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!

Friday, February 2, 2018

What to Do: New Story Brain (When You're in the Middle of Another WIP)

The other day, I said to one of my beta readers, KP, "Next contemporary, after this one...older guy/younger girl."

She reminded me I said the same thing months ago.

I do not recall this.

Or maybe I do. I mean, it sounds like something I would say. Story ideas are spur-of-the-moment, stopped at a red light, staring off into the distance saying, "Oh my goodness, look at that big, pretty field. I wonder who works that field. I wonder how long it's been there. I wonder if' it's really old. I wonder if there's a big, monstrous house beyond it. I wonder who lives there. What if the daughter of the rich man who owns that property fell in love with the servant boy who works that field?"

Rapid succession. Story blooming like a muffin pouring over its small space in the tin. The above scenario really did happen, by the way. My historical novel Return to Me was the product.

Anyways. KP then asked if I'd written any of it as of yet. The older guy/younger girl idea.

"Nope. Not going to. Have to finish what I'm working on first."

She knows this.

Because here's my problem with giving in to New Story Brain: I'll never finish anything.

Doesn't negate the blaring fact that I do get New Story Brain and I HAVE to do something about it, else allow Shiny New Story to pester me, until I give in completely.

So, here's what I do:

1) Make a Pinterest board. If the characters and scenery are in my head, I give them visual birth by permitting them their own private section. "There," I tell them. "You're somewhat alive and breathing. Now, as my momma would say, sit in there together and marinate."

2) Start a Playlist. I don't ever allow myself to go too crazy with music for a new story, because that's reserved solely for the projects going on full-force. However, if I hear a song and it makes me think, "Shiny New Story," I add it to a new playlist.

3) Create a ROUGH Outline. This is the part that allows me to get ideas down, without doing any "actual" writing.
                            * Who are the players?
                            * How old are they? What do they look like?
                            * What pivotal events make up their respective backgrounds?
                            * How do/did they meet?
                            * What is the hero's goal? What is the heroine's goal?
                            * What's keeping them from reaching that goal?
                            * Where is the setting?

Granted, I may not have an answer to every question, but this at least gets the new idea on paper.

4) Write Down What's Clear. This could be a paragraph of exposition or a patch of dialogue. If it's something I don't want to forget, I get it onto paper. However, I don't "create" as if the story's my main Work In Progress.

What do YOU do with New Story Brain? Do you buckle and give it your full attention? Or do you have a process?
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