Thursday, February 26, 2015

Boys and Books

Before the internet blew up over a dress today (it was bluish and gold, by the way), there was a blog post by Shannon Hale making the rounds:

Please read the whole post, but the takeaway is this:

"The belief that boys won't like books with female protagonists, that they will refuse to read them, the shaming that happens (from peers, parents, teachers, often right in front of me) when they do, the idea that girls should read about and understand boys but that boys don't have to read about girls, that boys aren't expected to understand and empathize with the female population of the world....this belief directly leads to rape culture. To a culture that tells boys and men, it doesn't matter how the girl feels, what she wants. You don't have to wonder. She is here to please you. She is here to do what you want. No one expects you to have to empathize with girls and women. As far as you need be concerned, they have no interior life."     --Shannon Hale--

I'm super proud of myself for passing on YA books to my younger brother that I thought he would enjoy. I'm super disappointed that I'm one of those people who passed them along with that warning:

"This is about a girl, but you'll still love it."

I'm super proud that he loves John Green, but that he'll read Maureen Johnson, too. And that last year he picked up Sarah Dessen's latest all on his own. 

I feel for that third grader Hale mentioned in the post--the one who felt he had to whisper his question, and for the guy who didn't attend the assembly because of what amounted to peer pressure. 

In fact, I feel sorry for every boy not in attendance.

Not going into detail, but my history is extremely patriarchal. Yes--there are a lot of strong women in my bloodline, but I grew up in a world where males dominated, and I am SO EXHAUSTED of the idea that men can't learn from women. 

I don't understand how, in 2015, this can still be an issue.

So my daughter and I had a great conversation, and now I'm posting the link here just in case you didn't see it. 

Because it's important. 


Thursday, February 19, 2015

For the Perfectionist

Perfectionist: noun. One who has a propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards.

Okay. . . . Perfect. High standards. What's so wrong with that?

Well, according to Parker Whalen:

“What’s wrong with that is that it’s not how the real world works. That’s why, sometimes, it’s good to be flexible. When you don’t get what you want, you make other plans.”  

Cross My Heart remains (to date), my bestseller. I've gotten quite a bit of mail about this book. Most of it relates to Parker and Jaden and their love story and *swoon* (which I love, obviously!). 

But every so often I get one of those emails that reminds me why I do what I do.

It's usually from a teen girl. Someone who calls herself a "perfectionist." Someone who is learning to let go. To be flexible. Who is beginning to realize there is "more to life."

And it's because of Jaden.

The word "perfect" pops up a lot in Cross My Heart.

From the first page to the very last:

Jaden's glitter poster is Perfect.
The date of Sarah and Daniel's wedding--even though it conflicts with graduation--is Perfect.
Blake is Perfect.
Parker's hand in hers is Perfect.
The day with Parker is Perfect--
The same day that ruins her Perfect attendance.
She's in search of Perfect timing.
Wants to hang on to Perfect moments.

And "There is no such thing, even. You just do what you have to do and hope for the best."

Perfect grades. Perfect hair. Perfect makeup. Perfect friends. Perfect boyfriends. Girlfriends. Perfect wardrobes. Perfect resumes and applications. Perfect classes. Perfect degree. Perfect jobs. Perfect apartments. Houses. Families.   

It never ends.

Perfection is impossible to attain.
Perfectionism is impossible to maintain.

There will always be someone out there who's better at something than you are. That's okay. Celebrate them. And celebrate you.

You're going to make mistakes. Accept them. Learn from them. Forgive others theirs.   

It's okay to fail. You will learn more from your failures than you will ever learn from your successes. Get up, brush yourself off, try again.

There is no finish line--no "ideal" you. You are always learning. Always growing. The You tomorrow will be better than the You today. 

You are whole--and you are wholly you. Embrace it. Get out of your own way.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but Jaden learns some tough lessons in Cross My Heart. One of the biggest? 

She can't control everything.

Neither can I.

And neither can you.

And that's okay. :D

Be Brilliant!


Monday, February 16, 2015

It Ain't About the Money

Last Monday I posted a blog:

Everything's Changing, or Should I Self-Publish?

In it, I talked a little about the changing landscape of the self-publishing industry and a few of the things that have affected sales negatively over the last year or so.

From this, I hope the message was clear: self-publishing is not the fast track to endless wealth.

In fact, we're having this same discussion right now in one of my Freelance Writing classes. A student was kind enough to remind a fellow classmate that writing isn't something that you do to find wealth and fame. A debate ensued. . . .

But he's right.

Can you become rich and famous as an author?


But money can't be the motivation behind the production. The writers who show up to the computer every day are the ones who feel they have something to share with the world. It's soul work. It's because writing is the missing piece. It's what completes us.

The joy isn't in the final product (which has the potential bring in extra money), but in the creating of it--the process.

The joy isn't in the creation, but in the creating. (tweet that)

Yes, most authors I know are thrilled when they reach The End. They happen to be two of my very favorite words. But "the end" doesn't mean it's over--there are still other stories to tell. More books to write.

A true writer who reaches The End is already thinking about the next Beginning. (tweet that, too)  

It's not about the money or fame or infinite wealth.

There has to be something else.

And that something else is that we're not the same when we're not writing. It's why we're willing to sit down for weeks and months and years pounding out words, revising and deleting and starting over--thinking we just may have lost our minds--until one day it all comes together.

And the story makes sense.

And why we do what we do makes sense.

I know there are some frustrated writers out there. Publication (self or otherwise) isn't what you expected. There were some highs and then some lows and things happened that were just not part of your plan. . . .

I know. I get it. Sometimes things happen (lagging sales, books being remaindered, houses merging, imprints folding) that are beyond our control.

But we do it anyway, because stories need to be told.

From the beginning of time, we have always needed stories. To hear them, and tell them.

It's important work, what we do.

And the ones who are most passionate will stay in the marathon. They will keep doing it, they will keep showing up, even if those paychecks never come.

 Be Brilliant (and Keep Writing)! ;)


Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy *Heart* Day!

I have no true plans, except maybe split my time among my husband, a couple of book boyfriends, and Stanley Tucci. 

Have a Wonderful Weekend! :D

Monday, February 9, 2015

Everything's Changing, or Should I Self-Publish?

Things have changed.

About three to four years ago, I wanted every writer I knew to go Indie. The odds of finding a readership and building an audience were infinitely better through Amazon than through a traditional publishing house.

I'd heard too many stories about books taking two years or more to hit the shelves, some not hitting shelves at all, and then, when it really mattered, the house "forgetting" to promote.

But that was 2011 and 2012.

The indie publishing landscape is NOT the same today as it was then, and while I fully believe that retaining rights to your work is one of the best things you can do as an author, I think the pros and cons should be weighed before that ultimate decision is made, and that approaching the industry as a "hybrid (choosing traditional OR self-publishing depending on the project) is in the best interest of every author.

Because no matter how you look at it, one way isn't necessarily "better" than the other--just different--and neither side guarantees sales.

It's all about 1) your goals and what's in YOUR best interest, and 2) what's in the best interest of the story at the time.

I used indie publishing as a back-up plan, then found that I really, really enjoyed the control. So far, it's worked for me. This might not always be the case, but I digress. 

So my writer's group and I were chatting about the things that have changed in the last few years to make it more difficult for Indies to get a strong foothold, and a few key ideas were thrown out:

Saturation of Market

Everyone is writing a book, and we all have equal access to an audience. Some of those books are awesome . . . some not so much. The ones that aren't tend to give Indies a bad name. The ones that are fight to get noticed. 

We all have eternal, equal shelf space, but that doesn't necessarily mean we have the undivided attention of the consumer. (tweet that)

There's a lot of "white noise" out there, and it's overwhelming.


Indies have always taken advantage of things like permafree books and competitive prices--this was our key playing card--but now traditional publishers are following suit. The e-version of the "bestseller" you might have missed 2-3 years ago just might be available in the Top 100 for under five bucks today. Of course, no house can sustain this indefinitely, but if readers had to choose between two $1.99 books--one from an unfamiliar author and one from an "established" author--which one are they most likely to choose?


It's harder to reach the people who matter, since blog audiences are dwindling, Facebook posts don't reach every fan, it's near-impossible to get a Bookbub ad these days, and other promotional opportunities have very little staying power. It's largely hit and miss, and even if you do manage an artificial climb in the rankings, you fall just as quickly.

The one thing we could all agree on, though, was that sales were down across the board. 

For everyone.

If you look at it this way, it's kind of depressing, to be honest. It feels a lot like "traditional" publishing in that there are no guarantees. . . .

But then, maybe there were never any guarantees.

It was a gold rush in that a lot of the first responders made a really good living for a while. Every now and then someone new will strike gold, but there are just as many walking away empty-handed.

We can sit back and try to figure out what happened then try to fix it, or we can face reality, adjust our expectations, and get back to what matters.

Because it's not really about the money. At least, it shouldn't be.

That's just a bonus.

But more on that later. ;)

So . . . based on what we know now about algorithms and the market, should you still self-publish? 

Not if you're looking for an easy paycheck. 

Do it because it's right for you, and it's right for your project, and because you have a clear plan in place and an end goal in mind.   

Is it worth it? 


Be Brilliant!


P.S. Thank you to everyone who filled out last week's survey! You gave me quite a bit to think about. :D

Monday, February 2, 2015

Quick Survey

Hi Everyone!

To be honest, last week was pretty rough (that explains the radio silence if you follow me on FB and Twitter). Somehow I manged to get 60 papers graded and out the door (2/3 of which were final projects--and pretty bad). It was a struggle, let me tell you.

This week looks MUCH better.

*exhales relief*

Anyway, I've been thinking about the blog lately, and the direction I want to take it, and it dawned on me that I really have no idea who reads this on a daily basis. 

So . . . if you've stopped by (for whatever reason!) I'd love to "meet" you in the comments below. Say hello. Tell me who you are and what you're up to. 

I also have a survey I would *LOVE* for you to fill out. It's quick--will probably take less than 15-30 seconds of your time, but it would be super helpful. 

I could get a better idea of who is stopping by (indie author? aspiring writer? fan?) and what you're looking for (motivation? writing tips? more news about my books?), etc.

Click Here to Take the Survey

Once the results are in, I'll know which direction I should take my future content, so don't be shy! Your voice matters!

Thanks so much!

And, as always: Be Brilliant!


P.S. While I'm begging for favors, don't forget that you can sign up for my newsletter for the latest and greatest news. Link in the sidebar. --->