Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Have You Got Goals: Tests, Allies, and Enemies

The Got Goals bloghop is it is a lovely blog hop hosted by the Misha Gericke and Jen Garrett. Once a month writers post about their goals: what they are, what their approach is, how they are coming along. It's a beautiful opportunity to share with and encourage one another as we plunge down the long and winding road of writerdom together.

Check out THIS LINK if you are interested in joining.

My ultimate goal is to make a living off of my writing but I'm breaking that down into more bite sized pieces. I'm moving at a snail pace but at least I am moving. 

Unfortunately I missed Update Day for May but, for my own reference, I am still going to recap how I did on my goals and how I plan to proceed in June

  • Reconnect with myself. Feed my soul. Find my drive
-----Meditate Daily
                   I did not do this BUT I did do yoga almost five days a week for the last three weeks of May. I feel like that is some good progress in steadying myself and gaining focus
----Go for walks on my break at work
                  I did go on quite a few walks but I didn't count them. It was maybe twice a weekish? 
---- Drink eight cups of water a day
                      I completely forgot about this goal
  • Find True Love. Because it exists
--- Finish reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer.  
                   I did not finish this book
  • Finish writing and publish NIGHT BRIARS
--- Carve out time to write. Sunday Morning Brunch and Write every week AND an hour of writing time with dinner every night after work.
                  I managed the Sunday morning brunch and write at any rate :-) 

---Memorize and practice performing my new poem  and one of my old ones

                 I completely forgot about this goal

---Spend on hour every night after work on social media. I have a check list for myself of what to do each day, but for simplicity's sake I'll only include the hour of concentrated social media focus in my goals. 
                I don't know how much I spent on social media. I just know that I am officially addicted to Instagram

--Attend one writing or literary event
                   I made it to a local Writer's Coffee House!

--Attend one Critique Group 

--Post four blog posts
               Miraculous, I completed this goal! 

My goals for June will be:

  • Reconnect with myself. Feed my soul. Find my drive
-----Yoga five days a week, first thing in the morning. No exceptions. 
----Go for walks on my break at work unless it is raining. 
---- Drink eight cups of water a day
----Cut sugar (including fruit), gluten, alcohol, and caffeine out of my diet. 
  • Finish writing and publish NIGHT BRIARS
---  Sunday Morning Brunch and Write every week 
---Saturday Morning Brunch and Writing Business/social media
--Attend one Critique Group 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Why You Should Always Carry a Book With You

The objects comprised of stacked and bound paper, adorned with the scrawls of ink in the shapes of a predetermined codes, most often referred to as books, have existed throughout the span of time. Their earlier versions may have been scrolls and even verbal communication (an ancient, forgotten art)  but their primary purpose was always the same: to share and record, ideas, stories and information.

 Most books today are kept neatly on shelves when they are not being devoured by hungry eyes but it may be advisable to keep at least one book on hand at all times. The companionship of a book always in hand not only provides a ready weapon and cloak of near invisibility but transports entire worlds, ready to open at the carrier's whim.

Though a book can be cumbersome to carry at first it is invaluable as a weapon against those who pose a threat or appear bothersome. A reader standing in a corner is actually carrying a practical bludgeon that requires little effort to reach out and thump an unsavory character across the head. This, of course, seems most obvious in a hard covered copy but even a paperback, applied with the right force, can give adequate pain to an adversary.

A book also possesses the magical ability to render its holder invisible. Upon seeing someone engrossed in a book --or perhaps pretending to be engrossed -- an unsuspecting observer will assume the reader oblivious to the outside world and say the most interesting things. Many bits of information can be achieved in this manner without ever arousing suspicion.

This assumption induced invisibility is also useful in avoiding unpleasant conversation. In an extreme case a book cover can hide the identity of a competent reader from those with whom they do not wish to converse but even if the reader is recognized an acquaintance may pass by without comment and never even realize that they have been snubbed.

When conversation does become necessary --or even desired --a book is equally useful in steering the direction of a conversation. If the book is well chosen it will spring a conversation that is of interest on the part of the reader. Because most people choose not to read the average person  will conclude the constant raving about books to indicate either an exceptionally high intelligence or an unbalanced and slightly mad mentality. Either way they will be more apprehensive when speaking to the reader in the future. However, if they too are able to fully appreciate such discussions, a wonderful friendship is born.

Of course the assumption that a reader is oblivious to the rest of the world is not entirely without merit. Often they are. A book is a portal into another world and can provide an escape, not only from tiresome people but hectic schedules and unendurable monotony. The fact that a simple stack of pages can be brought almost anywhere: bus stations, jury duty, pep rallies, parties, and even bars, should not be overlooked. A book can rescue moments in these places from unsavory nothingness by feeding the mind with words and meaning.

Words cannot provide a lasting escape from stress and tension but they can give a reader wisdom to take with them into their daily life. A story is a mini-world full of the same problems and confusions as real life. One could visit world within world within world and never escape the grueling questions of life, but seeing the life of a character from a broader, more objective viewpoint can help bring new perceptions and insight. Even nonfiction is a transportation into a world inside the author's head --into thoughts,  experiences, and new perspectives to explore.

Small side effects such as burning dinner, running into poles, and not hearing your name when it is called for the winning of a lottery seem like a fair price to pay for this exchange. A well written book is more than an indulgence in escapism. It has the power to revive a reader and strengthen them for the trials they face.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Your Brand is Enough. (Or why you should always be authentic online)

Sometimes it seems that as writers we talk and think a hell of a lot more about marketing our work than actually writing our work.

It's not just us Indie Authors either. Even Neil himself has a vigorous marketing strategy. If you write you market. That's just the way the industry works these days.

Your first step to marketing is to define your brand. All your books fall under the umbrella of your brand. If you have a strong brand you will attract the readers who will love all your books. If readers love your brand they will buy books from you that might not have interested them otherwise. The power of a good brand is strong.

As writers we don't exactly have a brand label we stamp on all our books. Except, of course, that we do. That stamp is . . . our names.

 We've all heard the catechism before in every writing class, writing conference, writing panel or youtube video

"You are your brand"


"Your first step to marketing is to define your brand."


"You are your brand."

The obvious conclusion would be:

"You need to define yourself."

It's a valid argument, and yet, the conclusion is untrue. To define yourself is to limit yourself and the absolute last thing you want to do is limit yourself or your writing.

The first step is not creating or defining your brand (you) but discovering it. The difference is subtle but important.

Creating a brand means that you need to craft it. That there is a right or wrong way to do it. That, if you are not careful you might just get it all wrong. That it has to measure up to everyone else's brand.

Discovering your brand means that it is already there. All you need to do is draw it out. It means that it is already perfect just the way it is and only needs a little space to breathe in order to thrive. Discovering your brand means that it has the room to grow and change and develop over time. Discovering your brand means that it is alive and organic not stagnant and mechanical.

By all means, create a marketing campaign. Selling a book is completely different than writing a book and both skills are needed to be successful. Make sure your name is associated with things that have to do with your work. If your book is about plants post lots of pictures and articles about plants but dig a little deeper than just "My brand is plants". What are your roots? What is the seed that made those plants grow? What is the water and sunlight that nourished them?  THAT is your brand.

Don't tell yourself "My personal brand is cheerfulness" and pretend to be cheerful when you're feeling like crap. That's not genuine and your readers will not be fooled. If you're cheerful most of the time, great! That's a part of your brand. But that day you feel like crap? Instead of pretending or avoiding social media altogether use the opportunity to be vulnerable with your audience and really connect with them. That change in the norm is part of your story. It is part of you. It is part of your brand.

Identify specific tendencies in your personality that resonate with your writing and highlight them but don't make up or over simplify personality traits because you see other successful writers who have them.

If you try define yourself so rigorously you don't give yourself room to grow and change. You give yourself no space to develop both as a writer and a human being. It is so temping to only want to put your shiny, perfect, polished foot forward. To only post when things are perfect and you have the best possible shot to prove it. But think about it for a moment. When you're scrolling how do you feel when you come across those picture perfect, probably airbrushed posts? Do you feel connected to the poster? Do you feel you know them better? Do you feel more deeply invested in their journey?

No. You might be a little impressed but mostly you feel anxious. You feel pressured to "keep up" with that person. You wonder what secret formula or luck of birth they have that you don't that allows them to get it right while you are here struggling. You might even feel resentful that all the cards seem to be stacked in their favor. Perfect all the time does not create the connection that social media has so much power to create for you and your work. It creates distance and an inability to relate. It makes your audience feel bad not good.

By all means design great book covers, use your best photos on instagram and get one hell of an author photo taken. I'm defiantly not saying not to strive to look your best with your online presence. Just remember to be real. Own your shortcomings. Admit your struggles. Laugh at yourself a little. Maybe even laugh at your work.  And above all strive to make genuine, sincere connections with the people you are connecting with. Treat them like the beautiful, unique individuals they are not possessions or potential stepping stones.

When you network with other writers only endorse books you've actually read and loved (or have good reason to believe you will love and actually plan to read if it's not out yet) not because it's a trendy book and you want the traffic. When you comment on other writer's posts and blogs read their content thoroughly. Comment with integrity, seeking to offer them real value with your words. If all you offer them is thoughtless fluff comments it sounds like noise and they aren't going to notice you. Plus, it's not polite. Be real.

There's nothing wrong with choosing to talk about a subject when that topic is trendy but make sure you really have something new to say about it. A fresh, original take. Make sure what you're saying truly resonates with you. You wouldn't write a dystopian YA novel featuring gladiator type games and a strong female heroine just because they were all the rage right? (RIGHT?) It would feel like an empty, lifeless copy of something else. But if you had a dystopian story already buried in one of your files that might not be a bad time to dig it out and see if it's ready to develop. We all know that depth and authenticity make a book good, not the surface "idea". It's always about how the idea is executed. The same is true for you and your brand.

 To build your brand be authentic. Be true to yourself. Remember why you are passionate about your craft. Make genuine connections.

You are your brand. You don't have to squeeze yourself into whatever idea you've been told your brand should be. You don't have to change to be your brand. You are enough.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Love Sonnet to Books

Ribbon of ink, a soul's entrails
Left from the dead, a story tells
A truth, a lie, a sentiment forgotten
A word, a spell, world I am lostin

Incantation from long ago
Bound inside a rhyme I know
World held still with thoughts repeated
World spun on with life unheeded

Mangled mind unraveled with sore eyes
A scholar watches, stricken as he spies
A life lived and then discarded
Poet's words scrawled on empty space

What has a thousand times been said
He writes again for future eyes to trace

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Spring Fever

So we meet again, my fellow insecure writers. (Thank you, as always Ninja Alex J. Cavanaugh for having us) 

Hmmm. Does spring make me want to write more? 

Spring makes me impatient.

The sun starts shining. Birds start singing. Plants start growing. And I want to jump in and join in all the fun. I want to move. I want things to start changing. I want to dance in the rain.

The last thing I want to do is sit in front of a computer for eight hours. Or any hours. I want to be outside. I want to be enjoying the universe around me. I want to be free.

But with all the excitement of new life bubbling around me my brain is also springing to life. New ideas. New thoughts. New questions. So much to say. So little time to say it.

So yes, I WANT to write more but I also have less will power to do it with.

I sit in front of a computer screen for eight hours at work. In a cube farm. Surrounded by gray walls and an ocean of people I have nothing in common with (except for our mutual misery of course). I WANT to write. I really do. But it's so hard to muster up the discipline to do it after a long day of work. Even on weekends, that's my only day to be outside, to run errands or clean the kitchen or . . .

I am nostalgic for the days when I worked part time. I don't think I appreciated the preciousness of the time I had to write back then. It's so hard to stay immersed in the world of your story when all you have is a few snatches here and there on weekends to really work on it.

 But I keep scratching away at it just the same. Even if my progress is at a snail's pace. Because, more than anything the itch of spring (Spring Fever, I believe, is what Mark Twain called it) is reminding me that I need to make an effort to finish Night Briers. If I never finish it I'll never escape from the cubicle life.

For those of you who work full time, what magical spell do you cast to find time and motivation to write?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Got Goals Blog Hop: Crossing the First Threshold

The Got Goals bloghop is it is a lovely blog hop hosted by the Misha Gericke and Jen Garrett. Once a month writers post about their goals: what they are, what their approach is, how they are coming along. It's a beautiful opportunity to share with and encourage one another as we plunge down the long and winding road of writerdom together.

Check out THIS LINK if you are interested in joining.

My ultimate goal is to make a living off of my writing but I'm breaking that down into more bite sized pieces. I'm moving at a snail pace but at least I am moving. 

So how did I do for April?

I have a theory that the stat of your car says more than anything else does about your state of mind. It it's the place between places. It's the place where you are all alone with no one to impress. your car is not your destination, it is your journey. 

I'm a notoriously bad driver. I'm also notoriously bad at taking care of my car. I'll declutter it, sure. Sometimes I'll even drive it through a car wash. But as soon as that check engine light goes on it's "I'll look into that tomorrow." and "Mechanics aren't trustworthy anyways, they're probably just destroy the car more." and "Well she's still running right? It probably doesn't need to be checked." 


Those are the kinds of thoughts that had been going through my mind all week when I was on my way to work a couple weeks ago. I was driving on the freeway, worried because I had left the house later than I should have and was probably going to be late. 

Suddenly my car started slowing down. It completely ignored the pressure of my foot on the gas pedal. I heard a crashing sound coming from the engine. Cars were zipping past me, honking. I switched my hazard lights on and tried to pull off the nearest exit but she just kept going slower and slower until I was at a dead stop in the middle of the freeway.

In my rush to leave that morning I had also forgot my phone. I got out of the car and tried to walk down the rest of the off ramp but I was still a lane over and this was the freeway. I realized as soon as I stepped out of the car that that was a terrible plan. Car after car zipped by, honking, angry that I was in their way and making them late. If someone hadn't stopped and called 511 for me I don't know what I would have done.  

After I got off the freeway  to walk to the nearest Starbucks to use their wifi (I didn't have my phone on me but I did have my laptop) so I could message a friend from work and ask her to tell my supervisor that I wouldn't be coming in. I then rented a car so I could get home and use my phone to call a tow truck. 

The repairs ended up being way more than I could afford and I ended up having to trade the car in for a new one. All because I kept ignoring all the little warning lights that kept going off, thinking only of my destination and never of the little engine that was taking me there.

This misfortune was not only an unforeseen circumstance that kept me from getting as much done as I wanted to in April. It also jerked me out of the complacent limbo my mind has been in, caught up in a routine that wasn't making me happy, ignoring all the little warning signs in my life telling me that I am on the wrong path because dealing with them would have been inconvenient. 

Let's hope this mind shift will help me achieve more in May but to recap my April Goals:

  • Reconnect with myself. Feed my soul. Find my drive
----- Yoga.  Attend nineteen classes before next update day. I went to none
-----Meditation. Meditate twenty six times for fifteen minutes each time. I didn't really count but I'm going to guess it was around ten times. 
----Go for mindful walks on my break at work. I managed this five or six times. 
----Actually use my sit-stand for a total of thirty eight hours. Again, I didn't count, but I have been doing this a little the last couple weeks. 
---- Drink a total of one hundred and eighty tow glasses of water. I downloaded an app to help me keep track of this. It added up to one hundred. 
  • Find True Love. Because it exists
--- Read The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer.  I started the book but haven't finished it yet. 
  • Finish writing and publish NIGHT BRIARS
--- Carve out time to write. Ten hours.

Alas, not what I wanted. I may have to push back my release date at the pace I'm going. Fortunately I haven't announced it yet so maybe that's okay. At least I'm getting SOME words done every week.

---Write three slam style poems. 

I did write one! I liked how it turned out. 

---Post on my Author Facebook page twenty five times. 

I posted more than usual but, again, I didn't count. It was not twenty five times. 

--Post on my personal facebook page fifty times. 

I did not count

--Comment on one hundred and fifty facebook posts. 

I did not count

---Participate in Do You Have Goals bloghop. 

I'm  two days late. does that still count? 

--Participate in The Insecure Writer's Support Group bloghop. 

I did this!

--Write and post a book review.


--Comment on fifty seven new blogs that I genuinely find interesting. Each comment is a quarter toward improv class.


The reward system didn't really seem to help much for April, mostly because I didn't keep track of what I was and wasn't doing. So it's time to re-strategize again. Unfortunately some of that means I just need to be a little less ambitious. With a full time job and an hour commute I don't have as much time as I did when I wrote my last two books. I know some you all are super heroes and can manage rigorous writing schedules while working full time or raising kids but I am not. 

So these are my goals for May

  • Reconnect with myself. Feed my soul. Find my drive
-----Meditate Daily
----Go for walks on my break at work
---- Drink eight cups of water a day
  • Find True Love. Because it exists
--- Finish reading The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer.  
  • Finish writing and publish NIGHT BRIARS
--- Carve out time to write. Sunday Morning Brunch and Write every week AND an hour of writing time with dinner every night after work.

---Memorize and practice performing my new poem  and one of my old ones

---Spend on hour every night after work on social media. I have a check list for myself of what to do each day, but for simplicity's sake I'll only include the hour of concentrated social media focus in my goals. 

--Attend one writing or literary event

--Attend one Critique Group 

--Post four blog posts

I think focusing on WHEN I am going to do each thing and how much time I will spend on them will help a lot in getting me on track again. Fingers crossed. Wish me luck and I hope your April Goals faired much better. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Blood and Kissing (Insecure Writer's Support Group)

Hello fellow insecure writers! (If you are an insecure writer but don't know why I just called you one go HERE to find out and connect with other writers!)

It's been difficult to motivate myself to write in the last couple of years. I usually blame it on working full time in the corporate world and living completely on my own and spending so much time in traffic In all honesty though, those are  the excuses I use to avoid the more difficult to admit reasons writing has become harder and harder over the years. 

When I first started writing I was thirteen. I wanted to write a book because . . . I loved books. I figured I would publish it (of course) when it was finished but didn't think much about it. 

It wasn't until I had drafted and edited my third manuscript that I got around to researching how publishing actually works. By then I was nineteen and needed to start thinking about the "What am I going to do with my life?" question in a more tangible way. 

That was eleven years ago. I've learned a lot about literature, publishing and the ever changing writing world in that time. I've written four more manuscripts and published two of them. I've written a handful of short stories and lots of sonnets. I've performed my poetry on stage. I've learned about all this social media and marketing stuff. I've moved from working at a burger joint to working in a cubicle (with lots of interesting stops along the way including the zoo and a German deli). After all this time there's a question I've begun to ask myself that I don't like to admit to anyone that I've been asking.

What's the point of writing?

Not "What's the point of literature?" or "What's the point of reading?" I have very strong beliefs on why storytelling is massively important to us as human beings. It connects us in beautiful, honest, emotive way that nothing else can.

 But why should I specifically continue to write the specific stories that I am writing? 

What am I trying to tell the world?

And, perhaps more pointedly, is the world even listening? 

When I wrote SNOW ROSES it was because I felt like I had a scream in my brain demanding to be smeared onto paper. I obeyed. I spilled the ink out onto the page like blood from my soul. When the book was finished and released out into the world the reviews were positive.

"Great fight scene at the end." My fans said. "You write such beautiful descriptions."

My little writer's heart sank. 

"But, but" I wanted to protest "Did you question the conventions of what love really is? Did you notice the Oedipal relationship between Lucille and the two girls and want to stand up to the authority of the past? Did it make you want to face your fears despite the consequences? Did it CHANGE you?"

 I'm not saying I ever wrote to teach or indoctrinate my readers but the reason SNOW ROSES came out of me with such force and intensity is that the thoughts and emotions encapsulated in it are very dear to my heart. I've read so many books, especially when I was younger,  that really made me question the way I saw the world. Those were some of my very favorite reading experiences. I wanted to create something like that for my readers. 

When you examine the writing market today it's hard not to feel gloomy. In our current society we've all experienced the feeling that everyone's screaming to be heard but nobody's listening but --for me at least--it runs deeper than that.

As a reader I am finding it harder and harder to find books I actually enjoy. The market is so saturated with stories that are all more or less the same. Even most of the covers look the same. And they're being published so fast. I really only have time to keep up with a few of my very favorite series-- mostly by authors who debuted more than ten years ago when it was still possible to tell authors apart. 

 At bookstores I find myself staring at all the identical covers decorated with author names I've never heard of and blurbs swearing up and down that they contain concepts no one else has thought of before with lots and lots of blood and kissing, trying to guess which one --if any-- are actually worth my time.. More and more I find myself steering away from the noisy, overwhelming fiction section and purchasing copies of titles like "How to Talk to Anyone" and "Being Peace". 

So why should I add to the noise? What value am I really giving the world by producing another dark romance with a rose on the cover? 

I believe in the depth behind the stories I am telling. But do my readers? Do my readers care about the depth and growth of my characters? Do they care about what sorts of mindsets and insights the plots lead them to? Or are they just in it for the blood and kissing? 

And if they don't care, should I? Aren't I producing something for them? Shouldn't I be giving them what they want? 

But I do care. 

 I will keep writing, of course. The stories want to be told whether they are ever fully understood or not. Perhaps a story --and life for that matter-- is not meant to be understood. Perhaps it is just meant to be.