What is the state of things?

We’re almost a year into this blog. A year from my first contract. And I’m getting some questions about what’s happening with this manuscript and that one…what am I working on right now…so it seems appropriate to do a post about the state of things. Where are the books and manuscripts right now? How have things been going? What are my plans for the immediate future and the upcoming year?

THE BOOKS AND MANUSCRIPTS

TheLadyBornekova1400x2100The Lady Bornekova. The one that started it all. It’s been a little over six months since my debut novel came out. Overall, I will say that it has been well received. Is it everyone’s cup of tea? No. But neither am I ūüôā If you enjoy clean Historical Fiction/Romance that’s not too heavy-handed, but has an interesting story with a meaningful romance, my books will be more your style.

TheGeneralsWife1600x2400The General’s Wife.¬†This book has just debuted earlier this month. And we are looking forward to the blog tour coming soon. It was supposed to start January 25th, but has been delayed to take better advantage of bloggers who are interested in hosting but needed different dates. Having a great tour (instead of a rushed tour) is all about timing.

Off to War. This book has been through my beta readers and needs some final editing from me before it is ready to go. That final round of self-editing/folding in beta reader suggestions is back burner right now.

cripple creek copyHope in Cripple Creek.¬†Feedback from beta readers is currently being folded in and I’m about halfway through the book doing so as I apply some final self-editing. As this book was written about a year ago and I’ve learned so much since then, I am wanting to apply what I have learned to this manuscript. It just takes time.

the_trail_of_tearsTrail of Fears.¬†Still out with one last beta reader. Also, I am letting this manuscript “rest” before I return to it. So, you could say it, too is back burner for now.

The Diary.¬†Just finished self-editing and sent it out to my beta readers. This is an exciting time for me! I can’t wait to hear what my trusted readers have to say about my work!

The Lady Bornekova’s Sequel.¬†I am about half-way through writing. I came to a point where, as you can see, I had too many irons in the fire. So, I am taking one manuscript at a time and trying to work my way through it. This sequel is being brought to the front burner (as it were). I am still deep in research about the Hussite Wars and about the military leader of the Hussite armies, Jan Zizka. So much rich history there!

THIS PAST YEAR

critique groupThis past year has been a time of learning and honing my craft. A massive amount of learning! Conferences, online classes, the weekly critique group…all of it. And I am trying to be the best little sponge I can be. I started small in the way of conferences and went to the local Clarksville Writer’s Conference (fairly small, but good). Then worked my way up to a moderate sized conference in Kentucky (the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference). Then, finally, I steeled myself for a huge, national conference – the ACFW Conference. It’s been a whirlwind, it’s been so educational, it’s been AMAZING! I am addicted.

THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE

typewriter-chapter-oneJust Keep Writing.¬†Remember all those manuscripts that are on some burner? Well, those need to get conquered. And there are more ideas flowing. I plan to submit another manuscript for consideration in the near future as well. Which one…I’m not telling!

conference1Speaking Engagements. I hope to expand this area of my repertoire. This next month, I will be speaking about my personal struggle with Post Partum Depression. There are many other topics I am ready and eager to speak on including, but not limited to, writing.

Workshops.¬†The critique group I am a part of will be hosting two more workshops this semester, which I will be co-teaching. You can find out more about them here. Topics include branding, blogging, show don’t tell, deep point of view, character development, and more.

goalsWHAT ELSE IS COMING

Conferences. I fully intend to hit some conferences again this summer. They are such a valuable source of information, networking, and a great opportunity to pitch your work to agents/editors. Definitely worth the investment.

Agenting. I have gone back and forth about whether or not I need an agent. I am starting to lean toward ‘yes’. So, I will more seriously be pursuing this prospect.

So, in conclusion…there is a LOT going on. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything, this wild, crazy life of mine. And to think…this all started a year ago. Before that I was a “closet writer”. Writing was a hobby, nothing more than a pastime for me. What a difference a year can make!

Marketing: Minefield or Goldmine?

Of all the things that have become a part of my life as an author, marketing is not the most exciting. On personality tests, I test right on the halfway mark between introvert and extrovert. But in this part of my life, I’m definitely an introvert. Selling myself is just not my strong suit. But my education in this area has been more like a crash course. So, I’ll share what I have learned in my short time of actively seeking out information about the craft and all that’s involved in being an author…and hope it helps someone.

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.50.08 AMKeeping up a webpage. Well, having a webpage and keeping it up is like having a homebase for your audience. It’s a place where they can come to begin connecting with you – learning about your books, what you want to share with them about you, your blog, etc. The key is maintaining it. Keeping something new and fresh on the page as the weeks go by. We just did some refreshening of my webpage. So, if you haven’t looked around, feel free to – especially the pages of my novels (published and in progress). There are also some links on the left side of the home page you might not have seen.

blogsBlogging. Regular blogging is important to keep bringing fresh information to your audience and your page. Sharing your ideas and letting your audience “peek behind the curtain” as it were. Those of you that follow my blog know that I try to blog twice a week (usually on Tuesday and Friday) but I rarely (if ever) let a week go by when I don’t blog at least once.

social-media-iconsSocial Media. Social Media can be a beast…or your best friend. The key is to think of it as connecting with your audience. Just be you. Post about things that interest you (and about your books occasionally, but don’t be cramming it down everyone’s throat). People will connect with you about your interests and, again, it’s those connections that you are looking for. And I will say here: Hootsuite is a lifesaver. Just sayin’. Social Media also includes places like Pinterest where you can make boards for each of your books, pinning your ideas for what your characters look like, costuming, settings, etc.

swagSwag.¬†I have swag…bookmarks, postcard sized prints of my book covers, notepads with my book cover in the corner, etc. But I find that I don’t pass them out as much as I’d like. That’s probably more due to my introverted nature in this area than anything else. I recently heard of a company that prints booklets with your cover on the front and a chapter excerpt inside. Now that sounds like some interesting swag.

blog tourBlog Tours. I think that the blog tour after a book release is a good idea. I have benefitted a lot from making that decision. I recommend using a service and picking one that is specific to your genre. I write Historical Fiction, so I use Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. They have been wonderful to work with and they are able to connect me with blogs that write in my genre. Therefore I am connected with audiences that are interested in my genre and are more likely to be interested in my book then, say, a blog about Mystery Рonly some of those readers will be interested in my book.

conference1Speaking Engagements. I’ve heard that authors should make every effort to be speakers as well. Speak about the topics in your book, your message, or even just about your books. I am just now starting to expand this area of my platform. This one can be a little bit harder to get going, in my experience. Local venues are a good place to start – libraries, local clubs, etc.

I’ve touched on just a few areas that encompass marketing. This list is by no means meant to be extensive. There is so much to marketing and I am still learning. But this is a place to start. It is not easy to conquer the marketing giant. The best advice I’ve gotten is to take a couple of these areas at a time. Like do twitter and facebook for a while. It’s better to do a couple of areas really well than to do them all poorly. Happy marketing!

Monitor Your Expectations

I am a “recovering” perfectionist…at least that’s what helps me sleep at night. All joking aside, I truly believe I am on the road to recovery. But this perfectionism streak runs deep. I run into challenges in my life created by its existence over and over again. In every area of my life – as a mother, a wife, an educator, and even a writer. Where does this perfectionism come from? Well, it must have something to do with my childhood, with the way I’m wired…but how do I conquer it?

root causeThe cause.¬†I find, after much thought in introspection, that the root cause of my perfectionism is expectations. Expectations about who I¬†should be as a mother, what my home¬†should look like, what my marriage¬†should look like…even how my books¬†should be received. See a pattern here? I do. “Should’s”. The buzz word for expectation. I imagine this picture in my head of what my life could look like (slipped around that should, did you see that?). And I long for that. And I beat myself up that I’m not there. Because that’s what I expect. Because that’s what I think everyone else expects (to some degree). Help me get off this roller coaster!

“Expectations are pre-meditated miseries”

I’m not sure who said it, but it hits the mark, doesn’t it? Who of us has gained anything by setting ourselves up for failure? I’m not saying we can’t have realistic expectations. It’s actually unrealistic, I think, to say that we will reach a place where we don’t have expectations. We all have them. And we’re not all unhealthy about them. But you know I’m talking about those expectations that set the bar way up there.¬†Unreal expectations. “I’m going to be Martha-Stewart-crossed-with-Mother-Theresa when I become a mom” expectations.

solutionA possible¬†solution.¬†I am NOT saying I have all the answers. Or even the only solution to this problem. But I can tell you what is working for me: setting small, reasonable goals for myself. Daily goals, monthly goals. And bouncing them off someone who can help me be realistic and make them tangible. “I want to be more interactive with my kids” is vague. “I will set out 30 minutes of each afternoon this week to just play with my kids” is measurable and attainable. It’s a goal you can reach and then feel good about. Then you can raise the bar a little¬†if it would be good for you. Baby steps.

Learn to accept yourself where you are in your season of life. And monitor your expectations for where you want to be. These are two key things that I am learning right now as I self-evaluate. I never want to stop growing and learning, but I want to be able to experience joy and contentment for where I am and where God has me right now. And then look to the future with HOPE.

 

So you want to be a writer?

As some of you know, my second book released¬†yesterday. “The General’s Wife” went up for sale in the wee hours of the morning…I know, I was up at 2 a.m. checking on Amazon. It was there. And the next 36¬†hours, I had so many texts and e-mails from friends and family members congratulating me and wondering what it must be like for an author on book premier day. Or what it is like to be a writer in general. It’s never too late to find out.

timeMake the time for it.¬†This is the most crucial thing about writing. You must carve out and protect the time. And you must practice writing. Work on short stories. Share them with your significant other and close loved ones who won’t judge you but who will give you some good feedback. If you don’t have a clue what to write about, google “writing prompt” and get some ideas that way.

Meeting writersJoin a Writing Group. Find a critique group that meets regularly. Preferably one that is led by a published author. And gather up enough courage to participate by bringing in scenes or short stories to share with the group and open yourself for helpful critique. That is the only way to improve…by allowing iron to sharpen iron.

Go to a conference…or several.¬†Conferences are like crash courses for writers and then some. You sit in on session¬†about the craft of writing and you have the opportunity (in most cases) to pitch to an agent or editor or mentor. This is a rather unique experience and one I would encourage you to take every advantage of. Even if you don’t feel ready. Make it a Q&A session or a practice session to ease yourself into the idea of pitching.

Take an online class. I made the decision to join a national writing organization. I joined the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and they host a monthly online class that I participate in. It is PERFECT for me. They focus on a different topic each month and there is one to two lessons a week (not overwhelming, but just enough to keep the juices flowing). It helps keep me on my toes and keep me learning.

meeting peopleLook for other opportunities to learn/network/connect. My critique group hosts workshops every few months which I participate in. I also joined a local chapter of the ACFW which meets monthly. Additionally, I do what I can to interact with other authors via social media whether they be other authors that work with my publisher or other authors in the ACFW (they even have a Facebook group for several different genres, so I can connect with ACFW authors in my genre).

I believe that there are people born with certain talents and aptitudes. So, some people have more of a bend toward writing than others, and even some have more passion for it than others (and passion counts for a lot). But no matter your aptitude, natural talent, or passion, there is always room for growth and learning when it comes to the craft of writing.

 

Are you ready for this?

Well, friends, “The General’s Wife” will be released in TWO days! I can scarcely believe that come Thursday I will open my computer and see another one of my books available for purchase. It’s nearly unimaginable. It’s been quite the journey. Especially for this book…

once upon a timeMy first novel. Even though this will be my second published novel, this was my first completed novel. This was the first book I plotted out, wrote on, labored over, and wrestled with. I started working on it so long ago, when I was still in college. As I didn’t have the know how or the time to work on it, this novel took years of honing and polishing to become what it is.

query letterMy first query.¬†And though it was not first published, it was the first one I queried. I received a lot of “no responses” and one response that informed me that there was too much “head hopping”. Like I knew what that was. So, I started querying “The Lady Bornekova” and it was accepted for publication and began my road to publication, going to conferences and joining a critique group and learning a TON in a short amount of time. And then I learned what “head hopping” was (switching point of view character within the same scene). And I fixed it. Then “The General’s Wife” was ready to go.

My first go at research.¬†As I had not written anything before, I had never been involved in the kind of research I would need for writing historical fiction. And I have come to find out that unique type of research I need for each book is different. This novel takes place in a real period in history, but almost all of the characters and events are fictional (the Pharaoh and his Queen are based on the actual Ptolemy II and Queen Arsinoe) – so I had a lot of creative leeway. Another of my books,¬†“Trail of Fears” involves more real people that actually lived as well as real events, requiring a whole different level of research.

I imagine that each book of mine that I am blessed enough to have published will be unique¬†for its own reasons. These are just a few of the reasons why “The General’s Wife” is singled out for me. Of course, with so many “firsts” it will always hold a¬†special place in my heart.

 

My “No Resolution” 2016

new years resolutionsSome of you love New Year’s Resolutions…I know you do. And if this day is a special day to you and makes you feel more encouraged to make a change in your life, more power to you and I truly do wish you the best. But it has always seemed to me that New Year’s Resolutions for most people last maybe a few weeks or a couple of months at the most. I really believe that someone who is ready for a change will make that change on any obscure date of the calendar year they finally reach that point where they face their old habit and decide they’ve had enough of living that way. I have had some such pivotal moments in the past year and so for the New Year, I resolve to CONTINUE these changes I have ALREADY made in my life:

exerciseTo CONTINUE to work toward a healthier me. This is a challenge that has been ongoing. There have been times in my life I was more serious than others, but it was more often about losing weight. I have changed my perspective, however. It is now about being a healthier, more well me. So, over the last couple of months, I have made some changes in my life, little by little. My doctor is a fan of making one change at a time (he feels it is easier to sustain changes if you make them one at a time instead of changing so many things in your life so drastically). I am doing good-for-me smoothies for breakfast (which has always been a “what do I eat if anything” problem meal for me anyway). I am striving to trade pasta and rice for quinoa and couscous. More lean meats and veggies. Introducing more physical activity. Small changes, one at a time. And I am seeing results like I couldn’t have imagined.

scheduleTo CONTINUE to schedule my time thoughtfully. As a wife and mom, there is a lot that goes into my life apart from the writing and the extra stuff I do. So, I¬†have to guard my time carefully. And I have to be able to delegate the things that don’t belong in my schedule or simply say “no”. That’s hard for this extreme people pleaser. But necessary. Each week I look at my schedule for the week, looking over my commitments/appointments and then placing my “to do” lists on each day. Then in the morning, I go over that day and make adjustments to my “to do” list – shifting some to another day if need be.

Here is the key thing though: I celebrate that day if I accomplish only 3-4 things on that “to do” list. Anything else I get done is extra. That has taken a LOT of grace-giving and learning. But, especially on busy days, I need to not burden myself with unrealistic expectations. Because you and I know that, especially with a house, husband, and kids, there are¬†always more things to do than are on that list. The others that don’t get done can slide to another day that may not be so busy (as you can imagine prioritizing those items is important).

typewriter-chapter-oneTo CONTINUE to make time for writing. “Write like a crazy woman November” (NaNoWriMo) led into “no writing December” for many reasons. Maybe I was burned out, maybe it was because December was so crazy for me. I definitely spent most of my free time reading. Ah, reading. It is a vital part of writing. It helps you learn from other writers, inspires you, helps you grow in ways that nothing else can. Stephen King says that ‚ÄúIf you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.‚ÄĚ I think I concur. But, because I haven’t been writing, part of me feels a little….empty. My characters are all sitting around waiting for me to write their next line of dialogue. And they are desperate to know what’s going to happen to them.

All in all, these are the things I have been working on. Along with the “normal” desires to continue to be more involved with my kids and continue to daily “bless my home” (as FlyLady puts it) through routine care. So, while I am thrilled to welcome 2016 and look forward to a new year full of hope and promise, as far as a “resolution”, the only one I’m making is to continue what I’ve already started.