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Spring Has Finally Sprung

May 13, 2022 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , ,

Spring has finally sprung. The sun shines brighter for longer, birds serenade us, and the very air is scented by a myriad of petals on the wind. I adore spring because of the anticipation it stirs in me. Spring means photoshoots and hikes with my children and husband. It means school is almost over and three months of sleeping in and lazy days are within view. It’s a time that is full of possibilities and potential, a time before expectations are either disappointed or surpassed.

New Challenges

It’s a time to start new things and to accept new challenges. I started a garden despite my morbid talent for notoriously killing all things green and pretty. Seriously, do you have any idea how neglectful you need to be to kill a cactus? I do. However, placing those little veggie seeds into newly tilled soil, carefully covering them up, and simply hoping for the best has been an exercise in mindfulness for me. I have no idea if I’ll reap any noteworthy bounty of parsnips, carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes, but I’m enjoying the process. My little seeds have been given good soil, plenty of room, and the right amount of sun and water according to their individual needs. The important lesson is that I can’t control the outcome beyond the work I’ve done and will continue to do. In the end, my little seeds will either grow or they won’t.

Applying my Philosophy

I’m finding that this new-to-me philosophy can be applied to various aspects of my life: I exercise and eat responsibly most of the time, but I’m in my late 40’s. The extra weight is going to come off as easily as I want or it won’t. At work, I treat my colleagues and students with respect and compassion, but that will either be fully returned, or it won’t. I can only control what I put in. I can be proud of what I put in. Sometimes that work will reap great rewards, but sometimes that end result that should be assured just won’t grow to fruition.

Should Publication Be Your Goal

The same goes for writing. Publication is most people’s end goal, but should it be? Because, let’s face it, the odds are not always in everyone’s favor. After all, authors have complete control over what they pour onto the page, but not how others receive it. So, wouldn’t completing a manuscript that you are insanely proud of–something that is honest, raw, funny, cathartic, captivating, and memorable–be a better goal? This way, no matter what happens, whether you reap the rewards your hard work should guarantee, you know that you are a success.

So, here are the things you can control:

  • Pay attention to the mechanics of writing: I’d love to say that grammar mistakes don’t matter, but that just isn’t the case. Learn the rules for subject/verb agreement, avoid dangling modifiers, keep tenses consistent, and (please, God) don’t confuse homophones.
  • Learn your craft: It would be wonderful if desire alone equaled success, but you have a much better chance of finishing a manuscript if you know how to construct a story and keep it interesting as you are writing it. If you lose your focus or interest while writing, your readers aren’t very likely to read your work to the end.
  • Experiment and find your niche: You probably have your favorite genres to read. Maybe you gobble up horror novels and short stories, or maybe romance is where your preferences lie. Perhaps you only enjoy memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies. Whatever your favs are to read, don’t limit yourself to that literary niche when it comes to writing. Experiment and have fun. Who knows? Maybe the reason you can’t seem to finish that mystery manuscript is because it needs a few lovelorn werewolves.
  • Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite: Although finishing your first draft is an important accomplishment, it probably won’t be your best draft. It’s much more likely that your first draft will be nothing more than your final story’s shadow once you finish this not-for-the-faint-of-heart step. I know I’ve fallen in love with paragraphs and bits of dialogue that I’ve realized don’t work upon a second or third rewrite. I’ve had to fight the urge to make it all fit, take a deep breath, and hit the delete button ad nauseam. I’ve even realized that I’d been telling the story from the less interesting character’s point of view all along because, it turned out, my villain was much more fun and had more to say (and, yeah, that required a complete do over).
  • Share your work: Join a writing group, set up a website or a blog. Don’t get tricked into thinking that there is only one road to getting your work out into the world.
  • Get over yourself: Be open to criticism and don’t take any of it personally. I’ve been a member of BWG for years and I’m proud of my fellow writers who have listened to group critiques with humility and open minds because those are the ones who get better. As a matter of fact, this column was started by such a writer, Sally Paradysz.

Publication is a worthy goal, but it doesn’t need to be the only one. Dig deep, be adventurous, tell the story you can’t get out of your head, and tell it well. This way, whether your words feed the souls of many or just your own, you can be proud of what you’ve planted.

Happy writing.

Courtney Annicchiarico grew up in New Jersey, where she was a high school teacher and a conflict resolution curriculum writer and facilitator. She moved to Pennsylvania with her husband and two children to be a stay-at-home mom—the best career move yet. Her story “Mis-conceptions” appears in A Christmas Sampler, and is her first published piece. Her stories also appear in Once Around the Sun, A Readable Feast, Untethered, and Fur, Feathers, and Scales

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You Can Read Courtney’s Stories in the Following Books

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Goals Check-In

February 5, 2022 by in category Pink Pad by Tracy Reed, Writing tagged as , , ,

Happy February. Happy Love Month. Happy Valentine’s Day or Galentine’s Day.

Let’s get to it. Last month I made a bold post and shared some of my goals with you. I did this because I felt the accountability would help me achieve them.

Here are my goals:
Get my letters
Triple my income
Triple my mailing list
Master Facebook ads
Update covers
Learn how to write a sellable blurb
Use Ingram Spark
Direct distribution
Increase my prices

As of this post, I’ve completed one goal…Increase my prices. I was a little nervous about raising my prices because I didn’t think readers would be receptive to the increase on the smaller books. So far, there hasn’t been any negative feedback. Raising my prices also helps with tripling my income.

My strategy for tripling my income, is Facebook ads. Last year, I took Skye Warren’s Facebook Ads Intensive and did well. I still haven’t reached the sales goal I desire, but that will come in time. 2020 wasn’t a good sales year for me. I can’t blame the poor sales on the pandemic because I didn’t release anything new. Nor did I push my back list.

Last year, I released one book prior to doing the Ads Intensive. I really wish I’d known about the Intensive sooner, because I think the first half of the year would have turned out differently. I ended last year by multiplying my income by 4.8 times.

Fast forward to 2022 and a price increase across the board…I made all of my ebooks $4.99. This bold move helped to boost my income by 39% as of this post. Meaning I already made February 2021s income. Grant it, I had a release on February 2nd with the majority of the preorders paid out on that day.

In addition to Facebook Ads, I’m also doing BookBub ads. I turned off my AMS ad because they weren’t working. I heard Amazon doesn’t like racy covers, which could explain why the ads performed so poorly. However, the FB ads, have been consistently making the daily spend back…plus or minus two dollars. So far, I’m ahead and considering increasing my ad spend. I have a BookBub New Release For Less ad scheduled for February 8th. The tails will determine when I increase my FB ad spend.

To summarize, increasing my prices and running facebook ads are pushing me towards my goal of tripling my income.

Update my covers. I don’t have as many to update as I thought. I have seven covers I need to update and two are almost complete. I also have four I’m on the fence about. This project is time consuming because it’s not just the cover, but the chapter headers as well. Thank God for Vellum because it makes creating print copies easy.

I need to add one additional goal. Offer all books in large print. I have one live already, The Good Girl Part One. If you haven’t done large print, I recommend doing so.

The other goal I forgot to list was my new release goals. I went super bold and set up preorders for three books this year. Setting up Amazon preorders was a way to make sure I fulfilled this goal. I don’t want to end up in preorder jail, so I have to keep this goal. I am so grateful Amazon offers an extension without penalty which I am taking advantage of.

One goal down, ten to go. How are you doing with your goals?

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Help yourself stay on task one step at a time.

January 12, 2020 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby, Writing tagged as ,
blurred January calendar in background, blog headline in teal and white Help Yourself Stay on Task One Step At A Time by Denise M. Colby

Do you ever find yourself having a difficult time staying on task? Do you get overwhelmed by all the to-do’s on your list? Do you ever second guess the processes you use or even the planner you use?

You are not alone!

I struggle with all of these. But I’ve found that in amongst the chaos, I seem to be making progress (see last month’s post – Reflecting on your Accomplishments), and I hope to provide encouragement and inspiration to help you keep working toward your goals and dreams for 2020.

January, every year, is a reset month.

Start over with new goals. Pick a new word. Word harder. Or differently. Or more. Or less. I love getting a chance to open a new calendar and a new planner and start over. But sometimes I wonder if the planner I’ve chosen is the one I should be using. Anyone else do that? 

I never realized I was such a commitmentphobe with planners until recently. See, I tended to second guess my choices every time I saw a new one or someone else using a different one (I had done this with writing processes too). I’ve had to have a major talk with myself. And accept the fact that there are TOO MANY choices out there and no one can use all of them. I have to just pick one and then dive in and use it.

It’s using it that makes the difference.

I also see a big theme in planners for setting routines. Track this. Track that. Be consistent. Blah, blah, blah. Yes, I agree. They are important. They help immensely. They are what help us accomplish all we want to accomplish. And for the most part, I’m all for them. I do like routines, but I hate the confines of them too.

See, sometimes I struggle with the little person inside of me that screams “i don’t wanna!”

I am a dependable worker. I meet deadlines, stay committed to tasks, and follow through. But I have a little rebellious streak in me that gets frustrated with following specific formulas. I tend to want to create my own. Do it my way. Then I end up frustrated with the results. And not just with planners. I find I do this with my writing habits too. 

Why do I do this? And what can I do to change that?

First, I realize that some of this is that I’m human. Some of it is my own version of saving funds (don’t want to waste money on something I’m not sure I will use), as well as wanting the perfect set-up, the perfect amount of time to work on it, and the perfect way of using it throughout the year.

But as I’m writing this, I realize we only know what we know at the time we are taking action. And as our knowledge grows, our needs change or how we do things will change. We need to be adaptable. Waiting for the perfect moment is the opposite.

As I grow in wisdom over the years (aka age), I find I don’t care about everything being perfect as I once did, I want to accomplish much in my lifetime, and I want to be purposeful in what I do (purposeful was my word in 2019 and it was a great word). I’m tired of waiting.

Now, I try to just jump in where I am and work with what I got. Progress is progress. I can always change things later. In some ways, this is a process. It’s the one I’m currently using. I won’t be married to the process for fifty years or maybe I still will, all that matters is right now. It’s a very freeing thought. One I am constantly still trying to adapt to.

So, if you are struggling with staying on task, routine, and/or schedule, here are some suggestions to help you get over that hurdle daily so you can meet your goals.

  • Set yearly goals, but don’t let the end part of those goals freeze you. Make sure that the goal has actionable steps that are small enough to make progress on daily and that you can measure. Work on one scene a day, or write 500 words, or spend (enter amount of time like 15 min here) in your MS. This will help you focus on things on a day to day basis.
  • To continue on with the above suggestion, break your todo’s into even smaller chunks and then work on them separately throughout the day as you have time. As much as I would love to have all day to work on things, I don’t get that opportunity. I’m finding five min here and there help me a lot. I spend many five minutes looking at my phone. I’m trying to use that time more productively.
  • Find some way to reward yourself. Be it stickers, coloring, chocolate. I find stickers and coloring are soothing for me and I’ve been adding them to my planner (took me a long time to get on the wasi tape bandwagon). I also place a sticker on a tracking sheet everytime I touch my MS. I find it very satisfying.
  • Work on your ms before checking email and your phone. Those many side visits to my phone seem to take more minutes away from the small amount I already have to work with. 
  • Cut yourself some slack. We beat ourselves up mentally and those tapes replay over and over. When you reset your calendar every week, month, and year, reset those tapes too. Forgive and show yourself some grace.
  • Have an accountability partner. Someone you can text daily or every Monday. What are your goals for the week? What did you accomplish last week? Knowing I have to communicate something helps me to stay focused.
  • Little bits of work eventually add up to bigger bits. Focus on the little bits.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful. I’m no expert. I’m in the middle of all this just like everyone else. But taking some time to learn about myself and why I do certain things and find out what I need to motivate and keep me focused, has helped me stay on task, which ultimately keeps me moving forward with my writing projects.

Blessings,

Denise

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Surprise!

November 10, 2019 by in category Charmed Writer by Tari Lynn Jewett tagged as , , , ,

I’ve wandered down the rows of bookshelves in libraries and bookstores so many times in my life, fantasizing about what it would feel like to see my book on one of those shelves, hold a book with my name on it in my hands, sign books for readers, and maybe, just maybe get fan letters.

Last year my first book was published, and this year it was released in print. I’m still excited to see my name on the front of the book…and inside. And, I’ve signed books. Yes, it’s true! I’ve signed dozens of books this year. But a couple of weeks ago, I got my first fan letter…from an unexpected reader.

#PleaseSayYes is book 1 in the 6 book #HermosaForTheHolidays series. It’s a sweet romcom. I wrote it for adults of all ages…think Hallmark movie. Sweet, light, hopefully a heartwarming read that might even make you laugh. And adults of all ages have read it, young single women, young mothers, a few men, and grandmothers into their 80’s have read this story, but what I didn’t expect was  kids reading the book after all it is a romance. I’ve had a review from a 12 year old, and my first fan letter was from a 9 year old girl. She wanted to share the book with her class.

So, of course, I’m sending her 6 books, so she can keep her copy. And what she doesn’t know, is that in the upcoming release of book 2 #SilverBracelets, she is a character in the story. I had so much fun including her, and I hope she enjoys it as much as I enjoyed receiving her letter.

One more fantasy to fulfill, to see my books in bookstores. I’m feeling pretty good about the dreams I’ve checked off, but I think the one I’ll treasure most is this letter from my young reader.

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WHO KNEW THAT A PAIR OF RED SHOES COULD…

December 20, 2018 by in category A Bit of Magic by Meriam Wilhelm tagged as , , , , , ,

Who knew that owning a pair of red shoes could create such magic – inspiring happiness, a feeling of gay abandon and a total  fashion reawakening.

But that’s just what they did!

My quickly approaching sixty-fifth birthday motivated me to take on several life changing challenges. Challenges designed to force me to try something new, tackle a problem or simply focus more energy on self-improvement. And silly me, in order to keep myself honest, I chose to share my journey with all of you in my blog,  Please Don’t Make Me Have To Learn How To Ride A Camel.

I set several personal goals to meet before lighting up my sixty-five B-Day candles and the clock has continued to click. My face gets red and my heart quickens with anxiety every time I think how soon April will be upon us. I’ve partially met some challenges, made progress on others, and with the purchase of my red shoes, I’ve completed two of the challenge, which included:

  1. Walk thirty minutes a day at least five days a week –  Doing better every week towards meeting this goal.
  2. Finish writing my book, The Witch of Bergen   80% done with the rewrites.
  3. Read Paul Arden’s best seller – It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.  Ding, Ding, Ding!   Read  it and blogged about it last month!
  4.  Lose twenty pounds. Tortuously slowonly 4 pounds down.
  5.  Buy a pair of flashy red shoes. Ding, Ding, Ding! Did it! 

And what a thrill, this proved to be. As much as I longed to slip my feet into a pair of flashy Jimmy Choo’s, I just couldn’t muster the courage to spend $2,695.00 on a pair of red beaded stilettos. To be completely truthful, I’m not sure if I was more afraid of the price of the shoes or of tumbling off the glittering stilettos. Either way, I had to pass them by.

However, having taken on this challenge, I refused to back down. I didn’t give in and buy any old run-of-the-mill red pumps, nor did I give up and buy a pair of red Converse tennis shoes either. No way! I bought myself a pair of bright red boots. And to seal the deal, I wore them out to a formal Christmas dinner party and felt wonderful. Perhaps a bit over the top, but none the less eye catching, I danced around the room, kicking up my heels with my glass of Pinot Grigio in hand. Of course their bright color stood out against my black slacks and black velvet top, but what the heck – I took a chance and felt all the better for it.

And here’s the funny part, as I looked around the room, I recognized that I had become a member of the over sixty sisterhood of red shoes. I counted at least ten other women my age proudly sporting red footwear. High heels, low heels, sandals, tennis shoes and even a pair of red clogs all joined in celebrating the night with me and my boots.

Now the writer in me wanted to go around the room and ask why these women had chosen to wear red footwear, but the realist recognized it for what it was. We were all searching for a fun way to celebrate life… and that’s just what we did in our playful red footwear. I’m sure that there was more than one envious woman who left the party anxious to hurry out to buy their own red boots. How could they resist?

I’ve still got sixteen pounds to go, more time walking required and a book to finish editing before April comes. Fingers crossed, I’ll make it! In the mean time, I’m partying away in my red boots. You should try it too!

Happy Holidays to you all!

Meriam

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