Saturday, June 25, 2016

Destination: Maine

In the (almost) four years that I've officially been a published author, I've been to a good number of signings, both large and small. I attended the Tennessee Valley Author Event in my hometown of Knoxville, TN a few years ago, and earlier this year, I attended Romancing the Smokies in Alcoa, TN. There are several other small signings in the area this summer that I'm unfortunately missing out on, but this September I'll attend the annual Thunder Road Author Rally in Maynardville, TN.

But I want to travel, you guys. I have a wanderlust a mile wide, a bucket list a mile long, and so much yearning to travel around and see ... everything ... that sometimes I almost ache with it.

I want to travel to events, which should be no problem, as big events and conferences are aplenty in cities all over the US AND abroad. I could just choose one, spend a bucket of money for the privilege of being there, cart a thousand books along with me, and hang out at a trade table between two other authors, looking across the room at countless other authors, waiting to be noticed among the many.

These big events are truly a ton of fun though, don't get me wrong. I first felt recognized at a big event, where someone walked up and didn't recognize me at all, but picked up a copy of Selkie and turned to her friend excitedly to say, "She wrote this! This is that book I was telling you about!" It's indescribable, what that felt like. These events always feel a little glamorous to attend, as I get to meet people in this business that I respect and admire, while interacting and getting to know readers and other authors who respect and admire me. Usually there's lunch, and I get to take a break from daily life for a while to BE something more than the on-demand chef/taxi/stylist/scapegoat for my kids. At these larger events, the mundane aspects of my job that make people think it isn't an authentic career option ("But you're home ALL. DAY. How can you just sit around like that? Isn't it BORING?") fall away, and I'm recognized for what I am, an entrepreneur trying to create something from nothing, both in the pages of my books, and in the various accounts that hold my meager royalty payments for three minutes each month before the money is gone. I'm recognized as a creative, as an artist, as a professional - except of course, for when I crack a stupid joke and someone looks at me like an overgrown teenager whose sneaked into the adult area.

I love those big events.

But I love equally, or maybe even more, the small events. At those events, readers are less intimidated, authors are somewhat less overwhelmed, and it feels a lot more casual even if for the most part, it isn't.

So as my fifth anniversary as a published author approaches, I've been thinking of a way to celebrate the milestone, a way to really cement my sense of commitment to thing that has meant so very much to me.  I imagined how fun it might be to host a very small meet-and-greet styled signing of my own. One that doesn't have readers pouring past anywhere from twenty to over eighty other authors. One that allows us to get up close and personal, to really talk to each other. One that allows me time for a reading from one of my books, allows you time to ask me questions without feeling rushed, and yes, allows time for a small book signing session.

For the past several months I've been running a Google form that asked people to vote on a few things to do with the meet-and-greet, such as where and when I should host it. Currently, the voting form is still open - but there does seem to be a pretty decisive majority so far. The vote options for the timing were December or July of next year (December because that's when my actual anniversary is, and July because that's summertime and no one will have to worry about their flights or travel plans being snowed out or otherwise ruined), and so far, it looks like I'll be traveling next July. As for where I'm going, I actually left that up to you. I voted on the form twice to test it, once on my laptop and once on my phone, both times for December, and each time for different locations. One of those locations was Bar Harbor, Maine, because that's where Selkie is set. It seems that although I got outvoted on when to travel (which works out for the best, I think), the majority is with me on where I'm going. (So if you needed time to make travel plans, that's the plan so far - Maine in July.)

Traveling to Bar Harbor has been a wish of mine for a long time ... I don't know why, but I LOVE Maine and have always wanted to go there. Setting Selkie there gave me a fun way to take a sort of virtual vacation, researching the pier and the sandbar, the island, and the feel of the town. One of the most fulfilling moments I've had as an author was getting a message from a reader local to the Bar Harbor area, who praised my research and was surprised to learn that I had never had the pleasure of visiting Maine at all. I'm so excited to think I'm finally going there, and the fact that my first meet-and-greet will (probably) be held in the very place I chose as the setting of my first book ... It opens up so many possibilities and ideas for the way I'd like to host the event.

I imagine this event as a very small one; I'm bringing a friend who has generously volunteered to come assist me (sadly not the infamous cousin Dana, who doesn't travel and isn't ever likely to), and I'll have the event set up as more of a casual get-together. If Bar Harbor sticks, then we'll probably be having a Selkie-themed event, with door prizes and swag largely influenced by the things and events featured in that beloved story. There will, as I mentioned previously, be a reading from the book, a q&a session, and a small signing where you can purchase books to be signed (or bring books/items you already bought). Likely, there will be a few other little fun things thrown in, too.

But truly, this is your party, your event, and I want your input as the planning progresses. If you haven't voted yet (or I guess if you have but you wanted to vote VERY emphatically), then please click here to help with the first stage of planning my first meet-and-greet.

Until next time,
Happy Reading.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Good Reads

I thought it would be fun to open our first Saturday morning with books. It only seems fair, since it was a love of books that brought us together, right? I usually try to make a point of reviewing everything I read (though I haven't yet solidified the same habit with audio books), and when I read something I think is exceptional, l like talking about it. I mean, really ... who better to share my favorite five star reads with than you, right? Because much as I'd like to think there's someone out there who is so enamored with my books that they never read anything else, I'm honest with myself about how truly voracious most readers are.

And hopefully, you picked up the bit of sarcasm in that last bit. I'd hate to think I made everyone start their Saturday morning with a frown and a vague sense of, "Gee, she's a little too big for her britches, isn't she?" Because for the record, after being sick for so long, I'm actually down a few pounds and somewhat small for my britches. For once.

Anyway. My point was this: I read a really good book recently, and since I know you're all out there reading other books (just to pass the time while you wait for my next one, of course), I wanted to tell you about it.

I read a lot, guys. I read romance, fantasy, mystery, thriller. I read paranormal on occasion, horror, and yes, even sometimes a vampire novel. Seriously, in the absence of a book, I'll read cereal boxes, clothing labels, street signs, facebook ads. I don't discriminate.

Except that I do.

For all that reading though, I've actually become very picky, and every little ''wrong" thing in a book makes me crazy. Typos do it, misused words do it. I hate when there's too much drama or too many characters. I despise cheating in romance novels, and I loathe lots of other obvious plot elements in other genres. So you know, it's really hard for me to find myself drawn inescapably into a story that truly earns a five star rating from me.

Seriously, my last five-star read was in the spring. Hold on, let me check ...

Yep, it was in February, when I read Girl Least Likely to Marry, by Amy Andrews. Since then I've read a number of three and four-star books, I've read a few two-star books, and I've quit on probably a dozen one-star books.

For real, I'm picky.

So I was a little nervous when I started reading JK Ensley's A Dance with Destiny series. It's high fantasy, which isn't my usual genre; I actually had to be told that it's called "high" fantasy!

The story follows a girl named Jenevier as she runs from a curse and ends up on a wild adventure - an adventure that takes her through unimaginable places, where she meets an incredible number of unforgettable people. She loves and hates, she lives and dies. And you, as you read? You love and hate, too. You laugh and cry. You wish and yearn. And you come away with a sense of being changed in some ways. (You can find my actual reviews of the two 3-book boxed sets here and here.)

I'm still writing Selkie II; today I noticed that the story has passed 40,000 words in length so far, and I love this story more and more each time I open it. But it isn't finished yet (although I do have a cover AND a blurb!), so while you're waiting for the next installment of Annie and Malik's adventure, open your heart to Jenevier. I'm sure you'll be glad you did.

Until next Saturday,
Happy Reading.

Friday, June 10, 2016

What's So Special About Saturdays?

In my last post, I wrote about being overwhelmed and a little worn out with my social media obligations, and I shared with you some changes in my scheduling. So far, those changes have made a remarkable difference in my time and productivity, and now I'm feeling much less obligated when I'm interacting online. It's beginning to be fun again, which was something I was sad to have lost - and I'm excited to be carrying these changes into my blog schedule.

For a while now, I've been blogging every "fifth" day; every 5th, 10th, 15th, etc., and each new blog post has been set-up to send automatically to my newsletter subscribers, so they never have to remember to come check the site. But the irregular days have led to a little confusion among subscribers, and more than a little scrambling for me on occasions when I'm not paying close enough attention to the date -"Wait, what?! It's the tenth already?!"

So I've been thinking I'll change it up a bit - blog on a day instead of a date, you know? It'll be easier scheduling for me, and it'll feel more regular and dependable for you. At least, that's the idea.

You'll still be getting the same content, direct from my hands to your screen - but now, I'll be waiting anxiously each Saturday morning for you to wake up and have morning coffee with me.

I love so many things about Saturdays; the blissful luxury of sleeping in, the smooth rich creaminess of an unrushed cup of iced caramel macchiato (without needing to hustle the girls off to school), and the promise of a weekend day - even if I have every intention of working that day away. But now, I can love Saturdays even more, knowing that I'm starting each Saturday with you.

Except for this Saturday of course, because that's just tomorrow - so I'll wait and see you next week instead.

Until next Saturday,
Happy Reading,

P.S. Check out this post from today in my blog history. I'm thinking of doing this again; leave me a comment if you'd like me to.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Social Media - What Is It Good For?

Lately I've been spending most of my effort on just getting well again - many of you already know that the girls and I have been sick offend on for about 4-6 weeks now - but the enforced downtime hasn't all been wasted. I've been thinking hard about what summer will mean for my productivity recently, and that has led to me creating a sort of shedule that will hopefully work for my career AND my family as we move into the summer months.

The summer is a mixed blessing for me as a working mom - my work life suffers majorly when my kids are constantly underfoot, but it's also nice to enjoy hanging out with them a little more as they bask in their break from the daily rigors of school life. Still, the show, as they say, must go on, and I can't just quit for the summer, right? So I've been tweaking the productivity apps that keeping going, changing up my routines, revising my goals ... and of course, still writing my way through Selkie II.

How do my changes affect you? Like this:

I used to use an app called Fabulous as a sort of improvised Habit Tracker, because I couldn't find an actual Habit Tracker that I really liked. When I was bullet journaling on paper last year, l had a basic habit hacker drawn in at the beginning of each month, with grids to color in for accomplished tasks and a color code for mood tracking. Somehow, Fabulous became a work-goals/self-care sort of checklist, and while the self-care part was great, the work stuff became more than a little redundant, especially since I'm now using a time tracker called Jiffy as a sort of improvised time clock. Jiffy lets me break my work hours down to separate tasks, too, which lets me know at a color-coded glance whats working for my writing life and what isn't.

One thing that isn't working is wasting too much time on social media. Until now, I've been logging around 15 minutes a day on Twitter, Facebook, and lnstagram, just seeking out interesting posts and interacting with users of those platforms. Mingling, you know? So an extra minute here, just looking at one more thing there ... and I've lost 45-60+ minutes each day. I also have made a point to be active on my own profiles, with a new post every 3 days to Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Google+. Same post, 4 platforms, so no one ever missed anything or felt left out, right? Honestly though, it started to feel like a chore, and I know you don't want that anymore than I do. Besides, why follow me on Twitter if you're just going to see the same thing you just saw on Facebook - I hate when people do that! But I found myself doing it.

No more; changes are coming that will make my time more worth spending, and your experience more full of original content on all of my platforms - because while I truly believe that my time spent interacting with my readers is time well spent, no one really needs to log an hour a day on social media - especially if that hour is emotionally draining on me AND my followers. 

For an introvert like me, that daily hour was truly draining - that much interaction feels unnatural to me as a quiet person. But also, I truly had begun to feel lost in the crowd, hidden under a pile of algorithms and screaming to be heard in all the noise. The hard truth is that it's ineffective, and I much prefer to speak here for the most part anyway, where you can come listen to me on your own time - at a normal volume and in what feels like a more personal setting.

So, to that end, here's my new social schedule, complete with links so you can follow me to see what I'm up to each day on whichever platform I'm on. (schedule begins on June 6, 2016)
  • Day 1: Twitter. I'll interact with pages I follow, participate in Trending conversations, post book stuff, teasers, or personal news - whichever most fits me for that particular day. Be sure to follow me, and feel free to retweet anything you relate to especially, favorite my tweets if you like them, and send me replies and direct tweets so we can get to know each other.
  • Day 2: Instagram. Again, I'll interact will pages I like and conversations I relate to. Maybe I'll share a photo of my view that day, or one I found online, or even one I created myself. Maybe it'll be a book quote, a song quote, etc. As with Twitter, make sure to follow me, like my posts so I'll know you're there, and comment on my photos so we can chat together!
  • Day 3: Facebook Author: Facebook makes it a little more challenging to actually interact with other pages from my author page, but I will still be posting relevant content on my own page. I hope if you haven't already, you'Il come like my page, and be sure to turn on the notifications - or jump through whatever flaming hoop Facebook is asking everyone to jump through these days. When you see my posts on Facebook, make sure to like them; this tells Facebook that you WANT to see my content. And don't be afraid to leave comments for me, too - I love them, and I always try to answer every singe one.

There are adjustments coming to my blog and newsletter, too, so stay tuned for my next post, where I'll outline the next upcoming change. In the meantime, check out this list of all my social media presences and how I use them. You'll find a new one there that I think you might be interested in.

Happy Reading,