Category Archives: Writing Career

The Power of Being (I’m not procrastinating…I’m preparing)

Hello Scribes friends,

PJ Sharon here. Some of you may not know this about me, but I can be a bit lazy. I know—you’re thinking, “No way, PJ. Not you! You’re so motivated and productive!” Um…not really. Looking at the big picture, I do seem to manage to keep a pretty steady schedule, meet my goals on a regular basis, and take care of my daily responsibilities while maintaining a fairly decent attitude, so I guess I’m not a total slacker. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that anything I do accomplish is because I know myself well enough to make my goals achievable and realistic, I accept my limitations as an imperfect human being, and I plan accordingly. Being a natural multi-tasker and somewhat disciplined helps too, but these days, I’m less rigid and a much nicer boss to work for.

With my writing, I try to push new limits, set appropriate deadlines,  and stay challenged–since I know these are what motivate me to stay on task–but it would be foolish and self-defeating to expect more from myself than I want to give. You have to want success…and you have to want it bad! And you need to ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up to achieve it?”

Admittedly, I’ve given up a lot to get where I am. But certain things–like time with my granddaughter and at least one day off a week, are now higher on my priorities list. What I also won’t compromise on is exercise. I commit myself to doing 30 minutes a day, five days a week because I know the payoff is totally worth it! When I’m strong, fit, and happy, I feel like I can handle anything that comes my way. If my schedule gets crazy, I let myself off the hook for a day or two, but then I’m back at it. The same applies to diet and nutrition. I’m not as rigid as I once was, but I try to eat high quality, nutrient dense foods that properly fuel my body. I like chocolate and pie as much as the next girl, but I believe in the 80/20 approach to everything. If I’m doing the right thing 80% of the time, I can slack off 20% of the time and I’ll probably be okay. Yay…pie!

For me, first and foremost, my mental and physical well-being are my priorities, and stressing out about what I’m NOT accomplishing only serves to make me feel overwhelmed and down on myself. It has become clear to me that my to-do list will never be done and that if I want to keep my sanity, I have to focus on just a few daily tasks that keep me moving toward my overall goals. It might take me longer to get there, but it’s not a race for me anymore. I’m in it for the long haul, so pacing myself is key to staying the course.

If goal setting isn’t your strong suit, here’s a great article to help you get on track and stay there.

Could I accomplish way more if I didn’t watch twenty hours of television per week or spend time gazing out the window at the lilac buds sprouting? scent of spring Maybe I could shave ten or fifteen minutes off my overly-lengthy shower time, or possibly I could sleep less. It seems changing even a few of these “recreational” behaviors would lead to a tremendous increase in my productivity. Then, maybe I could write five books in a year or spend another twenty hours a week promoting my butt off. After all, I do understand that the success of my business depends on me and how hard I’m willing to work. But how hard I’m willing to work today may be different from what it was two years ago, and will likely be different again a month from now. We each have to decide what’s important to us.

It comes down to perspective and priorities. In my opinion, none of those “recreational” activities are a total waste of my time. One could even argue that I am more productive because I’m living a balanced lifestyle. A full night’s sleep–when I can get it–is an essential tool for weight management, stress reduction, and overall health. I need at least 6-8 hours a night to remain productive and happy. Staying up late to write that blog that’s due in the morning, or waking at the crack of dawn to sneak in some “quality” writing time may help me check off a few to-do’s, but it’s going to leave me cranky and tired, and increase my susceptibility to illness. That’s not worth the trade for me at this point in life. Maybe some of you can live on five hours of sleep, but I’m betting it catches up with you eventually.

As for the apparent television addiction, I do try to limit my viewing to “must see” shows that give me the most enjoyment. I’m not a total hedonist! I TiVo my favorites and dole them out throughout the week as reward for accomplishing my tasks for the day. Getting lost in my favorite shows not only helps me decompress after a full day of massage work or long hours at the computer, it activates my creative brain. I’m constantly analyzing and deconstructing what I watch. I’m looking at story structure, dialogue, characterization, metaphor, etc. My mind is being entertained, but I’m also in my writer’s brain and learning.

The long hot showers, which some may argue are a luxury and a waste of not only water and resources, but are a self-indulgence. I assure you, they are a necessity for me. There are many challenges in daily life, and few “inexpensive” luxuries for most of us. If spending a half hour in the shower (where I do a stretching routine to treat my arthritic neck and back) relaxes me and reduces my pain, then so be it. I’ll take every little bit of relief I can get. Besides, my shower time is the most creative and productive time of my day as far as I’m concerned. It’s like a cup of tea, a soothing massage, and an opportunity to let my thoughts flow freely without my internal editor alarms ringing, all rolled into one.  My best ideas and snappiest lines of dialogue come to me while standing under a piping hot shower. I’ve also been known to belt out a few tunes while I’m there. Singing elevates my mood, clears my lungs, and centers me. It helps me shift from my right sided “business” brain to my left sided “creative” brain so I can get those 1,000 words on the page. The long hot shower is staying!

So, what about the inordinate amount of time I spend staring out the window, walking around my yard to see what’s coming into bloom, or simply sitting on my front porch with a hot cup of tea, paying attention to my breathing for a few minutes and taking time to be grateful for the multitude of gifts I have in my life? Am I procrastinating?

Maybe, but these moments too, are priceless. When I’m not actually writing, I’m usually preparing to write. I’m processing my next scene or coming up with some brilliant twist to my plot. As a writer, my brain is always processing some bit of information that will ultimately lead me to where I need to be on the page.

What it comes down to for me is that I’m a human being first, and a writer second. I NEED to stay connected to my higher self–the part of me that knows how to live in the moment and appreciates the power of just being.teens prayers5 (2013_02_16 17_00_55 UTC) That’s the part of me that inspired me to write in the first place and continues to be the well from which I draw my best work. Whether it’s called prayer or meditation…or just plain daydreaming, we all need it on some level.

I know that nothing can substitute for diligence, consistency in getting those daily word counts on the page, or putting in the overtime, but these quiet moments of stillness and reflection are essential to my sanity and well-being. I know this to be true about myself. Perhaps it’s just an excuse to be lazy or to procrastinate, but I prefer to think of it as “preparing” the soil. The fertile ground of productivity is only as good as what you feed into it. So next time you start to feel guilty for daydreaming instead of writing, or taking a day off to hit the beach, don’t look at it as “slacking”. Consider it part of the process. Tomorrow is another day and there is always more work to be done. Today, take a moment to reconnect to what nurtures and feeds your soul. You may be slightly less productive on paper, but you’ll be happier and more balanced in the long run.

Namaste!

PJ

What are your best “self-care” indulgences? What fuels your muse? What have you done for you lately?

The Joys and Perils of Genre Jumping

Hey there, Casey here.

Change is hard. Even when you want to change, it’s still a challenge to teach your mind that what you’re doing is okay. That it will all work out. That you shouldn’t panic!

OSV - Grape Arbor

Last summer, I wrote a contemporary romance called Over Easy. I did it because I wanted to grow my writing skills and to try something new and challenging.

All of my books have been paranormal romances. And while I love the genre (and I don’t intend to leave it all together), I need to stretch myself once in a while. So I had this idea about a woman and a struggling diner in a small town in Vermont.

The idea percolated in my brain while I wrote Mystic Hero and Lachlan’s Curse (which I recently sold – yay me!).  I knew going in that it would be hard to switch from one genre to another. Sure, they are both romances, and in theory, the heart is still a love story. . . but. . .

. . . But here’s the thing. They aren’t the same. With contemporary romance, I wouldn’t have magic, evil villains or explosions to rely upon to get my hero/heroine in and out of jams.

Nope.

I’d have to rely on good, old fashioned emotions. Every day problems. Accessible issues. Hearts and flowers.

Hmmm.

Those were kind of scary to me. In real life, I don’t like drama. I hate confrontations. And I don’t like overly emotional situations. Heck, I’m not sure I’m even that romantic.

Well, personal fears aside, I wrote the book.

It came out too short. And while it was okay and my beta readers liked it (it even placed in a contest), I knew it wasn’t as good as it could be.  So I did what most writers do in that situation.

I let it sit. And sit. And sit some more. Then panic and doubt set in, until it morphed into THE. WORST.BOOK.EVER.

That’s when I knew it was time to ask for help. I’m lucky that my RWA chapter has a mentoring program. And I’m even luckier that my mentor is well-versed in the genre.

After a frank assessment of my work, I have new path to follow. I’m learning how to be less plotty (yes, that’s a thing) and be more real. AND to face all those emotions that scare me. Yup. I’m digging deep. It’s uncomfortable, but I’ll live.

In order to write the best book I can – to hatch a beautIMG_1086iful butterfly – I need to return to the cocoon and start again.

See? Maybe there are some hearts and flowers in me after all.

Has anyone else faced the same problem? How did you deal with it?

A Day in the Life…

So, I’m a day late with posting to the Scribes, but when I’m through, you’ll see why. PJ Sharon here, and I thought it might be fun to share the short list of to-do’s in the days before indie-publishing two projects at once–Christmas week.

Box set cover1) Complete third and final round of edits for SAMI’s CHRISTMAS WISH LIST, a holiday novella releasing on December 19th as part of The GIRLS of THOMPSON LAKE box set. (Done)

2) Format box set prior to sending off for professional formatting. (I don’t want any surprises!) The box set includes HEAVEN is for HEROES, ON THIN ICE, and PIECES of LOVE, which means I had to go through all three novels, combine them into one document, and assure that formatting was consistent throughout. Being that my brain is in edit mode, you can imagine I was catching things right and left that needed fixing. (Done)

3) Final round edits for HEALING WATERS, Book Three in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael Trilogy. (Done!)

PJSharon_HealingWaters_8004) Prepare/format HW for final upload to Amazon by…um…tonight. (In order to offer pre-orders, the final product must be uploaded ten days prior to December 23rd release.) (In-progress) If you pre-order it now, you’ll have it on your Kindle on release day! 

5) Set up FREE run for WANING MOON, Book One in the trilogy. December 22-26th. (Includes listing book on as many FREE e-book sites as possible…there are probably hundreds these days. This takes hours and requires a personal assistant or an all-night spree in the next few days. (In-progress)

6) Ordered print proofs/advanced copies for Goodreads giveaway. They arrived today. Yay!!! So cool having the book in hand. If you want a chance to win a signed ARC, you still have a couple of days to enter. Giveaway ends December 15th. (Done) Mail signed ARCs to winners on December 16th.HW Arc pic

Oh, and did I mention, I’m participating in a group blog hop from December 12-31st? My Addictive Reads friends and I are chatting about a “Few of our Favorite Things.” You can read mine here. We also want to show our appreciation to our readers by offering $50, $20, and $15 gift cards, and a grand prize of a Kindle Fire HD Tablet that we’ve front loaded with a bunch of our books, including PIECES of LOVE. Estimated value $239! Check out the EVENT page, fill in the rafflecopter, and visit each author’s site to find more goodies.AR-2014-Giveaway

Once I’m done uploading HEALING WATERS tonight, I’m determined to take tomorrow off to breathe and hang out with my CTRWA writer pals at our annual Margarita Awards Holiday Party. This year’s bash includes a luau and a pool party. I can see some margaritas in my near future! Maybe even of the “awards” variety.

The one part my multi-project launch I haven’t been able to manage (secondary to limitations in time, budget, and brain cells) is preparing a release party or setting up any major advertising. Since past efforts (FB parties, paid ads, and social media blitzes through blog tours and such), have all shown minimal success, this time, I’m focusing on getting the books out. Now that I have the third book in the trilogy completed and I have the box set to work with, I’ll take a bit of time off from new fiction projects and focus my first quarter efforts on promoting.

2015 promises to be an exciting year. I have a non-fiction project in the works and plan to teach some workshops at conferences. I’ve already been invited to appear at the New England RWA chapter’s April conference. I’ll be presenting a workshop on Self-Care and Ergonomics for writers entitled…”Is your writing killing you?”

Yes…I am an expert, LOL.

Miraculously, I seem to be able to juggle all of this and plan a little time with family and friends, despite my slight grumpiness and fatigue. If you’re wondering if there are two of me, there aren’t. But it is on my Christmas wish list.

Best to you all through the holidays! Wish me luck.

 

 

 

Welcome Tahlia Newland!

Happy Monday,

PJ Sharon here today! I know it’s not my usual day to post, but I’m filling in for one of my lovely Scribes sisters. I hope you won’t mind seeing me twice in one month.

Now that we’re all crawling out of our turkey comas and forging on, I thought I’d share some love with my pal Tahlia Newland, the woman who put the “Awesome” in Awesome Indies. She’s here today to talk about her latest release, PRUNELLA SMITH:WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS; part thriller, part magical realism, and part stress management instruction manual. She’s going to touch on one aspect of her new book that affects us all these days…cyber-bullying.

Please give a warm welcome to our guest, leave comments, ask questions, and feel free to follow her on social media or check out her books on her website.

Post by Tahlia Newland, award-winning magical realism author. Read more from her on her blog. You can also join her on Facebook , Twitter Google+  and Linkedin.

Take it away, Tahlia!

How would you deal with a cyber-bully?

Have you ever been bullied or had to deal with nasty comments online? How did it feel? What did you do?

The anonymity of the internet makes it all too easy for those who might never say something nasty to your face to say it online. Cyber-bullies can hide behind a false identity and vent their anger without concern for the kind of repercussions they might get otherwise. They can live on the other side of the world, but their venom can come right into your home and shout at you in black and white from your computer or mobile device. And no matter how hard you try to ignore it, it’s an unpleasant experience, and one that can, if you don’t have the skills to deal with it in a stress-free way, cause a lot of anguish, both mental and physical.

Dealing with this reality is the focus of my latest book Prunella Smith: Worlds Within Worlds.  Prunella Smith is a book reviewer, and an author unhappy with her review of his book begins systematically abusing her online. The recent publicity over a case where an author upset by a negative review actually located and physically assaulted a reviewer makes this theme all too real and raises questions for those who review books, especially if they are an author themselves as Prunella is.

When the bully and his friends leave negative reviews of Ella’s own book, she experiences the situation from the other side—as an author, rather than a reviewer—so we see both sides of the issue of dealing with negativity, whether designed to be helpful or blatantly vindictive.

This book raises many questions: Should reviewers not publish negative reviews and remain silent when they have nothing positive to say? What happens to freedom of speech if readers are too scared to share their honest opinions? Should reviewers moderate their language to avoid upsetting the authors? What use are reviews to readers, if no low ratings only means that those who didn’t like the book aren’t telling? This book does not offer definitive answers, but it does look at options and their repercussions. And most importantly, it does model a way to deal with such situations with the least amount of upset.

That’s what you’ll get from this book: a way to handle the difficult people in your life packaged in a heart-warming and inspiring story. This book is more than just a novel; I draw on my many years of meditation study and practice to provide Prunella with realistic and practical ‘solutions’ to her problems. As always, I write ‘real magic’. The magic in my magical realism is a very real way of working with your mind that makes you strong in the face of adversity.

And that is just one strand of this multi-layered book!

Description:

Worlds_Final-WEB‘The barrier between the worlds shatters like the window. The beast is loose. My nightmare has become real. The guy has totally lost it. If he finds us here, we could die. No, I don’t doubt it; we will die.’

Author and editor Prunella Smith inhabits a multilayered reality. Physically, she lives in the Australian bush with her crazy cat Merlin. In her work world, she edits the love story of Kelee, a Magan Lord’s daughter, and in the cyber-world of social media, she’s subjected to slanderous attacks by a disgruntled author. To complicate matters further she sees things through the eyes of a Tibetan Yogi, has strange dreams and relives forgotten memories.

Separate worlds, interconnected and complementary, but can they help when Prunella becomes victim to a real life stalker and her sanity is threatened?

Worlds Within Worlds has a unique perspective on the nature of creativity. Its touch is light, its humour distinctive but it reaches deep into the nature of human experience.

Comments from readers:

 “This is riveting stuff, part magical realism dreamscape, part taut psychological thriller, and I was literally on the edge of my seat when the final twist—and what a twist it is—came around. Phew, what a ride! I can honestly say it is the best book I have read this year.” Frank Kusy, author of Rupee Millionaires.

 “This book will make you think. Considering the deluge of new works streaming from authors these days, that may be the highest praise a novel can receive.” Amy Spahn, literary critic.

“A fascinating insight into the mind of someone using meditative techniques to deal with stress.” Kevin Berry, Awesome Indies reviews.

Purchase outlets

Ebook

Kindle Stores

Kobo

Barnes and Noble

Apple stores

Smashwords

The paperback will be available from all outlets in early December.

Tahlia Newland, author of six books, including the award-winning Diamond Peak Series (AIA Seal of Excellence in Fiction and BRAG Medallion for Outstanding Fiction), writes heart-warming and inspiring magical realism and contemporary fantasy. She is also an editor and the coordinator of Awesome Indies Books, a website that accredits and showcases quality independent fiction.

Tahlia began writing full time in 2008 after twenty years in the performing arts and a five-year stint as a creative and performing arts teacher in a High School. She has had extensive training in meditation and Buddhist philosophy and lives in an Australian rainforest south of Sydney with her husband and a cheeky Burmese cat, who features in most of her novels.

Thanks for being with us today Tahlia. Let me leave readers with a few questions for discussion.

Have you ever been bullied online or off? Do you post negative reviews, or do you find yourself hesitant to do so, even if a book deserves a low grade? How do you handle negative reviews?

My Three-Year Journey to the 10K Cake Club

spice-cake-su-1673099-lIf you’ve never heard of the 10K Cake Club, it’s the name given to that elusive group of authors who reach the milestone of selling 10,000 copies of their book(s). Now, given that statistically, most authors will never sell more than a hundred copies (no kidding), reaching this milestone is an amazing feat. But we all know how numbers and milestones are relative, and our own expectations can often derail even the most wonderful achievements.

PJ Sharon here, celebrating with you, my dear friends, my three years as an independently published author. I released my debut novel, HEAVEN is for HEROES in September of 2011. (In celebration, I’m giving away an audiobook copy of HIFH over on my website blog. Stop by and leave a comment to enter and feel free to share the post with friends on FB or Twitter. Contest ends September 30th at midnight. )HIFH_audiobookcover (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)

Now, I recall being asked, while on a panel of Indie authors, what my sales goals were as a newly self-published author. At the time, self-publishing was on the rise, Indies were on fire, and sales were through the roof for newcomers. Being the ambitious and overachieving sort, I replied with confidence that I wanted to sell 10,000 copies a year, netting me about a $20,000 dollar a year paycheck from my writing–what I saw as realistic and an amount that would make all the hard work worth the effort.

This was a reasonable goal, but one that I soon found was more or less beyond my control to achieve. I did not foresee the effects of market saturation, the need for endless promotion, or the ever-changing Amazon algorithms that would make it nearly impossible to gain traction on the discoverability front. Basically, I could not have predicted the “luck” factor.

When, in the first year, I sold over 5,000 books (I had three titles out by then), I was not unhappy with my results. After all, goals are merely guidelines…a star to shoot for. But in the second year, when I had the brilliant idea to switch from Contemporary YA to writing a Dystopian trilogy, and sales dipped to half of what they did the first year, let’s just say I was less than thrilled with the results of my ongoing efforts. I shuddered to consider my hourly wage as a writer and decided it was best to stop looking at daily sales reports, screaming into the wind about my books, and beating my head against a wall trying to figure out what the heck the secret to success actually was.

My third year hasn’t been any more profitable than the previous two, despite the fact that I–at the suggestion of Indie superstar Bella Andre no less– went back and wrote another Contemporary YA. In fact, I’ve spent more on covers, editing and formatting on PIECES of LOVE than I have on any of my others simply because I’m trying to compete in the market and feel that others do a better job of these things than I can do myself. Added in is the cost of producing a theme song for POL (thinking that this might be a novel idea and help with sales, but has as yet, not appeared to make any difference at all). With production costs up and sales down (thanks to Kindle Unlimited and the insane amount of new product coming into the market), I’ll be lucky to recoup my costs over the next year.

I’m hopeful that once I finish the Dystopian trilogy, add a boxed set or two to my cybershelf, and get back on the promotional wagon in 2015, that I might see some real return on my investment.

Lest you think that any of this is sour grapes on my part, think again.

I went into this with eyes open that it would be a LOT of hard work, gave myself five years to turn a consistent profit (this is typical for any new business), and expected that there would be a steep–and ever-changing–learning curve. I’ve had to adjust my expectations for financial success, but am hopeful that with perseverance, the pay-off will be worth the continued effort. This is, after all, my retirement plan, and being that I have another fifteen years until retirement, I’ve got plenty of time to make it happen, right?

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that success is measured in many ways. Positive reviews and happy readers who are excitedly awaiting my next release are priceless in the grand scheme of things. Knowing that over two and a half million readers have enjoyed SAVAGE CINDERELLA on Wattpad thrills me beyond words. And the awards and accolades for my books tell me that I’m doing something right. Reader reviews continue to average 4.5 stars across the board.

Another important lesson for me–one that continues to be challenged daily–is about finding balance. I worked around the clock that first year and a half, typically putting in 80 hours a week between my two jobs. I finally decided this past year to set myself a schedule. Knowing that I need to work my day job at least 20-30 hours a week to earn a  guaranteed paycheck to cover expenses, I set a limit on my writing/publishing time to 25-30 hours a week. Perhaps that’s partially to blame for the decrease in sales numbers, but I will say, I’m much happier and healthier these days. Time with family and time to take care of myself are far more important to me than sales figures and financial gain. If I’m in this for the long haul, that’s the way it has to be. I’m good with that.

It’s taken me three times longer than expected–and I’ve stopped comparing myself to others who have done it seemingly effortlessly–but I’ve finally made it into the 10K Cake Club.

Cake and ice cream all around! And perhaps a bottle or two of wine…

What milestone can you celebrate today? I hate to eat cake alone.

Goodreads Giveaway of SUNKEN TREASURE by Katy Lee

Hello Readers, Katy Lee here.

Lots of good news to share with you all.  First, I am holding a9780373446216 Goodreads Giveaway for my September romantic suspense release, SUNKEN TREASURE!  You have until August 31, 2014 to enter and can go right to www.KatyLeeBooks.com to press enter.  Simple as that.

Romantic Times Book Reviews announced its review of SUNKEN TREASURE yesterday.  Here’s what they had to say:

4 Stars! Compelling. A Page-Turner!  “Shipwreck diver Gage Fontaine is trying to outrun the pirate after his treasures. He unwittingly places fisherwoman Rachelle Thibodaux in danger when he leads the pirate to her boat. Rachelle has been in hiding due to the shame she feels over her father’s criminal past. Now she must work with Gage to survive. The use of a female pirate is a nice twist on the movie-fantasized life of pirates and treasure hunters. Bible verses are nicely tied to the storyline. The analogy of God seeing us as lost coins is encouraging.”  ~RT Book Reviews Magazine

And now it’s time for my other news.  This week I accepted and signed a contract with Harlequin for four more Love Inspired Suspense books.  I’m super excited about this new series that involves fast cars and fast-paced suspense!  Stay tuned for pictures of me driving a Ferrari!  All in the name of research.  I LOVE my job!

Thanks for stopping by to hear my news.  Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of my September release, SUNKEN TREASURE  at www.KatyLeeBooks.com!

 

Chapter 2

Sugar here, calling myself out for not posting this morning like I was supposed to. But I had 2 good reasons. I thought next Monday was my day.  AND today was my last day at work. I have worked in the same place for seven years. My very first job out of college. I love my coworkers and my building, but I don’t love the job anymore.  I was finding myself so exhausted, so stressed out that I couldn’t write.  My brain just couldn’t handle another thing and there were times when I was so overwhelmed by it all that I just didn’t want to get out of bed.  I know they call it work for a reason, but I knew I couldn’t go on like that. So I made the decision to leave.  I’m not going to be able to survive on writing alone. I’m going to work but at job that won’t suck the life out of me.

I need to write. Some people do it as a hobby. They can pick  it up and put it down when they want. But I need to write and when I can’t do it I feel bad, like I’m depriving myself of some sort of essential nutrient. And that job was making it hard for me to do what I love. So today was my last day and while I have very good memories of that place I don’t for one moment regret  saying goodbye.  I have two books coming out this fall. I’m under contract for three more. I am lucky. I know it’s a blessing to have these things when so many writers are dying to get where I am. So I am going to take this opportunity now, because I don’t I’ll always wish I had.

I feel like I started chapter one of my adult life there. Now it’s time for me to start working on chapter 2.