Bring It On, 2019!

It’s the 7th of January and although I’m running a bit behind on my resolutions, er, goals, it’s okay. It’s still January.

I’ve got a lot planned on my plate for 2019 and whether or not I get to check them off one by one remains to be seen. But what matters is that I have something to check off, first of all.

I have goals.

For most of 2018, I looked at the world with dread. Dread over current events. Dread over political rumblings. Dread over what’s going to happen next. Dread over someone reporting my books for the tiniest typo and I’d lose my Amazon account. Dread, dread, dread.

Basically, FEAR.

Suddenly the glass was half empty every damn day. There was nothing to refill it and why would there be if my social media diet consisted of checking Twitter every day and getting caught up in one political upheaval after another. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another and while I thought I’d emerge unscathed, I was wrong.

That fear spilled into my writing. I didn’t enjoy any of my releases until the last one, Friends with Benefits, when something inside me pleaded pleaded pleaded, please be happy. You made something beautiful.

I recognized that voice.

It was from the child who wrote her stories to save herself from a narcissistic mother. It was the child who did whatever she could to be seen by her equally narcissistic father. And when she wasn’t heard, she just wrote and wrote because she heard herself. She heard her words and they were beautiful. Full of hope. No judgment.

I heard her.

And who knows? Maybe my son heard her, too, because today, from the back seat, he said, “Mom, can you write a little boy in your story? Someone like me with a mom like you.”

So for 2019, I’m putting the blinders on. I’ve got stories to tell and until the day comes when I can’t tell them anymore, I’ll keep telling those stories, chugging along, giving the same stories that save me each and every day.

SO WHAT’S THE PLAN, LIZ?

The plan so far is to write three novels. Daniel Drexel’s story, Gareth’s, and Todd. There’s also a sequel with Sarah and Benny that’s been in the works for some time.

And then there is Love in Taos, ten steamy shorts that will correspond with certain holidays, slice-of-life stories that go between the books. They’ll have a lot of romance and maybe, steamy scenes.

It’s ambitious, yes, but they’re boxes I’ll check off every time I accomplish one of them. Boxes that will keep me busy.

And then there’s this:

Writing this book was one of the hardest things for me as a writer. I wanted to write so much but I never expected the pushback from alpha readers who hated their version of Ashe Hunter torn down word after word. I didn’t expect the vitriol with some of their reactions and so I gave up on the book, set it aside in my hard drive for a year and a half until my son’s school aide chanced upon it on the Kindle I had loaned her. She said she sat on the couch for all weekend until the Kindle ran out of charge, paced until the device had enough charge to show the book and continued reading.

Because of her, Loving Riley finally got dug out of the box I might as well label FEAR and it would become my biggest, most profitable launch ever, even bigger than all the other books that would come after it combined.

And now Ashe Hunter is coming to life on audio. In the book, he’s originally from northern England in a little town called Reeth close to Grassington and the Dales. Wuthering Heights country. I hope listeners won’t mind hearing the Northern accent in his deep voice but he’s the Ashe I’ve been waiting for all this time (with shades of Sean Bean, too) and I can’t wait to share him with you this year.

Happy New Year, everyone. It’ll be amazing.

New Year Resolutions And A Look at 2018

So it’s 2019 and I see my peers declare their resolutions for the coming year on the forums I frequent. I’m tempted to do that but since I never got around to take a look back at the year that was, I figured I might as well do that first.

This gif pretty much sums up 2018 for me:

 

WTF just happened, 2018?

That’s because I failed to hit 80% of my resolutions from last year that I listed here.

But that’s okay. After all, it’s done. The year is over and there’s no point beating myself up over forgetting every single one of those resolutions, to begin with, including the one about being grateful for five things each day. Reading it again now, I thought, wow, I wrote that?

Instead, I’m going to focus on what I accomplished in 2018.

First, I published three books under Liz: Breaking the Rules, The Replacement Fiance, and Friends with Benefits.

And that’s pretty much it.

After finding myself having a great year in 2017, I spent most of 2018 mired in self-doubt. It didn’t help that 2018 would prove to be a tough year for my author business when sales dipped below 50% starting May and I’d spend the next few months thinking maybe if I put more money in ads, it would help. Unfortunately, what used to work for me before didn’t work for me anymore, and the only thing that helped me get my sales back up again was publishing new books in the last quarter.

Still, the whole thing left me in a depression for most of the year. I was never happy because I wasn’t hitting the same numbers my author friends were hitting, whether it was the number of Facebook or Instagram followers, mailing list followers or earnings.

Fortunately, one of the good things that happened in 2018 was discovering Seth Godin’s This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See. While I’d been taught in the past year to put out minimum viable products (i.e. books that may not exactly be perfect out of the gate but are good enough) and iterate (fix them) as you go, Godin basically says do work you’re proud of. Care enough to give your readers the best product you can possibly make and earn their trust that way.

Instead of publishing minimum viable books once a month so readers don’t forget you or the Amazon algorithm starts working in your favor, produce your best work for that minimum viable audience, i.e. the minimum number of people who will buy what you make and tell their friends about it, the same people who’ll miss you if you don’t show up for some time. These are the people who found your work, loved it and want to see more of it. People who trust that you’ll give them only your best work.

Discovering This is Marketing quieted the monkey mind that kept telling me I should have been making the same five figures a month my peers were making or publishing the 12 books (one book a month) they were pushing out. Instead, it made me look at the three books I’d published under Liz and go, you know, these are three books I am very proud of… and I want to produce more work like that in 2019.

If you’re a knitter, you’re probably familiar with the scarf. It’s called the Hitchhiker scarf by Martina Behm and I need to make myself another one soon because I miss creating things I can actually use. Turns out, a book doesn’t keep you warm but a scarf sure does.

I also want to read more books in 2019. I’ve started with Poldark (Book 1 with Ross) by Winston Graham and the audiobook is amazing. No, I haven’t seen the TV series and have no plans to until after I finish listening to this book. The writing is just impeccable. Another book I just started reading is True Places by Sonja Yoerg and her writing is just luminous. Sometimes I find myself rereading passages because every line is so rich with meaning.

I’ve also started using bullet journals this month. That means writing down stuff and checking them off as I go. The digital versions just don’t do it for me. Writing something by hand just works on my brain differently and more effectively than typing it on my phone or tablet and checking it off.

I do have a full publishing calendar for 2019, including a plan to publish ten steamy shorts under certain holidays. Valentine’s is the first one up which means I have to come up with a story very soon.

This also means I need to limit my time on social media. Easier said than done but I have to do it if I want to write those 10 novellas this year AND three novels for my three series. Hopefully, that’s where keeping a bullet journal will come in handy. I’ve had to write up a Things to Do Daily just to keep track. Once each one is checked off, then it’s time to write.

Come to think of it, thanks to my bullet journal, I just paid two tickets today, one was a street sweeping ticket ($60 ouch!) when the Lil Dude was home sick and it completely slipped my mind to move my car into the driveway and the second is a Metro ticket ($25) for driving in the HOV lane without a permit. I blame that on Siri directing me to the HOV lane on our way to the California Science Museum and by the time I realized what was happening, it was too late.

Sheesh. I really miss old-fashioned Thomas Guides…

Not the prettiest but if it gets the job done, then it’s fine with me!

This Writer’s New Year’s Resolutions

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Can you believe it?

2018 will be here in two days and guess that means it’s time for those new year resolutions! So far, here are mine:

  1. Write more. Just write, basically. I need to hit that goal of 3000 words a day and then edit later. Unless the muse strikes and then I write and edit and write some more. But that’s been a rare occurrence so I’ll just stick to writing it all down and editing later. Although I won’t beat myself up if I only write 1000 words a day or none at all. A writer is never not working. They’re plotting inside their heads. This includes my naughty pen.
  2. Exercise more. I’m finally buying that exercise bike with the attached desk because it only took me six months to decide which one to order. I also have to wait until we take down the tree to set it up.
  3. Stop comparing myself to other authors.
  4. Find five things to be happy about each day.
  5. Spend more time with friends even if it means walking with them five miles to the beach… and back. I’ll just have to recondition myself on that bike desk thingy.
  6. Eat healthy. I miss the days when I became a vegetarian after reading Under The Skin by Michel Faber (the movie with ScarJo was loosely based on the book but you need to read the book to understand what the hell was going on in the movie). That lasted six months and I stopped because I was eating way too much rice and also buying processed meals from Trader Joes which were laden with sodium. This time, it will take planning and while I won’t eliminate meat entirely – I’ll stick to chicken for now – I’ll be incorporating more grains and legumes.
  7. Pay more attention to what the kid needs outside of school-provided therapy. Behavioral therapy, most of all, so he’ll learn how to engage with his peers in a social setting.
  8. Make more art. In fact, after hand drawing over fifty greeting cards for the holidays, I need to go back to digital art and make them into greeting cards.

    Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 9.11.55 PM
    While I can’t sell these for licensing reasons, I can make them for myself and send them as notecards.
  9. Work towards that dream of moving to a bigger home. That means I gotta sell more books which means I gotta write more books.
  10. Be happy. Don’t stress out too much, not even when you accidentally leave your kid still in the cart at Ikea’s cart escalator thingy… (don’t worry, this was years ago and he was fine).

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You Do You, Liz

believe

Yesterday I thought I was on a roll. I had written 1700 words of the new story even amidst the craziness that comes after Christmas. I had my heroine, filled with so much angst I thought I’d hit the jackpot. Woohoo! I was writing my stories again.

Then I went to bed and woke up and realized I wrote utter crap. No wonder even my hero wasn’t so thrilled that I’d brought in this new girl in all her angst-filled glory and (inside my head) he gave me the side-eye as if saying, seriously? 

And so I’m starting over.

After all, with the new year coming in three days, I need to tackle the house first. Tidy up for a change, eliminate clutter and do the laundry. Oh, and donate stuff we don’t use anymore so we’ll have more room.

Today, I also sat down with the kiddo and we talked about what we wanted for the new year. A new home. One that’s big enough for all of us, not a tiny home where we can barely move (But it’s in California where everything is too expensive! It’s right across the street from the Thai restaurant! Walking distance to the kid’s school Blah blah blah). But no matter what, we need a bigger house, maybe an apartment or a townhouse because I can’t be bothered with the upkeep of a yard anymore.

So I’ll probably come up with a dream board where we can cut out pictures from magazines of the things we’d like for 2018 and post them on there as a reminder that we’ve got something to work towards. The kid did say something about me writing more books so I’ll make sure to add that in there, too.

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This shot has nothing to do with dreams but I thought the composition was really nice. Photo from Unsplash.

Speaking of dreams, I was reading a fellow author’s newsletter about how she’s dialing down her writing because her last two releases were disappointing. So I took a peek at those last two releases she was disappointed about and realized that with those rankings, those would be the best months for me.

Then I wondered if maybe my dreams just weren’t big enough. Are my dreams so small that what she considered a disappointment was my measure of success?

And then I remembered a mantra that I’ve been seeing lately…

you-do-you

So I’m doing me. After all, everyone else is taken.

 

The Things 2016 Taught Me

Last year, the green-eyed monster almost did me in. For the first time, I looked up from my keyboard and my stories to see my peers reach their goals in the marketing side of things before I even knew what those marketing goals were – you know, that side that is the most visible to the world. Sure, I’d written many stories and published three books and countless short stories, but the absence of high sales numbers and rankings and orange stickers saying any one of those books was a bestseller in the world’s biggest book marketplace was a huge blow to my fragile ego.

Social proof was not my friend in those early months of 2016 and I froze like a deer in the headlights. I tried to do everything they were doing, catching up with marketing, book promotion and whatever else landed in my line of vision. When overwhelm hit, followed by a lack of results, depression hit and the stories I wrote reflected that. None of them made it to the finish line, every one of them set aside so I could do something else and show proof that I wasn’t just pretending to be an author.

Well, that didn’t work either.

But somehow, somewhere along the way, I picked myself and started writing again. For real. This time, my goal was to finish one book the way I’d finish two, three or four books the years before without batting an eye. I was not going to let 2016 take me down without publishing one book – and not just any book, but a good book at that.

And I did.

And now 2016 is over. It’s done and dusted. It ended on a high note as far as social proof went, but it was still bittersweet. Bittersweet because it came at the cost of my writer’s naïveté, believing that I could always write what I loved and that readers would follow. 

But with 2016’s departure comes wisdom, too. I don’t have to give up my art to write to market. I can still keep doing art but this time balance it with something else: marketing savvy. An advertising budget. A marketing plan. A smart head to go with that creative heart.

It’s adapting to the world before it leaves me behind. It’s growth.

So for 2017, here’s to growth and adapting. Let’s roll with the punches, and welcome the changes. Let’s listen and stop comparing, do and stop whining. Lift your head up from your keyboard and your stories and see what’s going on outside your writerly bubble.

Build your newsletter.

Write more stories. Write short ones to give away.

Master writing ad copy. Imagine listening to that guy announcer who narrates every trailer you’ve ever seen in the theater. Imagine he’s telling your story. Learn how to break it down into fifteen seconds (no, that 30-second pitch doesn’t work anymore), or in 140 characters.

Don’t pay for reviews.  Learn how to market and promote.  Learn how to engage through your newsletter/mailing list.

Make friends. Gather your tribe, even if it’s online.

Read books. And read even more. Don’t be a snob about it; just read.

Be happy for other authors’ success. Retweet, share, reblog their promos. It doesn’t hurt; believe me.

Take courses if you have to but make sure the source is credible. If they say they’re a bestselling author, investigate some more.  Five hundred bucks and more for a course is steep when you learn that many Facebook groups have all that information – for free.

Believe in yourself.

And believe some more.

Write.

Publish.

Repeat.

Happy New Year!

Wow! What a year 2016 has been and here we are, it’s the first morning of 2017 and there’s so much to do! This time last year, I was filled with so much self-doubt I couldn’t write anything worth publishing.  Even the stories I finished and were scheduled for publication didn’t make their deadlines because I was gripped with so much fear and anxiety.

But my fourth book, Everything She Ever Wanted, changed all that.  Middle of the year, around May, something just clicked and got me writing again.  And I didn’t stop until it was finished.  I probably spammed my social feed with it but for the first time last year, I was very proud of something.  I felt good about it, which was a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time.  Even my Instagram feed reflected that happiness.

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And then I wrote another story, Wild Card, and I felt really good about that, too.  At 15K words, it’s short and one day I’ll probably expand it but for now, it feels complete.  I’ve put it into Kindle Unlimited for now but will get it back out to wide distribution after the first three months.  But if you’re on KU, do check it out.  I think it’s a 45-minute read.

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For the new year, my plan is pretty simple.  Anything complicated and I’ll forget them all.

  1. Write and publish more books. At least four, starting with Loving Riley, book 2 of the Celebrity series.
  2. Implement everything I’ve learned about self-publishing, i.e. book promotions and marketing smart
  3. Retire my massage practice for good this year and focus on writing.
  4. Take my little guy on a vacation to New York and Washington D.C.  Oh, and the hubby, too, of course! They both haven’t been to the East Coast yet.

While I do have publishing plans, I don’t have much when it comes to resolutions.  Well, if I do, it will end up just like this: