Friday, December 28, 2018

New Years Goals - Reading

Several years ago I was scrolling through Facebook on a break at work. It was during the long week stretching between Christmas and New Years Eve. I came across a picture showing a list of categories  for a reading challenge. There were book categories like A Classic Romance, A Book Your Mother Loves, A Books With A One Word Title. Altogether there are fifty three books once you go through the entire list. I had been looking for a way to expand my reading horizons and thought this challenge would be a great way to branch out.

As an author I understand the importance of reading. Not only do I love to read in multiple genres, and have discovered authors through this challenge I had never considered before, but I also write in a number of genres which means I need to keep reaching out from both a reader and writer perspective. There have been a number of books I questioned choosing as I made my way through them. Judge me if you want but it turns out I am not a fan of the classics. Pride & Prejudice as well as The Count Of Monte Cristo both took forever for me to complete. I never was able to get into the story.

I never believed reading those books were a completely bad idea though. There were things I was able to learn from those stories including story flow and pacing that I can incorporate into my own writing. I keep trying to find new books and authors I can learn from and so every year I attempt the challenge again. I have yet to complete it. Last year I even added a number of writing craft related books on top of the fifty three books of the main challenge. I read fast enough to get through the entire list and still pick up a few books from authors I have enjoyed but there are some categories I struggle to get through as well as dealing with life getting in the way can make completion beyond my grasp.

I have already gone through the categories and cleared the books I was able to get through while adding in the new titles I intend to read in 2019. I am excited about the things I will learn this year and looking forward to sharing the books as I read them throughout the year.

Monday, December 24, 2018

New Years Goals - Fitness

I mentioned in the last post I was focusing on a number of different goals including reading, writing, fitness, and professional. I know it seems like some of these are less than author-like, but I think a big part of keeping my focus is staying well rounded. Today I have been going through the ultimate goals I have for fitness.

Originally I was planning to attempt my first Spartan Race obstacle course but all of the ones located in my part of the country happens to coincide with book signings I have already agreed to do. I am still looking forward to taking part in one in 2020 but I will be signing up for that before I set my signing schedule. I will be using the second half of this year to work on getting myself in shape to handle the obstacles as well.

Last year I ran in my first 10K and while I can honestly say I hate running as an activity, that particular race was one of the most fun events I have ever done. I also love the distance cycling events I have done in the past. I will be continuing to train for the 10K again as well as a few 5K events along with 4-5 cycling events and possibly a trail run during the course of 2019. These activities take time away from my writing and publishing but they allow me to keep my health the best it can be. It also gives me something I need for writing as well, time to let my mind drift and develop storylines organically.

When I run, and when I take out my bike, I always listen to music. I have a playlist I use when I am training because the songs are motivating and can keep pushing me when I am too tired to do one more lap at the track. When I am just exercising to get in shape and not training for anything in particular I listen to playlists specific to the book I am working on. That allows me to get lost in the feel of the book. I have also been known to let my kind wander while I swim at the gym. No matter what type of exercise I'm doing, it's nice to let my mind go and the story takes over.

I have learned I can't run or bike without music. My mind will not venture off to writing because I will only focus on my breathing, or lack thereof. My running friends have told me to just run without music and eventually I will be able to let my mind go but I think using the book playlists is the right way for me. As I make my checklist for the upcoming year I have included a weight loss goal, things like classes to try and flexibility / strength levels to achieve but most of all I am looking forward to seeing how the improvement in my physical abilities translates into improvements in my writing life.

Friday, December 21, 2018

New Years Goals

Yep. It's that time of year again. New Year's resolutions are upon us once more and as usual I am being less than traditional. I gave up on the resolution thing years ago. Instead I adopted the idea of making goals to work toward and accomplish throughout the year. I always have writing goals on my list and a reading challenge to attempt. There is usually a fitness goal or two and something to do with my professional life whether that be writing related as well or connected to the day job.

This year I will be attempting the trifecta once again as I tackle an aggressive publishing goal, work hard to achieve my fitness and competitive goals and look into making an addition to my working life as I return to my love of performing.

Writing this year, with any luck and determination, will see leaps and bounds as I move forward. My writing goals include drafting the 3rd and 4th books in my Voices series, drafting / editing / publishing the rest of my Sharing Strength series, revising my stand-alone novel Breathe, and outlining Sabrina which is the prequel to Never Give Up. On top of writing goals I will also be attending far more signings in the upcoming year so I need to make sure I am keeping up on my inventory levels as well as consistently releasing new books and staying on top of my packed schedule.

Fitness related goals this year involve making a dedicated effort in the gym so I can stay healthy as well as get in shape and stay in shape so I can enjoy the performing in my part time job (I love the theater), and being able to participate in more 5Ks, the 10K at the end of the year, and more biking events that I always enjoy. I had planned to try and compete in my first Spartan Race this coming year but all of the ones near me are during time I am already scheduled to do book signings so I will be focusing on my running and biking for now and start the obstacle training toward the end of the year.

I have made my reading challenge list for this year and I have to admit many of the books from this past year are still on there because I lost track of my reading in 2018. I am looking forward to the fresh start now and have already accumulated several of the books so I can get started on my reading and have reserved a number of others from the local library. As long as I can keep from losing my motivation I think 2019 will be a very productive year.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Nanowrimo - Progress

When participating in Nanowrimo the target daily word count is 1667. I have fallen below that successfully everyday so far. As of yesterday I was only at the 4,000 mark. I am planning to get at least another thousand words written today before I go to sleep and will be up early tomorrow to write more but I still struggle to see how I will catch up to where I should be by the end of the day tomorrow (15,000 yikes!).

If I can get to at least the 10K mark and continue to add between 1,000 and 2,000 per day until next Friday then attempt to once again play catchup I may have a chance. This year is somehow quickly becoming the most difficult of all my attempts for Nano. I have overcome obstacles and issues in the past. I have only failed once and it was due to medical concerns but I am finding this year to be more difficult than any I have had in the past.

I know most would say it is because I have taken on too much. I am planning a holiday party which involves planning, baking, decoration making and setup. I need to update the event page on Facebook and get a better idea of how many people are coming. I need to shop for all items needed and being to assemble everything so I am ready to go when the time comes. That is a huge undertaking but one I could not be happier about at the moment. I also have fantastic help so it isn't like that project is being done alone.

I have three signings this month, two on the same day. (Yes I know, I suck at scheduling) One of those I am the point person for and I also have a meeting with the group in charge of two of those signings next Friday so part of my writing time will be dedicated to planning the signing for books already finished while I attempt to finish another. Speaking of events, I have the Marine Corp birthday party this Saturday. My boyfriend is a Marine veteran and I will be proudly attending the party with him as well as spending party of Veteran's day with him as well if I am not working. My work schedule plays into it a lot because I work 5 days per week and cannot write much on breaks and don't get a lunch so trying to add a quick thousand words there is nearly impossible. Not to mention there is no where for me to put my computer while I am working.

If, as I mentioned I am not working on Veteran's day I will be with him for parts of the day but I will also be running a 10K in the Rock N Roll Marathon series down the Las Vegas Strip then attending a friend's birthday cookout. There is just so much to do.

And yet, none of these stand out as the reason I am struggling to get caught up. I am struggling because this book is somehow not connecting with me the way the first two did and the way the fourth one already is. I know many things about the last book in the series but there are events that will transpire in book 3 that will set up book 4 and so I need to write this one first. The characters are just stifling me though. they give me the bare minimum and reveal practically nothing. But I am determined. I will find a way to break through. I am 4,000 down and only 46,000 left to go!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Nanowrimo - Day 5

Technically today is day 5 of the annual writing challenge Nanowrimo also known as NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. If you participate from the beginning to the end and only do the minimum for each day to reach the 50,000 word goal you would produce 1667 words per day and today you would cross off the first 8835 words. I am not there.

I am not even close to there. I am working on my first thousand words because I was unable to write the first 4 days. I have been brainstorming and am doing my best to at least reach somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 before I head off to my day job and will do my best to add at least as much before I go to bed tonight. I have never been one to follow the amount for the day and with the exception of last year when battling two jobs and some major health issues, I have also never been one to quit.

My first year I worked on a story I had kept inside for nearly a decade. It was great to have the push of the words count updater and doing the online groups to keep me motivated. The second year I didn't have any ideas of what to write. I didn't make the decision to participate until November 8th officially and by then I searched through a folder of writing snippets I jot down to use from time to time and found a short story I wanted to extend into a full length novel. I managed to finish with a few days to spare although it has present ed trouble for me in the editing and rewrite process and is still collecting dust on my shelf.

The next year I was working on the first book in a series. I had been driving back from a camping trip and was so connected with the main character she took control of me and told me the entire outline of the first book. It was so intense I had to pull over for lunch and write it all out on napkins. That was in the middle of the summer and I was chomping at the bit all autumn until November 1st to get to work on that story. The last two years I participated I ave worked on books 1 and 2 in my voices series. Last year I attempted to do book 3 but as I mentioned there were reasons I couldn't. This year I am doing tok 3 instead. With any luck I will complete book 4 when Nanowrimo is done and the series will be complete.

I know people who as sticklers for doing the word count for the day, starting on time, and not venturing outside the parameters much at all but there are a number of ways to be successful and even if you don't hit 50,000 words by the end of the month and instead only get to 30,000 or so that is still so much further than you started out. it is about being passionate and dedicated and celebrating any successes you accomplish.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Nano Prep

Last year I sat down and declared my novel for the annual Nanowrimo challenge. I planned to work on the third book in my Voices series but working everyday between my two jobs, trying to keep up with family and personal obligations and dealing with my struggling health made it an impossible venture. It was the first time I have ever had to pull out of participating and it was something I thought long and hard about before officially deciding. However, in the end, I knew it was the best move for me to make.

I write outside of the Nanowrimo challenge. I will admit I do not find time to focus on writing as much as I would like other than during November, but I do work on it from time to time. It had been my intention to get past the health issues and get down to one job and then go back to write book three so I could begin working on the rewrites and edits for the trilogy that I believed the Voices series to be. The health issues continued unfortunately and I wasn't able to get down to one job until June of this year. Even then I was battling some health concerns though those have mostly cleared up now.

So this year as I was considering if I wanted to attempt it again I talked it over with my boyfriend who is one of the major sounding boards for everything I do. We talked about some of the things I have been doing to improve my health such as training for a 10K and riding in a charity bike ride, both of which I will be taking part in over the next two weeks. It is something I need to continue doing in order to keep my health on an upward trajectory. So that is a time concern to be take into consideration, not only do I need to set aside the time for the run (one day) and time for the ride (3 days to get to and from California) as well as making time in the mornings to get to the gym in order to stay healthier.

The next thing to think about is the three signings I need to make time for. Two of the signings are on the same day which is one less day to take away from writing but it makes for one long and full day. I am also preparing for a holiday party I will be hosting for the Las Vegas authors the day after Nanowrimo officially ends. I will be baking all of the desserts (19 of them) and making the decorations / putting them up in the front and back yards plus throughout my house. So all of those things are more items I need to have in my calendar along with the five days a week I work. Writing this month was starting to feel impossible.

Yet when we talked it over he mentioned me has seen me complete Nano when I didn't start until November 9th and had no idea what I was going to work on. He has seen me complete a novel while working two different jobs and pulling back to back doubles. He knows it is a passion and he has faith I can do it. Not only does he believe in me and how much I love writing but he knows it is an escape for me. When all those other things make me feel overwhelmed and I start getting emotional or frustrated it is a way for me to clear my mind and focus on something I enjoy.

I know the story I will be working on. I have the basic idea and know the ending I am working toward. I now know there is a fourth book that is the actual end of the series but I am excited to get into book three and hopefully when I am done I can jump right into the last book and finish the first full series I have ever written. Bring on Nanowrimo 2018, I am ready!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Two Different Sides

Ok, ok, I know, I've been gone a while. Close to a month, I know, please don't throw things at me. I have been busy with writing stuff I swear. I finished the editing and publishing work for my latest book Just Deal With It which was an adventure and a half. I have also been working hard to set up a launch party for it. In Vegas that can be a challenge. There are so many things happening all the time that you want to find a time and place that will have people but not have to battle a full social schedule in order to find a time to do it.

I managed to find a weekend that wasn't fighting Labor Day, other book signings, still close enough to the publish date to be relevant, and gives me time to work hard on the other book I am releasing this year, Fish. Fish will be out in mid-October and while I am excited to share another of my Sharing Strength characters, this book is hard to write.

Just Deal With It is a fun and funny group of stories form my experiences over the last 8 years as a dealer working here in Las Vegas. The casino world is definitely one I could never compare to anything else and the people watching is second to none. People bugged me for years to either do an open mic night and tell stories about the crazy things I have seen or write a book so others can get a taste of what my "day job" is really like. As a writer I decided the latter was the way to go. That isn't to say I won't myself with a mic in my hands eventually as well though.

Fish on the other hand is a labor of love because it is difficult to write, discuss, or even describe. I can say the theme is extremely relevant in today's society right now, sexual assault. The main character is a sweet, innocent girl who is always there for her friends and never wants to let anyone down. She is from a strict, sheltered household with parents who do not always approve of their daughter's friends because some are more "fast life" than Rachel. When a rape happens the entire world turns upside down for Rachel and her friends as moving forward seems impossible.

Minor topics in the book also include bullying and high school society as a whole but the center of the book is dealing with the sexual assault. I have openly discussed in the past that I am a domestic abuse survivor but I do not talk about the times I was raped often. They were a result of the mental state was lived in after my abuse and while I am using much of the emotion I experienced while working on Fish the story is completely fictional. Rachel is a part of me and I'm a part of her so I cradle her in a loving embrace in my mind. Sharing this story will be painful and emotional but it is a topic we need to be talking about so I want my sweet Rachel to stand tall and do what she needs to do in order to lend her voice to such a painful subject.

Now if I can just make the mental switch from the fun and laughs of Just Deal With It and get focused I can get Rachel off to the editor and back to work on the Voices series.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Pushing Through

Today I finished the final edits and formatting for my book Just Deal With It. The book is all about the town I live in, Las Vegas, from the casino dealer's point of view. Everyday when I go to my day job there are things I am sure to hear. From "Are you the cooler?" to "Winner winner, chicken dinner!" and of course "You're killin' me smalls", somethings are a given. I always like to share some of the experiences I have had doing one of the most fun jobs I have ever worked.

A few years ago I was joking around with another dealer as I walked out to my car after my shift. She asked if I ever thought about writing a book about the things I have seen while working in a casino. The truth at the time was that I had never considered doing so. I just enjoyed making people laugh with my random stories. I remember looking at her and rolling my eyes saying, "Oh yeah what a great idea! I could call it Just Deal With It and we could all have a good laugh at the inside joke." She turned to me after pushing the elevator button smiling.

She waited until we were almost to the top then asked when I would be publishing it. I laughed not realizing she meant it. It would be over a year before the idea would find any friction in my mind. While attending the San Diego State University Writers Conference I was again telling the tales of the casino to make people laugh. An agent overheard me and asked for an exclusive first read of the book I was pitching. What followed was an amusing twenty minute discussion about how he could possibly read something I was;t actually writing. He convinced me to think about it and gave me his card and a deadline, should I decide to follow through.

The next part was frustrating. Another dealer, whom I considered one of my best friends, has always had the dream of being published. I went to him to ask if he would consider co-authoring the book with me. He was ecstatic. We began working on ideas and layouts immediately but as time went on nothing came from his side. I missed the deadline waiting to see what wonderful stories he would include. After a year of pushing and getting nowhere I had to face reality, it was all on me.  That meant the book would be shorter than I originally planned but I was ok with that. I would still make it as fun as I could and share the stories I had always seen bring a smile to people's faces.

In the next few days I will be uploading the manuscript for publishing and the official release date is set for August 26th. It is the anniversary of the day I left my previous work for the casino I have called home for the past six years.  I cannot wait to introduce people to my world in a more meaningful and entertaining way. It was a journey to get here but well worth every step.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sharing Rachel

Last night as I was driving home from work I started thinking about why I am struggling so much when working on Fish, the book I will be releasing in October.  I know the main points of the story and the dialogue will flow as it should when I get to those points in the story. I have a playlist set up for the novel Sharing Strength and Fish is simply the novella prequel to Sharing Strength so everything seems to be in order. So why is it so damn hard?

For one thing, Rachel is not the main character in Sharing Strength. She is important. I would even go so far as to say her role in the book is vital to the story. However, she is not the main focus. The playlist is for overall mood and leaning more toward the main characters Kyle and Jasmine. Ok, understanding that I thought about Rachel and came up with several songs that work specifically for her. Now she has her own playlist. Things should be easier, but they aren't.

Rachel doesn't have the easiest time in Sharing Strength. Her trials and tribulations are emotional and at times painful. She is that character that tugs at my heart strings and knowing everything she deals with in the novel I wanted to give her some dignity in her novella. The problem is, the prequel is the book that explains how she became the person she is in Sharing Strength. I have to put her through even more to get her to the point she is at the beginning to the novel. I cry for her because of everything about her. Her age, just sixteen almost seventeen years old. She is struggling with her parents, her friends, even her teammates on the swim team have a tendency to make things difficult for her at different points. She has been sheltered and so when adversity arises she has no idea how to handle it.

She comes from a strict upbringing with the focus on religion. She is the epitome of a "goody two-shoes" and holds onto that even when rumors and bullying start to make her appear otherwise. Rachel is someone who fights to prove she is the person she says she is but every time she falls down it gets a little harder to get back up. She doesn't want to give up. She wants to heal from every time she has fallen, been kicked down or thrown, she is just having trouble finding that hand to help stand her up and dust her off when she needs it.

Fish is the second novella in the Sharing Strength series but because Survivor was based on a true story and only parts of Rachel's personality and experience come from a real person it is more difficult to write. I know she will step up and share the story if for no other reason than she wants to help, even if it is as a fictional character reaching out to a world beyond her own.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


Last week I watched a webinar about book marketing. There were a few things I already knew but a few tweaks I could make to existing strategies which may improve visibility and sales. One thing mentioned repeatedly was newsletters. Using them, and doing so effectively, can be a major difference in your marketing effectiveness. I have chosen to look at newsletters from both sides, as a creator and as a subscriber.

I do have several I personally subscribe to that cover everything from cover art designs and writing programs to simply reading about what other authors are releasing or giveaways they are doing. It is a fantastic learning experience to see what authors similar to myself are doing along with ways I may be able to make those ideas more personal for my work. Because of this I have a huge influx of information everyday. I have fallen behind but for the sake of getting my writing career back on track I will be going through all of the emails this week, taking note of the newsletters I find value in and getting rid of ones doing nothing more than pushing products or services I don't see myself using.

The goal is to not only be caught up but using the information I gain each week as I go through the new emails. I want to find a way to connect with the information most useful for my writing then customize the marketing strategies and hopefully share my experience with other beginners like myself.

From a creator's point of view I am working to find what information to include, what is just filler, how to make it personal and fun, and of course how to track the effectiveness the letters. The webinar discussed ways to grow your subscriber list as well as how to include a pieces of information to help the reader know you and make it more personal for them at the same time. I have sent a few basic email newsletters but armed with this new information I am hoping to switch to a new service in the next month or so and begin to improve my reach so I may begin to see a growth in my writing as a business.

Part of that growth will come also from understanding the market so as I go through my current subscriptions I will begin deleting ones that not only hold no helpful information but will replace them with newsletters and blogs by authors in my genres and more closely related to my personal goals. As I continue to learn more I will be sharing the trials and triumphs here. Also if any of my readers have things they would like to see included or other authors have advice I would welcome any contributions to be considered.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Kitten's Corner - Bree

Hey everyone, Bree here. Pumpkin is sleeping so I decided to take over and show my mini me, mom calls her Oreo, around a little bit. Things have been crazy here for the last month as mom tries to work during the night and then come home when the sun is coming up. She has been so tired it is difficult to get her to do anything, even give us extra treats.

She cleans like she always does and eats like normal, sort of. But she also goes out to meetings she calls them and has been all excited about a new book. I hear her talking about it all the time. She keeps saying next month everything will happen. She has been talking about designs for something, I hope it's a new cat toy. I love it when mom gets excited but it would be better if she did it while snuggling me and giving me cheese. 

Pumpkin likes to go up to mom's office when she is working and sleep on the computer so she probably knows more about what is going on than I do. I just thought it would be fun to send you all a message to say hello and I think something big is about to happen. Keep an eye out for details and I will jump on here again if I get the chance when I find out more.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Characters Showing Strength

In just a couple of days I will be sending the manuscript of my collection of humorous short stories off to my beta reader / manager for editing and feedback. I have had a blast working on that book and I cannot wait to get the cover on it and ready for release at the end of August. With that said, I am now jumping back in on my Sharing Strength series. It is a huge switch to go from writing and editing fun, entertaining stories about casino life to telling the story of a teenager dealing with a major trauma.

For those that don't know, Sharing Strength is a novel I wrote in response to a documentary I was watching. I spent three hours observing how the writers and cinematographers went about explaining PTSD, its effects on those living with the syndrome, and finally telling the audience that unless you served in the military you couldn't possibly have PTSD. I was infuriated. I was diagnosed with PTSD when I was in my early twenties and I have served a day in my life. I don't believe for a second that what I went through was any less traumatic for me than a soldier seeing combat. It is simply a different form.

My anger at the creators of that documentary immediately awoke a series of characters inside me. There was Craig. A father dealing with intense depression and self-hatred after being involved in a single car crash that killed his four year old son Jeremy. Craig suffers from a horrible case of survivor's guilt and deals with it by spending most of his time in a drunken stupor. He doesn't want to live the way he is but he doesn't know how to cope any other way so he joins a support group.

Brian and Kyle have been best friends since they were ten. They became like brothers from the moment Kyle moved to the neighborhood and Brian's father took him in as another son. Kyle's mom was a single mother and was grateful for the friendship and father figure her son found. Along with Brian's younger, they worked on cars, learned to target shoot and after high school the bets friends joined the military. On a mission one day their team was ambushed and they witnessed several friends killed in action. They take dramatically different attitudes toward what the experienced and approach the support group with those opposing views as well.

Jasmine is a survivor of domestic abuse. She has the scars, both mental and physical, to show what she has been through. She doesn't trust men and lives behind the lens of her camera. It is safer for her to stay disconnected and observe the world from a distance. She has a loving family but she never told them what she was going through because her abuser convinced her everything was her fault and everyone would either laugh at or blame her if she spoke up. She believes there is a way to be happy again but knows she needs someone who isn't so close to the situation to talk to in order to find her path back.

Rachel is a good girl raised in a strict, religious household. She is a teenager but her worst rebellion is staying awake to read a romance novel before bed instead of doing her Bible studies or homework. She has close friends on the swim team and has always found swimming to be the perfect escape. She is gifted in the pool so much her friends call her Fish. One night she is called on by one of those friends to rescue her from a bad situation and ends up the victim of a sexual assault. She is so ashamed she rushed home to hide what happened but things get even worse when the boy that attacked her tells everyone she came on to him. Rachel's world turns upside down as she fights to clear her name and deal with the fallout form the rumors surrounding her. When door after door in her life slams closed she finds the support group looking for someone who will listen and not judge her.

I began writing the background stories as a novella called Survivor. Jasmine's story is based on what happened to me as a teenager and while, for legal reasons, it is a fictionalized version, it was important for me to finally admit what I went through. Survivor has had a tremendous response and I have heard from others who experienced similar pasts how it helped to see they weren't alone. I am now preparing to write Rachel's story and then I will be moving on to Craig. For Kyle and Brian I am working with a combat veteran who is helping me get a first hand look into the world of combat. These are not easy stories to share but I think they are ones the world needs to know.

As soon as the four novellas have been released I will be releasing the full novel. As it is a follow up and shows the support group working for all of the characters and how they interact with each other I wanted readers to get to know each of them individually first. I love every one of them and hope my readers will have the same care and affection I have found in the fighting spirits and desire to heal they share with one another and the me as well.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Writing Raw

Recently I read a book called Broken by Angela B. Chrysler. It is unnerving to read a book about abuse. Knowing the story is based on true events can make it even more difficult. For me though, the most difficult part in getting through the book was recognizing myself in the pages. I have written many times about being a survivor of domestic violence. My torture was more psychological than anything but there were elements of physical abuse intermingled with the emotional agony.

The one thing he never did personally was sexually assault me. Though it has happened by others, and being in the situations that led to it were a direct result of what he made me believe about myself, he chose to use sex as another method of psychological manipulation as he cheated on me over and over with other girls, making sure I knew he was choosing them over me because I wasn't good enough. I saw those same themes reflected in the words of Broken. I saw the same phrases I have said myself put out there for everyone to see. The level of raw, painful emotion dripping from that book is unimaginable if you haven't lived through at least parts of it.

In the introduction to the story she takes a moment to explain why she wrote the book. She is upfront about the reality of the story behind the words and even advises that if you have a similar experience you may want to speak with a therapist before going forward. I did. I thought I was prepared for the subject. I had weekly appointments to talk to my therapist, in fact, but it wasn't the subject I ended up having difficulty with, it was the description.

I have my own book, Survivor, which covers the same topic of domestic abuse. When I wrote it I struggled with nightmares and flashbacks, forcing my mind to confront things from my past I had successfully buried. I battled everyday with my memories, surprising my frustrations and pain in order to share my story. Survivor is the fictionalized version of what happened to me but it was real every single day for me.

Having read Broken now I understand just how reserved I was when it comes to the graphic details. Survivor is significantly more watered down than Broken and I have had to stop and think about why I did that. First and foremost I don't believe it was a conscious decision. I have never been a writer that tackled graphic, dark subjects not to mention I think I was trying to protect my own mental well being. When then entire series is finished I may go back to try rewriting Survivor with more honest emotions.

I am working on researching and drafting the other three novellas in the Sharing Strength series. It is my dear hope that I am able to take inspiration from Broken and use more imagery honest to the scenario. I want the books to ring as true for those who have experiences like those covered in the books to feel that connection I felt while reading Broken. They are hard books to read, even more difficult to write and face as a situation that causes these types of pain and anxiety but it is important to me to shine a light on such subjects. I just need to increase my own therapy appointments and make sure I am as honest as possible.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Dealing With It

A year and a half ago I attended my first writers conference. It was an amazing experience I have discussed here many times. There are so many parts of the weekend that stick out in my mind. Everything from trying to stay awake on the drive from Vegas to San Diego to the social event Friday night. I loved every one of the break-out sessions and keynote speeches and wouldn't have traded my one on one meetings with the agents for anything. There is one part I rare talk about because it wasn't the focus of any part of the weekend but recently the networking dinner and follow-up at the hotel bar afterward has been on my mind.

Saturday was our one full day. It started with breakfast and the morning keynote address delivered by one of my idols, and the reason I attended in the first place, R.L. Stine. We then broke off into our chosen break-out sessions. I had two meetings with agents to discuss pages from books I wrote in order to get feedback. When my time came to go to my meetings I quietly exited whatever session I was in the snuck back in when finished. One of the agents I submitted to had been a flip of the coin for me. There were only two agents accepting pages to critique in that genre. I picked one but did a break-out session run by the other and enjoyed speaking with him. During lunch I got the opportunity to talk to him again and he invited me to join his table during the networking dinner that evening.

He gave me his card and we discussed the two books I presented while at the conference. He was interested in my thriller series once I finished all four books. There was even a more personal interest because some of the books are set in London and he is British as well. We talked about it at length and he asked me to send him the manuscript of the first book once the series is done. Once we talked about that series he asked about my other book, Sharing Strength. the group at our table got to hear all about PTSD and the documentary that inspired me to write the book in the first place.

Understandably PTSD is not a happy subject and the party took on a heavy tone as we sat at the bar. In order to cheer people back up I began telling funny stories from my life in the casino world. Everyone eventually laughed along and shared interesting things from their day jobs, assuming they weren't full time writers. At the end of the evening one of the agents offered me his card and said he wanted to get first look at the humor book I was pitching. I tried explaining I wasn't pitching anything, I just wanted to make people laugh. We went around a few times before I took the card and said I would see what I could do.

There have been some bumps along the way but I am writing the book now called Just Deal With It. The first book (fingers crossed there will be more) is set right in my beautiful Las Vegas. It is essentially Vegas from the dealer's point of view. The cover is designed, the stories are written. I am about to begin editing and then it will be off to my beta before being released at the end of August.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Writing An Escape

Writing is a strange beast. It comes with blocks to impede progress, characters who will wake you up in the middle of the night to chat about a book you haven't even developed a concept for yet, a constant form a stress, and the greatest escape imaginable. I used to be one of those writers who would say I was going to write as soon as everything was set up perfectly and I had inspiration. Then nothing could stop me. What a joke that was.

When I took on the challenge of Nanowrimo eight years ago I was sure I knew how the story would play out. Never Give Up had been weighing on my mind for the better part of a decade and my outline was ready to go. Were things aligned perfectly? Definitely not. Was the inspiration lamp burning as bright as the north star? Hardly. I flailed my way through page after page as I chased a word count that at times seemed overwhelming and ended up so far off script from my outline I ended up throwing it away halfway through the month. I was able to do something I had never experienced in my entire life, I tapped into the characters themselves and just let the story flow.

It didn't matter if the television was on in the next room, I could put head phones and on and play music associated with my story. I didn't care if I had a perfectly organized office since I would crack open the laptop and write wherever and whenever I had time in order to get my words in. I didn't focus on the proper word choices or think about editing because I was under a time crunch. That part could come later. It was just about the words.

When Nano ended that year I was elated. Even more though, I was in shock. I had finished my story. I finished it and it turned out to be a completely different story than I expected. Even the ending changed form my original plan. I began working on the editing and revising while sending it out for agents. I also began my rejection collection at that time. It took years before I had that story published but I learned a great deal along the way.

The most important was that waiting for everything to be perfect and inspiration to strike is just a fancy excuse. I trained myself quickly to be able to sit down anywhere to write. it might take a few minutes to wake the characters up but when I get in the zone I can write thousands of words without realizing I am anywhere else but the world I have created. When I need an escape from the real world now I can simply open one of my book files then let the story cary me away. It is better than drinking away my problems (at least for me), and right now I could use all the escape I can get my hands on. Looks like I will be gracing the coffee shop with my characters as friends for awhile until things in the real world calm down again.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Making It Work

What do you do when you are working on a humor book centered around a particular industry but that industry is currently making you very frustrated and depressed? How do you find the funny and entertaining when you don't even want to be around it? It is amazing how quickly things can change.

For years, the better part of a decade now, I have worked in the gaming industry as a casino dealer. I love what I do. I enjoy the interaction, variety of games, friendship of those in the trenches with you, all of it. In particular I love all of the craziness that surrounds us. The people watching is second to none and the stories we can all share about "that one time we saw a player..." or "do you remember the guy...", it makes my job a blast to go into everyday.

Like any job there are a few people here and there that our personalities haven't meshed well or a personal struggle I have to battle. Right now it is my shift. I have worked the day shift for nearly six years and recently moved back to nights after accepting a promotion to full time. I am grateful for the benefits and the set schedule. the extra money from working more days is nice too. The only problem is I cannot sleep during the day. Even with the addition of blackout curtains and blinds turning my room into a cave, a sleep mask, even every variety of medication from home remedies to prescription treatments I am awake by nine every morning anyway.

That was no big deal when I got out of work at eight the night before but when I punch out at four and have to drive home then wake back up by nine it gets exhausting very quickly. I spend so much of my night trying to stay awake and focused I can't pay attention to finding stories to share for my book. I set myself a deadline to publish and I am excited to share what I think will be a fun collection but at the moment I am struggling to concentrate. I have worked with my doctors and my company but I so far have been told I have no other options. I just hope this doesn't cause a domino effect making other projects and shows impossible in the future.

I honestly love being a casino dealer. It is a unique, fun, and entertaining experience every time I punch in. My casino is wonderful and the perfect location to see and hear things that would make so many others question if it is an actual job. We are loud, happy, and a little inappropriate. We tell cringe-worthy jokes, commiserate on lousy tip days, and celebrate each other when good things happen. It is a family and one I wouldn't trade. I just miss my day shift family and the ability to focus more to accomplish other things in my life. I just need to find a way to make it work.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Learning From Experience

I have been attending shows (book, craft, my own) for a few years now. I have done book launches and signings for charity. I have organized such events and been a part of ones designed by others. I have participated in indoor and outdoor events and have taken note of the pros and cons of everything so I would know how to improve for the next show. This past weekend I took part in another signing and was completely blown away.

It was, to date, the most expensive show I have been in. The table fee was well above my normal range. I had to travel over four hours to get to the show and pay for a hotel room for two nights in order to be there for the event. There were other expenses such as gas and food it really began adding up. When looked at on paper it might seem like the cost of attending compared to the relative small amount of sales would make me never consider doing an event like that again. In reality, I came home and began looking for more.

I learned so much from being a part of this signing. I was able to be in a  table hop that got readers to visit specific tables for a chance to win a prize. This gave the opportunity to speak with more people, even if they didn't buy from me. Those connections are invaluable. I did the meet and greet with other authors as well as the event organizers and saw things they did I have never thought of or things I did that weren't working and I was able to understand why. There were so many things happening at every moment I wish i could have sat back and just taken notes.

One of the biggest things I learned was pre-orders. All of the other Las Vegas authors had a form and link for people to order their books for a discount. The pre-orders were paid in full before the event and guaranteed to be at the table for pick up. I learned to make the form and share it. I was thrilled beyond words when I got my first pre-order (I may have actually jumped up and down for a moment). There was something so satisfying about going into the event knowing I had some books sold already.

The event was short but it was so focused on the success of the authors I barely noticed. We enjoyed time with our VIP guests, had lunch, opened up the room for general admission readers, spent time talking books and having fun, then all of a sudden it was over. The day flew by and I wasn't ready for it to end. The VIP readers joined us for dinner then we all headed for the hotel bar to relax and enjoy each other's company. I was exhausted but thrilled to have been able to attend. I have a list of things I can do better in the future and have several more books coming out soon so I cannot wait to sign up for the next event and put my new found lessons into practice.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Based On A Cover

I recently finished reading a book I had purchased based solely on the cover. I remember the day I saw it for the first time. I had some time to kill and opened the Facebook app on my phone and as so often happens, I saw a post briefly before the screen refreshed and the pst was gone. More than once I have opened the app to see someone's cover as they promote their latest book. That was the case when I opened my phone that day as well. For just a second I saw the flash of someone's book cover, then it was gone.

In that moment I was transfixed. The cover wasn't beautiful. It was, in fact, somewhat terrifying. The person on the cover reminded me of the girl from the ring and the shattered lettering on the title captured my attention immediately. The biggest problem I had was I barely saw it before the screen updated and I lost the image. I wasn't even sure I had read the title correctly. It was one word but I couldn't be sure and the picture disappeared. I had no idea who posted it, what group it was advertised in, or anything about the book other than the cover art. I spent over an hour scrolling past post after post in order to find that cover again.

When I finally located it I must have sat and stared at every feature of the cover for close to half an hour. There was something horrifying yet relatable in the darkness I found on that book cover. I had yet to read the synopsis when I found myself ordering both the ebook and a print copy. I rarely read ebooks but I wanted the option. I memorized the author's name and the title in case I needed to look them up again but I ordered and waited with mounting anticipation for it to arrive.

I will be honest with you, I was;t sure I would care for the book. I loved the emotions the cover brought out but I had no idea what it was about and since I struggle to get into ebooks I never bothered to open it on my kindle and begin reading or even explore what the book was about. The day it arrived I held it and turned it over and over, finally taking a moment to read the synopsis on the back. Broken, a book by Angela B Chrysler, arrived and took my world by storm.

The synopsis read When young journalist William seeks out Elizabeth, an acclaimed author, hoping to write her biography, the recluse grants him twenty-four hours to hear her story. What unfolds are a range of traumas, teetering on the edge of the macabre. While toggling the lines of insanity, Elizabeth examines her neglect, rape, abuse, torture, and pedophilia-filled past. The more Elizabeth delves into her psyche, the more William witnesses the multiple mental conditions Elizabeth has developed to cope with a life without love, protection, trust or therapy.

I was intrigued but it was the cover that still stole my imagination. I could only imagine how someone would come to pick such an image. Now after having read the book I can't imagine her choosing anything else. The book stuck with me and I have a few more posts that will be involving my reactions and connections to the story itself. I highly recommend it as long as you are prepared for the raw emotions and honesty within its pages. It isn't for the faint of heart.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Facing Fear

I have heard many times "The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one" so here it goes. I am a writer that is terrified of letting others see and judge my work. Not much of a problem? Too many people out there just like me, you say? Okay how about this? I am an author that is terrified of letting people see and judge my work. No? Still not compelling enough? One more try. I am a PUBLISHED author who is petrified of people judging me because of my crippling insecurities that I have never attended a critique group or writers meeting for fear of being laughed at so I have trusted my own meager abilities when putting out my books. That should do it.

There is a certain irony in being published and selling my work to perfect strangers when I cannot attend a writer's group meeting or share things I wrote while people are sitting there listening to me. I want to go and network with other writers. I need to learn ways to improve my work. There is nothing I desire more than to make my writing a viable career but whenever I think about attending a meeting of the Henderson Writer's Group, Sin City Writers, or Las Vegas Writer's Group and having to share my writing I go into an instant panic attack.

What if they laugh at me? What if they have more suggestions to fix it than there are sentences on the page? What if I see the look of pity and confusion that silently tells me I will never have what it takes in this industry? Or worse, what if they like it? I am sure you are asking, why would that be worse? I write in a number of different genres and if something was well received I have no doubt I would dissect it until I knew what made it work and then try to duplicate it across all my writing. However what works for romance would flounder in thriller. What keeps the pages turning in a mystery could bring a western to an abrupt end. I have a tendency to overanalyze things. This causes me to get stuck or shut down.

I am hoping by admitting this issue here I can see it in black and white and make the decision to face this fear. Accountability has helped me do many things in my life so I am proclaiming for the blogger world that by the end of the summer I will attend a meeting and share something. It might be just a short poem or a section of some random work in progress. If I can force myself to dive in completely I will share part of one of the books I am preparing for publication. As of right now I have six novels, a novella, and a handful of kids books that are ready to move forward but I think the feedback could be helpful so I will take the plunge. Stay tuned for updates on how it goes.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Ah Ha Moments

There is something magical about that moment when things finally click together. I mentioned in my last post that I am getting ready for my annual belly dance performance and have been struggling with the choreography for our group dance. I watched the tutorial videos, I watched the self made videos from our groups' rehearsals, nothing helped. I just couldn't get it to stick in my mind. I finally decided I had to go to the only rehearsal I would be able to and beg for help. Once I was there and moving with the music I found that rhythm inside and everything came together.

Writing is like that as well. I used to be one of those writers that says "I'm waiting for inspiration", "I just need to get everything perfect then I can write", "I can't just sit down and force it". The fact of the matter is none of that is true. Things are never "perfect" so if that is what you are waiting for, you will never write. Inspiration is all around us and as writers we can interpret it anyway we want. You don't wait for inspiration, you simply open your eyes to it. You absolutely can sit down and force yourself to work. It may take a few moments and a couple random paragraphs to get into the swing of things but with practice there is no reason for a writer to not be able to sit down and produce.

There are days when life gets in the way. Maybe you are sick, you have a day job, there is some major event happening that steals focus, these are all valid reasons why you couldn't write. They are also temporary. I'm not saying it is easy to pull up a chair and write the next NYT bestseller. If it were I would have taken my celebratory cruise years ago. (I promised myself and my manager an Alaskan cruise with my first advance big enough to take one.) But it is certainly possible to train yourself to work in a number of situations.

Just as you improve with every book you write, every class you take, or craft focus article / book / webinar, you can also improve your work ability. If you are in between projects or simply having trouble focusing on the one you want to finish, take a day and write something fun. Sit down, find a writing prompt that speaks to you (you can find prompts everywhere, trust me) and see what you come up with. I used to do an exercise in a writing group where we would all pick story elements for each other then the person would take all of the pieces chosen for them and create a short story. It was similar to a MadLibs style exercise and gave us some great laughs and creative works.

IN any form of creation, whether it be performance, writing, or even something delicious like cake art, there is that moment. The one when the vision becomes a reality. When every part comes together to give the artist a true understanding of the piece. I love when I bake and get to put all the small parts together so I can see it as a whole. I have always enjoyed the brief instant after I put on my costume and feel the music begin to flow through me when I am on stage. But there is nothing quite like those "ah ha" moments when you realize something or hear a character talking and suddenly know things just moments before had been a mystery even to you. Art of any sort has that moment and I for one live to experience them.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Crunch Time

For those wonderful people that read my blog, you may have noticed I have been absent for awhile. I have been diligently working on numerous projects but I apologize for the periodic (and in this case extended) negligence here. I did want to mention I have finished the rewrite of my debut novel Never Give Up and cannot wait to update the cover and Amazon link on my website as well as on Facebook and here. I have also been doing some personal things such as helping my mom as she prepares to enter a new chapter in her life and working to make a possible career change in my day job as well.

One of the things weighing on my mind is my upcoming belly dance performance I participate in annually. I am sure you are thinking, this is a writer's blog...why would we care about belly dancing? The fact is, like most creative types, my varied interests all tie together. Belly dancing affords me the opportunity to keep a toehold in a world that was one of my first loves, performing. There is a sense of freedom and escape when I move to the music. There are also lessons I take from each element of my life and apply back to others. Just today there were two things that struck me about belly dancing and writing that are shared. Taking a chance on something new and leaving things until the last minute.

With the performance only ten days away I am still practicing the choreography for both the group performance and my solo; I haven't even started to make my costume yet. I am working on everything but I feel that old deadline adrenaline sneaking up on me. I do that with writing as well. It seems no matter how much I try to manage my time correctly, I still end up pushing it until the last minute.

For trying new things I can see that in both as well. I have entered writing competitions and begun working on stories / poems / books that are completely foreign to me in terms of genre and character development. I want to push the envelope in ways that make me explore new options. Belly dance was a version of that as well since I am a classically trained ballerina at heart. What is life without a little risk, and more importantly, without that deadline to make you buckle down and do it already? Wish me luck, maybe I will share some clips and excerpts in the coming weeks.

Friday, March 30, 2018


At least once a week I see authors posting about the cover reveals or upcoming releases. I enjoy seeing the way they move forward and how the celebrate the next big thing in their careers. It also gets me down on myself sometimes because I haven't published anything since 2015 and the project I am currently working on is actually a release of a book I already published once.

I don't mean I haven't been writing. That would be far from the truth. I have five full length novels drafted and ready to be edited. I also have a small collection of short stories I could edit and submit for magazine / blog publications. My problem is I get stuck after the writing part. I am working to correct that but because it is a struggle I find it slows down every part of the process for me. Then the fact that I am working on a rewrite of a previously published book makes it that much more difficult to feel like I am moving forward.

What I keep reminding myself is that I can use what I have learned through the different channels of writing to make this previous novel a much better version when I release it back to the world. The cover has been elevated. The story is being reworked. The formatting was atrocious but now will be done correctly. Everything overall will make it something I can be proud to promote while I use these same editing skills I am honing now to get another of my novels currently sitting on my desk collecting dust the chance to see the light of day.

Once I have published Never Give Up again and released Breathe to the world I will be working on completing a series I cannot wait to share. With the four novellas and one novel in that series along with the previously mentioned novels I should have a decent amount of work to take to book shows while I work to complete my next series which will be submitted for traditional publishing consideration.

Working to rewrite something I thought I was done with has been frustrating but I know in the end it will be worth it. Sometimes moving forward isn't about creating something new but instead using new knowledge to improve something and give it the potential we know it should have had all along.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Editor's Block

Edits will be the death of me. I have written a number of novels. I have a series of novellas either fully drafted or at least outlined. I have files for more than two dozen books that are just waiting to be written, and I would be thrilled to write them all. The problem comes once I have finished. When those two beautiful little words arrive, The End. It should be the fun and exciting time of letting it rest before I jump in, make the needed corrections, then prepare to unleash it on the world. For some reason though I never feel that way.

I get lost in the story as I write it. The scenes playing out in my head only moments before the inspiration spreads through my fingertips to the keyboard and brings the characters to life. I have specific playlists for every book / series and I can feel the music begin to course through my veins, taking on a life of its own. I am one with my story and I discover new elements of my characters, scenery, and storyline around every corner and with every click of the keys.

But then those two words come that take everything away, The End. It's over. I see the words and simultaneously face the joy of accomplishment blended with the annoying indifference I have always associated with editing. Once I have discovered the story and taken the emotional journey through the pages I cannot muster the same enthusiasm to go on that ride again. I don't reread books I buy, I rarely rematch movies, my books are the same way. I am always eager for the next one instead. I am pushing myself to complete some of my books and get past this wall I have encountered so that I can get to those tantalizing tales staring in my brain.

There are characters calling out for me to come explore their world, or in the case of Amanda, to finish the series so she can have her story completed. Some books are emotional on another level and therefore difficult to write but I believe in the importance of the story being told. I have created a list of books and the order I would like to finish them. The plan is to get caught up and always have one book being written, one being edited, another being formatted / published, and one or two being submitted for traditional consideration.

I am hoping by the end of the year I will have trained myself to follow this plan and be working on books currently only in the concept stage. If I can do it I will have two novels and two novellas published, one series nearly complete, the third novella drafted, and the last novella researched. That will set me up perfectly to move forward next year. Time to cross my fingers and see how well I can stick to the plan.

Monday, March 5, 2018


Earlier today I was scrolling through Facebook, as I do frequently to see what is new with friends and family. I saw updates on how kids were doing, some posts about new vegan recipes a friend was trying out, a request for recommendations on a good chiropractor, and then it happened. I was blasted with a full on political assault. It was only one post but the comments within that post were so hate-filled it nearly took my breath away. I instantly wanted to jump in and respond. I even went so far as to check out the other comments on the post and they were as spiteful and horrible as the initial post had been. I realized I would be crucified by the group if I decided to say anything.

It made me think back to the election when a famous author I follow posted his opinion of one of the candidates being more evil than any of his characters ever were. I happened to agree with his statement but as I read through the vile spewed at him from those that disagreed I realized just how far we have come from the time we could sit down and discuss a situation from different points of view in order to find common ground. Everyone seems to set in their ways and completely divided that there is no more discussion but only the need to despise those who think differently. Instead of presenting your side with evidence to back up your claim and being met with understanding and a calm retort all we have now are people calling each other names and ignoring any desire for an intellectual debate or conversation. It is enough to make a person want to leave social media altogether.

Because of my writing and the need to be able to promote, market, and interact with my readers, disappearing is not much of an option. So what is the answer? Do I simply unfollow, unfriend, or block every person that fills my newsfeed with this sort of hateful narcissism? Do I engage and continue what seems like a fruitless effort to change people's minds and open up the discussion? Should I only surround myself with those that feel the same as I do and behave like the rest of the world and ignore those that are different? I honestly don't know the answer. I do not want to alienate those who may support me or my work but I struggle to deal with people being so openly terrible to each other. The dream of our country, and atone time our society as a whole, was that people were people and what made us different could make us stronger and more well rounded but all of that seems to have fallen by the wayside which makes me sad.

It is possible just making this observation public and announcing that I did remove that particular person from my friends because the level of hate was too much may lead to a further loss in friends and support. For that I am sorry but for my own personal well being it is more important to not let the level of negativity get too high as to overwhelm my desire for a better world for us all.

Friday, March 2, 2018


I have followed a number of shows from pilot to finale. I love seeing the evolution of the characters as well as what milestones the storyline accomplishes. Understandably, the longer a show goes on, the more difficult it is to find new goals for the characters to work toward and milestones to reach. Eventually things can become outlandish or lose any sense of direction. The same thing can happen when it comes to books.

If you write only a stand alone book but it is a long and intricate story the reader may become confused or exhausted trying to get through everything. It might be better to split the book up into two or more and focus on specific parts of the story in each book, keeping the flow going throughout each in the series. It is also important though, to end at the right time.

If you have a series that has been going for three books and you have an idea for a fourth, fifth, and even sixth book there is nothing wrong with extending that series to include them. If you have been writing the series because you love the characters but have run out of ideas it is better to wrap it up and give closure for the characters and readers. Don't keep inventing reasons to write about the same characters if you have come to a natural close. The writing will feel forced and the story will lose resonance with your readers. 

A solid ending is just as important. If loose ends are left flapping in the wind the readers will feel unsatisfied but a good finish can leave the reader wanting more. When a series ends if the reader is looking for more it can push them to check out your other work. In television shows I have watched I have seen ones that center around what will happen at the end aka How I Met Your Mother, it had one of the most unsatisfying endings I have ever seen in a television show. Then there were endings like the first time Will & Grace were ending that was done extremely well.

I know many writers are quick to distance themselves from television unless they hope to become screenwriters but I see many parallels between the two. I find inspiration for what has been done wrong and ways to emulate things I think flowed perfectly.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Time Crunch

Today I was watching an episode of Cake Wars on the Food Network. For those that don't know, there are two rounds of competition where bakers and cake artists battle to present cakes with design and flavor to represent a given theme. They are given a challenging time limit and must present their creations at the end of that time. As happens in every episode, someone struggled to complete their cake within the given time causing it to be unfinished and look sloppy compared to what they were trying to achieve.

It got me thinking about writing. Some authors, myself included, work well under a deadline. We find that looming goal to be an inspiration and it spurs us on the the finish line. There are others that find such constrictions to be oppressive. It makes them shut down creatively and makes any work completed seemed forced. There is nothing wrong with either style of writing but I got to thinking about those deadlines. If you create, or accept, a deadline and it is racing toward you but you find yourself behind, does your work suffer and become sloppy because of that pressure?

Do we decide to cut a chapter short. gloss over details of a character's background, or skimp on describing a particular scene in order to complete the story in time? Are there things we can ignore for the sake of meeting our goals or are we justifying less than stellar time management? On the show the judges critique the cakes and send home the contestants that don't live up to the challenge. In the writing world it isn't that cut and dry but we are judged constantly and a series of bad reviews can follow if you cut corners in your work.

I need the deadlines in order to push me but I think it is a lesson in time management. Without a particular time in which to complete a book I will linger over details, get distracted, or even start a whole new project without finishing the first one. I still need to be conscious of how I am progressing though. I want to put out books I'm proud of and make sure I am giving my readers the quality they deserve. It is a balancing act, much like getting a cake with the perfect amount of flavor and decoration.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Not Writing

I see people post about dealing with writer's block often. They go on about how they have no inspiration, cannot get the characters to talk to them, and how upset they are about the entire thing. I see people giving advice on how to break through the walls or encouraging them to go out and try something away from the craft for awhile in order to let their mind reset. There are many I know that believe the only reason an author doesn't write is because they are experiencing this phenomenon.

What happens when you have more story ideas than you could ever have time to write? What about when your characters are all feeling chatty, and not in the all talk at once way that causes migraines but in the helpful you pick one and they tell you their story kind of way? Why would you not be writing if you have the playlists ready to go, a complete understanding of the layout of the book, helpful cast of characters, and couldn't stop the epiphanies even if you wanted to? How about dealing with something far worse than writer's block, depression.

A large part of the PTSD I have discussed before if dealing with the irrational and sometimes seemingly trigger-free depression that flashes into my life like a freak storm, disrupts everything in its path then disappears again so I can pick up the remaining pieces. I know following the event and the lack of turn out I struggled slightly but I was feeling better yesterday, at least I thought I was. I still felt like crying from time to time and only got through it by forcing myself to do labor focused chores around the house. Today I am sick and stuck resting with little to distract me which is making the frustration stronger.

I used to hold in these feelings but when I found myself having a complete breakdown from bottling my feelings up inside I realized a few things. The first is that keeping it in was harmful to my own wellbeing. The second was that others out there are fighting with the same issues and if I let the world know what is going on it may help someone like me know it's ok to talk about it. For writers like myself who are dealing with the double edged sword of being too depressed or anxious to focus on the thing we normally use to relieve those feelings, I understand. It's ok to hurt. It's ok to cry and pull away for a bit until the feeling lessens. Don't wait for it to go away entirely. As soon as you start to feel better take that energy and write again. Or bake, or paint, or go for a run. Do something that you enjoy and makes you feel productive. It is the first step on the road back home.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Event Wrap Up

Two days ago I held a charity book signing. My event partner and I worked for months to find a venue, gather raffle prizes and pick out items for a concession stand. We contacted authors to fill our tables and created a room layout so everyone had a space to call their own. We wrote and distributed press releases, partnered with other events, put up flyers, and contacted every person we could think of in order to market our charity and our authors.

Then came the big day. The venue had kept a few rules to themselves until the last minute, such as no entering the room for set up until the event was supposed to begin, no putting up flyers or any form of advertisement outside the room, and keeping everything for our function confined within the room making it nearly impossible to let people know where we were. She and I are both authors as well as being the event coordinators so when there was a lack of foot traffic we were just as disappointed as our authors.

Most seemed to understand how much we put into planning and empathized with us on the unfortunate turnout. There was one who instead decided to berate me and do their best to turn others to her own negative way of thinking. She accused me of keeping the money, insisting we were not going to donate the proceeds to our charity (something we did this morning shortly after they opened). She made her way around to other authors doing her best to bad mouth us before sitting at her table with arms folded and glares of disapproval coming my way.

At the very end I announced the winners of the raffle prizes. The microphone was not wireless so I was forced to stand by her table as I made the announcements where I was once again harassed as she and her assistant made constant comments under their breath. She was eager to leave, insulting us and our event right up to the minute she walked out the door. I am honored to say everyone else has offered us nothing but positivity and encouragement.

I struggled a bit yesterday. I will admit the lack of turn out combined with the personal attack got to me. Today though, we had the opportunity to hand over the financial donation and the collected books to our charity and see them light up with gratitude. Seeing the kind words from our participants gave us both a much needed boost. Being able to share what we did so that more children can enjoy the adventures a book can provide is a priceless gift. We are thankful and already looking forward to creating an even bigger event next year. Hopefully this time we can bring even more joy and crush the negativity.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Series Of Series

I have been told repeatedly in order to be successful as an author I needed to choose a genre or at most two closely related ones to write in so that I could build a brand upon that platform. I have been instructed to to write series because it drives readers to you in search of what happens next. I understand both of these pieces of advice but have found that neither fit my style as a writer.

I am not opposed to series. Like any author it is my goal to keep readers coming back for more. I have four different series in the works at the moment along with a book I thought was a stand alone but has a prequel set to come out next year now. I have a set of children's books which I don't qualify as a series because they could all be stand alone and can be read in any order desired. While I have the different series, much like some of my favorite murder mystery authors will follow different detectives through different book series, mine are all in different genres.

I have one set back during the time of the Salem Witch Trials that blends historical fantasy with mild erotica. There is a series that highlights various aspects of a syndrome I know well, PTSD. My personal favorite is a series mixing suspense / thriller with just a touch of paranormal. Finally I have my own murder mystery series set in my home of Las Vegas with several ties to my own day job. What these books lack in common for genre they still carry with them in my writing style. Like many authors I read, I have a way of building the story, letting the flow reach its peaks and valleys, then using the same way to wrap up the loose ends in every book I write.

It wasn't until I began writing my thriller series that I found a way to carry the story beyond that wrap up ending. Everything I created before that was a one and done style of book. Even though my PTSD series can be considered a series, the books themselves can be read in almost any order and it is actually a novel with a series of character background novellas. The children's books are similar in the respect that they have the same theme and writing but do not require a particular order.

I have a found a love of writing these series because it allows me to delve deeper into some of my characters but I refuse to be pressured into choosing one type or genre over another. I know many thriller and mystery authors can go on for years with the same series because they can continue to introduce new and interesting situations. When I get more into my mystery series I may discover the same thing. Right now all of my series have definite ends. The PTSD series is five books, the historical series is seven, and my thriller has four total. I appreciate the advice I am given but I think as creative people is more important to find a way to take things that have worked for others and blend them into our own personal style.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Staying True

Last year I was sitting at a hotel bar with a number of aspiring authors, agents, and editors. We were all talking and laughing, enjoying our choice of beverages. I was on my third caffe mocha and one of the other authors tested me about not ordering something at the bar with a little liquor in it. I told him I got enough alcohol around me at work and sometimes it was just nice to enjoy a little sweetness without the buzz. He then asked what everyone did for a living.

The agents and editors kept quiet, watching everyone exchange information. We, of course, already knew who they were and what they did. As the writers began sharing what they currently did or had retired from for daily work I began to see a pattern. All of them had worked as teachers, freelance or professional journalists, or held a creative job such as creating pottery and other art for sale at shows. I was still sitting at the bar by one of the agents and when it was my turn I was scared to say my job.

They had all given reasons why what they did or used to do was helpful for their writing but my job is more of an escape. I have fun at my job but I do not use it as a place to meditate on ideas or sneak in a few extra words here and there. I deal cards at a casino. I high five players when a hand goes well and laugh at the same cheesy jokes day in and day out. I do my best to enhance vacations and teach people how to play different games. It has nothing to do with my writing. At least that is what I thought at the time.

A few of the writers scoffed at my profession. They were even more annoyed that I wouldn't take their advice to move into something else in order to focus more on my writing as a priority. I love what I do. I told them that but it didn't matter. They kept telling me I just wasn't serious enough to become a real author. One of the agents asked why I loved my job so much. After having told people about one of my books with s very serious subject matter I told them how being a dealer is a great mental vacation. I shared stories of things I had seen while working in order to make them laugh.

After a little while a different agent gave me his business card and told me he wanted the book I was pitching. i told him it wasn't a book, it was just some funny stories. He said he still wanted it. I never fulfilled the request for a book inspired on my job but I did have a conversation with one of the keynote speakers the next day and she also told me I should look at my job and life in Las Vegas as a form of inspiration. She told me that a job with a creative element or pertaining to writing was not a requirement to be an author. I needed passion, drive, and a few ideas I could build on.

I am still in touch with both the author and the agent I spoke with and they have helped by giving me feedback on a few series I am developing. I am excited to see where the stories take me and I will always be grateful to them for showing me it is important to remain true to yourself and not let others tell you who and what you need to be in order to achieve success.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Creative Escapes

At the beginning of the year I looked over my list of goals. One of the biggest things I am focusing on this year are my physical challenges. Of course I am a writer first and my writing / editing / publishing goals are huge priorities, but this year I want to try to improve my overall health through activities and improved diet. So far I have fallen short.

I have an injury I'm fighting in my right elbow that makes strength training painful. Without strengthening my upper body I will definitely struggle going through the Spartan Race next month. I am also supposed to be building up my stamina for running to prepare for the half marathon near the end of the year. All of these things are making my plans more difficult. I am not giving up in the least. I just need to find ways to work around the setbacks. My biggest issue seems to be that I get distracted from my physical ambitions by thinking about my writing ones.

I was talking to a friend recently who mentioned he was surprised I don't use running as a way to clear my mind and think about my writing stuff then. The truth is the only way I can clear my mind is if I am doing something that is second nature and can therefore zone out mentally to let my subconscious take over. I do that when I cycle as well as when I am stuck on long car trips. Swimming is another great example and of course, my favorite distraction, baking. We talked about the fact I listen to music when I run and he suggested instead trying to run without the music but I don't think I would even make it out the door without something blasting into my ears.

I listen to music with every activity I do. When I write I have specific playlists for every book. The melodies and themes of the songs help put me in the mood of the story. When I drive I have music going, either to keep me awake or help distract me from hours stuck behind the wheel. When I cycle I always have music going and I even had water proof bluetooth headphones for years to help when I swam. Baking is no different, though I listen almost exclusively to classical or pure instrumental music when baking. When I am lost in the moment of my activity, the music fades to a white noise and becomes a catalyst instead of an up front element to what I'm doing.

For me, running is not now and most likely will never be an escape. It is a challenge to overcome and then move on. For him running is an escape from daily life. I find that same meditative state and escape in creation. Whether I am making a mirror cake for my birthday, chocolate candies for christmas or a surprise my my boyfriend and his veteran friends in honor of a motorcycle ride, I can get lost in the moment. While I am mixing the batter I can feel the characters waking up. As the cake rises in the oven, I feel the story taking shape. While I spread the filling and frosting, I begin to understand something I didn't even know was happening. When I put the finishing touches on, I already have an outline in my head for either the scene or book that now wants to take priority. I have never experienced that with running. For me, life is all about my creative endeavors.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Never Quit

I saw a post in a writers group today asking if the writers felt deadlines were good or bad for motivation. Like any question asked there were split responses. There were a number of people who complained that deadlines put unneeded pressure and stress on their writing which causes the quality of the work to suffer. They said all they had to do was work diligently everyday and the book, poem, or short story would be completed when it was ready.

Then there were people like me who adamantly profess to live by the looming deadline. When there is a timeframe and set structure to follow I am able to focus better. I have always done my best work in the final hours of any project and my recently submitted short story was no different. I entered the NYC Midnight short story competition last year and enjoyed myself so much I couldn't wait to sign up and do it again. This year I got my assignment within an hour of when it was posted but it threw me so much I struggled to figure what I could possibly write about.

I have been trying to come up with any idea for days for my assignment. It wasn't about agonizing over details or obsessing about a character, I just didn't have any ideas at all. After I talked to a friend yesterday I I redeveloped what I was working on to include my elements of the assigned genre. I was still lost for the actual storyline though. I found myself dancing between projects, flipping through social media and reading about several writing styles all because I couldn't make myself concentrate.

Even though the story isn't due until Saturday night I had to complete and submit it today because I work almost non-stop, day shifts and night shifts until Sunday evening. There would have been zero chance of me pushing myself to stay awake after getting out of work at four in the morning to write just to get back out of bed at ten to leave for my other job. Because of that deadline and the whole all or nothing mentality it brought I was able to force my mind to focus, write and edit the piece, send to a beta reader, and ultimately submit it all today.

It is not the story I would have chosen if I had months to research and read in the genre. It is not the character I would have picked without the assignment. I went in a different direction than anyone else I can think of and hope my subject comes through for the contest judges, but the fact of the matter is, I finished. I did my best and was able to create something simply because I pushed myself to try something new and allowed the pressure of the deadline to motivate instead of overwhelm me.

Monday, January 29, 2018

NYC Midnight

In an effort to expand my writing horizons I do my best to find new opportunities. These can include book shows, conferences and conventions, even simply taking part in a contest or trying a new genre.  Last year, along with my first ever conference, I also decided to try a short story competition for the first time. It is run by the organization NYC Midnight who also puts on other writing competitions throughout the year.

It was anxiety filled for a number of reasons. For one thing, the two firsts happened to coincide schedule wise. I was either driving, attending sessions and network dinners, or practicing my book pitches while I should have been figuring out my story idea. That was the other nerve racking part, the story. The way this particular competition works is everyone that signs up is split into groups where they are given an assignment of subject, character, and genre. You then have twenty-five hundred words and eight days to write, edit, format, and finally submit you short story for judgement. The top five in each group move on to the next round with new assignments and an even shorter word count and time frame.

I did not make it to round two last year but the feedback from the judges was fantastic. Each judge gives pros and cons of your submission so you can see what you did right and things you can improve upon for next year. One of the judges didn't care for my formatting but that was the only negative they gave, everything else was positive. I held no delusions I would win or even make it past round one, I honestly just wanted the feedback. I took what I learned from them and have worked to improve the story so I could submit to other online forums and publications.

Last year I was given a character and subject I felt went together, a stay at home mom and a wrong number. The genre was thriller. It jumped off the page at me and said this will be fun. I was ecstatic. This year I was given a pediatrician, patriotism, and scifi. I do not read, watch, or write scifi. I am not backing down though. I am trying to take the main idea I have and then add scifi elements to it in order to make it work. It would never have been my first choice but expanding my horizons is what this challenge is all about.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Continuing Education - Part 3

After examining the need for visiting locations personally whenever possible to get to know the lay of the land as it were, then taking a look at classes and workshops, and finally admiring the usefulness of books on the subjects we desire to learn more about, I am ending this series with a personal touch. I mentioned this approach briefly in part two but I wanted to look further into how incredibly helpful it can be to talk to someone who has experienced what you are looking to understand.

At this time last year I was in San Diego attending my first, and to date only, writer's conference. I met award winning authors, listened to agents and publishers speak, even attended networking dinners and pitch sessions with acquisitions editors to learn more about the industry I love. There were people there who were trying out the conference for the first time much like myself. There were also people who had been coming faithfully every year for over a decade or two. Each speaker, session leader, and even lunch companion held something of value.

The agents, editors, and publishers all gave insight into what they look for when taking on a new client. Since I was there to learn about possibly becoming traditional published someday I found the information priceless. The keynote speakers, all of the bestsellers, spoke about how they reached the levels they had. They discussed their struggles and triumphs helping to let those of us listening know we were not alone. I even listened closely in the breakout sessions when other people would ask questions of the presenters. There was a woman who asked me at one time why I was not more inquisitive. She told me I shouldn't be afraid to ask a stupid question because there are no stupid questions. I explained that it wasn't that I was worried about the reaction to a question, I was simply so lost I couldn't think of any questions to ask at all. I learned just as much from previous attendees as the presenters themselves.

I took those conversations to heart. One in particular was a discussion I had with one of the keynote speakers. She discussed her process for writing murder mysteries and I found I have a similar style when beginning a book. We talked about developing a series, especially in that particular genre, and she asked if I had ever written murder mysteries before. I told her no. I read them but had never attempted writing them. After  talking about where I live and what I do she convinced me to try working on a series of four books, something that could grow later on, set in my beautiful Las Vegas and giving it a particular twist I would be familiar with. I understand the setting but I have never investigated crimes. I therefore took her advice and made a list of all the professions I would need to learn, then began contacting people in those jobs so I could use their expertise.

I am still learning and still reaching out to people to fill the list I made but it has been a tremendous help already to have their voice adding to my own. I want my readers to know I did my homework and if someone in such a profession were to one day read my book, they would feel I had at least a basic understanding of the job. It never hurts to have someone consult on a story if they may lend some details to give your characters credibility. Just make sure the voices of the experts doesn't smother the creative voice within you.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Continuing Education - Part 2

The first level of learning for me is to find books on a subject that interests me. If I find there is still more I want to learn I will then look into other areas such as classes, research opportunities, or speaking with an expert on the topic. I have never been one to sign up for traditional classes unless it is the only way to learn what I am working on at the moment but the truth is there are classes in a variety of styles covering almost every subject you could ever think of.

Local colleges or learning annexes are always offering classes to give interested students the chance to learn more about subjects that interest them. Many sports offer workshops and clinics to let participants pick up the ball, swing the bat, or sink the putt for themselves.

Many times writers will find a subject, one that comes to mind for me recently was photography, that plays an important role in their stories but the author may not be familiar with that particular subject quite yet. When the main character of my book Survivor came about she let me know her passion was photography. Not only did she enter a competition in Survivor but her pictures play an integral part in Sharing Strength. The problem is, when I try to take pictures they come out looking like a child got ahold of their parent's camera.

When it comes to lighting, composition, and of course studying one's subject through the lens, I am completely at a loss. Or at least I was. When I wrote the first draft of Survivor I used space fillers for the parts I needed to learn then when editing I went back to fill in specifics. Sharing Strength followed the same path for the first draft. I haven't begun to do the rewrites for that one. When I do, there will be some deeper research I get to do. At that point I am going to check out a fe workshops as well as talk to some friends who have a knack for photography. I do not need to become an expert for this particular series but I want to make sure the facts I include will ring true for those who know more about photography than I do.

Another book in the series involves soldiers who fought overseas. I have never travelled to the region not have I engaged in combat but I know some people who have and they are willing to share their experiences with me to make the book that much more authentic. In this situation, while I prefer to see things for myself, it is not possible nor safe for me to travel to Afghanistan, especially unescorted. Even if I did, I cannot truly live the lives the troops stationed there go through everyday. The next best thing is learning from someone who has done so instead.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, there are a number of different ways to learn about a subject. For this series I will be using several of them and am looking forward to sharing the progress as I go along.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Continuing Education - Part 1

Yesterday I discussed studying topics and learning about locations relevant to your story. There are a number of research avenues available but as I stated, I prefer to learn hands on. Today I have been thinking more about improving my craft and the continued education in the realm of writing itself. Several years ago I asked the question in a couple writers groups online about books I could read to help me improve my writing.

I got a list of nearly three dozen books to read, some of them are even workbooks to allow practical analysis and learning from doing which has always been my best learning strategy. I made a list of these and a few other books I found while Googling the subject but have barely made a dent in the list at this time. I do have thirty of the books on my reading list for the year along with just over fifty leisure reading books. I seem to keep adding books to this list though. It turns out I may be a little A.D.H.D.

Just last week I went to the library to meet with a wonderful woman who was looking for information on the charity event I co-founded coming up next month. While I was waiting for her to finish what she was doing I scanned the catalog for books about writing a business plan. Creating a business plan has a dual purpose, a subject I will be writing about here in the next week or two, and I wanted to find a book or two to give some pointers. While I was searching different keywords I found a book that was perfect for my business plan purposes but also a few other books on marketing that sounded interesting.

I wasn't at the library location near my house so I requested the books be sent there so I could pick them up when I was ready. When I went to retrieve the three books waiting for me I wandered over to the marketing section. By the time I walked out of the library I had the contact information for the person who arranges book signings and author appearances for peaking engagements, my business plan book and half a dozen others on subjects covering marketing and the self-publishing industry. Now not only do I have the original eighty-four books I intended to read this year but I apparently felt the need to add an extra level of learning to my reading list as well.

As I go through the books on improving my writing I will cover the subjects I am learning about such as story structure, character development, story arcs, and genre-specific topics. I will also write about any marketing, publishing, speaking, or book show information I discover along my learning course. If there are any specific topics you would like me to look into and post more about please comment and I will make sure to find out as much information as I can for you.