Category Archives: New Years

Tough Love

Hello, Scribes Readers, PJ Sharon here, and today I’m talking about tough love. This is the time of year that many of us are setting goals, working on business plans, re-evaluating our marketing strategies and generally attempting to lasso and tame this wild thing we call the “writer’s life”. Even with the best of intentions, most of the resolutions we make fall by the wayside and our ambitious goal setting can make us feel overwhelmed rather than hopeful for the new year.

Don’t get me wrong. I love goal setting, and my plate is as full of to-do’s as it ever has been, but instead of sharing my lofty aspirations with you all, I’d rather discuss how we go about sticking to our plan and meeting those goals. You’ve probably read a ton of blogs on goal setting, with such advice as making them manageable, measurable, and achievable. Great advice, for sure. But for today, I’d like to offer some coaching advice from an expert–no, not me.

Jillian Michaels (2013_06_02 01_59_31 UTC)My girl, Jillian Michaels, is one of the best motivators I’ve ever come across. I don’t often watch The Biggest Loser, but I know from personal experience that her training methods are effective. Through her 90 Day Body Revolution DVD set–which I bought last year around this time in hopes of shedding the weight I’d gained living the writer’s life–I was able to drop twenty-five pounds in about five months. Yes, I had to eat healthier and the workouts are brutal, but they’re only thirty minutes a day, five days a week…a small price to pay for a strong, healthy body, in my opinion. I figured I could do anything for thirty minutes a day and I knew the pay-off would be worth it. I reminded myself that I was worth it!

As a personal trainer myself, I quickly learned to appreciate Jillian’s tough love approach. Even when I want to swear at the TV, her passion and positive messages of encouragement continue to push me through every workout. Statements like, “Do your best,” “Just try one,” “Don’t you quit on me–don’t you quit on yourself,” “I know you can do this,” “Dig deep and find the strength you never knew you had,” and my favorite, “Focus on the why–why are you doing this?” She lists the common reasons why people want to be more fit, such as better health, longevity, skinny jeans, and sex with the light on, but the bottom line is that we all have a “why” when it comes to being driven toward a goal. If you focus on the “why”, you will tolerate any amount of torturous “how”.

Last week’s guest, Amy Denim, author of THE COFFEE BREAK BUSINESS PLAN for WRITERS, talked about creating a muse statement, a positive affirmation that sums up who you are and what you want for your writing career. (Here’s the link to the post if you missed it). I highly recommend that you start your new year by doing just that, and when you’re writing that statement, think about your “why”. Why do you write? What do you want to accomplish in your writing career? Why do you want it? How important is it to you? And what are you willing to do to get it?

Today’s Unlocked Secret: When you start to feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand or are questioning if the time and work you’re investing in your writing life is worth it, read your muse statement and remember your “why”. Then, dig deep and find the strength you never knew you had, and tackle that next goal.

What motivates you to keep going when the going gets tough?

The Game of Life by J Monkeys

car.game of lifeGood Morning world!  J Monkeys here.  Every January I like to take a few moments to reflect on the year that passed and determine if I’ve made any progress in the Game of Life.  I imagine my little car, complete with a pink and three blue little sticks, moving along the game board.  Sure I had a few paydays, and probably got set back a bit, but over all, did I make any progress over those hills last year?

in 2013, I had a lot of goals and I don’t think I actually ended the year any further along than when I started.  I made some progress along the way, then had some setbacks that negated it.  That’s all right with me, as long as I learned something.  And I did learn something.  Looking at last year in retrospect, I let a couple of good opportunities pass me by because I wasn’t focused, or organized enough, or even was just too lazy.

Well, I have a couple of amazing opportunities before me right now and I do not want to miss out.  One of them is potentially a once-in-a-career, jump-to-a-new-and-exciting-path type of opportunity.  It’s doable, but as we used to say in the corporate world, it’s a stretch goal.  Meaning, I can do it, but I’ll have to stretch myself to get there – it won’t be easy. 

So, here I am at the beginning of 2014.  What goals do I want to set for myself for this year?  I have declared 2014 the year in which I will get…stuff (to be “G” rated) done.  It’s the 11th day of the year, and I’ve already accomplished more toward my goals than I did in the preceding 365! 

In the last two weeks, I have finished and published the DIY Publishing book I had been working on.  I’ve finished and published my third Kindergarten sight word book, Dixie & Taco go to the Beach.  I finalized and published a book I wrote with a bunch of school children last summer, TV is on the Run.  I created and published (for myself) a new organizer.   And I updated my website, www.jmonkeys.com

These things were the low hanging fruit on my to-do list.  There are a few other juicy bits in easy reach that I would like to see finished in short order.  But the best part about having gotten some of these things finished, is that I’ve proven to myself that I can do it.  The excuses I’ve been telling myself clearly are not true.  I can get things done when I put my mind to it.  I’m so excited about my recent accomplishments that it’s really spurring me on.  I’m excited about finishing a few more things, and can’t wait to work on them!

My little car is flying down the board right now.  How’s yours?  Have you been stuck, like me?  What do you need to do to jump start things?  Maybe just finishing a project that is nearly done with spur you on too.

Holiday Happenings!

Merry Christmas Eve!

PJ Sharon here, there, and everywhere, currently coming to you from the coziness of my living room.christmas tree I’m wrapping last minute packages and the smell of fresh baked cornbread is wafting in from the kitchen. I hope you’re all taking some time off during the holidays to spend with loved ones. I’m grabbing a few days off, but since writers are never totally on vacation, here’s what I’ll be up to until the end of the month.

For the past ten days, I’ve been part of the Sleigh Bells Ring, Are you Listening, giant audiobook giveaway hosted by Rita Award winning author, Wendy Lindstrom. Today is the last day to enter if you want to be in the running for a chance to win some awesome audiobooks, an MP3 Player, or even an iPod Nano! Just click here to bring you to the Sleigh Bells Ring are you Listening contest page where you’ll find a Rafflecopter entry form. It’s super easy, and only takes a minute, I promise!Sleighbells ring promo pic You might even win an audiobook of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES.

I’m also participating in the Awesome Indies Holiday Book Bonanza, where dozens of e-books are on sale for only .99 cents between December 26-30th.aia_holidays (1) If you aren’t familiar with Awesome Indies, it’s a great organization of Industry professionals who read, rate, and review books by Independently published authors. They have very stringent criteria that have to be met, so you can rest assured that approved books are top notch! I’m proud to say, WANING MOON and WESTERN DESERT made the cut and are now listed on their front page! For my writing friends out there, check out their website at http://awesomeindies.net/ for some invaluable resource material (check out their criteria for submission info).

While WANING MOON, book one in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael is only .99 cents, WESTERN DESERT, book two in the trilogy is up for FREE from December 26-28th.

Available NOW!
Available NOW!

 Bookmark this page and come back during the sale for easy links to the books on Amazon or find links on the Awesome Indies Holiday Bonanza Book sale page. With all those new Kindles under Christmas trees everywhere, I couldn’t think of a better time to offer WESTERN DESERT up for FREE! If you’ve got teen readers at home or enjoy reading YA dystopian romance yourself, here is your chance to get both books for less than a dollar. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Please help me spread the word about this great opportunity by sharing this post on your Facebook page, twitter, or other social media. Simply click on the social media button of choice below and add a note of encouragement for friends to download WESTERN DESERT for FREE from Thursday to Saturday this week. Promotions like this are the best way authors can give back to readers, and readers can show their support of their favorite authors by spreading the news, leaving reviews, and chatting about the books with friends and family. As always, your support is greatly appreciated and means the world to me. May you be blessed with good health, peace, prosperity, balance and harmony in the coming year!

So that’s where I’ll be and what I’ll be up to for the next week or so. In the meantime, enjoy the holidays, squeeze in some “healthy” food choices, and plan a nice hike for after your Christmas dinner.

I’m making our traditional spiral ham. How about you?

A New Face for a New Year

PJ Sharon here wishing all you Scribe’s followers a Happy New Year!

We are so thankful for your support over the past year and hope you’ll continue to join us for fun, informative, and entertaining posts about writing, publishing, and all things books. You’ll be treated to an occasional secret recipe, guest authors, interviews with industry professionals, reviews of our favorite books, and tips on everything from  craft to the everyday pitfalls of trying to manage this crazy writer’s life.

As the first Scribe to post in 2013, I’d like to talk about the most important selling point of a well-written book–aside from it being well-written, that is.

In this day of digital publishing, when as many as 350,000 new books a year are put in front of readers, the burning question is, what will help your book to stand out in the deluge? I can’t help but think the answer goes back to the basics. Most of us judge a book first by its cover, then by the blurb, and then by reading the first page or so. Most readers, many who are buying from their e-reading devices, only see a thumbnail version of a book cover and often decide to look closer only if something about that tiny image pulls them in. Having a breathtaking cover, a well-written and captivating blurb (back cover description), and a grabber of a first line can only up your chances at being noticed.

As you may know, I had moderate success with a FREE promotion last week and I think the results prove my point.  After having my cover redone by a professional cover artist, downloads for Heaven is for Heroes outnumbered my previous bestseller, On Thin Ice, 3 to 1. You can read about my results here.  Since the only thing I did differently to showcase Heaven is for Heroes was a $5 paid ad on Facebook, I’m betting that the new cover had something to do with the increased numbers. My results tell me two things. Facebook ads do work, and cover art matters. Either way, I took the hint and had a new cover made for Savage Cinderella. **Incidentally, I did see a small bump in sales this week after my FREE days, so IMO it’s still worth hopping on the KDP Select gravy train if you’re looking for a boost in sales and visibility.

Although I’d had lots of feedback from friends and fellow writers who liked the original cover, the black and white just didn’t stand out on the thumbnail version. The title and author name didn’t “pop,” and the image didn’t really give a clear impression of the genre or the story, at least not when competing against the cream of the crop with their photoshopped masterpieces.SC SW cover

One of the benefits of independent publishing is that we can easily adapt and change with the market. Young adult cover art has evolved over the past year or two, leaning toward “darker” images, bolder colors, haunted faces with intense expressions, and beautiful young men and women looking tormented but relatable on the covers. The tone of a book should be clearly expressed through the cover art, and there should be some hint as to what the story will entail via the title fonts, tone, and cover image. I’m hoping that my new cover does all of those things, perhaps even tapping into a new readership who previously may have overlooked the other cover simply because it didn’t stand out enough or they didn’t “get” a feel for the book.

There’s no doubt that I’ll run across those who would rather not see a face on the cover, preferring the character’s features be left to the imagination, but the idea is to make an impression–to grab a browsing reader and make them look twice. If you’ve read the book you’ll probably understand why this image is so powerful. If you haven’t read the book, you can find it on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords, or you can read a chapter a week for FREE on Wattpad.

As always, I’d love your feedback.

Savage Cinderella WEBSITE USEThis cover is the work of Melody Simmons, who also did my Heaven is for Heroes and Waning Moon covers. She is super easy to work with and reasonably priced, not to mention, fast. She had this cover and my HIFH cover back to me in a day or two, offering me several options from which to choose, and working with my suggestions to get to the look I wanted.

I hope you’re looking forward to 2013 as much as I am. I have a feeling it’s going to be a stellar year for the Scribes and we’d love for you all to share the journey with us.

Blessings of good health, peace, prosperity, balance, and harmony to all,

PJ

Do you have any exciting plans for the coming year? What do you think about trends in cover art? Too many faces on YA covers, or do you like to see those smoldering and desperate looks?

2013, Here I Come

Hey, all, Suze here. This is my last post for 2012 and, frankly, I’d like to thank all those people who misinterpreted the Mayan Long Count Calendar.  I’m thrilled to still be here, and I’m glad all of you are too!

So, instead of talking about the Year in Review, I thought I’d talk today about the Year in Preview. I’m not talking about New Year’s Resolutions. Those tend to get shoved under the bed with the dust bunnies around January 10th or so. I’m talking about what I want my life to look like a year from now — here’s what I see. May I say, the view is pretty fine! Not in any particular order of importance:

I’m a published writer! Woohoo! I don’t know what form this will take: indie, digital-first press, or traditional, but you will be able to buy my book(s) before the end of 2013.

I’m in control of my health! I’m consistently making good food choices and exercising regularly. I may even have run that 5K. Catch me if you can!

I’ve finished two WIPs — great stories that have been sitting around and just need a few weeks out of my 52 to see the light of day.

I’ve finished (and sold!) at least one more new novel! 2012 was not exactly a banner year for me in the producing-new-words department. 2013 will see a huge jump in my lifetime word count, putting me closer to that magic 500,000 word mark.

I’ve made many cosmetic updates to my home environment. You know all those little things about your house that bug you and would be easy and inexpensive to fix, but always seem to get put aside? That tiny missing piece of molding? New paint needed in the dining room? Loose knob on one of the kitchen cabinets? That stuff is all taken care of in 2013. Sweet!

I’ve nurtured my relationships and friendships. Because without friends and family, life is pretty bleak.

What does 2013 look like for you?

 

I finished something!

Hidey-Ho there Scribblers!  J Monkeys here.  There are only 95 days left until Christmas 2012 so I thought I’d take a minute to catch you up on my writing goals for 2012 and my progress to date.

Way back at the beginning of the year, I stated (publicly!) that I was going to produce 6 books this year.  It was, and still is, an aggressive goal, but a doable one for me.  After a sluggish summer, I’ve actually picked up some speed this week and I’m happy to report that progress is being made!  Here’s how it stands: 

Do It Yourself Publishing ~ Cheap & Easy: I put the finishing touches on it this week and I sent for my proof copy today!  Yipppeeeeee!  This is an exciting book that give newbies step-by-step instruction on how to Indie Publish their book, on the cheap.  Let’s call this one 95% finished.

Gastro-Geneaology Cookbook: This is a project that I’m working on primarily for my family.  I’ve taken recipe cards hand-written by folks in the family (living and dead) and paired them with a picture of the chef, a short blurb about the person and a legible version of the recipe.  It’s in pretty good shape.  I just need to bake a few of the items and take some photos to add.  I’d say this one is 75% complete.  Definitely something that might have more additions as time goes by, but the first edition will be done by the holidays.

Brook the Fish: This is the first book in my First Grade reader series.  It’s done and available from Lulu.  I worked with a new illustrator on this one and he did a GREAT job!  Yeah Don!

Preschool book of Questions: I’ve actually been working on two of these.  The first, In The Woods, is nearly finished – 98% done.  Hubby needs to fix one photo for me, and then it’ll be complete.  The second one, Signs is about 50% done at this point.  I need to finish up the photography (maybe 7 more pictures to be done) and then I can pull it together.  We’ll be finishing the photography this weekend so I’m likely to order a proof copy by October 1st.

Dixie & Taco go to the Beach: I met with the illustrator today and she’s done a GREAT job.  This another newbie – her first book and her first step into this style of drawing.  But I looked at draft pictures today and they are spot on.  I’m confident it will be complete by year’s end.

The Fearsome Dane: This novella has been languishing – but my cover artist is now waiting for me to get back to her with crazy details like length.  Guess I’d better pick it up and write that last scene, eh?  It’s yet another monkey I want off my back, so I’m confident that it will be done by the end of the year.  It’s 30,000 words that needs at most two more scenes and some editing.

Some Time: This is actually my most exciting project.  I’m writing this time travel romance under my alter-ego, Vivienne Ylang.  Did you know that was me?  Shhhh, don’t tell anybody.  I’ve been thinking long and hard about this story lately.  I think I’ve finally worked the kinks out of the plot (no, not that kind of kink – get your head out of the gutter!) and I’m almost ready to pick up the pen again.  Or keyboard.  Whatever.  I need to do a little bit of Character writing and then I’ll be good to go.  I plan to have the 1st draft done by the end of November.  

That’s 8 books in one year.  WOW!  I know many of these are short, or have few words – but I’m still proud of the production.  And it’ll clear the way for me to pull a bunch of stuff out of my head and begin working on The Orange Trade, book 3 in the Livingston-Wexford Adventures early next year.  It’s a bit of a shuffle from how I had planned to do things, but hey.  Sometimes these characters are screaming in my head and I have to give somebody cuts in line.  You know?

Today’s Secret: Shout your goals publicly.  It’s harder to ignore them once you’ve told everyone what you are going to do.

Today’s Question: Did you make goals at the beginning of the year?  How are you doing?  Are you on track?

 

 

 

Happy Hog Day!

Hello, my lovelies!  Suze here, wishing you a very Happy Groundhog’s Day!

Put me down! You're squishing me!
That Punxsutawney Phil. He’s so darned cute.  You’ve seen the ceremonies on TV, right?  Where a guy dressed in tails and top hat holds a big, fat, floppy groundhog named Phil up to the sky, then determines whether Phil can see his shadow?  If the critter does, there are six more weeks of winter.  If he doesn’t, spring is right around the corner (What does that mean?  How good a prognosticator is he, really, if he won’t commit to a date?).

If, like me, you can’t make it to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania at 7:20 a.m. today (Drat!  Next year for sure!), you can watch the festivities by clicking here.

If, also like me, you’re a nerd about things like learning the origin of folk traditions, you can read more about them here. For the non-nerds, or the non-link-clickers, Groundhog’s Day as we know it is based on ancient European traditions, but it’s a bear or badger who emerges from its winter lair (the groundhog a/k/a woodchuck or whistlepig) is a North American animal).  It may go back even farther into Celtic times to the festival of Imbolc, a turning point of the Celtic calendar.  I get my information from Wikipedia, peeps, so pagan experts out there feel free to correct me!

Groundhog’s Day is one of my favorite holidays.  Yup, I consider it a holiday, even though I have to work.  Back in my single days, my housemates and I hosted a “Hog Day” party every February 2.  Trust me, it was the social event of the season.  Why did we choose Groundhog’s Day?  Because it was undercelebrated, I guess, unless you live in Pennsylvania.  We didn’t really need a reason.

So, what’s today’s Secret?  Simple.  You’ve been working really, really hard.  I know I have.  Stop at the bakery and bring home a cake for your family (or, gasp! just for yourself.  Then you can get the kind you like). If you’re so inclined, have a glass of champagne or something else fizzy.  If you’ve got party hats and noisemakers left over from New Year’s, now’s the time to bring them out.  Click here to get yourself in the mood. Dancing? Why not? Spring’s coming, you’re alive, and that’s reason enough to celebrate.

What about you?  Have you ever celebrated for no reason?  What’s your favorite silly holiday?  If you miss Groundhog’s Day, National Pig Day is coming up on March 1.  And do you call it a groundhog, woodchuck, whistlepig, or something else (roadkill, or destructive garden-munching rodent)?