Monday Mayhem – The Gift of Giving Up

This time of year, I’m always focused on what I want to accomplish next year. The list is always fairly lengthy. I won’t get to everything, but I will complete some things. As I get older, I find that accomplishing some things is more than enough. The things I don’t get done will shift to the following year’s list, and life will go on.

Opened personal organizer with a to do list.

Patience is one of life’s great lessons. I haven’t mastered it, but I am learning to embrace it. I’m also learning how to let things go. This year, I plan to carry over my list of anti-resolutions. Remember these?

Stop showing and telling everything to everyone.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

Stop worrying about what others think of you.

Stop waiting.

Stop doubting.

Stop being a stranger.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Stop standing in your own way.

Stop feeling guilty.

Stop thinking money creates value.

Stop feeling obligated.

Stop saying yes all the time

Stop thinking everything is a competition.

Stop trying to be like everyone else.

Stop thinking you have to get it right on the first try.

I’ve discovered that the list of things I plan to stop doing is the very definition of a work in progress. Some days I’m better at them than others.

In 2018, I’m giving myself a different kind of gift: permission to give up.

Not writing, or my day job, or anything important. But the time has come for me to put some conscious effort into quitting things that do not make me feel good.

Almost seven years ago, I quit smoking. Now, just because I list that here, don’t think for one minute I didn’t love smoking. I did. I just didn’t like the way smoking made me feel. So, I screwed up my determination and quit.

This year, I plan to give up some other things that don’t make me feel good. The first I plan to attack will be my social media habit.

No, I won’t be disappearing entirely, but I will be limiting the time I spend absorbing other people’s thoughts and opinions.

I will be around to post pictures and chat about life in general, but I’m going to start sticking to topics of polite conversation: the weather, health, and…books.

How about you? Do you plan to be a quitter in 2018? What baggage will you be ditching?

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Monday Mayhem – The definition of…Sanity

The old saying about the definition of insanity really resonates with me. You know the one I mean – it’s usually attributed to Einstein, but no one really knows who said it first. Doesn’t really matter, it’s about as true as a sentiment can be.

I’ve been all over the place this week, trying new things. Some have worked, others are still works in progress, but I’m throwing things out there, hoping something sticks.

 

PLAY DATES has been released into the wild. Thank you all for a) buying it and b) the awesome reviews. They really do help, and I appreciate them all – good and the bad (I admit I tend to skim over the ugly).

There was a big special on SEDUCING STEVE this week. Thank you so much for helping me spread the word about it. It was fun to trot the yummy red-head out again.

I’m knee deep in my next project and loving it so far. I’m dictating most of it, and having a good time simply trying to be a storyteller. I’ll put my writer cap on later, and make it all spiffy. Right now, I’m just going with the flow in hopes of ramping it up in time to hit NaNoWriMo in full stride.

In the meantime, we can all look forward to seeing LOVE GAMES on the shelves in February 2018. Have you pre-ordered your copy(ies)?

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Monday Mayhem – Ooh and Om Edition

First, I want to thank you all for making the release of PLAY DATES so great. I have the best readers in the world!

Second, I want to wish all my Canadian friends a very happy Thanksgiving! I am so very thankful for you. And, I’d totally make you a plate of buttered toast, pretzels, jelly beans, and popcorn…basically my dream Thanksgiving dinner. Peppermint Patty was crazy to complain!

Third, I have a milestone to share. This week, I will celebrate a year of daily meditation. Despite my use of the Om (It Is, Will Be, or To Become) in this post’s title, I don’t chant when I meditate – at least not verbally. But, I have found that a quick 10 minute time out has made a huge difference in my life.

And believe me, I was a skeptic.

Though I always enjoyed the quiet time at the end of the yoga class, I’ve always viewed meditation as something too mystical – or worse, granola-y – for me to take seriously. But this time last year, I was stuck in a job I despised, feeling anxious about my writing, and generally tense and miserable. In other words, I was desperate.

I read an article that mentioned Calm.com and their free phone app. The article mentioned how grounded the program was in using meditation as a means to improve everyday life, not some far-fetched spiritual journey. I decided to give it a shot, and here’s what I discovered:

One breath, in and out. I could handle that. And all I had to do was concentrate on taking each breath as it came. By learning to do that, I learned to tackle my worries and stressors one at a time.

  • I left that miserable job for one that pays far less, and I don’t regret it one bit.
  • I spent time examining the motivation behind my writing and exploring the core themes of the stories I want to tell.
  • I discovered that no matter how busy I am, a 10-15 minute post-dinner puppy snuggle makes even the worst day a thousand times better.
  • And, I realized that there is absolutely nothing selfish or wrong about taking a few minutes out of the day to focus on myself and my state of mind.

I think the best we can do is to try to tune out the noise around us for a few minutes and focus inward. And when I do, I ask myself these questions:

  • Have I done everything I can do to make a difference?
  • Was I kind to someone today? Helpful? Accepting?
  • Did I make someone smile?
  • Did I ask for any help I might need?

Now, you may think the last one doesn’t fit, but I’d argue it absolutely does. I believe that we all want to contribute, even if it’s in the completion of a simple task. By asking for help, you are giving someone the opportunity to answer those first three questions affirmatively. So ultimately, by asking you are giving.

So, go into the world, give of yourselves and accept help from others. And, at the end of the day, remember to give yourself a break. We’re all going about this the same way – one breath in, one breath out.

Disclaimer: This may not work for everyone. Meditation makes Sally anxious.

 

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Monday Mayhem – All I Ask of You

It’s PLAY DATES release week!

Colm and Monica’s story will be available on Tuesday, so expect to see me posting all over the place this week. If you want to follow along on my release week adventures, here’s where you can find me:

Today: Here, of course!

Tomorrow: Janice Hardy’s Fiction University, #KBooksChat Contemporary Romance chat on Twitter (1PM EST).

Wednesday and Thursday: Just Contemporary Romance

Saturday: 2-3pm Octoberfest – Fall into Romance party on Facebook (prizes!)

So, yay! A new book! Remember when I  said I was reading that book about asking for what you need?

Well, here’s my big ask:

  1. Buy the book. This is actually the best thing you can do for any author. Even if you don’t read the genre, or think the story may not be your cup of tea, consider buying a copy for a friend.
  2. If you read the book, please-please-please consider leaving a review on Amazon or another online retailer. Reviews help authors in a dozen ways, not the least of which is helping other readers decide to give a book a try (or not). I’m not asking for a good review, just an honest one.
  3. Recommend the book to your local public library for procurement. Not only do authors earn royalties library purchases, but they help us reach new readers.

Thank you so much for all of your support and encouragement. The release of PLAY DATES is just the start of a wild six months. I’m so glad to have you along for the ride!

 

 

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Sara Megibow knows I am beyond blushing

This week, I have a guest star on my blog…literary agent Sara Megibow!

*cheers*

*applause

*lets loose with one of those those piercing whistles that make people cringe*

Sara did a fabulous interview with another one of her clients, Emmie Mears, about what happens once an author signs with an agent. Not long after that, we got to talking about how the experience of working with an agent can be different for those of us who are beyond the first blush of publication. Those emails evolved into this thesis we like to call a blog post.

This is Maggie and Sara’s story, and we’re sticking to it:

Sara: In April 2015 Maggie Wells sent me a query letter for LOVE GAME – a sexy contemporary battle-of-the-sexes romance starring two mature, confident, hot protagonists. LOVE GAME releases Feb 1, 2018 from Sourcebooks Casablanca and we’re so excited! Maggie is a slush pile query success story with a bit of a twist.

The twist is that Maggie’s query letter included a bio outlining her experience as a previously published author with novels from Turquoise Morning Press, Carina Press, Cleis Press, Harlequin, and Kensington. Working with an established author brings a different strategy to the table so Maggie and I wanted to share that experience.

Maggie: Back in 2014, I made a conscious decision to try to take my writing career to the ‘next level’. We all know that we have different paths and everyone’s mileage varies, but for me, the next level meant cracking the print market and wider distribution. I had already been published on digital-first platforms by publishers ranging from small press to Big 5, but the digital revolution in publishing has been a roller coaster ride. More established authors were going indie. Small press publishing rose and fell. Many authors were opting out of traditional publishing altogether, but I wasn’t ready to take it all on myself. I decided I wanted a partner to work with me as I moved into the next phase of my career. I needed an agent.

I’ve heard the arguments for and against, the success stories, and the nightmare scenarios, but this seemed like the right decision for me. I researched the agents I wanted to work with carefully. Not only do I look at how they handle books similar to those I write, but I studied their interaction with the publishing world at large via social media and blog posts.

In other words, I stalked them, but in the most professional way.

I knew that searching for an agent, then shopping the manuscript for a publishing contract is a lengthy process. I had a project I’d earmarked for querying—the book now known as LOVE GAME—knowing it might not see the light of day for years. Then, I made a list of my top choices of agent, and began the process. Less than a month after sending the first queries, I had an offer of representation from Sara – who happened to be number one on my list. Needless to say, I was somewhere beyond giddy.

Sara: Thanks Maggie! You’re so sweet –I was giddy too!

In the query slush pile I see submissions from debut authors to New York Times bestselling authors – platform is neither a deal-maker nor a deal-breaker for me. Regardless of platform, I have to love a book in order to offer representation. In the case of LOVE GAME – wow! It’s SO good and funny and sexy – I can’t wait for readers to love it as much as I do!

Maggie: Thanks, Sara! I’m excited for them to read it too!

Sara and I have had some pretty frank discussions on where my career was/is, how we can maintain momentum, and how we might push forward. I think this has been one of the most beneficial aspects of working with Sara.

We are a team. She knows when to step up, when to rein me in a little, and when to just let me do my thing. That may be where working with an author who has some publishing industry experience differs from working with a new author.

Sara:  We do make a good team, don’t we? 😉

As Maggie’s agent my job is to make her more money than she would have been able to make on her own. An author’s money comes from advance, royalties and subsidiary rights deals so we talked a lot about these things on that original phone call.

First, like you said above Maggie, you asked how to “maintain momentum.”

To that end, we made a list of the books/series Maggie wanted to write and made a plan to write and sell them. It worked! In addition to LOVE GAME, we have Maggie’s PLAY DATES series launching in October 2017 from Kensington Lyrical. PLAY DATES is a trilogy of contemporary romance novels starring hot single dads. The release of these digital-first titles was strategically planned to keep momentum going while waiting for our print release of LOVE GAME.

Second, Maggie, you asked me about “pushing forward” and how to “take your career to the next level.”

Maggie’s previous books are amazing! They are ebook-only or ebook + POD so for us “pushing forward” meant increasing her market penetration by landing a print deal with a major publisher (done! The LOVE GAME series will have its exciting print release from Sourcebooks with extensive bookstore and library distribution). Taking Maggie’s career to the “next level” also meant inking those profitable subsidiary rights deals (done! The entire LOVE GAME series was sold to audiobook for simultaneous release).

Now let’s flip the tables. What does a previously published author bring to the table for an agent?

To start with, Maggie already had an understanding of publishing processes. Like she said above, LOVE GAME was earmarked for querying knowing that it would be a while before release. This demonstrated to me that Maggie understood the traditional publishing production timeline. Understanding publishing processes up front meant she could focus right away on writing those delicious books. Debut authors experience a steep learning curve (rightfully so!) when going through their first production cycle and Maggie didn’t have that hurdle.

In addition to her understanding of the traditional publishing process, Maggie had an established brand (sexy, contemporary romance starring mature protagonists) and a robust social media presence.

Maggie: But even with my previous experiences, Sara has provided a wealth of in-depth knowledge about aspects of the business.

Sara: When we originally talked about LOVE GAME I was able to discuss format, distribution and subsidiary rights with an eye toward profit. But, you’ve been a major player on this team too, Maggie  – we are stronger together because your experience adds to mine.

Look at what you’ve done in terms of networking with other authors and your brilliant Margaritas Facebook Page and social media plan. Do you want to talk about that? These are great examples of YOU bringing value-add to the relationship.

Maggie: By the time I started working with Sara, I had stopped chasing the social media trends and settled into what works for me. I use my Facebook reader group for interacting with readers, and Twitter to chat with other authors. I maintain my own website, blog weekly, and have a steadily growing newsletter list. All of these things can be a boon to an author, but also take time away from the writing. Sara is great about providing marketing support and brainstorming, but mainly she helps keep me focused on the most important part of marketing my work—writing the next book.

Sara: YES! Writing the next book is a huge piece of the profit strategy. Our goal is to make money on books… then write more books and make money on those books too!

Maggie: It all comes down to time, knowledge, and access. I think those are some of the most important assets an agent can bring to an author.

Sara:  “Time, knowledge and access.” These are three big reasons why authors DO choose to sign with agents.

Time: An author pays their agent 15% of monies received (from advances, royalties, subrights). My time investment as an agent includes tasks like editing, submissions, strategy, tracking payments and royalties, answering questions, being a liaison between author and publisher, organizing marketing, negotiating contracts and selling rights to audio publishers, foreign publishers and Hollywood, etc. I want to be worth that 15% an author gives up so I keep me client list small and focus on being “value-add.”

Knowledge: An agent’s knowledge of the publishing business is a tool for making money for their clients.

Access: Many publishers still only accept submissions from agents. Also, opportunities for subrights deals (audio, translation, Hollywood) heavily favor agented authors.

Maggie: What are some of the traits (aside from that ‘gotcha!’ manuscript) that you appreciate most in a client?

Sara: 90% of my clients came to me the same way you did, Maggie – through the query slush pile. You’re right – I’m looking for that “gotcha manuscript.”

Once we get past the amazing-manuscript-offering-representation phase I appreciate a client who is professional (example: turns in books on time) and kind (example: says thank you to our hardworking teammates).  Professional and kind go a long way in this business! I hope a client has a social media presence, although it’s not a deal-breaker if they don’t. I do, however, expect them to keep an updated website once we ink a book deal. Finally, all my clients are passionate and I appreciate that trait because it inspires me.

Maggie: In short, the author + agent relationship has been a revelation for me, even though I came into it as an experienced author. Having a partner like Sara by my side has expanded my career horizons—not just because I made it past a ‘gatekeeper’, but because she helps me view each project through a wide-angle lens. While I am focused on writing the next book, Sara and I are planning next steps beyond typing ‘The End’ in a manuscript.

Thanks so much for joining me here, Sara. I love being on Team Megibow and having you on Team Awesome!

Follow Sara on twitter @SaraMegibow

Learn more about what Sara is looking for here: https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Old Dogs and Happy Goats

This weekend was the annual Diamond State Romance Authors writing retreat! We rented a lovely house on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. Here was my writing view from the deck:

This time, I didn’t have a deadline pressing on me, but I had a couple things I wanted to work on. Like many of my writer friends, I’ve found myself struggling with the words over the summer, so I was also looking for some new tricks to jumpstart the old motivation.

Most writers will classify themselves in one of two ways: plotter or pantser. Plotter is pretty self-exlanitory. Those writers plot each bit of a book before they even begin. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants.

I started out as — and still naturally identify as — a pantser. But my career has moved at such a pace that I find I am selling books to publishers based on a synopsis of what I think future book will be. If I leave it up to my pantsing tendencies, I tend to veer off course from that synopsis, so I’ve evolved into sort of a plotser.

Adding dictation to my bag of tricks has also changed my writing style. I found I needed to have a pretty good sense of what I was trying to accomplish in that scene before I could speak it. Which meant, I had to do some *gasp* plotting.

This weekend, I took my first steps toward becoming a full-fledged plotter. The fabulous Brinda Berry showed me an awesome template she’d started using. I bought the book (FOOL PROOF OUTLINE) and downloaded that template.

In one afternoon, I’d done over 3,000 words of story outline, character worksheets, and scene plotting for a new project. Here’s hoping this new trick will work for this old dog.

In other news, Kelli Reep and I saw a goat riding in the back of a truck on the way home.

 

Welcome to Arkansas.

How about you? Did you learn any new tricks this week?

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Monday Mayhem – Joy Thievery

Sadly, my favorite picture of Teddy Roosevelt has proved to be a fake.

But one thing the 26th President got right was this little gem:

It’s true. People rarely come out feeling better about themselves or their accomplishments when they hold them up against someone else’s.

We tend to stop and look around when we are needing some kind of validation we’re on the right track, but it rarely works out for us in a positive way. There will most likely always be someone smarter, richer, funnier, more talented, more successful than we are at that moment.

So, as the nuns used to say, keep your eyes on your own paper.

I know it’s a lot easier said than done, but you have to keep working on it. Like meditation, or yoga, any practice that forces us to look inward can be uncomfortable. But in the end, those are the ones that help use find peace, become more flexible, and ultimately, allow us to celebrate our achievements on their own merit.

So, if you feel the need to stop and look around, focus on enjoying the last of the summer flowers, the sweet stickiness of a campfire s’more, or the hum of the cicadas. Soon they will be replaced by breathtaking autumn leaves, crisp breezes, an pumpkin spice scented toilet paper. That’s when you’ll realize there was no point in comparing the two seasons. They were both just doing their own thing.

Do your own thing. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Try not to anyone thieve your joy. I may not ever ride a moose, but neither did Teddy Roosevelt.

Not that I was looking.

This week’s celebrations:

Cover art for LOVE GAME! This will be the cover for my first mass market paperback release, coming to bookstores near you in Feb 2018!

Trade paperback copies of PLAY DATES (Oct 2017)! These are much prettier in person. The lighting in my house is horrible.

Hope your week is as fabulous as you are!

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Third time is a…

…pain in the tuchas.

I’m still working on the first draft of A RING FOR ROSIE, book 3 in the Play Dates series.

Still.

Forever.

And ever.

I just can’t seem to wrap it up. And now, 38 books into the writing career, I’m afraid I may have a book three block.

I had this problem with LOVE & ROCKETS as you may recall. And I never did finish CONTAINMENT (book three after CONTENTMENT and COMMITMENT). I cannot tell you why I struggle so much with the number 3, but apparently, I do.

I blame SHERLOCK. It’s the Sign of Three (Season 3, Episode 2). And excellent choice for procrastination. I just hope I don’t bleed out before this this is done.

Oh! And be sure to watch Heroes & Heartbreakers tomorrow (August 22, 2017) for an exclusive sneak peek at the cover for LOVE GAME (formerly Full Court Press) coming in February 2018!

Cheers!

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Ask and you might possibly receive

This week I started reading a book called THE ART OF ASKING by Amanda Palmer. It’s an interesting book – part memoir, part self-help.

The premise is that we don’t ask people, particularly our friends or family, for the things that we need. Our society values self-reliance, and often views asking for help in the same vein as begging. In other words, asking has a shameful connotation.

This is ironic considering that one of the first things you learn in any type of sales job whether it’s taking orders at McDonald’s, or selling insurance, or selling any type of product or commodity, is that you don’t get if you don’t ask. Maybe it’s this connection to sales that make us view asking in the more negative light.

Anyway, I’m horrible asker. I’m definitely control freak. I live and die by my calendar. Collaborative work makes me a little bit crazy because not everybody has the same type of work ethic I do. If the world would just bend to my way of thinking, everything would be so much easier, but it doesn’t.

That leaves me with few options. I either work myself into the ground trying to do it all, or I let things slip through the cracks, or I learned to ask for help.

I’ve gone the first route before, I’ve been living the second one for a while now, and now I’m working on the third. That’s why have challenged myself to ask for something every day. It could be small or large, but it has to be something that I wouldn’t have asked anyone else to do for me last week.

For example, I did a couple of twitter threads, designed to spark interaction with other authors or with potential readers. A few of my good friends hit the little heart icon on twitter to like my tweets to let me know that they’ve read them, and were feeling what I said. That’s awesome. But the point of me doing these types of discussions is to cast a wider net. So, I asked my friends if they would consider re-tweeting the first tweet in the thread, rather than simply liking it. This shares it with their followers on twitter, which adds another ripple to the stone I tossed out into the conversational pond. They were kind enough to re-tweet my threads, and agreed to do so whenever they saw me engaged in a similar activity on Twitter.

The next day, I asked a different friend who is proficient in Microsoft Excel, if she would help me finish a project I had started in a spreadsheet. Pretty simple project, but a tedious one, which involved gathering information from a number of websites on each of my books. Nothing time sensitive, just something I like to have as a convenience. She said she was happy to help, and I sent the file along.

Yesterday, I was in my local Barnes & Noble, eyeing the spot on the shelf where LOVE GAME would sit come February 2018. (!!!!!) As I was wandering, a woman stopped to ask if I needed help. It turned out she was the store manager. I confessed that I was stalking the shelf space where my book will go, and then proceeded to ASK her if the store did any promotions for local authors. We talked for a bit she took my card, and I know to get in touch with their outreach manager to arrange possibly appearing at a group signing.

Not bad, so far.

Asking is not easy for many of us. Sometimes we have to get to a point where something is important enough to us that were willing to sacrifice our pride/ego. I guess I am edging up to one of those points. I have two new series launching in the next six months. I want them both to be successful.

I can’t do it all alone.

I need your help.

As an asker in training, I’ll probably be practicing on you here on my blog and in my FB reader group, The Margaritas, just I am practicing my dictation by speaking this post rather than typing it.

I hope you’ll help me out. As always, I’m happy to reciprocate in any way I can.

This is today’s ask: A WILL AND A WAY is on sale for $0.99! Will you help me get the word out?

Please tell your steamy-romance-lovng friends? You can use any means you’re comfortable with using – social media, word of mouth, text stalking, or simply buying one for a friend. Right-click and steal this graphic, if you want. Here’s the link to my publisher website. It will direct them to the retailer of their choice: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/33189

How was that for an ice-breaker?

I thank you in advance. I appreciate all you do.

(This post brought to you by Desdemona Dragon. Sorry for any typos. We’re still learning!)
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Monday Mayhem: Uhhhh

So, yeah. In the last two weeks I’ve completed revisions on one manuscript, approved and completed copyedits on two others, added 15k to my WIP via dictation, and there’s a galley to proof in my inbox.

Yes, it’s safe to say I’ve hit the Kahn level of tired.

So I’m taking the rest of July off. Yep, a whole day.

In the meantime, I have this to keep you entertained:

Lyrical Press is so excited about my upcoming Play Dates series, they are doing a special pre-release giveaway on Goodreads. You can enter to win here: http://bit.ly/2tPeJpg

Oh! And don’t forget to join my Facebook reader group, The Margaritas, if you haven’t already. I haven’t be slaving away on a whole bunch of nothing, you know. There’s going to be some good stuff coming up!

 

 

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