Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Digging Up Creativity (And Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo)

The last couple of years, my home life has taken some seriously major turns. So has my professional life. And since both are connected to my social life, this pretty much rounds things out into feeling a huge ball of oh-my-goodness-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into? Every. Single. Day.

Being that I’m the creative type, this feeling can get a bit overwhelming at times. Overwhelm tends to send me in one of two directions. Either I dive into my creative side and hide there for an endless amount of time (basically shutting out the rest of the world as I write like mad) OR I focus on the more practical side (like my family, home, etc.) and do NOTHING creative for, well, what feels like an endless amount of time. For me, there is really no happy medium.

This is a problem, given my chosen profession, because if I want to keep my readers happy and interested, I still have to produce books. And if I want to keep my family alive and happy, I have to do things like laundry, and making dinner, and homework and doctor/dentist visits, and driving to school and…you know, I should probably shower and stuff sometimes, too.

It’s a dilemma. And yet…through some of the craziest months of life, I managed to get through editing and releasing DESCENDANT, and then re-releasing it, and then somehow a miracle must have occurred, because I also got BIRTHRIGHT done and released as well. I’m not going to lie. They both took everything I had in me at that time, and then some. To this day, I’m still not sure how BIRTHRIGHT actually happened.

I won’t say I forced it, because that’s not true. But I must have managed to dig deep down and find that hidden box of creativity that was cowering inside me. I wish I could tell you how that happened, but it’s still a mystery.  

If you write, at some point, you will hear (probably a million-billion times) people tell you that you should write every day. I’m not going to agree or disagree with that. I think it works for some people, and for others, not as much. I don’t write every day, even though I do try. But for me, there is serious value in having a deadline. A goal. Something to push me forward. Otherwise, I might hang around waiting for life to calm down, which might mean I never write anything new again.

It’s been a few years since I managed to participate in National Novel Writing Month, but this year, I have not one or two, but THREE huge projects (and a couple of smaller ones) to finish, and my creativity has hit a low again. I think November is just the thing I need to kick me in gear. 50,000 words, 30 days, and half a million other writers urging me to keep going. It’s good incentive.

And maybe somehow, I will find my shovel and dig deep again. Because my books are not going to write themselves.

What about you? What motivates you when you’re just not feeling the creative vibe?

**Stay tuned for a possible very exciting announcement, coming soon. If you haven’t already subscribed to my newsletter, that’s where you should go to be among the first to find out! Also, I may, or may not, be giving away free stuff this holiday season. You can sign up on the sidebar.à

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Because it’s All About that Cover

This week my thoughts keep landing on book covers and how important they are toward a book’s overall success in the current market. Let’s be real. People can preach that old adage over and over again, but the fact still remains. Readers buy books according to a few very important guidelines, the first of those guidelines being what those readers see the first time they pick up a book (or click on the thumbnail).

Ladies and gentlemen, it really is all about the cover.

Yes, there are other guidelines. Is the title catchy? The cover copy (otherwise known as the description of the story) is also supremely important. Word of mouth—because seriously, twelve or thirteen years ago, who would have picked up a vampire romance without being told by countless friends that it was to-die-for awesome? Amazon reviews help a lot these days too, because a book that boasts 200 five-star ratings wouldn’t have those ratings unless it was at least a little bit good, right?

But always, always it comes down to first impressions, and the first thing a reader sees when picking up a book is the cover.

It’s kind of like when people color their hair with funky rainbow dyes. People judge. They might try hard not to, but unless they are the free-thinking creative type, most people have a very hard time accepting differences that are as bold and daring as hot pink hair. Luckily, people don’t generally have to pay to see a person’s hair, but they do have to decide whether or not to buy a book.

This brings me to my main question. What are your absolute favorite book covers this year?

To get this party started, here are a few (seriously, very few) of mine. I’d love to hear your opinions on these as well. Oh, and just so you know, I'm deliberately choosing covers of books I haven't read yet, but want to. 

I love this one because it just shows that this character is broken by her secrets. I don't even have to read the description to know I want to read this book.

Well, of course. It's by Ally Condie, so I know I want to read it. but also, I love the simplicity of the shell, showing the ripples of one tiny touch in the water. And the title font. Love the lines it creates.

This one. The title and cover work together so well to tell me that this story is about the words people say and how they affect each of us, and specifically this character who is holding the mirror and feeling invisible. LOVE.

Clearly I have a thing for water themed covers right now. But I love how these people just seem so out of place just below the surface enough that the sun still shines on them. On this one, I think it's the colors that stand out. And also, again, the title font. 
Okay, now it's your turn. Annnnnddd... GO!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

LDStorymakers Midwest Conference: The Funnest Little Conference Around

You should know by now that I have a thing for conferences and conventions. They tend to scratch my social itch in a way nothing else can quite reach. Because of this, I have been to lots of them. More often as an attendee than a presenter, but with a round view of both, I think.

Over the years, my favorite conference has always been the LDStorymakers conference in Utah. During my very first one, I made some lifelong friends and found myself welcomed into the loving arms of the writing community, even though I was 100% green at the craft. The foundation I found with these people has become a rock to which I have clung through my journey as a writer, and also as an evolving person.

That said, it’s slightly possible I may have some bias toward conferences sponsored by the LDStorymakers. But if that’s true, then it stems back to my first conference with them, in which we had only around 70 people in attendance, and James Dashner taught a class about writing strong supporting characters (during which we had a fascinating discussion about Star Wars—but I digress). If you can picture small classrooms in a small-ish hotel, crowded with hungry, eager soon-to-be authors, that’s what I remember.

And it’s also what I found again at this year’s LDStorymakers Midwest Conference held in Kansas. Small, intimate, and attended by hungry, eager writers who are fighting through the bottle neck of publishing.

Guys. I have SO MISSED that intimate setting. I didn’t realize how much I missed that until I was there. Of course, as always, the classes were stellar, the bookstore run professionally and with a large selection of books, and the offerings fantastic. But even more, the social time was killer.

What else can I say, other than YOU SHOULD GO! If you live anywhere in or near Kansas and are wanting to learn more about writing and publishing, go. If you have to travel a little distance to get there, it’s still worth it.

I could keep trying to convince you, but instead, I think I’ll let some pictures do the talking.
Authorpalooza at the library the Friday before the conference. So fun!

Agent Sarah Negovetich and I entertaining ourselves by organizing Danyelle's bookshelves (thanks for being patient, Danyelle!)

Because it just wouldn't be right without a specialized treat run.
And seriously, what better people to spend the opening night of The Maze Runner than the people who I met the same weekend as James?

And after it was done--late night snacks at Denny's. Because, obviously.

Traveling buddies.

Our authorpalooza panel.

This one is my favorite. It kind of says it all! (aka You will sing, you will dance, you will make forever friends!)

You can learn more about the LDStorymakers conferences (Utah and Midwest) at www.ldstorymakers.com.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Best Intentions

This summer life has clocked me in the head. Literally. As in, no matter how hard I think, my brain cannot compute where the time has gone and how it is not almost OCTOBER. So much for keeping up with my regular Tuesday blogs! Sigh.

But it’s okay. I’m coming to grips with a few things this month, and thought maybe I should share them with you.

1.       Sometimes it’s okay to not be able to keep up with everything you hoped to do. Life is a game of priorities, and sometimes the people in it get to come ahead of and above other goals or schedules.

2.       There is nothing in the world that will put a family of six in an emotional tailspin faster than a two year sequence that involves three big moves (not including my oldest daughter who added one more to that number) across a distance of 1500 miles. It is physically, emotionally, and mentally impossible to keep up with anything else—especially artistically, during this time.

3.       It’s important to live for life’s “ups” in order to make the “downs” more bearable.

4.       Sometimes even the best intentions just don’t add up to reality.

5.       Making my personal writing goals that involve manuscripts have become a much higher priority above blogging.

It’s that number five thing that has kept me from blogging. See, here’s the thing. I had big plans for this summer. I have books to draft and blogs to write, and conferences to attend, marketing to keep up on and, and, and… I’ve discovered that no matter how badly I want to keep up with all these things, the reality is that I can’t do everything, all the time.

So I let this blog slide a bit, and I don’t feel too bad about it because I have instead focused on other writing projects that I hope to see making important progress in the near future.

I very much hope that I am able to get back into a routine and keep up with blogging again this fall. But if I skip some weeks—if I don’t keep up the way I always have—I hope you can forgive me. I hope you’ll continue to come back and read anyway. Because I have come to the conclusion that it is more important to keep up with writing books than it is to stay consistent with this blog. (Though I truly do hope I can juggle both!)

Thanks for sticking with me, friends!

Stay tuned next tuesday for a report on the awesomeness that was the LDStorymakers Midwest Conference! 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Exciting upcoming release: Something About Love by Elana Johnson

Guys! I am SO excited about Elana Johnson's newest release, Something About Love. First, I fell completely, totally in love with her contemporary novel-in-verse, ELEVATED, and while this one is not related, it's done in the same style, and I think Elana is a genius at writing in verse.

Lucky me, I get to read it early! It's at the very top of my list this week as a reward for me finishing an edit I need to finish (but I am SO tempted to read it before then!).

Also, look at the pretty! Is this not a gorgeous cover?

About SOMETHING ABOUT LOVE: High school senior Olivia Winging gave up her love of photography when she gave up her boyfriend, Trevor Youngblood, a year and a half ago. She broke things off with Trevor because her mom married his dad, and dating your step-brother? Creepy. 

Livvy hasn’t been on good terms with her mother since, and one of her stipulations for staying at the Youngblood’s every other weekend is that Trevor can’t be there. When she gets nominated for the Junior Photography in Excellence award, Trevor insists she enter. She agrees—only if every photo in the portfolio can be of him. Knowing that Livvy can capture a person’s deepest secrets through her lens, Trevor hesitates before accepting the deal.

As Livvy gets behind the lens of her camera again, her love of photography is rekindled. Unfortunately, the time she spends with Trevor also re-ignites the old flame for him she’s kept smothered for so long.

In order for Livvy to finish her portfolio, she’ll have to face her feelings for Trevor as well as deal with the animosity between her and her mother. Livvy’s always been able to capture a person’s soul from behind the camera—but she’s not sure she likes it when the lens is suddenly focused on her. If she can’t find a way to forgive her mother and admit how she feels about Trevor, Livvy may end up losing more than just the photography contest. She could lose her heart. 

You can Pre-order SOMETHING ABOUT LOVE on Amazon and also talk about it on Goodreads.

And guys, this is very exciting too. ELEVATED, the book I mentioned above and which is my favorite of all favorites by Elana, is FREE on Amazon September 15-19 as a special promo as SOMETHING ABOUT LOVE releases. Make sure you grab it. You will NOT regret it. Promise.

Praise for Elana’s first verse novel, Elevated:
“The taut poetry keeps tension high. The plot is deftly paced, as past intrudes on present, like a photograph emerging in developing fluid.” ~San Francisco Book Review

“Every word Johnson writes carries an emotional heft that lifts readers up to the highest happiness and then sends them crashing down to the depths of despair. It is easy to flow from the first word to the last without ever putting down the book. Johnson shows outstanding talent in this form, and her words are beautiful, important and deeply felt.” ~The Deseret News

About Elana Johnson: Elana Johnson’s work, including Possession, Surrender, Abandon, and Regret, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), is available now everywhere books are sold. Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for free download, as well as a Possession short story, Resist

Her self-published novels include two YA contemporary novels-in-verse, Elevated and Something About Love, as well as a YA/NA futuristic fantasy series, which includes Elemental Rush, Elemental Hunger, and Elemental Release.

School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or Twitter. She also co-founded the Query Tracker blog, and contributes to the League of Extraordinary Writers.

Social Media Links:
League of Extraordinary Writers: http://leaguewriters.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Catching Up and Coming Back and Summer

Guys! You know how in my last blog I said I was going to take a two week hiatus? And it’s been like four instead. That is just how crazy moving has been for me. We have so much catching up to do!

To save time and space, here’s a quick rundown:

At the beginning of July, my husband was offered a new job that took us from Texas back to Utah. (You know it had to be good to drag me away from my beach!)

I spent the rest of the month packing and preparing to put my house on the market and move my family.

When my husband was finished with his job in Texas, we took a week to visit Orlando, FL, to look at apartments for my daughter who is going to school there (and yes, we did visit Disney and Universal, because—obviously.)

I finally got to visit Hogwarts!

Immediately after returning from Florida, it was time to move. Since our movers fell through at the last minute (their fault, not ours), we improvised. I learned to tow like a BOSS! While transporting a small zoo (2 dogs, a cat, a rabbit, 3 kids, 2 adults).

We arrived in Utah, and immediately picked up this beautiful family member—which we have missed tremendously. (Yes, I am a water person, clearly.)

A short week after arriving, it was time to move my daughter to Florida. So she and I took an epic road trip.

On my returning flight, I *finally* started editing a project I planned to have finished in June.

Last week, my kids started school, and I have been catching up on sleep. This week, I am BACK TO EDITING AND WRITING!

And on September 19-20 I will be visiting Kansas City, KS to present at the LDStorymakers Midwest Conference. There is a massive Author event at a local library the afternoon of September 19th, so if you’re in the area, definitely stop by and say hi!

 *deep breath* That’s a lot of stuff, y’all!

I am now back to blogging, and writing, and all that fun author stuff. I’m going to stick with my current once-a-week posting on Tuesdays for now, but if you want to hear from me more often, you can always follow me on Facebook, where I post a little more frequently, but not obnoxiously so (I hope). Also, for the most up-to-date news and contests, I’d love to have you sign up for my author newsletter (sign up on the sidebar thereà).

And now that I’ve caught you all up on what’s happening with me, what did you do this summer? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


For the next two weeks, I am taking a short hiatus while we take a little trip and then finish our big move. I am so glad you stopped by to read, so I thought I'd share this lovely shot I took a couple weeks ago as my husband and I headed home from South Padre Island, Texas.

Here's a little writing prompt to go with it:

You have two characters, in a car, on this road. Who are they? Where are they going, and what happened earlier in the day that led them to this place, at this exact time?