Friday, December 19, 2014

Talking to dogs...

Things you'll probably never say unless you have a puppy...

1. Stop trying to eat your foot!
(Poor guy got his nail stuck on his cage and ripped half of it off and it had to be bandaged, which he kept trying to get off!) 

2. No I don't want doggy kisses! 

3. Quick trying to eat my hair!

4. Stop biting the Christmas tree!

5. Toes are not chew toys!

6. Are you eating leaves? 

7. Can you please do your business without stepping in it immediately after?

8. Why are you shoving your face down the back of the couch?

9. Seriously? You just peed five seconds ago!

10. Don't eat rocks!

In all fairness...

I have said a few of these to my kids, too, but still. Puppies certainly are an adventure!

Friday, December 12, 2014

NextGen Readers

It seems like I hear comments about how readers are a dying breed fairly often. I don't know that I believe that. Maybe we just need to expand our definition of what makes a reader

During the school year, myself and two of my writing besties, Amanda Strong and Gail Wagner, do school presentations and we ask the kids how many of them like to read. 

The first round of hands is usually fairly small, unless we're in an advanced or accelerated reader class. Then we have to clarify. Reading isn't just novels. Reading can be comics, nonfiction, graphic novels, textbooks, news, magazines...

More hands pop up, and their interest piques when they realize we're not criticizing them for not necessarily loving to read Twilight or Hunger Games. Any form of reading is awesome. It expands your mind, teaches you, and helps you see more than just the world around you. That can be accomplished with pretty much any form or reading. 

I'd also like to add audiobooks to that list. 

Audiobooks are something my family likes to listen to on road trips. Usually it's nonfiction, like the amazing narrative nonfiction book, Unbroken, which is being made into a movie next year. If you haven't read/listened to it, please do. It's an amazing story. 

My eight-year-old daughter recently discovered that audiobooks aren't limited to long car rides. She asked if she could listen to an audiobook on my phone the other night, and she's hooked! Her first solo audiobook was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which is only about 15 minutes and she didn't understand a lot of it, but I only had a few on my phone the moment she asked. 

Next try at audiobooks was Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Long Haul. She finished listening in two days and immediately wanted more. Now she's listening to Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. That one will take her a little while! 

Her discovery that audiobooks exist for young readers has interrupted our Anne of Green Gables nightly reading, but I'm okay with that. Not because I don't love Anne, because I do, but because this is the first time my daughter has really wanted to read on her own. It's always been something she only asked to do at night before bed, like it was weird to read any other time! 

Now, she wants to grab her audiobook whenever she has free time, and I want to encourage that as much as possible. 

Readers aren't a dying breed, we just need to accept the fact that reading comes in lots of different forms and encourage learning and exploring no matter what format piques young readers' minds. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Everything looks perfect from far away

I enjoy listening to music while I write, and I've been listening to my I Heart Radio station for Hozier lately. "Take Me To Church" is an amazing song, btw, but it was actually a different song that caught my attention recently. 

A line from and Iron & Wine song, Such Great Heights, had one line that really stuck with me and got me thinking. 

What was the line? 

"Everything looks perfect from far away."

Not only did I find this to be rather poetic in the overall concept of the song, it struck me how true it is, and how common of a theme this is in Young Adult literature. I think this is something pretty much everyone has experienced in life. On one side of the coin or the other. 

How many times have you looked at someone and thought their life seemed so perfect? It's not, of course. No one's is. But it looks perfect from where you're standing. Maybe that inspires you, maybe it makes you jealous, but either way it has an effect on you in most cases. 

But what about being on the other side? Things may be going well for you, or your life might just appear to be raining down gumdrops and lollipops. Other people see what they perceive your life to be and have those same reactions of jealousy, indifference, or inspiration to do better. 

Those reactions can have a lasting effect on a person no matter what side of this line you're on. Being judged, knowing you're being judged, can make you want to shout at people that things aren't what they seem. Maybe you're struggling with some serious issues and nobody knows. Perhaps your world is falling apart and there's no one there to help because everyone thinks you've got it all together. And if you're the one looking on and letting your perceptions run away from you, it can either get you moving on a better path or drag you down into bitterness. 

This happens with adults on a regular basis, but these types of perceptions are often dealt with in YA because not only are emotional reactions strongly reacted to with teens, YA characters are brash and make stupid decisions and fall apart over something that shouldn't have been that significant all the time. YA is all about figuring out your place in the world, and we try to puzzle it out by comparing ourselves to other way too much. 

For some, they realize the futility of constant comparison as they age. Some never do, and it shows. Take a page out of your favorite YA/coming of age novel and experience lives you'll likely never live. Learn from their experiences and failures, and then do your best not to repeat them. This is one of the reasons I love reading so much, you get to experience a hundred lives outside your own. Science even backs up the idea that kids and teens who read are more well-rounded and empathetic. 

Don't fall into the trap of thinking everyone has it better than you. Most likely, they're struggling with the same things you are and being a source of support rather than someone else trying to tear a person down will make a difference in your life and theirs. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Surviving November... #nanowrimo

For anyone who participates in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), they know how crazy hectic November can be for a writer. This year was no different, of course!

This is where it all starts, signing up for NaNo, putting in all your info and telling yourself your going to spend the month working on ONE book until you hit 50,000 words. 

For me, sticking with one book for an entire thirty days is nearly impossible. I've yet to make it through NaNo without cheating and taking some time off to write something else. 

This year was no different! 

The official project I uploaded to NaNo was INVINCIBLE, because my poor Wattpad readers have been begging me to finish it. Yes, they think an author can produce a book in a week, and they are teenagers who tend to be a little impatient, but I still love them :) 

My goal was to have Invincible finished by November, 30th, which meant writing about 65,000 words in FOUR weeks. I'm a fast writer, so I figured this was doable. What I didn't count on was my usual writer's block-inspiring fear of finishing a series added in with family, work commitments, and a funeral this November. 

I get so anxious about wrapping up a series, hoping I didn't forget anything important, double checking to be sure I didn't leave anything out, making sure I wrapped up all the lingering questions, and just plain making sure the ending doesn't SUCK! As you can probably guess, feeling like this makes me not want to touch my manuscript with a ten-foot pole. Makes writing a little bit hard. 

So, what do I do normally? Work on something else until I mellow out and quit being a spaz. 


Yeah, I still did it. Completely unable to focus on Invincible, I switched to a new project I'm working on, my first New Adult novel, THE GHOST HOST. Before the start of NaNo I had maybe 10k words written on TGH, and had dutifully abandoned it for NaNo and my poor Wattpad readers. I got about three chapters written on Invincible before I just had to step away and work out my weird issues. 

I spent the first two weeks of NaNo writing TGH, and finally hit a wall where I needed to stop and think about things 55k words later. So, I had already hit my NaNo goal, but on the WRONG BOOK! 

Maybe that part doesn't really matter since I was writing, and that's the whole point of NaNo, but I still had my Wattpad readers to pacify since I had PROMISED to finish Invincible by the end of the month and have it ready for publishing by Christmas. 

So, back to work! 

I had already had Invincible planned out on a couple dozen sticky notes, so that wasn't the issue. It was making sure this series that has been read several million times on Wattpad (literally) wouldn't disappoint the dedicated fans who have stuck by me since last October when Invisible first popped up on everyone's news feeds on Wattpad. How could I let down all the Robin-haters and Olivason-ship fans who were dying to know what happened in the end and whether Mason and Olivia would be able to stay together? 

I had to get writing. 

As I do with housework and errands, I bribed myself. Seriously. It wasn't chocolate this time. Normally that does the trick. So long as it the good chocolate. No, this time, I told myself I wasn't allowed to watch even a single episode of Supernatural until Invincible was finished, and I couldn't read the Denise Grover Swank book all my friends have been telling me I HAVE to read. (Okay, I cheated on both of those toward the end, but shhhhh!) 

To really get myself moving, I posted it publicly that I'd be releasing Invincible by Christmas Eve. Facing angry teens from all over the world if I failed finally got me motivated and broke past my end-of-the-series anxiety. 

So long story not so short, I hit 50k words on Invincible by November 28th. I missed my self-imposed deadline of Nov 30th to finish the book by two days and Finished on Dec 2nd, but I was pretty close, so I'm calling it a win. As depicted below :) 

So...the plan...

Right now I'm working on editing Invincible and I plan to have it up for pre-order by December 12th, with the final release on Christmas Eve, because...that just seemed appropriate! 

Merry Christmas to all my "Invisible" fans. You guys are awesome and I'm so thankful for all your support with this series. The final chapter of Mason and Olivia's story will be arriving for Christmas this year. I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Giveaway time!!!

The lovely Mia Hoddell is hosting the 12 Days of Christmas Event, and it's going to be a ton of fun! 

I'll be up giving you a peek at the boys from the Aerling series on Dec 6th. but you get to start in on the fun now with some awesome giveaways! 

There are two giveaways going on, one for USA residents (shipping is expensive) and one for INTERNATIONAL readers. Make sure you enter the right one!

And here they are!

US Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

INT Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Feel free to share with your friends and don't forget to stop by the 12 Days of Christmas Event on Mia Hoddell's blog!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The things you learn from puppies...

My daughter has been asking for a dog since she was old enough to say the words. She's eight that's a lot of, "Can I have a puppy?" requests over the years. 

Finally, we broke down and decided it was time to get a dog. Our kids are 8 and 11, old enough to help out and take care of a dog. So we went to the local shelter after having perused the list of dogs online and headed out to see our top picks. Turns out that the two we liked most were both in quarantine, one for biting people and one for being "aggressive toward people."

On to plan B. 

We ended up settling on this 2 year old brown shepherd mix. Poor thing did not want to be a pet. At all. We tried everything to keep her in the yard, but she escaped everything. She was also terrified of just about everything. She hated coming in the house, had no clue how to play with kids other than trying to tear their clothes apart and bite at their arms, and she chewed up whatever she could get her teeth on. After a month, we finally have to give up and take her back to the shelter.

Round two. 

After our first experience, we decided what we needed was a puppy that we could train and have grow up as part of the family. So, here's our new puppy, Finn. The shelter said he was a lab/retriever mix, but he looks more like a boxer to us.

We adore Finn, but for anyone thinking about getting a puppy, I have just a few words of wisdom to help prepare you.

1. Puppy teeth biting you feels like a dozen tiny needles stabbing into your flesh. They are seriously sharp! Good thing they're only nibbling.

2. Puppy claws are equally sharp! Between the claws and the teeth, I look like I've been in a cat fight recently. Oh, and FYI, puppy claws aren't all the same color. I thought that was neat :)

3. Puppies make lots of messes, but it's totally worth it for us to have a dog that actually likes us and wants to be part of the family.

4. If you thought you were done baby-proofing your house, think again. Shoes have to up off the ground, cords and wires hidden, odds and ends can't be left on the floor to be chewed on.

5. Puppies find a favorite spot, and it's forever theirs alone. Bye-bye gaming chair.

6. Puppies haven't quite gotten the hang of doing their business and not stepping in it immediately after. Consequently, they get a little smelly, which is a problem if the shelter just neutered him and you can't bathe them for seven days.

7. Walking on a leash is not a skill puppies have without training. Poor Finn had no clue what was going on when we put a collar and leash on. Baby steps.

8. Puppies don't like to be alone, especially at night. Poor baby cries when we have to kennel him at night, and whines if he's not in a room with someone else. Luckily my daughter doesn't mind keeping him company.

9. Puppies are super clumsy. It's pretty cute to watch :) Even little steps can sending them tumbling onto their noses.

10. Puppies sleep a lot, and sometimes in strange positions! Finn is also a pretty light sleeper, so the poor guy gets woken up a lot.

Clearly every dog is different, and finding the right one for your family isn't easy. We're loving our new puppy, though, and it looks like this is going to be a great fit! 

Tell me about your pets!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Marketing...part duex #bookmarketing

While scoping out pics for a blog post on marketing, this one totally fit the bill. Why? Because creating a marketing plan often feels like driving around on crazy looking roads like this. 

Learning how to market your books is a never ending battle. You find something that works once, then never works again. You have a random day of awesome sales you can't credit to anything other than dumb luck. You research and put everything to use only to see no change. Like I's a battle. 

So, what have a learned since the last time I griped about marketing? 

Hire someone who knows what they're doing. Caitlin Bauer of Royal Social Media is one of these people. She came highly recommended to me by other authors, and she's totally held up her end of the bargain in training, graphics, ads, everything we've done together so far. She also breaks everything down at the end of the month of ads to explain what the heck happened. I can't recommend her enough. 

Facebook groups posting does work. Now, that's not to say it works as well as it once did before the almighty Facebook decided to screw around with how people see pages and groups. That's a whole other rant, trust me. However, I have the ability to watch the direct sales on 13 of my 15 books, and I can attest to the fact that it affects my sales. For me, posting in 30-50 groups per day works best. For you, it might be different. 

Participating in other authors events is awesome...and fun! I've done quite a few Facebook page takeover and events over the last few months, and not only is is gratifying to help another author out, you get to meet new readers you might not have before. Games that work well are having them like and comment on your FB page to be entered into a raffle for a cool prize, "Caption This" games, name the characters who said..., guess the symbol (I use a lot of symbols in my books), and this probably won't apply to every author but having people tell bad date stories in honor of my Date Shark books was a HUGE hit! Get creative, help another author, and have fun!

Consistent interaction with readers. Honestly, this has been the biggest eye opener for me. I've heard this said a zillion times, but only after Caitlin showed me how to put that advice to use did I begin to see what a difference it makes. Schedule posts/tweets/pins to post regularly so your readers always have new content. Follow a pattern or make it random, whatever works best for you. Use your analytics to see what times are best for posting. And don't forget to ENGAGE with your readers when they do comment or like something. Talk back, start a conversation, make a lifelong friend. It makes a huge difference. 

I recently tried a few new promotional avenues and thought I'd share how they went. Book Tweeters was very effective and reasonably priced. I plan on using them for future release day events. HeadTalker and Thunderclap campaigns have worked well for other authors, but for me I didn't see any increase in sales or traffic on the posting day, so I don't think I'll be using them again since they're very time consuming to reach the goals. 

Marketing each book and genre is so individual, there is no one-size-fits-all plan, but doing your research and keeping track will help you build a plan that works for you.