2018: Byeeeeee! Not Sorry to See You Go

To put it nicely, 2018 was not my favorite year.

It wasn’t a horrible year, but it wasn’t great. It could have been much, much better. 2018 was a year with a lot of wheel spinning, a lot of goals that went unconquered, and way too much worry expended on unnecessary things. It was a year of limited adventure, too many days at home feeling like I couldn’t make a dent in my list of things to do. Lots of days where I felt unhappy, overwhelmed, and really just wanted to cry (and did.)

But it wasn’t all meh… there were some good things. Ashes Swept continued to get great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews of Ashes Swept were featured in some digital magazines and book review blogs. I even entered Ashes Swept into a book award contest, and though it didn’t win, it was such a huge step for me–so far out of my comfort zone–I count it as a win anyway.

In the final months of the year, I started to really think about the things that were causing me unnecessary stress and keeping me from accomplishing my goals. I changed some habits, started working on my mindset, began to fix and change some of the things that were no longer working for me. And now, for maybe the first time ever, I’m going into a new year feeling a little bit invigorated. Cautiously optimistic, perhaps, but ready to tackle another trip around the sun.

I don’t put a lot of stock in New Year’s resolutions, but if I had to choose a few, they would be:

  • publish “The Outpost”
  • read one indie book per month
  • read one traditional book per month
  • keep up with social media
  • stress less, relax more
  • move more
  • eat better

2018 Favorites:

Book: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
TV Show: Timeless (Honorable Mention: The Expanse)
Binge Show: Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Movie: Black Panther (Honorable Mention: Isle of Dogs)
Music: Tycho
Game: Covet Fashion
Social Media: Instagram

Have a safe and happy 2019!

One Year Later…

My debut novel, Ashes Swept, was released one year ago today. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since then, but I definitely think I’ve learned a a few things in my first year as a published author. Here’s what I’m taking with me into year two:

It’s an amazing experience.

Okay, well, duh, probably–but honestly, I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing it would be. So many more people have read and enjoyed my book than I ever expected, and it’s pretty freakin’ cool to know so many people have inhabited a place and known people that were all created in my head. That makes it even more exciting (and scary) to do it again!

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

In the beginning, it was hard not to focus on numbers, reviews, who liked it and who didn’t. Now that my “book baby” was out in the world, I wanted it to do well, which also meant really caring about that. But you can also drive yourself crazy by caring too much and watching too closely.

Find your tribe.

Writing, publishing, and everything that happens in between can be frustrating and draining at times, so it’s unbelievably important to have friends in the writing community. Not only can they be valuable resources for advice and feedback, but it also makes a huge difference to know you’re not alone in the things you’re feeling and experiencing.

Advertise later.

I dove right in with facebook ads and Instagram ads, and I probably won’t do that again until I have a few more books in my backlog. Some debut authors may have more luck with it, but I really didn’t feel that advertising made a noticeable difference in my sales. Luckily I didn’t spend too much on it, but that money could have been put to better use.

Stay focused.

I wrote my current WIP (which will be published book #2) during NaNoWriMo last year, and was sending chapters for beta before it was even done. Then my productivity took a nosedive for three months and getting into the swing of things again was difficult. For a while there I was only writing a chapter a month, so I fell way behind on my goal to publish another book before the end of the year. So, while it’s tempting to take a nice long vacation after your book comes out, a week or two is probably enough. More than that and you might lose your momentum.

Be patient.

I’ve been plugging away on book #2 much more steadily these last few months, and I’m getting pretty close to finishing another draft. Then it will go to my other critique partner for review, back for more edits, and then back for critique. Sometimes I get a little antsy because I’m ready to get this book out and move onto the next one, and other times I get a bit disappointed with myself for falling so far behind. But, I’ve also learned it’s important to be patient–not just with myself but with the process. Life happens. Things get in the way and sometimes you can’t write through them. But as long as you get back in the saddle, that’s all that matters.

I’m looking forward to year two and all the adventures it will bring!

September Update

I can’t believe it’s already September!

Now through December is my favorite time of year. I love fall and winter, but living in Florida means experiencing those seasons a bit differently than most. Our “sweater weather” doesn’t typically begin until November, and sometimes not even then. Many of our trees–especially our numerous live oaks–tend to lose leaves in March rather than September. And you’d be hard-pressed to find an apple orchard or a natural pumpkin patch in most of the state. But we find ways to feel fall-ish anyway. I will still happily drink my PSLs and salted caramel mochas, even in shorts with sweat running down my neck. I’ll deck out my home in pumpkins, fall leaves, and autumnal knick-knacks. And I’ll put fall-scented candles on the warmer so the still humid air smells like pumpkin, cinnamon, and woodsmoke. Then, mid-November, I’ll switch it all out for winter decor, even if it’s too hot in the attic to get the boxes down until after dark.

Believe it or not, the end of this month will mark one year since Ashes Swept was published. All during the year I’ve been hard at work on another book, and though I’d hoped to be much further along with it by now, I’m aiming for a Spring/Summer 2019 release. Thankfully, this is the time of year where I tend to write more, so with any luck I’ll be able to get a lot done. Then there’s also NaNoWriMo, and this year would be my ninth in a row. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to do it, though I kind of hate to break my streak when I’m so close to ten in a row.

Here are a few other things…

Currently Reading: Into the Fire, Broken Gears #2, by Dana Fraedrich (and I’m OBSESSED!)

Currently Watching: Steven and I just started Brooklyn Nine-Nine and I’m HOOKED!

Currently Writing: Still on draft two of novel #8 (which will be published novel #2)

Currently Loving: The new “Good Eats” segment on my friend Melissa’s author blog. If you, like me, sometimes struggle to find a balance between making home-cooked meals and getting things done, give her a follow so you can collect some great recipes!

Guest Post: Four Tips to Help You Master Deep POV

I’m so pleased to welcome author Jade Young to my blog!

A lot of the writing I do is very character driven. Therefore my goal is for my readers to connect with my protagonist. I want my protagonist to come alive for them and for his or her thoughts and actions to jump off the page and draw the reader in. Ultimately, I want my readers to feel like they are the protagonist.

That’s essentially what Deep Point-Of-View or Deep POV is. The reader forgets they’re reading a book because it’s written in such a way that they feel like they are living the character’s life. Basically, you the author, do everything you can to remove dialogue tags, filter words, and passive voice. This establishes a deep and emotional connection with readers.

Now, this isn’t the easiest technique to master. It’s so easy to slip back into your regular writing style. However, practice makes perfect and if this is something that interests you, read on for my four tips.

Tip One: Get Inside Your Protagonist’s Head. In order to help readers get lost in my protagonist’s head, it’s essential that I get inside my protagonist’s head first. This means I need to know my character inside and out. I need to understand their goals, motivations, relationships, and other facets of their lives. This will add a level of realism to your protagonist and make them relatable to your audience. To check out my personal five-step process for creating relatable and well-rounded characters click here

Tip Two: Watch out for Filter Words. Filter words are words like saw, heard, thought, felt, watched, etc. If writing in Deep POV, they are unnecessary because they take readers out of the character’s head. The goal of Deep POV is for you to experience the story through the protagonist’s eyes so you need to write the action as it happens. Think about your own life. You don’t go around using filter words so why should your protagonist? Let readers experience story events as a character does. Confused? Here’s two examples:

Not Deep POV: Mary heard a gunshot and saw Eric fall to the ground.

Deep POV: A shot ring out! Mary stifled a cry as Eric’s body fell to the ground in front of her.

Not Deep POV: Eric thought the baby smelled bad. Time for a diaper change!

Deep POV: The baby smelled bad. Time for a diaper change!

Tip Three: Show Don’t Tell. Many of us are familiar with this rule, and it’s interesting to note that in some cases, telling can be effective. However, the goal is for our readers to feel like they are the protagonist and become immersed in their world. Therefore, we want to create dynamic scenes and use our protagonist’s five senses to tell the story. When conveying emotions, describing the setting, or during conversation be sure to stay inside your character’s head and avoid lengthy info-dumps or descriptions. For more information on show vs tell, and how you can master both, click here.

Tip Four: Write in Active, not Passive, Voice. Writing in passive voice can pull your reader out of your character’s head. Why? Because passive voice indicates that something has already been done or is being done somewhere the protagonist isn’t. For example,

Active Voice: The dog bit Katie.

Passive Voice: Katie was bitten by the dog.

Active Voice: Joel hit Nick.

Passive Voice: Nick was hit by Joel.

Note: An easy way to help you identify passive vs active voice is to add “by zombies” after the verb in the sentence. If the sentence makes sense then it’s passive. For example, if we were to use the examples above:

Passive: Katie was bitten by zombies.

Passive: Nick was hit by zombies.

Still confused? Check out this blog post by Kaitlin Hillerich for more examples and tips.

Tip Five: Remove Dialogue Tags. Dialogue tags are common in most novels. For example, “she said,” “he yelled,” “Mary screamed,” “Jack whispered,” etc. Though small, using dialogue tags can jar your reader out of your protagonist’s head and remind them that they’re reading a book. They can also kill the tension. I found an amazing blog post by Laura Drake that explains dialogue rules and can help you effectively delete dialogue tags in your novels. You can read it here.

I hope this blog post was helpful in helping you master Deep POV. If you have any other suggestions, or additional questions, please leave them in the comments down below.

Happy writing!

JadeSmallCroppedJade Young is a blogger, and writing coach, currently working on her debut novel. You can find helpful tips, writing advice, and more information about her services on her website at www.theeducatedwriter.com.


Re-Defining New Adult

I missed it, but there was a conversation on Twitter last week about whether or not to include college-age protagonists in the Young Adult category. From the sound of it, people were evenly split–and since this is something I was already pondering, I know exactly where I stand.

“Young Adult” is a book category featuring protagonists in the 15-18 age range. Although YA fiction is enjoyed by young and older adults alike, it’s often geared toward teenage readers. However, what truly defines YA isn’t so much the age of the characters or target audience, but the novel’s issues and themes. High school drama, first love, increased independence from parents, discovering self-identity,  blossoming sexuality, and facing peer pressure, are just some of the subjects tackled by YA fiction. But now something funny is happening…

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