party, I stood out like a sore thumb without a costume. (Not to mention the small fact that it was among a group of people who were related to my ex, so while we’re amicable, it was still incredibly awkward with people I hadn’t seen in a long time.) I didn’t feel it fair to partake in the food everyone brought when I brought nothing, and so at 9 at night, I drove through a Sonic drive through for a giant ass strawberry limeade (my comfort drink) and a late dinner I could barely stomach. It was hours until I felt reasonable again, and stopped berating myself for being so woefully unprepared.

Why can’t I function normally around people I know?

Why was it so hard to talk to people who told me more than once it was good to see me again?

Why can’t I be like everyone else?

The answer is simple: I have social anxiety.

So what the fuck am I doing going to a con??

Two things in particular trigger my social anxiety: hugs and the possibility of my face being put online.

If someone comes at me with their arms out, suddenly, my heart is in my throat. I know I’m not being threatened, but it feels that way. Several things flit through my mind. 1.) I’m short, so most hugs put me at chest level to others. Women, I’m faceplanted in their boobs. Men, I’m nose-to-armpit. Unless I crane my neck awkwardly, it’s uncomfortable, and I FAIL AT HUGGING. 2.) I can’t breathe. Whether that’s physical or psychological, I don’t know. I have only been diagnosed with asthma in the last year, but who knows how long I’ve had it? 3.) I’m always worried I smell, or that I’m not in my best shape and someone will feel that and judge me. All of these (plus more if my brain is being particularly cruel) make me shaky and nervous, which intensifies the stupidity I feel. There are definitely wrong ways to give a hug. I suck at hugs.

My friend on the phone gives the best hugs ever. Why? Because I feel safe when he hugs me. How would I find that level of safety with someone I’ve just met, or have only talked to online? It’s a question I can’t answer. Which is why hugs scare me. Literally scare me.

My photo being put online is becoming less of a trigger, but still a concern. I see people happily put themselves out there, and even though I like being able to put a face with a name myself, the thought of doing so with my mug makes me freak. Anybody can see it. Set aside my self-criticism, I can’t control who sees me if my face is online. Given my active imagination, I spiral into worry about predators trolling the internets for their next victim and well… I know it’s stupid. But anxiety is not logical.

I am proud to say, however, that in the months since I signed up that Halloween for the UK Meet, I’ve managed tricks to ratchet down the irrational fears. It helps the UK Meet organizers are conscientious of these things, and I will wear a lanyard color coded to let people know without asking whether or not taking my picture is okay (I haven’t decided if I’m going to brave this one yet). And there are badges that can be worn to let people know if it’s okay to hug the wearer. Two awkward conversations handled smoothly with non-verbal cues, and I tell you what, I can actually relax that these things don’t rest on my shoulders. I have also gone over and over with Kate ways to extricate myself from awkward situations should they arise. Having a contingency plan for every scenario makes me feel more in control.

My friend on the phone told me the story of his first romance con as a writer, and he said when he first arrived, he was literally mobbed by people wanting to talk to him. It took him half an hour to reach the registration desk. He’s not as severe as me with anxiety, but even he barely managed to keep from walking out and never looking back.

We had a good laugh. And I realized, as I was talking about the round-table discussion I’m leading with Kate, and how I’m looking forward to the gala dinner and the people I have on my list that I absolutely must say hello to, that I’m not scared right now, six weeks out. My heart isn’t beating hard at the thought. My eyes are dry. My hands are steady.

Could that change in the coming weeks? Sure. But the best part is, I really, honestly think I can do this. If someone asked me last year if I’d really make it, I’d have said the chance was iffy. It’s not the flight, being in another country, or even speaking to a crowd (strangely, I only get as nervous as the average person when giving a speech, go figure) that gets to me. It was knowing my specific triggers not only were possible, but probable, just because that’s what people do at cons. They hug their friends and favorite authors and take pictures with them. The fact that those things are already handled, significantly reducing my chances of panicking, is really giving me some hope. Maybe even enough confidence to challenge one of the triggers. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to put up a photo of me with one or two of my favorite authors, who I’m dying to meet, and say, “Look! I have proof that I met x                            and they are awesome!”