Category Archives: Dreams

Self Sabotage? by J Monkeys

Hi there!  J Monkeys here with a confession.  I saw one of those memes the other day.  You know the one – “take small steps toward your goals every day”…or some crap like that.  Here’s one that took me WAY too long  to find on the internet.

goals

Normally, I scoff at that kind of self-help mumbo-jumbo, but this time it struck me.

 

 

 

I know that life is a journey – and like most journeys, I’ve got a destination in mind for mine.  Sure, sure.  I take time to stop to smell the roses and enjoy the trip.   But at the risk of over extending the metaphor, I’m pretty sure that I’m a little lost, or at least turned around.  Completely.

Not only am I not taking steps every day that will lead directly toward my goals, but most days, I’m actively walking in the opposite direction.

I have three main goals in my life right now, the same goals I’ve had for a while,  all of equal importance to me.   1 – Become a successful writer,  2 – Get myself healthier, and 3 – Take care of my family and household.

What road leads to becoming a successful writer?  How about writing every day.  Treating writing like the job it is.  Putting my butt in the seat and doing it.  I have not been following any of those paths.  In fact, I seem to come up with every reason in the world not to write every day, or any day.  Any distraction, every justification, focusing on everything going on in my life except putting my backside in my seat and moving my story forward.  Hmm. 

What roads lead to becoming healthier?  Well, for a person who is probably 70 pounds heavier that they ought to be with a family rife with heart disease, how about eating healthy foods, moving around until I sweat a little and staying away from those substances (ice cream!) that I know pave the path to diabetes and every other nasty thing looming in my future?  Have I been doing any of those things?  No.  I had donuts for breakfast – note the plural.  No water to drink yet today (it’s 11am,)  no exercise (been watching TV since I dropped the kids off at camp.)  And did I mention the donuts?  How about the Rice Krispy treats my sister-in-law made yesterday that are calling my name?  And where will I be getting lunch?  I don’t know, but I hadn’t planned on a salad.  Hmm.

What roads lead to taking care of my family and my household?  To be honest, I can say that while I’m walking in exactly the wrong direction in my journey toward my other two goals, I’m at least on a parallel, if long and meandering path to this one.  But it’s a scenic and not at all efficient road which often intersects with the direct route, but then detours off again.  Hmm.

What conclusion have I come to after this painful self assessment?   I’m on the road to ruin instead of where I thought I was going.  But now, that I’ve gotten directions,  I have to decide if I’m going to turn this vehicle around.  Maybe I’d better think about that.  And get some water while I’m doing so.  Maybe wash a dish.  Or fetch a salad. 

Are your feet on a path toward your goals or are you self sabotaging like me?  Can’t fix it until you recognize it, right.

 

Harlequin’s Search for a Killer Voice

Announcing! The Search for a Killer Voice!

This is Katy Lee, and as many of you know, I sold to Love Inspired Suspense on one of their pitch contests. I have since gone on to sell two more books and hopefully many, many more to come. Seeing as I am a “success” with these contests, I can’t help but be a cheerleader for the latest and greatest contest, The Search for the Killer Voice. If you are an Inspirational Romantic Suspense writer, I do hope you will give it a shot and send your first page in.

Now, here are the details:

The Search for a Killer Voice photo

Love Inspired Suspense is on the search for some new superstar authors, and we want you! If you think you’ve got the chops to wow us with your high intensity, fast paced inspirational romantic suspense manuscript, we encourage you to pitch it to us in The Search for a Killer Voice!

For this pitch opportunity, Love Inspired Suspense editors Emily RodmellElizabeth MazerShana AsaroGiselle Regus and Emily Krupin will be on the lookout for fresh talent. We invite you to show us that you’re the total package in these four stages:

1. Voice—Demonstrate that you’ve got the voice to keep readers on the edge of their seats by submitting your first page. Authors who wow us will move on to Stage 2.
2. Plot—Show us that your plotting skills are as strong as your voice by submitting your synopsis. Authors that have an amazing plot and conflict will move on to Stage 3.
3. Substance—Prove that the first page wasn’t a fluke by offering us a bit more of what you got and submitting three chapters. Authors who keep the story racing along will move on to Stage 4.
4. Full package—Convince us you’re the real deal by submitting your full manuscript. The sky’s the limit for these authors. A contract could be within your reach if you bring it all together into a rockin’ Love Inspired Suspense manuscript.

If you make it through, you could be the next contracted author for Love Inspired Suspense. But we won’t leave you to do it all on your own. We’ll be sharing helpful master class blog posts along the way telling you exactly what is required in a “killer” Love Inspired Suspense manuscript. And once we decide who will be getting a synopsis request, each editor will choose a team of authors. So you’ll know exactly who is looking at your book throughout the stages, and you can ask questions on our individual bio threads. Every author who makes it to stage 4 will receive an initial decision (contract, reject or revision request) on their submissions by August 8.

Here’s our timeline: 
ROUND ONE
February 12
 – START WITH A BANG round. Submit the first page of your inspirational romantic suspense manuscript targeted toward Love Inspired Suspense to LISPitch2014@harlequin.ca from today until March 14.
March 14 – All first pages must be in house. Editorial team will review the entries over the next 2 weeks and choose the most exciting voices to move on to the next stage.

ROUND TWO
March 28
 – HOLD ON TIGHT round. Editors will announce which entries will be moving on to the next round. Chosen entries will be selected by the 5 editors to form our teams. The authors on the teams will be invited to submit their synopsis by April 7 to the email box.
April 7 – All synopses must be in house. Editors will review the submissions from their team over the next 3 weeks and choose the ones whose plots back up the potential in their voice to move on to the next stage.

ROUND THREE
April 28
 – REEL US IN round. Editors will review the synopses and announce which authors on our teams will be going to the next round. Qualifying authors will be invited to submit their first three chapters.
May 8 – All entries of the first three chapters must be in house. Editors will review the submissions from their team over the next 3 weeks and narrow down the ones that maintain the intensity we saw in the first page to move on to the final stage.

ROUND FOUR
May 29
 – SEAL THE DEAL round. Editors will announce which of our team members will be going on to the final round. Qualifying authors will be invited to submit their complete manuscript. Authors who are not moving on will privately receive personalized feedback. Authors who are moving on will have until June 9 to submit their full manuscripts.
June 9 – All full manuscripts must be in house. Editors will review the submissions from their team and decide next steps. During the next 60 days, decisions will be made to contract, send a revision letter, or reject each of the stories. All authors who submit full manuscripts will receive notification of our decision within this time frame.

FINAL RESULTS!!
August 8
 – We will announce the results of the pitch in a blog post that wraps up the pitch, shares our thoughts on the highs and lows, highlights any sales and gives stats on the results for the full manuscript submissions.

Sound exciting? If you think you could rock this pitch, get ready to show us your stuff. Read our team bios, the info on formatting guidelines, and the blog on an amazing first page, then start those books. Be sure to follow the guidelines for Love Inspired Suspense. Only one entry per author, please. Deadlines are tight, so keep writing while you’re waiting to hear back. And if your book is complete now, don’t forget to tell us in your email. You never know. We might want to pounce on your killer voice right away.  Ready, set, GO!

Book Signing Success

PJ here, just off a long weekend at the Granville Harvest Fair. I’ve done many such book signing events over the past couple of years, but this one was by far my favorite. For one thing, I live ten minutes up the road, so it’s close, and I inevitably saw lots of familiar faces. Thousands of folks ambled by my booth, many stopping to chat–whether they were teens or simply teens at heart. The fact that I was a local author was also a big draw. Putting a face to someone local who has achieved what so many others only dream about, seems to be an instant conversation starter. I can’t tell you how many people I spoke to—young and old—who said that they write in one form or another, and that it was nice to meet someone who has actually published their stories. It was lovely to be a source of encouragement and inspiration.

I’ve said in the past, that book signings have netted me little profit in the monetary sense and I’ve wondered whether they were really worth my time, but this event has changed my mind. In addition to making a modest profit from book sales, I gained a couple of dozen names for my newsletter list, and made many potential connections–including school teachers, librarians, mental health professionals, and teens interested in finding me on social media or purchasing my e-books for their e-readers after the fair. All in all, a great success. I thought I would share some tips that I found helpful. I hope you’ll share yours in the comments section below, so others may benefit from your experience.

harvest fair pic 11) THINGS TO BRING-A sturdy, 10×10 easy-up tent, a comfy chair, a couple of tables with table cloths (I have a six foot and a four foot table), books in plastic totes (don’t forget to take inventory and keep track of your sales), swag (bookmarks, post cards, etc.), tape, scissors, pens, plastic bags (recycle those plastic grocery bags and carry them in an empty tissue box for convenience), or have some nice bags made up with your name, website, and logo if you want to make an impression. You might reserve those for people who buy several books. Don’t forget a cash lock box, business cards, and candy (no chocolate on hot days) or a treat.

2) SIGNAGE-Invest in a nice banner, which you can have printed up through Vista Print. I have yet to do this, but I made do with a homemade banner. Plastic stand-up sign holders from Staples work great for specific table top signs. You can make whatever signs you want on your computer to fit the 8×11 frames. “Local Author of Teen Books,” “Sign up for my newsletter and enter to win…,” “Follow me on FB, Twitter, etc.” and pricing signs, are just a few ideas. Be creative.

3) PRESENTATION-Consider your brand, your audience, and your space. Create a visually appealing stage for your books. harvest fair pic 3Use color wisely to catch attention of passersby and don’t overcrowd your space. Too much to look at can be a deterrent.

4) SELLING-You can offer book sets with special pricing/discounts, you could sell merchandise related to your books (cups, tee shirts, or in my case, wooden whistles which I also offer as a free gift to those who purchase both book one and book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy).

5) SALES PITCH-This is an opportunity to hone your sales pitch. Have a one liner to pull people in. Keep it simple. “Feel free to take a bookmark.” Keep it real and fun. “This is the glamorous life of an author.” This last phrase spoken as I used duct tape to secure my tent signage or while I peeled tape residue off my tent poles. I got lots of smiles with this one. Pitch to your audience. “I write books for teens…and teens at heart,” when speaking to adults and elderly folks who actually might enjoy reading my books. I describe my contemporary YA novels as the kind of books that would make great Lifetime Network or Hallmark movies, and note when I’m speaking to parents of teens that I write books that I wish had been available when I was a teenager. I mention accolades and awards, my million plus reads of SAVAGE CINDERELLA on Wattpad (which made that particular book sell very well all weekend), and try to hone in on what might appeal to the demographic to which I’m presenting. “The book is about a girl who is kidnapped as a child, left for dead in the high country of North Georgia and survives in the wild.” One sentence grabbers are essential! Comparisons also work well as in “Savage Cinderella is like Law and Order SVU meets Nell.” Of course this only works for people old enough to remember the movie with Jodie Foster, LOL. With teens, I might compare The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael to the TV show, Revolution, or books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, but not quite as grim and gritty. As time goes on throughout the event, you’ll find what works best. It’s excellent practice for agent/editor elevator pitches at conferences. You never know who you’ll meet, so always have a professional and friendly demeanor.

6) GIVEAWAYS-Book signings are a great place to expand your newsletter mailing list. Offer entry in a prize giveaway, a FREE download, or some incentive to get people to sign up. Reassure them that your newsletters aren’t spammy and that their information will not be used for any other reason. Be prepared to offer something for free. You can be generous without giving away the store or breaking the bank. It costs me nothing to give away a free download of ON THIN ICE (I get a coupon code through Smashwords, and have cards printed up through Vista Print with my cover on the front and instructions and the download code on the back. I can usually get 250 cards printed up for free or next to nothing when I’m ordering other items through Vista Print).

Most importantly, have FUN! Try to stay engaged with people and don’t stick your nose in a book or hide behind your computer screen. Fortunately, we had a dry and beautiful weekend with a great turnout. I met some amazing people! I also had some fabulous apple pie with Granville cheddar cheese…yum! And yes, I even sold a good number of books.

Any other ideas or things I missed?

Dying in a Dream by J Monkeys

Hiddey-Ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here.  I only have a quick minute today because I’m joining PJ Sharon at the Granville Harvest Fair – if you are in South Western Massachusetts today, come on down!  I hear the pie is to die for.

Speaking of dying, did you ever wonder about that urban legend where if you die in a dream you die in reality?  Honestly, it crossed my mind, but I’ve never spent much time wondering about it. 

Well, as of 56 minutes ago, I can tell you that it is absolutely NOT true!  When my alarm went off at 6:00 this morning, I had just been dreaming about being in a train station when armed gunmen – zillions of ‘em – came for me.  I hid behind a pole that was way narrower than me and fired back (don’t know where I got a gun) but in the end I was overwhelmed.  I tried using the big gun as a club – but I only clubbed a couple before some guy was dancing (kind of a Russian dance, where he was bouncing and kicking his feet out) and waving a knife in my face.  A bunch of bullets got me and I fell, just as the alarm went off.

Now this was an unusual dream for me.  I often wake tired from saving the world – but I’ve never really failed at it before.  Hmmm – that’s a thought that’s gonna fester.

Today’s Secret: I’m alive now and about to pack up my car for the Harvest Fair, so dying in a dream, won’t kill you in reality.

Today’s Question: What urban legends do you worry about? 

It’s my second Indie birthday!

Hey Scribblers!

PJ Sharon here. Today I’m celebrating two years since I first published my debut novel HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES. In honor of the occasion, I’m giving away an audio book copy to one random commenter. Chance to enter ends Monday, September 30th at midnight.

So what’s it like being an Indie toddler?very-excited-girl (2013_06_02 00_59_02 UTC)
Believe me, there are days when I want to have fits like a two-year-old. But there are also days when I can’t imagine a more exciting pursuit. It seems like just yesterday I was posting my first novel onto AMAZON, B&N, and Smashwords, taking the giant leap of faith that I had done enough to ensure it was as close to perfect as possible. Five books and a zillion lessons later, I’m still working to improve and streamline my process. Everything from formatting, cover art, editing, and marketing, to managing the business end of being an author, is constantly changing, making me feel like a perpetual newbie.

Here’s a short list of what I’ve learned in my first two years:

1) Relax and Breathe-I really stressed out my first year and a half as an author. The past six months has been about letting go for me. I can’t control it all, I can only do so much in a day, and the to-do list will still be there tomorrow. Making time to write is non-negotiable. It’s what keeps me moving forward and brings me joy. I manage what I absolutely have to do each day, and try to remember that I’m the boss.

2) Hire as much help as you can afford-I’m a big fan of bartering services, but there are some things you just can’t do that with. Figuring out a budget and investing in creating a superior product is worth the effort and money. Hire a good cover artist and excellent editors, and pay for the RIGHT advertisement, and you will make your money back. Caution: BE SELECTIVE. Get references and do your research.

3) It’s good to have friends in the playpen- I would know nothing if I didn’t belong to such Yahoo Groups as IndieRomanceInk, Authors Network, and Marketing for Romance Writers. My local RWA chapter has been invaluable, and the contacts I’ve made through YARWA and the WG2E street team are like family. I am constantly amazed by the generosity of the writing community.

4) Patience grasshopper-  I’m only two, for Pete’s sake! We have to walk before we can run, right? Everything requires a process. In people years, a toddler is only just beginning their journey. I can’t expect myself to know everything, do everything right, or earn a solid income in only two years time. Every business model I’ve ever seen considers a profit after five years, a success. Most businesses will fail in those first five years. I take comfort in knowing that the only way I can fail is if I stop writing books. I’m more and more convinced that money comes with time and persistence. I’ll let you know how that theory works out in another three years when I graduate to kindergarten.

5) Perspective is everything- I originally set the goaI that I would sell 10,000 copies of my collective books in a year. I guess I didn’t necessarily mean the first year…or the second. Well, maybe I was just being optimistic. I could have been disappointed when I didn’t meet my mark in 2012, but it didn’t really phase me. Mainly because I knew that if I had sold 5,000 the first year, the second five would come eventually. I still haven’t quite reached the 10K mark yet (there will be cake when I do!). But I consider every sale, every contest win, positive review, or reader comment a measure of success. Most importantly, my level of enjoyment with the process is my biggest measure of success these days. I keep a copy of each of my books close at hand to remind me of what I’ve accomplished in just two short years.

There is so much more that I’ve learned, but I’d have to write a book to contain it all and my publishing schedule is booked for the foreseeable future. So instead of me blabbering on about my toddler years, why don’t you guys tell me about your journey.

How long have you been writing?  What has it taught you? Have you made the leap into the publishing world? How’s that going for you? Let’s chat!

Fall in New England by Vivienne Lynge

Hello there Scribblers!  Vivienne Lynge here.  Fall is easing its way into my life here in New England.  The nights are perfect for the down duvet with the window open, the days are warm by not hot.  Ahhh, perfection.  Today looks to be another bright, blue, beautiful day. 

Every year, around this time, I take a few moments to check in with my goals for the year.  What were they?  How am I doing?  Will I meet any of them?!  What do I need to do to be able to cross a few things off my list on December 31?  Let’s take a little look see, shall we?

Health: I’m down about 10 pounds from January 1.  I want that to be a bigger loss, so I need to focus a bit of attention there.  I’ve nailed down the kidney stone problem, and after last week’s surgery, hopefully eradicated the source of monthly agony. 

Household: This year I wanted to resolve a shed situation in the yard – we’ve just scheduled a landscaper to come and do this work for us next month.  We wanted to shuffle some rooms around and install the wood stove living in our garage in the new playroom.  We’re making progress there too, slowly, but it will be done before Thanksgiving.  It kinda has to be…the contractor is coming to install the stove.  Incidentally, finding a contractor to install a wood stove is not easy…there just aren’t very many of them.

Finances: I got a job!  One that pays me somewhat regularly.  Exciting times.  Things are looking up there.

Writing: Yeah – this is an area where I’ve not succeeded yet.  I’ve still got time to finish the first draft of Sometimes before the year is over.  Of course, I’ll be working hard at it during November.  Yay NaNoWriMo!

Work-Life Balance: I still struggle with this, as do so many people.  I developed a new daily schedule to help with balance, I just haven’t managed to stick to it more than a day or two since school started earlier this month.  But the good thing is that every day is a new day and I can try again to achieve balance.

Today’s Secret: It’s never too late to work toward your dreams…everyday you can start anew.

Today’s Question: Do you like to take a moment during the year and pause to see how you are doing in the larger scheme of things?  How are you doing?

Writer’s Cave or Fortress of Solitude?

Tuesday’s Scribe PJ Sharon here. I hope you all had an enjoyable holiday weekend, didn’t eat too much “bad” stuff, and remembered to take a moment to relax. For me, the weekend was about two things: Entertaining family and friends, and reaching my goal of 40,000 words on my work in progress. As I write this post on Monday evening, I’m tired, full, and happy to report relative success on both counts. Hi Mom!

That’s my mother-in-law on the left, my youngest son on the right and the happy crew in the back is my best friend and her family. Great food, Good times!Labor day Dinner pic

As for my word count goal, I began the month of August with about 12,000 words written on a book called PIECES OF LOVE. It’s a contemporary YA romance that I had shelved last year to work on the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. Since I’m planning to write book three of the trilogy in the coming year, I knew that if I wanted to write Ali’s story, I would have to do it quickly and get back to work finishing the trilogy. I’m pleased to say, that although I didn’t quite reach my goal, I’m pretty darn close at 37,500 words. I suspect I’ll get to the 40k mark tomorrow. So how did I do it, you ask? And even if you didn’t, I’m going to let you in on some secrets—because that’s what we Scribes are all about.

For some writers, 30,000 words in a month is a doable goal. All you have to do is write a thousand words a day. About three pages daily, right? Easy? Um…not really. What happens to having a day off? What if i get stuck on a plot point, need to do some research, or can’t figure out where the story is going? What about when family barges in and expects food and clean clothes for school? Or if you’re like me, you have that thing called a day job that consumes hours a day that you could be writing and by the time you get home, you can barely manage an Amy’s frozen black bean burrito (delicious and nutritious by the way).

If you are a perfectly disciplined writer, then 30k in a month is just about the right pace to finish a first draft in two—maybe two and a half—months. But how many of us are perfectly disciplined writers? I almost want to say that those words are a bit of an oxymoron. Perfectly neurotic—maybe. Perfectly disciplined—not likely. So how does a writer on a deadline do it?

Word count goals are a must, but how rigid do we have to be? Do we really need to lock ourselves away to get the job done? Some people talk about the “writer’s cave.” The place where writers go to hole up, be left alone, and don’t come out until the work is finished. I knew that this would never work for me. Number one, I’m claustrophobic, so even the thought of being forced into a cave makes me want to run screaming into the night. Secondly, it sounds like punishment. I’m picturing Jamie Fraser (for Outlander fans) hiding out in a tiny cave in the hills of Scotland for a year, surviving on rats and roots, in fear for his life and that of his family if he is found out. And then there’s the bats…eeek! No caves for me, thank you.

I’m a big believer in perspective. There is real power in words and thoughts. I think people can say just about anything to anyone if they say it with kindness and positive intention. I also believe that a person can accomplish anything they set their minds to if they are given the right tools and have the right attitude. Call it “spin,” “attitude,” or “perspective.” With the right mindset, a person can accomplish great things. I’ve seen it too many times in my life to discount it as theory.

But when I think about the task of writing an entire book in two months, the magnitude of it seems overwhelming. I know myself well enough to know that if I try to force myself to do anything, it will immediately create resistance within me. Also, giving myself an impossible daily word count that doesn’t allow me flexibility or a day off would make me nuts and constantly reinforce a sense of failure—a sure recipe for burnout and not the way for me to be productive.

I find I do much better with a weekly word count of 7-8,000 words. I might be able to do that in a day if I have uninterrupted time and the story is flowing. Or I might not be able to get any writing done for a full week. I don’t beat myself up for that. Instead, I try to put it in perspective. I look at how far I’ve come, appreciate how hard I work in my everyday life, and cut myself some slack for not meeting a particular goal. I also remind myself how much I love my story. I WANT to write it, to see it completed and in print ASAP. Now that is motivating. It’s why I keep showing up at my computer every day.

Fortress of solitude pic 2One of the best tricks I’ve found for making my writing a happier experience and less of a demand is to re-frame how I think about it and my work space. It’s not my writer’s cave, it is my Fortress of Solitude. It’s not a deadline (which makes me think of a hangman’s noose), it’s a finish line (which for us competitive types invokes visions of ticker tape and a celebration).

I have come to love the Fortress of Solitude metaphor. You know, the place where Superman goes to re-energize, reflect on his journey, and find the courage to take the next step toward his ultimate goal. That feels much more inviting to me than a cave. It also allows me to include others in looking at my writing in a more positive way. My husband is awesomely supportive, but even he has his limits. If he thought I was “hiding” from him, I think he would be less inclined to be so helpful. But knowing that I am on an important mission—something that is meaningful and satisfying to me, and working at a job that has the potential to make us a nice retirement nest egg, he feels like he is part of the process—part of making my dreams come true.

So when your family is driving you crazy and interfering with your writing time or keeping you from meeting a “deadline,” instead of telling them you need to be in your “cave,” put up a sign on your desk that says “Fortress of Solitude”. Fortress of solitude pic 1When you are there, they need to understand the importance of what it is that you are doing–like Superhero important. Also, let them in now and then to make them feel like they are part of your superhero’s journey. You might find they are much more supportive in helping you meet those word count goals.

So how are you all doing these days with your writing? Are you happy with your progress? Loving your story? Carving out time for family and friends as well as meeting those word count goals? Let’s chat fellow Scribers.