Monday, October 29, 2018

The Greatest Self-Made, Self-Published Deadline

One of my ongoing writing goals is to be better at setting daily, weekly, and monthly goals. I'm a lot better at it than I once was. Most Sunday evenings, I sit in front of my desk calendar and write them down in the block of each day. Some days, I do exceed the goals, others I fail miserably.

A few weeks ago, I made a post about how I was bound and determined to finish the first draft of Active Waiting. I started working on this book a little over three years ago. Since I hadn't forsaken it by this point, it was time for me to do something about be more specific, finish a certain date. I chose the date of Saturday, October 27th...and to work feverishly on it.

This past Friday, I was very close to the end. So close, that I didn't want any distractions. Therefore, since the only thing I needed to do that day was to go to the grocery store, I did that first. In that way, I could have it done and come home and stay home.

From noon on Friday to noon the next day, I sat right here at my computer, stopping only to eat, go to the bathroom, and sleep. I listened to Stryper radio continuously for inspiration and motivation.

I'm happy to report at 11:59am, I finished the first draft of Active Waiting.

I've had many moments I've felt like I was on Cloud 9. That's where I was the rest of the weekend. Furthermore, this was the best "visit" I had ever had on that little piece of heavenly puffiness. Even as I write this, I still feel like I'm there. 

My feelings are entirely justifiable. I've written another book, my sixth. Not only that, given the heavy emotional content of it, it was not easy. Over these past few years, when I worked on it, I would write only one paragraph and have to stop. There were even times I wept as I wrote.

But I did it.

At this writing, I'm still feeling that rush from my most recent major accomplishment.

Since I met this goal, I know I will meet the following in the weeks and months to come:

  • Publish Active Waiting on November 17th
  • Resume work on my next romance novel, Writing Soulmates, for the rest of this year
  • Resume work on Kill the Locust, my next Christian novel
  • Finish the first draft of Writing Soulmates by January 5th, 2019
  • Publish Writing Soulmates by February 9th, 2019
  • Finish first draft of Kill the Locust by February 2. 2019
  • Publish Kill the Locust on March 1. 2019

Monday, October 8, 2018

In Writing, In All-Caps, and in Red Ink

It has been a great writing year for me! I have published two books this year, including my first contemporary romance novel. In addition to my persistence and determination to get my books published no matter what it takes, I have learned to set goals, to break big projects down into small projects. I have developed a habit of setting goals at the beginning of every week. It has worked so well. (I'm ready to buy a new desk calendar for the upcoming year.)

As goes goal setting, most of you know that they're not entirely effective unless they are in writing. And it's even more so if you tell others. In that way, you can have some amount of accountability.

In the fall of 2015, I started on Active Waiting. Since then, I've published books I started on after that, working on this book occasionally during this time. I have come to realize that if I don't get a certain book done, it's okay. Some books may take some time, they may take more thought that I can't give them initially. 

Well, now is the time to move closer to getting Active Waiting published.

Okay! I have it in writing, in all-caps, in red ink, at a place on my desk where I can see it, and have now made it public that I am going to finish the first draft of this book. No more waiting, no more procrastinating, no more stalling. Time for me to get to work.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


I have so much going on right now!

I know that sounds so trite. Who doesn't have so much going on right now? There must be something about the high temperatures that makes me highly frustrated I have so much I want to work on, so much I want to write, so many ideas about marketing my books (all while I'm inside my comfortable air-conditioned house). I would start with something, then go on to something totally different. After a full day at my laptop, I feel like I've accomplished nothing. 

Oh, no! There's that four-lettered f-word again. Haven't I been taught time and time again, especially lately to not go by my feelings?

How about I recap this summer's events? Maybe that will give me some perspective.

-I found my favorite place to go to for my own writing retreats
-I have new and better business cards. What made the order awesome was keying in a promotional code I had gotten from a TV commercial. There's something great to be said about watching mindless TV on MeTV after a day of hard work.
-I met Breanna Thaman, bought one of her books, read, and got re-inspired
-I attended every ETCWA meeting. In so doing, I found a great idea for swag: necklaces with a musical note, a peace sign, and guitar pick charms (still working on that one). I may even try my hand at making jewelry. But I also learned marketing can be overwhelming and requires trial and error.

-I published Twofold Love Comeback.

-I figured out my target audience.
-I gave copies of Wise Turned Foolish and Professional Fans to Chuck Garric, Christopher Latham, and Calico Cooper of Beasto Blanco, as well as to Kip Winger.

Calico Cooper at Diamond Pub, Louisville, KY

Kip Winger at Square Room, Knoxville, TN

-I went to the Thunder Road Author Rally and met many other Christian fiction authors. One of them invited me to the meeting for the Knoxville chapter of the ACFW (Americal Christian Fiction Writers). I went to the meeting on Tuesday night and now can't wait for the next meeting on October 9th.

Early in the summer, I started making a screenplay for Crawling to the Light, learning about it as I read Screenplay: The Foundations of ScreenwritingThen, I came to a screeching halt literally halfway through it. I realized I hated this book with a passion. Of course, some people have read it and tell me they can't put it down. I, on the other hand, thought I could make the main character Melissa Leahy a little more "real." I want to rewrite the book. That right there shows you writers are really rewriters. But I have yet to get started on this.

I want my next work in progress to be Active Waiting. I started working on this three years ago this month. Whatever is keeping me away from moving forward, I need to remove that from me. As I'm writing this, I know it's partly due to sinus and allergy problems, as well as to stress from some personal issues I'm having that will only bring about character development. It's hard for me to write when I'm feeling "snotty." 

And obviously, there is such a thing as too stressed to write. All I have to remember is rest, drink fluids, and take two nasal sprays, one in the morning, one at night...and to quit trying too hard. 

Would it be considered unrealistic to finish the first draft of this book at the end of next month?

What makes me more frustrated is, instead of working on either Active Waiting or Writing Soulmates, my current romance novel in progress, I worked on Crack Hill. Listening to Metallica's Black Album (anything that can help me work on a scene of domestic violence)I worked on it Labor Day morning. It was a productive morning. However, since that day, I haven't worked on it...or anything, for that matter.

As you can see, I'm overwhelmed. I think I should go over to the Guitar Center today to try to be re-inspired and to clear my mind. I've had enough of this confusion.

If I don't make it over there today (chances are, I won't), I'll have to realize now is the time to find a balance between creating and marketing. I believe this is where the rubber meets the road regarding that.

(And I don't consider it an accident that as I'm wrapping up this post, "Straight On" by Heart comes up in the queue on YouTube. Awesome stuff!)

Monday, July 2, 2018

Read Mor' Romance, Be Mor' Inspired

Lesson learned from this past week: If I'm reading a book and having a hard time getting into it, though it is by one of my favorite authors, it is okay to put it down. The book I'm talking about is 1776 by David McCullough. I've read a lot of his books and love every one of them. I was trying to get into the 4th of July spirit by reading the book in the weeks prior to the holiday. But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to get into it. That was my second time reading the book (the first time was around 2005). Since it didn't speak to me neither time, I decided to move on.

They say you should read a variety of books. They also say to read books that are in your genre. I have done a lot of the former, but I feel like the latter is in the cards at the moment. 

Over the past few days, I was trying to combat burn-out, exhaustion, and an indifference to writing. Believe it or not, I too have those moments. We all do, as writers. It's normal, it happens. There have been lots of mornings where I don't feel like writing. Then, I do it, and I feel better, as if I can accomplish anything.

At the beginning of this past weekend, I decided to put down 1776 for good and search for a good romance novel to read. Friday night was David's and my night out at the Fan Boy Expo . We cosplayed the 11th Doctor and his companion from Doctor Who, his favorite show. Having gone to this for four years, I know there will be authors there. I met Breanna Mounce , an author from the Cincinnati, Ohio, area who has visited Norris Lake on numerous occasions and has come to love it. So much so, she has written a romance book about it, Southern Rebirth . I bought that (I'll get Bad Company on vinyl later) after enjoying a great conversation with Breanna.

This was what I needed to not only rekindle a temporary rut in my passion for reading, but also for writing. I'm about two-thirds of the way done with Southern Rebirth. I cannot put this down. Breanna did an amazing job in bringing Lexi Fernbrook to life. You can almost taste her vulnerability, sensitivity, and passion. In reading it, I have obtained Duncan Hart as my "book boyfriend." That he is a bass player in a rock band is the big selling point for me. As I'm trying to combat mid-life crisis, I wish I could be Lexi, as the photographer for Southern Rebirth, the band that Duncan plays bass in.

While reading this on and off Saturday afternoon, I received via Messenger great feedback from a volunteer beta reader for my own upcoming romance novel, Twofold Love Comeback. I thought it was so awesome that while I was thinking of what great things to say about Southern Rebirth, someone else was doing the same thing for my book.

Here are a few things she said about it: very relatable and fun...I love it when [Mandy] meets both Adam and Chris and how easy it is for her to talk with them about music.... I can't put it down...My favorite parts are the date at the park when Mandy finds out what Chris drives and the couples game on Valentine's day.

I'm glad to know that in spite of my being a rookie romance writer, I have the Danielle Steel effect: You can't put it down.

Since I didn't have any plans for most of Saturday, I stayed home a lot. There must have been something in the humidity that caused love to be in the air for new romance authors and the avid followers of them.

I'm writing early this Monday morning before I go to my day job. Like any other day, I want to stay home and write... and read some more romance. There's something there.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"What If?": The Big Picture of a Small Conversation

What if I fail?
What if this relationship doesn't work?
What if I don't get this job?
What if something goes wrong?

For years, I'd been plagued with a constant imagining of the worst that would happen in a situation. While it is important to consider that, and prepare for it, I focused only on that and let it consume me. Needless to say, everything I had feared did happen.

Here I am, four (almost five) published books into what is becoming a slow but sure writing career. That I still do it is a lot to say.  I cannot tell you how many times I've been rejected or taken for granted, overlooked. I will admit I used to constantly ask myself, What if no one wants to read my books? What if they're not good enough?

All I have to do is "show up" every day and give it all I got.

What else I have learned over the years:

  • Life itself is risky
  • I can be my worst critic
  • I can't know how something is going to go for me unless I try
  • My failures can turn into successes
  • Just when I'm about to give up, something great and unexpected happens
And...(with apologies to MetLife), I should have a positive outlook on the "What if's" in life. Let me turn around the rhetorical questions I had a the beginning of this post:

What if I'm successful?
What if I am highly favored in this relationship?
What if I get this job, I get promoted, or it becomes a career?
What if everything goes better than expected?

I may sound a bit insulting when I say this, but I'm thankful to have some people in my corner as "Yodas" tell me:

Image result for yoda you must unlearn what you have learned

Those of you have been around me know I love the following: God, family, friends, classical and classic rock music, chocolate...and uplifting, encouraging, unrushed conversations. 

And I'm such an author that I talk about my books every chance I get. Admittedly, that's one of the reasons I decided to meet for breakfast at McDonald's with Metal Mission of Knoxville last Saturday morning.  I sat across from Place of Skulls drummer Tim Tomaselli. Over the past several months, Tim and I have gotten closer and enjoyed our conversations. Sitting next to him was Tommy Newman, the President of the Place of Skulls fan club. He said something about Jimmy Dean sausage.

Jimmy! That one name means so much more to me now than before, having written Crawling to the Light.

Tim's and my conversation moved to a higher level. I told him about the impact Jimmy Hensley, the lead singer of Mounted in the Open, makes on Melissa Leahy, the main character. I impersonated the some of the ways Melissa says Jimmy's name. Tim was fascinated and wanted to know more about "this movie".

I told him it wasn't a movie, that it was one of the first books I had written, and what it was about. 

"That sounds like a good idea for a movie," he said. Though I had thought about this prospect in the back of my mind, to my knowledge, I don't think anyone had said that to me.

I could say a whole lot more about this, but let me share a more optimistic litany of what if's:

What if I hadn't written that book?

What if I had deleted the file while I was working on it (because of a big, major disappointment in someone)?

What if I hadn't seen Place of Skulls?

What if I didn't volunteer with Metal Mission to serve the homeless?

What if I hadn't gotten up last Saturday morning to go to KARM?

What if I had to work that day?

What if I hadn't gone to McDonald's?

What if Tim hadn't gone, either?

What if Tom hadn't mentioned Jimmy Dean Sausage?

What if I didn't hear that and didn't have the boldness to explain why that name means something to me?

Well, though I wouldn't have something to write about on this early Wednesday morning, it is showing you who are reading this you are only one conversation away from something that will allow you to succeed.

Yes, that's right: Succeed.

I have to admit a fresh round of "what if's" are rolling around in my head. The biggest one: What if I get rejected and no one likes it?. Then again: What if someone loves it and accepts it? What if it becomes a success and touches many lives?

It's amazing how a conversation unfolds over pancakes and Mickey D's sweet tea. Keep them coming...the conversations, that is.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Flashback to 1998!

I'm a little bit country, too!

And I'm not afraid to admit that.

There's just something about being a writer now (2010-present) that the longer I do it, the more I think about certain times in my life where a little bit of that inner writer has caused me to think about random things in my life that have led me up to this moment.

Let me take you back to 1998.

I was 24 and had become a certified personal trainer (a profession that quickly caused burnout), in college at Liberty University studying exercise science, and working part-time as a sales associate at Sears.  By this time, I had already a certified aerobics instructor. I spent the summer of 1998 teaching thirteen classes a week (yes, that number is not a typo). I would lead group exercise classes until a decade later when marathon running took over.

One thing I didn't want at all at the time: a boyfriend. Though I didn't have any dates, I did have a male friend whom I met through a friend I had at the time. He was in the Navy studying aviation in Millington, TN. We started writing to each other. We shared a mutual interest in being determined to set goals and country music. By this time, I had met him once, when he had had plans to pass through my neck of the woods (Lynchburg, VA).

Though nothing serious happened between us, looking back on this acquaintanceship I had had with him, he inspired me. I'm not sure what specifically it was, but he seemed to care about my well-being in spite of what had been going on with him.

One of the country singers I liked back then (and still do) was Aaron Tippin. Many of you are familiar with such hits as "You've Got to Stand for Something," "Kiss This," or "Working Man's PhD." But the one song I have always liked by him is "That's As Close As I'll Get to Loving You." There's just something about that song; I still don't know what it is. This was the song that brought out the romance writer in me. Though I never wrote down this plot, I still remember it after twenty years:

A young single woman meets a young man through a friend. He is in town on a break from flight school. Though she does have a boyfriend, they keep in touch, writing to and calling each other (because this was in the days before Facebook and e-mail). The one song they like is "That's As Close As I'll Get to Loving You." When they talk on the phone, they sing it to each other. The young woman eventually breaks up with her boyfriend and tells this young man. He writes her a detailed letter about how he was jealous of him and wanted the chance to go out with her. However, soon after that, he gets into a serious accident and is in the hospital. This young woman visits him. When she goes into the room, he is unconscious. She takes his hand and starts singing the first four lines of their favorite Aaron Tippin song. As she is doing so, he wakes up and recognizes her.

But darn those copyright laws! 

It was a good idea. I know I can always think of some other title and lyrics for it. 

In fact, it's such a great idea. After all, I still remember this twenty years later. There must be something to it. I'm on a roll now with writing romance. How about I tweak this and see what I can come up with?

Patrick Peterson, though I know we haven't spoken since 1999 and you might not even remember me, if you're reading this, in the short time I knew you, you inspired me. Look at what I'm doing now.

Now, for the featured song....

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My Future Retreat Spot

By the end of the first weekend this month, I had everything ready for the big exciting weekend ahead. With all of the busyness involved in it, my husband and I decided to take a vacation afterward. Of course, I took my laptop with me. An author's work is never done. It takes no vacations. I knew where we were staying would be so conducive to writing. I spent as much time as possible writing in the mornings, which is the time of day I write when I'm home.

Something I've kept in the back of my mind to find was my go-to place for a writing retreat. I've kept seeking something out.

Well, my search is over!

I have chosen a cabin at Navy Lake in Lake Altoona, Georgia. 

To be more specific, the best place for me to write in the cabin was the screened-in porch. Though in the four-day, three-night vacation I opened my laptop a grand total of one time, ideas flowed out effortlessly for my work on Twofold Love Comeback.

What I like about the location is, it's not entirely out in the middle of nowhere. Just a mere twenty minutes from the cabin is Kennesaw, a suburb of Atlanta. There are some beautiful parks where I can go for a run or some restaurant I can try.

Now, it's time for me to set aside some money for me to go here on a crisp fall day. Just me, my laptop, and a notebook to write in. Whatever book I'll be working on at that time, I will be sure to mention part of it was written at Navy Lake.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What I Gave Up Today

Many of you who read my posts know that in order to be successful, you have to give up things. For authors like me, if you want to write a book, you have to do or not do things, such as not binge watch your favorite TV program or spend a lot of idle time on Facebook, sharing every good thing you see.

Though I don't watch much TV or spend a lot of needless time on Facebook, the one thing I have had a struggle with since the very beginning is housework. Not a day goes by that I don't wake up thinking about all of the things on my to-do list. I often feel pressured, especially when I'm bursting with inspiration. There are some days where it's easy to put it off, some not so.

I remember first learning this aspect of time management in 2012. Simply put: Write first, then clean. Don't worry about cleaning. It can wait. 

See the source image

Today was one of those harder days. It was my day off from my regular job.  My husband's work attire was unpressed, dinner was uncooked, and there is a sink load of dishes that need to be washed.  Also, due to time constraints I had had over the past week, I hadn't been able to work much on Twofold Love Comeback.  I know too well that if I go many days without working on it (or something), or if I have to watch my time while I write, I'll fall to pieces.  My sanity depended on writing as much as possible today; my characters were screaming at me (those who also write would understand that phrase).

This morning, as my husband and I were talking about plans for today, he reminded me he was going to be at a class this evening. He also reminded me that he was going to get only one ten-minute break. I had to really register what he said about dinner: "Don't go out of your way to fix me dinner."

As hard as it was to not cook more chicken breasts in the skillet, I didn't do it. I had to get over the fact that though my husband has worked so hard today and will have a busy evening, he won't be able to eat any of the homemade food he loves so much.  I loved how he showed continual support for me as a writer. 
I am so proud of myself for practicing this unusual self-restraint. This was a perfect opportunity to practice more of that "giving up," to take it to a higher level.

Therefore, I was able to accomplish the following today:

(1) Get toward the end of Twofold Love Comeback.
(2) Make announcements on Facebook about events I'm going to with my books.
(3) Broaden the options to have my books available digitally.
(4) See about other possibilities for events.
(5) Share a funny excerpt from Twofold Love Comeback on Facebook.
(6) Make this post.

As I'm drawing this post to a close, I can do so knowing I've had a very productive day. I'm satisfied and not frazzled or rushed. Tomorrow, on the other hand...but that's tomorrow. I will now eat the leftovers in the refrigerator, feeling good about not having to cook.

See the source image

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Character Profiles and Movie

I had a non-stop, action-packed Saturday. After a week of hard work at my day job, I decided to sleep in (until 7am). Not long after I woke up, I started a writing project that took longer than expected. After I got done, I ran some errands, cleaned the house, and unpacked a little bit more. It was 7pm before I decided to call it a day.  Since I had been on such a roll, I needed to make myself do that. Since David was out of town, I decided to enjoy a quiet evening at home watching a movie.

This was the first time I had seen a movie at our new home. I immediately decided on The Breakfast Club.  I love all of the '80s teen movies the late John Hughes directed. If I were to ever have any of my books made into a movie, I hope I'd meet a director like him. It seems like every time I watch it, I get inspired. Judd Nelson as "John Bender" just plain steals the show.  His character oozes with myriad ideas and inspiration.

There's something about when he says, "You couldn't ignore me if you tried" that made me get out a few sheets of paper and write two character profiles. I wrote them while watching the timeless movie about the brain, the athlete, the criminal, the basket case, and the princess.

While I'm still working on Twofold Love Comeback, I'm in the beginning stages of writing another contemporary romance book, Writing Soulmates. Leann Foster is a thirty-year old single woman who is a successful middle-school English teacher, but not so in love, for various reasons. She has a volunteer job teaching creative writing at the local library. She meets Brian Eastman, whose daughter Lauren is in this class. He is the lead singer of an emerging heavy metal band called The Beast Clan. The more they talk, the more Brian pursues her. But she has a hard time getting past his personal appearance, which is not what she had envisioned the man for her to look like. Plus, she doesn't want to date the father of one of her students. As they get to know each other, they realize they are supporting each other in their respective creative dreams.

Here are the character profiles for both Leann Foster and Brian Eastman:

Leann Foster's profile, page 1

Leann's profile, page 2

Brian Eastman's profile, page 1
Brian Eastman's profile, page 2

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

This Survived the Move

On February 23rd, I was faced with a challenge.  I had had a few weeks to think about how I was going to do it.  How I had been doing it was comfortable and simple, didn't require much thought.  I needed to think of a creative way to do this.  In that way, I wouldn't experience any heartache or distress.

I had to pack to get ready to move, to another city, to the next chapter of my life.  Though I had a special way to pack our wall clock, the drinking glasses and coffee mugs, the two cake domes, and the pictures (just to name a few things), there was one small thing I needed to pay even closer attention to:  My flash drive.

This contains eight years of hard work.
We knew this move was inevitable, we wanted it to happen.  The whole time, I had wondered where I was going to put this small but valuable device, which has all of my books, both past and present, on there.  

After all, although I can replace any of the fragile items, I cannot come close to restoring eight years of hard work.  Though I had backed up most of my books on Google Drive, I didn't want to lose this flash drive.  

What did I do?  I put it in my wallet; it has a pocket in there that has a zipper.  How can you tell you're a writer?  When you need to find a wallet that has a secure place to put an external hard drive.

This burden, the anxiety of working hard to keep this flash drive during a move, has now been lifted.  I'm now a stronger person, better able to focus on details, and most of all, a more passionate and dedicated writer.  I can't wait to see what even better things I will write.