2018 HSV Comic & Pop Culture Expo

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This past weekend was the 2018 Huntsville Comic & Pop Culture Expo, and it was SO MUCH FUN!!!

As an author, I love any event where I can interact with readers. It’s a great way to get to know what people think about the genre I write in (urban fantasy/preternatural fiction), what excites them, and what gets their reading juices flowing. This past weekend’s event was no different. In fact, it over delivered in a big way!!!

Because I had so much fun, I thought I’d share some photos of some of the amazing people I got to chat with as well as some of the expo excitement!!!

These should give you an idea of just how big this expo was. No, it’s not as big as Dragon Con out in Atlanta or Comic Con in San Diego, but for Huntsville, Alabama, this expo was huge! 

I met so many fun people, and when I say they went all out with their costumes, I mean they went ALL OUT!!! 

I even met a few national celebrities that I was over the moon to meet!!! Check them out below:

So, what did you do this weekend?

Was it even remotely as exciting as my weekend?

If you’d like more information on next years HSV Comic and Pop Culture Expo, so you don’t miss out on all the fun, check out their Facebook page by clicking HERE

 

How to Write a Book in 4 Easy Steps

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Writing a book takes time, patience, and story telling abilities. Other than that, as long as you have established an audience (say… blog followers for example), found a great team of editors, know a cover artist you trust, and are able to set up pre-publication and post publication marketing efforts (including a blog tour, YouTube vlog interview tour, Periscope appearances, live book signings, etc.), you’re ready to go. 

Don’t let me overwhelm you, this post is just about the writing… I’ll get to those other things in a different post. Lets talk about the 4 easy (insert laugh track here) steps to writing your book.

STEP 1. Decide to write a book and make a commitment to yourself to finish.

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This is probably the hardest part of writing a book… well, this and editing… and marketing, but this post is only talking about the actual writing processes – spilling your blood, tears, and sweat into that first draft.

‘According to writer Joseph Epstein, “81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them — and should write it.” That’s approximately 200 million people who aspire to authorship.’ Goldberg, Justine. T. (2011, May 26). 200 Million Americans Want to Publish Books, But Can They? https://publishingperspectives.com/2011/05/200-million-americans-want-to-publish-books/

In my experience, the problem isn’t wanting to write a book, it’s not knowing where to start and often times not believing you can. I’ve talked to so many “want-to-be authors” who have amazing story ideas, but they fail to put a single word on paper. Why? Because more often than not, the messages they are receiving from the people around them are;  ‘it will never go anywhere,’ ‘you can’t make a living as an author,’ ‘who are you kidding, you’re not a writer.’ It is comments like these that keep people, who could potentially be the next Amanda Hocking, E. L. James, or even the next J.K. Rowling, from even trying.  So, ignore the negativity, make a commitment to yourself to finish it – because you’re the only one you need to please – and move to keep going.

STEP 2. Pick a genre. Your genre will determine your page count.

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  • GENERAL:
    • Flash Fiction: 300–1500 words
    • Short Story: 1500–30,000 words
    • Novellas: 30,000–50,000 words
    • Novels: 50,000–110,000 words
  • FICTION:
    • Adult Novels (Commercial and Literary): 80,000-90,000 words
    • Mainstream Romance: 80,000–90,000 words
    • Science Fiction / Fantasy: 90,000–120,000 words
    • Historical Fiction: 80,000–100,000 words
    • Thrillers / Horror / Mysteries / Crime: 70,000–90,000 words
    • Young Adult: 55,000–80,000 words
    • Epics: 120,000-200,000 words
    • Westerns: 50,000-80,000 words
  • CHILDREN’S BOOKS:
    • Picture Books: 300–600 words
      Early Readers: 200–3500 words
      Chapter Books: 4000–10,000 words
      Middle Grade: 25,000–50,000 words
  • NONFICTION:
    • Standard Nonfiction (Business, Political Science, Psychology, History, etc.): 70,000–80,000 words
    • Memoir: 80,000–100,000 words
    • Biography: 80,000–200,000 words
    • How-to / Self-Help: 40,000–50,000 words

Keep in mind that the word counts listed above are just a general guideline. There are always going to be books that break the rules and that is OK, as long as your story has the following key ingredients: 

  • A strong opening – Right from the start of your setting should set the mood and tone of the story for your readers. 
  • Balance –  You need to have a balance between SHOWING through strong, but not overwhelming, descriptions and TELLING through script-worthy dialogue
  • Diverse, well-developed characters – Keep in mind that not everyone is beautiful, people have scars (emotional and physical). Your characters should all be uniquely themselves, with their own back-stories, personalities, etc.  
  • Conflict and Resolution – Every good story needs conflict, it’s what allows the characters to develop, adapt, and change, throughout the story.
  • A satisfying conclusion – This doesn’t mean a Hollywood “happy” ending, it just means that all the plot holes have been filled in and questions have been answered… that is unless you’re leaving your readers with a cliffhanger! I have to admit, I love a good cliffhanger. 😉  

STEP 3. Outline your book with extensive detail.

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OK, you’ve made a commitment, you’ve picked your genre and have a general idea of what your word count is going to look like. What’s next? OUTLINING!!! When I tell you that you want to outline with EXTENSIVE DETAIL, I really do mean EXTENSIVE DETAIL.

Have you ever gotten lost, driving down a back road in the South? I have… You stop at the run-down gas station, hesitantly get out of your car to ask the station attendant for directions to the nearest interstate. She responds with something like, “Just turn right out of the drive. You’ll go three-quarters of a mile, just past the old Miller farm, and turn left when you see the burnt down barn. You’ll want to pass the Piggly Wiggly and the Walmart and turn right onto Orchard Lane, but if you reach the Dairy Queen you’ve gone to far. The interstate is about four miles from there and the entrance is on the left just under the overpass. You’ll see what’s left of the Jimmy loves Mary painted on the old water tower about a half mile before you get to there.” To much detail? NOT AT ALL!

Think of your outline as a sweet southern woman giving you detailed directions on how to go from the first page of chapter one to the final page of the story. 

Trust me, the outline is the hard part, but you can get through it. You see, the more detail you put into your outline the easier the actual writing process will be and the fewer bumps and bruises you’ll experience along the way. In other words, every detail added to your outline saves you from hours of writer’s block later on. So, don’t skimp – outline every thing.

Start with a skeleton outline by breaking down your story into three acts (Act 1 – Act 2 – Act 3). Within each act you need to know the background, setting, the obstacle/conflict, reactions to the conflict, and the resolution. 

After you’ve created your skeleton outline – start plotting out individual scenes in the same way, but with more details. 

Remember, this takes time. Don’t expect to finish your detailed outline in one day, but don’t give up until its done either. 

STEP 4. Write daily.

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Remember, you’ve made a commitment to yourself to finish this book, so there can be no excuses. Writing daily is essential to developing your writing skills – your writing muscles if you will. Don’t worry if what you’re writing is crap… trust me, every author has days where all they write are pages worthy of the cylindrical file, otherwise known as the trash! 

Now lets say you’re writing a young adult story, which puts your total desired word count around 55,000 – 79,999. For this example, we will say you’re aiming for 70,000. You’re goal (I’m making this up) is to finish your book in 100 days – YES IT CAN BE DONE – that means you have to write 700 words per day. EVERY DAY!!! I don’t care if you get home from work and you’re tired. I don’t care if your mom wants to take you out to dinner for your birthday. I don’t even care if you’re sitting in bed with the flu and your achy. MAN UP and start typing. 700 words a day is not that hard – and once you start, you’ll quickly see that your daily 700 words will start to multiply as you get further and further into your story. The more you write, and follow your outline, the more the details of your story will start to unfold for you. 

So, what are you waiting for? Why are you still reading this blog instead of getting to work on your manuscript? Go… start writing, and remember this story is your creation – have fun with it.

Got tips you’d like to share with aspiring authors? Comment below to share your ideas and writing tips. 

From Destructive Chaos To Inspired Creativity… My Writing Space!

This WAS my work/writing space…

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I was stuck in the corner, at a tiny desk, surrounded by TOTAL CHAOS! On top of being an author, I have kids, work a full-time job, own my own skincare business (Check out my website here), and am active in local theatre (directing and acting) when I have the time.

SO MY WORKSPACE SUFFERED!

My home office was somehow supposed to keep me organized in all aspects of my daily life (Full-Time Job – Director of Contracts, Mom – and all the carpools/activities that includes, Theatre, and of course WRITING). Instead, my office became a storage unit for everything and anything that didn’t have a home throughout our house. To say the office space was hard to work in would be an understatement. To say the office space was hard to write in would be like calling the grand canyon just a hole.

I decided to make a change… I set out on a mission to make my writing space more productive!

I started with the closet, which was filled from floor to ceiling with clutter! No before picture of that, sorry, but it would have scared you away!

Things got worse before they got better.

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A LOT WORSE!

 Slowing, I started to see some improvement. It started by completely emptying out my office. Everything was touched. Every piece of paper, every container, every pencil… etc. You get the point. As I moved everything from my office to my dining room I PURGED! I threw things out, I took bags and boxes of things to Goodwill, I PURGED everything and anything I couldn’t find a need for.

The results: I STILL HAD TO MUCH STUFF!

My desk was way to small, so I decided a DIY desk – Pinterest style – was what I needed. I purchased 2 black 2 drawer file cabinets and headed to Lowes for some wood. They cut the wood there, which is perfect because I don’t own a saw. One of my friends came over to teach me the beauty of ModPodge. We attached a beautiful red and white fabric to the wood and that became my desktop. SO FAR – I LOVED IT! Yet, looking back today I can see it was more a crafting desk than a desk for creative writing.

I still had some work to do in order to create some shelving space on top of the desk… and A LOT more work to organize the rest of the room, but I was seeing progress!

This project started back in October 2016… I started writing this post in January 2017, I think. In the end… I ended up just gutting the room and boxing everything up and starting over in a new office – in a new house.

No, we didn’t move simply because I couldn’t get my office together, it was just time. The fact that I couldn’t get my office together reflected solely on my lack of time and my inability to say ‘no’. If I had said ‘no’ a little more often, I would have had more time!

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Here is a picture of how my office looks today… I LOVE IT! It is an open, creative, work environment and there is space for everything I need. Sure, I still need a great chair, but I do love this space.

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What does your work/writing space look like? Post comments and photos below and share your secrets to keeping your space creatively organized. 

 

 

 

Organization to Increase Productivity for People who Work from Home!

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Is your desk/home office messy or clean?

Mine gets messier the more projects I’ve added to my plate – the more I say YES! However, even though I feel creative in piles of stuff… I’ve always found it more difficult to get “work” done when my office is a mess. Actually, the status of my house (messy or clean) can affect my productivity. So, cleaning/straightening my house and home office at the end of every day is a priority. 

I wanted to know more about how clutter vs. organization can affect productivity, and I found some interesting statistics:

  • 25% of people save things in piles instead of files. I do this too, but WHY? Why don’t we just take care of things as they come across our desk instead of piling them up? Sure, I get those things that can’t be taken care of right away, but other things… such as notes that just need to be typed, or documents that need to be filed… why do I – or you – leave those to pile up?
  • 80% of what gets filed away NEVER GETS LOOKED AT AGAIN! WHAT? Why am I even filing it in the first place? Do I really need a paper copy, or would an electric copy work just as well? 

Einstein once said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

HMMM… good question Einstein!

OK, what is my point? I decided that in order to tackle the clutter and get organized to increase my productivity – I needed a plan. I love plans!  I decided to tackle the whole house – not just my office – to prevent the distractions caused by the little messes I notice walking from one room to the next throughout the day.

Get organized and increase your overall productivity in 20 Days! 

  1. Set up a donation station and take detailed before photos
  2. Files cabinets – Toss out old client/project files that are over 7 years old
  3. Office/Desk drawers – You don’t need 50 different pens, pick your 5 favorite and get rid of the rest. The same goes for pencils and highlighters. If your drawers are overloaded with office supplies, consider donating extras to the local school – teachers are always in need, or you can create a cute storage bin just for supplies keeping only what fits.
  4. Closet clothing – Declutter by purging items that have holes or stains, anything you haven’t worn in the previous 12 months and clothing that doesn’t fit properly.
  5. Dresser drawers – Declutter by purging items that have holes or stains, anything you haven’t worn in the previous 12 months and clothing that doesn’t fit properly.
  6. Towels and blankets – Get rid of all towels and blankets with holes or stains. Donate all towels and blankets that don’t match your current room decorations – keeping one or two to use during kids sleepovers.
  7. Laundry Room – Sweep under and around your washer and dryer. Then clear out cabinets and/or shelves of items you no longer use. Still storing old paint cans under your sink or replacement tiles for the 5-year-old flooring? PURGE THEM! If you haven’t used it in the last 12 months – GET RID OF IT!
  8. Shoes/Scarves/hats – You only need one winter scarf and hat per kid – donate the rest. In terms of shoes you can never have to many. lol. No, but seriously, if they don’t fit – toss them. If they are broken – toss them. If they are damaged or scuffed up – toss them. If you haven’t worn them in the last 12 months – toss them. You get the picture, right?
  9. Jackets and Bags – The essentials are simple; 1 winter coat, 1 spring coat and 1 formal coat. When it comes to bags – toss them if they have holes, stains, or have been out of style since the 80s. NO JEAN PURSES ALLOWED! Also, do you need 10 suitcases and 6 overnight bags? Probably not, so donate those too. One suitcase and one overnight bag per person living in the house is usually all you’ll need.
  10. Books/DVDs/Video Games – I hoard books, but I’m trying to get better. DVDs… donate those, everything is going digital anyway. Video games – keep the ones that are age appropriate for your kids and husband lol… anything they don’t play any more, donate.
  11. Cleaning Products – Check the expiration date on all your cleaning products and toss anything that has expired! You’ll also want to toss any empty bottles you find, and any products you haven’t used in the last 4 months.
  12. Toiletries – Do you have a bunch of old skin care products, makeup, half empty toothpaste tubes, etc. cluttering your linen closet and bathroom drawers? TOSS IT ALL! Just kidding… toss everything that is expired first. Then, go through everything and toss what you haven’t used in the last 2 months. Out of everything that is left, make a plan to use those items and replace them only after completely gone! *Side note – if you’ve hoarded lots of cheap and expensive skin care that never worked for you… I can help. I sell the #1 skincare brand in North America. Want to know more? Message me!
  13. Refrigerator (Surface and Interior) – Clutter covering the top, sides, and front of your refrigerator can leave your whole kitchen looking messy. Get rid of it all!!! Now, open it up and toss any expired foods – typically condiments, sauces, and dairy products – but check everything! Then toss last weeks left overs – You never had any intension of eating them anyway. Wipe down shelves and drawers and organize so you can see everything clearly.
  14. Pantry – Purge all expired items, organize like items together, and put kid friendly snacks closer to the bottom where your littles can reach them.
  15. Dishes/cups/Tupperware – You don’t need 50 different water bottles… pick your favorites and purge the rest! This goes for dishes, cups, Tupperware, reusable straws, utensils, etc.
  16. Gadgets and small appliances – Why are you keeping your old iPhone 4 when you just upgraded to the 8? Old phones, computers, gadgets, even appliances can be donated to shelters, and other organizations – just make sure you clear your personal information off first.
  17. Surfaces – clear off and dust all bedroom night stands and dressers, tables, and countertops throughout the house. Don’t just hide things in drawers either.
  18. Kitchen/Bathroom drawers – We all have junk drawers, but do we really need 10 of them? NO! Go through your kitchen and bathroom drawers to reduce clutter. Toss out broken pencils, card decks that are missing cards, and receipts you forgot you even kept, etc.
  19. Floors – Its time to sweep, vacuum, mop, and/or steam clean…
  20. Drop off donations and take after photos

OK, I’ve shared my plan with you… what tips do you have for getting organized and increasing productivity? Comment below with your best organizational tip!

It’s been to long…

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I am NOT a very dedicated blogger. It’s true, I can’t lie and say that I am. The thing is, when I have spear time… time that isn’t already committed to work, dedicated to my family, or taken up by housework, I AM WRITING! 

The proof is in the pudding… or the publication date. lol

I’ve been writing since 2010. My first novel, Awaken, took just under 2 years start to finish. I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it, but I learned. It got easier with every book that came after.

I published one novel per year from 2012 – 2014. Three books in three years, and the Blood Angel Series was born. I was more than excited. I had a system. I had dedicated beta readers, an awesome cover design artist, and an editor that understood my writing style.

In 2015 I was able to publish the first two books in the SECTOR C Series. This story just poured out of me. I fell in love with the characters, the strange world they lived in, and I was emotionally invested in their journey.

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Published October 2016

In 2016, at the request of my readers, I went back to the Blood Angel Series to tell the story of Phoebe… She was an exciting, strong, independent female character who demanded my attention. For almost a year, she took me across the country and showed me the world through her eyes. 

I spent most of 2017 writing the third and final novel in the SECTOR C Series, but I’ll get to that in a minute. 2017 was also the year I decided to use my experiences to help others. After attending numerous author events, where I am inevitably asked the same questions over and over, I decided to put together 3 guides.

  1. The Invisible You – 52 Weeks of Meditations, Activities, and Writing Prompts to help you Discover YouThis is a work-book style guide/journal. I use the meditations, the coloring activities, and the writing prompts on a weekly basis to help keep me centered and focused. Since starting this process, years ago, I have been able to more quickly work through, if not avoid all together, the dreaded WRITERS BLOCK!
  2. So You Want To Write A Book – An Indie Author Guide to Outlining and Planning Your Next Novel I think this one is pretty self-explanatory… This is the book for all beginner authors, and even those that have been around the block a few times that just need a little extra help getting started or staying focused and organized when writing. 
  3. Multi-Level Network Marketing Business Tracker Not only am I a mom with a full-time job and an author… back in 2015 I started my own business as an independent consultant for the #1 skin care brand in North America. I designed this business tracker to help me, and others within the Network Marketing field, keep track of customers, sales, and business partners. No, it isn’t for everyone, but sometimes our projects are passions and other times they are practical. This project happened to be very practical and has proven extremely useful in growing my business. 

the bridge cover

Like I said, I spent most of 2017 writing the 3rd and final novel in the SECTOR C Series, The Bridge. I love where this series takes the reader, but I’ll admit this story didn’t go where I thought it would go. I usually have a clear picture in my mind, when I start a story line, of where it will end. This series was no different, but as the story unfolded I was excited to find that it continued to surprise me. Having just been released yesterday, I am eager and excited to find out what my readers think of where Zelina and the others take us in SECTOR C ~ The Bridge

WHAT IS NEXT?

Honestly, I’m not 100% sure what is next. I have a couple of story ideas I’ve been playing with, but I think I might take a little time off to do some more author events, market the books I’ve already published, and work on my blog a little more. If there are topics you’d like me to discuss, I’d love your feedback. Comment below with blog topic ideas and I’ll get to work! Until then, have a beautiful February!