IWSG & Literacy Event

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Time for another 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.

This month’s question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Sort of . . . 18 Things started out as another novel. Back then it was a stand-alone & nobody died. The main character had cancer though, and agents stated it sounded too much like a Bucket List Junior or A Walk to Remember. A few suggested I make it a trilogy and somehow throw in a paranormal twist because those were all the rage in YA at the time. The rest, they say, is history!

Speaking of 18 Things, I’ll be promoting it at an author panel & signing at the local Barnes & Noble Marketplace in Fort Myers in two weeks. As many of you will recall, I teach English and have organized author school visits for the past three years. This year is bigger and better with a huge festival featuring 15 authors! These are the authors that will join me at the bookstore in the evening. Most are from around the state, but we have one from Georgia, one from Ohio, and another from New York! If you’re in Southwest Florida, please come on out from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, March 16th! 15% of our author sales will be donated back to my school for next year’s literacy festival 🙂

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#LifeGoals

 

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So 2016 is behind us (thank God). Not only did I lose four family members this past year, but we lost way too many beloved celebrities from my childhood as well, hence the Carrie Fisher quote (and omggg, what great words to live by in 2017!). One of my earliest memories is Jabba putting Leia on a chain and then she strangles him to death while the boys go off to talk. LOVE LOVE LOVE!! I hope she’s finally resting in peace.

I don’t know where you are in this journey called life, but if you’re like me, you’re probably not resting much, and are actually quite busy. As in, you’ve already lost track of days in the new year and what you’ve done with them. You have a list of a million things to do each day and are lucky if you get through five of ’em! So nope, I haven’t started the fourth book in my 18 Things series yet like I planned to over winter break, but that’s okay.

I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to figure out the person I want to be in 2017, and I think that’s my New Year’s Resolution. Just discover who I truly am and be that person instead of trying to impress everyone else. Today I came across this blog post,

Tell Me What You Did Today, And I’ll Tell You Who You Are,

and found it quite helpful, so I linked it above in case you’re interested. May you find peace, love, joy, and health in 2017!~CHEERS!

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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Preparing for the Future

Today’s Question5-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!!

Is It Ready Yet?

Today’s Question: When do you know your story is ready?

When my editor rips it out of my cold dead hands! Seriously, us creative types have a hard time stepping away from the shiny object *ooh, squirrel!*

But what happens when you don’t have an editor? Before I had any publishing contracts, how did I know my story was ready? . . . After I’d had three critique partners take a look at it, then fixed my manuscript  according to their advice. I then shot for two beta readers to read over my novel and give me their feedback. It’s ideal if the betas are prolific readers in the genre you write, and I was fortunate to have that for my 18 Things YA trilogy.

I don’t like spending more than a year on a project, but I know other writers take as much as several years *coughs George R.R. Martin*

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In the end, you have to go with your gut . . . or wait until your editor rips it out of your cold dead hands 🙂

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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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.

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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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Love Is In The Air

It’s February already? Time flies when you’re having fun! February means Valentine’s Day! I know not everybody celebrates this holiday, but hopefully you’ll show yourself a little love this month. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t stuck to your resolutions (especially those writing ones–you’re not alone!), treat yourself to a Starbucks, have a GNO (girls or guys night out), take a long bubble bath, or ignore some chores and read a good book instead! Speaking of good books, I’d like to show the love to one of my favorite authors!

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Melissa Landers, a fellow proud sci-fi geek who isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public (see why I love her?!) just released STARFLIGHT, the first in a brand new sci-fi series from Disney-Hyperion. I met Melissa two years ago at the first reading festival I did to promote my debut YA, 18 Things, and since she’s a former teacher who left the classroom to ‘pursue other worlds,’ I was immediately inspired by her (being a teacher myself).

STARFLIGHT (pitched to her editor as Overboard, a classic romantic comedy, meets Firefly, an amazing show that was tragically cancelled after one season despite the adorable Nathan Fillion) follows the misadventures of Solara Brooks, a penniless felon who indentures herself to her high school nemesis, Doran Spaulding, in exchange for passage to a new world. But when Doran’s memory is temporarily erased, Solara convinces him their roles are reversed—that she’s the master and he’s the servant—and leads him onto a renegade spaceship, where intergalactic shenanigans ensue.

If you love sci-fi adventure served with a side of romance, pick up a copy of STARFLIGHT, available in stores & online. Click here for the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Don’t forget to show some love to all the writers in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, a guy/ninja who is totally out of this world! We post the first Wednesday of every month to share and encourage and to offer a safe haven for writers of all kinds!

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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!

Another Year In the Books

It’s that time again already . . . reflecting on the past year. In preparation, I read my blog posts from last December. 2014 was rather crappy, and I looked forward to 2015 being a lot better. And the truth is . . .

IT WAS AMAZING!!!

It's been a magical year!

It’s been a magical year!

But not for the reasons I anticipated. This time last year I was still really focused on writing. The last installment of my YA trilogy, 18 Thoughts, was getting ready for release, and I anticipated an increase in sales and a fulfillment in my professional life I’d never experienced before.

Except even though I had more book sales this past year than in my previous two years combined, that fulfillment never came. Instead I felt empty and unmotivated in the area of writing. So after my media blitz, I took a break. In the past, if I didn’t have my daily writing time, it’d send me into a FULL DOWNWARD SPIRAL, eating cookies in a corner, nearly ODing on sugar, and making horrible Chewbacca howling noises. Probably not a healthy place to be. But I didn’t write again until mid-July, and then I finished a stand alone novel in a month. In August, school was back in session, leaving no time to edit as I taught eighth grade English for the first time. Maybe I’ll find editing time before 2015 ends (I do have 2 weeks off starting December 18th, but there’s also Star Wars, and NOTHING will take that away from me).

Sooo maybe I won’t.

And that’s okay. I’ve been so focused on writing, writing, writing since 2009 . . . from trying to get a book deal to getting a book deal to honoring that book deal and all it entails. This year, I finally felt like I had my life back. I’ve spent way more time with my wonderful family. I even made my 15yo daughter smile sometimes instead of scowl at me. So yes, this year has been a miracle.

How about you? Any surprises in your life this year? (Good, I hope, not like an unexpected incoming FaceTime or discovering your Starbucks app is empty. There’s nothing more terrifying than that.)

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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!