Sequel Struggles

It hasn’t even been a month since I published The Purple Door District, and I’m already feeling the dreaded sequel struggle. You know the feeling. You finish book one in a trilogy or series. Ideas blossom in your head for the next story. Your characters weave their tales and are ready to continue their journeys. You sit down to write.

Nothing.

Yes, this is going to be one of those raw blog posts where I talk about my struggles and then still try to provide some advice thanks to the help of other incredible writers.

Right now, I’m trying not to throw my computer at the wall because I’m so frustrated with the book.  I managed to write part of the story during NaNo, but now I feel stuck. One reason is because I’m intimidated by book one! I’ve received a lot of really good feedback, and while I know I can still make changes, I don’t want to write a sequel that’s subpar. Not only that, I’m not working with the same exact cast. New characters are popping in left and right, and they’re making the story that much more detailed and difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, the second book was meant to be more detailed and have bigger stakes, as it should, but I didn’t think it would cause me quite this much stress and fear.

I reached out to an incredible romance writer named Eliza David who sent me one of her blog posts about writing a sequel. You can check it out here. She provides some incredible tips such as taking notes of your characters from the first book, and also allowing characters (and conflict) to grow. Check it out!

As I’ve worked on my sequel, I’ve learned a few things that I thought I’d share as well. If you have tips, let me know!

  • Character Bios: Make sure you have character bios and descriptions from the first book and keep adding to them for the second book so you don’t have to keep researching and remembering who has what eyes or hair.
  • Talk it Out: I spent part of the day talking to my co-creator about book two. She had a bunch of valuable advice, and you can do the same with a fellow writer, especially one who has read your book. Outline the next story for them to see if it makes sense and if your book is going to hold your readers’ attention as much as the first.
  • Read Your First Book: This might seem obvious, but I didn’t really think about it when I started in on the sequel. I’d spent so much time editing PDD 1, I thought I wouldn’t have to read it again. Boy, was I wrong. I think it’ll help me stay in the groove of working with some of the same characters once I review it.
  • Outline: Outline your sequel to see if it makes sense in the world of book one. And if you have another book after the sequel, try to outline that book as well so you know where number two needs to end. Granted, this is more for the plotters rather than the pantsers, but I think it’s beneficial to both.
  • Allow Yourself to Feel Frustrated: Seriously, writing a sequel is scary and hard, so if you get frustrated, it’s completely normal. Allow yourself to feel (kick, scream, and cry if you need to), then get back to work. It’s better than keeping it all in.
  • Remember First Drafts Suck: Don’t get intimidated by your edited writing in book one. It started off as rough and unpolished as the sequel. The most important thing is to get the words on paper. You can clean it up later.

Believe me when I say you’re not alone in your dread of writing a sequel. Do what feels right for you, and look up suggestions for how to get through blocks and over hurdles.

My biggest suggestion is try to find a way to embrace your book and not be afraid of it. Because if you’re afraid what could happen, the only person who will ever know the story is you.

Write it.

You can do it!

2018 Wrap Up and 2019 Goals

I can’t believe that 2018 is finally over. It felt like the year that just would not die! I made resolutions last year, but most of them I don’t even  remember, except for wanting to start querying Dragon Steal, which I did manage to accomplish. For this post, I’d like to go over some of the awesome (and not-so-awesome) things that happened this year and cover my goals for 2019.

2018 in Review

  • Finished editing Dragon Steal and submitted it for publication.
    • I’ve received several rejection letters but recently got a full manuscript request. While the rejections have hurt, at least the book is out there!
  • I created my own website and started developing a branded persona on twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. I have over 1,000 followers both on twitter and on instagram.
    • Even better, I’ve met a ton of amazing authors and creators through these sites who I can’t wait to work with next year!
  • Wrote, edited, and published The Purple Door District.  I can’t believe I developed my own marketing and indiegogo campaigns, formatted the book, published it, and held a launch party all in the space of six months. The question is, can I do it for PDD2?
  • Had “Latte with a Shot of Poltergeist” and “Frozen Heart” published in anthologies.
  • Submitted more short stories and poetry than I ever have before. While I received a lot of rejections, I at least received a few publications.
  • Officially launched The Writers’ Rooms with my co-Director, Alexandra Penn. We also finished our Articles of Incorporation and got certified as a non-profit corporation.
  • Helped develop the concierge anthology through The Writers’ Rooms.
  • Returned to my college and taught a few classes about publishing and NaNoWriMo.
  • Wrote 50k words for The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Lost about 45 lbs through exercise and healthy eating.
  • Attended my first book signing event with other authors and signed up for even more in 2019.
  • Hosted giveaways for my book and swag that was developed by local creators.
  • Started my patreon account to help raise money for my writing career.
  • Received honorable mention in Writers of the Future.
  • Truly started my profession as an author.

It’s been a really big year for me writing wise. I still can’t believe that six months ago I decided to publish The Purple Door District. It seems like ages since I made that decision. I’ve managed to publish a few pieces of work this year, including on wattpad and patreon.

Next year, I hope to do even more, but also find a way to take care of myself at the same time.

2019 Goals

  • Focus on my mental health and take better care of myself mentally and physically.
  • Find an agent and publisher for Dragon Steal.
  • Finish writing and publish The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Work on Fates and Furies with my co-author, AE Kellar, and hopefully publish the first book, if not in 2019, then in early 2020.
  • Submit more short stories and poetry for publication.
  • Start working on The Purple Door District #3 and Dragon Steal #2
  • Return to working on Traitors of the Crown.
  • Lose more weight for health reasons and get healthier.
  • Attend multiple writing conventions to both sell my books and to meet other authors.
  • Start my path to becoming a full-time author.

These are pretty ambitious goals, but I think most of them are possible. I really do need to focus on my mental and physical health, though, because I managed to break myself a few times while working on PDD. If I can’t hold myself together, I won’t be able to accomplish any/all of this.

I’m really proud of what I did this year. It’s my biggest year as an author, and I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds. I’m also a little scared. What if next year doesn’t unfold as well? I guess that’s all part of growing up and making plans as a writer, though. Some years you’re going to make it big, and some years are going to be a lot slower. I hope 2019 is still a fantastic one.

What are your goals for 2019? Feel free to share them below! Also, let me know what topics you’d like me to cover this year!

Happy Writing!

Erin

Creating a Book Launch: Reflection

It’s been a week since I launched The Purple Door District. It’s hard to believe that it’s over already after so many months of work. I’ve had people ask what went well, what didn’t, what would I like to change, and so on and so forth. After some reflection, I thought I’d share a few tidbits for anyone else who’s preparing to launch their book. As I say in many of my posts, these are just ideas and not the true method. What works for me may not work for you, but it may give you a place to start.

To make this a little easier, I’m going to divide this into three sections: what I did, what worked and didn’t work, and what I’d do next time.

Warning: This is going to be a long one!

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What I did: 

  • Indie Publishing: I gave myself 6 months to launch my book so I could build up an audience and get my social media platforms off the ground. Keep in mind, I was mostly starting from scratch. I had Facebook and Wattpad, and I had just started on patreon, but that was about it. I decided to go the indie publishing route, which meant I had to do all my marketing by myself, hence the six months of preparation.
  • Cover reveal: I revealed the cover of the book about a month in so that it, and the title, could get out and attract attention.
  • Social Media: I started building up my social media. Twitter and Facebook brought the most people to my website (according to the analytics). I also created an Instagram account. I bounced back and forth between these three, and featured special topics on Instagram like my Book Love Tour, author interviews, and blog entries. I created a schedule for myself to write a blog post every week, which I’ve managed for a few months now. When I got closer to the book release, I created a Goodreads and Bookbub account, per the suggestions of other authors. Through all the social media sites, I worked to build my audience and find fellow writers who might be interested in the book, and who I could help.
  • Website: I developed my own author website to host information about my books, author interviews, my literary projects, details about the community, my volunteer work, etc. Basically my website is a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to know about me and my work. You can find all my social media through it.
  • Patreon: In December 2017, before I even decided to publish PDD, I started posting a chapter or two every month. This meant I had early readers and got a few people interested in the book. I intend to do the same thing with PDD 2.
  • Interviews: Through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, I found people willing to do interviews with me to help promote my book. I worked to space them out over the months so there was always something fresh for people to read. In the same vein, I interviewed other authors to show them support. It’s been a lot of fun getting to meet so many different people.
  • Libraries/bookstores: I started contacting libraries and bookstores who might be interested in carrying my book. In the end, I had three bookstores in the local area who wanted them, and another in the works. Libraries are a little more reluctant to take in indie-published books, but I did manage to get a couple to agree to carry the novel.
  • Press: I wrote press releases for my book launch in hopes that it would help bring more people to the event and also share the news about the novel to more people.
  • Swag: I developed some of my own swag and also brought on people to create art, necklaces, and sand bottles for my book. My intent was to give them support while also helping to promote PDD. It was a lot of money, but the results spoke volumes.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: Indie publishing is not easy, as many of you probably already know. I started up an Indiegogo Campaign to try to offset some of the costs. I spread it out over a month, aiming to gain $4,000.
  • Book Launch Location: I picked a special location for my book launch. The Makers’ Loft seemed like a fitting place because it is all about representing indie artists. It has a great space, and it is still new and starting out, so I wanted to bring publicity there as well. Plus, their marketing team is really good. I’m really glad I chose it.
  • Giveaways:  I did several giveaways over the course of the 6 months. In the beginning, I was just offering swag as gifts (necklaces, posters, etc) because the book wasn’t done. Then I started giving away the e-book, and finally I offered up the published book in bigger contests that ended up helping me build my newsletter.
  • Newsletter: I developed a newsletter to keep people updated on what I’m working on. It helped me keep people interested and connected me with my readers more.
  • ARC: I gave out advanced reader copies to people I knew would finish the book and provide reviews on Goodreads, and later Amazon. I hoped that the numbers would get me closer to the 50 count which triggers Amazon to start promoting your book.
  • Paid Ads: I spent a little money on ads for the newspaper, Facebook, Bookbub, and I think a couple of other places to garner attention.
  • Connections: I worked with my author connections to gain more information about how to launch my book. I also got PDD out word-of-mouth and developed a street team to help me share information about the book around social media platforms.
  • Signings: I set up two signings on the day of the book launch, as well as several others in the future so people would know right away where to find me if they couldn’t make it to the actual launch.

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What Worked/ What Didn’t 

  • Indie Publishing: I’m actually really glad I went this route. I’ve learned a lot about indie publishing over the past six months, and I now have a better idea of what I’d do in the future. It costs a lot, I’m not going to lie, but you have a lot of freedom that you may not have with publishers.
  • Cover reveal: This was a great way to gain attention. I found an amazing artist who really hit the nail on the head. People loved the cover, and that kept bringing an audience back to me. Or at least made people pause when they scrolled through it. Cover reveals are great media pieces, especially if you have an incredible artist. Start it early, and get your name out there.
  • Social Media: I probably made my social media life a lot harder than it needed to be. Facebook and Twitter both brought people over to my website. Whether that will lead to sales remains to be seen at this point. It’s something you definitely need to do to keep up your audience, but the amount of social media presence is really up to you. I think Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram get me my best audience. Wattpad and patreon fall a bit more to the wayside. At the very least, this is a great way to gain connections and find out about other signings, and bond with writers and readers. Recently, my blog posts have started to gain more attention.
  • Website: A must have. I spent more on this than I had anticipated, but it’s worth the cost. I have a store where I can sell my books. And it’s a one-stop-shop for everyone. If I only have one piece of social media to offer up, this is definitely the one I give. I update it every week, too, and that seems to keep the numbers up.
  • Patreon: To be honest, Patreon is not one of my successes. It’s gone well for other writers, but I’ve really struggled with gaining an audience. I’m hoping that now PDD 1 is out, that’ll bring more people in for PDD 2. Part of me wants to give it up completely, but I still think there’s worth in it. If anything, it keeps me on task because I have to post something every 15th of the month.
  • Interviews: This was a big help. Interviews introduced me to new readers and audiences. They made people see that I’m very much a human, and they got to know me and my view of working as a community. I would say get as many interviews as possible, and research if there’s a good response turn out for that interviewer’s blog.
  • Libraries/bookstores: I didn’t have as much success as I would have liked, but I don’t think I tried as hard as I could have. I’m still reaching out to bookstores and libraries, but I’m finding that they prefer to agree to carry your book once it’s printed. That being said, I did just receive my first paycheck from one of the bookstores!
  • Press: This was a dud, but that was my fault. I did reach out to newspapers, but I neglected to reach out to tv and radio stations. I think I just ran out of time, which was an issue. I sent press releases to four local papers and only had one respond.
  • Swag: While this turned out to be a lot of money, the swag really caught people’s attention. When I couldn’t give out the book because it was still in progress, I could at least offer bookmarks, jewelry, and other items. They were all very eye catching, and they’ve served to help bolster the world of PDD alongside the book.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: The campaign enabled me to pay for my first shipment of books, but it definitely didn’t land where I expected. There are a lot of ways in which I would improve on it (more below).
  • Book Launch Location: The location was really great. The only downside is the website has slightly confusing directions, so some people got lost, but they still managed to show up. I had at least 30 people stop by in a 2-hour time frame.
  • Giveaways:  On one hand, not many people participated in the giveaways. It almost felt like, what was the point? On the other hand, the people who won were ecstatic and let me know about it, and that felt wonderful.
  • Newsletter: I suck at newsletters, hah! This is still a work in progress! Now that I have about 250 people, I’m hoping that will lead to some sales.
  • ARC: Definitely glad I did this. My ARC folks came through for me and helped me get several reviews both on amazon and goodreads. I’m talking with even more people about doing reviews, so I hope my #questto50 makes it on amazon.
  • Paid Ads: Honestly, I don’t think these were worth the money. Unless you’re willing to spend $100s of dollars, I don’t think they give you much turn out.
  • Connections/Signings: Personal connections with people and in-person signings definitely were great successes. I’ve met so many incredible people over the last six months, and many also ended up buying my book to show their support. I did the same for their books as well. The biggest success came from working with the community. They always say you should build an audience, but I’d much rather build up true connections with people and have us help each other. Rising Tide, as Brian K Morris says.

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What I’d Do Differently

  • Press: I would reach out to more press outlets about my book. One suggestion an author made to me was to send formal invitations to newspapers, tv, and radio stations. If you can get a big star to come, that’s something you can talk about and attract more people. I’d also write more press releases to introduce my book.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: If I did this again, I’d give myself two months instead of one to raise the money. One month wasn’t enough. I would also promote it more, and likely do that through press news. My tiers would be more reasonable as well. I wish I could have given out more stuff to people, but I was still in the early stages.
  • Relevant Signings: I’m working on this now, but I would have set up a signing in Chicago right off the bat. The book is set in Chicago, after all. I should have reached out to Chicago bookstores and media as well.
  • ARC: I would find more ARC readers for the book. I’ve received many incredible reviews (thank you, everyone!) But getting more reviews right away would be helpful.
  • Time/Self-Care: Give myself more time to breathe. During the six months, I thought I was going to lose my mind. There were plenty of tears and nights where I felt like I couldn’t do this, and that I’d turn into a failure. It was because I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating well. There were other factors that made self-care difficult, but the book launch was one of those major stresses in my life that I’m both happy and sad is over. I’d definitely give myself a day (at least) every week where I didn’t work on anything.

I told you, this was going to be a long one. Overall, I think the book launch was a big success. In 7 days, I sold about 70 books, and I have interviews and signings coming up over the next few months. I’m working to attend bigger conventions that might bring more attention to my book, and to me as an author. Maybe I’ll even find an agent to represent me for the other stacks of books I have waiting in the wings.

As a final note, I want to again thank everyone who has supported me through this journey. You all are incredible and I can’t thank you enough.

As always, if you have a topic you’d like me to discuss, post it below!

Happy writing!

Book Launch Day

It finally happened.

The Purple Door District officially launched on Saturday, December 15th, 2018, and it was spectacular.

If you had told me at the beginning of 2018 that I would decide to publish one of my books, I probably would have laughed. Over the course of six months, I started my own marketing campaign (with the help of other brilliant writers like Alexandra Penn and Brian K Morris), and began furiously editing my book. My social media realm exploded, and I delved into the world of being an indie author. There was joy, and there were tears, but it all came together on Saturday in a way I never could have imagined.

I started my day out at the North Liberty Community Library where I sat with five other lovely authors: Jolene Buchheit, Mary Chalupsky, Alexandra Penn, M.L. Williams, and Jo Salemink. The whole event was set up by Jenn Thompson and IABE. It was my very first time officially setting up my table, and it came out beautifully.

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I was delighted by a visit from my college professor, Glenn Freeman who has published a few poetry books of his own! All of the authors were incredibly supportive, and it gave me the courage to put on the event that night.

At the same time, my co-creator, AE Kellar, received a gift package in the mail full of swag and the book. And I got to see her joy and excitement as she tore into it and realized that the world we’d created over the course of 6 years had finally come to life for everyone to see.

I hosted the official book launch at The Makers’ Loft in downtown Iowa City. It seemed like the perfect location for selling, reading, eating, and meeting other incredible people. And the table just dazzled, especially surrounded by my friends.

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Throughout the night, people joined us for the celebration. I met new fans and welcomed fellow Writers’ Rooms writers and former professors with open arms. We even got to celebrate with a delicious cake that welcomed everyone to the District.

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After a great evening of selling books and talking to people, I actually held a reading. This was the first time I read my book in public, and I was so nervous. But everyone was supportive and receptive. I couldn’t have asked for a better audience.

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Most of all, I can’t thank my friend Desiree enough for being with me to set things up, take them down, and just help me through the nerves. She even dressed to match my table! It made me realize just how lucky I am to have this community in my life. With you all, I’m never really alone.

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I had hoped at least a handful of people would come to help me celebrate, but you all more than came through for me. Thank you for making this a night and experience to remember.

When I first started writing, I ached with loneliness. I didn’t know any other writers and I didn’t really have many people to share my craft with who understood what I was trying to do. I was the oddball, and all I wanted was someone who got me and shared my passion.

I’ve found that literary family in Iowa City. The passion and excitement for writing is intoxicating and infectious. I felt it first through Cornell’s English Department, and then the Iowa Writers’ House, and now through The Writers’ Rooms. We all come from varied backgrounds and have different stories to tell, but in the end, we’re all writers. We all need companionship and people who understand where we’re coming from.

That’s why The Purple Door District is so special to me. It’s all about community coming together, and that’s what my friends and fellow writers did for me. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for making me feel like I have a place to call home. Thank you for welcoming a scared kid hoping to be a writer into the world of being an adult author. I hope that I’ve been able to give as much support and love back to you as I received last night.

And it’s not over. The Purple Door District is the first of many books to come, and I can’t wait to see what happens next on this journey.

Happy writing to you all!

Erin

You can purchase The Purple Door District at:

Amazon in kindle and paper!

My website for a signed copy.

Prairie Lights in Iowa City

M and M Bookstore in Cedar Rapids

The Maker’s Loft in Iowa City

 

Launch Week and What Comes Next

I can’t believe it’s finally here. After six months of planning, plotting, and procrastinating (we all do it), The Purple Door District is finally going to see the light of day. I’ve already sent a few copies out to ARC readers and to my indiegogo supporters, and the reviews thus far have been great. My favorite has to be:

“Casey caught me hook, line, and sinker and I’m already impatient for the sequel!” -Rebecca Daniels.

At this moment I’m putting the final pieces of the launch together. I dropped books off at Prairie Lights and M and M Bookstore. It’s surreal to be handing them a paper copy of my book. My bookmarks at Haunted Bookshop are gone already, and a couple press releases should be appearing in the paper any day now. Everything is headed in the right direction.

On Saturday, December 15th, the book will launch both on amazon and in stores. My first signing is at the North Liberty Community Library where there will be free cookies and pictures with Santa for the kids while parents do last-minute shopping. It’s my first chance to sell my books beside other authors, and I can’t wait. I’ve met so many incredible people over this past year, and it’ll be such an honor to actually sell my book beside them. If you’re in the North Liberty area, stop on by from 10am-1pm. You can find more information here.

Saturday night will be the big event. From 6:30-8:30 pm, I’m holding a signing and reading event at The Makers’ Loft in Iowa City. This is a fantastic new business that helps support local indie creators. They’ve agreed to sell my books there as well because they want to start a book section. People can come get their books, celebrate with dessert, and then listen to a reading at 8 pm. I’m also holding a raffle. Authors Shakyra Dunn, R.C. Davis, Alexandra Penn, Eliza David, and more, will donate their books to the prize pool. You might walk away with more than a couple of gifts!

And speaking of gifts, Marion Mavis, author of The Supremacy Witch, and I are doing a giveaway on Instagram! Go check out our guidelines on how to win signed copies of both of our books!

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I really hope to have a great turn out to blog about. You can be sure I’ll take pictures, and I’m planning to do a brief live recording as well.

Then, on Sunday, I’ll finally face plant my bed and get some rest.

This whole experience has been incredible, but it’s also been draining. There have been more than a few times that I’ve wanted to throw up my hands and toss in the towel. Publishing a book is practically a second job. When I’m not doing my daily work and volunteer positions, I’m usually busy with writing, editing, or marketing. I’ll admit I haven’t taken quite enough time for myself since the whole process started, but I’m hoping to get some breathing room now that the book is going to be published.

What then, do you ask? What’s the future of The Purple Door District?

The answer is twofold. This will not be the only book. I started working on book 2, tentatively named Wolf Pit, and I’m already 50,000 words into it. My hope is that I can publish it in 2019. At the same time, my co-creator and I, AE Kellar, plan to work on our main series to get that ready for publication. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with The Purple Door District finally taking flight, we think we’re ready to crank the work out.

The story doesn’t end here, my friends.

The journey is just beginning.

Pride

Today was a milestone in my life. I arrived home and found a package waiting for me in the mail.

It was the proof of my book.

Emotions flooded through me. Excitement. Fear. Anxiety. Pride. I’ve spent so many months writing, revising, and preparing this book for publication, I just didn’t know how it would turn out. I could open the box and find a beauty or a beast. What if I hated it? What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? What if I screwed up the formatting? What if…

I think the smile here says how I feel.

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This has been quite the journey, and though it’s nowhere near over, getting this far has been an adventure in and of itself. I decided in June that I was going to publish The Purple District. I’d been posting it on Patreon for about 7 months at that point, and I realized that the book could actually go on the market.  I knew it would be a lot of work to edit, proofread, format, market, etc, but I didn’t realize just how crazy things would get, and how fast that time would fly. Nor did I realize how it would impact me mentally.

Most people don’t know what goes on behind the scenes when an author creates a book. You see their marketing strategies and the final products, but not the struggles along the way, or the self-doubt. I pride myself on being a pretty honest and open person, and I’m not lying when I say that there were several times I wanted to quit the book. I cried, I screamed, I threw my hands up in the air and said, “why bother? It’s never going to be good enough.” I went through the typical thing all authors do; I thought my work was trash and didn’t deserve to see the light of day. My editors and beta readers said otherwise, of course, and that gave me the courage to keep going.

But deep down, there was another fear. For the first time I was going to put a big part of myself out there to be read, reviewed, judged, enjoyed, hated, whatever the feelings might be. Part of me didn’t feel like I deserved the honor of having a published book. Part of me felt like I was ready to take on the responsibility. Today? I’m just proud to be able to hold the book in my hands and realize that made this. I didn’t do it alone, of course, but I had the strength and courage to see the book through.

It’s a surreal feeling. I almost don’t believe that I’m holding the book in my hands. Sure, there are flaws and there are things I need to fix, but I’m one step closer to being a published author. This opens the door to literary events, conventions, readings, and signings. I’m terrified to launch into this new world, but I crave it as well. Failure is always gnawing at the back of my mind. What if I mess up? What if I don’t do enough? What if I just…fail?

I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter because look how far I’ve come. Even if people hate it or it doesn’t sell well, I still did it. I still put in the time, effort, love, tears, and dedication to produce this piece of work, and that in itself is an accomplishment and something I should take pride in.

I guess I want people to remember to take a moment and feel pride in themselves and their work. Whether you’re just starting, you’ve created short stories, written full novels, or published your books, you’re all authors. You all have dedication to the craft. Be proud of that. Look at your work and realize, “I did this.” It doesn’t matter how big or how small it is. You still created it. Hold on to that feeling so that you can go back to it when you have moments of self doubt. And remember, you’re not alone. We all struggle with it and we all wonder, “Am I good enough?”

I think you are. Keep writing, keep creating, and keep shining. Be proud of yourself, because I’m proud of you.

And like I say on my dedication page, to anyone who feels alone or needs a community…welcome to the District.

 

You can pre-order the book here (paper will be available shortly): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07K5JPRNM

 

The Purple Door District: Behind the Scenes

The world of The Purple Door District started out as the stubborn brainchild of AE Kellar and myself. We have spent years writing together, researching, brainstorming, and developing characters and rules governing our parahumans and worlds. Our main series, Fates and Furies, is still in production but occurs in the same urban fantasy setting.

But let me backtrack a little.

AE Kellar and I met each other on a Redwall roleplaying site when I was still in high school. We had a mutual interest in the book series by Brian Jacques, obviously, and the forums gave us the opportunity to create our own characters, be they cat in AE’s case, or a silver-striped red squirrel named SilverRose Brighteye. Some of you may recognize my NaNo name.

For those unfamiliar with roleplaying on forums, basically one person writes out a few paragraphs of a scene with their character, someone responds, and the two people (or more) write back and forth to create an adventure. Redwall provided the world for us; we just had to worry about the characters and plot.

We wrote together for years, developing characters and immersing ourselves in the world. Eventually, we sought after a change and started roleplaying on an urban fantasy website that has long since closed. That’s when we realized that we might have found our niche. We took our characters, built a world, and ran with it, rping back and forth most nights. We’d alternate taking point on a plotline and naturally switch to the next person.

Unless we both brainfarted, in which case we just started up a new plotline.

Years of writing produced thousands of pages of writing (I’m not joking, AE took a picture of the pile of paper). Eventually, we realized we wanted to do something with it, and thus Fates and Furies was born. But in order to fully create the series, we had to know more about our world.

When we started to design the District, I latched onto it and suddenly had ideas blossoming in my head about creating one in Chicago (I grew up around the area). Plus, as a birdmom of seven feathered kids, it gave me the chance to professionally write about a werebird, even if I still get the side eye. With AE’s blessing, I wrote The Purple Door District to introduce you to our insanity.

But what about the PDD struck a chord in me? It was the community. I loved this idea that people of different talents, appearances, and strengths could come together to protect one another. A lot of urban/paranormal fantasies focus on the battle between werewolves and vampires or different magical groups. It was nice to think that there was a neutral ground where everyone could get along under the direction of The Violet Marshall. With the way the country is going today, I felt it was important to show that it’s possible for a mixing pot of people to actually come together peacefully. I chose Chicago specifically because I knew I could create a diverse cast. Even more characters will appear in The Purple Door District Book 2.

Community plays a huge role in my life. I help bring writers together through The Writers’ Rooms, a non-profit corporation that focuses on providing a free, safe environment for writers no matter their background, income, experience, gender, etc. And I work with The Iowa Writers’ House which also supports writers through workshops, lectures, and bicultural fellowship. In the writing world, I firmly believe that the only way we can succeed is if we support one another. Rising Tide, as Brian K Morris calls it.

Even through the book production, I reached out to the community for help. I asked Oni Algarra and Gabriella Bujdoso to create art for the book, indie artists who post on deviantart and instagram respectively. My cover artist is a Fiverr creator named Les. Sara Cunningham used her marketing magic to create sand jars and postcards for my book. Amanda Bouma taught me how to make jewelry so I could develop Bianca’s necklace. Leona Bushman, a fellow urban fantasy writer, guided me through editing my book and polishing it for publication. Alexandra Penn helped me format the book and was one of my main supporters who gave me the courage to publish the book. And my wonderful proofreaders, Shakyra Dunn and AE made sure the book was ready to go. I couldn’t have done this without my community, and I’m excited to support them just as they supported me. That’s partially why I created the Indiegogo campaign. I wanted to help give back to them.

As of November 5th, The Purple Door District is available for pre-order on amazon. There are no words I can use to convey my pride, joy, and hint of terror at having my book out there (I think I used up all my words in the manuscript haha). I do know that, had it not been for AE, I never would have been able to create such an immersive world.

We jokingly say that AE is the brain and I’m the heart, but I think it’s very true. While AE fills our books with well-researched facts and logic, I add feeling, creativity, and literary flare. I couldn’t have done it without my walking encyclopedia. All you see in The Purple Door District exists because of our love for storytelling and our incessant need to get fewer than 8 hours of sleep a night.

Keep an eye out. Fates and Furies is on the horizon.

And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of your support during this crazy and amazing journey.

Welcome to the District.

 

Creating an Indiegogo Campaign For Your Novel

Over the past few months, I have been working with a couple authors to create an Indiegogo Campaign to help launch my book, The Purple Door District. As of October 15th, my campaign is live here and receiving some nice attention thus far. Some people have asked how I created my campaign and its purpose, so I thought I’d share some of that information with you.

What is Indiegogo? 

Indiegogo is another kind of Kickstarter campaign that helps creative folks receive contributions to go towards the creation of a product. While Kickstarter tends to focus more on technological advances, Indiegogo is more author and liberal arts friendly. You can find many authors trying to promote their books and graphic novels on the site. Generally, people will run a campaign for 30 days in order to reach a set goal. Kickstarter is an all or nothing thing. If you raise the money, then you get it. If you don’t meet your goal, you get nothing. Indiegogo offers that too, but it also provides a “flexible” goal. You can set your campaign for 30 or 60 days, and even if you don’t reach your goal, you still get to keep whatever you made

Why not just do flexible goal then? Well, studies show that the urgency of trying to make a 30-day goal that’s all or nothing actually encourages people to donate more and right on the spot. The disadvantage is, if you don’t make it, you get nothing. Since I’m happy to accept whatever contributions people are willing to give, I’ve made mine flexible.

What Are You Raising Money For? 

People usually raise money to help create/sell a particular product. In my case, I’m using my campaign to help me publish The Purple Door District. Indie publishing is not cheap. You basically wear the hat of the editor, publisher, marketer, distributor, etc. All of that money adds up, and sometimes you might not have quite enough in your bank account. I’ve personally enlisted artists, editors, proofreaders, and jewelers to help create swag for my book, causing my cost to go up. At the same time, though, this allows me to support other members of the literary community. So, in a sense, I’m raising money both for my book and for fellow creative minds.

Comm44 - Bianca Highres.jpg
Art of my main character Bianca by Oni Algarra on deviant art: https://www.deviantart.com/onialgarra

Tips for Creating a Campaign

  • Know your product: You must have a solid product in mind that you’re trying to raise money to create. Whether it’s a book, a fidget cube, a graphic novel, make sure it’s clear to your audience.
  • Figure out your budget: You have to know how much to ask for when you set up your campaign. Go through every single thing you spend money on, (ie. printing, setting up the book, editor, proofreader, swag, etc). Don’t leave anything out, and make sure you round up rather than down. It’s better to ask for a little extra than not enough. Create a list with all of your expenses, and then be honest with the people contributing to you. Break down the costs on your Indiegogo page so people know what their money is going towards. It’s better to open and honest.
  • Create a Video: Indiegogo indicates that you’re much more likely to receive donations if you have a video at the beginning of your campaign. This can just be you explaining your book, or perhaps presenting a book trailer. Be genuine in it and let people know just how much their help means to you. The more people know about the product, the more willing they may be to back it.
  • Perks: Now, while some people may be willing to make a donation, others will want something in return. This is where perks come in. Similar to patreon, you create different tiers. If someone contributes a certain amount, they may get a shout out, or posters and stickers. The bigger the contribution, the larger the return. You must make certain that you can actually provide the perks to the contributor, however, and in a reasonable time. People feel more valued if you get the items to them in a timely fashion. They should also be of good quality.
Give away
Samples of bookmark, sticker, mini poster, and necklace from one of my Perk packages. 
  • Publicize/Create a Street Team: The best way to get donations is by having a marketing plan. Create a street team of people who you know will be willing to share the link to your information. Set up days/times when you’ll post about your campaign, and make sure it’s to the right people. Know your audience and your readers. You don’t want to post about urban fantasy material in a mystery group. Also, don’t be obnoxious about it. While it’s important to market, make sure you follow the rules of groups that you post it to, and don’t invade someone’s privacy (ie, PMing random people to beg them to donate to you). That’s a great way to get blocked.
  • Be Responsive: When someone donates to you, let them know how much you appreciate it. They’re taking their time and their hard-earned money to help you bring your project to life. The least you can do is thank them. Answer any questions they might have, and give frequent updates so people know how close you’re getting to reaching the goal.
  • Pictures! Provide lots of pictures of your product. It lends agency to what you’re doing, and it also helps people visualize exactly what they’re going to get, or what you’re trying to do. Pictures also make your campaign eye pleasing. People are more likely to donate if you can show them what you’re making rather than describing it in a wall of text.

These are just a few tips I’ve learned while creating my campaign. I have Brian K Morris and Brenna Deutchman to thank for helping me set this up. It’s always good to have someone look over your campaign in case you’re missing something before you make it live. I’m sure I’ll have some failures and struggles along the way, so I’ll post about those as well.

If you have any questions about Indiegogo, or any topics you’d like me to cover, feel free to post them below!

Happy writing!

Finding the Inspiration to Write

Inspiration.

It’s both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes inspiration can strike at the most inopportune moments (showering, driving, working), yet when you need it, it’s nowhere to be found. How do you find it? Where do you go to encourage your muse to start spinning intricate sentences and plots?

Instagram user @mybookstoredk asked about my inspirations, so here are a few things I draw from to get the creative juices flowing.

Reading: This is likely a no-brainer. The whole reason I write is because I’ve fallen in love with books and authors. You’re supposed to read books in your genre to help motivate you, but sometimes I find reading a poem can spark my creativity. Pick up a book that calls to you. I started reading Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor when I was having trouble writing and editing. Her style struck a chord in me, and within five pages, I felt myself drawn back to my stories.

Music: Music has always played a big role in my life, which is probably why I tend to spin bardic songs. I grew up listening to musicals and movie soundtracks. When I was five, I could tell my mother exactly what was happening in The Little Mermaid instrumental pieces. Harry PotterLord of the RingsPirates of the CaribbeanHamilton, Cats, Rent…All of these movie or musical soundtracks help spark my muse. I can imagine scenes between my character during certain songs. The emotions imbued by the music encourage me to get into characters’ heads or sense their feelings. If you’re stuck with writing, take a favorite soundtrack and listen to it. Find the songs that remind you of your characters. Create playlists, so when you get stuck, you can turn to that specific playlist to find inspiration. I have one called “Whispers” that’s over an hour-and-a-half long!

Nature: Honestly, going out into nature inspires me. I get away from technology and enjoy the peace around me. No twitter or facebook notifications. My head can sound pretty loud at first, but as I focus on gardening or walking in the woods, getting back to my roots you might say, I create images for my book. That’s all I focus on, and nothing else distracts me. Plus, the fresh air is pretty nice for the soul.

Visiting New Locations: Changing scenery can inspire me. I have three writing spots at home (the aviary, my kitchen, my living room). Shifting from one location to another can put me into a better mindset to write. Right now, I’m sitting at a pub working on this entry, listening to the ambiance of music playing, people chatting, and glasses clinking while cars and motorcycles roar past me outside. It’s so much different from the silence at my house, or my birds chirping.  Going to new cities, parks, restaurants, anything can change your perspective and put you in a different mind to write. If you don’t know what to put on paper, then start making a list of the things you see, ear, smell, taste, and feel. It’s a great sensory exercise at the very least.

Other Authors: Many people say that the publishing world is competitive, and in a way that’s true. But it doesn’t have to be. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. One of the best things about being part of a writing community is meeting other writers and sharing in their successes. Celebrating each other is invigorating. When I watch my friends and fellow writers publish their books, that inspires me to work on my own craft! The whole reason I finally decided to publish The Purple Door District is because my friend Alexandra Penn had the courage to put her heart and soul in print with her series The Letter Mage. I wanted to be brave like her and feel joy and satisfaction at finally putting a book out there. Not to mention I have a story all about community to share. Don’t see other authors as your competition, but rather as friends, mentors, and inspirations.

These are just a few things that spark my muse. What things inspire you? Feel free to share them, and any topics you’d like me to write about, below!

Happy writing!

Writer Burnout

It’s fitting that I’m writing about this topic since I’m dealing with writer burnout myself. Let’s try some real talk. As a writer, no one is harder on you than yourself. You push yourself to write, edit, market, publicize, etc. When you publish a book, you wear all these hats, and you tell yourself you have to keep going every hour of the day. If you stop, what if you miss an opportunity? What if people think you aren’t working hard enough? What if you don’t meet a deadline? What if–

You snap.

Suddenly the world crashes down and you don’t know where to go, or who to turn to for help. Ideas vanish. You sense the start of a panic attack. Nothing you do feels right or enough. And sometimes, you just go numb because it’s all too much to deal with.

This hit me last week, and I’m slowly crawling my way out of it the depths as I write this blog while sitting in a Panera. One moment I was up and productive, and the next I was curled up in my bed, unable to move from complete mental and physical exhaustion. Last week, the only strength I had was to go to work then come home and sleep. I knew I should put up posts, tweet, be interactive with the community, edit, write, etc but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I opened a blank page on my computer, and I almost burst into tears because plucking ideas out of my head was like tearing at an infected scabs.

Not exactly a delightful image, but it’s the best way I can describe it. I was surviving on caffeine and doing everything I thought I could to edit and promote my book. The one important thing I forgot to do? Take care of myself.

When you get to the point that even opening a Word document makes you sick to your stomach, it’s time to step back from the page. You’re allowed to skip a day of editing, writing, and marketing. You’re allowed to get more than a couple of hours of sleep at night. And you are allowed to take care of yourself.

So what do you do when writer burnout hits you? Here are a couple of tips.

  • Sleep: If you’ve been falling asleep editing/writing your manuscript at night, it’s time to step back and go to bed. Your body and brain will thank you. Even better, it’ll refresh you.
  • Shut Down Social Media: It’s not the end of the world if you’re not on twitter/facebook for a day. My favorite thing to do is to shut off my phone and put on a good movie that makes me happy.
  • Do Something Else: Try another hobby that’s not writing related. Go on a short trip. Hang out with your friends. Allow yourself to enjoy the rest of your life while you recover.
  • Take Personal Time: On the flip side, if going anywhere is too exhausting, then rest at home. Read a good book. Listen to music. Cuddle your cat or dog or bird (in my case). Focus on self care. If you don’t mind your body, how do you expect to keep going?
  • Take a Mental Health Day: Whether it’s from work (if able) or from social events, just back out and do something for you. Get a massage. Cuddle up in warm blankets. Allow your brain to rest. Getting rid of the regular stresses might help you recharge.
  • Write Something Else: Believe it or not, sometimes if you have writer burnout, it may be due to a specific project. Try switching it up and write something that inspires you, whether it’s a short prompt, or a fun story you’ve had stuck in your head.
  • Be Kind: I can’t stress this enough. Be kind to yourself and realize this happens to everyone. Taking a break doesn’t make you a bad writer; quite the contrary. It means you’re being responsible for yourself. When you break your arm, you give it time to heal. You have to do the same thing when your muse breaks, so please, be kind to yourself.
  • Remember it Doesn’t Last Forever: When you get into this state, sometimes it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s there. Sure, there might be some smoke or shadows blocking it, but you’ll find your way to it, and your writing spirit will ignite again.
  • Make a Schedule: When you feel like you’re ready to jump into the fray again, take it slow. Create a schedule of things you want to do to get yourself up and running. And check off the things you accomplish. It’s a great feeling.

Please take care of yourself, my friends. It’s just as important to keep your mind healthy as it is your body.