Preparing for the Future

Today’s Question: 5-years

Always good to think ahead, not something that comes easily for most creative types, myself included. As preparation for this post, I read the Ayres’ Christmas letter I sent in 2011. A LOT can change in 5 years. I wrote about how I’d just finished my novel and planned to send it out in February. By June, I would have my first contract for 18 Things. Then came 18 Truths and 18 Thoughts. This year I didn’t write much or publish anything new. I’m in a new teaching position and the struggle is real . . . learning all the new content is a task that occupies all my nights and weekends.

My goal is to write a fourth novel in my series that catches up with the characters as they’re approaching their 10 year high school reunion. (My 20th is sometime in 2017–GAK! Where does the time go?!). Hopefully, I’ll write that one over the upcoming Christmas break and have it published soon. I want to give my fans some closure, as I’ve received many emails, asking what happens to the characters when they’re older. After that, I don’t have it in the cards to publish any more books. I’m completely fulfilled with my new job of teaching English II to tenth graders. Funny thing is that five years ago I was a second grade teacher! If some Jedi Master predicted my future and told me where I’d be right now, I wouldn’t have believed them!

No matter what comes by way, I pray that I’ll stand with courage and faith, knowing God is always there for me. I hope you know that, too 🙂

Where do you see yourself in five years? How do you plan to get there?

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.

Co-Hosts:
Jennifer Hawes
Jen Chandler
Nick Wilford
Juneta Key
JH Moncrieff
Diane Burton
MJ Fifield

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Counting My Blessings

Today’s Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?
What a great question for November, the time of year when we reflect on our favorite things and count our blessings. I’m a people person, so I’d say my favorite aspect of being a writer are all the people, places, and experiences that have come my way as a result of publishing my YA trilogy, 18 Things. Growing up, I had some pretty dark days, and I never dreamed the life I have now would be possible. I’m so grateful for the gift God has placed in my hands, and I love hearing from readers who’ve said my books changed their life. The way written words can transform a soul never ceases to amaze me. I didn’t strive to make my books religious, but I did pray God would use my novels as a vessel through which love flowed outward, touching people the way His love touched me. To see the fruits of that prayer is a humbling experience.
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My first event as a published author. I shared a vendor’s table with fellow members of my local writers group & brought a box of my books to sell. I thought I’d sell one, but I sold . . . wait for it . . . 18!!

And I love meeting other authors, too. Most writers are great at spreading the love, and I strive to do the same. The last three years I’ve spearheaded a literacy festival at the middle school where I taught English, and now that I’ve switched to high school, I’m planning the same event but on a much larger scale. Already, 12 YA authors have agreed to come FOR FREE! Of course, they’ll get lots of book sales out of the event, but it’s just so awesome to see their level of excitement matching the students enthusiasm for this festival. Spreading the love helps me to count my blessings because I’m constantly reminded how supported I am by those around me, and vice versa.
This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.
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The awesome co-hosts for the November 2 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jen Chandler, Mary Aalgaard, Lisa Buie Collard, Tamara Narayan, Tyrean Martinson, and Christine Rains! Thanks for spreading the love, guys!!

Which Way to Go?

Have you ever been at a crossroads in your life and didn’t know which way to go? Both paths have their positives and negatives, and your mind and heart are battling, so they aren’t helping either. When that happens, I pray for a sign of God’s will for me. I pray he’ll guide me to the one path that’s truly for my highest good and the good of those around me. I pray I’ll have the courage to follow his lead.

Two weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house. I’d never hung out at this friend’s house before, but this friend is also a teacher and works at my dream school doing my dream job. Her assistant principal called while I was there, asking if she knew of anyone who’d be interested in teaching tenth grade English for their international baccalaureate (IB) program (she teaches twelfth grade IB).  My friend asked me if I was interested. I was, but I kind of laughed at the offer. After all, I’d only been teaching middle school Language Arts for three years. She convinced me to at least take an interview, so we scheduled one for the next morning.

I was contemplating the new job offer all day, and then my mom showed up at my doorstop around five o’clock. My beautiful cousin, Angie, age forty-one, was dead. She’d traveled 14 hours by car a couple weeks earlier, and unbeknownst to her, a blood clot formed in her leg, eventually traveling to her heart and killing her.

Angie and me

Angie and me. She was a teacher, too. There were 400 people at her funeral. She made quite the impact.           R.I.P.

 

This was the third family member I’d lost in seven weeks. It’s hard to suffer the loss of someone you love, but I also know this is part of God’s plan, too. We’ll all die one day. None of us escapes it. Knowing we’re all part of some bigger destiny takes away some of the pain for me. As I stayed up late that night, too anxious and heartbroken to sleep, I realized the way to move beyond fear is to go through it and trust whatever is meant to be will be. The only reason I didn’t jump at the new job opportunity right away is because of my old anxieties, but God has steadfast belief in the abilities he’s given us, even when we doubt ourselves.

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My new classroom at Cape Coral High School, my alma mater!

I know this blog post isn’t focused on writing, but I think a lot of us, especially in the publishing world, tend to think of success in terms of how talented we are compared to ________ (insert favorite author’s name here) or how much money we make with our books (newsflash: I made $323 last month off 18 Things, so yeah, I’m not quitting my day job any time soon!).

But I think if we’re willing to seek the path the universe lays in front of us and keep moving forward through all the good days and not-so-good days, then that’s the true measure of success.

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.

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In Rememberance

“You saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you traveled until you reached this place.”~Deuteronomy 1:31

One week ago my grandpa passed away peacefully in his  home. He was 80; he was also the last living grandparent I had . . . although I’m thankful he’s not suffering anymore like he had been for the past two years, it’s hard to lose this great generation.

From his obituary: “If you saw Doug out and about, he always had a smile and a story to tell. After retiring, he enjoyed spending time on the water with family and friends. Whether it be at Hardy Dam or Lake Michigan, you never knew where the adventure would take you, but it was always filled with laughter, love, and a memory that would be shared for years to come.”

I hope the same can be said of me when I’m gone. Every time I lose someone here on earth, it reminds me to pray for clarity of my purpose in this lifetime. There are days I feel my life doesn’t have enough meaning or depth, but I try to put my talents and skills to the best use and to show love and grace to others.

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Grandpa in the beginning . . . just starting out on his own.

As writers, we know that every story must have a beginning and an end. A final chapter. God knows our alpha and omega, but he lets us be the authors of our own stories. Each life is a book, not to be read, but a tale to be written. What a dangerous freedom! It’d be much safer for him to dictate our every feeling, word, action . . . but then it wouldn’t be love. Love is chosen. So he hands each child a pen and whispers write carefully. That’s good advice for life and for our fictional stories as well. Write carefully.

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Grandpa in the end. R.I.P.

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.

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I WANT CHANGE!

One of my favorite quotes is:

change

Why? Because I don’t think it’s right to notice or talk about what’s wrong in the world if you’re not going to do something to make the situation better.

As an author, one problem I’ve had with my last two books is lack of reviews.

18 Things, the first book in my YA trilogy, which released in January 2013, has 188 reviews with an overall 4.1 rating.

18 Truths released the following January. Two years later, it has only 50 reviews with a 4.7 rating.

Then, most pitiful of all, is 18 Thoughts with just 27 reviews and a 4.8 rating, which released almost one year ago.

So what did I do over my Christmas break? I was a bad writer (because I didn’t write a word in my WIP), but a very good friend, because I read six books by different authors I know and left a review! Now, most of you wouldn’t know I left you a review because if I use my regular name and email address, the gods at Amazon take my review down because *gasps* I’m a writer. SO WHAT?! I was being the change I wish to see in the world 🙂

A writer lives and breathes by reviews and word-of-mouth! I keep getting all these reader surveys, which are nice, but my inner toddler stomps her feet and yells, “BUT WHY NOT PUT A REVIEW ON AMAZON INSTEAD AND HELP A SISTER OUT?” Because most of these people got my first novel for FREE and are wondering if/when the next two books will be free.

Can you hear my horrible Chewbacca growl from here?

By the way, if you don’t think reviews are important, then you might want to check out Kristen Lamb’s blog. Her last three posts have been about this topic, and I couldn’t have said it better myself (or funnier).

Any of you have insights on getting more reviews? Do you wish to be the change in my world (HA! See what I did there!). If you’d like to read any of my books in exchange for an honest review, just let me know!

Insecure Writer's Support Group

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Enjoying the Journey

Today my baby graduated from elementary school. HOLY CRAP! How’d that happen? Wasn’t she just starting kindergarten YESTERDAY?!

When I considered this post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I thought of how my writer’s journey has flown by in its various stages too. From vomiting ideas onto paper in 2009, to attending my first writing conference in 2010, to getting involved in critique groups in 2011, to querying & entering a contest & winning a contract in 2012, to publishing my first book in 2013, my second in 2014 & waiting, waiting, waiting on sales . . . to finally selling over 25,000 books so far this year after the release of my third novel, 18 Thoughts.

I worked hard toward my goals, just like my daughter did during her formative school years, just as I’m sure you do now and always! So let’s take a moment to be grateful for the journey, to recognize how far we’ve come, no matter how far we still have to go. The start of June is the perfect time to do so with vacations, picnics, barbecues, and that feeling of happiness and nostalgia and carefree attitude that only summer seems to bring.

Which brings me to an announcement . . . You won’t see much of me during the next two months. Thanks to my buddy, Kyle Prue (who gave me the idea), my girls and I are having a “Summer Unplugged.” Quite simply, we’re going to enjoy each other’s company instead of our electronics. I pray God would help us see the blessings right in front of us during this time, because sometimes the busyness & shiny objects of life has a way of obstructing our vision.

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” ~Henry David Thoreau

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month!

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#ReadOrWriteAnywhere Monster Giveaway!!!

 

Summer is about to begin! 

But just because it’s summer doesn’t mean we should stop reading and writing. I’ve teamed up with the YA Chicks and many participating authors on a global campaign to encourage readers, writers, students, and teachers to share pictures all of the places—both ordinary and extraordinary—where they are reading and writing. This is open to all readers/writers of both middle grade and young adult books!

You can also take part in…

A MONSTER GIVEAWAY! 

32 Readers Will Win A Book!

32 Readers Will Win A Book!

I’ll be giving away ONE PAPERBACK EACH OF 18 THINGS, 18 TRUTHS, & 18 THOUGHTS!!!

That’s my ENTIRE TRILOGY!

And there’s more! Authors participating in this campaign aren’t just giving away books, but critiques, swag and/or Skype visits, too!!!

So are you ready?

Drum roll….

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Can you guess where I am?

Here are my 5 clues:

*It’s adjacent to the Caloosahatchee River

*There are lots of bamboo trees around (extra hint: used in light bulb filaments)

*One of the most visited historic home sites in America

*You’ll find the Botanic Research Corporation Laboratory on the property, which was constructed to help discover a rubber tree plant that could grow more quickly in the U.S. (extra hint: think tires)

*Open to the public since 1947, visitors can tour the gardens, the lab, the estate, as well as the museum, which features lots of inventions!

Once you’ve figured out where I’m reading, head over to the YA Chicks site and:

  1. Officially enter the giveaway by inputting each author’s name and your guesses about our locations. Every author location you guess correctly increases your chances to win.
  2. For even more chances, post a picture of yourself reading or writing on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag).

For writer prize packs:

  1. Post pictures of yourself writing in a fun location on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere. Then follow the directions on the Rafflecopter giveaway to let us know you did it.
  2. For even more chances, gather your writer friends together and post a group shot with the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag). And hey, since you’re already together, why not host a write-a-thon?

For teacher prize packs:

  1. Post pictures of your class reading or writing on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag).
  2. Then let us know you did it when you enter the Rafflecopter. If you don’t have a Twitter or Instagram, you can email your picture directly with the picture pasted directly into the email (no attachments–we won’t open them) AND the subject, “Read or Write Anywhere.”
  3. You can also check out the YA Chicks Read or Write Anywhere lesson plan, available on their site.

We will keep the giveaway open from 9 am on May 22nd– 12 pm on May 31st so entrants have plenty of time to hunt for clues.

And I also have an exclusive giveaway here on my blog today! 4 complimentary copies of my 18 Thoughts audiobook! You need to be registered at Audible/Amazon to redeem your prize – if you aren’t, you’ll be prompted to register prior to redemption – but you do not need a paid membership plan.

How do you claim your prize?! Just make sure you like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, then leave a comment below . . . first 4 people to do so get the prize 🙂 (If you’re already a follower, please share this blog post and tag me). Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

Now, what are you waiting for? Get out there and READ OR WRITE ANYWHERE!

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Wholehearted Thanks

For those who have spent a good amount of time writing, editing, researching, polishing, marketing, querying, emailing, networking, sweating, crying, hoping, praying . . . one thing is abundantly clear: Being a writer is not a job for the weary.

Despite the massive amounts of coffee and chocolate I consume on a daily basis to combat tiredness juggling being an author & an English teacher (not to mention a mom and wife), I have moments of absolute cartwheeling, unicorn-over-the-rainbow joy, and one of the them came this past weekend.

It’s not nice to boast, and please don’t think I’m trying to do that. I’m here to say THANK YOU to those who’ve supported me since I first started writing in 2009

Thank-You

. . . and to give encouragement to those who think they’ll never sell any books. I’ve been you.

Soooo imagine my surprise when I discovered I sold a total of 25,679 books sold in ONE MONTH! WHAAAT?!

I know many authors wouldn’t ever think of that number as being a big deal, especially when one considers it’s the result of sales from 18 Things, 18 Truths, and 18 Thoughts combined, not just one novel. But honestly? It’s more sales in one month than all two years of sales combined for me, and it’s a lot better than selling eight copies a month (my all-time low).

So throw your virtual hands up in the air and have a dance party with me, knowing we CAN succeed if we never give up, never lose hope (and maybe consume an unhealthy amount of caffeine). And with my whole heart, I thank you for your support. ❤ ❤ ❤

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This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja Alex J. Cavanaugh. Join us the first Wednesday of every month and post your own thoughts!

We’re All Mad Here

There’s one movie release I’ll be counting down the days to all year . . . it’s just 9 months away (274 days). Can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a hint: I make multiple references to it in 18 Things, 18 Truths, & 18 Thoughts!!!

Force Awakens

It even comes out on my favorite day . . . the 18th!! And some people think there’s no such thing as fate! Blegh.

Today I learned that for those who don’t know a thing about basketball, there’s now a fun little play on March Madness for the geek in all of us! This Is Madness: The Star Wars Character Tournament! You can check out the details here. I’m too late to make my own bracket, but you can bet I’ll be ready to win some awesome prizes next year! Plus, if you’re late to the game like me, you can still vote daily for your Light & Dark Side matchups! Seriously, how did I not know about this before? Apparently the good people of Wookieepedia have done this for the past two years!

One more movie I’m mad about is Insurgent, which features my three favorite words in the English language: Theo James Shirtless!!! And this one comes out this weekend!!

 

Of course, the preview looks like they’ve completely swayed from the book, but as we know, the BOOK IS ALWAYS BETTER! So I’m putting my stick down because that horse is dead. I’ve already bought my ticket to see it tomorrow at 8pm (the AMC here always shows it a day early, which is very nice of them). Besties, Popcorn with sprinkle cheese, and Theo James Shirtless?! What more could a girl ask for?

Do you feel me? Are you counting down the days till the Force awakens? Will you see Insurgent? Does the sight of Theo James make you swoooon?

18 Things FREE + Yours Truly on The Morning Blend!!!

I’m posting a day early this week to let you know that the first book in my trilogy, 18 THINGS, is completely FREE on Kindle until midnight.

As if that weren’t enough excitement, I was featured on a local talk show called The Morning Blend today. Check out the clip below.

 

Also, my blog tour is in full swing. In case you’re interested, you can check out my true life story on instalove over at the Paisley Reader (posted just in time for Valentine’s Day . . . hope everyone had a lovely weekend).

And on Monday, the awesome Gwen Gardner had me share a paranormal scene from my latest novel, 18 Thoughts.

Tomorrow, I’ll be featured on Writerly Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Crystal Collier . . . see if you can guess my lie to win the ebooks of my trilogy!

Finally, if you’re free from 4-5pm on Saturday, join me and several other Curiosity Quills YA Authors for the online #ReadOn Event:

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