Ravings from the Silver Chair: Part 2

Content warning: chronic illness, suicide ideation

Also, I am not a doctor. Any medical issues I discuss in this blog post are related to my personal experience alone. If you recognise any symptoms, please speak to your own General Practitioner. Again, I am only one person talking about their personal experience.

Right, now we’ve got that out of the way, I can jump straight back into the mess that is my head. In the previous blog post I spoke about physical symptoms of hemiplegic migraines; the vomiting, the dysphasia, the kidney infections, and there are also others which are so normal to me I even forgot to mention them, like (ha ha!) short-term memory loss. No, that joke wasn’t intentional. It could be the pain, it could be the medication I take to deal with the pain, but I forget names of people I’ve known for years, and the names of things. “Those metal things you get in to go places,” is how I’ve described cars, and “What do you call those things you sit on,” is my longwinded way of saying ‘chair’.

There’s a comfort in the routine that’s almost religious. It doesn’t do anything to relieve the pain in the moment, but you follow the routine because it’s what you know. So the onset of the stabby pain means you get the cushions and duvet arranged on the settee just so, you text friends to cancel plans, you get changed into a nightshirt that won’t spoil if you get vomit on it, and tie your hair back because even if you do make it to the toilet bowl in time (the ten-yard, hand-over-the-mouth dash would be my Olympic sport), there’s no shampoo on Earth that can rid you of the feeling of filth that comes from stomach acid splashback dripping down your locks.

Then you lie down, and pray for it all to be over as soon as possible.

And it never is. But when it is,  you…okay, I…look around at the mess I’ve created and think, fuck.

Because I know I have a few hours, a day or two, before the inevitable depression hits. It used to be the case that I’d get over the physical symptoms and that would be it. That was all I’d have to deal with. But now, I occupy myself with stuffing bedlinen and nightshirts into the washing machine, along with any towels I used to wipe myself down mid-illness. Gather together cups and glasses I used for cordial or soda (left to go flat so the gases didn’t upset my stomach all the more) with which I washed down medication. Leave them on the kitchen worktop. Go around the house retrieving empty blister packs of fucking useless pills that never do any damn good, put those in the bin. Check my phone for messages. Deal with mail that’s built up. Run a bath, shave my legs and underarms, wash and condition my hair. By the time all of that’s done – and it rarely takes longer than an hour and a half – I might, perhaps, have just enough energy left to shamble to the local corner shop and buy some fresh milk and what I call ‘sucky sweets’ – hard candy for the benefit of any North American readers out there. They’re a good way for me to get sugar back into my bloodstream without having to eat ‘proper’ food, because even though the vomiting has stopped by now, my stomach and me still ain’t friends. Half a cup of tea, a small pot of yoghurt, and a couple of lemon sherbets are about all I can take.

So I get all of that done and by the time it’s all over, I am exhausted. There is no word big enough to describe the bone-deep exhaustion that hits after I do a bit of housekeeping, get myself cleaned up, and have a cup of tea (or, more likely fruit juice, as for some reason my stomach seems more receptive to it than hot drinks). Nine times out of ten I go back to bed and get some sleep. Why do I need to sleep after spending two or three days out cold in between vomiting bouts? Well, the way I look at it is this – there’s a difference between unconsciousness and restful sleep, and the latter is what I need after I’ve gone through my post-migraine clean-up routine.

I can’t not sleep, but I don’t look forward to what seems to be inevitable when I wake up. That mentally drained feeling of “Oh Christ, not again. I have to deal with this again? Why? How many times do I have to go through this?”

And that’s what prompted my long, rambling, since-deleted thread on Twitter about how depressed I felt and how awful my life was. That feeling of having to go through the whole cycle of depression again, being familiar with it, doesn’t make it any easier to endure. If anything, it wears me down every time it happens and although I know the routine, that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Normally I prefer to stick with the familiar, but not this time. Not this time.

So, I brainvomited my feels online and immediately felt weird, strange, embarrassed, ashamed, anxious…and for why? None of what I said was dishonest. I guess I felt exposed. Like, you’re not meant to be that honest about going through a bad time, right? You’re meant to deal with it yourself. Stiff upper lip and all that. But, there comes a point when it bursts out of you because you’re all out of energy and possibly all out of fucks. It doesn’t really matter whether your depression is in the abstract, or if it’s focused on real things in life. Eventually, you just burst.

Next part will appear on Tuesday, because I’m nearly at a thousand words for this blog post and that’s enough for now.

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Ravings from the Silver Chair: Part 1

Content warning: chronic illness, suicide ideation

Also, I am not a doctor. Any medical issues I discuss in this blog post are related to my personal experience alone. If you recognise any symptoms, please speak to your own General Practitioner. Again, I am only one person talking about their personal experience.

As I write this blog post it’s Saturday afternoon; I’ll probably schedule publication for Tuesday evening to keep my blog posts evenly spaced out and as a hat-tip to the fact I am very much uneven and spaced out.

Last night, that is Friday evening, I spilled my guts about the way I’ve been feeling on Twitter, when I should have been working instead, because sometimes your obligations and deadlines have to take a back seat to mental health issues. This is something I tend to only do when I’m at the end of my tether, for fear of accusations of attention-seeking or being a drama queen or looking for sympathy. And so I bottle things up until my feelings become undeniable or I become too damn tired to work at the pretence of being ‘okay’ any more. I’ve decided to blog about the matters I mentioned on social media last night in an attempt to explain myself, work through my feelings, because I rambled a little on Twitter. Okay, a lot. Blogging in a more orderly fashion might help me. It might not. But I’m doing it anyway because it’s the truth. My truth.

Recently, I’ve been ill – the usual. Migraines. And as I’ve got older, my recovery from a migraine becomes slower and takes more of a toll on my mental health. When I was in my teens and twenties, I could take a couple of paracetamol, go to bed and sleep it off. When I woke to the alarm in the morning I would feel a little groggy, but that would be it. In the main, I’d be good to go.

Now, however, as my migraines get progressively more severe, the recovery proves to be more difficult. Because I vomit so much, I get dehydrated which, in turn, leaves my kidneys infected. The pain is more intense, and I become temporarily dysphasic – that is, unable to formulate speech or communicate with others. I’ve on rare occasions become aphasic, which points towards a problem with language itself. Dysphasia is probably closer to what I’m talking about because most of the time I know what I want to say, but my facial muscles won’t comply. The words form in my head, but just will not come out of my mouth. The problem isn’t linguistic, but muscular. Most of the time, anyway.

In recent months, I’ve noticed changes in the aftermath of a migraine too. Rather than just merely feeling slow, run down, hungry (my stomach being empty after all that vomiting, of course), I become really depressed. And I want to emphasise I am not using the word ‘depressed’ in the sense many people take it these days. “Oh, I’m a little blue today, a bit sad.” No, I mean actually suicidal. To the point of writing out goodbye notes to whoever I think would be interested in finding out what goes on in my messed-up head before I offed myself.

What do I think during these periods? You perhaps think, hour after hour of self-hatred, and sometimes it is. I’m a terrible person, no-one likes me, they all hate me. Much of the time, though, it’s closer to despair. The absolute certainty that things are never going to get better. Ever. No matter what I do, or how hard I work towards becoming a ‘good’ person, whatever that means. Can you imagine how hopeless that feels, to make a pathetic attempt to look into the future and see no reason to go on?

“Oh, sure, you’ve felt like this before and recovered. You’ll recover again.” That’s the point. Every time I do recover, it takes a little more out of me. There’s a little less fight in me. It’s so tiring, because the things about which I feel depressed are real, actual problems. Money, employment, family matters, that kind of thing. So it’s not like, “Depression makes me imagine things are bad,” more, “Depression makes me realise things are bad.” These issues won’t disappear once the physical ailments clear up, but I’m being worn down by each period of depression and less able to make plans and tackle said issues.

Migraines suck me dry of all energy, and as a result, I’m less able to cope with everyday life and the subsequent depression makes me focus on problems I have to the exclusion of my ability to function as an adult. I’ve had many episodes of being paralysed with fear. Of what? Anything and everything. And I know even when the dark cloud lifts, the problems will still be there. I think that’s what I fear; the feeling of there being no escape, of being trapped, of having to go through this whole cycle again and again and again, because there is just no end to it all.

Why am I blogging about all of this, now? Because pretending everything is okay, is an unnecessary drain on my emotional resources. Couldn’t I just keep quiet, and deal with things privately? Mebbe ayes, mebbe noes. I could keep quiet, but I would feel like I were suppressing something, or covering over things with shame, and if I’m unwell, is it anything to be ashamed of? I had a couple of people send me messages of support and concern last night, some even saying they could identify with the feelings I expressed, which made me feel less alone. Slightly less broken.

But, because it’s a heavy subject and some paragraphs are like prodding at a bruise, I’m going to break it up into manageable chunks of angst. In my next blog post, likely posted on Friday evening (Scottish time), I’ll talk more about the after-effects of a migraine, and the feelings I deal with during depressive episodes.

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What’s going on in my head

Well, that’s me getting over yet another migraine; ‘only’ two days this time but once more, I’ve burned my throat through vomiting so much. I know, you really needed to hear that, huh? Yes, I’m just looking for sympathy.

So I’ve not got much done writing-wise or around the house, instead wasting my time on trying not to die, while lying on the settee feeling sorry for myself.

However, by the time this blog post goes up, I’ll have sent out a 500-word excerpt to my $2 and up Patreon followers, and fingers crossed, a 1k-word excerpt to my $5 patrons. Both will be from Read Me, the third book in the Connections series as this is the story that’s really grabbing me by the collar and shaking me up right now. Funny how that happens. I could push through with the menage novella (title not revealed right now for reasons) but it would feel like word dentistry. You know…pulling teeth. Read Me, for whatever reason, is just so much easier to get done right now, and exciting for me as a writer. I’ve spent so long feeling down and depressed about various aspects of my life, that now I’ve discovered something about which I can feel enthusiastic? I’m holding on to that for dear life.

My plans for the weekend are to get more writing done, and catch up on chores I missed through illness.

As always, you can sign up for advance cover art reveals and excerpts on my Patreon page, or for my free newsletter for news of new releases, sales and other writerly gubbins. Upcoming blog posts will be more focused on specific things, rather than “Hi! I’m not dead!” What I’m currently reading, future writing plans (without encroaching on my Patreon posts), and whatever springs to prominence in my deranged, leaking spongebag of a brain.

Until next Tuesday, toodle-pip, old beans!


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The book with the most on-the-nose title ever

I’ve been working on a menage novella for a while now, and when I say that, I mean decidedly not working. Lord knows why, but I’m just not feeling the story at the moment. There’s nothing wrong with it, don’t misunderstand. It may just be  that a few matters in my real life have left me less able to deal with happy, confident, loving characters right now, and I’d rather write a full-length novel about two characters who hate each other on sight.

A full-length novel about two characters who hate each other? Why, yes! It struck me the other day that my current state of mind is much better suited to writing angry hate-sex because with everything going on in the world, I’m finding it difficult to believe in romantic, tender lovemaking. I know, I know. A writer of fiction doesn’t have to be in the exact situation about which they are writing, to be able to write authentically. What I’m trying to say is that my anger and frustration at the world could be reduced somewhat if I took that out on my characters, and the characters in my menage novella don’t deserve it. The characters in the novel I’m about to describe, being such unutterable, petty shits to each other, do.

I could persist with the menage novella, but that would give my own feelings nowhere to go. Well, I guess I could blog or journal about them but heck, it would be more productive to channel them into a project that might make me money someday and it’ll continue my Connections series.

For yes, the book to which I’m referring is Book #3 in that series, Read Me, starring Leah Deacon (Wallis Jackson’s friend from Book #2) and Doctor Andrew Kendall, a doctor of archaeology. Because he likes to bone.

They definitely do not have a meet-cute, they keep secrets from each other, they’re incredibly petty, and just won’t admit that there might be a teeny-weeny bit of genuine attraction between them underneath all that lustful, over-the-desk mindless banging.

Or it could well be that less than perfect hetero couples in a contemporary setting are my default, my fictional speciality. Whatever the truth behind it all, I’ve spent a few days tinkering with an outline on index cards and rearranging said cards into an order that ‘feels’ right. Soon, I’ll knock up my usual outline spreadsheet, complete with word count formulae in cells telling me how many words to go, chapter averages, and so on. I’ve even begun work on the first draft itself. It’s very messy, but there are some scenes that are nagging the heck out of me to be written and after the past few months when I’ve been so miserable and ill? I’ll take it. I’m finally enthusiastic about something again, so you’re damn right I’ll take it.

And, you know…it gives me an excuse to watch videos of my latest celebrity crush on YouTube and call it research because I might kinda sorta be casting him as Andrew in this book so SHUT UP YOU KNOW ALL WRITERS DO IT GOD DAMN YOU ALL.

Anyhoo, if you want advance cover art reveals and exclusive excerpts as I write the book (and a copy of the book as soon as it’s done, before anyone else gets to read it, for $5 patrons) you can sign up to my Patreon page here. If that’s not suitable right now, you can always sign up for my free newsletter here for news of new releases and any other shiz you need to know about.

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I wouldn’t bother reading this blog post if I were you

Real life, huh? Who needs it? Pshaw!

I’ve had a few things going on lately that have limited my ability to feel creative. I won’t go into detail here as I don’t like to put details from my meatspace life on the open interwebs and dear God, did I just use the word ‘meatspace’? It looks like I did…

Suffice it to say that I’ve written down a to-do list in my BuJo (bullet journal, if you’re interested) and am slowly working my way through catching up on my due Patreon posts, updating my Ko-Fi page and KonMari-ing the everloving shit out of my book collection. Yep, it’s true; this week I had a guy from a charity shop round to collect three boxes of donation books. These are books of which I’m not too fond, or know I won’t read again, or own in eBook format. It’s strangely liberating, letting belongings go, and as I like to say, “The less stuff you have, the less time and effort it takes to keep it all clean and tidy.”

So really you could accuse me of being not a minimalist, but simply a lazy git.

Either would be true. 😉

I know, I know, this is a bit of a nothing blog post but when have I ever let having nothing to say stop me from saying it?

Crikey, my typing fingers are stiff. I should do this more often. Might try writing some smutty manuscripts as well…

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What I earned in February 2019

If you’re at all active on Twitter and interested in the world of erotic romance epublishing (and if you still are after these past few weeks, you have the strength of a Titan), you’ll have noticed a number of writers stating flat out that they write their own books. Why? Well, because…so many “writers” don’t. They hire ghostwriters, or buy up someone else’s back catalogue and rejig the stories a little, then present them as all-new books. Or the individual author behind the name on a book’s cover is actually an author collective, where a group of friends or colleagues each write a story so it looks as if one author is coming out with a new book every few weeks, but it’s actually a group, each member taking turns.

Phew, that was a long sentence. What can I say? It’s been a long week.

So, that’s why a lot of writers are declaring loudly on social media that they write all their own books – because so many scammers don’t, and they want to distinguish themselves from those people.

Well, I write my own books. Always have, always will. I don’t co-write with anyone, and I don’t write for anyone else (well, not intentionally, but I’ve lived with having my work appropriated by someone else), and I don’t write as anyone else. The Scarlett Parrish name is the only one under which I’m published, in any format, with any publisher, and as a self-publisher.

All that being said, and my declaration of writing integrity now out of the way, what’s it like to live and write and earn money (ha!) as an author trying to do things properly, on her own?

Don’t hold your breath if you’re expecting me to say I’ve unexpectedly hit the big time, is all I can say to that one.

However, a while back there was a bump in the number of people reading my blog post Between the Lines, wherein I spoke of my earnings, and scams on Amazon, and feeling discouraged. And I figured, for fun, and in the interests of being open and honest, I’d post a few screenshots from my publishing dashboards, which show how much I’m raking in.

Oh, if only ‘raking in’ were the truth.

Here are February’s stats. This is what it looks like for me as an author who’s self-published twelve books, four of which are new and eight of which are reissues. I’ve done next to no promo for these as my budget is zero, but every single word of these books is all my own work.

These are my Amazon earnings:
Screenshot 2019-03-02 at 03.23.45 - Edited
And here are how my book sales were spread out. You’ll note some of my books sold no copies at all:

I cut off the right-hand side of that screenshot as that shows ‘free units downloaded’ and none of my books are set as free. One ebook was returned, a copy of Burn, so the 19 sales should more truthfully read as 18.

Think that’s bad? My Draft 2 Digital stats are even worse. Brace yourself.

You read that right. Two books sold all month. Both were copies of By the Book.

I post these screenshots not to discourage anyone else (because, quite frankly, you’d be hard pushed to do any worse than I already am, anyway) but to be realistic.

And maybe, just maybe, there’s another author out there who’s struggling, and wondering why they’re not doing as well as Author X, who brags of making thousands of dollars each month, making more sales than they know what to do with.

Oh, honey. It’s because, nine times out of ten, Author X doesn’t even exist. You do. And no-one else can tell your stories.

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My fuck harvest will be low this year

More drama in the romance publishing world. I know; what a shocker, right? This time, it’s the same old, same old, because plagiarism. One author who is possibly a group of authors (maybe) lifted huge chunks of other writers’ books, cobbled a Frankenbook together and blamed the copying on her (their?) ghostwriters when she was (they were?) found out.

Except, it’s not the same old, same old, because this time, the plagiarist picked on the wrong writers. Who are the wrong writers, which suggests there are correct writers to plagiarise? Well, the big names, who get pissy when you fail to bow and scrape to them, and sympathise with, and fawn over, them.

Do I sound bitter and angry? That’s because I am. It’s not so much the plagiarism aspect of it all that gets to me – it’s wrong to steal others’ work, end of. No, what really boils my piss is the allegation that, *gasp*, “This has never happened before! Or if it has, no-one has talked about it!”



No-one’s talked about plagiarism or bad treatment in the publishing world, huh? Or could it be…and you may want to take several seats for this…but could it be…self-published erotic romance authors have been talking about this for years but the self-appointed Governing Body of romance publishing haven’t fucking listened?

Last month, in fact, a friend of mine (whom I won’t name but you probably know to whom I’m referring if you’re following me on Twitter but I don’t want to drag her into my blog tantrum) talked at length about her own very recent experience of another author riding her coattails to success. This is an experience that has involved cover art being copied and yes, while I acknowledge there are always going to be genre-based similarities, if it happens time and time again, you begin to wonder exactly how coincidental this bitch’s career can be. Pseudonyms, set pieces, cover art…gosh, there are a lot of coincidences in this here situation. How unlucky.

Trouble is, someone who wasn’t asked to contribute her opinion decided to descend from Mount Sinai and declare this friend’s experience as all a bit of a nothing, really. Irrelevant. Sheer coincidence. Well first of all, a) fuck off because no-one asked you and b) please refer to point a then come back here and get stuck in an infinite repeating loop of fucking off.

Fast forward to last week on Twitter and one of the people being plagiarised this time around is…the very same writer who dismissed my friend’s experience as unimportant.

And yet now, now, we’re all supposed to rally round and show support.

I’ll say this again for the benefit of anyone with a reading comprehension problem: is plagiarism wrong? YES. ALWAYS.

Which is why I find it difficult to sympathise with someone when they want sympathy, after this very same person rode roughshod over another author’s feelings without being asked to contribute her fucking opinion on the matter.

So it’s not that I’m saying “Ha ha ha, you got your work copied!” No. It’s the hypocrisy of expecting sympathy for that which you dismissed in others.

I was quite vocal about this. As the title of this blog post would suggest, my fuck harvest will be low this year as I neglected to sow my fucks. My fuck field is barren. My fuck crop has been ruined. I’m all out of fucks. I shall be gathering zero sheaves of fucks.

Which has clearly upset some folk because a well-meaning friend sent me screenshots of words uttered by the aforementioned ‘big name’ author’s friend and colleague, who objected to me dismissing their troubles.

Golly gee whizz – it must be really difficult to have a complete stranger dismiss your friend’s plagiarism trouble on social media. I have no idea how bad that must be for you.

And to complain about me expressing my opinion without coming to you directly even though I’m not obligated to have anything to do with you…while admitting quite freely that you’re subtweeting me, instead of…coming to me directly?

Bless your heart.

That’s not the only instance of hypocrisy (yeah, I said it) – too, there has been the allegation from authors with a far bigger audience than I, that Romancelandia has always supported the little authors, has always rallied round.

I refer the ladies and gentlemen of the jury to the aforementioned dismissal of my friend’s experience.

Oh, and if nothing this bad has ever happened before…what need was there for bigger authors to claim they’ve always supported the little people? Except…it has happened before. You just weren’t listening. Because the people speaking were self-published, beneath your notice. (Except for when it came to making false claims of knowing all about it, then dismissing it as nothing.)

But now, suddenly, because it’s happened to folk with a bigger audience, a wider reach, more recognisable names, those who are traditionally published rather than us self-published scum…oh, now we care? Now we’re expected to talk about how awful it is to have someone else use your work to advance their own writing career?

If only someone had mentioned this years ago. But I already know what reply I would have received. A big fat nothing from the oh-so-supportive romance community.

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Between the Lines

I’ve thought long and hard about this blog post, whether I should or shouldn’t write it. It’s one of those posts that you should only write when you’re past the point of caring, and that’s pretty much where I am with my writing career right now.

You may note a lot has gone missing from my blog again. All previous posts except for The Story because…well, it’s the truth. It happened. To delete it would feel like I was backing down, and I stand by my accusations. Plenty of people have asked who “Erika” is, and I’ve told them behind the scenes.

My non-self-published buy links above, they’re all gone, too. I can’t do anything about completely deleting my books with a publishing house until they’re out of contract, and that’s a decision I don’t have to make yet. They still exist, I’ve just removed them from my ‘books by’ list. Why not delete my self-published books from existence, as I have control of them? Hmm. A huge step, and I’m still swithering, to use a Scottishism.

did have shit written under another pen name (pure erotica, not romance) which I have deleted in its entirety from the internet. That other pen name’s stories are all gone, its newsletter has been deleted, even their email account has been deleted. Kaput. My other self has committed internet suicide.

Why this need to minimise my online presence? The same old, same old, which I’ve been fighting against mentally for years now. Every so often I’ll give myself a good talking-to, determine that I’m going to get back in the game, get fired up, write write write, and…and I fail miserably.

What’s my definition of failure? What do I want out of writing? Well, ideally, I’d like to be able to be self-supporting through writing and before anyone says, “Now, Scarlett, don’t you think you’re being a bit entitled?” bear in mind, I live in a relatively inexpensive city, and due to the fact I am childfree with no debt, car finance, mortgage, loans or credit cards, I could live quite comfortably on approximately £200 per week.

Yes, I am prepared to talk money in this blog post. Approximations of what I’d like to earn, and the exact figures of what I actually do.

Given how long it takes to write, edit and format a novel, I don’t think around £200 a week is too much to ask. The minimum wage in this country is £7:20 per hour, so that weekly payout would equate to just under twenty-eight hours’ work. Am I willing to put in twenty-eight hours of work every single week, no holidays, to support myself? Yep. Does the payoff in erotic romance epublishing justify that? Nope.

(And if anyone out there fancies knocking me for “entitlement”, don’t bother. I don’t think wanting to work to keep a roof over my head and food on the table is “entitlement”; I think it’s desiring a fair exchange of sustenance for my labour.)

Let’s look at it the other way around. Instead of saying, “If I put in X amount of hours a week, I don’t think X number of pounds in return is unreasonable,” let’s ask, “How much money have you earned for the number of words written and hours spent doing so, Scarlett?”

Well, I was first published in May 2010 and I’m not going back seven and a half years and across four different publishers. I simply do not have the inclination to go raking through that many royalties statements and converting each one into the same currency. So for convenience’s sake, we’ll look at the figures for my self-published books, which are all available in one place:

Screenshot 2017-11-28 at 18.50.56

Last night I converted each figure in the ‘Total Royalty’ column into both US dollars and GB pounds to give totals in each currency, which means since November 2014, I have earned, from books totalling around 350,000 words…

$640.65, or in pounds, £480:68.

In three years.

If we take a standard typing speed of 1k words per hour, not counting editing and formatting as well, we’re talking just shy of five hundred pounds, across three years, for 350 hours’ work. (Twelve and a half weeks’ worth, if we go back to that standard working week of twenty-eight hours. Imagine working for twelve and a half weeks and having to wait three years before you’re paid, and even then only receiving £480 or $640.)

Okay, I’m maybe stretching my hypothetical working week example there, but you can imagine how disheartening that is. Especially when you take into consideration the fact that I’ve spent more than that on computers, tech, software, pens and paper. I’m effectively in the red when it comes to writing fiction. Instead of being paid for my work, I’m paying out.

Now, if it’s a hobby, something folk do for fun, that’s fair enough, but it was always my intention that writing should pay its own way, otherwise, I’d be out of pocket and would be as well finding something more useful to do with my time. I’ve got bills to pay, after all, and I have on numerous occasions, taken jobs outside the home to get those bills paid. Every hour I spend writing for free, is basically an hour’s wage lost.

But, to actually see those figures written down, in my own handwriting, actually had me questioning what I’m doing with my life and whether or not I should even be writing at all.

The other night, a friend of mine who is a superbly talented writer informed me she had just deleted all of her books from Amazon Kindle. Why? Pretty much the same reasons I’ve discussed above. Discouragement. No return on investment.

Also a growing sense that Kindle Unlimited (the monthly subscription reading service) was fucking over authors.

And I can’t say I disagree with her.

So why are my self-published books in that scheme? I wanted to see how they’d do, whether my money would come from sales or page reads. Today, though, I terminated the automatic renewal for my books, so starting next month, my books will start to drop out of Kindle Unlimited and only be available for sale, not borrowing. (That’s if I don’t decide to delete them completely.)

When Kindle Unlimited first started out, there was a flat ‘fee’ Amazon paid authors, each time one of their books was borrowed. It varied, but usually hovered around the dollar forty mark. Each time a Kindle Unlimited subscriber borrowed one of your books, you’d get around a dollar and forty cents. Approximately 85p in ‘real’ money. 😉

The trouble was, people got wise to the fact that you were paid the same flat rate whether your book was a novel, a novella, a short story, or barely a few pages long. People started to  release serialised fiction, novels chopped up into individual chapters. Why get a buck forty for a novel borrowed as a whole, when you could release each section as a separate book and get a dollar forty for each chapter as it was borrowed, right?

That’s why, a few years ago, Amazon Kindle was flooded with serialised fiction, each chapter cutting off abruptly. That’s because they were novels, literally hacked to pieces by their authors, and published chapter by chapter, instead of all in the one volume.

Amazon eventually got wise to this and said it wasn’t fair that short story writers were paid the same as novelists. They wanted to discourage people from publishing sliced-up novels and calling them serials or series.

I find it difficult to argue with this reasoning.

Trouble is, the way Amazon dealt with it screwed us all over. Instead of being paid by the borrow, authors would now be paid per page read. Approximately half a cent per page.

A 300-page novel would now earn an author a dollar and a half – but only if the whole book was read. And if you wrote a short story of, say, 50 pages, you’d only earn 25c.

Yep, you read that right. Twenty-five cents.

Kindle books started going the other way. Instead of slicing up novels like they were rationed pieces of cake, authors (and groups of authors) started page-stuffing. They’d display the blurb for their book, and advertise it as being “now with some added material” – other stories they’d written which may previously have been released on their own. Some ebooks now are well over 1,000 pages long.

“But how can that be gaming the system, Scarlett?” you may well ask. Little tricks, like putting the table of contents at the back of the book so that when a reader clicks on the ToC link, they’re taken to the end of the book and their Kindle registers as having just read well over a thousand pages, instantly. Boom. The author gets paid for a thousand pages read, even though you haven’t read a thing. Like flipping to the last page of a book in Waterstones to ensure the author gets paid the cover price, even if you haven’t even looked inside the book yet.

What else? Well, I used to be a member of a writers’ forum which I soon discovered was basically an internet circle jerk. Writers would post to say they had just released a book, could everyone go download it, flip to the end, then return the book, to bump up their apparent pages read, thank you and goodnight.

Writers would group together for anthologies, churning out what was effectively porn, even their own old stories with some names changed, or genders flipped, just to get those page reads. Several members got their KDP accounts suspended for not playing by Amazon’s rules.

Let me tell you this – many authors out there? They’re not authors. They’re groups of authors, who take it in turns to write quick short stories, page-stuffing with recycled, old manuscripts with the ToC at the back, and extracts from their own individual books to pad the page count.

If I protested, dared to say that it didn’t seem like anyone was bothered about improving their writing any more, a popular saying was “Look to your own paper.” In short, learn to game the system, mind your own business, or shut up.

So I left the website, disillusioned.

Let people do what they want to do, right? In theory, you’d say that, but Amazon got wise to what was happening and started restricting what authors could publish, the keywords they could use, even how much they were paid.

Yes, really. They started to suspect there were a lot of scams going on in the self-publishing world, so to “punish” authors, almost, Amazon started dropping the rate of pay per page-read. Blocked more folk from publishing on their site at all. Some were blocked justifiably, but many authors I’ve spoken to have been dinged by Amazon simply by mistake. Genuine authors who are only trying to make a living have fallen through the net. To mix my metaphors, sometimes Amazon throws the baby out with the bathwater. They’re so keen to get rid of the scam artists that genuine authors with good intentions get punished for the sins of the scammers.

Of course, that’s not the sole reason I’m disillusioned with publishing, lately. It doesn’t help, but it’s not the only reason. There are writers out there who make a living, and deservedly so, but the more writers who self-publish, the harder it is to promo, to gain any traction, because it seems like it’s becoming more and more difficult to be heard. Rightly or wrongly, people often judge erotic romance as being formulaic and when there are people (mentioned above) trying to game the system, it’s difficult to know what one has to do to stand out. Writing a book that’s as good as you can make it? But of course. You also, however, have to get it noticed.

Maybe my books are just shite, huh? 😉 I hope not. I think my writing’s good. Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I? But when it comes to promo, honestly? I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. In the past I’ve tried blog tours, social media, interviews, asking for reviews, and I get nowhere.

There are authors I’ve spoken to privately, who have said they’re in much the same situation financially, and while I won’t name names to protect their privacy, it’s actually shocking to me, how many talented, fresh, original authors feel like they’re at the point of jacking it all in. I was nervous of posting the screenshot above, but probably not as nervous as one writer was when she confessed to me that in the same time period, she’d made approximately one third of my earnings.

No-one is owed a set amount of money, of course not. I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is, that it might not be cost-effective to spend weeks, even months, writing a novel, and to receive only a few dollars for that novel. If you look upon it as a hobby, a way of expressing oneself creatively, that’s great. But if your time could be better spent elsewhere if your main concern is making a living, then…for me, anyway, erotic romance just isn’t worth it. Would you spend hours each week working in an office if you knew your boss could turn around and say, “I only feel like giving you ten quid this month,” ?

When I started out writing (seriously, I mean, really knuckling down with the aim of getting published) I had both hope, and a sense of fun. These days, I’ve seen behind the curtain, the mechanics of how it works and…well, I’m wondering if it’s really for me.

And you never know. It might actually be a relief to find something else to do with my time. Because sometimes you can work really, really hard towards a goal, and realise you were playing the wrong game all along.

Posted in erotic romance, self-publishing, writing | 1 Comment

The Story


Yes, I’ve decided to resurrect this blog. Why now? Well…I’m beginning to get the itch again. Don’t worry, it’s not scabies. I mean the itch to write. And I figured splurging my brainthinks onto WordPress would be a good way of flexing my typing muscles, trying to get back in the habit of writing regularly.

Jenny Trout posted a thing on her blog that resonated with me. Well, five things, actually. Blog posts she has since deleted, for her own reasons, explanation here. I know who she’s referring to, and I’ve known for months, possibly longer than a year, because we discussed the matter privately way back when, at a point we discovered we’d both had similar experiences. In fact it’s scary how many writers have their own personal “Erika”, which has become a pseudonym for, well…”someone who screws you over”.

Bronwyn Green, the friend Jen was defending, blogged about things too [edited to add: but I’ve deleted the link because apparently now it’s broken/deleted].

Today I exchanged a couple of messages with Bronwyn and she very kindly said if I ever needed to vent, she was there for me, and it made me feel quite squidgy and warm inside, like my heart had wet itself. It just goes to show that not everyone out there is a festering shitweasel. But when you cross paths with someone who is, it damages your ability to trust, or to build up friendships. I hesitate to use the word ‘damage’ as it’s very strong, but strong feelings are involved here.

The truth is, I don’t have Jen’s stones. Admittedly, she deleted her posts in the end, but she named the person who screwed her and her friends over. My concern has always been, “Ah, who’s going to believe me anyway?” By calling out a far-more-well-known author, there’s a chance of looking jealous. By saying “Actually, this, this and this happened,” after they worked so hard to cultivate a nice, pleasant, gee-golly-humblebrag reputation online, you look…well, damn, you look bitter.

That golly-gee-whizz act is an act though, and about the only thing she’s ever worked hard for or to protect, but anyway…

When I first started out it wasn’t a choice between success or failure; it was all just fun. And I had a friend, an “Erika”, who was at the same stage. Writing for years, never got anywhere, thinking it was about time we both knuckled down and made it happen, now or never, you know the score.

I did NaNoWriMo in…let’s see, 2008. I remember because it was the same year I’d finished an old job I had, and I had a lot more time on my hands. A lot less money in my pocket too, but hey, maybe writing would fix that? (Wrong. But I didn’t know it then.) I was accompanied on my journey by Erika, to whom I would speak near-constantly on MSN. Yes, MSN was still a thing back then. We’d encourage each other, share our work, have word sprints and the like. And we both fell into the same genre of erotic romance. I’ll be honest. I knew very little about the genre when I started writing it. In those days I didn’t outline. Hell, I barely knew what I was doing. I wrote 50k words that November, 25k in December, nothing in January, 10k in February and in March, I wondered if the manuscript would ever fucking end. Halfway through April I finished it and the first draft clocked in at approximately 150k words. No, not kidding. By this point, Erika had finished a couple of books and I’d fiddled with the synopses for them, suggested titles and the like. Bear in mind I’m not claiming to have told her what to write in the sense of “No, no, this is wrong. Write it like this.” It was more like, “You could do this,” or “I think you could solve that plot knot by doing X, Y or Z.” It was friends chatting and discussing what they’re working on. And talking about Erika’s books gave me a break from my own, which went on and on…and on…and on…

So, in April 2009 I was pig sick of my manuscript and was glad to have finished it. The rest of that year I spent…”helping” doesn’t seem the correct word. Hell, now I want to call it “carrying”. We’ll say…”contributing”. I’d write my own stuff here and there, but I was having fun flexing my synopsis-writing muscles doing that for someone else. When met with effusive thanks and praise, I admit, I fell for it. “Wow, I never would have thought of putting it that way!” or “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” sounds cheesy as fuck now, but back then, it was still what I thought was a genuine friendship.

Trouble is, if you keep giving someone a leg up, you end up getting trampled on.

Nevertheless, I wrote several synopses for another person who, at the time, expressed gratitude for them in our private conversations and, if nothing else, this enabled me to hone my skills in writing synopses and blurbs for my own books when the time came. I can point to several titles still for sale now to which I contributed, whether it be with titles, character names, scene suggestions, synopses, you name it. Christ, even pen names!

But, that’s the kind of thing you do for a mate, right?

Except…it began to get a tad…one-sided.

Erika sold books (or she sold books I’d helped her sell, whichever way you want to look at it) and her career was doing a lot better than mine. I had a first draft sitting on my hard drive, then two, wasn’t editing and submitting anything, and wasn’t sure what to do next. So I began to think about tidying up the book that became my first published novel. Erika was, by this time, published with a few relatively minor presses, and had further books contracted and scheduled to be published very soon. She suggested I sub to one of her publishers, so I did, and the novel was accepted. Cue serious excitement from me, congratulations from her, and all was well.


Erika was subbing to bigger and bigger epubs, getting recognition, suggestions to re-submit later, but couldn’t quite get a bite. There was one book she’d worked on that she liked, but there was something not quite right with it. So I had a suggestion, asked if she minded if I did something with the first chapter. She said no, go ahead, I asked her to give me an hour or two and I’d get back to her.

I remember printing it out and slicing it up with a pair of scissors. The timeline was…well, wrong. Instead of having a linear progression of events, it was better (I thought, and so did the publisher as it happens) to go BOOM! BIG EVENT! — backtrack, lead up to the boom — carry on from there.

I jigged about the word.doc on my laptop, smoothed over the edges, rewrote the joins, and sent it back to Erika. She loved it, said it worked much better this way, don’t know what I’d do without you, sub the manuscript, sold it, job done. (With a Scarlett Parrish synopsis, just so you know.)

Now this was with a pretty damn big epublisher, so I thought, if I can sell a book to a big epub for someone else, maybe I can for myself, too? So I knuckled down, started writing new stuff of my own. Got nowhere. For some reason, I just couldn’t make that break with my own books, but found it piss easy to sell books for other people. (Erika wasn’t the only one I wrote synopses for; another writer used a synopsis I wrote for her to snag an agent.) Maybe my fiction writing was just shite?

Then I got a R&R from Loose Id for what was then called The Devil You Know, but eventually became By the Book (now self-published here). The evening I got the email I’d been out, had a bad day, half-read the email, took it as a rejection and let off steam to Erika.

The response I got was…interesting. More or less, “Yeah, well, shit happens. Anyway, look at what I’ve written today!”


Upshot is, I noticed this happening more and more regularly. We were talking less and less about my writing plans, more and more about her writing success. She’d tell me about how much her early books with a minor epub were doing, how many hundreds of dollars she was making, how many thousands of copies she’d sold. Now, how much of this was true, I don’t know, but at first it made me feel encouraged. Hey, maybe I could make that sort of money too! Then discouraged, because I just couldn’t get a bite.

But back to that email from Loose Id. I read it again in the morning and realised it wasn’t a flat out rejection, but a R&R. Revise and resubmit. Make some adjustments, send it in again, that kind of thing. Great. Bear in mind by this point, Erika had sold books, both novels and novellas, to a number of different publishers, and I’d been looking for one where she wasn’t at, specifically so I could prove to myself I could sell my own book to my own publisher, without namedropping or using a friend’s connections.

And…Loose Id signed the book. Holy shit, I’d actually managed to sell a book to a well-respected epublisher, rather than a piddly, run-of-the-mill affair run out of someone’s spare room office. This was my chance to make it big!

Or at least, earn some proper cash.

The response I got from my “friend” was lukewarm. She just had no desire in discussing it. Brushed it off like it didn’t mean a thing.

And that kinda spoiled it for me.

Looking back, it seems obvious. As my writing began to take off, I had less and less time to devote to hers. But it was okay, right? She wrote fast — a hell of a lot faster than I ever did. So she’d always have more of a backlist than I, and I could still work on her synopses here and there. (Sure, now I see it. One of the reasons I didn’t finish that many books was because I was spending so much time on other people’s. I know. I’m dumb for taking this long to work it out.)

But that wasn’t good enough.

Things got proper wobbly when By the Book was published. I blew my advance royalties cheque, small though it was, on a new-to-me-but-secondhand sofa, and a DVD box set of Being Human. And Erika…by this time it was early 2011 and Erika had sold books to multiple publishers. Except Loose Id.

But…an acquaintance of hers got a job as an editor there, so suddenly Erika was all about cultivating this friendship, turning it into a more useful business relationship. I’m not saying she was mercenary but…okay, I am. That’s exactly what I’m saying. At the time, she said, “I’d been thinking about subbing to Loose Id for a while now anyway,” but when her editor friend promised to offer her a contract no matter what she sent in because “I’ll just tell my bosses it’s a fantastic book and they’ll let me sign you; we can work on beating it into shape later,” well, that was that.

“But Scarlett,” you might say, “didn’t you sub to the same publisher as Erika way back when?”

Yes, I did. At Erika’s suggestion, and back when we were at more or less, kinda, the same level of success. Ish. At the time of my sale to Loose Id, I had one published book at a single publisher. Erika had, goodness…looking back, must have been around 10 books at multiple publishers, and big ones. BIG publishers. Besides my start-out novel, I sold one book to Loose Id and, to be honest…it felt like she was pissing in my cornflakes, couldn’t bear for me to have any success of my own.

She waited for the day I received two rejections — two — to announce, “I’ve decided to take [Editor Friend] up on her offer. I’ve got [Book X] sitting on my hard drive doing nothing, but she said she’ll sign anything I throw her way.”

So I asked her words to the effect of, “Do you think it’s appropriate to say that when I’ve had two rejections in one day?”

And she simply said, “Everyone gets rejections; just fucking deal with it.”

It felt like she’d waited until I was feeling pretty damn awful to announce, “That thing you worked really hard for, and are really proud of? I can take it, easily. Not by working for it, but by using a connection. It doesn’t really mean anything to me, but I can’t let you have this moment to yourself.”

That was the point our friendship, such as it was, died. I can be supportive of and happy for a friend — hell, if I couldn’t, why would I have helped her sell books? But as soon as I met with success, I was no longer as readily available to bolster her career.

By some weird cosmic coincidence, Erika had a book published on exactly the same day By the Book came out and yes, I’ll admit, that soured the excitement a little. But Loose Id was Johnny Big Bollocks in the epub world then, so I told myself it’d all come good.

As a result of By the Book and one or two other things I sold, over the following months I was contacted by three separate epublishers, inviting me to submit there. Not, I hasten to add, because I knew anyone at Publishers X, Y and Z, but because they’d read By the Book and liked it. I didn’t have to pull any strings, but this book could potentially help me sell the next one. Things were looking up.

Until I saw a review for the Erika book that came out on the same day as By the Book. This book was something I’d titled and rewritten in part. I know, I know. Why? Because I was a fucking mug and didn’t want to lose a friendship and while it was being written things weren’t too bad between us, really. Ick. I know.

In this review, Erika was praised as a writer who always picked great titles, and words to the effect of “But this time she’s really knocked it out of the park. It’s a play on words whose true meaning becomes clear further on in the book, blah blah blah…”

Bear in mind this is a book I’d heavily contributed to, so I got in touch by email to say “Hey, it’s me. Look, I caught the review for [Book Title] and I’d really appreciate it if you credited me somewhere with the things mentioned in the review. It’s a great book, and I know you worked hard on it, but there are things specifically mentioned in the review that you know are my work.”

The reply I got shocked me. It was probably the first time I’d directly asked to be credited for my own work in a book published under her name, but it was time. I was no longer prepared to tolerate her sense of entitlement, the emails bragging about how much she was earning, the “Suck it up, buttercup,” when I got a rejection and the temper tantrums when she received one.

“No. I don’t have to do anything you say.”

Fuck me sideways and call me Charlie. I’d only asked to be credited for my own work. I wasn’t asking for money, just “Actually, Scarlett gave me the title.” That would have done. But no, nothing doing.

Apparently once I started selling my own books and asking to be credited for the work I did on hers, that coincided with her no longer desiring to associate with me.

Then pretty much the arse dropped out of my world. This is real life stuff, not related to writing, so I’ll just say it boils down to nearly being made homeless, and someone I know having a cancer scare which required surgery. Within the space of a few days I went from thinking things were bimbling along just fine, to “I’m going to be homeless, and [name] is going to die.” I saw no other solution than to off myself. I remember sitting on the settee writing suicide notes to people; that’s how bad it got. I took a bunch of pills and started to run a bath but before I could line up the razor blades and get in, I…

…I fell asleep. The stress, combined with a gutful of painkillers, served no other purpose than to knock me out. It sounds righteously comedic now, years later, but I couldn’t even kill myself properly. I woke up to a session of puking of which The Exorcist would be proud, a cold bath, and kidney problems. These latter are still with me today, to some degree, but not enough to worry me in my day-to-day life.

I had a deadline for a book I’d sold before I’d even written it and, unbeknownst to me, my editor contacted the Boss Lady and said, “Scarlett’s having a really bad time of it; can she have an extension?” Then she got in touch with me to say the Boss Lady had given me another month. In the end, I didn’t use all of it, but I appreciated the gesture. The book in question was the only thing I completed that year as I had a bunch of other stuff to deal with. Hospital appointments, dealing with lawyers and so on. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and being creative wasn’t even an option. I dealt with my obligations and other than that, my writing ground to a halt.

I just don’t want to remember exactly how bad that year was. Things that had bothered me before didn’t seem important. When it comes to online matters, I am still aware of a lingering discomfort when it comes to one thing in particular. I was a member of a writing website, as was Erika. The number of people who got in touch with me behind the scenes to ask, “Is something wrong? I’ve noticed you and Erika aren’t interacting any more,” is embarrassing. The more observant of folks asked, “Is she deliberately ignoring you? When you post, she replies to everyone else in the thread, except you.” One fellow website member put it this way: “It’s like she’s making a conscious effort to pretend you don’t exist.”

Of course I privately told them the story. Some believed me, some did not. Most made sympathetic noises but I didn’t care much either way. I know what the truth is, and as I’ve said, my priorities shifted. Given that my meatspace life had turned upside down, that was my immediate concern. Sorting that out first.

Eventually I got there. It’s a process. There were some speedbumps along the way, not least noticing from my online activities that Erika had collected quite a number of co-writers who were named on the covers. Well, wasn’t that a kick in the teeth. They got a credit. Even the one whom she’d said privately was “Fat, ugly and talentless,” some time before. Why did I listen to such talk? Lordy, I don’t know. I heard it, and did nothing to stop it. But really, if someone speaks to you in that manner, they’ll speak about you in such a manner, too. Another person she chose to co-write with had been the subject of “I’ve never read her books and I doubt I ever will; they’re not really my thing.” Oh, but fast forward a year or two, and suddenly the author in question is good enough to collaborate with? Why? She sells, so she could be useful.

I, of course, had well and truly served my purpose. I’d stepped out of line by a) selling my own stuff and b) requesting credit for my work. I was no longer of use.

What did come in useful for Erika was cultivating a public persona very different from her private one. This is a woman with a remarkable talent for fiction when it comes to her online persona that she would do well to channel into the books she seems unable to write on her own. And even yet, it stings to see her publicly lauded when experience has given me a slightly-less-than-fangirly view. Double stings when people who know what she did are the ones doing the squeeing. I guess birds of a feather flock together. There are always going to be writers who will dole out praise if they suspect the situation can be twisted to their advantage.

That doesn’t change the fact the emperor has no clothes on.

As it happens, in around about 2013 I had occasion to get in touch with her one last time. It was purely business related, in connection with contractual matters at a publisher I’m no longer with. We exchanged a few emails, I asked about her latest project, wished her well, blah blah. And the reply I got was “Look, I’m really not interested in pursuing a friendship with you. Let’s just leave it there.”

I burned with embarrassment. Burned. I hadn’t been pursuing anything, and felt like I’d been caught making polite conversation with that guy. You know the one, that guy. He loves himself so much he can’t conceive of anyone not being half in love with him too, and every conversation appears to his ego, to be flirtation. My conversation with Erika was primarily about a contract with Publisher X from which I was trying to extricate myself, and thereafter, “I wonder if we can be civil to each other?”

I was summarily dismissed without even asking to be part of her life again. But then again, I served no purpose. Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out.

My embarrassment was as hot as her ego is large.

Bronwyn Green recently asked me if I’d had trouble with my own work since these events, and I quote, “Like just having the will/interest/passion for doing it?…I’m hoping that’s not a common response.”

In truth yes, I have had a lot of trouble in even caring about the written word. I cannot blame that entirely on Erika as I did have other things going on in my life too. But the longer I went without writing, the harder it was to get back into it. I asked myself, why bother? I’d been let own before, worked really hard, got nowhere, and had my work appropriated, so is it really worth trying? I feel as if, right now, I’m starting from a lower position than I was in, in 2008. Then, remember, there was no choice between optimism and pessimism. No concept of “This could actually do me emotional harm.” It was just writing, right? Put words on paper. Create worlds. Make up shit. Profit.

Now I’m getting back into it aware of certain things that weren’t even on my radar way-back-when. But who knows? My writing may well be all the better for it.

Because of course it will be my writing, because I ride buses, not careers.

If I may, I’d like to end by quoting Jenny. (When in doubt, quote The Trout):

Grudges and unfairness do seem to have mass. Due to the events I talked about in those posts, my entire writing career has been tainted by that anger and hurt. And tonight, I get to let that go. And from here on out, I don’t have to think about any of that. I was walking around subconsciously trying to prove to myself that I was better than she had made me feel. […] a toxic person has unwillingly duped me into a mental competition. […] All of that past, all of those horrible things? They’re just the dirt I had to struggle up through, and those posts were the downpour that cleared the way.

Posted in blogging, Bronwyn Green, Jenny Trout, writing | 1 Comment