Friday, January 18, 2019

I'm Going to Write and Publish Three Books This Year (Alissa Grosso)

It's January, which is a time for making New Year's resolutions and setting goals. I've set a goal for myself that is at once terrifying and exciting.

I plan on writing and publishing three books this year. I actually did publish three books last year, but two of them were sort of already written. So, this year's goal is a big step up for me.

I've been cautioned by a few people who probably think they're being sensible and realistic, that this goal might not be an attainable one. I'll admit I've even had a few doubts myself.

But that sort of thinking is a sure way to limit oneself. January's not over yet and the first draft of the first book is more than halfway done. I've got eleven more months ahead of me and I plan on using my time wisely.

Don't limit yourself by what others think is realistic and attainable, and don't let limiting beliefs stop you from achieving all that you want to do. So, with that in mind what is your big, limit-crushing goal this year?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Limiting the Limits (Jodi Moore)

We are Cirque-a-holics in our family. From our first experience years ago with Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE (a tribute to the Beatles), we were hooked. The artistry, athletic skill and inspiration filled our minds, hearts and souls to overflowing.

The T-shirts in the gift shop were more than mere souvenirs. The words splashed across them allowed us to take a little piece of it home, to embrace the spirit:

I am ready. The sky is not the limit.

That line spoke to us. Motivated us. It compelled each one of us to move out of our comfort zones, to burst forward, upward! To fulfill our dreams.

Nothing would hem us in. Nothing.

For a long time, I’ve believed that.

I still do.

However, there’s a difference between believing there are no limits and defining your own.

Too often, we make the mistake of boxing ourselves in. Sometimes (for multiple reasons), we accept the limits others have set for us. Other times, a lack of confidence on our part determines the weight of the restraints.

To this, I say…toss that box! Break it down. FLY. The sky is not the limit!

(I know, easier said than done.)

Of course, sometimes limits are important. For example, we need to follow speed limits or risk getting a ticket.

It’s also important to note that sometimes we need to place limits on ourselves for our own health and sanity. For example, I should limit myself to three cookies instead of eating the entire plate. I should limit my screen time to maximize my writing efforts. I should/must limit the amount of energy I spend on toxic people.

Finally, there are variables in this world outside of our control. What became achingly clear to me last month is that the biggest limit imposed upon us is Time.

I’m not talking about Age. As my husband says, “I can’t change age, but I can change attitudes.” Our younger son started studying magic at the age of 4, performing professionally at 12 and won “Best Newcomer/Magicians’ Alliance of the Eastern States” at 15 (incidentally, he’s the one who introduced us to Cirque.) I didn’t get my first picture book contract until I was 50. And the hubby who came up with that fantastic motto? He's entering his fifth decade of providing music by request as a disc-jockey. (And a totally awesome one at that!)

Age does not need to limit anyone.

I’m talking about time itself. The tick, tick, tick of the clock. The rapid turn of each page of our calendars. The amount of time – however its determined – that we, and those we love, spend on this earth.

Last month, I lost my dad. And suddenly, the limits that time imposes upon us hit me like a tsunami. This wasn’t a limit I’d set or could somehow overcome. I couldn’t stop it, swim through it or surf over it.

It just crashed over me.

Our family and friends huddled tight. At first, we cried with shared grief. But then, as we began to share memories, we smiled. We laughed at the funny anecdotes and held the pictures close to our hearts.

You see, it's these memories that keep our precious ones alive.

And so, I shall write the stories…because if there’s anything in this world that’s truly limitless, it’s love.

Friday, January 11, 2019

I Can't... (Maryanne Fantalis)

When the theme of limits was chosen for this month, I groaned. I know I'm supposed to be all happy and upbeat and rah-rah: there are no limits, you can do anything you put your mind to, you just have to believe. Reality TV has made an industry out of this idea. Just don't give up; eventually, someone will see your gift.

And hey, it worked for me. From the time I submitted my first novel to the time Finding Kate got published I spent more than 20 years writing, getting rejections, learning the craft, doing more writing and getting more rejections. I could have given up (and for a while I kind of did, flitting between projects for several years). Getting Kate published took over 5 years all by itself.

So, yes, believing in your dream is important, but let's also acknowledge that it's exhausting to keep believing all the time. "You can do it if you just believe!" has its limits as an effective strategy. Acknowledge that. Give yourself a break from time to time.

As a person with lots of things going well, I know that most of my limits are self-imposed. Take my latest accomplishment, for instance. In December, I sent my latest MS off to my editor. Hooray, right? I should be proud and happy.

Mostly I'm feeling relieved and guilty: relieved because it's finally done, and guilty because it wasn't done sooner. I missed several self-imposed deadlines along the way, and I feel terrible about that. Sure, I was busy with my teaching obligations and shifting into the demands of a new job, but there were plenty of times when I lacked the self-discipline to make sure that the work got done when it needed to.

When it came time to write this blog post, I asked one of my writing group buddies for help. He said, "What if there were no limits?" I wanted to laugh. And maybe cry a little. So much of my life has been bounded by my perception of my own limitations: the things I can't do, or shouldn't do, or won't be allowed to do.

So what I'd like to do this year, as I begin my next novel, is allow myself to think without limits. What if, for this novel, I took baby steps towards thinking that my writing is a valuable and important part of my life? What if I demanded time for writing and took it seriously, professionally?

I'll be honest with you, just writing those words feels like a joke. That right there, those are my limits.

Any advice? Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Limitless...Mostly. by Joy Preble

LIMITLESS is the title of a picture book/gift-type book by Leah Tenari that we sold a bunch of at the bookstore this holiday season. It's a compilation of little bios and lovely drawings of 24 remarkable American women -- ranging from Sojourner Truth to Abby Wambach and a bunch of others in between. It's a fabulous, inspiring book. The basic message? We are, as women and humans, limitless in what we aspire to. We should aim high. Dream big. Don't accept constraints place on us by those who don't believe we can follow our aspirations to the stars.

I believe this. I talk a lot about how I believe this. How you are never too old or too young to follow your dreams. It's how I moved from woman who taught high school English every day and secretly wanted to be a writer to woman who has 7 plus books on shelves and hopefully more on the way. I'm the poster girl for limitless some days-- those moments I have to pinch myself to believe that I am now a person who speaks at conferences and teaches workshops to adults on writing and has actual reader fans who tell me lovely things about my work. My world has broadened exponentially since I decided not to place limits on my dreams. I am lucky and fortunate in so many ways.

But. Here's the thing.

Sometimes, limits are okay.

Sometimes you can only do so much in the hours in each day and sometimes life--jobs, health, family, just plain old exhaustion--gets in the way.

As it seems it was for lots of us, 2018 was a rough year. I was not as productive as I wanted to be, and yet when I go over what I did accomplish this year, the truth is that I was as productive as I could be given all the other things that had to take precedence. 

So. Here's what I think this morning as I realize that maybe the stretch of those limits is why this post is a day late and you, dear readers, were supposed to be pondering it yesterday:

Sometimes we need limits. Sometimes we need to say Hey. I'm pushing too hard. It will get done when it gets done or at least I will take on fewer things that need to get done. I will occasionally walk the dog without revising a chapter in my head and I will not feel like a slacker when I don't get up at 5 am to write but instead get up at 5 am because I like getting up early and this morning I am going to make 3 dozen muffins for a writing retreat and the pages will get done tomorrow. I will close my ears to the endless publishing noise of BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS and I will announce that today I have limited myself to the announcement that yes, I took out an hour to catch up with Outlander and have duly watched Roger Mac get into all sorts of trouble and woes and dear, handsome Jamie Fraser make some monumental errors in judgment. I have gone to the day job and written less than I want to and taken time to cook this really amazing turkey cutlet dish with lemons and capers. I have declared that enough.

Sometimes we need to limit our pace. Resist the impulse to post our word counts and the list of places we are going and the many, many things we will absolutely get done this year because in listing them we convince ourselves that setting no limits makes us somehow more worthy.

And okay, yes, this weekend, I am going to finish this book, finally, months after I thought I would.
But right now, I'm watching the dog curl up on the rug in just the right patch of winter sunlight.
And pressing publish on this post.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Stretching, Limits, Balance by Kimberly Sabatini

As a dancer, runner, a mom, and a writer, I know about the power of stretching. 
Reaching for more, even when you do it in small increments can net large gains over time.

I tend to believe that reaching for the stars--extending--almost always leads to unexpected, positive surprises. 

And pride. 

But I also believe in the power of limits. 

Boundaries are sometimes just as powerful and beneficial as the breaking of glass ceilings.

It's not just about trying to stay in my own lane. 

Sometimes it's about deadlines and expectations. 

And it's about making things fit--understanding your container and not overstuffing.

And sometimes...

“Done is better than good.” 
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

But if stretching AND having limits are both really good things that have positives--how the heck is someone supposed to know when to push and when to sit back?

I think it comes down to balance.

We have to feel our way...
 and constantly reinvent ourselves in order to find our equilibrium between stretching and using limits to their best effect.

We have to be comfortable making mistakes, self-examining our choices and changing directions. 

I'm currently reading a fascinating book that is making me think deeply about these very topics and a ton more...

“Fear can be created quickly; trust can’t.” 
― Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Take all the time you need to keep discovering how stretching, limits, and balance work the best for you. And when you think you have it all figured out--be sure to remember that you've only begun to scratch the surface. You've got a lot more work ahead of you. <3

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Sky’s the Limit (Mary Strand)

Happy New Year!

This month, our blog topic is “limits”: setting them, recognizing them, dealing with them, getting around them, ignoring them, etc.  Basically, how we react to limits imposed on us by ourselves or others.

My first reaction is that I don’t believe in limits.  I definitely reject outright all limits that others try to impose on me, and I generally laugh in their face while doing so.


As I leave in the dust a really tough year, when not one but both knees utterly let me down, it occurs to me that I wound up putting limits on myself.  Sure, I didn’t tend to think of it that way.  I mostly just shook my fist at the universe or declared that I was royally screwed.  (If you spell “screwed” beginning with an “f.”)

Feeling as wrecked and hopeless as I did all year, I simply accepted that I couldn’t write.  At least, I couldn’t write funny stuff, and that’s what I write.  For a few weeks last summer, I did try.  It wasn’t funny and didn’t sound like me, so I finally gave up.  Instead, I worked on revisions to old manuscripts.  I got through two of them.  I also spent more time than usual on guitar and vocals, and I started writing songs.  I discovered that I love songwriting, and it feeds me creatively.  In a big way.

So, basically, I made some decent use of my time in 2018, but I still lost hundreds of hours to the limits imposed on me by my knees.  Which means I let myself be limited by me.

To quote the brave teenage Parkland survivors: I call bullshit on that.

Does Chris Hemsworth have anything to do with limits?
Not that I can think of.  You're welcome.

I don’t believe in limits, whether I set them myself or some jerk tries to impose them on me.  Yeah, yeah, I did let limits attach themselves to me like a psychopathic fungus in 2018, but that was soooo 2018.

In 2019, I get a do-over.  I get to reach for the stars and new book ideas and finished manuscripts and book contracts and playing sports and getting the songs I write into the right person’s hands.  I get to look for success, and find it, in every imaginable way.  I get to set goals that other people say are unrealistic or utterly outside of my control.  I get to dream.  As in, go big or go home.

In 2019, I get to be me again.  And I refuse to let any limits stop me.

Including my own.

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

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Definite Limits, Approximate Limits, Infinite Limits, and No Limits

by Fae Rowen

I have to admit that I giggled when I saw this month's topic. I mean, how can a calculus teacher not be excited about getting to blog about limits?

No worries, you won't be getting a math lesson from me today. But I have to admit that I cannot think about limits without mathematical ideas. So here we go with limits-as they apply to writing.

Definite Limit: A definite limit is an exact number, a constant.

In life, we might call it a hard limit or hard line, something you cannot cross.

Like a deadline for taxes or a job application. Or delivering a book to an editor.

In writing, it's the requirements of genre writing, like the HEA in a romance or red herrings in a mystery. Your publisher expects a clean copy of your manuscript, with zero typos and zero grammatical errors. I have a friend who writes for a New York publisher who requires her to have exactly twenty-two chapters in every book. Not twenty-three, not twenty-one.

As writers, we all have our definite limits about certain words we will not put on the page or types of scenes we will not write. These are all non-negotiable.

Approximate Limit: An approximate limit is the limiting factor in a situation. Let's say you are at the fifty-yard line on a football field, pointed toward your goal. For your first play, you run half the distance to the goal line. Your second play you run half the remaining distance to the goal line. You continue running half the distance to the goal line for as long as you're willing to run. Soon, you're within an eyelash of the goal line, but when you take your next move, you will be half the most recent distance to the goal. You will never reach the goal line, although you will be painfully close to it. Your limit is the goal line.

An example of an approximate limit in writing is the page or word count a publishing house requires. Eighty-five thousand words is a target. A little above or a little below is fine. No one expects you to turn in a book with exactly eighty-five thousand words. If you're writing a thriller, your main character encounters danger and suspense close to the first page. Some set-up may be allowed, but your readers must be on the edge of their seats by the end of the first chapter, which becomes your approximate limit.

Infinite limit: A strict mathematical definition of infinite limit is something (a function) increasing, or decreasing, without bound. In other words, something gets bigger and bigger and never levels off or gets smaller. Wouldn't it be nice if your bank account had an infinite upper bound, and just kept getting bigger and bigger, even if by just a small amount? (Note: Technically, an infinite limit means the limits does not exist, however, that is the mathematical purist view.)

As a writer, I think of the emotion in my story as an infinite limit. It doesn't matter what the emotion is—fear, love, or something else—but everything my characters think, do, say or experience should ratchet up that emotion until the end of the book. Readers read fiction to feel emotion, to make a connection. It is my job to take them deeper and farther along that journey to a satisfying ending, so they can continue feeling and thinking about the story after the last word. They may not remember the plot in two years, but if they remember the way they felt during reading the novel and afterward, I've done my job.

When a reader encounters this infinite limit, they tell others about your books, they put your next book on pre-order.

No Limit or A Limit Does Not Exist: This one sounds scary, particularly if you've ever lived with a teen. It simply means that when you approach a problem from two opposite directions, you do not end up at the same place. Yes, it's like your best argument for your teen to do something turned around to come at the issue from the opposite direction and get an entirely different result.

This is frustrating, even dangerous in real life. It's dangerous as a writer, too, because this is the place that readers talk about throwing the book at the wall. Our logic, our genre promise, our characters, must follow rules—either society's, someone they love (or hate or work for) or their own.

Be very careful in no limit territory in your writing.

But in your writing life, remember that there are no limits. None at all. Whether you're just starting out, ready to begin the submitting process, starting publishing, or continuing an established writing career, you are the sculptor of that career. If you need to learn more about the craft, take classes, read articles and books. If you haven't finished a book yet, finish it this year. If you don't know how to market, attend a conference, talk to other authors and learn how to market your work and yourself. If you can't bear to write one more romance and want to ditch your successful career, decide how you can change things up by putting a twist on your romance idea and write that story in a different genre.

The only way you fail as a writer is to quit writing. That's a definite limit.

How can you remove some of the limits you've put on yourself? 
Do you have someone you can ask for support when necessary?


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. P.R.I.S.M., Fae's debut book, a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, and love is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Year, New You, No Limits - Janet Raye Stevens

Hello, YA Outside the Liners, and happy 2019! Like a gazillion other people, I celebrated New Year’s Eve by gathering with family and friends. And also like a gazillion other people, I ordered Chinese takeout. The evening ended in the usual way, with cheers, toasts, and drinking a cup of kindness for auld lang syne. The takeout meal ended in the usual way too, with a fortune cookie.

“A goal is a dream with a deadline,” my fortune read. 

Appropriate for a writer, huh? Especially with the new year upon us and many new goals being set. I’m pretty sure I can achieve that ‘dream with a deadline’ if I just get my butt in the chair, put my hands on my keyboard, and get to work. Oh, and not get waylaid by one of the words I dread most… limits.

Haha, bet you thought I was going to say “slacks” or “albeit,” two words that make me gnash my teeth in annoyance (seriously, no one under the age of 85 wears slacks and unless you’re penning your doctoral thesis in microbiology or something, never, ever use the word albeit). 

No, the word that makes me cringe is limit, as in things we writers face that limits us reaching our goals. The word that stops us from taking that risk, or turning that small step of an idea into a giant leap. 

The list of limits stopping us is long—here are only a few:
  • time limits (what do you mean one must stop to eat and/or sleep?)
  • family & domestic needs (those dishes aren’t going to wash themselves)
  • physical limits (banging on the keyboard for 8 hours straight may induce oh-my-aching-back syndrome)
  • hitting a creative wall (when you find yourself writing yet another love triangle for your heroine because you’ve run out of other ideas, just stop)
  • and my old friend, procrastination (hmm, when was the last time I dusted the top of the refrigerator? Oh well, can’t hurt to do it again now).

But I find there is no limit more insidious, more efficient at stopping a writer than the Borg queen of all limiting limits: Self-Doubt. That nattering nabob of negativism inside me that says you can’t write that. You’ll fail. You don’t know anything about XYZ. 

That’s the limit I’m constantly battling, and, I suspect, what a lot of writers are battling. 

For instance, I’d always told myself I couldn’t write short, and thus would never be able to write short stories. Truth is, I’d never tried to do it. My internal editor was setting a limit before I could even undertake the task. It was a long battle to overcome that self-doubting inner voice before I could sit down and write my first short story. The result? Nine mystery and romance stories published over eight years. 

Yet I still had trouble calling myself “published.” They’re only short stories, not novels, that limiting voice inside me said. I’ve had to train myself—and dope slap that inner critic more than once—to see the shorts for what they are: a successful forward movement in my publishing journey.

Another example... I’m a dedicated genre-hopper, writing YA, sci-fi, mystery and paranormal. There’s usually a romantic sub-plot in each of my stories, but I always told myself I couldn’t write a real romance, where the love story is the story. 

Until two years ago. 

I had an idea for a contemporary romance, specifically a Christmas romance. Totally not your schtick, my inner voice said. So what if contemporary romance is the most popular sub-genre of the best-selling fiction genre (romance--nearly $1.5 billion in sales for both traditional & indie romances in 2017)? So what if Christmas romances are the hottest selling sub-sub-genre of the contemporary sub-genre of the romance genre? 

I couldn’t write it. 

Or so I thought. I drafted up a two-page synopsis just to get the idea on paper and went back to my revisions on another story. The idea wouldn’t go away, so I sat down and wrote a solid first three chapters, followed by a loose draft that ended up being around 26,000 words. I then returned to tweaking my YA Sci-Fi so I could enter it into the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest for unpubbed romance. 

As I prepped my YA, I waffled about tossing my silly little Christmas story in there too. The pro side of the waffle: the story was perfect for the short contemporary category—romance-y, Christmas-y, sweet, and set in current day and on this planet. The con side of the waffle? At 26,000 words, the story was too short. Not to mention incomplete and as messy as a first draft has every right to be. 

Here’s where the self-doubt and limits came in again. I had one month until the deadline. Though contest entrants are only judged on the first 50 pages, the manuscript has to be complete, and for the short contemporary category, at least 50,000 words. I told myself I’d never make the deadline. It’d be impossible to polish up the entry pages while banging out another 25,000 words, and write a synopsis to boot. 

Then I told that inner voice to quit it. To stop limiting myself and just do it. So I did. The final product was messy but a complete story and I literally typed THE END and submitted the whole shebang five minutes before the deadline. The rest? Well, the manuscript made the finals then won its category, which helped me land an agent who is very excited to get the story out on submission. 

COLE FOR CHRISTMAS goes out to editors in a few weeks. 

Moral of the story—if I’d given into the doubts and fears trying to limit me, I would never have been able to move forward. So whatever idea you have in mind, whatever it is you want to do, my advice is don’t say I can’t. Tell your inner limiter to button its self-doubting lip and say yes

Here’s to a new year of hopes and resolutions fulfilled, challenges accepted and won, new goals, new dreams—and no limits (er, except maybe lay off using the word 'slacks').

So very groovy!