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Monday, June 6, 2011

Blah Blah, Blogging

Blah, blah, blog…

I’ve come to the conclusion that Quality is more important than Quantity, and More is Not Better. I live by these words, use them in my work with clients, and they certainly apply to blogging.

Since I’m now wearing more hats than the Queen of England or Jackie O, I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Essentially, I’ve become a book publisher overnight, which means I am PR person, marketing director, sales and promotions manager and, oh yeah…author. The tasks involved in self-publishing are akin to starting a small country—not designed to be tackled by one person. Apparently, it takes a village to raise a child and a small corporate entity to launch a book.

I keep telling myself to take it in steps, take small bites so to speak--handle things one day at a time. If I can only get all my ducks in a row and put all the pieces together, I can stop mixing my metaphors and eventually get to where I’m going. But staying focused has been extremely challenging. Especially with the pressure to blog on a regular basis (3x per week is recommended by the marketing experts). How much do I really have to say? And who cares anyway? My blog posts aren’t changing the world, making it a better place, or serving the greater good in any way. In fact, they are simply taking up cyber-space and costing me precious writing time in my effort to have my name hit the airwaves a million times. I’m also asking a lot of my busy friends and followers to spend their valuable time keeping up on the minutia of my world. I respect them too much to burden them with this expectation. Yet, writing, reading and following blogs is the way, we are told, to gain recognition and sell books.

I don’t doubt that repetitious exposure to our name is key to gaining an audience, but I’m not convinced it’s the best use of my time. Life is becoming increasingly complicated. I feel as if I’m creating a monster that I will have to keep control of and tame somehow. I had to ask myself if all of this pressure and stress is worth the return, and if it’s the life I truly want. At my core, I am an individual who values a balanced and healthy lifestyle above all else when it comes to my work and daily life choices. It has taken me most of my life to achieve that goal and I am proud of how far I’ve come. I know what makes me happy and what I have to do to maintain my peace of mind. I’m not afraid of hard work, but on my present course, I am at risk of losing my balance. When the monster begins to control my life, I know I need to go back to basics. The saying Keep it Simple rings true for me.

In my attempt to simplify my life and manage the monster, I’ll be cutting my blogging down to Fridays on my website and Tuesdays on the writingsecretsof7scribes blog site—for now—no more blogspot.com. I’m still learning, still tweaking my job description and trying to establish what works for me and what doesn’t. Expect changes for awhile until I master my new career path and become efficient with my process. One of the benefits of indie-publishing is that I am the boss and nothing is written in stone. Flexibility was one of the pros on my pros and cons list of why I chose this route.

Blogging, for me, is about connecting to my readers—people who will read my books and love my characters enough to want to follow me to the next book. From a business standpoint, my goal for blogging is to focus on building my Brand and garnering attention for my books. To best serve both of these functions, my posts will be related to some aspect of my writing. Whether I blog about craft, about my characters, my journey, or something related to my books, I’ll try to do what a blog should do—entertain, inform, or instruct, while gaining attention of readers interested in what I’m doing. In my opinion, staying focused and consistent is really the way to gather an audience.

So if you’ve enjoyed Fitness Fridays, go to my website and check out my Health Corner. For writing secrets, follow my writingsecretsof7scribes posts on Tuesdays, and subscribe to my website to receive e-mails about updates to my site.

In your opinion, how much is too much?
Happy reading, and blessings to the blogosphere!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Stay Strong, Stay Fit

As part of Fitness Friday, I thought I'd talk about what it takes to stay strong. As a personal trainer, I know the benefits of keeping my body and mind in optimum condition. I'm not perfect by any means, but when I'm consistent with exercise, I'm a better writer, and a happier person. So here's how it works.

Resistance Training
To build strong bones and muscles, you should do strength training on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym three times a week or lift weights. You can get all the benefits of strengthening your body by using your own weight as resistance. Plank work, stabilization exercises with a physioball, and your typical lunge and squat routine will tone your muscles and make you feel strong and fit.

Conditioning
If you aren’t into aerobics and don’t enjoy sweating to the oldies, maybe you should try something more functional. Find an activity you enjoy and kick it up a notch. Walk briskly, bike for an hour a few times a week or join a water aerobics class or swim program. Cardiovascular conditioning requires getting your heart rate up and keeping it up for at least a half hour 3-5 days a week. So get moving but do something you enjoy so you’ll stick with it.

Functional Strength
Resistance training and aerobic conditioning are great, but don’t forget about balance and agility. I’d rather be able to make it up three flights of stairs with my groceries than bench press a car. That means, I need to practice good body mechanics, balancing exercises and agility drills. Jumping rope, taking a Zumba class, or learning Tai Chi can be great for improving your functional strength, so let’s put the ‘fun’ back in functional and try something new.

What are you doing to stay strong?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

WHY I'm passionate about writing YA romance

So here we are again to answer the Wednesday Why? Why I chose to write YA romance.

When I began this process about five years ago, I knew I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write. All I knew was that romance novels comprised 55% of the book market and romance was something I knew about. At first, I was a little schizophrenic about genre hopping. I’d have an idea for a story and just go with it, pantsing my way through and gradually amassing two full length paranormal romances, two romantic suspense novels and a story that fell into genre no-man’s-land but seemed to have a YA voice—or so I was told.

I entered that manuscript into several writing contests and took third place in one and second place in another. After many submissions to agents and editors and just as many rejections, I thought a lot about that story—SAVAGE CINDERELLA. I wondered what about it worked and what didn’t.

Critique partners and contest judges liked my writing but noticed that my third person narrative took me out of the character’s deep POV and there was too much telling and not enough showing. If you are a writer, you have probably heard these comments as well. So rather than letting discouragement keep me from forging on, I took some on-line workshops and decided to study, rather than just read, other people’s writing.

I spent a lot of time reading in different genres trying to decide what I loved about each. Of course, I loved it all, but once I started reading YA books I was hooked. Go figure. Maybe it was because my own teen years were filled with drama and angst of epic proportions, and I could identify with what these kids were going through.

I thought HUNGER GAMES was brilliant, I inhaled the TWILIGHT series, and everything Sarah Dessen has written, I’ve enjoyed immensely. So is it dystopian, paranormal, or contemporary YA that floats my boat? I’m convinced I could write all of it, because really, it’s the characters that make the story, and I love writing about teens in any setting. Their emotions are so strong and immediate, and it’s fun to see their evolution from the beginning to the end of their stories. A lot happens and changes in a year when you’re sixteen or seventeen. I realized that I’m especially drawn to characters enmeshed in family drama. Clearly, I can relate.

I finally had an idea for a YA story and once I began writing in first person, my character came to life. It was like re-writing history or creating an alternate reality for my teen self. Although there is some part of my real life and personal experience written into each of my main characters, they are definitely not me. They are more like best friends who share their stories with me and want me to tell the world about them. How cool is it that I get to dish juicy gossip about ‘friends’ and they don’t mind a bit. In fact, they insist that I write every detail about their sordid problems and that I get it right.

In the end, I guess I’m passionate about writing YA romance because there is a hopefulness that shines through. Those firsts—dates, kisses, break-ups and make-ups—all of those milestones that change us forever are filled with possibility and emotion. For me,possibility and emotion is why I read and also why I write.

So tell me, what are you passionate about, and what inspires you to do it?