Musings Over Coffee: Writing to Your Strengths

Years ago, I did the Personality Type test that said I was ENFP, a Campaigner. I posted the assessment results on my blog and then moved on, mainly because while it was cool to be someone who was “a true free spirit,” or “the life of the party,” I had no idea how it applied to my life as a writer.

“More than just sociable people-pleasers though, ENFPs, like all their Diplomat cousins, are shaped by their Intuitive (N) quality, allowing them to read between the lines with curiosity and energy. They tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle where everything is connected – but unlike Analysts, who tend to see that puzzle as a series of systemic machinations, ENFPs see it through a prism of emotion, compassion and mysticism, and are always looking for a deeper meaning.”

-ENFP Personality, the Campaigner, 16 Personalities

Last month, I took a course by Becca Syme called Write Better Faster. It came highly recommended by authors I admired. It took me a while to get into it because I was still in the midst of tackling more projects than I could handle and feeling overwhelmed by them all. It also explains why I have four giveaways for February to celebrate the release of ONE novella.

It comes with the territory of being overwhelmed and not realizing I’d signed up for or set up so many promotions. All while trying to write three stories at the same time.

Anyway, back to Becca Syme’s course. Well, I finally had time to go through the lessons and one of the first things we had to do was take a personality test, the same test I took two years ago.

Guess what? Same result – ENFP.

But this time, Syme, who is also a life coach, explained the results in relation to being a writer or a creative. Her examples made sense as to why a very detailed story outline that I tell myself will take me two weeks to shape into a novel (as I pretend to be someone’s ghostwriter) often has me looking for more new projects instead… oh look! A squirrel!

It’s a vicious cycle but thanks to Syme’s Write Better Faster course, it’s a cycle I recognize doesn’t work for me and never did. The system that works for me is not an outline or an 8-image collage aesthetic. It’s a book cover, one that has my name on it already and the working title.

From that image, I go to town and write the story loosely following Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” and my understanding of Michael Hauge’s “identity to essence” which you can find here. When I’m stuck, I talk out loud to myself. Sometimes I talk to my characters (in my head) and ask them where they’re going with the story so far. Sometimes I write out the scene according to their eyes even if that chapter won’t make it into the final book. It’s my process and it turns out, it falls under my strengths as an ENFP.

I have my eighth-grade English teacher to thank for this, by the way. One day, she handed us a shoebox filled with pictures and she told us to select one picture and for the next half-hour, write something based on the photograph. It blew my mind and to this day, it’s one of the only days I remember from that year other than the one where I almost got suspended for writing an NSFW play months later… but that’s a story for another day.

So anyway, for so long I thought it wasn’t just weird. I thought it was wrong because I didn’t know anyone successful who did it. I mean, the successful authors in my peer group had visual schedules and publishing schedules that went all the way to two years with multiple series and books already outlined and written within the two-month window they allotted and then published. I mean, their systems worked. They rocked and they killed it in terms of sales and ranking. Of course, I wanted to do exactly what they were doing (although some now have ghostwriters to keep up with the crazy schedule).

Did it work?

Well, no, not for me.

So now I know better and accept that my process isn’t weird or wrong. It’s simply what works for me and I’m finally okay with that (I may have said I was okay with it before but I never believed it).

At this point, it’s not about writing or editing faster for me. It’s about letting my personality type work for me and not against me. So if I need a book cover to inspire that next story, then that cover will inspire that story. If I need to talk to myself or to my characters instead of writing the details down, then I talk as much as I want. It’s just the way my wiring works and after two years of trial and error, I’m glad I finally realized that the way I used to write was because of my wiring, my personality.

If you would like to find out how to write better faster, check out Syme’s course. I think she’s got a new one coming up this month. If not, sign up for her newsletter so you can stay updated about the next one. That’s how I heard about it. I signed up after one course was closed and then got signed up to the next one and I have no regrets.

Syme also has a new book out called Writer, You Need to Quit (and no, it’s not what you think).

Here’s the description:

The marketplace is crowded. The industry is moving fast. Everyone has opinions about how you should work and how you should run your business. If you’ve found this book, there’s a good chance you’ve heard them all. So, what am I saying that’s any different?

I’m saying, there are some things we all need to quit doing. What are they? Take a look inside and see.

Of course, you could still click away, and go about your business. Up to you, Neo. Red pill or blue pill?

I’ve coached a lot of writers–from the Uber-successful to the brand-new–and this book is a collection of what I’ve learned from watching patterns. There are some things we all need to quit, and I can tell you why.

So that’s pretty much all the musing I’m doing this Sunday. My coffee’s long gone cold and I might need something to eat before the caffeine hits me on an empty stomach.

What about you? What’s your personality type?

Why Do You Write Love Stories, Mom?

On the drive to school this morning, Lil Dude asked me why I write “love stories.” He’s just turned nine and has seen my books and keeps the first editions of them (the not so steamy ones) on his shelf.

I didn’t answer his question right away. I kinda hemmed and hawed before I realized that I was a bit embarrassed to write love stories instead of serious literary fiction ones. So I told him that I didn’t use to write love stories when I started out. I wrote women’s fiction, historical adventure fiction specifically, and then paranormal stories about vampires, changelings, and ghosts.

He made a face when he heard this but I added that with all the stories I wrote, many readers said the same thing: You write about relationships very well.

So to make a long story short, my readers made the decision for me. Sure, I write stories that have adventure, mystery, even a ghost or two depending on my mood, but in a world where everything needs to be put in categories, genres, and tropes, my readers helped guide me to the right lane.

I write love stories. Real and honest romance, as a few of them have said.

“I like your love stories, Mom,” he said and my day has been going great ever since.

Every Breath: A Valentine’s Day Slice-of-Life Novella falls on the very very steamy side of romance and will most likely not end up in LilDude’s bookshelf, but if you like steamy love stories, then definitely check it out! It’s scheduled for release on February 8, 2019.

Musings Over Coffee: Characters & Relationships We Need to Write About More

Saw this on Facebook but can’t find the source (but if you find it, please let me know) and so far, I’ve written at least eight of these characters although some of their stories have yet to be published.

Right now, I’m writing about a long-term couple who haven’t tied the knot yet. Like, twelve years? They’re not-so-minor characters in Everything She Ever Wanted but a pair that I wanted to write the prequel with which would have started the series properly. Only, I struggled to tell their story from twelve years earlier without giving so much away of what was the back story of Dax’s family and what would make him what he is. And so the early look at the series had to be set aside for a contemporary one instead, one that would lead to something, hopefully, more permanent.

Still, twelve years together and no ring? Is that ring really important?

Guess I’ll find out when I dive back into their world and let you know.

On another note, today is the day that The Replacement Fiancé goes wide to other retailers. Yesterday was its last day in Kindle Unlimited and today, the books went up for review on iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and Google Play. It’s amazing that I actually got organized enough to do all that but I did.

For those of you who wanted to read it but couldn’t while it was exclusive to Kindle Unlimited, here it is and I hope you enjoy Mariah and Logan’s cute journey!

This is such a cute book tackling the best friends to lovers AND fake fiance tropes and I’m quite proud of it. I even created the cover for both the ebook and the paperback. It’s a sweet story that features family as well and I guess I have a thing about featuring families in most of my stories, especially dinner scenes.

And yes, The Replacement Fiancé has one, too.

Ashe and Riley Get New Covers (for the last time)

I really should have been writing but while describing to a cover designer what I wanted on the new covers for Loving Ashe and Loving Riley and then hearing that this wasn’t possible or that wouldn’t come out as good as I’d imagined it, I realized I totally suck when it comes to describing what I want. It’s one of those “it’s me, not you” kind of problems, especially when the resulting commissioned covers look nothing like what I saw inside my head which comes with all the bells and whistles—the atmosphere, the moving images.

So yesterday, I decided to create the covers myself. It meant leaving the world of the Peters family (The Replacement Fiance) and moving back into Ashe and Riley’s world where I always feel like I’m back home again with people I love most in the world. Oops! Did I just admit I have favorites?


So these are the final versions of Ashe and Riley’s covers. Book 1 and Book 2 of the Celebrity series (used to be the Loving Ashe trilogy until I realized that their story just might take more than three books). I already have Gareth’s cover designed and the three look great together. Gareth’s picture is way way younger than he is in the books but that’s okay. Although I can’t show you the cover for Gareth’s book yet, the model’s eyes are just amazing – what I call Paul Newman’s eyes. Remember him?


I was really too young to appreciate Paul Newman in his heyday or see all his movies but when I saw him for the first time on the screen, there’s something about his eyes that you don’t see in still pictures. They’re like windows to his soul and in many ways, that’s how my characters’ used to be revealed in my books, through their eyes, until I realized I needed to stop that. It was getting old. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t go back to focusing on their eyes when I wrote about them.

In my series, Gareth’s eyes are actually green, a detail that holds the key to something important in the series. It also means that the series is one that none of the books really stand alone. They need to be read in order. First Loving Ashe and then Loving Riley. I used to think that one could read Loving Riley first and get the story but that usually led to readers not getting what was happening.

So… always start with the first book in a series. Lesson learned for me and that’s why these days, I always tell people to read the first book first. Don’t skip it. Well, unless you hate it from the get go…


So that’s it for the start of my weekend. I really need to get back to writing the holiday novella again. I’m still stuck at 19k words (now 16k after I got done editing it) and I’ve got 16k more words to go!

How about you? How’s your weekend going?

So Just How Steamy is My Stuff?

Graph created by Lyz Kelly

I’ve been wondering where this post went and thank goodness I found it again. Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered how steamy your stories are, romance author Lyz Kelly made this awesome graphic for what’s hot and what’s not on the Heat Level scale.

The LK you see is her stuff and I think mine goes from Sensual to Steamy for my Liz books and Erotic to BDSM for my Naughty Pen books.

What about you? On the Heat Level scale how how hot do you prefer the books you read or write?

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait…

Guess whose preorder just went live???

Yup! Friends with Benefits goes live in four days and I’m actually really excited! It makes for a hectic release schedule considering my last book was released less than 30 days ago but I’m also playing catch up for the year.

Friends with Benefits was supposed to be released in September and I actually forgot all about it until I was going through my Instagram archives and saw that I’d posted September 2018 on one of my teasers.

But I have no regrets! That’s because I found the best beta readers when I did go back to expand it from 36k words I left it with to 40k words which makes it a short novel! It did mean that the second book of the Holiday Engagement series went on hold but it’s all good.

That’s the beauty of not forcing myself to stick to a release schedule, the one change in my author business that is saving my sanity. So without further ado, let me introduce you to Friends with Benefits, the fourth book in A Different Kind of Love series featuring characters you’ve met in Falling for Jordan, Campbell and Caitlin.


(A Different Kind of Love Novel #4)

I’ve known Campbell all my life. He’s the boy next door and my brother’s best friend. He’s also the only guy I can completely be my geeky nerdy self with.

But when I wake up in his bed the morning after his company holiday party, there are two things I suddenly can’t ignore: One, Campbell Murphy is all grown up in more ways than one, and two, I no longer want to be “just” his best friend’s sister.

But is a fling worth sacrificing a lifetime of trust between families? Or is it worth a shot at something that had always been there all along?


It’s Been Four Years… And Here’s What I’ve Learned

Yup, this month marks four years of publishing for me. I’ve written for far longer than that but when it came to officially publish my books on a site like Amazon, it’s been four years.

I remember making $5 that first month, roughly two books sold given that royalty was about $2.77 per book. After discovering a typo on the first page the following January (shudder instead of shoulder), I unpublished it only to publish it (after editing again) in March 2015.

Finding Sam actually had 4 – 5 covers but this collage template only had room for 3.

Since then, I’ve learned a few things as an author, some painfully:

  1. Have thick skin. While reviews can be lovely, some can be brutally honest. Don’t lash out at the reader. Just go and do something else. Play Candy Crush or something. Write the next book.
  2. Put out the best work possible. That doesn’t mean waiting until it’s absolutely perfect like I did with Loving Riley, released a year and a half after the editor said it was okay to go because I was too scared about revealing a darker side of Ashe Hunter’s character and fearing what readers would think. Refer to #1.
  3. If you’re not happy with your final product, make it better. Change the cover, run it through editing again, rewrite it, even. It’s one of the perks of self-publishing your own books:  you don’t have to wait until the publishing house says when. I go by what bestselling author Russell Blake says about why it’s important to get that book as perfect as can be, even if it means fixing it after you publish:
  4. Write in a series. Yup, you heard me. Write. In. A. Series. That could mean holding off releasing the first book until the series is complete, that way, you can release the next book thirty days later or less. Create that momentum with your new readers and give them the next serving as soon as possible but not more than 90 days. Readers have short attention spans and with the barrage of new authors entering your genre (mine is romance), your books can easily get lost in the shuffle.
    And when you think about it, if a new author’s book has you furiously flipping the pages for what’s next, wouldn’t you want to buy whatever books he/she has to offer? What happens when they realize that you’d only written one? There’s a 50/50 chance you’ve lost that reader… unless you’ve got a good CTA at the end of the book.
  5. Have a good CTA – Call to Action. As soon as the story ends, have a note that thanks them for reading your book and say something about the next one coming up. This is where you can either provide a link to the next book or your newsletter.
  6. Make friends with authors of your genre and other genres. Just make friends. Writing is such a lonely venture anyway, so might as well be lonely with other people like you. Meeting other authors will allow you to brainstorm new ideas and share the highs and lows of being an author. Many co-written projects have come from authors just networking online long before they’ve even met each other in person. There are groups on Facebook that’s just for authors – boy, there are LOTS of them! There are also others off Facebook behind a paywall like Dirty Discourse (and don’t let the cover image fool you into thinking they’re all just erotic romance writers either. They’re from many other genres as well).
  7. Make time to market. This doesn’t mean you’re going to be tweeting Buy My Book! ten times a day or telling everyone to buy your book every time they see you on social media. Yes, you need to make time to market but first, you’ll need to learn how to do it effectively. It means investing the time, money and energy to learn how to market. You can lose your shirt paying for expensive courses, but you can also start by reading the following books, some of which are free. Nick Stephenson has a free book called Reader Magnets: Build Your Author Platform and Sell More Books on Kindle and it’s a good start. To learn how to create effective newsletter campaigns, there’s Tammy Lebrecque’s Author Ninja: How to Become An Author Mailing List Expert. While Mark Dawson’s course is the go-to for Facebook ads, he’s got a free book so you can start building your mailing list, Mastering Simple Facebook Ads for Authors: Find Readers and Build Your Mailing List. There is also Michael Cooper’s Help! My Facebook Ads Suck and for AMS ads, there is Brian Meeks’ Mastering Amazon Ads: An Author’s Guide and M.L. Humphrey’s Easy AMS Ads. If you don’t have a Bookbub author profile, now may be the time to set one up and check out their Bookbub Partners Blog where they feature marketing tips.
  8. Try not to be jealous. This is probably one of the toughest things I’ve had to learn. I was so jealous when I first saw how other authors were doing, especially when I started on Facebook three years ago where everyone just seemed more successful than I was and I just hated feeling so unworthy. They had more followers, more fans, more books… just more of everything. One thing about being jealous of another author is that you truly don’t know what that person is going through in their personal lives. At the end of the day, being an author is a business and you’ve got to put your best face forward even though your personal life might be falling apart. I’ve known authors who were going through chemotherapy while still trying to engage with their readers because it took their mind off the stuff their body had to go through. Some were struggling with raising their family while also devoting time to their author careers while others were going through divorces, and some recovering from accidents. You never know. Envy still hits me sometimes but I just move on to something else instead, like writing my stories.
  9. Learn how to plot. Or not. But seriously. And this is from a self-confessed pantser. Remember the advice about writing a series? Sure, you can do it without outlining a thing, but it’s a lot easier when you make one. So try it out. Learn how to outline your stories and plot what comes next. Break it down. Make a timeline. Check out the Mac OS app Plottr which is saving my ass right now because I can finally see the forest for the trees with the many storylines and timelines I’ve got going between all my series that actually intersect with each other. So, yeah, outline. Plot. Just try it. It just might work for you.

    This is an example of a timeline from their website. If you write a series of books with plots that intersect or even happen parallel to each other, this is a visual learner’s dream!
  10. Take a break. Sometimes you just need a break for self-care. Do it. Don’t worry about the word count. Take care of you first and then come back when you’re ready. I’ve taken breaks. Heck, I’ve taken long breaks, like years and when I returned, I did so with a vengeance. Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder to take long breaks when you want to keep up the momentum of your books though but you got to do what you got to do. Unless you gotta James Patterson the hell out your business (a line I just stole from Michael Anderle), you got to take care of the main employee first – YOU. Hang out with friends, take a walk or a hike, see a movie with your kid, knit a scarf, read a book. Just take a break.
  11. Know that being an author is a business. The act of writing your book is an art. Selling it is not. It’s a business. Specifically, a retail business. That means knowing which hat you’re wearing when you write, market, promote. I still remember the days when I’d say, “But writing is my passion! I have to write! And I want to write whatever I want to write!” These days, I still write what makes me happy – love stories, sexy stories, steamy and sometimes suspenseful stories — but there’s also that part of me that makes sure that there are hungry readers waiting for that next story. One way I learned how to figure that out is Chris Fox’s Write to Market: Deliver a Book that Sells. And no, don’t froth at the mouth. It’s not THAT writing to market. It’s still about writing what you love, just fine-tuning it to where there are voracious readers.
  12. Write that next book. Being an author is tough. You wake up, check your sales and wonder why you’re still doing this when you’re not making enough to live on, but at the same time, you know you don’t want to do anything else. Find your reason for writing and if it’s to be happy, go for it. If it’s to make enough money to send your kid to school, go for it. If it’s to heal the inner scars you carry, fucking go for it. Life is too short not to do it if this is what you really want to do. Find your joy and do it.

Anyway, I better end at twelve or I’ll end up writing a novel. There are many more things I’ve learned, of course, but this is a good start. I also have a book to write (see #12).

What about you? If you’re an author, what have you learned? Care to share?