I know, I know. I was supposed to resume blog posts after NaNoWriMo, but I decided to take the rest of the year off and concentrate on fiction writing. It was a good decision. #noregrets
We’ll resume our regularly scheduled programming on Monday, January 8th.
*whistles* Folks, 2017 was a heck of a year.
Depressing is an accurate description. The first few months of the year was me trying not to keel over from an aneurysm after reading the daily news about shit-show that is the White House administration. I’m sure a lot of people found themselves in a similar posture. I wasn’t writing. I had no desire to write. An overwhelming feeling of despair overshadowed everything. I was angry and frustrated. Some peace came when I found a couple of Facebook groups full of romance writers and readers who felt as I did. Chatting with them and venting made things slightly better for me. Comradery in those groups, along with Twitter, helped me make it through a super rough part of the year. Shout-out to romance readers, writers, and bloggers in the Resistance!
Officially, my groove came back when I attended RT in May. Romantic Times was my first major book event and signing, and it was also the spark that set my writer soul on fire. Never in a million years did I anticipate readers seeking me out to say they’d read and loved my work. *in my Keanu Reeves voice* Whoa.
After RT, the flames kept burning. I attended my first RWA conference. Then, in September, I attended the Brooklyn Book Festival and the Baltimore Book Festival. I was on a roll. Gooo meeee!
But allow me to get a little more personal and tell you how 2017 changed my perspective as an author and how these changes have guided my career moving forward. Let’s begin with…
The One Thing No One Likes to Talk About: Money
Ready for some blatant honesty? I’m not making any money, meaning I’m not bringing in stellar bucks. SHOCKING, RIGHT? Not really. I’ve only published five stories: three short stories, one novella, and one novel. I have a long way to go before writing can be a sustainable full-time career, but guess what?
I mentioned the dreaded M word.
At this stage of my career, I spend more money than I take in. For now, I’m fine with that because I’m building an empire. #bossladygoals I’m more than certain things will change in the next two-to-three years. My number one goal has always been to make back the money I’ve spent on covers and editing. That’s it. Not everyone shares the same mindset as me, and that’s okay. There are some authors who want to see an ROI immediately. We are all on different paths. There is no absolute right or wrong way to guide your writing career. Okay, there is a wrong way (not researching the market properly, not caring about your product enough to make it shine, spamming any and everyone all day every day with your book promotion, being a dick to readers and authors, etc.), but I think you know where I’m going with this. We do what works best for us at that moment.
Money doesn’t guide my writing decisions. I write the types of stories that excite me, and I self-publish. If something I write is considered “a flop” I don’t see it as a failure. Even in failure, there are lessons to be learned. With each release, I’ve learned something about myself as an entrepreneur, and those lessons guide me daily.
Spending some serious ching in 2017 led to a lot of wonderful experiences, and I know for certain it was a worthwhile investment. I’m investing in myself and my business, and I believe my investments have enabled me to network and connect with individuals I wouldn’t have had access to in the beginning of my career.
I’m inching forward and setting myself on a path of greatness, and holy crap is it exciting!
Keep it Real
In 2017, aside from spending $$$, I also took more chances. To some degree, I stopped giving a fuck, and boy was it freeing. As an author—let me rephrase—as a black romance author, I have always been very cognizant of my image and branding. I want to be perceived a certain way. While my marketing has enabled me to build a small following of readers who enjoy what I write, I also realize that it doesn’t matter if I’m the best marketer or the best writer in the world, there will be individuals who will never choose to read my work. My type of romance will not be everyone’s jam, and that’s perfectly okay.
Instead of trying to win everyone over, I’ve chosen to cultivate an intimate relationship with readers who are eager to expand their romance-reading horizons. They want to see more PoC in stories. They want to see more LGBTQIA+ people in stories. They want to read about non-Christian characters. They want to read about heroines, heroes, and non-binary folks who are coping with mental illness. Good lord, there’s a demand for stories featuring REAL humans dealing with REAL issues! LOL, insane, right? When I craft my romances, I’ve always written with realism in mind. I know there is an audience for my material, and I want to keep that audience coming back for more. It’s one of the reasons I’ve started writing short stories exclusively for my newsletter subscribers as a way to thank them for joining me on this journey.
Email addresses are gold, and if someone is willing to give you access to their inbox, you’d better do your best to keep em satisfied.
After three years in publishing, a lightbulb finally came on— I think the 2016 election had a lot to do with my awakening— I always want to see the best in people. I want to be positive and spread love and cheer, but I also believe in putting in the work. I recently read an article that said to pay attention, not only to the words people say and their actions but whether or not they’re consistent in their speech and their actions. In 2017, I chose to focus on being consistent with my intentions and surrounding myself with other author folk who abide by the same rules. I finally got a handle on my tribe. In 2016, I was building it little by little, but now I have a solid foundation of author friends.
Making friends as an adult is hard. Making friends as an author is like pulling teeth. There are people who are friendly and outgoing and want to befriend everyone. *raises hand* Then there are people who aren’t very trusting because they’ve been burned. *raises hand again* If I let the people who’ve burned me keep me away from seeking out new friends, I’d be doing this writing thing alone.
No one can survive alone. No one. Working solo in a bubble can only take you so far. We all need the assistance of others in some form. Authors need other authors in order to succeed. Individual efforts matter, but collaborative efforts also go a long way toward success. Many authors helped me in 2017, and I am so incredibly grateful to each and every one of them and their unique assistance. Because of them, I’m more productive than I’ve ever been, and I have a clear vision of my career trajectory.
2017 has changed my mindset.
Spending money is a necessary evil. I no longer hem and haw when I have to shell out $$$ to ensure I’m making the right moves as an entrepreneur.
Not giving a fuck is freeing. I’ve lost some readers, and I’ve gained some readers. I’ve been unfriended, unfollowed, blocked; you name it. I will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that is A-okay. Being my authentic self is all that matters in the end. Well, that and writing a quality story. LOL. I don’t want to be an authentic person who writes crap. I’m always trying to hone my craft!
Being consistent with your intentions garners support in ways that may surprise you. Never be afraid to ask questions. Never be afraid to ask for help. Never be afraid to tell people they inspire you. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there. Everyone will not love you. Everyone will not like you. But it’s important to have people within the writing community who have your back. Writing is a solitary gig, so find people who get you and want to help you succeed. Like any other community, the romance writing community has its ups and downs. The ride has a tendency to get a little bumpy, so strap in tight and make sure you’re seated next to people who are ready to hold your hand through it all.
In a very odd way, the horrible beginning of the year helped me to round out the year on a good note. I may not be able to control what happens in the White House or in our nation, but I chose to focus on things I can control, and it’s been the most therapeutic form of self-care ever.
2018 has already kicked off in stellar fashion. Here’s hoping the rest of the year brings forth many more opportunities for prosperity!
We interrupt our regularly scheduled spotlight feature to bring you a NaNo prep post.
Spotlights will be on hold for November and return on Monday, December 4th.
Hard to believe we’re getting to the nitty-gritty of the fall season! Come November 1 I will embark on my second year of National Novel Writing Month.
Here are some tips that helped me get through last year—maybe they’ll help you too:
Pick a novel you WANT to work on, not one you NEED to work on
NaNoWriMo should be fun. Being forced to write something you don’t enjoy sucks. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you have a contract and need to get the next book in your series done, but if the book isn’t something you’re super excited about, table it for after NaNo. I want your fingers to fly across the keyboard to the point where you’re destroying your daily word count.
Clean your house/apartment
Procrastination likes to nudge. You know how it gets you? By whispering in your ear that your tub needs scrubbing, the kitchen floor needs mopping, or those three loads of laundry need to be done right now. NaNo lasts for an entire month. It’s inevitable that you’ll have to get in some light cleaning, unless dust bunnies and mildew are your jam, but don’t let the heavy-duty jobs suck you in. If you need to clean your oven or defrost your fridge do it now. Need to regrout that bathroom tile? DO IT NOW. Kick distraction’s ass and make your home shiny and sparkly in the process.
Create a playlist
Soundtracks are my life. For every single project I work on, I create a playlist that represents my couple. The songs are indicative of my characters’ personalities as well as the trajectory of their relationship. I also organize the songs by scene. This helps IMMENSELY when I’m stuck or need the motivation to power through and exceed word count goals for the day. Let’s face it, some days writing isn’t the thing we want to do. Watch movies? Sure. Watch porn? You betcha. Write? Womp womp womp. Not always. All it takes is a day of falling behind for your NaNo to get completely derailed. When you feel yourself walking near the pit of despair, cue up the playlist! It helps, I swear.
Get your food on
If you’re unable to get to the grocery store to stock up on noshables, try one of those home delivery services. FreshDirect, PeaPod, Blue Apron or whatever is available in your area. Life can be crazy hectic, why not scratch food shopping off your to-do list? These websites will help you, and your loved ones won’t starve to death in the process. I mean, do you really want your cats to eat your carcass?
Have some sort of outline ready to go
As a former panster, this is the holy grail of preparation. Your framework can be as detailed or as bare-bones as you’d like, but for chrissakes, have something to guide you. I find that when I don’t outline, I get stuck. My brain is like WUT. WUT IZ WERDS? Don’t self-sabotage, peeps.
Ditch social media
Yep, I said it. If you’ve been following the news today, would it be so horrible to tune out for a bit? #indictmentMonday #KevinSpaceyiscanceled
Social media can become an unwanted distraction. Some people can multitask and log into their fave website and be totally fine. Me? I see something that freaks me out, and my writing comes to a grinding halt. Last year, I was doing GREAT up until the election. I had to really dig deep to finish NaNo, and time spent on social media only made my finishing more challenging. So, if you know social media is a trigger that can stifle your progress, delete all the apps. Worst case scenario, have a loved one change your passwords and not tell you until Nov 30th. Drastic times call for drastic measures. I WANT YOU TO SUCCEED!
Even if you don’t hit 50k, whatever words you end up with are more than you had at the beginning of the month. That’s progress! Celebrate your victories no matter how big or small.
And that’s it for my NaNoWriMo prep. Easy peasy.
I love seeing those glorious word counts on my dashboard! And for each night I exceed my word count, I intend to reward myself with Outlander episodes. Maybe a little Mindhunter too.
Here’s to hoping you kick ass next month. If you’re registered on the NaNoWriMo website, add me as a buddy! See you in December!
I am suuuuuuper late getting this post up but today have a valid excuse. It’s my birthday! I needed to spend some time celebrating me, yanno? Unfortunately, I had to work, so there was no partying like it was 1999. ☹ I mean, it would’ve been one hell of a way to kickstart my Monday, but I digress.
This week’s featured author is one of the nicest ladies I have come to know since I began this author gig. I first met Laura at the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference. Funny thing, I kept staring at her awkwardly (yes in a creepy way) like why do I know her face? It was bugging me that I couldn’t place her. When I finally asked someone, they kindly replied, “That’s Laura Kaye” instead of looking at me like I was an idiot for not knowing. It dawned on me I knew her from 1001 Dark Nights! I’d read one of her stories. I am so awkward sometimes when it comes to authors I’ve read. LOL, not always but once in a while.
Anyway, Laura was super friendly!!! She’s been amazing when it comes to sharing what she knows about the book world. I’m genuinely grateful to have connected with her, and you should get to know a little about this wonderful lady.
Take it away Laura!
I always find author interviews kind of boring. We only get to see one side of an author, the polite side. If you had an evil doppelganger, what detail would they enjoy revealing about you to the public that people would find surprising and possibly questionable?
LOL! Hmm… I am seriously not very evil *grins* Maybe that I have 5 tattoos and want more? Or that I’m seriously addicted to chips and salsa? Or that I like to utter creative variations on the F-word???
What do you do for fun?
I love to travel. I adore long dinners with friends. And I dig binge-watching paranormal and home improvement shows and new series - most recently I’m hooked on Zoo.
There can only be one winner! To which beverage do you swear your allegiance? Coffee or tea?
Tea forever! (I’ve never drank coffee and don’t like the taste *gasp*)
*I really did gasp! PEOPLE WHO’VE NEVER INDULGED IN COFFEE SCARE ME!*
Finish this sentence: Romance needs more _____.
Acceptance. Articles like the recent one in the New York Times prove the genre has yet to receive the same genuine consideration and treatment as every other genre.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you first began your writing career?
Just keep writing new books!
Did you go to your high school prom? If so, do you remember what you wore?
Yes! I wore a beautiful emerald green floor-length strapless gown to my prom LOL!
What’s your favorite TV show of all time?
*I just started watching this show on Saturday. One word: JAAAAAMMMMIIIIIEEEEEE #teamhotredheadedvirgin*
Almost every advice column I’ve read on productivity says authors should write every day. Do you follow this advice?
When I’m on deadline, I write every day. When I’m not under deadline, or when I’m writing something speculatively, I write every weekday. But I do some writing-business related work almost everyday either way, even if it’s not writing.
Describe your most memorable family vacation.
We went on vacation to the same place pretty much every year - to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware - so it’s very fond to me now.
What song holds a special place in your heart?
Proud Mary, because I can remember my father’s band playing it in the basement when I was very little and was supposed to be sleeping but was actually sitting at the top of the stairs listening to them practice. I don’t have very many other memories of my father, but that song pulls me back to that moment every time.
** Bonus Question**
Ever tried BDSM? If not, would you?
I haven’t, but I totally would! :)
New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller Laura Kaye is the author of over thirty books in romantic suspense and contemporary and erotic romance and has sold more than one million books in the U.S. alone. Among her many awards, she won the RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Romantic Suspense of 2014 for Hard As You Can. A former college history professor, Laura grew up amid family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses, cementing her life-long fascination with storytelling and the supernatural. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.
Laura also writes historical fiction under the name Laura Kamoie, also a Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today bestseller.
Laura is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Maryland Romance Writers, the Washington Romance Writers, and she is past president of the RWA-Contemporary Romance Writers.
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