I have to make a change for the better.

‘Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.’ – Lao Tzu

Things around here are changing… again.

It seems like I do this at least once a quarter. Blame my artistic temperament; I have always been a shifty little chameleon.

purple and blue caterpillar on white background

Things on the blog from now until the next metamorphosis will be a little different. I will be posting a once-monthly update, sales, occasional free fiction, and the book reviews I already have queued up.

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I need the time I spend blogging and handling social media to be writing, editing, and reading. I need to brainstorm and pitch. I want to explore guest posting and critique groups. And I just don’t have the time with everything going on in my life. Unfortunately, frequent blogging is one of the things I have chosen to let go of in favor of these new things.

As always, thanks for understanding, glorious readers.

If you want to be notified when I make a new blog post, you can now subscribe! Click over on the side of the page where it says GET EMAILS to be notified when I post. If you also want free books, updates, and special offers not available to anyone else, you should definitely join my mailing list. (There’s a popup for that.)

Problems? 5 tips to save your 2017 resolutions before they crash and burn.

In late 2014, I was overcome with a host of strange symptoms that I couldn’t pin on a particular illness. My face blazed with a blush that wouldn’t stop. My heartbeat was quick and irregular. And – wow – that vertigo. It took my legs out from under me and made me feel like I was losing my grip on the world. Altogether, those symptoms made me feel like I was losing my grip on my sanity.

Of course, I later realized that I had been having panic attacks without knowing it. The symptoms were not the same as they had been a decade before, the last time I was overcome by them, so I didn’t immediately link them to a problem I thought I had shed along with a bad relationship and a series of unfortunate decisions.

a quote by Delilah S. Dawson about solutions, not problems

What happened this time?

I was terrified, but this time it had nothing to do with a bad marriage or a house that felt like it was closing in on me. This time it was all about the choices I had been making in my life and how they conflicted in such an excruciating way with my values.

When I made myself sit down and think about it, I came up with this list. And, more than that, I made myself start following the strategies. Since then, things have started to fall into place easier than they ever have in my life.

Follow this list to the letter or modify it to suit the situation to get you back on track with writing, relationships, diet, or life in general.

1. Make space for your thoughts.

Look at everything around you. What are you holding onto that doesn’t serve you? Get rid of it, and organize what’s left.

If a character doesn’t belong in that story you’ve been stuck on, take them out and see if the story starts to flow.

Diet off-track? Get rid of your main late-night or television snacking weakness.

many things in boxes and cans

2. Get acquainted with ‘no’.

Stop taking on responsibilities that don’t align with your goals and values.

A new idea beating on your brain? Don’t start writing it until you’re finished with your work-in-progress. Jot it down, sure, but don’t let it derail your current project.

Instead of signing up at every open house and PTA meeting, sit back and let others do the baking for once. You might be surprised at how few people notice.

triangles with x's

3. Seek out knowledge.

No matter how many books you’ve read or courses you’ve finished, you can’t ever know everything… and that’s a good thing. Become a lifelong learner.

The character you’re writing seems a little flat or boring? Research hobbies until you find an interesting one that will liven her up. Maybe give her a wacky side job that puts her in the sights of a new love – or a killer, depending on your genre.

Relationship getting stale? Seek out new experiences that you can share with your significant other, then plan an evening, weekend, or vacation in which you both go beyond what you know into something mysterious or beautiful.

image of a girl looking out over a rail

4. Let it go!

If you’re like a lot of people, you’re carrying more than your fair share of stress, responsibility, or guilt. It’s time to shed that weight and carve out a better situation for yourself.

Does finishing that NaNoWriMo manuscript from last year feel like you’re beating a dead horse? Put it in a file to finish next month, next year, or never. Or use it for spare parts instead. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, stories just don’t work out. Don’t become stagnant waiting for inspiration.

Feeling guilty about the cookies you ate last night while you were binge-watching Scandal? You can’t change the past, so don’t try. Figure out why you made the mistake, and plan out – and put into action – steps to help you avoid the situation in the future. Guilt does nothing but keep us feeling bad; let it go, and your health will thank you.

image of a man skydiving

5. Restart.

Everyone has problems. Some of us can vent them in a healthy fashion, but most of us let them out in all the wrong ways. Don’t go to bed with the past 24 hours weighing on you. Talk to a friend, write in your journal, or let your main character scream obscenities into the cold night air. The morning will see you feeling lighter than you have in a long while.

a baby yelling in the sunshine

Make it so.

These tips are easier said than done, but that’s true for most things in life. We all have the best laid plans. But it’s what we do with those plans that makes or breaks us. Don’t let this year be another in which you make goals or resolutions, then let them flounder by mid-February.

Even if you’ve already slipped, there is still time to make a change. Choose the easiest tip to implement from this list, and write it in a place you will see it every day, preferably more than once. Every time you see it, repeat it in your mind, and implement it in a way that seems productive but manageable.

Build momentum. Celebrate your successes, and don’t beat yourself up for slips. Just keep going. Only you can decide what is important to you – and act on it.

Your turn.

Do you have any tips for revamping a life and making the best it can be? Have you turned a sad submission strategy into an ass-kicking, name-taking publishing machine? Share your tips and stories in the comments.

If you want to be notified when I make a new blog post, you can now subscribe! Click over on the side of the page where it says GET EMAILS to be notified when I post. If you also want free books, updates, and special offers not available to anyone else, you should definitely join my mailing list. (There’s a popup for that.)

Blocked? 11 Easy Ways to Re-Launch a Stalled Story

I did it again. I let it slip up and grasp me in its wet, sinewy clutches. And worse? I didn’t fight back.

I thought I was going so strong in November when I started. I was done with my big NaNoWriMo project, Banquet, before the end of the month, so I started a new story. This would continue my book, The Setup, but through the ideas of a different protagonist. It was going to be great. I wrote so many words at first.

Then… it just fell away.

image of a cat on its side yawning

I could blame it on burnout, my family, freelance projects, or the nightmare that was my website transfer, but it wouldn’t change anything. I hadn’t worked on the new story, Sweat, in weeks, and every time I thought about trying, I got a dark feeling in the pit of my stomach and put it off.

But I finally came out of it, and the story is going strong again. How? Here are the 11 tips I used to get back on track and into the story some of my readers had been asking for.

Strategies to Give Your Story a Kick in the Pants

#1: Set your intention and daily goal.

To get back to writing Sweat despite my reservations, the first thing I had to do was decide to write it again. It sounds simple, and it is, but it takes a little bit of willpower, and a whole lot of bravery. Decide you’re going to write your story, and figure out how many words a day will keep you on track without draining you and sending you back into the non-writing shame spiral you were in before.

I set a goal of 500 WPD, and it worked like a charm. I often write more, but as long as I’m writing that 500, I feel accomplished.

Set your own goal in a spreadsheet, on your phone, or on a site like WordKeeper Alpha.

#2: Promise it to someone.

There’s nothing more sobering for most of us than the realization that we promised something to someone, and we’ve set ourselves up to fail them (and ourselves). The only way to get out of that pickle is to do the thing. I promised my readers they would get Sweat this year, and I’m not going to let anyone down.

Tweet it, post it on your Facebook timeline, or post your cover mock-up on Instagram. Tell your followers (or even just your friends) that you’re going to have this ready for them in the next week, month, or year. Then don’t let them down.

#3: Writing prompts.

Tried and true, writing prompts will get you writing, even if they don’t immediately help you with the story at hand. The practice of writing is never-ending. The more you write, the easier it is to write, and the more likely you are to keep going until you have a finished story under your belt. Whether it’s your first or four hundredth, sometimes we all need a little boost.

Try Story Shack’s prompt generator or this great tumblr writing prompt account.

#4: Read something in another genre.

Is it possible you’re sick of aliens, vampires, or teenagers in love? Read something different. If you normally like rom-coms, try reading a mystery. If novels are your thing, pick up a short fiction anthology.

#5: Create in a different medium.

Paint. Sculpt. Write poetry or nonfiction if fiction is your norm. Build with Lego bricks. Collaborate.

#6: Talk it over with your partner/bestie/pet.

Nothing says “I love you” quite like boring them incessantly with the details of a story you’ve been writing for months. Advice helps, but often, you just need someone to sit and listen.

#7: Work on your story’s elevator pitch.

If your story doesn’t already have an elevator pitch, the condensed version of your plot that you could tell in a short ride from one floor to another, it needs one. Find out how to write one here.

#8: Write a short outline of your story.

Planners probably already have an extensive outline, and pantsers are booing the screen right now at the idea of writing one. If you’re a planner, write a more bare-bones outline than you have, or flesh out the beats in your outline further. If you’re a pantser, give it a try. Write down just a few points – no Roman numerals need apply.

#9: Click through a random generator.

I already mentioned the writing prompt generator. You can also try a character name generator, a Dungeons & Dragons character generator, or even a picture generator could help spark an idea. Don’t limit yourself to just what’s in your outline.

#10: Brainstorm the worst things that could happen to your MC.

Make them long, hurt, or beg. If the only thing that your character is living for is the relationship he has with his family, make his parents stop talking to him. If she can’t go a day without her cats, put her in a place where cats aren’t allowed. Drop a bomb on the world. Insert a war. Make his crush run away with her secret lover.

#11: Immerse yourself in silence and let the ideas come to you.

In our time-crunched world, we often try to multitask more than is necessary – or productive. The next time you’re in the car, the shower, or a doctor’s office waiting room, put away your phone, turn off the music, and let your mind make its own entertainment. You might be surprised at what it comes up with.

All it takes is a spark…

I guarantee that if you go through this whole list, you will find the spark that you need to get the ball rolling on a stalled story. Sure, you’ve probably heard some of these before, but that’s the amazing thing about good advice: it keeps popping up, and all you have to do is listen – then take action.

If you want to be notified when I make a new blog post, you can now subscribe! Click over on the side of the page where it says GET EMAILS to be notified when I post. If you also want free books, updates, and special offers not available to anyone else, you should definitely join my mailing list. (There’s a popup for that.)

When life gives you lemons, turn them into something resembling lemonade. [Interview with Author Gabriel Wright]

Indie authors have held a special place in my heart for as long as I can remember. As an indie myself, I know what it takes to write, edit, publish, and market a book all on one’s own. It’s hard – but it’s also incredibly rewarding.

The author I’m talking about today knows exactly what that’s like.

image of author Gabriel Wright

Welcome, Gabe! Sell yourself to us.

Gabriel Wright was born, and raised in NYC.  Originally from the borough of the Bronx, Gabriel attended college at the City University of New York (CUNY). Afterwards, he spent 20 years in a career as an IT Professional.  Gabe admits it wasn’t exactly his dream job but he liked the work enough that he would’ve happily toiled away at it until mandatory (or forced) retirement.

Gabriel’s true dream job was being a writer.  It was always in the back of his mind, but it was always something that he thought he’d get around to eventually. Then a not so funny thing happened in Gabe’s IT career – he was laid off.  Although, sadly, it wasn’t the first time, this time he took it as a sign that eventually had finally come.  Gabriel began to write and ultimately producing his first novel, Cry for the Mercenary.

Gabriel Wright still lives in NYC with his family.  Along with writing, he’s also trying to make a success of his family-owned bagel shop in Harlem.

Continue reading “When life gives you lemons, turn them into something resembling lemonade. [Interview with Author Gabriel Wright]”

Breaking Stories Down to Resonate with Readers with Christine Frazier. [Interview]

As a writer, I rely on a lot of resources to keep my mind sharp and my writing game strong. I love reading about the deconstruction of stories, what makes characters tick, and the other habits of writers – which is a big reason I started my interview series for the blog.

Today’s interviewee has one of the coolest, most well put together website I’ve ever seen. Her ideas are awesome, and her Master Outline is something amazing to behold.

image of Better Novel Project's Christine Frazier

Welcome, Christine! Sell yourself to us in a paragraph.

Christine Frazier deconstructs bestselling novels, one doodle at a time. She shares her research at BetterNovelProject.com.

Continue reading “Breaking Stories Down to Resonate with Readers with Christine Frazier. [Interview]”

Writing to Live: You call it a hobby; I call it my lifeblood.

“Why do you write?”

This is one of those questions we writers all get a lot. It may come in different forms, but it’s always the same idea. What makes our brain so different that scribbling (or typing) is the only way we can make ourselves feel sufficiently heard in the world?

Continue reading “Writing to Live: You call it a hobby; I call it my lifeblood.”

A debt is owed. [Interview]

Ever read a great tagline, and knew you had to know more about that book and author?

A debt is owed” tugs you out of your internet zombification and makes you pay attention. What is this book about? And who came up with it?

That’s what I wanted to know about The Glass Thief and its author, John Ryers. This is what I found out.

picture of John Ryers, author of The Glass Thief

Continue reading “A debt is owed. [Interview]”