News and author-stuff, Writing

Welcome Shade for Love!

Yay! I can finally say that the Shades are really out in the world. πŸ™‚

l

This series has been a long time coming. If you’ve been around for awhile, you might have seen promises of the Shades of Beckwell back in 2019. Which was when it would have appeared, except… life. I am definitely a “planner” – I love checking off boxes and scheduling things. But with a combination of factors, 2019Β  – and the of course, 2020 as many people experienced – became swallowed by a void of “well that didn’t go to plan!”

Here, long at last, we have Shade for Love. Plus, since I felt I owed readers for having to wait for so long, two novellas as well! That’s the plan for this series, to alternate longer books – like Shade for Love – with shorter pieces, like Alchemy and Trolled. It means you get more content more frequently, and I’ve found that I love the variety of getting to play with these shorter stories. Plus, more stories! The shorter pieces focus (so far at least) on characters that might be a bit outside the central story line, kind of a “what else is happening while the world is ending?” kind of pieces, and some alternative perspectives. It also allows me to flesh out and play in the world of Beckwell, and I hope you enjoy them as well.

Click here to find the buy links for Shade for Love.

Have you signed up for my newsletter yet? You can sign up here. That’s how you get a hold of Alchemy. πŸ™‚

Did you know that I also love hearing from readers? You can always reach me here, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the books, the characters – and maybe who you think MUST get their own story. Trust me, there are lots in the works!

Thank you for celebrating with me today. Here’s the full cover for Shade for Love, and I look forward to touching base with you here again soon. Until then, wishing you a wonderful week and the ability to find the everyday magic in your world.

Sincerely, Shelly

News and author-stuff, The Journey to Publication, Writing

Cages

A pig face looking frankly at you and telling you that you don’t belong in a cage!

How often have you experienced the kind of overwhelm that comes from feeling that there are so many things you “should” be doing, and that list is so long, you end up paralyzed and end up doing nothing?

I recently finished reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle. She talks about how the cages that society creates for us leave us trapped and stifled, often trying to live definitions of ourselves that come from outside of ourselves. (This is definitely paraphrasing. Go read the book yourself to see what I’m trying to get at. )

Anyway, today after reading something from a friend who’s definitely feeling that overwhelm, it made me think: how many of those cages, especially as writers, are we creating for ourselves?

I mean, yes, there are definitely things that we have to do as writers – write books or write something for other people to read being, likely, the number one thing. But other than that, it feels like so many of the definitions of things we “must” and “should” do is a proscribed list that if we actually obeyed it, we’d have no time whatsoever for a life outside of work… and probably no time to write either.

I do wonder if this is perhaps worse among female author-preneurs, or if it’s prevalent everywhere, but if you’re a writer looking to publish and sell your books, you’ve probably heard of some of the things I mean.

  • You have to be on every social media account that has and will ever be (come on, aren’t you signed up yet for the one that won’t exist until 2023??)
  • You should be active on all of those social media accounts too (but be fresh! Just be you! Keep it real… as you force yourself to follow all of this advice.)
  • You must be constantly building relationships with every person out there (forget actual relationships … or, like, family. Nope. No time for that if you’re doing what you “should” be doing.)
  • Make sure you’re making ads for all of those social media accounts, sell, sell, sell, … but gentle sell, not spam sell.
  • Plus make sure you’ve got ads running on all the platforms (because if you’re making less than $2k a month, you’re a failure!)
  • Have you spent thousands of dollars on classes that promise you THIS is the right answer to make you a millionaire and selling millions of a books a day? (Come on, you didn’t think you actually had time to do things, like, write, did you? And wave to your family through your office doors… if you still have one.)

On and on it goes, and you know what? I’m going to stop, because it’s stressing me out.

And it’s driving me nuts. All of it. And I know it’s driving lots of other authors nuts too.

You want to know the real secret?

There is NO secret.

Nope. Sad, isn’t it? Yep, I was looking for it too… along with possibly the drafting or editing fairies that help get books done when things aren’t going well. But, they don’t exist any more than the perfect formula to sell all those books – no matter how much that workshop costs. Game the system? Sure, you can follow those examples, buy up case loads of your own book and “buy” your way onto the lists. You CAN do a lot of things. But what works for Lizzy P. Author may not work the same for you.

You’re not her.

You’re YOU.

And yes, let me pause and insert here that not all advice is bad advice. Do I take workshops, try to keep learning, try to keep improving in both my writing craft and the business side of my career? Absolutely. Is there lots of great advice and information out there? Yep. That too. Are there many things we can do to tweak our marketing / get better at the business / get better at our craft? Yes, indeed, and there are a few specific ones on my list all the time.

My objection comes when all that advice, when all the things you “should do” stretch into the bars of a cage. When you’re so hemmed in by all those “shoulds” that you feel like you can’t breathe, let alone write the next word, the next sentence, or hardest of all, the next book.

I’ve been there. I fall into that cage every so often. Was there yesterday, as a matter a fact, when all my emails seemed to be screaming at me to “just do this to double your sales” or “just keep up this to guarantee search engine results” and so on. These were legit blogs I follow too, because I usually appreciate their advice. It got me so depressed, I did the bare minimum of words, but tried nothing else, too exhausted by all the “shoulds” that I had to focus on the “could.”

That’s what I usually come back to. What could or CAN I do? What do I WANT to do? And what do I really NEED?

Yesterday, I needed to recharge so I don’t get burned out. I needed to remember there is more to my life than writing.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: sometimes we get terrific advice, but we need to be wise enough to recognize when it isn’t the right advice for us. Perhaps it won’t ever be right, perhaps it just isn’t right because of where we are financially / personally / emotionally / whatever. But it’s up to you to stand up for YOU. To recognize that feeling when your chest tightens, your shoulders tense, and the whole world is demanding more and more, or something is telling you that it just isn’t right for you… just tell that advice “no.” (You’re welcome to use stronger language and swears. Swears are fun. πŸ™‚ I’m just trying to be polite.) πŸ˜‰

Sometimes maybe you’ll need to sit with that feeling for a little while, think about where that resistance to the advice or next “should” is coming from. Maybe it’s child-you deep inside that’s stubbornly insisting “No, I don’t wanna!” And sometimes you need to tell child-you inside that it’s okay, we can still do scary things that will just make us stronger. So sometimes you try some of those things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

But you pick and choose which of those things you try. Ignore the others. Cut down on the blogs and other input you take in that feeds into that stress and fills your head with Shoulds. Connect with people in your field and outside of it, people who care about you, that can help pull you back from the madness of trying to do all the things all the time. You don’t let the Should-Army flatten you down and stop you from doing what you need to do.

And if you’re a writer, you need to write.

You’ll do that too at your own pace, in your own way. You’ll find ways to reclaim and hold tight to the joy of pure creation that is the work, that is writing, because there are days when it won’t feel that way. But you, you will write.

Because you are a writer. And you are free.

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Comparison vs Acceptance of Self

comparisonI saw this quote today, and it truly spoke to me. Likely because it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately, and because I honestly believe it’s true.

Here’s the thing: it’s no great secret that all of us are different. That means the path our life leads us on – personally and professionally – will naturally likewise be different. That’s part of what MAKES us different, and that’s a good thing. Really.

Why, then, would we look at someone else’s journey / successes / experiences and compare them to our own? We aren’t them. Our story isn’t theirs. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

What is wrong is when somehow that comparison is made, and you allow it to lessen the worth of your own story. Or, in your own pain, decide to lessen the value and joy someone else is experiencing.

Last night, I watched the second part of a bio on Frank Lloyd Wright. This was the second part of the bio, chronicling the latter portion of his life and career (part of The Masters series. This is the PBS link, though that’s not where I watched it.) Anyway, a large part of it dealt with how by the age of sixty or so, his career was considered essentially over. New architects from the International Modernist School (forgive me if I’ve mangled that) were gaining in popularity. Evidently, Mr. Wright was said to name flies after some of these new architects…just before he swatted them. He was publicly considered a has-been, and was also public in his denunciation of the new architects and style. Perhaps this was in part the reflection of the video, but it seemed as though he’d let comparison to others stymy his own creativity.

WrightquoteWhatever the case, one of the most inspiring parts was that this was not the last of Mr. Wright. Far from it. In his seventies, he re-booted his career in rather remarkable fashion. He is remembered now as a man who remained true to his own vision, a rebel, and truly someone who forever changed how people thought about architecture and the homes we live in.

Not a bad legacy for a guy killing his rivals in fly-form I’d say.

And how terrible if he had remained in that state, letting comparison and professional jealousy eat him from the inside. Think of the many beautiful master-works he never would have created.

Think of the master works YOU could create if you stopped looking at someone else’s story, comparing your journey to theirs, and instead, got on with your own work and your own journey. They are distinctly yours, and who knows: maybe someone else is comparing themselves to you. Now wouldn’t that be silly?

Your turn: what do you think? How do you move past comparison and get on with respecting and valuing your own journey, your own story?

Uncategorized

Happy 2015!! Sneak up on those goals!

So it’s a brand new year all ready. Are you prepared?

First I always find it pays to look at the last year – while trying very hard to look at things in a positive manner, focusing on what was achieved and accomplished rather than just what wasn’t accomplished. πŸ™‚

Then comes the new year, and for me, since I have rather mixed feelings about January and February (mostly like a post-holiday hang-over and that these are the long, dark months of winter). So, I’ve been “sneaking up” on my goals for the year. Since I know many people have rather mixed feelings about year-long goals and and setting resolutions, I thought I’d share how you, too, can sneak up on your goals. πŸ™‚

Christmas and the holidays can be very stressful and full of excitement. And while it’s wonderful, exciting, and more glittery than any other time of the year, there’s also the inevitable let-down when all the pretty lights go out and we’re left in the dark of January and February. It can be easier to look at the negative in that kind of environment. If you’re not pleased with your progress (you know, since you’re looking at the negative), it can be really hard to see the bright possibility of a new year. Dark questions arise. What’s the point of writing (or whatever it is that you’re doing)? Why am I doing this anyway? Why shouldn’t I just quit and try something else?

Here’s the trick of the sneaking up: don’t treat the questions as rhetorical. Answer them. Yep, you heard me. Those questions that start to get you down? Answer them, with honesty and an open heart. Free-writing or a journal entry that no one else ever has to see is a great start (and it’s what worked for me.)

Yes, at first you may start out in the kind of tone better for a grumpy ogre. But keep writing. Keep opening yourself to the possibilities.

Why do I do this? Because I’m a writer, and that’s what I do. It isn’t all about the marketing, the sales, or becoming a bestseller. It’s about writing, creating a story, and hopefully sharing that story with readers. I continue to press onward in part because I’m more stubborn than is probably healthy, and because I want to send a positive example for my young daughter. What’s the point of writing what I write? Because I believe in it, and because I write the stories that I want to read – even if not everyone is going to love them (the subjectivity of the business), and even if it’s not what everyone else writes. Why shouldn’t I give up and try something else? Because I’m a writer, and it’s too much a part of me to just stop (besides, I did mention that more stubborn than healthy part, right?) πŸ˜‰

As you find your truths by answering these questions, the goals often arise from them. Has one action not resulted in what you want? Well, maybe it’s time to switch tactics. Does something scare you? Maybe you should consider doing it anyway.

And in the end, while I have a few more specific goals, I also have some broader ideas that I want to bring into my life in 2015. I want to live bravely, pushing my own boundaries. I want to build in more fun into my life, for the sake of stress-relief and because hey, fun is good! πŸ˜‰ And I want to act, reaching for my dreams instead of just dreaming about them.

Wishing you power, bravery, and fun in your 2015, along with whatever you work toward. All the best, thanks for reading, and I look forward to chatting throughout the year. πŸ™‚

The Journey to Publication, Writing

DIY Tiara, or Just a Confidence Boost?

It can be easy as a writer, especially an unpublished writer, to get down, get discouraged, and generally Eeyore like. Yesterday, I wondered if wearing a tiara while preparing breakfast and getting things packed for the day, improved my outlook. I was dressed as a princess (for preschool story time, I swear!), but did I feel all that entitled or more pleased?

Then later on, I realized what it was I really needed. I needed to feel like I wasn’t completely inept and clueless. πŸ™‚

So here’s the deal: we spend a lot of time alone, with our writing, typing away at a keyboard. And when we send out work out into the world (as we must if we want anyone else to ever see it), it’s inevitable we’re going to get rejections. Some will hurt a lot, others will be relatively kind. And yes, we know that not everyone will like our work, that the business is subjective. We have to. Still, there’s something dauntingly depressing as all those rejections start to add up. We can start to mistake the fact that our work just isn’t ready, or that it wasn’t the right match for that particular publisher / agent / reader with the notion that either we or our writing are hopeless, worthless, or crap.

Sometimes, all we need is just a little affirmation that we’re not clueless, and that maybe, as we crawl blindly along a path we understand but can’t see, we ARE traveling the right path, we are doing the right things, making the right decisions. And when the path seems especially dark or hopeless, we need to find small affirmations for ourselves that suddenly seem to light everything up.

For me, it was realizing not only do I know what a career trajectory is, I actually have one! πŸ˜‰

Sometimes, it’s an encouraging note added by an agent or an editor. Or the words of your critique partners or beta readers who see something worthy in your writing, especially on the days you can’t. It can be the lightening rod when you figure out that story you love and see it all plotted and laid out in your mind. And sometimes, it’s just going out and having a bit of fun, because seriously, without fun, life kind of sucks. πŸ˜‰

Take heart, move forward, and if you need to, wear that plastic tiara proudly if that’s what makes you feel better. Because you will get to where you want to go, you will achieve your goals if you keep pushing, keep improving, and never, EVER give up. πŸ™‚

Your turn: what helps pulls you back from the darkness and gives you that boost and cheer?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. And Happy Halloween out there, whether you wear tiaras, fangs, or anything in between. πŸ™‚

The Journey to Publication

Taking Stock of the Year

So you’ve survived yet another year. YAY! Glad you’re still with us. πŸ˜‰

And at this time of year, it’s only suitable to start to look back and consider the year. Remember those goals you were supposed to write down at the beginning of the year? Yep, those ones. Go drag them out now, hmm? I’ll wait.

(waiting. Tapping fingers. Playing with iPad.)

Back? Excellent. Now, take a deep breath, close your eyes for a minute, and start to read back over your goals. DO NOT jump to your first conclusion of “gee, I didn’t get this done … or this … or this.”

Instead, check off the things you DID achieve. There are at least one or two in there, right? Maybe expand on it a little, going over how you achieved it, maybe padding the achievement a bit. Did you only get one book written? Yes, but this was exceptional circumstances, and it’s now the best book you’ve ever written, with blood and tears,Β  a steep learning curve, and the potential for bleeding fingers. Did you achieve some of those bigger goals? Woohoo! Celebrate and be happy (though you were celebrating those things at the time, right?)

Now it’s time to start a new list. Write down what you DID achieve this year. If you want to stick to career only goals, or if you want to branch out to all areas of your life, write it down. Did you learn a new language? Paint your house? Do something you’ve always wanted to do? Maybe celebrated a milestone, or completely changed your life with a new child, a marriage, a move, etc.

Now add this to the original list. And take stock. It’s strange to see an entire year summed up that way, and it’s very easy to forget some of the things we have achieved, especially if we’re focused on the negative or perhaps mired in a bad mood at the time we look at the list. And while it can be easy to say it was a “bad” year, or “hard,” guess what buttercup? Most years are. Because that’s how life is, and it’s why our victories seem all the sweeter. So remember gratitude and the wonderful things you’ve experienced this year, and all that life has brought you. And then get ready, set, go, because a new year is about to come, and it’s ripe with potential and waiting for you with all the best intentions.

Happy New Year to you, and may 2014 be a fantastic one! πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading, and see you in the new year.

The Journey to Publication

Check the Sign-posts: How Far Have You Come? 10 Tips for Progress Measurement

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved checking the road signs telling you how far you are from wherever you’re going. Especially when it was a really long drive (here in Canada, most places are a “really long drive” … or maybe those are just my vacations), it’s a half-sign of success when the place you’re headed even shows up on the sign: it means a) you’re on the right road, and b) you can now steadily track sign-to-sign as you continue to get closer.

I think in the rest of our lives – especially as we move towards personal goals – we can do the same thing: check the sign-posts. The problem is that you have to create the signs before you can read them. So, here are my 10 Tips for Progress Measurement – customizable (hopefully) for whatever your goals are.

1. Start at the top. We may all “follow our own paths,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t peek at what someone else has done before us. Find someone(s) who have achieved the goals you want, and via either biographies or simple interviews, discover what steps they took, how they achieved these goals. Your journey may turn our differently, if may be harder or easier than theirs, but they will likely be able to offer tips and steps so you can start to make your “map” to success.

2. Do your homework. Next, start to find more generalized “steps” to what you want to achieve. Do you want to get your book published? What are the steps you need to take to accomplish that? Are their supplemental or added steps you may want to take (like workshops, better honing your craft, conferences, contests, etc)? The library, the internet, other people aiming for the same goal are good resources.

3. Take time for honest self-assessment. Most long-term goals aren’t going to happen overnight (hence the “long” part). Are you really in it until the end? How badly do you want it? This may be the time to craft reasons to yourself why you’re undertaking this goal and why you must succeed that you can reflect on throughout the journey. (See my post on doing just that at: Remembering Why We Persevere: What are your reasons?

4. Write down your goal. This makes it easier to go back to. Articulate precisely and carefully what you want, how you want it, perhaps even a brief statement of how you intend to achieve this. Perhaps your overall goal (like getting published) is actually made up of smaller goals (write book, query agents, sign with an agent, query publishers, etc). The more you break it down, the easier it will be to assess how far you’ve come, and where you need to go.

5. Create your first draft “map” or business plan. You don’t need to have quite all the information yet and this “map” needs to be updated and change as the situation, nuances of your goal and knowledge change, and you learn more from others. Use the steps you’ve gleaned from steps 1 to 3 to create this first draft. Just write it all down – making it pretty and editing comes later.

6. Set a timeline. While it may be impossible to know just how long the journey will be, there are some things you can control. For example, how long are you going to give yourself? Be honest: are you willing to continue with this goal for potentially years into the future? That may be how long it will take. Or, is there a cut-off point? What “points” on your map can be given a timeline? For example, if you’re going to query agents, how many? Over what period? How many manuscripts will you create per year? That sort of thing. The more you ground your plan in actual time, the more it becomes ground into actuality.

7.Β  Refine your plan. Go back to your plan again, and look at the particular points; are any one of the goals on its own too large to simply accomplish? What steps will you need to accomplish each point? Make yourself as clear a map as: “turn right, turn left, straight ahead 3km, then right again, you’ve arrived.” Insert your timelines into these steps. Your “map” should be getting more refined. But remember, while it’s draft 1 or draft 50, it can remain flexible and you can update and change when you need to – just so long as it keeps guiding you in the direction you want to go.

8. Start on the path up the mountainside, towards your goal. Have you packed everything you need? Is your map clear and precise enough to keep you heading straight to the top? If not, go back to the previous steps again; there’s no shame in checking the map or deciding which points are important to watch out for. In fact, checking the map will keep you from getting lost. If you’re all ready, off you go! (See last week’s post on Mountain Climbing in a Fog for what I’m talking about with this mountain-business.)

9. Assess progress and the path ahead. Remember to look back and ahead at the sign-posts. It’s almost as easy to miss our progress as it is to under or overestimate what lays ahead. So, keep your “map” close, referring to it, checking off and celebrating what you’ve achieved while moving on to new points, all towards your overall goal. Watch out for and maintain your deadlines: you’re getting there, step by step. (For more on this, check out: Persevering and Goal Setting, Pts 1 and 2.)

10. Don’t give up. If you never give up, eventually you will succeed. This is something I firmly believe (and have to) and which can help your persevere. If you give up, you can NEVER succeed. If things seem unattainable, perhaps you need to reassess your plan again, and check back on the reasons you set out on this goal in the first place. Have the reasons changed? Has the end-goal changed? Have outside conditions changed? Alter and refine your plan to reflect any of these changes, and get back on that path: you’ll make it, and you’re so much closer to the top that you know!

So, that’s it: how to create your signposts. Does it work for you? Have I missed any steps?

Thank you, as always, for reading. Have a great week, and all the success in your mountain-climbing: I’ll see you at the top! πŸ˜‰