Out With New Year’s Resolutions by Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant

Yolanda Johnson-BryantI’m willing to bet that like me, you’ve made countless New Year’s Resolutions over the years. Did you resolve to lose twenty pounds? Did you resolve to go back to school or did you resolve to find love? I’m sure any resolutions you made back then were out the door by the time Valentine’s Day rolled in and like many of us you were left disappointed, goals unachieved and outright defeated. It wasn’t until about a decade ago that I realized that I was going about it all wrong. I’d like to share a few tips that will help you jumpstart your renewal. So, throw out the notion of resolutions and focus on realistic transformation.

A practice that has worked for me over the years is writing down my goals. Today, we have so much going on: taking the kids to soccer practice, going to the doctor, taking care of our ailing parents, work, writing, raking the yard, etc. You name it, we constantly shove “things” into our schedule. Things that often times leave our most important tasks undone. We begin filling important time with frivolous activities. Soon, what begins to happen is we forget those important tasks, those things that are important and essential to our well being, our goals.

I encourage you to purchase a paper journal or use the electronic gadget of your choice and start writing down your goals. When writing down those goals, be very clear and specific. For example, If you want to obtain another degree, write this on the board, along with your action plan. It should include each step, the date you will start and the resources you will use to get there. Will you earn the degree online or in-residence? Will it be done in the daytime or evenings? Once you’ve mapped out the specifics, choose a finish date or time frame. Finish in three years is too vague. You might want to use a specific date or time frame, like June 11, 2017 or “right after my three year old finishes pre-school.” I find that this makes my “goals” and “life changes” more realistic and writing them down where I can see them and refer back to them is more of a motivator for me to get them done. Lastly, I suggest adding a reward at the end of your goal. How will you reward yourself for achieving this goal? After you obtain that degree, will you purchase a new car? Will you start your own business? Find something to celebrate your achievement.

Lastly, create a vision board. I have fun with my vision board, and although it changes yearly, it has helped me create, visualize and achieve many goals. If you’re not familiar with vision boards, I invite you to “google” vision boards or visit Pinterest for great examples of them. Your vision board can be any size you want it to be. I have a large office, so my board is large. What do I have on my vision board? My dream car and home, that plan for my breakout business, a photo of myself, Photoshopped twenty pounds lighter, 5K dates, and a picture of a “NO OCD ZONE,” because let’s face it, some of us have those tendencies. This is only a few of the many goals and future achievements I have on my vision board and I enjoyed creating it.

In closing, I strongly encourage you to do away with resolutions, as they will only set you up to fail. Obtain a journal and write down your goals, again, being specific and detailed. Create a vision board so your goals are more visual and make sure your board is somewhere in front of you where you can see your goals on a daily basis. A daily reminder of what I’m working so hard for always makes me smile and want to work harder toward those goals. 2015 CAN be your year. It’s up to you!

Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant is a writer, publisher and consulting entrepreneur, and resides in North Carolina. She is the President of Bryant Consulting and owner of Literary Wonders Media Group. Yolanda has published several books and articles. Visit her website at yolandamjohnsonbryant.com or tune in to her weekly radio show at blogtalkradio.com/ontheairwiththatliterarylady. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/yolandajohnsonbryant and on Twitter at @ymjauthor.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in Guest Blog posts on this website do not reflect those of the Blog Host.

The Pupils Inspiring the Teacher? Count the Years… by Nancy Jardine

Nancy JardineEvery author’s story is a different one but this is my progress to publishing and my present writing situation. Once upon a time, I used to be a primary teacher with a class of about thirty pupils aged eleven to twelve. That made for extremely tiring, but never boring days. I taught all subjects, though mostly loved teaching History, English, and perhaps surprisingly also the Maths lessons. The history topics varied but I found huge satisfaction in giving my pupils a taste of the era when Ancient Roman legions advanced northwards over the Celtic lands of Britannia.

In 2005, the kids in my class wrote fantastic short stories as an end product of our Roman/ Celtic studies. I may have initially set up their writing lessons, but it was their startlingly excellent results which inspired me to write my first-ever novel. That original draft of a time-travel historical novel, written in 2006, for an audience of 10-12 year olds, has undergone many changes over the last eight years. It’s been abandoned, plucked out of the cupboard, revised, rejected and the process repeated many times. I’m determined that it will be published…soon. If you will, please imagine a *winking, smiley face* inserted here.

Yet writing a book wasn’t entirely new because I had used previous school summer vacations to write non- fiction books for local history projects- though I considered them as voluntary unpaid school work and not proper writing. The first had a print run (on my home printer) of 50 copies, delivered free to local schools. My obligation was then over and no further marketing was needed. The second book was a history of the village school where I taught the senior pupils, which dates back to the early 1500s. It’s also been my home village for the last 26 years. Prior to the move from a Victorian building to a brand new school, there was a special ‘Open Day’ during which former pupils were invited back for a stroll down memory lane. 350 copies of my history of the school were printed by the local education authority and all were sold to attendees. No further marketing was necessary since it was a ‘one-off’ print deal. My task was finished. The school got all profits and I got the pleasure of doing the research and compiling the information. The research skills learned then were invaluable when I came to do research for my historical novels, and were also useful for research during the writing of my contemporary mysteries.

What I didn’t encounter at that time was any of the internet, post- publication marketing I need now for novel writing!

In 2008, I cut back teaching to 3 days a week and got serious about writing novels when not in class. I focused my time on full-length stories for the adult market rather than for children, and purposely tried out manuscripts in different genres – historical adventures and contemporary mysteries – all with varying degrees of romance included since romance novels seemed to have a good market.

August 2011, was a momentous month. My debut novel, a contemporary romantic mystery was published and I also became a full time author when I finally stopped teaching. In 2012, I had three novels published, two of which were with Crooked Cat Publishing, who also published my fifth and my sixth novel in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

I haven’t written any political thrillers like James, my host of today, has. My closest novel would be Topaz Eyes, published by Crooked Cat Publishing, which is a mystery thriller. I’ve found over the last few years that even when I’ve been writing a contemporary mystery some historical aspect or other sneaks in- I just can’t help it! The very complex and deep mystery in Topaz Eyes centres on a family tree I created which goes back to third and fourth generation levels – the family originating in Amsterdam with the next generation becoming scattered around Europe and the US during the 1930s. The contemporary third generation cousins, who are mysteriously brought together to uncover a cache of jewels hidden amongst family members, are not all happy to get to know each other. The gloves are off when the treasure hunt begins – greed and deception is rife to the point where murder isn’t discounted. Where does family trust come in? You’d need to read to find that out. Writing this novel also gave me the opportunity to include some of the wonderful locations that I’ve visited including Heidelberg, Vienna, Amsterdam, Minnesota and Edinburgh.  I’m delighted that Topaz Eyes is an Award Finalist in The People’s Book Prize 2014 Fiction category.

It may sound as though all I’ve done since 2011 is write novels- but that’s not quite true. Like many authors, my family circumstances have changed. My first grandchild was born in late 2011 and no matter how much I try, I just can’t say no to childminding. From early 2012, my week became divided into slots – half of the week was part-time childminding with gardening and writing sharing what remained of the seven days. My writing output slowed down considerably.

Since January of 2014, my house has also been home to my granddaughter, her new baby brother and their parents since the building of their new house is fraught with continual delays.  Right now, I’m sitting at my desk in the dining room to write this post, snatching some precious time to type in between the mayhem of the needs of small bodies. I try to squeeze in the inevitable marketing tasks during the day: doing tweets and checking emails, Facebooking etc – often with babies at my feet or on my knees, since concentrating on new writing isn’t my forte at such times. I take my hat off totally to authors who produce copious new work with toddlers around them, or those who work during the day at a seriously demanding job and only write in the evenings.

My writing slot is generally from 9pm till around 1am when the house is usually silent. I love the bustle of our family life and wouldn’t want to have missed these early months of my grandchildren’s development, but I also cherish that late night quiet. My writing output will increase again, but that’s not likely till next year and the new house on my back garden is completed.

Yes. You read that correctly. My offspring will be living in their own house a mere few steps away. I won’t have to travel to visit or vice versa.

What’s nice to look forward to, is that they will be able to take over all the domestic tasks I currently do when my daughter is occupied with some other drama, because I’ll be writing like a mad thing to get Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series completed. There’s also my languishing three book family saga which begins in Victorian Scotland, the first book manuscript already started. However, by then I’ll maybe also be working on books two and three of my time-travel novel for children because by then that very first time-travel novel for kids WILL have been published!

Of course, before my daughter returns to her job after her maternity leave, she’ll maybe have sussed out how to help me with my book marketing tasks. I’m trying to set realistic goals just now. One can hope.  *smiley face again*

About The Author   

Nancy Jardine’s books at the Crooked Cat Bookstore:

http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/index.php?route=product/manufacturer/product&manufacturer_id=24

Amazon.com author page:  http://amzn.to/RJZzZz

Buy Topaz Eyes: Amazon UK  http://amzn.to/UtLexa  Amazon US http://amzn.to/RhRWK1

Website: http://nancyjardineauthor.weebly.com/

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nancy-Jardine-Author-of-Contemporary-and-Historical-Novels/333150470128618

LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/nancy-jardine/3a/9b0/a91

Goodreads   Twitter @nansjar  Google+ (Nancy Jardine)   YouTube book trailer videos

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in Guest Blog posts on this website do not reflect those of the Blog Host.

The Pitfalls of Writing and Pursuing Success

James North-Blog Post PhotoOver the past several years I have come to realize that writing with the aim of getting a book published and into print is no longer a journey of patience and persistence but a march along a footpath laden with landmines. This experience by a growing number of aspiring authors was no doubt a major factor in the explosion of eBook publishing—an explosion noticeably buoyed by low- or no-cost marketing via social media. The eBook and social media platforms have given thousands of aspiring authors the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. They have also generated a wider variety of books and even new genres. In all probability, independent or indie authors/publishers, still seen as a growing alternative to traditional publishing, will continue to produce exciting and very good books. However, in order to become successful, indie authors/publishers must work very hard to get their books before thousands of potential readers, particularly if they want to earn and keep a larger percentage of royalties. And yes, for some authors there remains the hope of discovery by an influential literary agent and landing a lucrative deal with a major publishing house.

The arrival of the eBook was in effect a gauntlet thrown down by ePublishers and the indie author—a development that for a time shook the traditional publishing world to its very foundation. With fewer restrictions on opportunities, new genres and sub-genres appeared and will almost certainly continue to do so, breaking new ground and sowing seed which the traditional publishing world will harvest, without of course having to invest in or risk exploration/failure. Trends started by indie authors/publishers will continue to push the publishing envelope. Genres like Climate Fiction (CLI-FI) and Mythopoeia are but a few examples of growing trends. Because of ePublishing aspiring authors no longer sit waiting for rejection letters to be deposited in their mailboxes (in some cases email inboxes), raising the proverbial question, “Will my stories ever be read and accepted?” These authors are venturing out in increasing numbers, standing on their own two feet. Unfortunately, they are finding that success remains, inescapably, part of a filtration process. Whether it be pitching to a literary agent, a traditional publisher with/without a literary agent or pitching to potential readers who now have a more extensive menu of books from which to choose, breaking into the system is still fraught with challenges.

Nevertheless, for the “committed writer” in pursuit of success beyond seeing his/her book(s) on the pages of online bookstores, going it alone is nothing short of a paradox.  In other words, new and near unfettered opportunities for aspiring writers to join the ranks of “successful published authors” do not come without costs. The drive for success, frequently defined as rising sales numbers and book awards, garnered by the use of social media and paid marketing, can be time-consuming and expensive. Ironically, this drive presents what might be the penultimate if not the ultimate challenge—one that carries with it an equal, if not greater cost for the writer than time and money spent on branding and marketing. That challenge and often a source of frustration is the disruption of the creative process. While the optimal and often prescribed solution is “effective time management,” we all know that the uncontrollable challenges of everyday life can lay waste to the best of plans.

Adding to the bevy of pitfalls is the imperative of making your voice heard above an ever increasing number of social media users, many of whom are also writers, stealthily looking to tap into your followers and fans, while unwittingly creating what might be construed as a “mutual admiration society.” An ironic aspect of determining a writer’s potential for success is the use of eBook rankings by literary agents and publishers. This speaks volumes about the pragmatic, risk-averse tendencies of agents and publishers nowadays. Their philosophy/strategy is quite clear: “The cream will rise to the top.” While few if any writers expect to be catapulted upward and onward, I have discovered through my own toil that efforts to begin the climb toward the top are much more difficult than they appear, more difficult because an unfortunate result of that pursuit is a skewed relationship between marketing and productivity, with a larger percentage of time being devoted to the former, to the detriment of the latter.

While I too believe that marketing is important for branding and getting the word out about what I as a writer produce, I also believe that finding a balance between the two or achieving some ratio that will allow time to produce, with the aim of improving on each manuscript, is the way forward. Consequently, for me, success is staying true to what I write, developing my skills and growing readership a few dozen (well maybe a few hundred) readers at a time. Remember, individuals will always decide what they want to read, hence the importance and long-term viability of trend-setting by indie authors/publishers. Reaching potential readers, however, is increasingly becoming a much bigger challenge than indie authors/publishers may have expected. Therefore, in the end, how your success is defined is up to you, the writer. Where the future of publishing is concerned, these challenges and the characteristics of the publishing industry discussed above are why I believe the relationship between traditional publishers and indie authors/publishers will evolve from one that is antagonistic into one that is increasingly more symbiotic.

Clearly not all observers of the publishing industry share this view. In my discussions with fellow writers, quite a few have used my views on trend-setting, genre creation and rising stars in indie author/publishing to turn my assertion on its head. They argue instead that the relationship between traditional publishers and indie authors/publishers is becoming more parasitic, with large publishing houses reaping most of the benefits. I contend that the jury is still out on the issue; in the meantime, there are opportunities for growth on both sides, but the cost to authors will grow exponentially with the number of authors searching for success.

Writing Comedy and Horror by Sarah England

Sarah EnglandAs a fiction writer I seem to gravitate towards either the supernatural, or comedy. It’s a bizarre whizzing from one end of literary genre to the other – like an out of control typewriter. However, with a 20 year + background in nursing and medical sales, I suppose it’s inevitable that gallows humour creeps in. I’m a Northern lass (UK) too – and there’s an in-built armour of self-deprecation pertinent to the environment in which I grew up: no one is allowed to take themselves too seriously.

So when I began to write fiction, around 10 years ago now, many of my short stories were humorous. I guess I’m also the kind of person who trips up steps into revolving doors, goes out of the house with a Velcro roller still stuck in the back of her hair, says exactly the worst thing at the most inopportune moment, and generally endures a lot of toe-curling, squirmy  situations. So I have a lot of real-life experience – lucky me – only natural then, to make it an art form.

My dad took the proverbial micky out of me since I was old enough to crawl. One incident highlights the point – my parents took me pony riding, the horse sneezed and I flew off. Bawling my eyes out I quickly realised they weren’t coming to my rescue because they were rolling around laughing too much. Oh how that hurt! It sort of went on from there. I’d love to have been an actress really, but I had to earn a living and so nursing it was, and from there medical sales, where I eventually specialised in mental health, which came in handy with a family like mine.

After writing short stories for magazines over many years, my first comedy novel, Expected was published last year by Crooked Cat, and I’m happy to say it’s made most people laugh their socks off. I will do a sequel for my hapless heroine, Sam Sweet, but I’m also writing serials for magazines now, and I have a very dark supernatural thriller to finish. I’m not sure where the fascination for all things spooky comes from…but rest assured this is as scary as it gets… Meantime there’s a collection of dark thrillers in 3am and Wide Awake published by Alfie Dog Fiction, and both books are available on Amazon.

More information is available on my blog: http://www.sarahengland@yolasite.com

About the Author:

Sarah England originally trained as a nurse in Sheffield, England, before going on to work as a medical representative specialising in mental health. Since then she has had around 150 short stories published in national magazines and various anthologies; most recently a 3 part murder-mystery serial in Woman’s Weekly. Sarah’s 3am and Wide Awake – a collection of 25 dark tales, mostly supernatural stories, or medically themed thrillers, was published in May 2013 by Alfie Dog Fiction; and Expected, a comedy novel with Crooked Cat Publishing, was released on 28 June, 2013. She is now working on a supernatural thriller, and continues to write serials and short stories for magazines.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in Guest Blog posts on this website do not reflect those of the Blog Host.

When We Grow Up by Gilda Evans

Gilda_Evans_#1The recent Los Angeles Times article featuring my father has served not only as an inspiration to many, but also as a reminder of things that should never be forgotten. My thanks to my agent, Terrie Wolf, who suggested re-posting this blog story from 2012. It is an appropriate companion to my father’s story, which you can read via the link near the end of this post.

I would also like to thank James for allowing me to be one of the first guest authors on his blog. What a fascinating life he has led – and it shows in his writing! It is truly an honor to be here.

And now, a blast from the past –

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Thriller Writing: The Importance of Efficacy and a Driving Plot

James North-Blog Post PhotoWriting a hard-hitting, suspenseful, action-packed, fast pace thriller is much more of a challenge than many, including some critics, may care to admit. Most modern thrillers, regardless of category (crime, political, espionage, etc.) are plot-driven and the style employed by their writers, though there are many variations, tends to deliberately avoid prose steeped in metaphor and exhaustive description—the preferred style extolled by literary critics. Seldom do we hear critics recognize the fast pace thriller for anything more than its story line. Comments about Tom Clancy’s novels after his death in early October 2013 are a case in point. According to one notable critic, Clancy’s novels “…were not particularly well written.” The frequent use of comments such as this when referring to a good portion of action-oriented thrillers seems a comparison of apples and oranges, especially in this case where the critic seemed to be suggesting that Clancy’s work lacks literary sophistication.

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Can Men Successfully Create a Female Character?

James North-Blog Post PhotoI had been trumpeting the 8 November 2013 launch of my international political thriller, Deep Deception, on Twitter and Facebook for weeks when I ran across a blog which I thought might be relevant to the subject I wanted to address, “men writing female characters.” The blog I am referring to is The Year I Stopped Reading Men, by Anna Szymanski. The reason my eyes landed on this piece is because I was looking for a way to introduce my Facebook and Twitter followers to Caroline Dupré, the “incidental” protagonist in Deep Deception, The Last Chameleon, and other planned books in my Vanguard series.  The Szymanski blog, I thought, would give me an up-to-date opinion on this still controversial issue. The piece wasn’t, however, quite what I expected. Instead of helping me gain an objective 360 degree perspective on how my novel might be received and whether views about men writing female characters had undergone significant change, it raised considerable concern.

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