Sunday, March 31, 2019

QUARTERLY GOALS: 2019-Q1 Review & 2019-Q2 New Goals

We've come to the end of the first quarter of 2019!

Did those three months seem to fly by to anyone else? Although I'm not complaining, now that the weather is warming back up.


How did everyone else organize your goals for 2019? Are you spacing them out by quarter or with a different method?

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2019-Q1 Goals:

1) Finish the first draft of (revised plot line version) Tom's Story. I realized last Fall that the plot and timelines of Tom's Story needed some serious re-working. Now I'm in a much better place with it and am looking forward to (finally) getting Tom back on track.
- Almost done! I did get some major plot holes filled in thanks to the STC Experiment.

2) A minimum of one book giveaway per month. (See last week's post)
- DONE! While March's book giveaway had to be moved to April, I did give away two books in January so I'm counting this as a win!

3) Continue with regular author/publishing professional interviews. I already have a few lined up to start off the year, and I'm very excited to share them with you!
- DONE! I really do love how much this interview series has grown. 

4) Get the regular What Am I Reading Wednesday posts back up and running. At least two, but preferably more, per month. Book recommendations are always welcome!
- This one was definitely not done. Not that I haven't been reading so far this year. I hope to get the first WAIRW post of 2019 up in April!

5) Try one new experience each quarter. This isn't a writing goal, but it's one I'm looking forward to all the same. I'm using a broad definition of 'new experience' here. It could be taking an instructional class, attending a workshop or lecture, traveling to a new place, taking the opportunity to volunteer in the community, the options are endless!
- DONE! So far this year, I've tried my first paint-by-numbers kit, joined a book club, and took a mini-road trip to visit a friend a couple states away.

2019-Q2 Goals:

1) Start posting regular What Am I Reading Wednesday posts again. This one is a priority!

2) Finish the revised first draft of Tom's Story. (Continuing with the STC Experiment goes along with this one as well.)

3) Begin editing the revised first draft of Tom's Story, and start recruiting beta readers.

4) Attend at least one writing conference or workshop. Recommendations are welcome.

5) Try one new experience (writing or non-writing) each quarter. This is an ongoing goal!

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Four out of five goals accomplished! How did everyone else do?

Let me know!
 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Writing Desk Blog is 3 Years Old!

Happy Thursday, Writing Desk Readers!

I can't believe that The Writing Desk Blog is 3 years old today!

Photo Source: www.pixabay.com

I know it's an old expression, but time really has flown by since I first created this blog. At the beginning, I was unsure if anything would come of this idea. But it became an integral part of my life, and I never expected to join such a rich and supportive online community of readers and writers.

To celebrate, I thought I'd share some of my favorite posts from the last three years:

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Welcome to the Writing Desk - My first ever blog post!

I've Entered a Contest! (What Was I Thinking??) - When I entered my first writing contest since high school.

My Experience with the James Patterson MasterClass Part I & Part II Connected to the previously mentioned writing contest.

The Delicate (and Frustrating) Art of Choosing a Title - My friends who also participate in #Marchlitwrit know my pain with this one!

Where Would I Be Without My Critique Group? - Seriously, where?

My First Book Launch Event! When my short story, 'Set Them Free, If Need Be' was published in CAROLINA CRIMES: 21 TALES OF NEED, GREED, & DIRTY DEEDS!

My First-Publication Present to Myself - My quill and ampersand.

Where Did All the Books Go? - Good question. 

Blog Publication Follow-Up: Was This What I Expected? - When I took a chance and published my YA science fiction novella GRAVE DIGGERS on the blog!

Getting Out of a Writing Rut - I've shared this post on Instagram more than once, and it's always sparked great conversation.  

Writer on the Move: Thank you, Fellow Bloggers! - I was able to have a fantastic list of fellow writers featured as guest bloggers while I traveled for the month! You can see those posts on the dates immediately following this one.

Networking as Writers - One of the most popular posts ever published on my blog!

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This is just a small list of the over 200 posts I've been able to share with you since this blog started.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me each week, whether you started with me from the beginning or are a new reader, I appreciate all of you so much!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Writing Resources: The Forest App

Recently I mentioned I was trying a new "stay focused" app while I was writing. I've been using it for nearly two weeks now, and I'd like to share it as part of our Writing Resources series.

Photo Source: https://www.forestapp.cc/

I first heard about the Forest App in one of author Kim Chance's recent Youtube videos. I'm always on the lookout for good tools to keep me focused on what I'm doing. There's always the temptation to stop and "quickly" check Instagram, or Twitter, or your email. With the Forest App, not only are you encouraged to use the specified time productively, but you can see your progress tracked in the app and through real world conservation contributions. 

  • App: Forest
  • Purchased through: Google Play Store (Also available in the Apple App Store)
  • Price Point: $ - Free for the Basic Version and currently $1.99 for the Pro Version
  • Recommended by: Kim Chance
  • What I especially like about this app:
    • Free for the Basic Version
    • Flexible time settings - Ranging from 10 minutes to 2 hours
    • Real world impact - Partnered with Trees for the Future to plant real trees when users continue to grow their virtual forests and spend virtual coins earned for completing time goals. 
    • Not only does the Forest App increase your productivity, it tracks your growing virtual forest and provides progress charts for time used.  
    • The Pro Version actually tracks how many real trees were planted by Trees for the Future based on your usage of the app.

Who else has tried the Forest app? How has it compared to other apps in this category you've used before? I'd love to know!

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Price Point Guide: 
$ - Least Expensive
$$ - Moderately Expensive
$$$ - Expensive

*I am not currently sponsored by The Forest App and am sharing my own opinion.*

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Writing Resources: TIJN Blue Light Blocking Glasses

Last year, I shared the GamaRay Optics blue light blocking glasses, which were the first pair I'd ever tried. Using blue light glasses has made a HUGE difference in my day-to-day life, not only as a writer but as someone whose 'day job' requires many hours spent in front of a computer.

Last weekend, I tried out a new pair of blue light glasses by the company TIJN.

Image Credit: TIJN Official Amazon Shop


At a current price of $15.99 (USD), the TIJN glasses were one of the most affordable options I saw on Amazon. The reviews on this particular pair (nearly 5 full stars out of 50 reviews) were largely positive as well.

I wrote for most of the day last Sunday, with pockets of reading time sprinkled in as I reviewed my copy of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. While I don't need corrective lenses of any kind to read, I did notice that my eyes also felt less tired in general when I kept them on while reading and highlighting sections of STC that I wanted to review later.

I've been wearing the TIJN glasses for nearly a week now, and overall I'm happy with the purchase. It would have been nice if they'd come with a simple carrying case, but luckily I had an extra one I can use for them.

A note on the fit: While these glasses do fit well, the bridge of my nose is pretty short and I am experiencing some sliding. With that in mind, I'm thinking of ordering another pair of blue light glasses with nose pads to try out as well. Whichever pair fits better will be my daily pair, and I'll keep the other pair as backup.

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Price Point Guide: 
$ - Least Expensive
$$ - Moderately Expensive
$$$ - Expensive

*I am not currently sponsored by TIJN Eyewear and am sharing my own opinion.*

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

REPOST: People Watching: A Fantastic Way to Create New Characters (#marchlitwrit19 Day 12)

The theme of #marchlitwrit19 Day 12 is focused on coming up with character names. My personal process is to come up with pretty much everything else about the character first and then find a name that fits that person.

Keeping this in mind, I'd like to share another previous blog post about one of my favorite ways to create characters: People watching!

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 (Originally posted: 11 November 2017)

My returning readers might remember, I was recently traveling for work and doing a little blogging/people watching in the Philadelphia airport. As I sat waiting for my flight back home, I thought to myself, this would make a great blog post topic!

People watching is a fantastic exercise for both creating new characters and working on your character description skills. Any public place will do, but I especially love airports. They offer the opportunity to see a variety of people you might not otherwise encounter in your daily life.


In the past, I've actually volunteered to pick someone up at the airport just so I could arrive there early and have time to observe the people coming and going.

Don't mind me, I find joy in strange things.

I'd like to give a few examples of the potential character notes I made while in the
Philadelphia airport. Keep in mind these descriptions are from brief glances of people as they walked by, so most of these notes are short and sweet. When using them to create a potential character, there are often details that I couldn't see clearly (like eye color, if their teeth were straight or crooked, do they wear perfume/cologne, etc.). These are things I'll come up with myself later as the character develops, along with their personality traits.

Character #1:
Male, early 30's, pale skin, square jaw. Hint of stubble on his face.
Reddish/brown hair reaching down to his lower back in thick dreadlocks, tied together with a band.
Dressed in simple trousers and a white button down shirt with a long overcoat.
Moved fluidly through the airport crowd, obviously not in a hurry.  
(For whatever reason, I imagined he had a thick regional accent, like he was from Boston, or possibly even a European accent.)

Character #2:
Female, mid-late 50's, olive complexion, strong nose. (Mediterranean extraction, perhaps?)
Full silver hair tied in a loose chignon. Minimal makeup, black-framed glasses.
Black pencil skirt, black button down shirt tucked into her waistband, fuchsia heels.
She had a worn, brown leather satchel over one shoulder. Walked with a purpose.

Character #3:
Male, late 30's-early 40's, Korean-American (He was speaking both Korean and English on the phone, so I feel confident about that detail. Sat across the aisle from me in the terminal for several minutes while he was on the phone.)
Thick hair long enough to be slicked back with gel. Clean shave, straight teeth.  
Impeccably dressed, dark suit and sapphire blue tie, black pea coat, black dress shoes.
Had a black computer bag resting on the floor between his feet. Alert, constantly taking in his surroundings even while he was on the phone. 

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Whether you're celebrating the (US) holiday this week or not, I encourage you to take the opportunity to observe people. Whether you're traveling far away or sticking close to home, choose two or three people you don't know and make a few character notes!

Tell me: What is your favorite character building exercise? Do you find inspiration from the people around you, or does your imagination do most of the leg work?

Sunday, March 10, 2019

REPOST: Getting Out of a Writing Rut (#marchlitwrit 2019 - Day 8)

Last Friday's theme for #marchlitwrit19 was:

This topic reminded me of this post from last summer, which I'd like to re-share with everyone, especially those who are new to the Writing Desk Blog!

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Originally posted: 24 July 2018

The other day, I sent a question out into the Instasphere: What do you (as an author) do to get yourself out of a writing funk? (Or, if you prefer, out of a writing rut? I'm using the word "funk" as more of a lack of motivation in this case.)

It's been difficult lately for me to focus on any of my projects. You might have noticed that we didn't have a blog post last week, which I do apologize for! Also, my planned blog interviews for June and July were both pushed back, which couldn't be helped but my schedule has been a bit off ever since.


I was so grateful to those of you who chimed in on Instagram! Here are some of the awesome responses I received from my fellow writers, as well as a few suggestions I've gathered from other resources:

  • "Switching back to pen and paper often works for me as well. A notebook I love, and multicoloured pens are just the ticket." (From @vpgrey)
  • "Go for a walk or run in the park or on the beach or drawing/ sketching things from my book meanwhile I listen some music that inspire me." (From @sonya_falcon
  •  The always awesome Jenna Moreci offers her Top 5 Tips for Staying Motivated While Writing Your Book. ("But, Jenna!" - Fans of her YouTube channel will understand!)
  • WritersEdit.com published an article that discusses how to recognize if you're in a writing rut, and offers their own tips for how to break the cycle. 
  • Last, but not least, I wanted to share a Tweet from J.K. Rowling to remind all of us, there are going to be times when our writing doesn't go the way we'd planned, and that's okay:


What are your tips and tricks to getting out of that writing rut? How do you stay motivated when your WIP seems like it's at a stand-still? I'd love to know!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The SAVE THE CAT! Experiment: Sponsored by Bethany Atazadeh & Brittany Wang

Hello, Writing Desk Readers!

If you've been following along on Instagram, you'll hopefully already know about the STC (Save the Cat!) Experiment being sponsored by authors Bethany Atazadeh and Brittany Wang.

Official STCExperiment Outline With Us page!

If you didn't know about this awesome outlining experiment, consider this a quick announcement!

This is a 10-week (FREE!) livestream gathering, where both Bethany and Brittany are donating their time to take the participants through the outlining process detailed in Jessica Brody's book Save the Cat! - Writes a Novel. Utilizing the STC process, we are going to create and outline a new story idea from scratch as a group!

Check out the official STCExperiment Website for more information about the set-up and how to join the group! The first livestream kicks off tonight at 7:00pm EST!


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NOTE: Save the Cat! - Writes a Novel is the property of Jessica Brody. This is not a class on Save the Cat!, and while we will be referencing the book, Bethany and Brittany will not be reading the book to the group. So, you will want your own copy to better participate.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Author Interview: Samantha Bryant

Happy Friday, Writing Desk Readers!

I'm so happy to have author Samantha Bryant as a guest again on the blog!

If you'd like to read the first interview we did together last year, it's right here. Links to all of Samantha's platforms and her newsletter can be found in this week's Get to Know the Author post.


Photos provided by: Samantha Bryant

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Writing Desk Blog: Hi Samantha, it’s wonderful having you join me for another interview here on the blog! I’d say you’re now in the “Regular Guest” club! Last time, we discussed your Menopausal Superheroes series, have you started on the next book or are you working on something else?

Samantha Bryant: I haven’t been writing in the Menopausal Superheroes universe lately because of some publisher stress, but now that all of that is resolved, I’m excited to get back to my superwomen. I have sketchy plans for a book 4 and 5 at least!

In the meantime, I’ve been working on a young adult, dystopian novel with shades of romance, working title Thursday’s Children. I’ve also been writing short stories by the pound. Short stories are a great way to experiment in your writing without the large-scale commitment of a book-length work, so I find them a lot of fun. They’re also a little addictive because I get that “finished” feeling a whole lot more often when we’re talking about a piece between two and eight thousand words, instead of eighty to one hundred thousand words.

Some of these are part of my Shadow Hill stories, named for an imaginary suburban neighborhood suspiciously like the one I live in, but where the explanations for the weirdness are more paranormal than human. One of these, my daylight ghost story “The Girl in the Pool” was published in an anthology from Prospective Press a couple of months ago (Off the Beaten Path 3).

I’ve just had another one accepted for publication by Hinnom Magazine and have been a lot more diligent about getting the others out there on submission, so I hope to have more of my work out there soon!

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WDB: I know you have some exciting changes in the works, the first being that you’re changing publishers. What brought you to that decision?

SB: Honestly? My first publisher fell apart.

I’ve written about it on my blog and you can read the details here.

The short version is that the company reached too far too fast and couldn’t keep up. As they struggled to juggle all they’d taken on, they dropped more and more balls until the basics--like releasing well-edited books on schedule and paying the writers--were among the balls lying on the floor.

 I gave them more than a year after the first signs of trouble, but I finally decided that they were no longer a good home for my work and requested the return of my rights. It was a hard decision, but I think it was the right one.

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WDB:  If you can tell us, which publisher will you be working with now and what do you look forward to the most about working with them?

SB: Yes! The Menopausal Superhero series is getting a release and rebranding through Falstaff Books. The new editions of the books are available beginning February 7, 2019!

I met the owner and main publisher, John Hartness, at a fan convention. I don’t remember which one offhand, because John is a formidable presence at nearly all the conventions I attend, within a couple of hours drive of my home in Hillsborough, North Carolina (Illogicon, Mysticon, Ravencon, Con-Gregate, ConCarolinas, Atomacon). He’s a bombastic personality, but all heart and a great supporter of beginning writers. He has really helped me find my feet on the con circuit and learn to sell my work without feeling too weird about it. Along the way, he got to know me and my work and gave me a standing offer to contract my books with his publisher, should I ever need to make a change.

I’m really excited about working with people I already know and feel I can trust. There’s much less of that awful weightless feeling of being at the top of a roller coaster hill and having to hope that the track continues on the other side and you don’t just get dropped to your death. (Can you tell I don’t like roller coasters?). 

I understand that old saw about “it’s who you know” a little differently now. Publishing is a relationship, and finding good people to work with is not that different from finding friends, lovers, or other kinds of partners in life. You need shared values and a common vision if it’s going to work out long term.

Unfortunately for new authors, that’s easier to do when you’ve already been in the business for a while, so a lot of us have a rough start with some “learning the hard way” before we find a good writing and publishing life. There’s a balance to be found with appropriate levels of risk-taking while still taking steps to protect yourself if things go badly.

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WDB: You’re also working on a new re-branding campaign. I know many authors have questions about the process, so I’m glad we’re discussing this topic! What made you decide that a re-working of your brand was right for you?

SB: Book covers are a major element of an author brand, especially when we’re talking about a series. As much as I loved my old covers, it seems now that they were a little off-message for the books, leading readers to expect chick lit heavy on comedy instead of what I actually wrote which is superheroic women’s fiction with comedic moments.

Since I’m moving the books to another publisher, the timing seems right for a reboot in other ways, too. Falstaff does some fantastic covers, so I was excited to see what they might envision for my work. The collaboration aspect has been wonderful. New covers and new angles of publicity are definitely contributing to that “fresh start” feeling and giving me renewed hope for the life of these stories.

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WDB: What tools are you using as you go through the re-branding process?

SB: I’m more of a gut-instinct person when it comes to these things. There’s no program I’m trying to follow or workbook I’m using or anything like that. Just thinking, talking to others I know in the business, and thinking some more.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking with the cover artist and associate publisher Melissa MacArthur Gilbert. She’s also an author, teacher, and mother like me, all of which really helps us understand one another. Other writers, artists, editors, and publishers are great sounding boards and many are very generous with their time, especially if you’ve taken the time to build relationships before you ask for favors and advice. 

My current theory is that branding that really works has to come from deep reflection about yourself as an artist and the work you have created. After flailing about for a few years, I finally feel like I articulate my vision in a way that works for other people. There’s a certain amount of confidence required, and I didn’t really have that at first.

Too much of what we think of as branding is external. While consistency of imagery (covers, icons, photos, etc.) can certainly help, it doesn’t work if it’s an afterthought, or something pushed on from outside rather than bubbling up organically from inside. So this time, I’m trusting my instincts. I guess we’ll find out if that’s a good idea or not!

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Here's a "Before & After" for the covers of Samantha's Menopausal Superheroes series. Which one do you prefer? Personally, I'm loving this new design!

BEFORE:


AFTER: