Tuesday, June 19, 2018

3 Habits of Successful Authors

I’ve been thinking a lot about habits lately. About developing good habits to not only help my mindset and how I want to go about pursuing the lifestyle I want to live, but also to help better equip me for my journey as an author.  

I think sometimes we look at the authors who inspire us, the New York Times Bestsellers, the ones that put out a book and voila! They’re immediately at the #1 spot…and we think…they never have a bad day. Or they’re just lucky. Or they just hit at the right time, and they have no idea what kind of struggle I’m going through just to get my work noticed by readers. 

There’s an interview with JK Rowling and Oprah Winfrey that is so good, and I want to encourage you to find it on YouTube and watch it—maybe even over and over, like I have—but she’s talking with Oprah, and she has such an elegant ease about her, that I remember the first time I saw this particular interview, I thought, “She’s so lucky. She’s rare. Things just don’t happen like this for most of us, the way luck happened to JK Rowling.” But that’s just simply not true. 

Because the truth is, JK Rowling worked her butt off to get where she is. She implemented rituals and habits, same as any other SUCCESSFUL authorpreneur, and then kept going until she finally reached where she wanted to go. And she’s still doing those things, still working those good habits. Setting new goals, new dreams. It’s a never-ending process.

So, what I thought I’d do today is to share with you what I believe are the three most crucial daily habits for every author to have in order to be successful and to continue to be successful:

1. Write every day. Hone your craft and, for the love of God, pick a space. It can be your dining room table, your home office, outside on a lawn chair, the couch. Wherever inspiration happens for you, go there. Try to make that space special, where you write. You’re actually training your brain to think, “Oh, she’s here…so…we’re about to write.” Also, set a time. I personally write from 5:00 – 6:30 am. Every morning. 7 days a week. That’s when I’m not only at my most creative, but, again, that’s the time I’ve trained my brain to understand, “It’s time to write.” Also, choose a goal. Hemingway wrote 1500 words one day, 300 the next. I personally try to hit 1000 words per day. Whatever you do, just make SURE to give yourself the grace to work up to a word count that feels good to you. 300 – 1000 words is totally acceptable. Just be consistent.

2. Read every day. Reading equips you with new information. I’m going to say that again, “Reading equips you with new information.” Writing is a skill that goes beyond grammar and punctuation marks, you guys. It’s hard. And sometimes we sit down at our screens, and it’s like the blinking cursor is mocking us. I have no words! I have no words! What do you want me to do?? But by reading, you find inspiration, gain knowledge, learn your genre, strengthen your vocabulary, understand language better, and find the rhythm of story. All of these things are SUPER important when you sit down to work on your own WIP.

And lastly…

3. Promote every day. The only way you’re ever going to get noticed is to get the word out. Otherwise, how are readers supposed to find you in the landfill of other authors who are writing in the same genre as you are? Make yourself stand out. Make readers notice you. And this doesn’t just go for indie authors; traditionally published authors are expected to do some of their own legwork. Putting yourself out there in a positive, joyous light reels people in to want to know more about you and, ultimately, read your book. 

Look at writers and readers blogs, offer to do a guest post. Create bonus materials like author swag (bookmarks, etc), playlists and a Pinterest board. Give out quote teasers with cool photos. If readers see snippets of your writing, they’re going to be intrigued. 

You can also team up with bookstagrammers. Instagram is SUCH a great community, you guys, and you’d be amazed at how many people are willing to help get the word out there. Message a podcaster and ask for a guest spot. Locate a local “maker” and get some candles made that are inspired by your book or your characters, maybe a line of soaps or jewelry that goes along with your story.

I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it: You get in life what you have the courage to ask for. So many times we don’t receive, because we’re too afraid to ask. But I’m telling you: set fear aside, tell him, “Not today, I’m on a mission,” and start making those connections. Like I said, you’ll be amazed at how willing people are to help you out. And, on that note...

Make sure you live in a constant state of gratitude. I’m talking about having a genuine awareness of how very fortunate you are to have the gift of creativity and to conduct yourself accordingly, especially when asking others to help you. Keep that positive energy flowing all around, and you’ll actually begin to have people reaching out to YOU to help YOU, because they want a piece of that awesomeness, that genuine positivity.

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,


Monday, May 21, 2018

4 Tips for Ultimate Success

Normally, I pop in on the old blog here and dish out a bit of writerly advice or suggestions that've helped me on my author's journey. You guys know I love the craft. Figuring out what works, what sells and, more importantly, why it works and why it sells. But sometimes I get so caught up in worrying about the market, I forget to take a step back and remember why I started doing this--creating content, writing stories and seeing them through to publication--in the first place.

For myself.

And, admittedly, my own sanity.

Because, yes, I'm happiest when I'm creating. Whether it's graphics for bookmarks, social media posts and various author swag or recording an episode for my brand new podcast, The Write Mind, or actually sitting down in my chair and working on my current WIP, I feel most in my element when I'm exercising my creativity. It's my purpose in life, and I understand that. I've accepted it, and I'm here to tell you, once you've accepted your purpose, there's no limits to what you can do. Your mind and your will is that powerful.

What I wanted to share with you guys today is how I'm learning to hone that purpose, to utilize my time and energy, so that when I go to do what I love most--creating--I'm always (or almost always) on my A-game.

1. Journaling. No, I'm not talking about writing down everyday's events in extensive detail, although you can certainly do that, if you want to. Every morning, I get up and write down: a) my current mindset (lately, it's been along the lines of "ready, determined, content, happy, excited"); b) at least ten things for which I am grateful (hubby, children, furbabies, my home, nature, etc); c) everything I'm looking forward to (and not just for that day--in life); and d) at least three affirmations. Today, those affirmations were: You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.  |  You have a thriving, successful business. Take care of it.  |  You're already there. An influential author who has impacted and continues to impact people for good. Act like it.  I also leave a space open for right before I go to bed, where I'll write all I accomplished that day. The idea is positivity and to get goals and dreams and wants down on paper. Seeing it in writing makes it that much more real.

2. Exercise. Y'all. Let's get real for a second, okay? I hate exercise. That chick whose weight fluctuates from a size 4 one year to a size 10 the next? Yep. That's me. Here's the thing: I don't care about my size anymore. Yeah, you heard me. Do I want to be healthy? Of course! But I don't obsess over the number on my tag like I used to. These days, I exercise for my brain. Because slipping in a pair of earbuds and walking at a fast pace, with nothing around me but Mother Nature, really sparks my creativity. When I sit down to write, edit, work on my website or create content for social media, I find my fingers are flying and everything's connecting far faster than if I'd gone straight from bed to shower to coffee to computer. Disciplining yourself to add exercise to your daily routine will improve productivity by leaps and bounds. Guaranteed.

3. Taking Time for You. As a wife and a mommy with a full time job, allotting time for myself is not only something that's hard, it's something that, until recently, I felt guilty for even considering. Who am I to demand time to myself? What have I done to deserve it? Well, I'm here to tell you that you DO deserve it, and you ARE someone who not only works hard but who needs time to rejuvenate. The problem with NOT taking time for yourself is you risk the terrible reality of burnout. And burnout, my darlings, leads to depression. Yep. True story. So, whether it's spending your lunch break at a nice restaurant all by yourself (I did this recently and it was AWESOME!), or lighting a few candles and drawing yourself a bubble bath or even slipping into a quiet cubby in the library and reading a book, you need time to decompress and unwind -- All. By. Yourself. This will also lead to better productivity. I know, right? Who knew??

4. Remembering Your Why. Oh, this is a big one. I read recently that it's up to you to figure out your WHY. The Universe will take care of the HOW. Why did I start my own company? Why do I write and publish books? Why do I work to set up speaking events in front of fellow writers and authors? Because I want to help people. I want to see other writers succeed, to use my own experiences and expertise to guide them to their full potential. And I want to create a life in which I have the freedom of finance and time to do whatever I want to do. Whether it's traveling or spending time with my loved ones, I want that kind of freedom. To be my own boss. Those are my WHYS. And I have complete faith in the Universe and the God in whom I believe to pave the path of HOW I'm going to get there.

Your thoughts are powerful, folks. I want you to know that. Want you to believe it. To trust in yourself and your potential. Everything you need to succeed is inside of you, at your fingertips, waiting for you to grab hold and soar into the life you want. Some may think I'm crazy. That's okay. But I'm telling you right now that all of this works for me. Is it magic? I don't know. Over-analyzing is never a good thing, in my opinion. Keep life simple. Keep life positive. Keep your eyes on the goal. Keep your mind in constant gratefulness. Keep your heart focused on your why.

Love you guys.

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,


Monday, April 30, 2018

10 Ideas to Avoid a Sagging Middle

Ah, the sagging middle. If you're a writer, you probably read those words on a brandished sigh. Well, I'm here to tell you we ALL face that fear! Will my story have progressed the way it should by the middle? Will my reader still even be with me by that point? AM I REALLY EVEN A WRITER?!?!

Here's a handful of tips to help get those creative juices flowing and, ultimately, hopefully, help you avoid that terrible, awful sagging middle:

1. Keep conflict HIGH. Yeah, buddy. If you can't taste the tension, you may be in for a heap of rewrites. Just sayin'.

2. Build to a mini-climax. This makes me think of mini-bosses in Everquest, but you get the idea. Have your characters conquer something major, but not quite as major as what you have in store for the ending.

3. Increase obstacles. Throw something, anything in your characters' path to make them either, one, change directions or, two, reassess who they are and why they're on this journey.

4. Build romantic tension. Ooh-la-la! But, seriously. This one needs no explanation.

5. Kill off a character. Aww...what?? But I hate it when George R.R. Martin does that! Me, too, but it works, doesn't it??

6. Raise uncertainty. Your main thought she knew her goal and the motivation behind it, but then something happens to make her question everything.

7. Give your main a taste of her worst fear. This could definitely go right there along with #6. If you do character worksheets, you already know what this is. If you don't, make sure you know what your protagonist's main fear is and that it's wholly realistic.

8. Betray a character. Whether it's your main or a secondary who fights for page time, throwing a little betrayal in the mix will always raise the stakes and the tension.

9. Use a subplot to build the stakes. I'm going to use Harry Potter as an example here, because those are the first books that come to mind. As we know, Harry's main plot line is to defeat Voldemort. He's working toward the end, right? But each book is a subplot of that -- like with Sirius Black in The Prisoner of Azkaban and so forth. Harry has to soar past a handful of mini-bosses to get to the end and his main goal, which is to rid the world of Voldemort once and for all. See #2.

10. Reveal the true antagonist. I actually read this one somewhere, but it's a great concept, especially if you're writing fantasy or science fiction. Revealing the true antagonist automatically sets your characters' feet on a new path, chock-full of new tension and conflict.

What are your suggestions for a sagging middle?

Friday, March 16, 2018

5 Marketing Tips for the Indie Author

If I had a nickel for every time I've said, "If I could just stay home and write books, do nothing else, and earn enough of an income to keep a roof over our heads and food in the fridge..." well...You get the idea. Marketing oneself as a product is one of the hardest hurdles for an introvert to cross. Writing's difficult enough and now you want me to actually get dressed and promote the book? Can't we just send somebody?

Fact is, this is a business and, just like any successful business, a fair stretch of marketing is required for people to actually KNOW about your product. This means social media banners, book signings, promotions, connections and attending a sprinkling of events where you may or may not have to shake hands, take photographs and smile a lot. Scared yet? You should be.

All right, all right, I'm only kidding.

While every new book published throws out its own life lessons--marketing included--here's a few I've learned along the way:

1. Connections Matter. As in...making connections. This not only means you meeting people, talking with people, shaking hands, asking what they like to read, engaging discussions about great stories, plot points, memorable characters and then throwing in a dash of Game of Thrones nerd-ism, if the mood is right, but also immersing yourself in the world of other authors. As authors, we help each other. It's what we do. If someone you've been following on Facebook releases a new novel, share it, offer to interview the author on your blog and WRITE A REVIEW. I can't stress how much this means to an author and how willing they will (usually) be to reciprocate, once your book drops.

2. Engage Your Audience. Young Adult author Sabaa Tahir's got it going on in this department. The third installment to her Ember in the Ashes series doesn't drop until June, but she's been teasing us with promo posters, excerpts from the book and engaging us in conversation about her characters. In a nutshell, she's gearing up her audience to snag this book off the shelf the day it drops and gobble it up like a cheesecake. If you're an indie author, you can easily take direction from those who have a big publishing company behind them. Use free sites like pexels.com and canva.com to make promotional banners. Slide in excerpts from the upcoming novel. Do a quick video snap when you're in a store and see something that reminds you of your book. Engaging your reader well-before release day will yield boosted sales and get everyone talking about your story.

3. Ask (Nicely) for Reviews. Oh, it hurts just thinking about it, right? Straight up, people, I am a terrible salesperson. The only product I ever sold well was makeup and that's because I'm in full face almost every day of my life and have been since my mother started letting me wear the stuff. You'd think an author would be eager to promote their blood, sweat and tears--their baby!--to the world, but that's almost never the case. But reviews are a necessary evil, if you want to sell your book. Be nice, offer to reciprocate (if it's a fellow author), get your friends and family in on it (they want you to be a bestselling author, right??) and remember to always ask for reviews when you do promotions on social media, etc.

4. Offer Pre-Ordering. This is pretty self-explanatory, but opening your book for pre-orders will boost sales off the get-go. Humans love anticipation! Amazon has a very user-friendly platform for this. If you do autographed print pre-orders, make SURE your books are, one, in stock and, two, you've kept great records. Microsoft Excel is your friend. :)

5. Use Previous Releases as Leverage. No, we're not talking about blackmail. But flashing books you've already published (especially ones with great reviews!) will encourage new buyers. You can also put teasers for your new novel in the back of the one released right before it! Promote your upcoming novel by running a previous book for free. If readers like your voice and fall in love with your characters, they'll stick with you.

What are YOUR marketing tips for indie authors?

Friday, February 23, 2018

5 YouTubers Who Get Me

Unlike most social media outlets, YouTube grows with you. For years, I've been watching makeup tutorials, fashion hauls, writerly videos and concerts performed by my favorite artists--and that's just to name a few. YouTube has something for everyone and, as a rule, I try not to stay subscribed to a channel I don't love. Doesn't mean I don't LIKE it, mind, but believe me, I can spend all day clicking video after video, so it pays to keep my subscription list slim.

That said, here are the top 5 channels I'm loving and why:

1. Tanya Burr

Tanya is a UK vlogger and the YouTuber I've followed the longest on social media. She does everything from makeup and fashion tutorials to baking videos and even takes you around London from time to time (which I love), as well as the many different vacation spots she hits annually, like the beautiful Maldives. I watch her for her bubbly personality--if I'm down, she's a quick pick-me-up--and for her awesome recipes. Check out her Snickers Salted Caramel Cookie Recipe below:

2. A Little Bit Lisa

Lisa's my newest subscription. A native Irishwoman, Lisa vlogs about mom-life, projects for kids, recipes and, my personal favorite, what it's like living in Ireland. As the beautiful Emerald Isle is where hubs and I hope to retire one day, Lisa reminds me of why we love it so much: the people!

3. Nerd Soup

Admittedly, I subscribed to Nerd Soup for their awesome Game of Thrones reviews every week. Since the end of season 7, however (CRY!), I've grown to love their movie reviews. The name says it all: If you love nerdy tv and film, you'll enjoy Nerd Soup.

4. Rachael Stephen

Rachael's a beautiful Scottish writer, who taught me how to use my bullet journal for plotting and other basic necessities when writing a novel. If you're a writer who thrives on being organized to a T, I'd highly recommend subscribing to her channel.

5. Captain Potter

The only word--or words, as it were, I can think of to describe Captain Potter is Professional Traveler. I stumbled upon him by accident, when I was looking up the agency who represents Tanya Burr, and, boy, am I glad I did. He travels to the most exotic places and experiences some of the most amazing cultures and adventures. Plus, his vlogs are always set to great music. Bonus. His content reminds me to dream and to dream big--no matter what. 

I should tell you that, one, some of these upload more than others, followed by, two, there are MANY other channels I love (Still GlamorUs, Penguin Teen, Use Less and Just Write, to name a few...). No, I don't YouTube binge every day, although I certainly could. YouTube's like Netflix in that fashion--it practically BEGS to be binged. Binge me! Binge me! Depending on what I'm working on, I may look up a video on a particular subject I'm researching or watch an interview of an actor or artist who reminds me of a character I'm writing. Regulation is important for social media, in my opinion, or you'll never get anything done!

If you love YouTube like I do, what are your favorite channels?

Friday, February 16, 2018

7 Success Tips for Indie Authors

If you've been following me for a while, you know I've written since I crept into my early teens. Writing is a part of me. It's no longer a task I merely want to do; it's something I have to do. As a young adult, I didn't think about publishing my stories. They were mine. My babies, my hard work and, most importantly, my means of escape. To share a part of me that personal didn't seem feasible.

Until it was.

When I drafted my first novel I intended to send out into the world, I went through all the fundamental steps of seeking representation and publication. Blurb, synopsis, polished chapters, followed by query letters and elevator pitches to agents and editors at writers' conferences. Rejection after rejection hit my inbox. I entered contests, won contests. Got pretty certificates I framed and hung on the wall. Sent more query letters. More rejections ensued.

"You've got a great voice, but the story is not we're looking for."

"Enjoyed the writing, but no one does prologues anymore."

"Do you have something else?"

At this point, I was already into the second novel, a spin-off from the first. With a full time job and limited time to write, I knew I didn't have time for another several months of going back and forth.

I wanted to write. I wanted to publish. And then I wanted to move on to the next story.

So, that's exactly what I did. Six years later, I couldn't be happier. However, being an indie author isn't all sunshine and daisies, easy-peasy, write a book, edit a book, pick a pretty cover and voila! I'm published! It's hard work. We're talking writing, reading, editing, re-writes, choosing the right cover artist, bookmarks and author swag, promotions, signings and other events...the list goes on and on. Usually, the indie author is in charge of this all by herself, because...yeah, you guessed it: There's no big, beautiful publishing company behind an indie author. For all intents and purposes, she is On. Her. Own.

Everyone's writing journey is different, and there's never a time when you stop learning and growing. If you write, you grow. It just happens. Here's a few tips I've picked up along the way:

1. Write. Oh, you'd thought #1 would be some profound tidbit of wisdom, did you? Well, lucky you--it is. Place butt in chair and write. Not feeling inspired? Write anyway. Many years ago, I took a fiction writing class with about twenty other authors. About halfway through the semester, someone raised their hand and asked, "But if I force myself to write, won't it come out all terrible and choppy?" The teacher smiled and said, "One, that's what editing is for and, two, I'll be willing to stake money, right here, right now, that once you go back to do those edits, you won't know what was 'forced' and what 'flowed like a river.'" And you know what? She was right. Write. Just do it.

2. Read. This goes without saying. Read your genre. Read other genres. Reading a bestseller? Study what makes that story work. Reading is inspiring, folks. Whether it's a great novel or a bad one, reading other authors' work pushes you to write your own. If you're aiming to be a writer--a professional writer--reading is a necessity, not an option.

3. Play. Get out. Walk. Breathe the fresh air. With or without headphones, doesn't matter. I prefer with. Submerge yourself in a public place and people-watch. Go to a fabric store and run your fingers along the different materials, take in the colors. The idea is to work your brain and, therefore, your imagination. Inspiration is everywhere; you just to be open-minded and willing to find it.

4. Absorb. You're a writer. In some ways, you are ALWAYS writing. For example, if I'm over the stove-top cooking dinner, I'm usually listening to music and thinking of a scene or character. If I'm watching Friends reruns on Netflix, sure, it's funny and relaxing, but I'm also absorbing the relationships and interactions between the characters. What makes those scenes work? What made the editors cut certain scenes? How did one sequence flow into another to create an entire episode? Being a writer is a way of life, in my opinion. I allow myself to feed off my surroundings and experiences. What I read, what I see, what I hear...all inspire what goes to the page.

5. Focus. Being an indie author means setting goals, reaching goals and moving on to the next goal. Not saying you can't take a break, but if you follow even a handful of successful indie authors on social media, you'll notice they're always promoting novels, offering giveaways, doing live videos and/or promoting other authors. The same teacher I mentioned above used to also tell us, "Writing is fun, sure it is, but writing is also hard."

6. Connect. Connecting with other writers and readers is not only important, but it's also a way to rejuvenate your passion for writing. I don't attend many writers' conferences, maybe only one or two a year, but being around like-minded people helps me remember why I do this; why I love writing people and putting them in situations that shape and mold them. Likewise, scheduling book signings and attending conventions, etc. connects you with potential readers. Talking with others about what they like to read, what they're reading right now and why they love their favorite authors helps you grow as a writer. There is no greater thrill for me than when a reader tells me about a scene she loved or who her favorite character is and why.

7. Rejuvenate. A couple of weeks back, our stress level picked up to about an eleven at the day job. New year, new ideas, more work. You get the picture. And while it's easy to say, "Leave your job at your desk, when you walk out the door," it's hard to turn off your brain, when it's been focused on another project--not your WIP--for hours and days upon end. If you work from home, this could tally up to a heap of chores, school projects for the kids, basketball practices and games--the list goes on and on. Suddenly, your beautiful novel is sitting cold inside your closed laptop. Self-doubt settles in. Me? I'm the world's worst at allowing anxiety to take over body and brain. When this happens, I, one, admit that it's happening, I'm overwhelmed, then, two, start the steps that lead back to where I want to be. I listen to music that soothes me, give myself pep talks--sometimes, oftentimes out loud. I try to eat healthier, drink more water, enjoy quiet moments outside with a cup of coffee in my favorite mug. I re-read manuscripts--finished or unfinished, doesn't matter--I've written in the past. Whatever works for you, do it. You're a writer. So, keep writing.

If you're an indie writer, I'd love to hear your tips for success!
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