Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fun With Technology

This morning I got up much earlier than my body believes in possible in order to go get some work done on my car. I grabbed my complimentary cup of coffee and set up my computer in order to try and get some writing done. I have always been stuck in the waiting area of the dealership service department for several hours when I went to have things done so I expected today to be the same. Shockingly within an hour of dropping off the car, my service tech came in to tell me that everything and gone smoothly and I was ready to leave.

I loaded up my computer and checked out preparing to go home and try to accomplish my ever growing to do list. There were a few non-writing chores on the list so I did those quickly then sat down to get to work. I opened up Word on my computer and minimized all of the documents I planned to work on in one way or another today. There were about half a dozen of them. I then made another document that was my running to do list which I had open in the background. I quickly enjoyed erasing a few things as I did them and then set to work on the editing, formatting and emailing of the next book in my Rescue Me series Feline Edition - Purrfect Companions.

I was just two short stories from the end when my computer decided it was time for an update. Without warning it shut down and restarted without giving me a chance to save anything I had been working on. Both my to do list and the entire layout of the book was gone. I immediately started working on it again, saving my work with every change I made but it took forever to get through. Then just as I was saving for the last time, Word closed itself down with an error message apologizing for any inconvenience. Thankfully I had been saving my work so I only had a small amount to redo but it still was driving me crazy.

I have done every update possible now and did some edits on paper while I was waiting but technology has not been my friend today. I have several books on kindle I am supposed to be doing reviews for but my iPad has decided to go on hiatus as well leaving me with my preferred paperbacks but significantly less ability to review the books I have promised to do so for. My DVR stopped working while I was recording shows that I use for research and I am starting to believe that going to the library to research and work old school may be the best bet for me today. Have you ever found that you are struggling to make technology cooperate with you?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Common Courtesy

I have watched posts from several of my fellow authors regarding people acting unprofessionally while out at different events. I also noticed issues over the weekend and feel that it is not just a writer thing but a society thing that needs to be addressed. We as a culture, simply as people, seem to have lost the ability to show common curtesy to those around us and act in a way that is respectful making it difficult to ever respond or react in a positive way.

Starting with my observations since they are more general than writing related, I was extremely frustrated on two levels this past weekend. The first was more personal. I, along with my boyfriend, took some friends with us down to San Diego to enjoy the weather, sights and on Sunday morning the bike ride around San Diego Bay as well. They were excited to go, talking about how they had never been to California and had never seen the Pacific Ocean however almost everywhere we went they did nothing but play games on their phones. From sitting in the vehicle, to being in the room and everywhere in between is was almost a complete waste of time for us to take them anywhere.

The only time they were otherwise occupied was when they were riding with us around the bay. This is where my second concern happened. When bike riding, especially with a large group of people, it is not only courteous but also in many cases more safe to use sayings and hand signals to let others know what is happening around them. The paths we rode on were narrow in many places making it difficult to be more than two wide but people constantly refused to announce their intentions to pass then would get an attitude if another rider pulled out ahead of them. It is well known that you announce "On your left" or "On your right" when passing to allow the rider ahead of you time to let you by. Do not get cranky if you are planning to pass me but do not tell me so I announce myself to the rider in front of me and pull out in your way. It is like the turn signal or the cycling world.

The same goes for those in the writing world. Use some common sense when talking with people at events. Writers should never cut off another writer, photographer, model or reader in order to say something to someone else but in the same respect none of those previously mentioned should interrupt the writer while in a discussion either. If I was at a signing and speaking with a reader but a photographer wanted to talk to me I would hope they would have the decency to wave for my attention and hand me a business card or leave it with someone helping at my table so that I could finish my conversation. I would in turn acknowledge them and then return to show the respect I had for the person who already was with me. I know this has been a ranting post but it is a topic that means a lot to me. I think a little class and professionalism can go a long way in all aspects of society.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Finding My Brand

I have taken a number of marketing classes. As I have mentioned previously, marketing is what I studied for my degree. That doesn't however make me an expert. In fact I think when it comes to personal ventures a good deal of the knowledge we gained beforehand tends to go right out the window and it is only from either taking a giant step back, or better yet coming from someone with an objective outside view, that we can see things that would help us as we promote ourselves and our work.

I have twice in the past created business cards for myself. While I cannot quantitatively say how much they help, it is something I have that I can hand to someone at events or when I am out working on a book or show that allows them to remember my name. As I continue to learn I have found ideas that would improve my positioning in the marketplace as well as ways to use items like business cards and swag to help boost my image. One of the most important things I had forgotten was that all of your marketing materials should tie together to present a uniformed front to your clients. In this case I need everything to come together so my readers can see something and know right away it is mine.

Colors and fonts are a great way to do that, also a logo that is memorable can keep you and your products in the forefront of someone's mind. My artistic director suggested a royal purple that fades to black with a silver writing. Not sure of the font yet but I think it is elegant enough to represent the world of writing while general in terms of not siding with any particular genre. This is important since I am not set on any one particular type of book at the moment. I have charity anthologies, a thriller, a romance and two YA dramas one based on a true story. I am still finding my home at the moment but I enjoy writing in the entire variety of genres.

I am also going to be tying the colors into my website and materials I take to shows with me. Once I have figures that out I want to use the font I have my name on the cover of my books to be used on my cards, materials and website as well. I am doing this to make sure my branding is readable and recognizable. It will take some time, partially because I have no idea how to do most of it but I will post pictures as I figure things out to help others that may be working on similar endeavors. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rescue Me Excerpt from Miracle

I will always remember the day I saw him. I lived in an apartment and as long as I had lived there I had seen a beautiful feral cat that roamed the grounds of the complex. I wanted to adopt her but my current four cats weren’t open to a new family member and she seemed very unhappy being held captive inside. I fed her whenever I could, along with occasionally petting her when she would come near. She had lovely markings but the way her short fur and tight skin was pulled across her face she looked like a pretty version of Smigel from Lord of the Rings.
            A few months after I moved in she came to my door with a kitten in tow. I leaned down to pet her but she backed away defending her baby fiercely. I put out a dish of food and milk for them then stepped aside letting them eat in peace. They were very close for the next year. You would rarely see one without the other watching from a nearby balcony or set of stairs. I named the baby Smidge to keep like her mother. I attempted to adopt them a few more times but while Smigel came close to settling down inside twice, Smidge was barely willing to come through the door so staying wasn’t an option. Either way I was in love with them so I happily fed them and sat outside on the porch to pet Smigel when she decided to let me.
            I had been living there approximately a year and a half when I noticed I hadn’t seen Smigel or Smidge around for a couple weeks. I was worried that something had happened to them. I was also holding out hope that perhaps someone without additional animals might have been able to coax them into a permanent home. Every time I would come home from the store or return from work I would look for them but they had vanished. It was odd that even though they weren’t mine I cared about them so much.
            Just as I had given up seeing them again I came home one day from work and there they were. Sitting in front of the patio of the apartment below mine Smigel sat proudly watching me as I walked by. There lying next to her in the grass was Smidge surrounded by four itty bitty kittens. They were just the most adorable little balls of fluff and fuzz. I knew they were bound to be just as skittish as Smidge had always been but I tried to approach them anyway. As I suspected they scattered immediately.
            I started to head up the stairs to my apartment when I happened to glance back where the family had been gathered. There lying in the dirt was a kitten that wasn’t moving. I hadn’t even noticed him in the beginning because he was half the size of the others. My heart broke instantly because I know that feral animals will abandon their offspring if they believe they are too weak to survive. I was looking at the lifeless body of this sad abandoned kitten feeling the tears rush down my cheeks.
            All of a sudden I saw its head turn the slightest bit. He was alive. I jumped back down the stairs and lightly touched his side with my finger. I could make out a faint heart beat and he was breathing but not well. I ran to my kitchen grabbing a paper plate so I could lift him but keep him steady. I took him into the apartment but I was presented with a problem as I looked around. I had four full grown territorial cats. They were already taking interest in the smell of this poor soul and I knew he was going to struggle regardless; I couldn’t make him face them as well.

            The bathroom seemed like the safest spot so I placed some towels in the tub and placed him on one of them hoping he would stay warm. I got a regular dish and put some milk in it hoping he might be able to go get it sometime during the night. I also knew there was a very strong chance he wouldn’t make it through the night at all. Still I knew I had to try. I stayed with him for almost an hour before I finally went to bed hoping to get some rest.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Getting Overwhelmed

I am a writer. It is a tremendous passion for me being able to share the characters in my head and tell their stories to the world. Yesterday I touched on my desire to take the passion and turn it someday into a career if at all possible. I have a great distance still to go before I feel comfortable even saying that I am a professional but in an effort to begin making that journey I made a decision tonight that I hope is a good first step.

Last year I took on a huge event for the launch of my book Survivor and while it had a number of things I would change having learned so much, I believe that it was a success. I had been planning to hold an anniversary event once again this year in October. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and like last year that seems like the perfect time to do it again. Of course this year with it being so close and because I think the large scale of last year's attempt was a hindrance I was aiming for something smaller and more intimate.

With August coming to a close in the next couple of weeks and not having a date, time or location for the signing event though I was becoming very discouraged and on the way home from my day job today I had all but decided that it would be better to not hold it at all. I have been getting scheduled for forty hour weeks at the casino I deal at for the past month even though I am part time and that cuts in deeply to my writing time and, even more so to my planning time. I have managed to fit in editing and reading during breaks and before I go to bed. I have been getting my blogging and research time in while eating dinner and relaxing after work. I just haven't found time to go out looking for locations or sitting down to write my books.

Tonight I thought hard about the difficulty of making the party happen and was ready to say enough is enough but in my heart I also thought about how important the book was to write and how much I believe it deserves the exposure. It is going to be hard to find the time but that to me is a big part of being a professional. You have to decide something is a priority and when you do then it is important to focus your time on making it happen. Dedication is something I have been known to waiver on but that has been a sure sign that I am still an amateur. This is the beginning of me facing that feeling of getting overwhelmed and being able to say I am stronger. As scary as it is to make this declaration it is liberating as well and I am looking forward to making this event happen once more this October.


Yesterday I wrote about being a hobbyist in the writing world. Once again I want to state that there is nothing wrong with being in either the hobby or professional category. In fact being a hobbyist can be great if you want to just have some fun and dabble but not have the pressures of making a living or growing yourself as a brand. It isn't as important to learn the marketing or accounting aspects unless you change to becoming more of a business so all you have t do is keep track of your sales in case you need to report a large enough amount of royalties for taxes.

Today I want to focus on those that do require this knowledge, the professionals. This designation does not mean that you have everything all figured out, that you don't have to keep practicing and learning. It definitely does not mean that all you have to do is write, hit publish and wait for the royalties to come rolling in. It is a constant learning experience. Even Stephen King, one of the best known writers of our time, practices nearly everyday.

This is the group I want to join. I want to be a professional writer. I have the making time for writing part down, to a point though like every other aspect I am still working on it some. I don't have a schedule to fit it in as much as I would like though I am doing my best to find the balance between my writing passion and the rest of my hobbies and obligations. I have a great deal to learn in the promotion department as well as the design and personal branding areas. I work with an editor and cover artists because at this point I am an Indie author though I am hoping to make it more of a hybrid thing with both self published books and traditionally published books to my credit as soon as possible.

Right now I am working hard to develop marketing materials that will assist in my ability to grown my own reach as well as locations to distribute them. Website building is difficult and I am grateful to everyone that has stepped up to help me. I am planning to tie everything together with logo, color and design and incorporate some of those elements into my covers as well so that my work as a brand can be easily recognized. I am pushing to get time to write at least five days per week and improve my editing skills. Mostly I am just trying to surround myself with those I wish to emulate and that can help me to become the professional I see in them and hope to one day become myself.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


A short time ago I took the shortest business trip I have ever done to fly up to Washington and meet some great writer friends in person. After attending the Capital Indie Book Con with my wonderful fellow authors I was fortunate to also go to dinner with a number of my newly met friends. We sat around discussing the day with its ups and downs as we waited for our food and eventually the conversation moved to the difference between those that write for hobby and those that are in it as a business to be a professional, that want to eventually truly make this their full time chosen profession.

I want to focus on this in two different posts because I have observed a great deal on both sides and therefore would like to give equal time and wordage to each type of writer without creating a novella of a blog post. I know a number of hobbyist writers. There is nothing wrong with being one and I hope no one ever feels I believe there is. The most important thing for people that fall into this category is to simply admit that that is what they are.

I think through my actions, or lack there of as is the case recently, many would consider me to be in this group. I do not deny that while it is my ambition to be in the professional category, there are still so many things I do not know how to do or have struggled immensely with fitting into my schedule that I am still working to get out of the hobby designation. The point for me though is that I am working on it.

Hobbyists, even those that are very dedicated, are ones that don't take their craft seriously enough to develop outside of the strict aspects of it. For those in the CosPlay world that would be someone that wears the outfits and tends the events but does not make their accessories, costumes / uniforms and is only "in character" when necessary. In my writing world it is a writer that does actually write a book but may never publish it or if they do publish they never take the time to promote or think of it in terms of a business to grow. In the Indie publishing world this goes even further because there are those that call themselves professionals but they barely rise to the level of hobbyist. They may not edit their work, they join multiple social media platforms and groups within them and talk about being an author but never make anything real happen with their stated goals. Again I know because of time, lack of knowledge and also dealing slightly with my personal insecurities I have fallen more than once into this category. I am also working to rectify it as soon as possible.

We as authors either professional, or those like me working to become professional, must compete and overcome the stigmas that develop from this hobbyist impression. Stating that you are learning, like me, or that you are hoping and aspiring to become more of a professional, like me, is wonderful and lets people know that you are still growing. One of the most professional things you can do is admit your shortcomings and set a plan for moving forward. I am a professional hobbyist at the moment but I am hoping by the end of the year that I will have done enough to drop the hobbyist part of my title.

Setting Goals

Like every writer and almost every person in general that I know, I have a constantly running to do list. I am always coming up with projects to add to the list but I have noticed recently just how terrible I am at crossing things off. I know that a number of the items are ones that involve me to learn more technical skills but instead of picking one and learning it then crossing it off and moving on to the next I simply play around with one then another until a project comes up that I can feel comfortable doing and will blow off the ones that overwhelm me. I am working to correct this behavior.

As I am getting ready for the rest of the year and all of the things I wanted to accomplish are starting to speak up and remind me of the deadline quickly approaching. I have made a list that involves things like creating my website and getting it live, publishing the next book in my charity series while also finishing the draft of my books Sharing Strength, Chocolate Covered Cherries and a new novel for Nanowrimo. I need to get my blog back on track while also getting more involved with the online groups I network in. I have a day job and maintain an exercise regiment to help my health so those both take time but I have to schedule myself so that I can make all of my priorities possible.

What I am working on doing is making sure that the exercise part is done early in the morning so that it helps get me going in the beginning of the day and finish the day with writing and reading but I am trying to find time around the day job to get a few dedicated hours in for my other projects. I do not know that much about website building or promotions but those are on the list of learn, accomplish and move on. As I gain the knowledge from each project I do I can then build upon that until I am much better able to update and promote myself and my work.

Over the next day or two I will be making the lists of all of the things I want to accomplish by the end of the year. Once I know the ones I can easily fit into my current schedule I will make the adjustments  as needed and then find time to dedicate to the parts I don't currently know and slowly start learning the new skills I require. Setting goals is a great thing to do and can be an excellent motivator to keep pushing forward but if all you do is set goals and make lists like I have been then also like me you will be stalled. I am determined to turn this behavior around though and cross everything off my list by the time New Year's comes around.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Split Focus

A couple years ago I started working closely with a woman that is now a great friend, Kate Robbins. She created an anthology series called Rock & Roll Saved My Soul and it is completely charity driven. She is now and has been a huge inspiration to me as I developed my own charity series Rescue Me - Animal Anthology. She had a story featured in Volume 1 and has submitted for two more books as well. I cannot imagine doing it without her. Rock & Roll Saved My Soul is a large part of her life and her work and helps so many with the proceeds being for charity.

Rescue Me means a great deal to me as well. I love seeing the stories, and even more so, the pictures people share as they submit to the books. It is such a blessing to be able to send the donations to the current charity War Dogs Making It Home. Volume 1 was a fantastic experiment that flourished because of animals lovers around the country stepping forward to say "I have a story to share". They were compiled and bound for the world to see and spawned the inspiration for four more books. Each one in the series has a different charity it donates to so that I could help spread love and change to more than one organization. 

While I am busy working to share this animal passion I am also an author of Young Adult and Adult drama. It is extremely rewarding. I am satisfied watching my characters develop and tell stories to the world as entertainment and, in the case of Survivor,  to raise awareness. My charity work is important, there is no question, but so is my personal work. I am working hard to develop myself as a brand. My writing, all of my books, are an element of that. As my name grows, my reach grows and so does the potential impact I can make with my charity work. 

I have a good deal of work to do by the end of the year and Rescue Me is right up at the top of the list, it just isn't the only item on it. There may be some that would look down on me from either side. They would tell me I am doing no justice to either my personal work or my philanthropy by splitting my attention but I would tell them that it is a working partnership and both sides go hand in hand to make up not only what I do but who I truly am.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


People have been asking for nearly two years about what my website is and where they can go to learn more about my work. Unfortunately due to several things in my life I have not had an adequate answer for them. I still don't though I am trying. There are a number of options when it comes to creating a website but they all come with their own pros and cons. I have been given a number of recommendations from people that have their own sites but I have run into concerns no matter which one I look into so I am still sitting at a stalemate when it comes to creating my site.

Because I am a part time author and looking to create my site to help promote this currently part time venture I have been leaning toward the free create your own sites idea. I have investigated Weebly.com and Wix.com the most. I can honestly say I have found Wix.com to be the more user friendly of the two but because I am technically illiterate it has still been a long running challenge. I am still engaged in attempts to create a site on my own through both weebly and wix as a way to gauge my abilities and also to save money which is one of the most important things I have to keep in mind.

I have spoken with some friends that design websites for a living and they all have ideas for me. Most would be willing to do it either for free or minimal payment but this still comes with some drawbacks. The first problem is that none of them are near to me but instead back in Michigan while I reside in Nevada. Because I don't know exactly what I want and will beed input as well as the ability to update information as I publish books and attend events. In order to be able to update and have the say I need in the future I need the site to be created with me sitting at the computer either as the designer or right by their side.

The only way for that to happen here would be to hire someone in the local area but as I previously mentioned I have very little money so it would have to be more of a student learning to do designing which puts them just above doing it myself in the grand scheme of things. There is still the need to make sure they would do what I want and be able to show me how to update information in the future. The few I have spoken with are not looking to design anything by my desires but instead create a site they can use as a portfolio piece. Without seeing eye to eye it is impossible to work with them so I find myself back at my computer working on the free design it yourself sites.

If anyone out there has any other suggestions I would love to hear about them. I am also open to someone in the Las Vegas area if they are able to teach me so I can finally get this website idea up and running.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Self Over-Promotion

I took part in a conversation today in a few writers groups about the proper ways to promote yourself and your work. I am far from being an expert so I found the information exchanged interesting and was happy to see that as a whole we all agreed that there is a major difference between sounding professional and coming across and a self-absorbed egomaniac. The question I was focused on was when we cross that line.

I, like many of my fellow authors, struggle with a crippling low self-esteem battle everyday of my life. I can blame it on my PTSD or issues with my dad or whatever psycho babble "professionals" would spout in response to my feelings but the truth is as a group we are by and large an insecure bunch. So when I try to promote myself I find that I overthink everything. I am always wondering who exactly will even bother looking at what I am posting and studying other's advertisements until I am analyzed them to death. I can pick something apart until I have dissected things that probably only exist in my own mind but it does not necessarily help me further my own goals.

Assuming I decide to take a deep breath, close my eyes and hit share on something I will still make it as quick and painless as I can. Part of this is because I am not technologically savvy so I do not know how to do much more than just hit share and publish. I haven't even figured out how to customize this blog or get more than 1 follower though I am trying. I am talking with my friends that do know how so that hopefully someday I can learn. I also share simple things because deep down I hope people will like but I am also sure it will be overlooked.

So at what point do we cross over and talk about our work to the point that we look ridiculous and like we are overhyping ourselves? I think the consensus was that if you sound like you are giving a review of your own book that comes across as amateur. It is one thing to share reviews that your readers give or quote testimonials but when you make them up or speak as a reader yourself it can be taken wrong even if it is just a way to try and drum up support. It is never a bad thing to showcase your work it is just important to make sure you come across with the impression that you are the creator and others are the ones that are enjoying it.