Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Author Thing (Alissa Grosso)

In January, when the year was still shiny and new, my goal was to focus more on doing the author thing in 2018, and now it's time to look back on the year that was to see how well I did at sticking to my goals.

I'm happy to report that I feel like I did a better job this year at making more time for writing. It's always a struggle for me to balance my creative work with the work that actually earns me a living. I made an effort this year to be better about finding this balance, and I'm happy with the results.

Back in January, I said that I wanted to self-publish two books this year, and I'm very happy to report that I achieved this.

In April my first self-published novel, Unnamed Roads came out. Publishing this YA novel, proved that I still had a LOT to learn about the business of independently publishing books, but I also think it was a good opportunity for me to learn some of the ropes of self publishing.

I said at the beginning of the year that I also wanted to publish an adult novel.

In October I released my debut adult novel, Girl Most Likely to Succeed. Shifting genres and audience, was a big change for me, but I'm very happy with how things turned out, and I was able to take some of the things I learned from self publishing Unnamed Roads and apply it to the publication of Girl Most Likely to Succeed, though I should point out I am still learning all sorts of things.

In one small way I actually exceeded my goals for the year because I published a third book this year as well.

Okay, technically In the Bag is a novella as opposed to a full length novel, but I'm still proud of myself for squeezing one extra book into my production schedule. Like Girl Most Likely to Succeed this is in the adult thriller genre.

So, with all these books out this year, I must be raking in the money, right? Well, not exactly. I still have a lot to learn about being profitable at this self-publishing thing.

In my defense, when I set out my goals for the year, I didn't anticipate turning a profit this year with my writing, but 2019? Well, we'll just have to see what the future holds.

Alissa Grosso shares more details about her author life and business on her Awkward Author vlog and podcast. Find out more about her and her books at alissagrosso.com.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Turning the Page (Jodi Moore)

Last year, instead of sharing my goals on the blog, I selected a word to inspire me. The word was “connect”. There were so many amazing words to choose from, but as an author, this one spoke to me. I have to connect with my readers…to help them connect with their world.

Admittedly, this is a hard blog to write because at the moment, I feel more than a bit disconnected. Last week, I received a call that no one ever wants to receive. My dad suddenly and unexpectedly left this world. 

I’m devastated. Our entire family is. He was a loving father and grandfather. I remember, as a child, standing at the top of our steps and jumping off with abandon, secure in knowing my dad would catch me at the bottom. He always provided that safe place to land. I guess you could say it was a living metaphor of what was to come in my teenage years, where my mom – and thus, the entire family – battled with the challenges of mental illness and the alcohol with which she tried to wash it down.

My dad never let me fall. Ever.

I started to write we never got a chance to say our last goodbye. Or “I love you”. But that’s not true. Because my dad and I were connected. I spoke to him every week (if not more) and though he lived one thousand miles away, we visited him as much as we could. I called him the day before he died to wish him Happy Hanukkah. We laughed. We talked about normal, everyday things. The price of getting a car fixed. Computer issues. Potato latkes. And the great pride we shared in our family.

And at the end, before we said goodbye, we said, “I love you.” We always did.

Of course, since life can be an unruly tangle of extreme joy and pain, the following day I was given permission by my Flashlight Press editor to share that there will be a new Dragon book next May, a board book for the littlest readers called I Love My Dragon.

It’s bittersweet for me. My dad knew it was coming, of course. But what he didn’t know was that it had been dedicated in part to him. It was supposed to be a surprise:

For Mom, who placed that first book in my hand, and for Dad, who helped turn the page.

I truly wish I could place this book in his hand.
Much love and thanks to my editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, our brilliant illustrator, Howard McWilliam, and the entire Flashlight family for making this book, this dedication, possible.

Please hug your precious ones a little harder today. Tell them you love them. Provide them that safe place to land. Connect. It’s the greatest gift you can both give and receive. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and safe holiday season, surrounded by family, friends and love.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Goals (Maryanne Fantalis)

I don't like goals.

I generally don't make them because, once made, they sit there taunting me. They know I will fail. I know I will fail. Let's just all agree that we're just not even going to bother, okay?

I've written about this before. In 2015, I had high hopes. I mean, not really that high. I was going to read some of the books in my house before bringing in new ones. I was going to read Middlemarch. I was going to buy new makeup and revise my NaNoWriMo novel.

Well, at least I threw out the old makeup. Come to think of it, it's probably time to do that again.

My point is, setting goals simply means more guilt. More despair. More self-loathing.

Who needs that, in December or at any other time of the year?

But it's the end of the year, so I'll share good news. Not goals met, but a fervent wish about to come true.

On December 13th, I'm heading back to England for a week to spend time with my oldest. They are finishing their study abroad semester in London and we are going to have a blast seeing historic sites and museums and wandering the city's streets. We will take in a Shakespeare play at the Globe and hopefully we'll take a side trip to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Since I was a little kid, all I wanted was to go to England, the place where all the cool stuff I read about happened: land of King Arthur and his knights, birthplace of Shakespeare, realm of medieval kings and queens, countryside of the rabbits of Watership Down, doorway to Narnia...

And now I'll be going there a second time.

No matter how many goals I failed to meet this year, I cannot be unhappy.

Hope your holidays are joyful, whatever you celebrate, wherever you are.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Year of Unpredictability by Sydney Salter

I successfully predicted that 2018 would be unpredictable.

As a writer who is also a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and until recently a daughter-in-law, I find that writing tropes are mostly useless to me.

I don't write every day.

Yet 2018 was the year that I finally finished the manuscript I started two--maybe three?--years ago. No one can see the places where I wrote a blast of 2,000 words on a great day, or the agonizing spots that took me much longer. No one can see the week I dropped my youngest daughter off at college. The summer mornings I chatted with my 10-year-old niece. Or the words I wrote while watching over my mother-in-law so someone could advocate for her when she could no longer speak during those final days.

I knew that I'd have to be flexible with my writing time, but I didn't realize how taking the pressure off maintaining a writing routine would make me so much happier. I no longer felt that constant tension: I should be... I should be...

I did what I could when I could.

I don't dare predict what 2019 will bring me, but I plan to bring patience and persistence to my work again this next year.

My tortoise collection reminds me that slow and steady wins the race! 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Here's To What's Coming by Joy Preble

At the bookstore where I work, we are always looking ahead, even as we are in the 'now' and even as we are thinking about the previous months and years, balancing, comparing, planning, plotting. How are sales now in comparison to this time last year? How do we hope to be doing next month? At holiday time we do a day by day sales comparison. With event planning and pitching to the publishers (one of my jobs), I am always looking to do more, do better, do the same but tweaked, do different. In business, you do not stand still.

There's a kind of vertigo that results from this sort of continual analysis and planning--you're in the now, marking your progression from the past, but you're also months ahead. I'd barely started ordering books for the holiday 2018 season yet when Valentine's Day titles began to slip into each publisher's catalogues and I had to create a collection on Edelweiss labeled Valentine's 2019.  Tomorrow, three of us will sit down to plan store events for spring break. We'll chat about summer themes, too. We've got events on the calendar well on through May and beyond.

Always we are asking those questions: How are we doing? Where are headed? What didn't work? What can we do better? What do we want? How do we get there?

And so it is with my own year. About a decade ago, I started taking a written accounting, writing a letter to myself in late December or sometimes on New Year's Day. What's going on? How much of it was what I wanted? Where do I want to head? How am I going to get there?

2018 has been a mix for me, as I think it has for many of us. The endless, brutal news cycle doesn't help. I know I'm not the only one who has to get up very, very early while it's still quiet and dark to do my writing before tapping into what the world is doing.

I've struggled with a book that is finally, finally, getting done. Like seriously. I am almost ready to press send!! I love this book so much. Some day you will all read it!

 I've struggled with balance-- of writing, home life, family life, friend life, personal stuff, the book store job (technically part time, but...) and my various teaching gigs and just life. I've felt less than and sometimes right on target and then less than again because the creative life does that to you, or at least it does it to me. I've tried not to compare myself to this one or that one and how their trajectories are going in the same one or two or three year period because there lie sea monsters, you know? Still. I do it anyway. Most of you reading this do it, too, even as we admonish ourselves not to.

And so it's December. As I type this it's starting to rain again outside. It has rained a lot here this year. The House of Pies that was supposed to open in May is now scheduled for some time next year because it's hard to build things when it's always raining. Even things that contain pie!

What do I want for 2019? To be working on a different project or two. To sell a book or two. To keep on with all the things I love-- my goofy, brave friends and my wacky family, and our crazy dog and life.

Did I mention we finally remodeled our bathroom this year? I love my new bathroom.

And okay, I'd like to go to Scotland.  I really want to go to Scotland.

I'll let you know how it works out.

And when I finally get that House of Pies pie.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ho Ho Ho! (Mary Strand)

Holiday greetings!  Happy “Is 2018 Over YET?” to you!

This month, we’re supposed to reflect back on this year’s intentions for ourselves that we laid out back in January.  With great trepidation, I just reread my January blog, which talked about my word for the year - DAUNTLESS - and my grand aspirations for 2018.


Or, as any number of my teen heroines might say, “Holy crap!”

It was a horrid year.  I could end this blog right on that note.

I won’t dwell on what went wrong, aside from pretty much everything.  Bottom line, my left knee has been wrecked all year and wasn’t fixed with my June knee surgery.  Every Single Step I Take Hurts.  (Significantly.)  I currently live a life without sports.  As a result, if you know me, it’s no exaggeration to say that I lead a grim life.

I write funny stuff, so I simply had to quit writing for many months.  (I’ve finally been back at it since late September, but I’m still ramping back up to normal at a Very Slow Pace.)  To try to salvage some fragment of my life, I did pour myself into music this year and, to a lesser but sometimes epic degree, songwriting.  I traveled to Greece and Norway (same trip) and songwriting camp in California.  I saw Harry Potter on Broadway.  (Fantastic.)  I heard a LOT of concerts and gigs.  I played four gigs.

If you think you know me, a little or a lot, you’re probably thinking “But she has a crazy-hectic life and seems to do EVERYTHING.  It must be FANTASTIC.”  Yeah, I hear that all the time.

Nope!  Pretty horrific!  Thanks for asking!  Ha ha.

The thing is, I retreat inside of myself when things go wrong.  Publicly, I tend to be annoyingly cheerful even when being hammered hard with every single step I take.  It’s how I roll.  What people don’t see is the extent to which I retreat into myself during the times that are repugnantly hard.  Like most of this year.

My word for 2018, DAUNTLESS, is written on a Post-It note on the door to my office.  I’ve spent most of this year alternately laughing or cringing whenever I see it.  I’ve been, in fact, daunted by this year.  It was hard.  I survived it, but I didn’t need another painful, “character-building” year in my life.  I’ve frankly had more than my share.

It’s ridiculously hard to write funny stuff when life isn’t funny.  I had to say “Suck it up, cupcake” a LOT this year.  But several friends told me I was still pretty funny for someone who’s so obviously in constant pain.  So maybe I have been a little bit dauntless in 2018.  Either that, or those friends should really cut back on their liquor.

But my word for 2019?  PARIS sounds pretty freaking amazing.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


by Fae Rowen

     I have to admit that 2018 was not the year I'd hoped it would be.

     My word for this year was balance. It should have been pendulum, because my life swung back and forth like my childhood piano teacher's metronome. True, the sum of all those clicks lies in the middle, but there were precious few days that I felt "in balance." I spent a major portion of the year, well, goofing off.

     Not that it was a terrible year. It wasn't. I just didn't get a lot done toward moving myself forward in the areas that I had planned to focus on—in particular, publishing my next book. I did spend time revisiting writing craft books and taking classes. I read books. I indulged in making the cards that I love to give to people, perfecting new techniques and materials. I spent time with friends.

     It would have been a great year if I were in my teens. But I'm not.

   So 2019 will be the year of GOALS.

     Being self-motivated from childhood, I haven't been one to set goals. When I decide to do something, it becomes a priority and all my attention and effort is focused on accomplishing that task. My friends, writing and non-writing, say the same thing about me: Either I'm all in, or I'm all out. If I commit, I commit fully. If I don't, I'm not going to get involved. That was one reason I chose BALANCE for my word for 2018.

     But after a year of bouncing from project to fun activities to shiny new things and back, I am ready to  make two or three goals, print them up on cards, and post them where I'll be reminded throughout the day—every day—to put in my time toward making those goals a reality. It's time to rejoin the adult world. I have things I want to do. Things that must be done before I can move on the the next things on my list of "to do's." And if I continue like I have all the time in the world, nothing will get done.

     The word MINDFUL could be a modifier for my goals. To practice, I have already started asking myself, when I move toward spending an afternoon in a non-goal-oriented activity, "Is this going to accomplish one of my goals?" When the answer is no, I choose to do something that is more goal-oriented. I "just" have to be mindful enough to ask the question.

     I know I need to make my goals reasonable, something I can accomplish, so I'm looking at a combination of short-term and long-term goals. When I finish one short-term goal, I'll be able to replace it with a fresh goal, which I anticipate will be a rewarding feeling.

     Since I'm a newbie to working with goals, if you've got suggestions or advice for me, I'd love some help. Yes, I need all the help I can get with this. This time next year I want to rock this blog! (Oh, is that a goal?)
Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes  that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong.  She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.
A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told.  Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard, putting the finishing touches on P.R.I.S.M. Book Two.
P.R.I.S.M., a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, lies, and love.
You can also visit Fae at http://faerowen.com  or www.facebook.com/fae.rowen or at www.writersinthestormblog.com on the first Wednesday of every month.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Embracing My Goals - by Janet Raye Stevens

Embrace. That’s my word, my guide, my goal for 2018. To ditch doubt, look fear in the face, upend uncertainty and embrace the “new” in new year, maybe not with a vengeance, but with as much energy as I can.

That was me, way back in January, laying out my goals for the year through one key word—Embrace. Now it’s December and our YA Outside the Lines assignment for this month is to take a look at the goals we laid out at the beginning of the year and see if we met them.

So how did I do in embracing the new this year? Not bad, if I do say so myself.

First, I set a goal of completing three new manuscripts in a year and didn’t quite hit the mark. But I was able to finish one manuscript and two short stories. I took a chance and submitted all three to contests or calls for submissions. 

The manuscript, a short contemporary romance called COLE FOR CHRISTMAS became a finalist in, and eventually won, Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart award for excellence in unpublished fiction at RWA’s July conference.

Me, trying to remember to breathe
during my acceptance speech.
It was quite a thrill to accept my award from best-selling YA author Pintip Dunn. Plus, I managed to deliver an acceptance speech in front of a crowd of 1500 other writers without keeling over.

The two short stories I wrote, both mysteries, were accepted for publication in separate anthologies. The Vanishing Volume, which appears in the library-themed anthology SHHH… MURDER!, is a WWII-set short about an inquisitive librarian and a book that refuses to stay where it’s shelved. Echoes, published in LANDFALL, released by Level Best Books, is a contemporary mystery with a ghostly twist.

Next, I started the year with a big embrace of my new pen name. That’s not only worked out, but has also been a total blast. Being Janet Raye Stevens has allowed me to create a writing persona separate from who I am in “real life.”

An unexpected “new” I embraced early this year turned out to be a big move in my writing career. After two years of not much happening on the publishing front, I made the difficult decision to part ways with my agent. Scary, and a huge step, but the right thing to do. I’ve since embraced another new path and signed with a new literary agent. We’re making plans to put my new manuscript on submission in the new year and see what new direction that takes us in. 

Now to hunker down and put together a new to-do list for the coming year – wishing all YA Outside the Liners a great holiday season and many new challenges and goals to embrace in the new year.