Monday, December 26, 2016

A Look Back

This year has been a number of things for me. It has been they year I finally published the second book in my anthology series, the year I was offered full time at my day job and the year a good friend was taken far too soon. As with any other year it has been a rollercoaster ride. Even all of the things mentioned have come with their own ups and downs to make the ride that much more interesting. As I prepare for the coming year I am looking back on some of the goals I had created to see just how my ambition and my follow through stack up against one another.

I did not accomplish many of the things I set out to do which is frustrating but at the same time I did make progress. I planned to finish writing Sharing Strength which I did as well as Chocolate Covered Cherries which I did not. I wanted to publish a new book and I can put a check by that although it is not the one I had in mind. I did use my beta readers more however forward progress stopped with them. I have four full manuscripts sitting around waiting to have final edits done and then either be submitted or published myself. Both of which require some form of dedication and in the publishing realm a good deal of learning as well.

Fitness levels have maintained but I was hoping to push forward with both weight loss and challenge levels. I have since transferred both to the new year and will try again. I know it may see odd to discuss my health goals on a blog about writing but honestly I think the two go hand in hand. It is important to focus on all aspects of yourself in order to be as well rounded and accomplished overall as possible. I also have financial goals I am still working on. I made strides forward but have yet to reach the peak of Goal Mountain. For me it is imperative that I not scold myself for falling short but instead find why I did not completely succeed and use that knowledge to push even further next year.

Everything for me comes back to writing and the dream I have of following my passion to a full time career at some point. I love my day job but if I was sure I could make it as a writer I would hand in my notice tomorrow. Until that time I will continue to keep an eye on where I have been to learn for where I am going and one day hopefully say those magical words, I am a full time author!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Marketing Tip - Buy Me, Buy My Book

I cannot say that I attend as many book signings or events as many of my fellow authors but I have been to enough to make one observation I stand by wholeheartedly, you must look the part as well as create the products. I have been to art shows with numerous artists and have seen people there wearing everything from torn jeans and t-shirts to suits and ties. Those that present themselves with a sense of dignity and polished professionalism always seem to do better.

I understand that as an author I may spend a great deal of my time sitting around in pajama bottoms and a tank top with my computer sitting on my lap but when I get in front of an audience I am dressed quite differently. I don't go all the way to formal but I do wear a nice pair of pants or a skirt and a classier shirt with dress shoes. I make sure that the person standing in front of my books is a person I would buy from if the situation were reversed.

We are told throughout our lives not to judge books by the cover and as an author this has several meanings to me. It doesn't change the fact however that first impressions make a huge impact on everything we think about books, businesses and even people. If I go shopping at a craft show and the person didn't care enough to change out of their stained jeans or t-shirt with the holes in it I am less inclined to take them seriously. On the other hand I would struggle to believe in a builder that showed up in pressed slacks and a button down shirt. It is important to look the part for whatever activity you are trying to do.

Once I have gotten someone to my table and feel comfortable that I look as much like an author as I can, I must sell them on my speaking, presentation and ability to communicate my work. When someone buys a book from me they rarely do it without talking to me first. They get a piece of me with the book. They are in essence purchasing part of me and my story along with the story they hold in their hands. It is just as important that I use that time to connect with them so I can sell myself along with my book. Selling is in every aspect of what we do. They won't always buy a book if they like me but if I cannot get them interested in me at all then they will almost never buy a book I have created.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Your Own Worst Critic

Last weekend I attended a local author signing at a Barnes & Noble near my house. It ran Saturday and Sunday from eleven until two with different authors filling the tables each day. Many of my friends chose to take part Saturday believing there would be more traffic than Sunday but because of my day job schedule I attended Sunday instead. From what I have heard the amount of traffic was about the same on both days. Some authors sold significantly more while others like myself were more greeters than sellers.

Approximately halfway through the event I found myself looking around at the four other tables and playing a horrible game in my head called How Are They Better Than Me? It is an involuntary game I play where I compare my sales, abilities or some other aspect of myself to those around me. The group I was with consisted of a woman that wrote a series currently being optioned for a television show, an Indie author that also has worked with Harlequin books for over a decade but does her own Indie books as well and a local Indie publisher with more than ten titles and four authors on hand so one can stand out in front and intercept any person approaching the area before they might get to someone other than his group.

I was intimidated to say the least. I did end up making some sales and handing out swag and business cards but I was on the verge of tears for almost an hour while this horrible comparison played out in my head. It is unhealthy. It is unnecessary and frankly it is just plain irritating to go through that. For me there are aspects of this mentality I fight daily. Those that have followed me know I have the anxiety disorder PTSD and battle with dramatic self esteem issues everyday but this particular case goes deeper than that. I know so many people that struggle with one area of their life or another and it is because we compare ourselves to others without knowing the entire story then judge ourselves based on our own skewed perceptions.

We drive ourselves crazy and I am hoping to make real progress in ending the cycle in the coming year. There will always be someone doing things better, making it look easier and finding success where we flounder. It is just important to remember that while you are watching someone make things look easy in front of you there is probably someone staring at you from behind thinking the exact same thing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Goals vs Resolutions

I know many out there would think that halfway through November is far too early to be planning for all the things I am going to do in the new year. While I have not committed to anything just yet I am beginning to think about all of things I have managed to accomplish this year as well as how to build upon that for next year.

A few years ago I switched from making resolutions that I would only keep for a few months to setting goals that may take a little longer but hopefully with dedication I can achieve. I like to aim high by setting goals that will take learning, time and determination to execute but in the end when I cross things off the list it feels incredible.  This year I will be setting financial, health and wellness as well as writing goals.

For the financial goals I look at it from two different sides. I am working to save up a cushion as well as pay off bills in my personal life but I also have a business account for my writing that I need to build up for the sake of purchasing items and taking research trips for my future endeavors. I will hopefully be joining the ranks of freelancers to help build my professional equity while using my day job to accomplish the personal side of my money goals.

Health and wellness are without question one of the biggest struggles for me. I do not eat very healthy most of the time though I do have an appointment with a nutritionist that I am hoping will help me find a balance between the foods I enjoy and ones that will get me to my goals. I also have purchased a planner with a daily to do area and schedule so I can be sure to make time for exercising a minimum of four days per week. When I am healthier it boosts the other areas of my life as well so the time dedication is worth it.

Lastly are the writing goals. I have allowed my fear of rejection and need to have everything perfect from the start hold me back from taking some chances in the past couple of years so I will be amending that. There will be submissions, events and promotions as well as finishing several projects. I will be incorporating time to edit and get feedback from betas while also crossing books off my personal reading list. I want to read a minimum of sixty books next year and be able to intelligently review them. I will also be working to raise the number of my own reviews and learning from those around me how to better present my work.

Like I mentioned before I have nothing set completely yet but I wanted to get started early enough that I can make my goals achievable, challenging and help me find balance to be as productive and happy as possible.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Falling Behind

I have participated in Nanowrimo for several years now. Every year I seem to go through a similar routine which I have credited for the fact that I have crossed the finish line each and every attempt. Sadly a big part of this routine is my tendency to fall behind, sometimes significantly, forcing me to have a few days of dedicated catch up. This year has already proven to be no different.

I can use the excuse of the fact I am working full time hours this year. Having the five days I am locked within the walls of my casino dealing cards definitely takes time away from my writing endeavors. However that reasoning gets crushed when I think about Nano from 2014 when I was working two jobs. I may have been part time at both but that still meant three to four days per week per job and several of those would end up being double shifts. I began work at three in the morning then after eight hours I would head to my next job for another eight hours and finally make it home by nine at night. That year I still managed to finish my novel with a few hours to spare.

I have obligations to my boyfriend. We don't get to spend much time together and I need to make time for him. Especially considering that November has Veteran's Day and the Marine Corp birthday which are important to him since he served in the Marines for eleven years. However I honor my time and these special dates every year and still manage to complete my project on time.

For some reason I seem to thrive under the time pressure of taking part in this challenge but even the crunch of thirty days to complete the fifty thousand words has never been enough. I still manage to find those times when I am coming from behind to complete my work. I would like to get to the point where instead of putting off my writing for a few days, with the exception of special occasions, I would instead finish earlier in the month and have time to work on a different project as well.

I think since this year has already proven to be the same old routine I will be adding to my goals next year the desire to finish Nano in twenty days and get a solid fifteen thousand into another book by the end of the month. I wonder if anyone else goes through this same back and forth every year with Nano or other challenges they take part in.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Voting For Positivity

As I read through On Writing by Stephen King I have learned a number of lessons about style, planning (or lack thereof) and the background of a master wordsmith I genuinely admire. One of the things I struggle with most is grammar. I always have. It was the reason why, even though I love to read and write, I always hated English classes in school. He talks a lot about the importance and inclusion of grammar lessons for all writers. While I agree, it is by far the most difficult part of the writing process for me.

The section I just finished was about theme. I had always believed it was important to use theme and any symbolism you wanted in the story from the very beginning. As I read on though I found his insight fascinating. He writes about completing the first draft then looking back through it to see if there is a theme or any symbolism that jumps out at you. That is the system that works for him and while I have modified that slightly for myself I think it is a good idea to not become too obsessed with the idea of theme until you see what naturally appears.

With the election for president happening here yesterday I found myself coming back to the idea of theme. I have removed myself in many ways from social media. I made a public announcement that I would not tolerate hatred or attacks of any kind and have followed that up with blocking people I see engaging in such taunts. I understand the world, and America specifically, is in turmoil right now but that is no reason or excuse to continue to fight one another. It has been terrifying to see people lash out against others that claimed to be friends or family. Fiction is far less horrifying than reality sometimes.

Even the master himself has stepped away from social media until the storm dies down. Personally I understand. We as writers do not simply choose themes for our characters and our books but also in our day to day lives. I began branching out in my genres a few years ago and one of the reasons is that my beta reads mentioned my distinct consistency for writing stories with happy endings. However I think back over my life and that has been something I have strived for, happy results.

I am now focusing on the theme of voting in my personal life. I am choosing positivity even if not always in my books. My fictional worlds will shift with my inspiration but I am making the choice to always vote for positivity in my reality.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Week 1 Done

There are those that have taken to social media to either tout or complain about their progress. I could be considered one of these to a point though I am significantly behind and yet still motivated. It is a habit I get into every year it seems that I will start out with some writing but not a full day's word count. Then for one reason or another I begin to fall behind. As of this morning I was over nine thousand words behind.

I have done that every single time I have attempted the Nanowrimo challenge. This is the part for many that the enthusiasm begins to wear off. People get past that first initial burst of inspiration and they lose the determination that got them into Nano in the first place. For me it is the excitement of getting to know my characters that keeps me going. I do get to points eventually where it is slightly more difficult to keep pushing forward but I enjoy finding out the next part of the story just as much as I hope the reader one day will as well.

I get to the part where it becomes work but for me that is one of the parts I love the most. It is the hard part that makes the end result so worth it. When you can buckle down and force yourself to stay the course, sometimes writing thousands of words in a single day but when you get past that day and finish your book it is a magical moment. It is completely worth the blood sweat and tears when you have that ah ha moment and type the last of your book.

I started participating in 2010 for the sake of forcing myself to finally turn my idea for a book into a reality. I still do it because it motivates me to write other projects that I may be struggling with. It is a powerful feeling to complete something and the intoxicating sensation carries forward into other parts of the year helping keep me on track with my ultimate goal. Someday I hope to be able to write full time but until then I will continue to do challenges like Nano because they help fuel my desire as well as force me to broaden my creative outlets. For those that are struggling I encourage you to keep pushing through. For those like me that enjoy the battle I invite you to join me at the end where we can celebrate our accomplishments together.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Nano, New Ideas New Life

One of the things I want to focus on this year while doing Nanowrimo is making sure I do not lose myself while finding my writing. In years past I have found it nearly impossible to maintain other aspects of my life while also achieving the word count goals. Nutrition has long been a struggle for me in everyday life. I have battled weight concerns as well as body image issues for years. While I have gotten better I still reach for candy and comfort food anytime I have a spare moment or random emotion.

Eating through my emotions has been a coping mechanism for me since I was a little kid. Back then it wasn't a big deal because I was extremely active. Between dance classes, swim practice, soccer games and just running around the playground with my friends I burned more calories in one day than I could eat in two or three. As I got older I began to slow down on my activity level but the food consumption just increased. It got to the point that anytime I would stress out about anything, celebrate an accomplishment though that one became significantly less common, or even just watching television for an hour I had to have food. It was just how I dealt with things.

A few years ago I turned back to my passion of writing so when I had additional time during the day I would open my computer. Writing replaced food as a time filler but I still find that when I finish the draft of a new book or am dealing with the self doubt that can come with submissions or book shows I will look for something to snack on. Because of this I am doing my best to introduce new aspects to the Nano process this year.

I have my day job which is important of course and my word goals to achieve but this year I am using apps on my phone to track my food and exercise to try and incorporate healthier living in with the rest. I track what I am eating so I can keep myself healthier which makes it easier to write, workout, get through my day job and focus on my writing. In times of stress if I cannot concentrate on writing I am doing my best to go to the gym instead of reaching for the ever present bag of potato chips or ice cream.

They are small things that can have a huge impact. I am hoping that while I am going through Nano it will be difficult to adjust to such a schedule and introduce these new aspects of my life I will ultimately be able to make it a permanent part of my writing life. I am curious if anyone else has ever decided to incorporate new ideas during Nano or other busy times in their lives and had it work out that the changes are positive and permanent.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Day 1

As Nanowrimo gets underway for the year I find myself struggling. There is of course the word count goal which I always find daunting at the beginning. On top of the "What did I get myself into?" feeling that always hits me at the beginning I am battling a book I am not completely firm on as far as concept and storyline. I am not a plotter by any stretch by I felt very confident in book one and I know book four very well. Somehow books two and three are feeling a little beyond my grasp.

I know that there will be a significant amount of rewrites that will come after a research trip that I cannot begin to imagine planning at the moment. I have scenes in both books two and three as well as nearly all of book four set in or around London. I have never been. While yes I could watch movies and television set in Britain to get some idea of speech patterns and I could very easily read about sites of interest there is just no way to understand the atmosphere or capture a particular feeling of a place without being there in person.

Even without the needed trip I can draft the book but the characters are fighting me. I am lost within the first five hundred words and it is making me consider for the first time stepping away from my goal. I honestly love this series. I believe it has strong potential so I want to do it justice which includes writing it in the first place. For some reason though, my characters are being extremely difficult. When I wrote the first book in the series every character was talkative. They were just dying for me to get to November so I could jump into the story.

Today I spent an hour rewriting the first two hundred words over and over. I am still not happy. This is not an internal editor thing as I always tell people the most important part beyond simply putting words on paper is to put the editor in a tiny room in the back of your brain and give them a new red pen to play with once you are ready for their work to begin. Until then they need to stay put. I am sure that once I get into the real meat of the story I will be able to get things flowing more easily but this is the first time I have stared at and been mocked by my blinking cursor on the angry blank page. I shall push forward but it has not been the day one I was prepared for.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Pre-Nano Day

Candy bars, popcorn balls and all the other forms of treats you can handle. Costumes in every shape and size, color and design. Yes today is Halloween. It is and always has been my favorite time of year to celebrate. I love the scary movies, the inventive costumes and of course as a kid at heart I can never get enough candy.

However over the last few years I have also come to think of today in another way as well. October 31st is not just the last day in October but also the last day before November. I know most of you are thinking "Well duh. Obviously it is the last day before November." But the writers out there, many of them anyway know that the last day before November means the last day to run around gathering research, ideas and copious amounts of fuel for our soon to begin noveling adventure. Nanowrimo is upon us once more.

Thirteen years ago one of my best friends and a fellow wordsmith told me about this thing called Nanowrimo. I listened to her talk about it but had no real interest in looking it up or becoming a part of such an absurd sounding challenge. How could anyone write fifty thousand words in a mere thirty days? Even she admitted she wasn't going to try. We both settled back into our personal attempts to create our stories as we had sone before, writing in spurts between work and classes.

However the idea of Nanowrimo never fully left me. At the same time I was ignoring its existence I had begun working on a novel that was inspired by an injury I had suffered. After coming up with a general idea and working diligently on the first chapter, for nearly a year, I gave up. I took the file, printed out what I had created so far, and deleted everything else from my computer. It was a pointless pursuit I was sure. No matter how hard I tried I was hopelessly stuck.

Flash forward to six years ago and I find myself living in Las Vegas with a desperate need to finish a challenge. I need something to focus on and feel accomplished when I get done. I remember Nanowrimo. I thought that if nothing else I would throw myself into some writing and at least make progress on something. But the question of what to write still hung in the air. I only had one idea, the one I had put away years before. I pulled it out to take another look. It was all I had so with a heavy sigh I jumped into Nanowrimo and managed to finally write that book.

I have only missed one year since then and am hoping to not only continue my winning tradition this year but also the series I began to write last year during this challenge. Yes today is Halloween and I will celebrate with candy and costumes but it is also Pre-Nano Day and I will be glue to my computer in celebration as well. Happy HalloNano Day Everyone!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Learning From The Music

Nanowrimo is less than a week away and while I had been planning to write a different book I ended up deciding on book two in the series I began last year. I had been looking for that one project that stood out the most. I wanted to hear my characters calling, asking to share their story. There were a few tentative hands raised but it wasn't until I started jotting down notes for book two, then three and realized there was actually a fourth as well that I knew I would be finishing the series within the next year.

One of the things I have noticed is that the music I put on my playlists help get me into the right frame of mind to write the books. Book one, Voices In My Head, had a very angry and aggressive playlist filled with artists like Korn, Marilyn Manson and Judas Priest. I still have the same playlist but with added songs that speak more to the current main character. Chelsea, who ran the show in book one, was more refined. She was thirty eight years old, a best-selling romance novelist and part time guest lecturer at the local college. She had an ex husband and estranged daughter as well as a younger neighbor who was a friend and protege. That neighbor, Samantha Peters, is the focus for book two.

Also a romance author and with a style similar to Chelsea, Sam was drawn into the world of characters that can sometimes take on a life of their own as she watched Chelsea battle her inner demons. As time moves on and Sam moves further into her own writing journey she begins to wonder exactly what Chelsea was dealing with. None of her characters have ever given her problems. Chelsea was diagnosed with a brain tumor and though she didn't want to believe it, Sam finally starts to think that the hallucinations were just side effects of the tumor. It isn't until Sam begins to really look at what Chelsea last wrote before her diagnosis that she awakens the same sinister character Chelsea had fought so hard against.

The music for Sam is still aggressive though she is younger and much more prepared for the battle she is facing so I have added songs to signal that strength and determination. I think the most interesting thing is that of all four books this is the one I know the least about and everyday I find a song that speaks to me as though coming from Samantha herself. Through the music I am learning about the character and from her I will get the story that will continue on the Voices In My Head series.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Excerpt from Voices In My Head

The police arrived at the butcher shop letting the terrified clerk out of the office. They assured him that no one else was there. Whoever had tried to attack him had left when he said he was calling them. He was clearly shaken and didn’t make it very far outside the door before his knees gave out. The officer standing closest caught him and helped back into the office where he could sit down.

He had only worked there for a month. The store was owned by his uncle. He was just trying to help out while he went to college. He didn’t know any of the customers and said he had never seen the woman before. The police were shocked to hear it was a woman that had gone after him. They had anticipated a man perhaps trying to rob the store. When he gave his statement one of the officers was so taken aback that he took a seat next to the boy. He tried to wrap his mind around what he was hearing.

According to the young man next to him a woman had come in, ordered several cuts of meat then left to make a call while he made ground the beef. When she came back another girl was in the store. When he told the girl he would be right with her the woman had snapped, grabbing the knife and  threatening to kill him while telling the girl to run. She had referred to the girl as Scarlett even though she didn’t seem to know her. She had then called the clerk Jonny even though he was wearing a nametag that said his name was Bruce.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Finding my Story

Plotters will plan out their books. They can be as detailed as a step by step guide or as vague as a few notes on a scrap of paper with the general overview of the book. Pantsers are basically the opposite. They might have a solid idea of characters and story direction or an abstract idea that just popped into their heads as they sat down at the computer. I like to think I am a combination of the two. I tend to have at least a few rough ideas going in but no clue where the story is going or how it is going to get there. I have a starting point, perhaps even think I know how it may end but I let my characters dictate the journey from point A to point Z.

Stephen King, yes I know I have been discussing him a lot recently, says that for him plots are overrated. He prefers to take a group of characters and throw them in a situation then watch them work their way out of it. He has no idea where it is going and so as he writes he is learning about the story the same way his readers will eventually do down the line. I write in much the same way. I do write down a few basic ideas that one could consider an outline of sorts though I have been known to travel in a different direction if my characters take me that way.

I get an idea and I run with it. In some cases the characters are very vocal. They take control of my mind and whisper about their adventures. Some are more subtle. I get a line of dialogue or just a random idea and then when I have put it on the back burner I am struck out of nowhere with the idea that will become the story. Something about that initial spark with nag me until I can get the picture clear in my head. Once that happens it is nearly impossible for me to think about anything else. I become haunted by my own ideas. I write just to free the spirits of the characters and give them life here in my world through the pages they inhabit.

With the annual writing challenge Nanowrimo just around the corner I find that I am working to find a balance. I have several projects all clamoring for attention but none is jumping up to take control so that makes it more difficult. I want something that will get me excited  with characters and a storyline I can really sink my metaphorical teeth into and while I have several books with some meat I can gnaw on none of them so far is the juicy morsel I am craving. I am still in search of that special, tantalizing treat that will grab me and take me on the ride I am dying for. Plot or Pants the story is out there. I am off to hunt it down.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Making It My Own

As I have been reading On Writing there has been a tremendous amount of advice and information flowing into my brain. The largest part has been time dedication. He mentions that he believes those that want to be writers should dedicate four to six hours per day for writing and reading. I can understand that but for some of us that is simply not feasible. I can get an extra hour in before work if I do not go to the gym though for the sake of my heart I need to go workout at least four times per week to strengthen my heart and other cardio vascular muscles. I can definitely read an hour before bed and usually do but if I extend that I am cutting into my sleep which effects my ability to function the following day.

I already read and write on my breaks but considering my job is not wha one would consider "normal" in terms of breaks and schedules I cannot take an extended break or work through lunch, it is just not set up that way. I could come home from work and head straight to the office, closing the door behind me to get a solid hour or two of writing time but those are the only times I spend with my boyfriend generally and family time is just as important as writing. So for me adding more time at this stage of my writing career isn't quite as easy as I would like.

Instead I am choosing to simply take advantage of unexpected times. This morning I was awoken far before I would normally be getting up and so decided to get out of bed and get at least five hundred words in along with some promos and this big post. It isn't the typical two thousand word goal that Mr. King has set for himself but it is five hundred more than I would have gotten if I had simply turned over and gone back to sleep. Each writer is different. We all have similar goals in that we write because we enjoy it and most of the time publication in one form or another is the end game we shoot for but the journey for each of us is varied. 

I love the time I get to spend in my fictional worlds and I do not plan to leave that ambition however I need to accept that right now my visits are vacations and not routine trips. Someday perhaps I will have a second house in my imagination land. Until I can make a more permanent home there though I am doing my best to make sure that when I go I am productive and when I am in the real world I can focus on the priorities that exist here. Balance is key for me and I can always readjust as things change later on.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Finding Time

I have been reading On Writing by Stephen King recently. In it he shares memories as well as advice on becoming a writer. Many of his insights seem like common sense such as writing and reading as much as you can. He talks about writing honestly and putting your writing time as a priority above almost everything in your life. All of this I agree is extremely important.

He mentions the support of his wife and how she always believed in him. That support can be paramount to success but at the same time what if you have someone in your life that understands and wants you to do what you love however also wants you to be involved your their passions which have little or nothing to do with writing? I work a full time job, exercise almost daily for the sake of health, and sanity if I am completely honest, and make time to spend with my family. At the moment my "family" is made up of a few close friends and my boyfriend. I do read on my breaks at work as well as when I am out running errands and most nights for awhile in bed before falling asleep.

It is only on my one or two days off from work that I am able to sit down and seriously write. I outline on breaks at work as well from time to time, I try to get posts up for my blog and write down notes to be added in for the next time I sit down to write but it comes down to six or seven solid hours of writing each week. I cannot afford to quit my job so where can I make extra time? My boyfriend comes to book shows with m, helps design promotional materials and gives me feedback but he would not take kindly to me putting my writing time in place of our time together. When I workout it is in classes so that does not allow for reading or editing time and my breaks are only twenty minutes long at work. I can alternate reading and writing time but it still isn't much in the overall scheme of things.

So how do I show my passion and dedication for something my heart is dedicated to while also maintaining balance? How do I become more productive and make forward progress in my writing goals while not losing other parts of my life that are also important to me? I watch friends that can write, converse on social media, attend book shows and are always preparing for the next reveal or release while I feel stagnant. I would appreciate suggestions on how I can find more time for writing while being able to hold on to the things I love as well.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Finding My Path

Today is October 14th and that means I have only seventeen days left until the beginning of Nanowrimo. In the past I have either had a story idea well in advance or I have absolutely no idea before November 1st and have to scramble for something to work on a week into the month. This year I am in a quandary of having several ideas that are all speaking to me simultaneously. I thought that I would try outlining them to find the ones that had more details and perhaps that would wake up the characters from one story more than the others.

I began with eight projects that needed outlining. I have managed to narrow that down slightly by only having full outlines for six of them. From there I ran into a problem. While writing the outlines I discovered information to flesh out the bare bones outlines I had originally created and doing so woke up all of the characters causing chaotic conversations in my head. I am still working to sort them out. 

My goal for 2016 was to complete the first draft of Sharing Strength, which I recently did, the first draft of Chocolate Covered Cherries that is currently in progress along with winning Nano again. With dedication I have no doubt I can complete them but I need to make sure that I pick a book to write for November and that is where I am stuck. My friends that I adore as well as admire tell me to pick the three speaking the loudest and write them all. That is not a option for me as I have a full time job, family obligations and a charity bike ride during the month as well. I will complete something I am just not sure which book it will be.

After I started reading On Writing by Stephen King I have become motivated to take on as many projects as possible. I believe in my writing though I know I am far from his or any professional author's abilities. I am learning. I read, I practice and most of all I keep writing. It is my hope that with every project I am getting better so with any luck this year's Nano novel will be my best yet. Now if I can just figure out which book it is going to be.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Motivated By The Masters

I am reading On Writing by Stephen King. I have only managed to make it through the first section which is just various recounting of his youth and how he got started in the writing business. It was within these for hundred pages or so that I found myself motivated to take the leap I have been balancing on the edge of for some time.

He talks about sending off short stories and getting rejection letters but instead of finding depression he used it to spur him on. He put up a nail in his wall to hang the letters on and when there were too many for the small nail he switched to a larger spike. He writes about his lack of knowledge about the industry as a whole, he didn't have an agent, he had no idea how to negotiate and his first advance was only 2,500. While I would personally give almost anything to have an advance like that, purely to say I had gotten an advance, it was very small but he was clueless to that fact.

He goes on to share that he had nearly given up on a story that would become one of his best known works because it was difficult. He did not feel connected to the character and found the setting so foreign he had trouble navigating his own book. It was because of the love and support of his wife that he finished the project and continued to pursue his dream. She always believed in him and has helped make a home that allows him to not only be the prolific writer he is today but also the family man he loves to be as well.

He shared that the support Tabitha showed him went beyond writing and being the mother of his children as she staged an intervention when he became addicted to drugs and alcohol. He admits his own issues and says that he believes there is no such thing as a need for artists to engage in these behaviors. It is a myth that they help or enhance anything. Those in the arts may be more prone to using such substances but they are not necessary.

As someone that has struggled with different addictions, drugs, alcohol and in my case the ever present and calling food addiction, it is powerful to see someone I look up to so much admit they have fought the battle as well. Stephen King is a dedicated writer. He pushes out several projects each year and is always elbow deep in the next one between writing, edits and rewrites and making sure to have time for his family. I struggle to find the balance especially since I want to dedicate time like a full time author but I have another full time day job. I have a fire lit within me and reading his words has stoked the flames. I am looking forward to the next level of my writing career. Thank you Mr. King.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Raising Awareness

Last October I released my book Survivor. I held a launch party in a donated ballroom at the casino where I work my day job. There were prizes donated for a raffle and a cake designed by Carlos Bakery from the owner of Cake Boss. It was not as large of an event as I had initially imagined but it got some media attention along with bringing in people to donate and learn about one of the domestic violence shelters here in Las Vegas.

The main character of Survivor, Jasmine Byers, was originally written as part of a book called Sharing Strength which after two and a half years was finally completed earlier this month. I began Sharing Strength after watching a show that said almost factually, at least from their point of view, that PTSD only effects those in the military. As someone that has been diagnosed with PTSD for over a decade but has never served a day in the military, I felt it was important to give examples and backstories of characters that suffer from the disorder with and without military experience.

My writing in mostly for me. I create stories that show my passions for dance, my love of suspense and my fondness for drama but just like my charity driven series Rescue Me, sometimes I want to help raise awareness for causes near to my heart. Survivor is one such story, demonstrating how important it is to see the signs and help those struggling through their battles with domestic violence.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Making Choices

We make choices everyday in life. What to wear, meals, if we are going to write or slack off, all choices. Sometimes the decisions are more difficult. When you have grown accustomed to a particular situation and it becomes necessary to question if you should remain then emotions become entangled in the choice.

I have always been one to talk out my feelings. I share what I am thinking whether people around me care or not because venting what is happening in my head helps me clear my thoughts. The problem is when those feelings and considerations involve other people I have to be careful who I confide in. I have recently taken to just talking out loud to the empty room in order to vent any frustrations I have. Sadly it isn;t working as well as I had hoped.

So I come to my next suggestion people have given me. When making a decision that is difficult I should make a list of pros and cons for whatever way I am leaning. This again becomes frustrating because my reasons are both logical and emotional. Which side is more important to rely on? My head may come up with some very compelling reasons for doing or not doing things but I have always been one to follow my heart.

When it comes to writing I pursue both sides. For one thing it makes for much more realistic characters, at least I hope it does. To see the inner struggle between the rational and irrational makes for a more compelling story and to me makes the characters more relatable. In my real life sometimes you just have to flip a coin and hope the end result is worth it.

My characters speak to me. They ask advice and sometimes question my decisions but there are days I wish our roles were reversed. I wish I could look ahead a few chapters to see how things work out and if needed go back and edit the choices I have made. Real life is not a book but I think as writers we have a unique ability to fix things, if only on the pages we write. My book Survivor was a strong example. Things may not have gone exactly as I wrote them, it is a fictionalized version after all, but at least after half my life I was able to give one version of me the closure I have always wanted.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Excerpt From Sharing Strength

Both men shifted in their seats looking at one another. They obviously didn’t want to tell her, which just made her more anxious to know. “Jasmine look,” Dr. Kurtsman began. “Kyle is in a very sensitive state right now. He needs time to process what has happened. I think it is best if we all just give him a little space.”

“Where is he Dr. Kurtsman? He should be surrounded by the people that care about him not left alone to feel abandoned.” She crossed her arms defiantly over her chest. “Please tell me where he is so I can go and talk to him. He was so good to stay with me and I want him to now I am here for him, that we all are.”

“Jasmine my dear I think we all need to get some sleep and we can talk about this more later one. How about that, hmm?” Before she could reply he stood and grabbed his cane. He limped from the room without looking back. Craig stayed a moment longer giving her an apologetic look before following him out into the hall. When Craig opened the door Jasmine caught a small snippet of conversation. “Yes doctor he is in room five seventeen. He is still sedated but you are welcome to go check in on him.”

Kyle was there in the hospital. The realization hit Jasmine like a punch to the stomach. Why had Craig and Dr. Kurtsman kept that from her? She was a part of the group and he was a member that was hurting, she had every right to be there to help support him. Anger rushed through her, followed swiftly by confusion. She felt like she was being pushed out. She needed them and thought they understood that but somehow it seemed they had decided to turn their backs on her. Hot tears stung her eyes as she fought the despair inside. She knew something was going on and she was determined to find out what it was before they removed her completely.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Growing With Experience

I saw a post earlier on Facebook put up by KM Weiland that said "Only a true author will realize the sheer terror of the slight pause that follows the words: 'So I just read your book...'". Just seeing those words mad emu stomach flipflop. It is true. Very little can prepare you for what may come next. That little breath between the announcement and the following opinion lasts a lifetime for person waiting to hear the verdict.

When we submit to agents or publishers we are prepared for the potential rejection, at least we should be. When we prepare for publishing and send the manuscript out to beta readers we know that there is a decent chance they will find typos or editing errors we need to correct. After all that is what they are there for, catch editing mistakes and plot holes so we may fix them before they go off to our official editor. No matter what we know they will have comments. That moment of panic comes from someone that has read the book after it is published and any control if out of our hands.

I am about to release my fourth book, second in my charity series, as well as working on the beta reading  / editing stage for a couple others but it never gets easier to hear those words. There is the elation of knowing someone was interested in your work, mixed simultaneously with the full body, heart stopping dread of the possibility that they hated it. Regardless of the decision we must respect their opinion.

That is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to learn. A review is an opinion, nothing more. Some will like what you do and some will not. A bad review is not the end of the world though it can certainly feel that way at the beginning. The burning slap to the face takes some time to heal but by taking it in, objectively looking for any constructive criticism that may help you going forward and then moving on you can thicken your skin and use the experience to more deeply appreciate the good reviews.

There will always be those moments when you hear the words, "So I just read your book..." and the world will stop until you hear what follows. That is going to happen as long as you continue to put out your work for the public to read. With each book we grow and with every day of practice we improve. Take the negative as a way to boost that growth and celebrate the accomplishments and positivity. We write because we love it, it is a part of us. Let it all in and hold on to the joy that comes with the experience.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Investing In Yourself

Many first time authors have a hopeful optimism about several aspects of the writing process as well as the next step, the world of publishing. The first is how easy it will be to write the book itself. Once that bubble has popped there comes the illusion that it will be a relatively simple task to find someone that loves your book and wants to publish it (after all your mom probably said it was great).  Sadly our mom's, or whoever your personal cheerleader is, are not the ones handing out publishing contracts. If you have stuck with the program long enough to reach the next stop in the journey, selling.

If you managed to get an agent and / or publisher, congratulations. For those that either got discouraged from rejection letters piling up or you chose to go the self publishing route from the beginning you have now decided that you will just create your book on your own. Then there comes the time for working with an editor, a cover artist and, if you are computer illiterate for the most part like me, someone to help format the book so all you have to do is upload a file. Whether you did it yourself or with a team your created book will soon be on its way to you so it can be sold to all your waiting readers. That is the real easy part, right?

If you are a celebrity of some kind or have some expertise in a particular subject that also includes your book then sales may initially be easy to achieve however it can come as a horrible surprise just how difficult it is for a no name, self published author to reach any level of success. Attending events and selling online are great but at the beginning it may seem impossible to build up a fan base or find readers to come see you at your table. You may not want to but chances are that mentally you are tracking every sale. It is exhilarating to sign your work but when someone picks up the book, scans the cover and then walks off to look at something else instead it can immediately break your heart.

When a signing ends and you count up the money you have made, assuming it is more than what you invented to be a part of that particular event, it can be tempting to turn around and go blow it on a celebration dinner, a new program for your computer or something else fun it is a better idea to set that money aside to reinvest in that editor, cover artist or some other cost involved with publishing that next project. We are always looking for that book that may put us on the map. Until such time it is important to know that we are a small business and money made by that business should be used to help further any endeavors that you may desire as that business entity.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Expert Overnight

Writers are undoubtedly jacks of all trades. Some have a more narrow focus either with specific genres or particular fields of study that they use for their work while others like myself must learn as much as possible about anything and everything as the need arises. Being an author is sort of like going back to school but you only need to learn about the subjects that interest you at the moment.

When I began working on my book Sharing Strength which is finally nearing completion after more than two years I realized there were several things I would need to learn more about. One of the main ones was the overall theme of the book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. It may sound strange to those that have read some of my previous posts and know I was diagnosed with PTSD over ten years ago. The problem I encountered is that I have a number of characters and they all different reasons for being in the support group. I had to find out more about what could cause each of their reactions as well as how they may deal with the symptoms.

That research alone was difficult because I was able to see myself in a number of them. I had a few issues when I was first diagnosed and it took several sessions with a good therapist for me to even be able to work on writing the story and then medication to write Survivor which is my own personal story, fictionalized of course. When it came to Jasmine, the main character of Survivor as well as one of the main characters for Sharing Strength I had even more to learn about. She is an amateur photographer. I knew nothing about photography.

I only needed a small amount of information which helped when working on such a painful story. Now I am researching much more in-depth stories. One book involves the famed serial killer Jack The Ripper so I need to know the area of London as it stood during that time as well as speech patterns, society demographics and victim information. For my Syn series I must be intimately aware of Victorian America to truly capture the setting during the Salem Witch Trials. I have two books set in the 1800s in Pioche, NV and will not only be reading about but will be traveling to the city in order to get a feel for my characters and the place they lived. I have so many books I am researching but I must remember that in order to do them justice I cannot simply gather all the information at once then try to remember what goes where. I am instead outlining the plots and making research lists then as I come to each project in turn I will be focusing on the information needed so I can readily apply it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Being a Commodity

Recently I spoke with a friend that is also submitting her work to agents and publishers. She complained that it seemed like everyone she spoke with at a conference she had attended was only interested in the money she could make for them if they signed her. She was dumbfounded that the world would look at the story she created purely from a financial standpoint. I was shocked that it surprised her.

She has considered and rejected, at least for the time being, the self-publishing route. She wants the book deal. She believed in the advances and contracts as well as the theoretical notoriety that would come along with getting an agent. When she finished her rant momentarily to take a long sip of her coffee I asked why she was so upset by the fact they saw her in such a light. She said she was an artist and should be appreciated as such. It wasn't about the money she would make for them it was about them believing in her talent and helping her cash in on it instead.

Sighing I set aside my own coffee and looked her in the eyes. I told her that currently she was an unknown commodity in a market flooded with those attempting to break out and become a brand. Writing was a business and while, yes we all think of ourselves as artists in some respect I can imagine, we are first and foremost a market potential. These agents take a chance with us but we bring very little to the table other than the words on the pages. One could argue that the book is a tremendous asset or bargaining tool but truthfully it isn't as big of a deal as we want to think. There are hundreds of thousands of submissions across the world. We put our stories down, send them out and hope while we wait to hear of any interest.

Unless you are an expert in the field you wrote about, a celebrity with status already established or have a following from some previous venture you are practically a nobody at the beginning. It takes several projects with good results and a consistent consumer response to build you into a brand. That is what you need to focus on to become that household name that can demand to be appreciated for your art instead of being seen as potential dollar signs. Even agents for writers like Stephen King, Iris Johansen or James Patterson most likely still focus on the business while assisting in the art. We as beginners can either develop into brands or liabilities and an agent must assess which they believe more likely then proceed from there.

I have not found one that sees me as a potential brand yet but I haven't given up hope. I still submit and will continue to learn as I go but the one thing I have established already is that I am a commodity working to earn some market share in a cutthroat world. I know it is a business with a bottom line and that is a huge determining factor. I am hoping one day I will be a brand helping earn that bottom line but for now I am just taking it one lesson at a time.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Putting Off the Inevitable

There is a fine line between researching a project and looking for an excuse not to work on it. I can honestly say that I do a larger part procrastination than preparation. I have been working on researching several books that I am planning to write, telling myself that if I have all the information ahead of time then I will be able to jump from one completed project to the beginning of the next. The theory is there but the reasoning is a little iffy.

One could argue that by learning about the books as I begin them it could help put me in the right mindset for the story and that would allow me to focus more fully on the book as I go along. There are pros and cons to doing it either way. By taking the time to look things up and become a fast expert with the start of each new book there is a delay in writing it. However that delay allows me to more fully immerse myself in what I am working on.

By gathering the information ahead of time I only need to skim everything and can start more quickly on new books but there isn't much time to decompress from one book before heading into another. This can cause an overlap styles or even a lack of focus in the story. Because of the conflict I am attempting a compromise of outlining and basic information with a list of further research for each story and then I can finish the list as I take on that book.

This morning I noticed a new level of my professional avoidance however. I have taken to working to improve my writing and editing skills at the expense of actually writing or editing. I am getting ready to order several books on writing a better story which I will delve into, take notes and then (I tell myself) I will put the new information into practice. I do question somewhat if my fear of rejection and constant struggle with self esteem will ever allow me to do more than dream about putting what I learn into practice but I do believe that part of me really does want to try.

The battle is real and I know learning is important, I am still finding the balance but I know with work I will get there. For those like me out there walking the fine line, have faith. We will find our balance someday. Even if you fall off the wire just remember you are further along than when you started. There is no shame in climbing up to start again.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Overthinking Things

I have always ben chastised for being too serious, not knowing how to laugh at myself or overanalyzing things. Even as a teenager I was picked on for taking myself too seriously. Part of that is the fact that I have and still continue to struggle with that epic amount of self doubt and insecurity of not being good enough. Many creative types fight that battle everyday. We do what we can and with any luck have someone standing by our side that can help wage the war when we are feeling too weak to keep fighting.

I had a small moment yesterday where I saw first hand what can happen when you relax and just let your real personality shine through. It was the simplest thing, a tweet, that proved it to me. I rarely send out tweets other than links to my books or blog posts. My author page on Facebook does automatically link to Twitter or I wouldn't even have half the tweets I do post. When I think about sending out a tweet I go into a panic over what I should say, how it will be received and what if any hashtags I could use to help it be more visible.

More often than not I will choose to not send the tweet instead of reworking it for the fifth or sixth time. It is just 140 characters but it makes me sweat. Last night I was feeling goofy after spending some time working on various writing-related activities and sent out "Working hard on #editing #blogging #promotions you know being a #writer lol #writerslife" It is not like me to send out something like that, especially without thinking too much but within minutes I started getting likes on it. At a mere eight likes it is the highest response I have ever gotten on a tweet.

It made me happy to see that when I am just being myself people will engage with me but at the same time it immediately made me start trying to come up with ways to post more things like that so my followers would like what I post more. That is the problem, I overthink and then lose that whimsical style of just being me. It is like my heart and my brain are arguing and my fingers are caught in the middle trying to write things to please them both. Perhaps part of it is that I have woken up several characters in several projects for the writing side but my internal editor has been working overtime to get the macro edits of a book done for a beta reader so they are battling in my brain as well. oh well, off to the writing studio to see who will win this round!