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How Do I Know When My Story Is Done?

Like so many questions about writing, this one is difficult to answer. Technically speaking, your story is never really done. There are always ways to change it and improve it. However, at some point, you have to make the decision that the story is good enough. You have to say that you aren’t going to make any more changes.

This can be difficult. It can be hard to know if the story is “good enough.” After all, we are our own worst critics, so we never believe that our work is “good.”

One thing that might help is to have others read your story. Start with an editor (or two), so you can fix any content or character problems. Then, you’ll need to make sure your grammar and sentence structure are correct. After your story has gone through a few rounds of editing with a professional editor, then you can send it to beta readers.

Beta readers play an incredibly important role in the writing process, and it’s a job that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Like an editor, beta readers give you suggestions on how to improve your story. In most cases, beta readers have not been trained as editors, but as readers, they know what works in a story and what doesn’t.

The goal of your story should be to invoke some type of emotional response in your reader. To do this, they have to understand what your story is about, what emotions you are trying to convey, and react to your characters in either a good or bad way (not all characters have to be likable). If you haven’t accomplished this goal, then you’ve probably failed in your writing attempt. That means you probably need to go back and rework your story.

Editors and beta readers are great resources for helping you achieve your writing goal. They can point out flaws and plot holes, along with ways to improve them. However, keep in mind that everyone who reads your book will bring their own experiences and biases to the work. No two people will react to it the same way—and that can further complicate if you view your story as finished or not.

Every reader is unique, and even if readers aren’t reacting the same way to your story, if they are still reacting, you’ve probably accomplished your goal. Some will love it, and some will hate it, but as long as they aren’t saying, “Huh? I don’t get it,” then you’re on the right track. (Side note: there still may be a few readers who are confused by your story, but as long as the majority of them aren’t having this issues, you’ll be just fine!)

In the end, no matter what an editor or a beta reader says, you are still the creator of the story, you get final say in what gets changed and what doesn’t. Editors and beta readers will have different ideas of how a scene should play out or about a character’s personality, but you get to make the final determination if you take their suggestions or not.

Writing is both a simple and complicated process. There are rules, but there aren’t any rules. When it comes to creating, most of the time you have to follow your heart and your head to determine when the story is done.

What Are Some of Your Best Things?

With the end of the year upon us, now is the time to look back at the year and review the good and the bad. Hopefully, you’ll focus more on the good than the bad. While both of them have influenced your life, it’s best to focus on the positive.

I’d like to know: what are some of the best things that have happened to you this year?

They don’t have to be major, they can be small things. Sometimes getting out of bed and showering is a victory. Other times, getting a new job or publishing a book can be great accomplishments. What are some of yours?

I’m also curious to know what you’re looking forward to in 2018. Again, it doesn’t have to be major, just share something positive.

Let’s send 2017 out on a positive note and bring in 2018 with optimism and hope!

I Seriously Don’t Handle Medical Emergencies Well

In the past, I’ve talked about how super well I handle medical emergencies for my kids, but when it comes to my pets, I’m just as special. Over the weekend, I was reminded how I have a hard time dealing with medical emergencies.

I blame the vast majority of my coping issues on my anxiety. When something happens, adrenaline instantly shoots through my body (as I’m sure it does for everyone), but that is then followed by a slideshow of worst-case scenarios that play through my brain. Every horrible, life-changing and threatening idea crosses my mind, which, as you can imagine, increases my stress and worry.

Past experiences also influence how I react to current emergencies. Some of you may recall the incident that occurred with the first corgi I ever owned. Since then, I’m convinced that any little thing that happens to my dogs will have deadly consequences. The vet in Laramie was used to and incredibly patient and caring when I called numerous times to ask questions, and the vet here in Nebraska has just had their first taste of my neurosis.

On Saturday, both of the corgis (Floki and Siggy) went to the vet for their yearly vaccinations. It was our first trip there since moving, and I was incredibly impressed by the facilities and the doctor. She was incredibly kind and helpful. We left with no issues.

There will be plenty of pictures of Floki, but heres one of Siggy hangin on the couch.

Later that evening, I was working on my computer while the dogs played in my office. At one point, Floki was laying on his back on the bed panting. I asked him if he was hot, and he just looked at me with his big brown eyes. A few moments later, he moved to lay near the wall, and that’s when I noticed the swelling around his eyes.

You can kind of tell from this picture that hes puffier than normal.

My heart leaped into my throat and I immediately looked up the vet’s number on the internet (it’s saved in my phone now). I could tell that it was an allergic reaction, and the first thing that ran through my mind was that he was going to swell up and asphyxiate. I had to get him to the vet as soon as possible.

Since it was a Saturday night, the answering service picked up. It explained that it was an emergency answering service only and that they couldn’t take general questions or regular appointments. It took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get through the message, and I was sure my dog was going to go into convulsions before I could talk to anyone. Finally, I was told that if I wanted to proceed I needed to hit #1—which I did.

I did my best to speak slowly and coherently and not forget to leave my number. I then held the phone next to my chest and waited for the doctor to call back. I realized that standing like that was only going to add to my anxiety, so I tried to busy myself with other tasks so I didn’t go insane. I started to fold laundry, mumbling under my breath the entire time that the vet needed to call me back.

She did. Probably within 10 minutes of sending the message.

I told her what was going on, and she said that it probably wasn’t the vaccinations that caused the reaction but could possibly have been a spider bite. She asked if I had Benadryl in the house, and I went on a search. Of course, I didn’t, so I rushed to the store.

Another super fun fact about me is that it makes me anxious to take and distribute medicine. Even after the vet gave me instructions—that I wrote down—on how much Benadryl to give Floki, I checked it about 100 times, then still felt uncomfortable about giving him meds—even though I knew he needed them!

I contemplated giving him a half dose or a kid’s dose, then I told myself that the vet met Floki earlier that day, she knew how much he weighed, and she was the doctor, so I gave him the amount she told me to give him.

On the plus side, aside from being puffy, Floki never acted any different than normal. He was still his sweet, curious self. He shook his head a little more often, but he didn’t yip or just lay down. Even after giving him Benadryl, he stayed the same lovable corgi.

That, as you can imagine, made me feel better, but it took a long time for the swelling to go down. That made me worry that maybe he had been bitten by a black widow or a brown recluse, so I was asking my spouse what he thought. He reassured me that if the spider that had bitten Floki was poisonous, we would know. The poor baby would be in a ton of pain or his flesh would be rotting off his face. Surprisingly, hearing that helped a bit, even though it didn’t completely eradicate my worry.

This was later in the night after some Benadryl. His muzzle is still puffy, but he was doing a lot better.

By the next day, the swelling had gone down significantly. Yes, I awoke a couple of times during the night to check on my fur baby, but he was fine. He continued to improve, and by now, the swelling is completely gone and I’m sure Floki doesn’t remember anything that happened. I, on the other hand, will continue to have anxiety issues when it comes to medical emergencies.

The fur baby just hanging out and chilling.

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway Hop

Wow! Only 12 days left before Christmas. I hope you're ready! But if not, you still have time. Now is the best time to take a little break and do something nice for yourself. I don't doubt you've been running around like crazy getting presents and decorations--not to mention getting ready for all the parties!

Curling up with a good book is the best to way to unwind and relax. In honor of the season of giving, I will be giving one lucky winner their choice of paperback from my collection (open to U.S. shipping only). You'll be able to pick from my fiction titles or my nonfiction titles.

All you have to do to be entered into the giveaway is leave a comment telling me what you like most about the holidays. Good luck!

After entering my giveaway, don't forget to check out the other blog participating in the hop!

How Long Does It Take to Write a Book?

Like so many questions in writing, this one isn’t easy to answer. It can take as little as a few months to a few years to write a book—it all depends on how long it is, what age level it’s written for, how much time you dedicate to it, and how many rounds of edits you put it through.

I think the reason people ask this question is because they are worried or afraid of the amount of time they’ll have to commit to a novel. It can be daunting and scary to think that you’ll be working on the same story for years down the road, but if you are dedicated and intent on writing a great book, you’ll do what you have to to make sure it’s the best it can be. Conversely, if you can’t commit to working on something for months or years at a time, then perhaps a novel isn’t the best option for you as a writer.

However, that’s not to say that books that take weeks or a few months to write are terrible books. Some authors are faster than others and have more time to dedicate to their writing. The amount of time spent on a story is not indicative of how well it is written.

And let’s not forget about the amount of edits your story needs to go through—that adds time too. It is recommended that you have at least four editors go through your story before it’s ready to be published, and that’s not counting the amount of times you read through it. Of course, having that many editors go through your manuscript might not be within your budget, so it might not be feasible. Although, it is highly recommended that someone should edit your story before you attempt to get it published.

On average, you can probably expect to spend at least 6 months working on your book from first draft to final manuscript—although for some, that might seem like a short amount of time. If you’re not under a deadline, there’s no rush to get your book finished. You don’t win a prize for getting it done in a certain amount of time. Take the time you need to make sure the story reads the way you want it to. In the end, as the author, you have to be proud of what you’ve created before you can share it with the world.

Josh Gates Is a Great Role Model of How to Do Life Right

I first started watching Josh Gates when he had his show Destination Truth on Syfy. I continue to watch him with his show Expedition Unknown on the Travel Channel. Josh constantly cracks me up. He has a great sense of humor and an amazing sense of adventure.

In both shows, Josh travels to various parts of the world in order to solve mysteries. In Destination Truth, the mysteries often centered on mythological/mysterious creatures. In Expedition Unknown, his focus is on other mysteries, such as looking for lost treasure.

My spouse doesn’t enjoy these shows as much as I do. In fact, they bother him to no end. It drives him crazy that Josh gets to travel the world and never finds anything. He doesn’t find Josh as amusing as I do.

But I think my spouse is missing the point. I don’t think the purpose of the shows is about the destination. It’s about the journey.

It’s true that Josh rarely (if ever) finds what he sets out to find. In Destination Truth, he never filmed any of the creatures he was looking for and rarely found any evidence that they existed at all. In Expedition Unknown, he’s never found a treasure that he sets out to find. But that doesn’t make his excursions unsuccessful.

There is so much to learn when watching his shows. I learn about different places and cultures around the world that I had no idea existed. I get to go with Josh into remote places that haven’t been touched by humans in sometimes as long as thousands of years. I get to discover artifacts that often lead to more questions than they do answers. Through it all, I’m fascinated and intrigued.

It’s totally possible Josh knows that he’s not going to find anything when he travels half way around the world, but that doesn’t stop him. He still hops on a plane and travels to a new destination. He still lowers himself into deep, dark caves and sloshes through potentially polluted water to see what’s at the end of the tunnel. He traverses dangerous landscapes with nothing more than hope that he’ll find what he’s looking for.

What Josh does is inspiring. He takes something he’s incredibly passionate about and has made a living and a TV show following his dream. He gets to travel to amazing places around the world and immerse himself into the history and legends of the place. He gets to meet amazing people who are passionate about what they do—historians and archaeologists (among others) who are trying to find answers to ancient mysteries.

It is said that life is supposed to be about the journey rather than the destination, and I think Josh proves that with his shows. While he has a goal in mind, he often doesn’t find exactly what he’s looking for, but he doesn’t come home empty handed either. Just because he doesn’t find the buried treasure or the Arc of the Covenant or the Yeti doesn’t mean he doesn’t find some other really cool things. And think about how much he learns along the way!

If life is about the journey, then Josh Gates is doing life right. All he does is travel. Would it be cool if he actually found what he set out to find? Absolutely. But even if he doesn’t, he still gets to go on one hell of an adventure. And he never gives up.

Josh might live his life a bit more extravagantly and adventurously than some of us are comfortable doing (pick me! I hate traveling), but we can still learn that the journey is more important than anything and that following your dreams will open your world to endless possibilities.

Where Do Ideas for a Story Come From?

I think every author in the world through the course of time has been asked this question. I believe that there is a general curiosity among readers to know how the author came up with the amazing story that is on the page. I also think that readers believe there is some sort of magic well authors are able to dip into to draw out their ideas.

The honest—and not incredibly magical truth—is that story ideas come from everywhere. A lot of my stories (Life After the Undead, Finding Eden, and Humanity’s Hope) came from dreams. I had to flesh out the ideas and make them more plausible (so many weird things happen in my dreams that are hard to put on paper!), but the main idea came to me while I was asleep.

Other times, ideas are influenced by other stories and how the world (or I) react to them. Sometimes, something happens in the news that spurs an idea for a story. It’s possible to overhear a conversation in public that will plant the seed for a story.

The point is that there isn’t a magical well that authors go to for ideas. We don’t have special or exclusive access to ideas. However, it’s what an author does with those ideas that makes all the difference.

A good author can take a mundane idea that they get from the news or an overheard conversation and turn it into something magical. The author’s world building and character creation can make the reader believe that this idea was handed to them from above by a creature bathed in an ethereal glow—and that is the real magic.

Ask any author and they’ll tell you that they have dozens of stories that failed because they couldn’t make the idea work. It may have seemed great at the time, but as they put it on the page, it wasn’t as wonderful as they imagined.

Ideas can be found all around us at any given time. As authors, we have to be aware and open to receiving them and knowing what to do with them. We have to know which ideas are going to create a great story and which ones are going to fall flat—and that often comes with trial and error.

Writing and Depression

Writing and depression go hand in hand. There’s a long history of writers being plagued by mental health issues, which contributes to them being brilliant creatives but tragic figures. There’s this notion that if you suffer from some kind of mental health issue, you’re destined to be a great writer.

On the other hand, there’s also this idea that writing can help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. In this case, you’re encouraged to keep a journal so that you can keep track of things that trigger your depression and find a creative outlet to deal with it. Writing can be a way to cope with negative emotions and improve overall health.

I’m a writer. I also have depression. I also deal with anxiety. Writing has helped me deal with my inner issues, and it absolutely gives me a creative outlet for the worst-case scenarios that course through my mind when my anxiety runs rampant. However, as much as depression helps me write, it can also hinder my writing.

Anyone who has suffered from depression knows that it’s not only an overwhelming sadness that overtakes you, there are physical issues that accompany depression. Depression can cause issues such as extreme exhaustion to pain to lack of interest in daily activities—including writing. When these symptoms take hold, it’s incredibly difficult to find the energy or desire to do anything.

Writing can be an incredible outlet for depression and allow the writer to release and deal with a lot of things that goes on in their mind, but it can also drain away any desire to put words on the page. This, in turn, can start a vicious cycle.

If you’re a writer like me, you are compelled to write. It’s more than a desire, it’s a necessity. You feel bad when you can’t create worlds and characters—like part of your soul is withering. But when depression has you in it’s control, even if the desire is there, you don’t have the energy, which then leads you to feeling guilty. This, of course, can make you feel worse.

Being able to write means you have to be in the right frame of mind. You have to be able to let your mind block out all distractions and delve wholly and completely into the world you’re creating. It’s incredibly hard to do that when the distractions come from inside your own mind.

When you’re depressed, it sometimes feels like your thoughts aren’t your own, that you have no control over what runs through your mind. If you have no control over them, you can’t stop them to write. Sometimes you regain control, but sometimes you don’t.

At times, writing can cause depression. The publishing world is becoming more and more competitive and is being flooded with millions of books every year, so it’s hard to get noticed. Rejections and bad reviews are par for the course in publishing, but they can weigh you down and make you question whether or not you should be writing—which leads back to the issue of needing to write. It can be difficult to deal with these emotions.

Every so often, we all need a break. We need to take some time to step back and look at what we’ve done and what we’re doing and decide if it’s right for us. When depression sets in and knocks you down for the count, it’s okay to take a moment to recuperate. If that moment means you need to sleep in and binge watch shows, then do it. If that moment means you need to write furiously about what is going on in your mind, then do it.

Writing and depression go hand in hand, and some of the best stories have been created by authors who have been plunged into dark places. Writing can be great therapy, but depression can overtake any desire to be creative. When it comes down to it, you need to do what is best for you and take the road that is going to make you feel better. The most important thing is how you feel and making sure you’re doing what’s best for you.

How Long Should a Story Be?

Determining how long a story should be depends on several factors. Is it flash fiction? A short story? An epic novel? Each of these varies in word count and length and determines how long a story should be. Below are the average, accepted word counts for the various types of fiction.
  • Micro-Fiction: up to 100 words
  • Flash Fiction: 100 – 1,000 words
  • Short Story: 1,000 – 7,500 words
  • Novellette: 7,500 – 20,000 words
  • Novella: 20,000 – 50,000 words
  • Novel: 50,000 – 110,000 words
  • Epics and Sequels: more than 110,000 words
However, knowing what type of story you want to write is only part of the equation; there are other parts that have to be incorporated to create a story. And what if you don’t know what length of story you want to write? What if all you have is a story idea, but you’re not sure if you can tell that story in 50 words or if it needs 50,000 words. What do you do then?

It’s important to keep in mind that every story—even super short ones—has to have a beginning, middle, and end, along with a climax, events that lead up to that climax, events that bring the reader down from that climax, and then a conclusion. It’s also important that your main character(s) change through your story.

Your main character(s) needs to have a problem, and they have to solve that problem. How long will it take them? That depends on how complicated their problem is. You’ll also have to decide how developed you want your main character(s) to be. Readers don’t have to know a character’s entire life story to relate to them or be emotionally involved with their plight, but if you want to share that information, you can.

You’ll also have to decide how many characters will get points of view in your story. If you’re telling it from one perspective, it might not take as many words to write. However, if you have different perspectives from numerous characters, each one will need a story arc, a beginning, middle, and end, and have to change from the beginning to the end. How you handle each of those perspectives could lengthen the work.

You’ll have to develop your setting(s) too. If your story takes place on a world your reader isn’t familiar with, such as in a fantasy or science fiction work, it might take longer to develop that setting. If your story takes place in more than one setting, depending on how important each one is to the storyline, you’ll need to take the time to develop each place so the reader feels what the character(s) feel when they are there.

It’s possible to write science fiction micro-fiction. It’s also possible to write fantasy micro-fiction. These certainly don’t take lots of words to develop character or setting, and the reader still gets a sense of place and people. The stories also evoke emotions.

In addition to developing character and setting, you’ll need to decide the pace of your story. This will help you decide how long your work needs to be. The pace of your story determines how quickly you reveal information to the reader, how long the scenes in your story are, and how fast the action moves. In shorter works, all of these have to happen at a faster pace than a longer work.

The easiest way to decide how long your story should be is to start writing it. If you find that you are taking a lot of time to describe your characters and your setting, you might consider writing longer works. If you tell your story in as few words as possible, shorter works might be up your alley.

When you’ve finished your story, you need to make sure all the important details are included. You need to make sure that your story incorporates the needed elements (beginning, middle, end, climax, resolution) and that it makes sense. If readers walk away from your work wondering what they just read and feeling confused and lost, you probably failed in your attempt at writing a story. If you can evoke emotions, a sense of wonder and/or awe, or excitement, then you’re on the right track with your story—no matter how long it is.

The Holidays Are On Their Way…And I’m Trying to Be Excited About That

Thanksgiving is one of my all-time favorite holidays. What’s not to like about spending time with friends and family and indulging in delicious food? Plus, there’s the added bonus of not having to worry about getting the right present for everyone on my list. 

This year, though, I’m having a hard time mustering any excitement for Thanksgiving. This is the first time my boys and I have been so far away from our extended family, and it’s definitely settling in. While I’m excited about the four of us spending time together, I’m going to miss hanging out with everyone else. It’s going to be very different without my extended family and friends around.

I noticed at Halloween that the weight of being in Nebraska was getting heavier. Halloween is another holiday where my kids and I used to spend time with extended family. For the past several years, it has been my sister and I taking my kids and her kids trick-or-treating. We’d even make it to my mother-in-law’s neighborhood, so I got to hang out with her too. If my mom was in town, she would hand out candy at my house while the rest of us walked the streets. That didn’t happen this year, and it made me incredibly sad.

The boys in their costumes.

Sure, we still went trick-or-treating, and the kids (mostly) had fun (my youngest got cold and didn’t see the point in going door to door; he just wanted me to buy candy like a normal person), but I felt the void of not hanging with my sister and niece and nephew or seeing my mother-in-law. 

Life is full of adjustments and changes, and I have to face them. I’m allowed to be sad and upset, but I can also look for the positive in each and every situation. Sure, it’s hard, but despite the changes and emotions that will likely come with Thanksgiving, there are also many things to be thankful for. Again, I have my immediate family to share it with. I’ll have a feast laid out on the table, and a roof over my head. I’ll get to talk to my extended family on the phone, even if I won’t be able to hug them. I have my health, and my boys have theirs too. 

Yet Another Giveaway!

This one is for EPIC YA/NA sci-fi and dystopian. You also have a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card! Check it out and enter for a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Urban Fantasy Book Giveaway

It’s a week of giveaways!

I’ve teamed up with 26 fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of urban fantasy novels to two (2) lucky winners, PLUS a brand new eReader to the Grand Prize winner!

Oh, and did I mention you'll receive a collection of FREE ebooks just for entering?

You can win my novel Wucaii, plus books from authors like D.N. Erikson and Kendrai Meeks

It has been 500 years since Aelana has been home, and a lot has changed in that time--including her. As a half-dragon, half-human hybrid, she has been traveling the universe destroying worlds. Both anxious and excited to return, she wonders what she will find. Her memories of home are filled with pain and loss, especially for her first and only love. She knows he won't be there, but will his memory? Will her anguish remain?

What waits for Aelana on her home world? Find out in this exciting urban fantasy novel by Pembroke Sinclair.

Enter the giveaway by clicking here.

Good luck!

YABC Around the World Book Giveaway

I am participating in the YABooksCentral.com Around the World in 30 Days giveaway!

There are 45 authors participating from all over the world, from Indonesia to South Africa, Guatemala, the US, UK, Europe, and Australia! It’s an amazing collection of books. Join in on the fun!

For a chance to win, you can enter here.

The book I have entered into the giveaway is Humanity’s Hope. I’m super excited to be part of such an amazing group of authors. I hope you’ll join in on the fun and discover YA authors from around the world!

What happens when humanity's hope rests on the shoulder of a teenager?

Caleb didn’t come out of the zombie uprising unscathed. He’s been scarred—both mentally and physically. The rest of humanity is trying to rebuild, to make the world normal again. Caleb is trying to return to a normal life also, but after all he’s seen, after the loss of his family and friends, the transition is difficult. The darkness that led him down a path of self-doubt and self-harm has never left his mind.

Things only become worse when he discovers he’s immune to whatever makes a zombie a zombie. Fighting zombies was predictable. He knew what to expect. Fighting humans is volatile. They are malicious and treacherous. They won’t stop to get what they want, and Caleb has to figure out exactly what that is.

This book can also be found at Amazon.

The giveaway lasts the entire month of November, but don’t delay. Again, if you want to enter for a chance to win, you can find the link here.

It’s Exhausting Always Thinking the Worst About People

It’s no secret that the world can be cruel place. All you have to do is turn on the news to know how bad things are—and it doesn’t seem it will be getting better any time soon.

Because the world can be full of shysters and those looking to take advantage of others, we have to be careful who we become friends with and let into our lives. Because of the popularity of social media and how easy it is to connect with people around the world, our vigilance has to be at the highest setting.

No matter what you do in life, you have to be cautious that you’re not taken advantage of, but as an author, I know firsthand how cruel and manipulative some people can be. It’s hard to deal with, and its especially hard to get justice for.

I always say that I’m a cynic, and in many ways I am, but I’m also trying to fix that part of me and focus on the positive. It’s exhausting constantly looking for the bad in people and the world. Questioning and monitoring their intentions takes time away from being able to live my life.

I know this means I’m looking at the world through rose-colored glasses and that I can potentially get taken for another ride, but I can’t shut myself in my house and not talk to anyone. How is that a better way to live? My glasses are only rose-colored on the edges. The inside is clear.

There have been some recent events that have happened with my writing that made me think back to those days when I was taken advantage of. One of them was an email exchange with a newsletter subscriber. Red flags were definitely raised with that one, and I did what I had to to ensure the requests didn’t continue.

Another event that took place occurred on Twitter. I had posted on the site earlier this month that I was looking for a narrator for my young adult zombie book Life After the Undead. My first attempt at making it into an audiobook fell through (I will tell you that story another time), so I was trying again. I received a comment from another user that they were interested in narrating the story. We chatted through DM, and then I emailed a copy of the excerpt that is uploaded on ACX as the audition script.

There was nothing about my exchange that seemed suspicious or weird until a day later I decided to send the Twitter person a link to ACX so they could decide if they wanted to sign up there—after all, they mentioned wanting to get into the business and needed some experience. I decided to send the message through Twitter for ease, and I discovered I could no longer send messages to this particular person.

Most people’s Twitter accounts are set up so that you can only send them messages if you are followers. Both this Twitter person and I followed one another so we could chat, but this let me know that we were no longer followers of one another. That was confirmed when I went to the account and had the option of clicking the follow button again. I did not unfollow this person, so I assume they unfollowed me.

Since I had their email, I sent them a message, but I never received a reply. I sort of expected this. After talking with some other people, it was agreed that they probably were no longer interested in doing my audiobook and that I needed to be cautious about sending them copies of my work or entering into any agreement without a contract.

I’m not sure if I would classify this situation as one that I should freak out about. I never sent more than the excerpt, and the person never asked for anything else. We talked about payment, but I wanted that upfront in case my budget (which is pretty low) wasn’t enough—there was no point wasting time talking if they didn’t agree with my pay scale. They were happy with my offer, but never asked me to send anything. In fact, I was the one who suggested I needed an audio sample so I could hear their voice, and they agreed to do it.

It would have been easy to be suspicious of this person, and maybe a small part of me is. I’m definitely curious to know why they suddenly decided to vanish after being excited, but I doubt I’ll ever get an answer. And maybe that’s where the issue lies. Maybe needing to go through the process messed up their plans of taking advantage. Perhaps when I didn’t instantly tell them I wanted to work with them without going through the steps they moved on. Who knows?

I try to be cautious with my interactions online, and there’s probably a part of me that is still naïve, but if I thought everyone who contacted me online was bad, I would never have any interactions. I wouldn’t have found the amazing fans and friends that I have. True, I wouldn’t have found a nefarious publisher, either.

My point is that we all have to be cautious about who we interact with. The world is full of terrible people, but it’s also full of good people. I understand that it can be hard to distinguish between the two, but sometimes you just have to take a chance. Stay alert and vigilant, but be willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

Happy Halloween!

Tomorrow is the most wonderful of holidays. I really enjoy Halloween. It’s so fun to see the kids get dressed up and all of the spooky decorations. We even decorated this year—the first time ever! I’ve always wanted to put up decorations, but it was hard in Wyoming because they would blow away. For about a week here in Nebraska we had to bring the decorations inside because the wind was howling.

My plan is to add to my decorations every year. At one point, I’d like to create some zombies out of old clothes and have them laying in the yard. I think that will be super fun. We can probably stuff them with leaves—there are plenty blowing around! But for the first year, I decided to start slow.

In celebration of Halloween, three of my ebooks are on special for 99 cents. Today is the last day you can get them, so don’t delay! Have a fun, safe Halloween!

Seventeen-year-old Krista must quickly figure out how she's going to survive in the zombie-destroyed world.

The one advantage humans have is that the zombies hate humid environments, so they're migrating west to escape its deteriorating effects. The survivors plan to construct a wall at North Platte to keep the undead out, and Krista has come to Nebraska to start a new life.

Zombies aren’t the only creatures she has to be cautious of—the other survivors have a dark side. Krista must fight not only to live but also to defend everything she holds dear—her country, her freedom, and ultimately, those she loves.

Join Krista in her quest to survive in this thrilling apocalyptic novel by Pembroke Sinclair.

Find it on Amazon.

It has been 500 years since Aelana has been home, and a lot has changed in that time--including her. As a half-dragon, half-human hybrid, she has been traveling the universe destroying worlds. Both anxious and excited to return, she wonders what she will find. Her memories of home are filled with pain and loss, especially for her first and only love. She knows he won't be there, but will his memory? Will her anguish remain?

What waits for Aelana on her home world? Find out in this exciting urban fantasy novel by Pembroke Sinclair.

Find it on Amazon.

Caleb, a 17-year-old boy, survived the zombie uprising, but he didn’t come out of the ordeal unscathed. He’s been scarred—both mentally and physically. The rest of humanity is trying to rebuild, to make the world normal again. Caleb is trying to return to a normal life also, but after all he’s seen, after the loss of his family and friends, the transition is difficult. The darkness that led him down a path of self-doubt and self-harm keeps trying to creep back into his mind.

Things only become worse when he discovers he’s immune to whatever makes a zombie a zombie. Fighting zombies was predictable. He knew what to expect. Fighting humans is volatile. They are malicious and treacherous. They won’t stop to get what they want, and Caleb has to figure out exactly what that is.

Find it on Amazon.

To Use Auto Twitter DMs or Not

Social media is such an amazing thing. It allows us to connect with people all over the world and share our opinions and our work. As authors, it gives us the potential to find new readers and connect with other writers.

There are so many people on Facebook and Twitter.  If you aren’t on social media in some capacity, you should be. 

Of course, because there are so many people on social media, it’s easy to get lost and buried in the vast amount of posts. Not to mention, analytics (especially on Facebook) often work against you. Even if you have tons of followers, the vast majority of them probably won’t see your posts.

So, as a way to stand out, you might be tempted to send new followers a DM on Twitter. You can even automate the process so it happens right after someone follows you. This allows you to send more information about where they can find your books or you on the Internet.

However, you might be annoying people more than you’re helping yourself.

Several years ago, when I first started really getting into Twitter and using it to build my platform, everyone was using DMs. If I followed 10 people a day, I probably received 8 DMs. Most of them were from authors, and I found myself confused by some of the messages they were sending.

I get that you want to stand out from the crowd, but sending followers messages like

“I’ll gargle acid if you don’t buy my book!”
“Buy my book so gnomes won’t come to your house and kill you while you sleep!”

How are those supposed to sell your book?

Thankfully, I haven’t gotten any like this for a while, but every so often, I still get DMs. Most of the time, they are links to Facebook pages or pages to buy whatever it is the person is selling (authors aren’t the only ones who use DMs). Once, I got a hilarious joke.

I’ll be honest, I might open your DM just to see what you have to say, but I often don’t keep it unless there’s something in there that I think is going to benefit me. Is that awful? Maybe, but I think it’s the mindset of the vast majority of the population. I enjoy helping my fellow authors out, and I don’t mind you telling me about your books, but if you expect a sale, I need to know that it’s worth my hard-earned money and time. More often than not, just sending a link to the buy page isn’t going to do that.

For the most part, the DMs have toned down and aren’t so weird, but some people still find them pretty annoying. There are articles that explain why you shouldn’t send auto DMs and gives you some ideas of things you can do instead. As I said, I may open the messages and see what you have to say, but rarely—very rarely—do I click on the link to buy what you’re selling.

In addition, I find it incredibly annoying when someone sends me an auto DM under the guise that they are not sending an auto DM. I’m sure you’ve seen these. They ask you a question like they are interested in getting to know you. Several times, I’ve responded to these questions and never received a reply. That hurts my feelings. I was truly hoping to make a connection with someone on the other end.

Oh! And then there are the DMs that require me to verify that I’m a real person so that I can follow someone. I get it: being spammed by autobots and people offering to get you 5 million followers is annoying, but so is having to verify that I’m a real person. It’s only one click, but that one click takes times away from my day, and most of the time, I’m not willing to click it.

Auto DMs are so loathed, it may hurt your chances of gaining new followers. If someone is afraid that you are going to send them a message, they might scroll right past you. There are other ways to get followers to click on your links or find you on Facebook, and it’s not in an auto DM. That info should be in your profile so that people can click on it if they want. I know that you don’t have a lot of space, which means you’ll have to be creative in how you present your work.

And, technically speaking, you shouldn’t be using social media to sell your stuff; you should be using it as a way to connect with others. Sure, you can tell them that you’re a writer and share links to your books or let them know when things are on sale, but you shouldn’t be shouting “BUY MY BOOK!” because that doesn’t work to sell books.

As an author, you want to be seen and get your work into the world. Using social media gives you the opportunity to connect with potential readers and fans and other writers around the world. For the sake of their sanity and to increase the potential of getting new followers, perhaps it’s time to think twice about using auto DMs.

Slow Down, Life! I Need to Catch Up!

OK. I’m over this being busy thing. I need time to regroup and catch up on writing. It’s been too long since I’ve been able to sit and work on my own stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been working on my stories when I can, but I need a block of time—a week, or at the very least, a few days—so I can finish edits. It’s driving me crazy to feel so far behind!

And it’s not only in my writing that I’m lagging, it’s everyday life. My house is a mess and my laundry needs to be finished. I’ve been trying to stay caught up, but it’s a never-ending process. It doesn’t help that I’m super tired and have no motivation.

Because I’ve fallen behind, I totally forgot to announce the winner of the Stuck in a Good Book Blog Hop. It was Jana. Woot! Woot! Thank you to everyone who participated!

Despite the fact that time is getting away from me and I’m woefully behind, there have been a few fantastic occurrences that happened recently. I got to spend time with my mother-in-law last weekend, which was fabulous. The boys were so excited to see their grandma. We took a trip to the zoo and had a chance to relax and visit.

I’ve had a few bites on narrators for the audiobook of Life After the Undead, so (hopefully) that works out better this time than it did last time.

Halloween is right around the corner, so there’s that to look forward to.

I keep hoping that things will slow down so I can catch my breath and get caught up. I didn’t post all last week because I’ve been so far behind. Life keeps getting in the way. You’d think by now I’d be able to figure out how to work around these obstacles, but it can be incredibly difficult and draining.

From here, all I can do is move forward. I’m keeping my head up and hoping for the best. I’ll do what I can when I can. Eventually, I should get my tasks accomplished.

No Matter How You Feel About Yourself, Someone Out There Thinks You Are Amazing!

Being an author can be tough. We often spend a lot of time by ourselves in fantasy worlds talking to imaginary people. While those people might be more fascinating and better conversationalists than certain individuals in the real world, they are still fake.

As authors, we spend a lot of time working on our stories and creating something we hope people will enjoy. It takes a lot of courage to put our work (and ourselves) out into the world because there’s always the possibility that someone will hate it and tear us down.

Of course, we’ve learned to grow a thick skin and not take bad reviews or rejections personally. We know that publishing is a business and that the decisions are made on whether or not they are going to make a company or agent money, not about how they feel about us personally. Of course, on occasion, that doesn’t make rejections sting any less.

If you’re like me, given enough time and rejection, you’ll start to feel weighed down. We all deal with rejection differently, but we all deal in some way. You might question whether or not you’re doing the right thing and if creating stories is worth the hassle and heartache.

But I’m here to tell you that no matter how many rejections you get or how low you sink, there are still people in the world who think you are amazing!

I don’t doubt that you have readers and fans who enjoy reading your work. Focus your energy on them, not on making people happy who aren’t ever going to be happy. And if you’re feeling really down in the dumps, a great way to feel good about yourself and your writing is to talk to kids.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t write kids’ books or middle grade or young adult novels, being a writer is enough for them. They think it’s super cool that you get to put words on a page and create new worlds. Don’t believe me? Schedule a time to read to some kids at your local library or at an elementary school and see how they react when you tell them you’re an author.

I don’t doubt that they will be full of questions and wonder what types of books you write and how you started writing and where you get them published and if you make money from them and where you get your ideas. Some may even tell you about the book they are working on.

You may feel inclined to tell them the truth about how hard writing is and how it can suck the life out of you, but when you see the optimism and hope on their faces, you won’t. You’ll remember when you had visions of greatness and were encouraged by someone you looked up to, and you’ll find a way to be a great role model.

All the questions they ask will remind you of why you started writing in the first place. You’ll feel inspired and excited. You might even leave with a smile on your face and a renewed reason to write.

Life’s Terrifying Moments

There are moments in a parent’s life that test their coping skills. In general, they aren’t good moments. They aren’t watching your child make a touchdown or bring home a 100% on a science test. No, they are generally moments where someone gets hurt.

They are awful moments.

They are scary moments.

They are moments that make you want to lock your children away in the house so they can’t get injured.

I had one of those moments last week.

On Friday, my youngest and I had a half day, so we were hanging out at home enjoying our freedom (well, he was enjoying his freedom, I was working online). It was a rainy day, so it was perfect weather to stay inside.

At one point, my youngest decided he was going to go see if a friend could play. I told him I didn’t really want him riding his bike on the wet streets, but he assured me he wouldn’t be gone long. Since the friend’s house wasn’t far, I relented, then I went back to work.

My phone rang a while later. It was the friend’s stepdad telling me I needed to pick up my son. He’d run into the camper trailer and had bumped his head.

I didn’t think much of it. I assumed it was an injury that I’d put some ice on and all would be well. I debated walking over, but then decided since it was raining and I probably had to bring the bike home that I would drive.

Nothing prepared me for what I saw.

There was definitely a bump on my baby’s head, but it was about the size of a softball. I did the one thing a parent isn’t supposed to do in this situation: I freaked. As you can imagine, that scared my youngest and he instantly went into panic mode. I wrapped him in a hug, trying to calm him down, but my heart was in my throat and the only thought running through my head was: “Get to the hospital. NOW!”

I hurried my boys into the car, then ran by the house so my oldest could grab my purse. I needed the insurance card. As soon as possible, I was down the road on my way to the emergency room. We couldn’t get there fast enough. The rain increased, coming down steadily, so I didn’t want to speed and hydroplane. I swear I hit every red light, and there aren’t a ton on the route I took.

The entire time I was driving, my son was slowly losing his mind. He was absolutely hysterical, screaming and crying that he didn’t want to get stitches. He asked me multiple times if he was bleeding, and he was slightly on his nose. At first, I told him he was, but it wasn’t serious, then when he kept asking, I told him no. Concern caused goosebumps to form on my skin. Something wasn’t right. That increased my desire to get to the hospital.

There was a moment of silence that was then followed by sheer terror. I was holding my child’s hand, and he grabbed my arm and squeezed as tightly as he could. That was followed by panic that he was going to have to have surgery and him telling me he was scared.

I did another thing a parent isn’t supposed to do in this situation: I told him I was scared too. And I was petrified. Nothing about the situation was normal. Again and again he asked if he was bleeding. Over and over I kept saying that everything was going to be fine—the words were there to comfort both him and me, but they didn’t do much.

Finally, I made it to the hospital. Holding my son’s arm, we headed into the emergency room. We went to the admissions desk, and the process was too slow. My child continued to scream and cry. He was also shaking from the cold and shock. I wrapped my arms around him to comfort and warm him, but also because I didn’t want to let go.

A nurse collected us and took us to a room. She was calm and kind. She commented that she had no doubt he had a concussion, and I motioned at her to be quiet. The diagnosis upset my child. He didn’t want to be hurt. He answered all the questions the nurse asked. He knew his name, my name, his brother’s name, and his dad’s name. And then he asked about 800 more times if he was bleeding. Then came the concern about why he was missing two teeth (they had fallen out naturally weeks before).

He was taken in for a CAT scan to ensure that there was no bleeding on the brain or that his skull wasn’t fractured. An ice bag was placed on his head. My oldest and I stood next to the bed, holding on to each other as tight as we could. Both of us were fighting back the urge to cry.

It didn’t take long for everyone to calm down once we got to the hospital, but fear and worry hung thick in the air. The scans came back negative: no bleeding on the brain and no skull fracture. But the concussion diagnosis stuck.

My son at the hospital. He was wet because he fell in a puddle after running into the trailer.

We stayed in the emergency room for several hours. The nurses kept him under observation for a bit because his stomach was upset and they had given him some medication. Part of that—I don’t doubt—was for my peace of mind. As long as we were at the hospital, if something happened, I knew my son was in good hands.

Eventually, my youngest was ready. He wanted to be at home in his surroundings. We headed out, a lump in my throat and fear prickling my skin. I had been fighting back the urge to break down the entire time we were in the emergency room. I had to hang on a bit longer.

As soon as we got home, the dogs got to work making sure my youngest was comfortable and under constant surveillance.

No parent ever wants to see their child get hurt, and it’s heartbreaking when they do. I don’t know how I kept it together to get him to the hospital (and, honestly, I didn’t do that great of a job remaining calm), but I guess we all do what we have to do to get them the help they need.

I’m so thankful that kids are resilient and bounce back quickly. After a long, terrifying, and sleepless night (for me; my son slept soundly), the next day was full of hope. My son wasn’t completely healed, but he was on the road to being himself. 

My youngest on Saturday morning.  

We’re lucky that we have a Concussion Management Center in town, and my son already has an appointment to see the doctor. I’m amazed and grateful for the care he received and will continue to receive, and I’m positive he’ll make a full recovery.

What to do When You Hit the Sales Slump

At some point in your writing career, you’re probably going to see your sales numbers go down.  It could be a gradual decline or a sharp falloff in sales.  No matter what happens, keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world.

The decline happens whether you’re repped by an agent and published by a Big 6 Publisher, an indie author, or self-pubbed.  It’s just the nature of the beast.  Oh, sure, there are always those who defy the rules, that never seem to see a decline in sales, but it’s not true.  At some point, the amount of sales on a particular book or books will slow down.  Some are just lucky enough to have several books that constantly bring in the big money

On average , most of us probably won’t see the sales that J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and R.L. Stine have enjoyed—but that doesn’t mean you should give up on your pursuit.  They had to start somewhere, just like you did.  There’s always hope.  There are a few things you can do to help alleviate the depression that comes with hitting the sales slump.

1. Write more books.  One of the best ways to increase sales is to have other titles readers can choose from.  Keep putting out the best work you can and grow your fan base.

2. Market and advertise.  Having people know about your work might increase their desire to buy it.  Get out and let the world know about your book(s) and give readers a reason to buy it.

3. Become a speaker.  You’re an expert in something, whether it’s creating characters or developing new worlds or using a semicolon properly, and you can (and should) share your knowledge with others.  Develop workshops and presentations to help others become better writers.  Become a panelist at conventions and conferences.  Heck, do something as simple as read at your local library.  It doesn’t matter what you do, just get out there and do it!

4. Stop obsessing about the numbers.  This seems like an incredibly simple task to accomplish, but it’s much harder than it sounds.  Trust me, I know.  I have access to the analytics for several of my books, and I check them way more than I should.  I also check my ranking on Amazon way more often than is probably healthy.  If seeing your numbers change upsets you, then stop looking at the numbers.  There are so many other things to look at on the internet.  Better yet, get back to writing!

5. Write more books.  This can’t be said enough.  You’re a writer because you love to write, so write.  Don’t worry about sales, they’ll come with time. 

It can be hard (and depressing) to deal with declining sales, but it happens to everyone.  Do you have any other tactics you employ so you aren’t focused on the numbers?

How Much Can Readers Ask of Authors?

As authors, we ask a lot from our readers. We ask them to buy our work, enjoy it, and then leave a review. It doesn’t always happen this way, but most times it does, and it’s amazing. Even if the reader doesn’t like our work, we’re still happy that they read the book.

But can readers ever ask anything of authors?

Of course they can.

They can ask us to write the best book in our abilities. They can ask that our books take them to faraway worlds and introduces them to new and interesting characters. They can ask that we make them feel when they read our book. As an author, I’m sure you’re more than happy to supply this to the reader.

But can readers ask for more?

Can they ask for free books? Both ebooks and signed paperbacks?

Recently, I had an interaction with a newsletter subscriber. I was doing a giveaway for some of my books, and this person sent me an email to tell me about a terrible time they were having. They were losing their house and having all kinds of other issues, so they explained that I could make their day a little brighter by sending them some of my signed paperbacks.

I consider myself a kind person, and I had some extra books floating around that were copies from an old publisher. The business has since closed down, and the cover information was out of date, but the interior information was the same. Since I wasn’t going to do anything else with the books, I sent them to this particular individual.

When I sent out my next newsletter, I was having another giveaway from my Life After the Undead series. They were leftovers from the publisher that closed, but—again—the interior story was still the same. Again, I wasn’t going to do anything with them, so I wanted to get them into the hands of readers who might enjoy them.

The same individual messaged me again to let me know that the books I sent a month before had been confiscated when all of their possessions were repossessed. They asked if I could kindly send more books because they were still struggling and having a difficult time.

I didn’t have any other extra copies floating around my office like I had before, and I became suspicious of their intentions. They wanted me to forgo the giveaway and just send them the books, but I wasn’t willing to do that. I wanted to be fair to all my readers—especially since this person had already received copies. They then asked if I would be willing to send pdf versions of the books I had previously sent.

At this point, my suspicion increased further. In the emails, the person kept repeating that I should “have compassion” and help them out in their time of need. I had thought I had been compassionate and kind previously when I sent the first set of copies. Plus, why would anyone repossess books?

I went with my gut instinct that something was off with the situation and decided not to send either the pdf versions or more paperback versions. Is it possible this person was telling the truth? Absolutely. But it’s also possible they were selling my work on the internet.

This is one scenario of readers asking for something that seemed weird and off, but not all encounters are like this. I’ve had others ask me for books—friends, family, fans—and if I could swing it, I’ve sent them copies. If I couldn’t, I sent them links to where they could buy them.

In general, I don’t think it’s weird for readers to ask for things from an author. After all, you never know what the answer is until you try. And, honestly, it’s really cool to get books that have been signed by the author.

However, as the author, you have the final say with whether or not you want to send readers what they are asking for. You have to judge whether or not their intentions are noble or whether they are asking too much of you.

For the authors out there, have you ever had any of these types of requests? How did you go about handling them? How much is too much for a reader to ask of you?

I would love to know what you think! Please feel free to post in the comments or shoot me an email if you’d like to share your story privately!

Stuck In A Good Book Blog Hop

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Before I tell you about the books I’ve been stuck in, I want to let you know what I’m giving away. I’ll be giving away a signed paperback copy of my book Wucaii (open to U.S. shipping only). For a chance to win, comment with a book you’ve been stuck in!

Have you even been stuck in a book so amazing, so emotional that you couldn’t put it down? What about a book that you wish you could get sucked into the pages and live in that world forever?

I have. There have been several books that I never wanted to end. These have included some Star Wars books, books by Piers Anthony, books by Michael Crichton, books by Christopher Pike, and a host of others.

Follow the rest of the blogs in the hop to find more giveaways and other good books that people have been stuck in!

At Some Point, You Might Have to Give Away Free Books

For some authors, giving away free books makes their heart rate increase and their stomach clench. Giving away free books means that you aren’t selling books, which is the whole reason you’re an author, right? You didn’t pour your heart and soul into that story to go to the poor house. There are even some authors that won’t give copies away to reviewers because they are bound and determined to make money on their creation. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. We as authors deserve to be compensated for our work. Our art and time is worth something, so it’s not too much to ask for people to pay to enjoy it.

When it comes to reviewers, there’s an industry rule (standard, maybe?) that they get free copies of your books. It’s their payment for reading and reviewing your work. But sometimes, you send your books away for said reviews and never receive the review. This is incredibly frustrating. It makes us authors wonder if the person was just looking for a free book.

When it comes to giving your book away for free or not, you make the final call. There are plenty of reasons why it’s beneficial and why it’s not.

Publishing has changed a lot over the last decade, and with the advent of indie publishers and self-publishing, there are a lot more books in the world than there were before. There are also more new authors. Giving your books away for free doesn’t cheapen you or your work. In fact, it could help you.

Personally, I enjoy giving away books. For readers that might be on the fence about whether or not they are going to read me, this is their introduction to see if they like my work—at no obligation to them. If they like the book, I have others they can purchase, which benefits me.

I’m even okay with it if a reviewer doesn’t leave a review. I would like them to, but I can’t force them to, and reviews aren’t about me anyway, they are about the reviewer’s relationship with my story—whether good or bad. I’ve written a couple different posts about reviews and reviewers, which can be found here and here. Obviously, I’ve gotten reviews for my books—some good, some not. It all boils down to the reviewer’s personal preference and experience how they react to my book.

Isn’t that what it all boils down to anyway? How a reader reacts to your book? Don’t you want readers reading your book? I know I do. And in all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve discovered that sometimes the best way to entice a reader to read your story is to give it to them. Sure, you might not get any royalties from that particular book, but you might get a loyal fan who is willing to buy all your other books.

I’ve found quite a few fans (some who have become my friends) using this approach, and I’ve even found beta readers who give me valuable feedback on new work. All they ask in return is a free copy of the final version; sometimes an ecopy but more often a signed paperback, and I’m more than happy to send it to them.

You have to decide what you want out of your writing career and how you’re going to accomplish those goals. If you don’t ever want to give away a free copy of your book, don’t. No one can make you. But if you’re willing to take a chance, take a chance.

The saying goes that you have to spend money to make money, and maybe that also applies to giving away free books.

Life in Nebraska

It’s hard to believe that 3 months have passed since we moved to Nebraska. To be honest, it feels like it’s been a lot longer—but not in a bad way. We’ve been settling into our new lives, so I thought I would share our progress.

My family is from the Midwest (Iowa), so moving here wasn’t a culture shock. The weather and the humidity weren’t even an issue. I have to say, when I first got to Nebraska, the first thing I noticed was the smell. It’s a moist, earthy, vegetationy smell, almost mildewy, but it’s amazing. It reminds me of my childhood when we visited my grandparents. It brings me comfort.

I posted last week about my garden, and it’s getting to be that time of year when I’m doing my final harvest and letting the plants take their natural course. It’s fun going outside to pick the rest of my plants, and I’m looking forward to having another garden next summer.

The boys started football back in August, and things have been amazing. It keeps them busy, and we get to watch their games every Sunday. They’ve found some great friends to hang out with, and school seems to be going pretty well so far.

My oldest plays tackle in full pads.

My youngest plays flag football.

We’ve also been to the local swimming hole, as well as to the roller rink. I kid you not, I’m pretty sure the music playing at the rink was the same soundtrack that was playing when I was a kid and went skating. It was a lot of fun. I almost put on a pair of quads, but I ended up with blades. Maybe next time I’ll take a far trip down memory lane and put on the pair of quads…

The past 3 months have had their challenges, but we’re settling nicely into our new schedule. I’m looking forward to the future in Nebraska.

Finding Time to Market

I recently started a new job, which means that the vast majority of my day is spent away from my computer. When I come home, I’m tired. I still have to take care of my dogs and kids and get to bed at a decent hour. On the weekends, I’m catching up on cleaning and laundry and trying to find time to write.

Most days, it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. More often than not, marketing is the last thing I’m thinking about. I don’t want to look for ad options or contact readers for reviews or do any of the million other things they say I should do to market my book. It’s too much.

Marketing isn’t a lot of fun. And it takes a lot of time—time you’d much rather be spending on writing. But there are ways to squeeze it in throughout your day.

One of the easiest ways to market is to work on your branding. At some point in the day, you’re probably going to be on social media, so take a few minutes to promote your brand. Talk about something you’re reading or share a link to the blog post you wrote—even if you didn’t write that post recently. Take a few minutes to find and follow new authors on Facebook or Twitter. Post a picture on Instagram (you were probably planning on doing this anyway!).

You can even schedule posts. There are a variety of programs out there that help you do this. You’ll still have to take the time to write the posts and schedule them, but it can be done. I spend maybe 5 minutes every morning scheduling the posts I want to go up that day. I could absolutely make more time if I need to, but this schedule works well for me.

Take 10 minutes each day to read some posts from other authors and share them or comment on them. Search for other things you’re passionate about and comment on the articles or share the posts with your followers. It doesn’t have to be book related. In fact, if you’re branding, it probably shouldn’t be related to your book at all.

If you have the means, you might consider hiring a book manager or marketing firm to help you market. Or maybe you can ask a friend or family member who has time to help you (you’ll have to work out the payment details with them). No one said you had to do this alone. Better yet, take some time to find multi-author events that you can be part of. Join a blog hop. Doing a Google search brings up many options, I’m sure you can find one that works for you.

I get that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to accomplish. I’m struggling too. Marketing doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, but you have to make some time to get it accomplished.

My First Garden

I’ve always wanted a garden. When we moved into our first house, I had visions of planting a garden. The yard wasn’t done, so it would have been easy to create a special area just for the garden. But it never happened. The entire backyard was covered with sod without a dedicated garden space.

That probably wasn’t a bad thing. With two small kids, I wouldn’t have had time. Plus, the soil at that house was less than desirable. I doubt my plants would have done very well.

When we moved into our second house, I had no delusions about putting in a garden. I knew I wouldn’t have time.

When we moved to Nebraska, there was already a garden in place. All I had to do was plant some seeds and let nature take its course. 

One of the best things about my garden is how easy it is to take care of. It would have never been this easy in Wyoming. Gardens in Laramie need a lot of attention and tender loving care. Here in Nebraska, they just need sun and water. We didn’t even do a very good job of spraying for weeds and bugs, but the garden kept growing.

I learned a few things about gardening this year that will help me next year. They are as follows:
  • The seeds did much better when they weren’t planted super deep in the ground. Since this was our first garden, we weren’t sure how deep to plant them, so we used a lawn aerator to make the holes. Next year, we’ll probably just use a tiller.
  • There’s no reason to plant a ton of bean plants. I have so many beans at the moment, and more developing. Next year, I think we’ll be fine to get away with a couple plants. 

This is part of one bag that is currently in my freezer.
  • The bean and tomato plants need their own areas or a barricade. Without one, they spread out and take over. My poor onions got blocked by the bean plants, and the tomato plant took over an entire corner of the plot and has been slowly creeping to other parts of the garden.
I got one onion out of my garden. Just one. My hand is there for size.
  • Corn earworms are pretty gross, but they don’t actually harm the plant. I threw away several ears of corn that could have been saved before I had this realization. All I have to do is cut off the top and the rest of the corn is fine. Next year, that will be done differently. 
    • My oldest was really creeped out by the corn earworms. It got to the point where he wouldn’t even open the husks for fear a worm would be in there. Like they were going to jump out and latch onto his face. Made me chuckle.
  • Corn smut totally looks like an alien egg sac, but it’s just a fungus. It’s a little less fun knowing exactly what this is. I prefer to think of it as something otherworldly.
  • You get some really cool bugs in your garden. From lady bugs to praying mantises to whatever is pictured below (we’ve been debating whether it’s a walking stick or praying mantis—cast your vote in the comments!), the bugs rock! The ants weren’t that cool, but a little pesticide took care of those. 

  • Carrots suck to pull out of the ground. You’d think they’d be easy—just pull on the tops and out they come, but that’s a lie. I’ve had maybe four carrots that came out easily. The rest I’ve had to conduct an archaeological dig to get them out of the ground. 

This was our first garden, so we really had no idea what we were doing. Not to mention, we planted late in the year (middle of June), so we weren’t sure what would grow. We randomly planted seeds in the ground and waited to see what popped up. Now that we have a season under our belt, we can make next year’s garden even better.

We already have plans of how we’re going to organize it, putting up a barrier so that the tomatoes and beans stay on their own side of the garden. Then, we’ll create rows and organize the seeds accordingly. I even have a list started of what we’re going to plant next year. I can’t wait!

Gardening in Nebraska is easy, which is probably why I enjoy it so much. Sure, I have to spend some time out there making sure the plants are healthy and to see what is growing, but it’s time I enjoy. It’s also not overly time consuming. Oh, it could be. I could spend a lot of time out there if I really wanted, but I don’t, and it still works out.

The boys and I have a lot of fun watching the plants get bigger and then harvesting the crops—and they taste delicious! Now that I have a garden, I can’t imagine what life would be like without it.