Posts filed under writing

The shape of a year.

I knew it even then.

I could smell it on the wind, I think — the newness coming in 2014. Last year, December carried with it a holy level of anticipation.

This would be the year I claimed myself.

I started the year with the official launch of Story Sessions. January brought our first twitter party and with it, our numbers grew from 40 to almost 100. 

I spent most of January in teary-eyed wonder. Every time someone else would sign up, I'd whisper a thanks and push deeper. February brought confirmation. Sitting at a dining table at a ranch in Dripping Springs, I watched women from all over the country walk around the grounds and talk on the porch and rest on the couch. I can't tell you the gut-level conviction I felt in those moments. It can't be articulated. I will always remember that weekend as the moment I reached for my calling and chose to embrace it.

I think back on those moments and am amazed at how quickly this year passed. Everything else feels blurry and translucent, bits and pieces of conversations and arguments and tears and misunderstandings merging together into one thick fog that covers everything that happened from March until September.

One thing I've learned: claiming yourself isn't for the faint of heart.

I realized in July changes needed to be made in Story Unfolding. I was learning something: risking is huge. Articulating what you want or like or believe is scary. But you can't just stop there. You have to do it. You have to own it.

And so I did. 


In October, fresh off the month from hell, I signed up for Hey, Sweet Pea's My Own Irresistible Brand. This itself was a risk. September brought a massive hit to Story Unfolding and Russ lost his job 30 minutes after I signed up for this course. 

But I had to do something. I was at my limits in so many areas and I knew I needed to remember that why — needed to remember the moment I knew this was what I was supposed to be doing with my life.

You see, I thought I just wanted to wipe everything clean. This fall was one of the hardest I've ever experienced. I told a mentor of mine that I was just going to give it all up and do something else. One of my closest friends said, "maybe you'll just need to start over..." 

But I started to remember. I got into this to breathe life into other people. I wanted those who interacted with me to feel electric and inspired and empowered. I wanted to awake the stories caught in our bones. 

So I renamed Story Unfolding. 

Here's the thing: I thought starting over looked like offering something completely different. I thought it would mean creating something from the ground up and re-visualizing what I already did. I thought the subscription — now called The Storytellers — would just be a small offering in the grand scope of my business. 

But one night while I sat at my desk doing homework, I looked at the question "what have you always wanted to get paid to do...." and started crying because I'm doing it. I've never stopped.

It's the group of women I interact with every. single. day. It's hearing their dreams and sprinting with them in our manuscripts and hopping on a Skype call with them at all hours in order to iron out the stickiness of their storylines. It's penciling in release dates on my calendar and celebrating when another one of us pushes out another book. It's laughing at the solidarity behind capturing ideas and realizing (yet again) that if you don't write, you get stuck. 

I thought of this time last year, prepping for the launch and being blown away by the yes-ness of January and the life and movement pouring into the community. 

My storytellers? They are the core of Awake the Bones. They are everything. From there, everything made sense. 

My year had come full circle.

Posted on December 10, 2014 and filed under tomorrow's dreams, writing, {soft}.

day thirty one: the old familiar feeling.

I know it when I feel it.


First, a heaviness.

It may hit me blind or grow quiet. Either way, I wake up one morning knowing the words returned in the middle of the night. I'm left with the tension of telling everyone in my vicinity and keeping the knowledge close. I don't want to spook the kismet.

Next, the flutter. 

Characters begin shouting their sass. Inspiration oozes from every interaction. One minute I'm not even thinking about plot and word count and structure and the next? The next I'm outlining scenes and laughing and dancing in my chair. The flutter turns into chills on my arms and I wonder —

do I have it in me to do it again? 

Somewhere within this movement, the emotion comes. 

Yesterday, this happened.

First I found an article synchronous with an idea circulating in my veins, something that's brushing up against the darker version — the one I blinked into existence about a week ago and became frightened by its intensity. The article gives me pause. It makes me shake internally. I feel the tears threaten and swallow them away and work on something else, throwing up the question to the Universe and letting it rest.

The connection came later.

Staring at the descriptors, one caught my eye. This, mixed with that, and there IT book.

I shoot a message to a friend, asking her what she thinks about it, and she responds immediately. 

You write that thing. I mean it.

And then, the tears. 

ast night, a friend told me he loves that there is a process before my process — the way words come and introduce themselves to me. I told him that's where the emotion comes for me. It's an old familiar feeling, running through my bones all over again.

Because it's one thing to come up with an idea. It's another to recognize the synchronicity of art and story and characters begging you to come out and play.

There are moments I get stuck. There are times within the process where I wonder if I'll ever feel the weight of the last sentence. But what really pushes me over the edge? It's not the fear of quitting in the middle of a piece. I'm too stubborn for that to happen. 

It's the beginning again that catches in my throat. The heaviness is there for a reason. It's months of words building on top of one another and manifesting as a monster threatening to claw its way out of my soul.

The concept of writing isn't a question anymore. It's not even a should. The concept of writing has turned into a must.

In the next couple of weeks, I'll be gathering my people around me. The ones who pushed me through SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WATER & SKY will be the same ones who whisper strength and encouragement over my words with this new project. And in a month or three, when I press the last key that wraps up the end of my third book, the heaviness will fade and the flutter will return and the tears will flow down my cheeks. 

Because I beat the monster once again.

And here's the secret: you can too. 

You have a story inside. You know the one. You know it because this post made you emotional and your hands are kind of vibrating with a buzz you didn't know existed. 

Write the book. 

Start with one word, and then another, and then don't stop until you feel your characters breathe easy with completion. You may think no one will read it. You may think the story's not important. 

But you will never know unless you try. 

Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 31, 2014 and filed under writing, indie publishing.

day thirty: adding a touch of humanity to your marketing.

The first time someone I didn't know tweeted about my book I freaked. I remember it so distinctly. I was at a friend's house for dinner and we were about to leave. I pulled out my phone and saw the notifications. It was an amazing compliment, encouraging others to pick up the book and read it. Within minutes, another tweet came from someone who read my book and within 12 hours had a friend confide in her that she'd been raped. Everyone needs to read this book, she said. Because of this book I knew how to respond. 

Immediately, I favorited the tweet and replied through my tears, thanking them for taking the time to read. 

To this day I still have a relationship with both of these readers. One of them I've even met for coffee multiple times. And there are more than a handful of readers I wish I could meet with TODAY because of their support.

When you publish your book, people are going to read it. 

Maybe at first, it'll be just your friends and family. Maybe there will be enough love surrounding your teasers and updates that a few more than just your friends will purchase it within the first week.

Or maybe, you'll find success straight out the gate and hit all types of record-breaking best-seller lists.

Whatever happens, people will begin talking. 

And as an author who knows your way around how words work, you will have the ability to reach for life or reach for death.

What will you choose?

It won't be enough to say you love your readers. How do you show them? It won't be enough to compose some sugary-sweet tweets now and then if your newsletters blast the latest hit within your genre. 

Aim for consistency. Aim for humanity. 

On the other end of these blog posts and reviews and tweets and Facebook statuses rests a soul surrounded by flesh and blood — just like you. Engage with people. Don't just tweet out links to your book. Be yourself. If you need a great example of someone who knows how to build relationships with her readers, check out Susan Dennard

One of the biggest perks of indie publishing is your immediate access to those who've read your book. 

Don't take this for granted. Be creative. Show gratitude. Adding the touch of humanity to your marketing moves mountains because you're not being a robot. And trust me, there are plenty of people in the industry not doing their best on the humanity front that your authenticity will be noticed.

Stay focused. Stay human. Stay grateful. 

The rest will fall into place.

Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 30, 2014 and filed under indie publishing, writing.

day twenty nine: on book-bloggers, the unsung heroes of every novel

I still remember those first moments people started talking about COME ALIVE on their blogs.

It freaked me out at first. A lot of these people were friends of mine or within the network I frequented online. I didn't know how to respond. They didn't have to write about it. There wasn't a sign up or anything. These were just people who loved me and loved my book and wanted to talk about it. Should I respond at all? Should I share the post? Would that seem egotistical? Should I even thank them? 

When EVERY SHATTERED THING released, I signed up for a blog tour through InkSlinger PR. This is where I began to understand the magic of word-of-mouth marketing and how amazing bloggers can be for a book. I had blogs posting about it every day for a little over a week. Some of them were amazing. Some of them were unsure. Some of them were from people who didn't like the book.

All of them were SO NEEDED to get the word out about EVERY SHATTERED THING.

I grew more relaxed. I started answering questions and engaging with the bloggers on social media when they'd chat with me. If they tagged me in a tweet with a link to their review post, I'd thank them for reading + sharing the book and RT their review. I found them on Facebook and made sure to "like" their blog pages so I could keep up with them. If they responded to me consistently on Twitter, I'd make sure to follow them back.

Slowly, over the past fifteen months, I've come to realize something.

I would not be where I'm at today if it weren't for book bloggers taking time out of their schedules to read and talk about my books. Not every review glows with praise. I'm okay with this. There is nothing — nothing — that compares to the community of book bloggers who celebrate and cheer on indie authors. I've learned more about indie publishing through this network than anywhere else. And I've grown to love the people behind some of the blogs that promote books with humility, excitement, and honesty.

A few months ago, I was a table assistant for an author at a local book signing. Before the doors opened, there was a line down the hallway and circling the stairs below the hotel lobby. There were homemade t-shirts. Posters made. Scrapbooks filled with book covers and character names. These bloggers weren't messing around by holding one-or-two books to sign. Nope. They had luggage filled with copies of books. Multiple books per author.

The atmosphere was electric.

They gave gifts to the authors. Bracelets, drawings, flowers — and it wasn't with this "I'm trying to impress you" vibe, either. These were humans legitimately wanting to connect with another human they admire. These were relationships that formed long before the face-to-face interaction. 

One reader came up to the woman I was working with and started crying. 

"You have no idea what your books did for me," she whispered. Laughing, she wiped at her cheeks. "I'm sorry. I told myself I wouldn't cry. But your books....they just got me through a huge rough spot and I'm so thankful. Please don't stop writing." 

If I didn't know it before that event (I did), I definitely knew it after: book bloggers are the lifeblood of your indie release. 

Love them. Care for them. Engage with them. Pay attention to your @ replies on twitter, because sometimes they'll send you questions about your book. Respond to their emails if they take time to shoot you a message. 

Rainbow Rowell does this well. So does Sue Monk Kidd. I've even had John Green reply / favorite / RT a few of my responses to his questions or comments. Cora Carmack and K.A. Tucker and Autumn Doughton are also amazing at engaging with their readers.

I used to think it was okay to not respond. (And sometimes, it's necessary.) But, then I started noticing how seen I felt when authors took the time to engage with me when I'd tweet about their books or send them a message on social media. I started realizing that the book I loved just turned into a blog post trying to convince everyone else to read it. 

I'm not a book blogger, but I'm more likely to share a work and celebrate its releases and try to get others to purchase a book if I know there's a human and not a robot between the hardback bindings.

So imagine the power of a book blogger. 

By getting bloggers to read and review your book, you're harnessing their platform. Note: harness and don't use. There's a difference. One, there's an exchange that happens. A giving over of sorts. There's no expectation that they will share a certain way and you're thankful regardless. The other? You just want them for their numbers and audience and not because it's one more person reading your words + engaging with you in storytelling.

Word of mouth marketing is huge. Think of the runaway success of FAULT IN OUR STARS or how it wasn't until John Green wrote about ELEANOR AND PARK for NY TIMES that Rowell hit the bestseller list. Book blogging is more than just haphazardly throwing up GIFs to explain the feels involved in a certain novel. Book blogging is spreading the love of good stories.

And you know what? Even if the review lacks the oomph you're hoping for, they're still talking about your book. They're still sharing links. They're still celebrating the fact that one more person pushed a book out into the world. Because of this, bloggers will always be a huge step in my marketing process. Every time someone writes about EVERY SHATTERED THING or SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WATER & SKY, I'm thankful. Every time someone RTs a tweet where I'm sharing about it, I'm encouraged. And every time a reader expresses hope for new books and curiosity about what I will publish next, I'm inspired. 

If you want to feel connected to your readers, find bloggers who will read and write about your book. Love them. Support them. Cheer for them as they hit milestones of their own. When you get down to it, we're all in this together. From my experience, book bloggers are some of my favorite partners in helping me share about my latest characters because they believe in the stories just as much as I do. 

And for an author, this type of relationship is priceless.

Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 29, 2014 and filed under books, indie publishing, writing.

day twenty eight: resources on criticism

The other day, I combed through my email and started laughing. I'm all for sensing a theme within the emails sent to me, but this was exceptional. Email after email, I read what other people are doing to handle criticism in their field. 

And I thought, well why not share these? 

Like this post from Publishing Crawl by Alex Bracken. She talks about a recent situation between an author and reviewer and how to avoid the trap of reading reviews. I love her tips — especially the one about accessibility, which we'll talk about later this week.

I always love Tara Mohr, and this article about learning to write for herself and not the crowd is no exception. 

99u consistently puts out challenging articles + videos on the creative process, and I loved what Gregory Ciotti had to say here about why some people are born haters.

And anytime you find something from Malcolm Gladwell on criticism, you know it's going to be good

What about you? Have you found any really good links lately about how to handle the negativity?

Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under indie publishing, writing.