Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How Long Should a Story Be?

Determining how long a story should be depends on several factors. Is it flash fiction? A short story? An epic novel? Each of these varies in word count and length and determines how long a story should be. Below are the average, accepted word counts for the various types of fiction.
  • Micro-Fiction: up to 100 words
  • Flash Fiction: 100 – 1,000 words
  • Short Story: 1,000 – 7,500 words
  • Novellette: 7,500 – 20,000 words
  • Novella: 20,000 – 50,000 words
  • Novel: 50,000 – 110,000 words
  • Epics and Sequels: more than 110,000 words
However, knowing what type of story you want to write is only part of the equation; there are other parts that have to be incorporated to create a story. And what if you don’t know what length of story you want to write? What if all you have is a story idea, but you’re not sure if you can tell that story in 50 words or if it needs 50,000 words. What do you do then?

It’s important to keep in mind that every story—even super short ones—has to have a beginning, middle, and end, along with a climax, events that lead up to that climax, events that bring the reader down from that climax, and then a conclusion. It’s also important that your main character(s) change through your story.

Your main character(s) needs to have a problem, and they have to solve that problem. How long will it take them? That depends on how complicated their problem is. You’ll also have to decide how developed you want your main character(s) to be. Readers don’t have to know a character’s entire life story to relate to them or be emotionally involved with their plight, but if you want to share that information, you can.

You’ll also have to decide how many characters will get points of view in your story. If you’re telling it from one perspective, it might not take as many words to write. However, if you have different perspectives from numerous characters, each one will need a story arc, a beginning, middle, and end, and have to change from the beginning to the end. How you handle each of those perspectives could lengthen the work.

You’ll have to develop your setting(s) too. If your story takes place on a world your reader isn’t familiar with, such as in a fantasy or science fiction work, it might take longer to develop that setting. If your story takes place in more than one setting, depending on how important each one is to the storyline, you’ll need to take the time to develop each place so the reader feels what the character(s) feel when they are there.

It’s possible to write science fiction micro-fiction. It’s also possible to write fantasy micro-fiction. These certainly don’t take lots of words to develop character or setting, and the reader still gets a sense of place and people. The stories also evoke emotions.

In addition to developing character and setting, you’ll need to decide the pace of your story. This will help you decide how long your work needs to be. The pace of your story determines how quickly you reveal information to the reader, how long the scenes in your story are, and how fast the action moves. In shorter works, all of these have to happen at a faster pace than a longer work.

The easiest way to decide how long your story should be is to start writing it. If you find that you are taking a lot of time to describe your characters and your setting, you might consider writing longer works. If you tell your story in as few words as possible, shorter works might be up your alley.

When you’ve finished your story, you need to make sure all the important details are included. You need to make sure that your story incorporates the needed elements (beginning, middle, end, climax, resolution) and that it makes sense. If readers walk away from your work wondering what they just read and feeling confused and lost, you probably failed in your attempt at writing a story. If you can evoke emotions, a sense of wonder and/or awe, or excitement, then you’re on the right track with your story—no matter how long it is.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Holidays Are On Their Way…And I’m Trying to Be Excited About That

Thanksgiving is one of my all-time favorite holidays. What’s not to like about spending time with friends and family and indulging in delicious food? Plus, there’s the added bonus of not having to worry about getting the right present for everyone on my list. 

This year, though, I’m having a hard time mustering any excitement for Thanksgiving. This is the first time my boys and I have been so far away from our extended family, and it’s definitely settling in. While I’m excited about the four of us spending time together, I’m going to miss hanging out with everyone else. It’s going to be very different without my extended family and friends around.

I noticed at Halloween that the weight of being in Nebraska was getting heavier. Halloween is another holiday where my kids and I used to spend time with extended family. For the past several years, it has been my sister and I taking my kids and her kids trick-or-treating. We’d even make it to my mother-in-law’s neighborhood, so I got to hang out with her too. If my mom was in town, she would hand out candy at my house while the rest of us walked the streets. That didn’t happen this year, and it made me incredibly sad.

The boys in their costumes.

Sure, we still went trick-or-treating, and the kids (mostly) had fun (my youngest got cold and didn’t see the point in going door to door; he just wanted me to buy candy like a normal person), but I felt the void of not hanging with my sister and niece and nephew or seeing my mother-in-law. 

Life is full of adjustments and changes, and I have to face them. I’m allowed to be sad and upset, but I can also look for the positive in each and every situation. Sure, it’s hard, but despite the changes and emotions that will likely come with Thanksgiving, there are also many things to be thankful for. Again, I have my immediate family to share it with. I’ll have a feast laid out on the table, and a roof over my head. I’ll get to talk to my extended family on the phone, even if I won’t be able to hug them. I have my health, and my boys have theirs too. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Yet Another Giveaway!

This one is for EPIC YA/NA sci-fi and dystopian. You also have a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card! Check it out and enter for a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Urban Fantasy Book Giveaway

It’s a week of giveaways!

I’ve teamed up with 26 fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of urban fantasy novels to two (2) lucky winners, PLUS a brand new eReader to the Grand Prize winner!

Oh, and did I mention you'll receive a collection of FREE ebooks just for entering?

You can win my novel Wucaii, plus books from authors like D.N. Erikson and Kendrai Meeks

It has been 500 years since Aelana has been home, and a lot has changed in that time--including her. As a half-dragon, half-human hybrid, she has been traveling the universe destroying worlds. Both anxious and excited to return, she wonders what she will find. Her memories of home are filled with pain and loss, especially for her first and only love. She knows he won't be there, but will his memory? Will her anguish remain?

What waits for Aelana on her home world? Find out in this exciting urban fantasy novel by Pembroke Sinclair.

Enter the giveaway by clicking here.

Good luck!

Monday, November 6, 2017

YABC Around the World Book Giveaway

I am participating in the Around the World in 30 Days giveaway!

There are 45 authors participating from all over the world, from Indonesia to South Africa, Guatemala, the US, UK, Europe, and Australia! It’s an amazing collection of books. Join in on the fun!

For a chance to win, you can enter here.

The book I have entered into the giveaway is Humanity’s Hope. I’m super excited to be part of such an amazing group of authors. I hope you’ll join in on the fun and discover YA authors from around the world!

What happens when humanity's hope rests on the shoulder of a teenager?

Caleb didn’t come out of the zombie uprising unscathed. He’s been scarred—both mentally and physically. The rest of humanity is trying to rebuild, to make the world normal again. Caleb is trying to return to a normal life also, but after all he’s seen, after the loss of his family and friends, the transition is difficult. The darkness that led him down a path of self-doubt and self-harm has never left his mind.

Things only become worse when he discovers he’s immune to whatever makes a zombie a zombie. Fighting zombies was predictable. He knew what to expect. Fighting humans is volatile. They are malicious and treacherous. They won’t stop to get what they want, and Caleb has to figure out exactly what that is.

This book can also be found at Amazon.

The giveaway lasts the entire month of November, but don’t delay. Again, if you want to enter for a chance to win, you can find the link here.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It’s Exhausting Always Thinking the Worst About People

It’s no secret that the world can be cruel place. All you have to do is turn on the news to know how bad things are—and it doesn’t seem it will be getting better any time soon.

Because the world can be full of shysters and those looking to take advantage of others, we have to be careful who we become friends with and let into our lives. Because of the popularity of social media and how easy it is to connect with people around the world, our vigilance has to be at the highest setting.

No matter what you do in life, you have to be cautious that you’re not taken advantage of, but as an author, I know firsthand how cruel and manipulative some people can be. It’s hard to deal with, and its especially hard to get justice for.

I always say that I’m a cynic, and in many ways I am, but I’m also trying to fix that part of me and focus on the positive. It’s exhausting constantly looking for the bad in people and the world. Questioning and monitoring their intentions takes time away from being able to live my life.

I know this means I’m looking at the world through rose-colored glasses and that I can potentially get taken for another ride, but I can’t shut myself in my house and not talk to anyone. How is that a better way to live? My glasses are only rose-colored on the edges. The inside is clear.

There have been some recent events that have happened with my writing that made me think back to those days when I was taken advantage of. One of them was an email exchange with a newsletter subscriber. Red flags were definitely raised with that one, and I did what I had to to ensure the requests didn’t continue.

Another event that took place occurred on Twitter. I had posted on the site earlier this month that I was looking for a narrator for my young adult zombie book Life After the Undead. My first attempt at making it into an audiobook fell through (I will tell you that story another time), so I was trying again. I received a comment from another user that they were interested in narrating the story. We chatted through DM, and then I emailed a copy of the excerpt that is uploaded on ACX as the audition script.

There was nothing about my exchange that seemed suspicious or weird until a day later I decided to send the Twitter person a link to ACX so they could decide if they wanted to sign up there—after all, they mentioned wanting to get into the business and needed some experience. I decided to send the message through Twitter for ease, and I discovered I could no longer send messages to this particular person.

Most people’s Twitter accounts are set up so that you can only send them messages if you are followers. Both this Twitter person and I followed one another so we could chat, but this let me know that we were no longer followers of one another. That was confirmed when I went to the account and had the option of clicking the follow button again. I did not unfollow this person, so I assume they unfollowed me.

Since I had their email, I sent them a message, but I never received a reply. I sort of expected this. After talking with some other people, it was agreed that they probably were no longer interested in doing my audiobook and that I needed to be cautious about sending them copies of my work or entering into any agreement without a contract.

I’m not sure if I would classify this situation as one that I should freak out about. I never sent more than the excerpt, and the person never asked for anything else. We talked about payment, but I wanted that upfront in case my budget (which is pretty low) wasn’t enough—there was no point wasting time talking if they didn’t agree with my pay scale. They were happy with my offer, but never asked me to send anything. In fact, I was the one who suggested I needed an audio sample so I could hear their voice, and they agreed to do it.

It would have been easy to be suspicious of this person, and maybe a small part of me is. I’m definitely curious to know why they suddenly decided to vanish after being excited, but I doubt I’ll ever get an answer. And maybe that’s where the issue lies. Maybe needing to go through the process messed up their plans of taking advantage. Perhaps when I didn’t instantly tell them I wanted to work with them without going through the steps they moved on. Who knows?

I try to be cautious with my interactions online, and there’s probably a part of me that is still na├»ve, but if I thought everyone who contacted me online was bad, I would never have any interactions. I wouldn’t have found the amazing fans and friends that I have. True, I wouldn’t have found a nefarious publisher, either.

My point is that we all have to be cautious about who we interact with. The world is full of terrible people, but it’s also full of good people. I understand that it can be hard to distinguish between the two, but sometimes you just have to take a chance. Stay alert and vigilant, but be willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Happy Halloween!

Tomorrow is the most wonderful of holidays. I really enjoy Halloween. It’s so fun to see the kids get dressed up and all of the spooky decorations. We even decorated this year—the first time ever! I’ve always wanted to put up decorations, but it was hard in Wyoming because they would blow away. For about a week here in Nebraska we had to bring the decorations inside because the wind was howling.

My plan is to add to my decorations every year. At one point, I’d like to create some zombies out of old clothes and have them laying in the yard. I think that will be super fun. We can probably stuff them with leaves—there are plenty blowing around! But for the first year, I decided to start slow.

In celebration of Halloween, three of my ebooks are on special for 99 cents. Today is the last day you can get them, so don’t delay! Have a fun, safe Halloween!

Seventeen-year-old Krista must quickly figure out how she's going to survive in the zombie-destroyed world.

The one advantage humans have is that the zombies hate humid environments, so they're migrating west to escape its deteriorating effects. The survivors plan to construct a wall at North Platte to keep the undead out, and Krista has come to Nebraska to start a new life.

Zombies aren’t the only creatures she has to be cautious of—the other survivors have a dark side. Krista must fight not only to live but also to defend everything she holds dear—her country, her freedom, and ultimately, those she loves.

Join Krista in her quest to survive in this thrilling apocalyptic novel by Pembroke Sinclair.

Find it on Amazon.

It has been 500 years since Aelana has been home, and a lot has changed in that time--including her. As a half-dragon, half-human hybrid, she has been traveling the universe destroying worlds. Both anxious and excited to return, she wonders what she will find. Her memories of home are filled with pain and loss, especially for her first and only love. She knows he won't be there, but will his memory? Will her anguish remain?

What waits for Aelana on her home world? Find out in this exciting urban fantasy novel by Pembroke Sinclair.

Find it on Amazon.

Caleb, a 17-year-old boy, survived the zombie uprising, but he didn’t come out of the ordeal unscathed. He’s been scarred—both mentally and physically. The rest of humanity is trying to rebuild, to make the world normal again. Caleb is trying to return to a normal life also, but after all he’s seen, after the loss of his family and friends, the transition is difficult. The darkness that led him down a path of self-doubt and self-harm keeps trying to creep back into his mind.

Things only become worse when he discovers he’s immune to whatever makes a zombie a zombie. Fighting zombies was predictable. He knew what to expect. Fighting humans is volatile. They are malicious and treacherous. They won’t stop to get what they want, and Caleb has to figure out exactly what that is.

Find it on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

To Use Auto Twitter DMs or Not

Social media is such an amazing thing. It allows us to connect with people all over the world and share our opinions and our work. As authors, it gives us the potential to find new readers and connect with other writers.

There are so many people on Facebook and Twitter.  If you aren’t on social media in some capacity, you should be. 

Of course, because there are so many people on social media, it’s easy to get lost and buried in the vast amount of posts. Not to mention, analytics (especially on Facebook) often work against you. Even if you have tons of followers, the vast majority of them probably won’t see your posts.

So, as a way to stand out, you might be tempted to send new followers a DM on Twitter. You can even automate the process so it happens right after someone follows you. This allows you to send more information about where they can find your books or you on the Internet.

However, you might be annoying people more than you’re helping yourself.

Several years ago, when I first started really getting into Twitter and using it to build my platform, everyone was using DMs. If I followed 10 people a day, I probably received 8 DMs. Most of them were from authors, and I found myself confused by some of the messages they were sending.

I get that you want to stand out from the crowd, but sending followers messages like

“I’ll gargle acid if you don’t buy my book!”
“Buy my book so gnomes won’t come to your house and kill you while you sleep!”

How are those supposed to sell your book?

Thankfully, I haven’t gotten any like this for a while, but every so often, I still get DMs. Most of the time, they are links to Facebook pages or pages to buy whatever it is the person is selling (authors aren’t the only ones who use DMs). Once, I got a hilarious joke.

I’ll be honest, I might open your DM just to see what you have to say, but I often don’t keep it unless there’s something in there that I think is going to benefit me. Is that awful? Maybe, but I think it’s the mindset of the vast majority of the population. I enjoy helping my fellow authors out, and I don’t mind you telling me about your books, but if you expect a sale, I need to know that it’s worth my hard-earned money and time. More often than not, just sending a link to the buy page isn’t going to do that.

For the most part, the DMs have toned down and aren’t so weird, but some people still find them pretty annoying. There are articles that explain why you shouldn’t send auto DMs and gives you some ideas of things you can do instead. As I said, I may open the messages and see what you have to say, but rarely—very rarely—do I click on the link to buy what you’re selling.

In addition, I find it incredibly annoying when someone sends me an auto DM under the guise that they are not sending an auto DM. I’m sure you’ve seen these. They ask you a question like they are interested in getting to know you. Several times, I’ve responded to these questions and never received a reply. That hurts my feelings. I was truly hoping to make a connection with someone on the other end.

Oh! And then there are the DMs that require me to verify that I’m a real person so that I can follow someone. I get it: being spammed by autobots and people offering to get you 5 million followers is annoying, but so is having to verify that I’m a real person. It’s only one click, but that one click takes times away from my day, and most of the time, I’m not willing to click it.

Auto DMs are so loathed, it may hurt your chances of gaining new followers. If someone is afraid that you are going to send them a message, they might scroll right past you. There are other ways to get followers to click on your links or find you on Facebook, and it’s not in an auto DM. That info should be in your profile so that people can click on it if they want. I know that you don’t have a lot of space, which means you’ll have to be creative in how you present your work.

And, technically speaking, you shouldn’t be using social media to sell your stuff; you should be using it as a way to connect with others. Sure, you can tell them that you’re a writer and share links to your books or let them know when things are on sale, but you shouldn’t be shouting “BUY MY BOOK!” because that doesn’t work to sell books.

As an author, you want to be seen and get your work into the world. Using social media gives you the opportunity to connect with potential readers and fans and other writers around the world. For the sake of their sanity and to increase the potential of getting new followers, perhaps it’s time to think twice about using auto DMs.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Slow Down, Life! I Need to Catch Up!

OK. I’m over this being busy thing. I need time to regroup and catch up on writing. It’s been too long since I’ve been able to sit and work on my own stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been working on my stories when I can, but I need a block of time—a week, or at the very least, a few days—so I can finish edits. It’s driving me crazy to feel so far behind!

And it’s not only in my writing that I’m lagging, it’s everyday life. My house is a mess and my laundry needs to be finished. I’ve been trying to stay caught up, but it’s a never-ending process. It doesn’t help that I’m super tired and have no motivation.

Because I’ve fallen behind, I totally forgot to announce the winner of the Stuck in a Good Book Blog Hop. It was Jana. Woot! Woot! Thank you to everyone who participated!

Despite the fact that time is getting away from me and I’m woefully behind, there have been a few fantastic occurrences that happened recently. I got to spend time with my mother-in-law last weekend, which was fabulous. The boys were so excited to see their grandma. We took a trip to the zoo and had a chance to relax and visit.

I’ve had a few bites on narrators for the audiobook of Life After the Undead, so (hopefully) that works out better this time than it did last time.

Halloween is right around the corner, so there’s that to look forward to.

I keep hoping that things will slow down so I can catch my breath and get caught up. I didn’t post all last week because I’ve been so far behind. Life keeps getting in the way. You’d think by now I’d be able to figure out how to work around these obstacles, but it can be incredibly difficult and draining.

From here, all I can do is move forward. I’m keeping my head up and hoping for the best. I’ll do what I can when I can. Eventually, I should get my tasks accomplished.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

No Matter How You Feel About Yourself, Someone Out There Thinks You Are Amazing!

Being an author can be tough. We often spend a lot of time by ourselves in fantasy worlds talking to imaginary people. While those people might be more fascinating and better conversationalists than certain individuals in the real world, they are still fake.

As authors, we spend a lot of time working on our stories and creating something we hope people will enjoy. It takes a lot of courage to put our work (and ourselves) out into the world because there’s always the possibility that someone will hate it and tear us down.

Of course, we’ve learned to grow a thick skin and not take bad reviews or rejections personally. We know that publishing is a business and that the decisions are made on whether or not they are going to make a company or agent money, not about how they feel about us personally. Of course, on occasion, that doesn’t make rejections sting any less.

If you’re like me, given enough time and rejection, you’ll start to feel weighed down. We all deal with rejection differently, but we all deal in some way. You might question whether or not you’re doing the right thing and if creating stories is worth the hassle and heartache.

But I’m here to tell you that no matter how many rejections you get or how low you sink, there are still people in the world who think you are amazing!

I don’t doubt that you have readers and fans who enjoy reading your work. Focus your energy on them, not on making people happy who aren’t ever going to be happy. And if you’re feeling really down in the dumps, a great way to feel good about yourself and your writing is to talk to kids.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t write kids’ books or middle grade or young adult novels, being a writer is enough for them. They think it’s super cool that you get to put words on a page and create new worlds. Don’t believe me? Schedule a time to read to some kids at your local library or at an elementary school and see how they react when you tell them you’re an author.

I don’t doubt that they will be full of questions and wonder what types of books you write and how you started writing and where you get them published and if you make money from them and where you get your ideas. Some may even tell you about the book they are working on.

You may feel inclined to tell them the truth about how hard writing is and how it can suck the life out of you, but when you see the optimism and hope on their faces, you won’t. You’ll remember when you had visions of greatness and were encouraged by someone you looked up to, and you’ll find a way to be a great role model.

All the questions they ask will remind you of why you started writing in the first place. You’ll feel inspired and excited. You might even leave with a smile on your face and a renewed reason to write.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Life’s Terrifying Moments

There are moments in a parent’s life that test their coping skills. In general, they aren’t good moments. They aren’t watching your child make a touchdown or bring home a 100% on a science test. No, they are generally moments where someone gets hurt.

They are awful moments.

They are scary moments.

They are moments that make you want to lock your children away in the house so they can’t get injured.

I had one of those moments last week.

On Friday, my youngest and I had a half day, so we were hanging out at home enjoying our freedom (well, he was enjoying his freedom, I was working online). It was a rainy day, so it was perfect weather to stay inside.

At one point, my youngest decided he was going to go see if a friend could play. I told him I didn’t really want him riding his bike on the wet streets, but he assured me he wouldn’t be gone long. Since the friend’s house wasn’t far, I relented, then I went back to work.

My phone rang a while later. It was the friend’s stepdad telling me I needed to pick up my son. He’d run into the camper trailer and had bumped his head.

I didn’t think much of it. I assumed it was an injury that I’d put some ice on and all would be well. I debated walking over, but then decided since it was raining and I probably had to bring the bike home that I would drive.

Nothing prepared me for what I saw.

There was definitely a bump on my baby’s head, but it was about the size of a softball. I did the one thing a parent isn’t supposed to do in this situation: I freaked. As you can imagine, that scared my youngest and he instantly went into panic mode. I wrapped him in a hug, trying to calm him down, but my heart was in my throat and the only thought running through my head was: “Get to the hospital. NOW!”

I hurried my boys into the car, then ran by the house so my oldest could grab my purse. I needed the insurance card. As soon as possible, I was down the road on my way to the emergency room. We couldn’t get there fast enough. The rain increased, coming down steadily, so I didn’t want to speed and hydroplane. I swear I hit every red light, and there aren’t a ton on the route I took.

The entire time I was driving, my son was slowly losing his mind. He was absolutely hysterical, screaming and crying that he didn’t want to get stitches. He asked me multiple times if he was bleeding, and he was slightly on his nose. At first, I told him he was, but it wasn’t serious, then when he kept asking, I told him no. Concern caused goosebumps to form on my skin. Something wasn’t right. That increased my desire to get to the hospital.

There was a moment of silence that was then followed by sheer terror. I was holding my child’s hand, and he grabbed my arm and squeezed as tightly as he could. That was followed by panic that he was going to have to have surgery and him telling me he was scared.

I did another thing a parent isn’t supposed to do in this situation: I told him I was scared too. And I was petrified. Nothing about the situation was normal. Again and again he asked if he was bleeding. Over and over I kept saying that everything was going to be fine—the words were there to comfort both him and me, but they didn’t do much.

Finally, I made it to the hospital. Holding my son’s arm, we headed into the emergency room. We went to the admissions desk, and the process was too slow. My child continued to scream and cry. He was also shaking from the cold and shock. I wrapped my arms around him to comfort and warm him, but also because I didn’t want to let go.

A nurse collected us and took us to a room. She was calm and kind. She commented that she had no doubt he had a concussion, and I motioned at her to be quiet. The diagnosis upset my child. He didn’t want to be hurt. He answered all the questions the nurse asked. He knew his name, my name, his brother’s name, and his dad’s name. And then he asked about 800 more times if he was bleeding. Then came the concern about why he was missing two teeth (they had fallen out naturally weeks before).

He was taken in for a CAT scan to ensure that there was no bleeding on the brain or that his skull wasn’t fractured. An ice bag was placed on his head. My oldest and I stood next to the bed, holding on to each other as tight as we could. Both of us were fighting back the urge to cry.

It didn’t take long for everyone to calm down once we got to the hospital, but fear and worry hung thick in the air. The scans came back negative: no bleeding on the brain and no skull fracture. But the concussion diagnosis stuck.

My son at the hospital. He was wet because he fell in a puddle after running into the trailer.

We stayed in the emergency room for several hours. The nurses kept him under observation for a bit because his stomach was upset and they had given him some medication. Part of that—I don’t doubt—was for my peace of mind. As long as we were at the hospital, if something happened, I knew my son was in good hands.

Eventually, my youngest was ready. He wanted to be at home in his surroundings. We headed out, a lump in my throat and fear prickling my skin. I had been fighting back the urge to break down the entire time we were in the emergency room. I had to hang on a bit longer.

As soon as we got home, the dogs got to work making sure my youngest was comfortable and under constant surveillance.

No parent ever wants to see their child get hurt, and it’s heartbreaking when they do. I don’t know how I kept it together to get him to the hospital (and, honestly, I didn’t do that great of a job remaining calm), but I guess we all do what we have to do to get them the help they need.

I’m so thankful that kids are resilient and bounce back quickly. After a long, terrifying, and sleepless night (for me; my son slept soundly), the next day was full of hope. My son wasn’t completely healed, but he was on the road to being himself. 

My youngest on Saturday morning.  

We’re lucky that we have a Concussion Management Center in town, and my son already has an appointment to see the doctor. I’m amazed and grateful for the care he received and will continue to receive, and I’m positive he’ll make a full recovery.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What to do When You Hit the Sales Slump

At some point in your writing career, you’re probably going to see your sales numbers go down.  It could be a gradual decline or a sharp falloff in sales.  No matter what happens, keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world.

The decline happens whether you’re repped by an agent and published by a Big 6 Publisher, an indie author, or self-pubbed.  It’s just the nature of the beast.  Oh, sure, there are always those who defy the rules, that never seem to see a decline in sales, but it’s not true.  At some point, the amount of sales on a particular book or books will slow down.  Some are just lucky enough to have several books that constantly bring in the big money

On average , most of us probably won’t see the sales that J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and R.L. Stine have enjoyed—but that doesn’t mean you should give up on your pursuit.  They had to start somewhere, just like you did.  There’s always hope.  There are a few things you can do to help alleviate the depression that comes with hitting the sales slump.

1. Write more books.  One of the best ways to increase sales is to have other titles readers can choose from.  Keep putting out the best work you can and grow your fan base.

2. Market and advertise.  Having people know about your work might increase their desire to buy it.  Get out and let the world know about your book(s) and give readers a reason to buy it.

3. Become a speaker.  You’re an expert in something, whether it’s creating characters or developing new worlds or using a semicolon properly, and you can (and should) share your knowledge with others.  Develop workshops and presentations to help others become better writers.  Become a panelist at conventions and conferences.  Heck, do something as simple as read at your local library.  It doesn’t matter what you do, just get out there and do it!

4. Stop obsessing about the numbers.  This seems like an incredibly simple task to accomplish, but it’s much harder than it sounds.  Trust me, I know.  I have access to the analytics for several of my books, and I check them way more than I should.  I also check my ranking on Amazon way more often than is probably healthy.  If seeing your numbers change upsets you, then stop looking at the numbers.  There are so many other things to look at on the internet.  Better yet, get back to writing!

5. Write more books.  This can’t be said enough.  You’re a writer because you love to write, so write.  Don’t worry about sales, they’ll come with time. 

It can be hard (and depressing) to deal with declining sales, but it happens to everyone.  Do you have any other tactics you employ so you aren’t focused on the numbers?

Monday, October 2, 2017

How Much Can Readers Ask of Authors?

As authors, we ask a lot from our readers. We ask them to buy our work, enjoy it, and then leave a review. It doesn’t always happen this way, but most times it does, and it’s amazing. Even if the reader doesn’t like our work, we’re still happy that they read the book.

But can readers ever ask anything of authors?

Of course they can.

They can ask us to write the best book in our abilities. They can ask that our books take them to faraway worlds and introduces them to new and interesting characters. They can ask that we make them feel when they read our book. As an author, I’m sure you’re more than happy to supply this to the reader.

But can readers ask for more?

Can they ask for free books? Both ebooks and signed paperbacks?

Recently, I had an interaction with a newsletter subscriber. I was doing a giveaway for some of my books, and this person sent me an email to tell me about a terrible time they were having. They were losing their house and having all kinds of other issues, so they explained that I could make their day a little brighter by sending them some of my signed paperbacks.

I consider myself a kind person, and I had some extra books floating around that were copies from an old publisher. The business has since closed down, and the cover information was out of date, but the interior information was the same. Since I wasn’t going to do anything else with the books, I sent them to this particular individual.

When I sent out my next newsletter, I was having another giveaway from my Life After the Undead series. They were leftovers from the publisher that closed, but—again—the interior story was still the same. Again, I wasn’t going to do anything with them, so I wanted to get them into the hands of readers who might enjoy them.

The same individual messaged me again to let me know that the books I sent a month before had been confiscated when all of their possessions were repossessed. They asked if I could kindly send more books because they were still struggling and having a difficult time.

I didn’t have any other extra copies floating around my office like I had before, and I became suspicious of their intentions. They wanted me to forgo the giveaway and just send them the books, but I wasn’t willing to do that. I wanted to be fair to all my readers—especially since this person had already received copies. They then asked if I would be willing to send pdf versions of the books I had previously sent.

At this point, my suspicion increased further. In the emails, the person kept repeating that I should “have compassion” and help them out in their time of need. I had thought I had been compassionate and kind previously when I sent the first set of copies. Plus, why would anyone repossess books?

I went with my gut instinct that something was off with the situation and decided not to send either the pdf versions or more paperback versions. Is it possible this person was telling the truth? Absolutely. But it’s also possible they were selling my work on the internet.

This is one scenario of readers asking for something that seemed weird and off, but not all encounters are like this. I’ve had others ask me for books—friends, family, fans—and if I could swing it, I’ve sent them copies. If I couldn’t, I sent them links to where they could buy them.

In general, I don’t think it’s weird for readers to ask for things from an author. After all, you never know what the answer is until you try. And, honestly, it’s really cool to get books that have been signed by the author.

However, as the author, you have the final say with whether or not you want to send readers what they are asking for. You have to judge whether or not their intentions are noble or whether they are asking too much of you.

For the authors out there, have you ever had any of these types of requests? How did you go about handling them? How much is too much for a reader to ask of you?

I would love to know what you think! Please feel free to post in the comments or shoot me an email if you’d like to share your story privately!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Stuck In A Good Book Blog Hop

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Before I tell you about the books I’ve been stuck in, I want to let you know what I’m giving away. I’ll be giving away a signed paperback copy of my book Wucaii (open to U.S. shipping only). For a chance to win, comment with a book you’ve been stuck in!

Have you even been stuck in a book so amazing, so emotional that you couldn’t put it down? What about a book that you wish you could get sucked into the pages and live in that world forever?

I have. There have been several books that I never wanted to end. These have included some Star Wars books, books by Piers Anthony, books by Michael Crichton, books by Christopher Pike, and a host of others.

Follow the rest of the blogs in the hop to find more giveaways and other good books that people have been stuck in!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

At Some Point, You Might Have to Give Away Free Books

For some authors, giving away free books makes their heart rate increase and their stomach clench. Giving away free books means that you aren’t selling books, which is the whole reason you’re an author, right? You didn’t pour your heart and soul into that story to go to the poor house. There are even some authors that won’t give copies away to reviewers because they are bound and determined to make money on their creation. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. We as authors deserve to be compensated for our work. Our art and time is worth something, so it’s not too much to ask for people to pay to enjoy it.

When it comes to reviewers, there’s an industry rule (standard, maybe?) that they get free copies of your books. It’s their payment for reading and reviewing your work. But sometimes, you send your books away for said reviews and never receive the review. This is incredibly frustrating. It makes us authors wonder if the person was just looking for a free book.

When it comes to giving your book away for free or not, you make the final call. There are plenty of reasons why it’s beneficial and why it’s not.

Publishing has changed a lot over the last decade, and with the advent of indie publishers and self-publishing, there are a lot more books in the world than there were before. There are also more new authors. Giving your books away for free doesn’t cheapen you or your work. In fact, it could help you.

Personally, I enjoy giving away books. For readers that might be on the fence about whether or not they are going to read me, this is their introduction to see if they like my work—at no obligation to them. If they like the book, I have others they can purchase, which benefits me.

I’m even okay with it if a reviewer doesn’t leave a review. I would like them to, but I can’t force them to, and reviews aren’t about me anyway, they are about the reviewer’s relationship with my story—whether good or bad. I’ve written a couple different posts about reviews and reviewers, which can be found here and here. Obviously, I’ve gotten reviews for my books—some good, some not. It all boils down to the reviewer’s personal preference and experience how they react to my book.

Isn’t that what it all boils down to anyway? How a reader reacts to your book? Don’t you want readers reading your book? I know I do. And in all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve discovered that sometimes the best way to entice a reader to read your story is to give it to them. Sure, you might not get any royalties from that particular book, but you might get a loyal fan who is willing to buy all your other books.

I’ve found quite a few fans (some who have become my friends) using this approach, and I’ve even found beta readers who give me valuable feedback on new work. All they ask in return is a free copy of the final version; sometimes an ecopy but more often a signed paperback, and I’m more than happy to send it to them.

You have to decide what you want out of your writing career and how you’re going to accomplish those goals. If you don’t ever want to give away a free copy of your book, don’t. No one can make you. But if you’re willing to take a chance, take a chance.

The saying goes that you have to spend money to make money, and maybe that also applies to giving away free books.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Life in Nebraska

It’s hard to believe that 3 months have passed since we moved to Nebraska. To be honest, it feels like it’s been a lot longer—but not in a bad way. We’ve been settling into our new lives, so I thought I would share our progress.

My family is from the Midwest (Iowa), so moving here wasn’t a culture shock. The weather and the humidity weren’t even an issue. I have to say, when I first got to Nebraska, the first thing I noticed was the smell. It’s a moist, earthy, vegetationy smell, almost mildewy, but it’s amazing. It reminds me of my childhood when we visited my grandparents. It brings me comfort.

I posted last week about my garden, and it’s getting to be that time of year when I’m doing my final harvest and letting the plants take their natural course. It’s fun going outside to pick the rest of my plants, and I’m looking forward to having another garden next summer.

The boys started football back in August, and things have been amazing. It keeps them busy, and we get to watch their games every Sunday. They’ve found some great friends to hang out with, and school seems to be going pretty well so far.

My oldest plays tackle in full pads.

My youngest plays flag football.

We’ve also been to the local swimming hole, as well as to the roller rink. I kid you not, I’m pretty sure the music playing at the rink was the same soundtrack that was playing when I was a kid and went skating. It was a lot of fun. I almost put on a pair of quads, but I ended up with blades. Maybe next time I’ll take a far trip down memory lane and put on the pair of quads…

The past 3 months have had their challenges, but we’re settling nicely into our new schedule. I’m looking forward to the future in Nebraska.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Finding Time to Market

I recently started a new job, which means that the vast majority of my day is spent away from my computer. When I come home, I’m tired. I still have to take care of my dogs and kids and get to bed at a decent hour. On the weekends, I’m catching up on cleaning and laundry and trying to find time to write.

Most days, it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. More often than not, marketing is the last thing I’m thinking about. I don’t want to look for ad options or contact readers for reviews or do any of the million other things they say I should do to market my book. It’s too much.

Marketing isn’t a lot of fun. And it takes a lot of time—time you’d much rather be spending on writing. But there are ways to squeeze it in throughout your day.

One of the easiest ways to market is to work on your branding. At some point in the day, you’re probably going to be on social media, so take a few minutes to promote your brand. Talk about something you’re reading or share a link to the blog post you wrote—even if you didn’t write that post recently. Take a few minutes to find and follow new authors on Facebook or Twitter. Post a picture on Instagram (you were probably planning on doing this anyway!).

You can even schedule posts. There are a variety of programs out there that help you do this. You’ll still have to take the time to write the posts and schedule them, but it can be done. I spend maybe 5 minutes every morning scheduling the posts I want to go up that day. I could absolutely make more time if I need to, but this schedule works well for me.

Take 10 minutes each day to read some posts from other authors and share them or comment on them. Search for other things you’re passionate about and comment on the articles or share the posts with your followers. It doesn’t have to be book related. In fact, if you’re branding, it probably shouldn’t be related to your book at all.

If you have the means, you might consider hiring a book manager or marketing firm to help you market. Or maybe you can ask a friend or family member who has time to help you (you’ll have to work out the payment details with them). No one said you had to do this alone. Better yet, take some time to find multi-author events that you can be part of. Join a blog hop. Doing a Google search brings up many options, I’m sure you can find one that works for you.

I get that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to accomplish. I’m struggling too. Marketing doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, but you have to make some time to get it accomplished.

Monday, September 11, 2017

My First Garden

I’ve always wanted a garden. When we moved into our first house, I had visions of planting a garden. The yard wasn’t done, so it would have been easy to create a special area just for the garden. But it never happened. The entire backyard was covered with sod without a dedicated garden space.

That probably wasn’t a bad thing. With two small kids, I wouldn’t have had time. Plus, the soil at that house was less than desirable. I doubt my plants would have done very well.

When we moved into our second house, I had no delusions about putting in a garden. I knew I wouldn’t have time.

When we moved to Nebraska, there was already a garden in place. All I had to do was plant some seeds and let nature take its course. 

One of the best things about my garden is how easy it is to take care of. It would have never been this easy in Wyoming. Gardens in Laramie need a lot of attention and tender loving care. Here in Nebraska, they just need sun and water. We didn’t even do a very good job of spraying for weeds and bugs, but the garden kept growing.

I learned a few things about gardening this year that will help me next year. They are as follows:
  • The seeds did much better when they weren’t planted super deep in the ground. Since this was our first garden, we weren’t sure how deep to plant them, so we used a lawn aerator to make the holes. Next year, we’ll probably just use a tiller.
  • There’s no reason to plant a ton of bean plants. I have so many beans at the moment, and more developing. Next year, I think we’ll be fine to get away with a couple plants. 

This is part of one bag that is currently in my freezer.
  • The bean and tomato plants need their own areas or a barricade. Without one, they spread out and take over. My poor onions got blocked by the bean plants, and the tomato plant took over an entire corner of the plot and has been slowly creeping to other parts of the garden.
I got one onion out of my garden. Just one. My hand is there for size.
  • Corn earworms are pretty gross, but they don’t actually harm the plant. I threw away several ears of corn that could have been saved before I had this realization. All I have to do is cut off the top and the rest of the corn is fine. Next year, that will be done differently. 
    • My oldest was really creeped out by the corn earworms. It got to the point where he wouldn’t even open the husks for fear a worm would be in there. Like they were going to jump out and latch onto his face. Made me chuckle.
  • Corn smut totally looks like an alien egg sac, but it’s just a fungus. It’s a little less fun knowing exactly what this is. I prefer to think of it as something otherworldly.
  • You get some really cool bugs in your garden. From lady bugs to praying mantises to whatever is pictured below (we’ve been debating whether it’s a walking stick or praying mantis—cast your vote in the comments!), the bugs rock! The ants weren’t that cool, but a little pesticide took care of those. 

  • Carrots suck to pull out of the ground. You’d think they’d be easy—just pull on the tops and out they come, but that’s a lie. I’ve had maybe four carrots that came out easily. The rest I’ve had to conduct an archaeological dig to get them out of the ground. 

This was our first garden, so we really had no idea what we were doing. Not to mention, we planted late in the year (middle of June), so we weren’t sure what would grow. We randomly planted seeds in the ground and waited to see what popped up. Now that we have a season under our belt, we can make next year’s garden even better.

We already have plans of how we’re going to organize it, putting up a barrier so that the tomatoes and beans stay on their own side of the garden. Then, we’ll create rows and organize the seeds accordingly. I even have a list started of what we’re going to plant next year. I can’t wait!

Gardening in Nebraska is easy, which is probably why I enjoy it so much. Sure, I have to spend some time out there making sure the plants are healthy and to see what is growing, but it’s time I enjoy. It’s also not overly time consuming. Oh, it could be. I could spend a lot of time out there if I really wanted, but I don’t, and it still works out.

The boys and I have a lot of fun watching the plants get bigger and then harvesting the crops—and they taste delicious! Now that I have a garden, I can’t imagine what life would be like without it.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Authors Should Collaborate to Potentially Find New Fans

Writing is mostly a solitary activity. As an author, you no doubt lock yourself away for hours at a time—days perhaps. Even if you aren’t physically locking yourself in a room, you’re mentally disappearing into another world. As a writer, it’s hard to be pulled out of that world. And when some does pull you out, it irks you like no other! I mean, how hard is it to focus on what they are saying with the vast majority of your brain stuck in some fantasy world?

But I digress.

When it comes to marketing your masterpiece, it shouldn’t be a practice that you do alone. Sure, you’re the greatest champion of your work, and you’re going to shout the loudest that people should read it. But how many people are listening? How many people care about your message? There are some, for sure. There are those loyal fans and dedicated readers who can’t wait to get their hands on your new story. But how do you attract new ones?

There are the traditional ways, including Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and ads (both print and online). But it’s incredibly easy to get lost in the shuffle of this world. Plus, you’re not supposed to be out there shouting, “Buy my book! Buy my book!” because no one will buy your book.

If you work with other authors to market your work, you might be more successful. Not only will you be able to target your fans, but you might find some new ones because your work is similar to another author’s work—one you’re collaborating with. Plus, as a community, we should be supporting and helping each other anyway.

Some of the best marketing tools I’ve used involved working with other authors. More often than not, these campaigns include having people sign up for your newsletter, but I’ve also had the opportunity to work with other authors to raise money for charities.

If every author shares the fact that they are part of this giveaway or fundraiser, more potential readers are reached. If you send it to your 100 fans, and Beatrice sends it to her 1,400 fans, and Dexter sends it to his 3,600 fans, you’re reaching a lot of people. If those fans share that message with their friends and family, you’re reaching even more.

Sure, there are no guarantees that you’ll increase sales (no one can make that promise), but you might. Someone might look at your book cover, think it looks interesting, and click through the link and buy it—you never know what might happen until you try.

Writing your book was a solitary venture, but selling it should be a group effort. Support your fellow authors, help them and yourself get discovered, find some new fans in the process. Marketing is tough, and you shouldn’t go it alone.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Happy Labor Day!

For those of you who get to celebrate this holiday, I hope you have an amazing day!  Spend some time with friends and family and enjoy a great meal!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Do You Always Feel Like Writing?

There is a ton of advice out there for writers. Everything from show don’t tell to write what you know. If there’s one piece of advice that sticks out among the others, it’s write every day.

To get better at anything, you have to practice. You also have to make it a habit. When you write every day, you practice your craft, you improve, and—hopefully—you end up finishing the piece you’ve been working on. Writing every day is sound advice, and it’s supposed to make you better and more successful.

But what if you don’t feel like writing every day?

Does this make you a bad person? 

Will you fail as a writer?

Writing is a job. It’s full of stress, long hours, and (occasionally) no acknowledgment of your accomplishments. While some believe writing is more enjoyable than an office job (and it certainly can be—at least you get to be creative and develop new worlds!), you still have to be dedicated to your project. But words don’t always come easily. Projects get stuck or life pulls us away. Frustration sets in. What do you do then?

As you can imagine, there is a lot of different advice on how to overcome writer’s block, including to keep writing.  If we keep putting words on the page, we’ll eventually get unstuck and be able to move forward. That may be true, but it can also lead to more irritation and frustration.

I don’t know about you, but even though writing is work, I still want it to be fun. I want to be able to escape into my words and worlds and enjoy working on a novel. I don’t want to feel angry because I can’t get part of a story just right. So I take a break.

If you work in an office job, you’re allowed to take days off and go on vacation every once in a while to recharge and refocus. There are benefits to taking vacations, so it’s important to get away.  Why can’t you do the same for writing?

Oh, I know. You feel guilty when you don’t write every day. I get that. But every once in a while, it’s important to step back from your project and think about it from a new perspective. You have to let it sit and think about what it’s done and what it needs to do, then you can come back to it with fresh eyes and enthusiasm.

How long you stay away from a project is totally up to you. We’re all different, and our writing habits vary. If you feel guilty for not writing every day, try writing something else. Keep a journal, start a new project, write an article or blog post. Whatever! You’ll still be writing every day.

It’s said that those who write every day will become more successful, but there are arguments against this thought. No one wants to burn out.

One of the most important things to remember is why you started writing. Whether it’s an uncontrollable impulse or the need to silence the voices in your head, more than likely, writing is something you do because you enjoy it. Don’t lose sight of that. If you can’t have fun writing, what’s the point of doing it?

It’s okay if you don’t feel like writing every day. It’s okay to put a project aside for a while and work on something else. You won’t be less of a writer. You’ll still be amazing.

Monday, August 28, 2017

I Have to Get My Butt in Gear

This week is my last week of freedom. On Friday, I start my new job, which means I’ll have a new schedule. You may recall, having a schedule is very important to me, but changing my schedule can be tough.

That was incredibly apparent in the last 2 weeks when I had to throw in some days of training. Sure, I had a schedule in place so I could get things done at home during the day, but I had to shift gears so I could get the boys to daycare and get myself to a place that wasn’t my house—all an hour earlier than I was used to.

I did all right. I wasn’t late to any of my appointments, but my day suffered. By the end of the day, I was tired and unmotivated to do anything besides sit on the couch and watch TV. I didn’t get any writing done. Most days, I didn’t get any exercising done either because I dreaded waking up at 5:00 am to work out, so I didn’t.

However, all of that is going to have to change soon. My schedule will have to shift if I’m going to be productive during the day. For the first few weeks, I’m going to be dragging butt, but eventually, I’ll get used to my new schedule. Then, I’ll be as productive as I was before and be able to get some writing done!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The “Glamorous” World of Writing

Yesterday turned out to be an incredibly crazy day, so I’m posting today.

There seems to be a fanciful notion among regular folk that writer’s write in an idealized, romanticized fashion. I’m not exactly sure what their fantasies entail, but I think it has to do with notions of writers floating around their house in a euphoric state and whimsically putting words onto parchment with a feathered quill.

Perhaps they envision us wistfully dreaming of stories and staring out windows with a faraway look in our eyes (which actually does happen). No matter what they think, for those of us who write, we know that this is not the case.

Sure, we can write in secluded cabins in the woods surrounded by majestic mountains and splendid forests or on the beach or next to a pool or in a million-dollar dream home. We can also write on park benches, on the subway, on the bus, in cars, and a hundred other places you can think of—some of which might not be glamorous or exciting.

When we’re writing, we don’t pay attention to our surroundings. Our thoughts are drawn inward to the worlds we are creating and worrying about whether are narrative has any holes or if our characters are acting in normal and expected ways (even if those ways only apply to that character). We have backstories running through our heads and are trying to figure out how to get from the beginning of the story to the end of the story in a logical and entertaining way.

While writing can be incredibly rewarding and exciting, it’s also work. And like any other job, it requires focus and dedication. It is also full of stress, worry, and frustration.

Writers pour hours, days, weeks, and years into their work. They’ll work late hours and early mornings. They’ll write through lunch breaks and forget to feed their pets. They’ll fret and stress about whether what they are producing is good enough. Sure, they can do it in their pajamas and without having to shower or leave the house, but they’re still working.

I’m not really sure where the romantic notions of how a writer writes came to be. If history has taught us anything, it’s that writers are often alcoholics, have depression, or a variety of other mental illnesses (but this doesn’t make us any different from the rest of society or terrible people).

Perhaps this fantastical notion of writers having a charmed career came about because of how the written work is presented. If done well, the finished story has the ability to look flawless, like it came readily and easily. If done well, a story will instantly draw a reader in and take them to new worlds and introduce them to new, interesting characters. If done well, a story lets the reader forget about their worries and troubles and lets them escape from reality.

If a story has the ability to make people think and feel, I’m all for the general people thinking the process was romantic and effortless. It means the writer accomplished their goal.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Working on a New Outlook

A few weeks ago, I posted that I needed to find a new outlook on life. I thought I would update you on some of the things I’m trying. My life is still far from perfect, but baby steps are helping set me in the right direction.

One Day at a Time

I live with anxiety, with means at any given point in a day (or sometimes all day), my brain creates worse-case scenarios for every decision I make—even the mundane ones like what I’m going to have for breakfast.

The ones that really have an impact are the ones that involve what is going to happen in the future. My brain is fantastic about making me worry about all kinds of things, and it makes me feel helpless, worthless, and like a failure. I get so focused on these hypothetical situations, I feel like I have to fix the situation.

But, how am I supposed to fix the situation if I don’t know for sure that this is the future that’s going to happen? Plus, what if there is no fix? What if the scenario my brain creates is so fatalistic it’s apocalyptic? Is that even possible? My brain seems to think so, which then leads me to think so, and the process becomes cyclical.

This, of course, leads to exhaustion and more feelings of failure. There’s no way I can tell the future. And my brain can be a huge jerk.

So, instead of letting the potential visions dictate my actions, I focus on one day at a time. I look at my schedule, figure out what has to be done next, and move from one task to another throughout the day. Does this stop the thoughts from occurring? No. But it gives me something else to focus on that I can accomplish instead of fretting about things that may or may not happen.

I Shut My Brain Off

This task is a lot easier said than done, and it’s still a work in progress. After I’ve accomplished all of my tasks during the day, I allow myself the ability to chill and relax. Before, I would let the thoughts run rampant and attempt to find solutions to a future that might not exist. This would lead to more anxiety and desperation, which accomplished very little except to drive me crazy.

Now, I take the time to read, write, or watch a movie. I have a list of films on Netflix that I want to watch or re-watch, and I’m slowly getting through them. My boys are watching them with me, so I have to be a bit selective about what I watch. If you know me, you’ll know that the vast majority of the films on my list are horror films, and the boys still get freaked out—and I want to hang out with my kiddos—so I have to pick movies that aren’t too scary.

Again, these acts don’t stop my brain from creating scenarios, but it gives me something else to focus on and a chance to prioritize what I should worry about and what I shouldn’t.

I Remind Myself I’m an Adult

This seems like an odd task to undertake considering every day I’m reminded I’m an adult. From taking care of my family to feeding my dogs to paying bills to grocery shopping, I do a lot of adult things during the day. But in addition to all of those responsibilities, I have the ability to make choices.

As an adult, I don’t have to do what other people tell me. I can make my own decisions about what I eat, what I want to wear, and whether or not I’m going to work. Are there consequences for my decisions? Absolutely. But as an adult, with my experience, I’m pretty confident I can predict what those consequences are going to be and make an informed choice about what I’m going to do.

By reminding myself I’m an adult, I give myself power. I remind myself that I have choices and that there are some parts of my life I’m in control of. Whether good or bad, I get to decide what direction my life takes because I’m an adult!

I Focus on the Positive

It’s so easy when things go a little sideways to think that the sky is falling. It’s so easy to see how terrible the world is and that everything is out to get me. But underneath all that evil and devastation, there are amazing things that happen every day. They could be small or they could be huge, the important thing is that no matter how bad things are, something good is there to counteract the bad. I just have to take the time to find it and focus on it.

Life doesn’t feel as fatalistic as it did a few weeks ago, but I still have a ways to go before everything is peachy keen. The only thing I can do is keep swimming.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How Writing is Like American Ninja Warrior

Last week, an amazing thing happened: I became a VIP author for Stitched Smile Publications. I get some perks with that title, but the best of them is being part of an amazing team of authors that supports and encourages one another and others. I’m honored and excited to be part of that.

One of the other perks of becoming a VIP author included doing an interview. While answering questions, I was taken back to the very beginning of my writing career and talked about some of the things that made me who I am. One of those was the fact that in college, I had some professors who were less than supportive of my writing. In fact, they shattered my confidence, causing me to give up writing for several years.

I’m going to be honest: I haven’t thought about this incident for a long time. And why would I? It’s painful and difficult—and there’s no reason to live in the past. I’ve grown so much since that time, and I’ve accomplished a lot.

But at the same time, I can’t deny that the incident had an impact on my life and helped form who I am. But so did good things, like my friend who encouraged me to try writing again. Without her, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today.

As I was thinking about all the incidents that came together to get me to where I am today, I started thinking about American Ninja Warrior and The Voice.

My family and I love American Ninja Warrior. The boys often try to imitate the ninjas and develop their own obstacle courses in the house. When we lived in Wyoming, they would even spider crawl up the insides of door jambs.

I love watching the ninjas overcome the obstacles and how strong the women warriors are becoming. They are carving out their place in the sport, and it’s amazing to watch them make history.

If you’ve ever watched American Ninja Warrior, you know that a lot of the athletes get a segment before their run where they talk about the life obstacles they had to overcome to get to that moment in time. The same thing happens on The Voice. The contestants talk about what happened to get them to the moment before they step onto the stage to sing.

And most of the time, those obstacles were difficult, full of heartache, and could have stopped them from moving forward.

I’m fully aware that part of the reason these are shown is to make the contestants relatable and sympathetic. I don’t doubt that the TV producers carefully pick and choose which stories they are going to highlight to get the most viewers’ attention. Whatever the motive/process behind the stories is, you can’t deny one thing: life is tough.

But we all know this, right? We know that life isn’t a walk in the park and that we don’t get things handed to us on a silver platter. Everyone on those shows, I don’t doubt even the stories we don’t see, had to overcome something to get where they are. They had to put in the time, effort, and work to see their dreams come to fruition. They suffered for their art, whether it’s singing or running an obstacle course.

And once they get onto the stage or to the course, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be successful. There’s no guarantee they’ll turn the judges’ chairs or push the buzzer at the end. But they don’t let that minor detail stop them. And if they don’t turn a chair or reach the end, they use the moment to learn. They go back to the gym or the studio and work on the things that are going to make them better.

As a writer, I’m not much different. I face my own obstacles and judges every time I put words on a page or publish a book. If I fail, I use the moment to learn and to work on the things that are going to make me better.

If I’ve learned anything from American Ninja Warrior and The Voice it’s that the world doesn’t cut anyone any slack. It doesn’t care if we succeed or fail, and it will do all it can to throw obstacles in our way. We have to find a way to overcome them to reach our goals.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Young Adult Sci-Fi and Fantasy Giveaway

Books, books, some more books, and the chance to win a Kindle Fire!

I’ve teamed up with 30+ fantastic young adult sci-fi and fantasy authors to give away a huge collection of novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner!

You can win my novel Humanity's Hope, plus books from authors like A.J. Culey and Blake B Rivers.

Enter the giveaway by clicking here:

Good luck, and enjoy!

Caleb, a 17-year-old boy, survived the zombie uprising, but he didn’t come out of the ordeal unscathed. He’s been scarred—both mentally and physically. The rest of humanity is trying to rebuild, to make the world normal again. Caleb is trying to return to a normal life also, but after all he’s seen, after the loss of his family and friends, the transition is difficult. The darkness that led him down a path of self-doubt and self-harm keeps trying to creep back into his mind.

Things only become worse when he discovers he’s immune to whatever makes a zombie a zombie. Fighting zombies was predictable. He knew what to expect. Fighting humans is volatile. They are malicious and treacherous. They won’t stop to get what they want, and Caleb has to figure out exactly what that is.