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What I’ve been reading while stuck on the couch

As you might know if you follow me on social media, I broke my ankle 2 days before Christmas. I had to get surgery, and plates and screws, the works. THEN, I was hospitalized when the surgery gave me 2 blood clots in my leg. It’s been a long, painful, boring, miserable 46 days, but I am finally at the point where I feel a little better every day. In 4 weeks, I’ll get to start walking with the boot cast! By summer, I’ll be fully walking again.

In the meantime, I’ve been tearing down my TBR list like crazy. I’m reading eBooks, real books, and listening to audiobooks at night while I work on puzzles. It’s all in an effort to pass the time until I can do normal things again, like laundry. (My wheelchair doesn’t fit in the laundry room. I haven’t even driven my car since last year, ya’ll.) As boring as it gets being homebound and stuck on my butt all day, I am loving the fact that I have time to read.

Here are some of my favorite reads! Some are new, some are old, and all are fantastic.

ROAD TO EUGENICA

This book actually releases TODAY but I got an early copy a couple of weeks ago. It’s a sci-fi romance that I’m completely obsessed with. And the best part? It’s the first in a series. BRING ON MORE!

 

OUTLANDER

I am SO late to the Outlander game. Truth be told, I actually started reading this book probably about 7ish years ago during the down times at my old day job. I don’t think I got more than 100 pages in before I gave up because historical books aren’t really my thing…. then, as time went on, I saw it everywhere, saw people I admire raving about it, and then noticed that there was a TV show, too. I decided to pick it back up again. And WHOA. I’m in love! The books are scary huge and there’s several more of them, but I’m ready for the challenge.

JOYRIDE

This one was a random library book I chose based on the cover alone. I mean, how cute is that? It ended up being a heartwrenching tale of a girl’s struggles to get her parents back into the US, and the boy she meets along the way. There was a thrillery ending that I didn’t see coming, and I was hooked. Check out JOYRIDE if you haven’t already.

 

FIRE IN ICE

FIRE IN ICE is another first in series book (YAY!) from my author friend Jenn. She sent me an early copy of it and I was totally hooked from the first chapter. It’s got superheroes, (we know I love them), romance, and it’s set in a more contemporary setting, so even if you think you don’t like sci-fi type novels, check this one out. It’s SO GOOD!

Next on my reading list:

THE SHADOW AND BONE TRILOGY

This is another series that’s been out a while, and I’m totally late to this as well. I actually read SIX OF CROWS and its sequel, CROOKED KINGDOM last year and fell so utterly head over heels in love with those books, it was insane. I can’t believe I waited so long to pick up that gorgeous hardback with the black pages from the bookstore. I saw it a million times and never read it until recently. The Shadow and Bone trilogy was actually published before Six of Crows, but it’s set in the same universe. I’m so excited and scared to dive in, because the way Bardugo hooked me the first time was pretty brutal. I’m pretty sure these books will also wrap around me and make me obsessed. Which isn’t exactly a bad thing, when you’re stuck on the couch for several more weeks!

Let me know what you’ve been reading in the comments. I could use more recommendations!

My shaky start to 2018

It’s a new year.

It’s time for my annual goals blog post where I list out my professional and personal goals for the year, and eagerly and methodically tick them off one by one as the months go by. However, I’m finding myself stuck this time. That’s a first for me, the person who has a spreadsheet of my monthly budgets going back to 2011 and a closet organized in ROYGBIV color order. I am incredibly organized, put together, and always on top of things.

Until now.

I know my current predicament isn’t the end of the world, but it certainly feels like the end of happiness for a while. Two weeks ago, on Christmas eve eve, I was carrying an armload of wrapped presents down the stairs and I tripped and broke 2 bones in my ankle. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the horror I felt when I looked down and saw my ankle bent around the wrong way. My husband called 911, and I was taken to the ER and told I needed surgery. Pins and metal plates — the works. My doctor said I’ll be in a cast for at least 8 weeks and then several weeks of a walking cast and then several weeks of physical therapy after that.

Thanks to insurance being useless, my surgery was denied and cancelled the day before I was supposed to get it. We called dozens of surgeons and couldn’t find a single one in the Houston area who takes my marketplace insurance. Now, after 17 days of being stuck in a recliner in the living room, I’ll finally get the surgery I need to begin healing. Only I have to pay it all in cash.

And when I say “cash”, I mean “debt.” This has been painful, frustrating, infuriating, and depressing. I’ll be paying this off for years to come. As a full time writer, I don’t get the luxury of living off my book income alone. Book advances are few and small, and I spend most of that money on promoting my books. I have yet to receive any royalties on my traditionally published books because they haven’t earned out. I rely on money from my self published books and freelance writing to pay most of my bills.  I also substitute teach a few days a week, run an Etsy store, babysit, and live frugally.

When I checked my planner and saw that I’m due for a “2018 Goals Blog Post”, I felt completely empty. It’s January 7th. I should be finishing up writing chapter 7 of my new WIP that I should have outlined in the last week of December. I filled out my Passion Planner weeks ago and I should be checking off items on it every day. But I’m not. I haven’t done any of that. I haven’t written or outlined or even brainstormed because the pain meds make me too woozy to function. I had to put my Etsy shop on vacation for two weeks because I didn’t have the strength to make orders, and I lost 30% of my monthly income from losing my ability to substitute teach. By the time I can teach again, it’ll be time for summer break.

I feel totally lost. I have no idea how long I’ll be unable to work to the capacity that I normally do. I’m feeling my plans for the year slipping through my fingers, and I can’t seem to nail down any actual goals this time. My first hardback book releases in the fall, and by then I hope I’ll have my stuff together, but for now, I am just taking it one day at a time. One of my biggest fears is being realized, and that’s that I’ll have to find full time employment to pull myself out of bankruptcy, which will mean my writing career gets put on the back burner.

I do not feel that I’m in a place to ask for donations, but many people on Twitter have asked how they can help me during this unplanned downtime and financial crisis. The best way to help is to buy my books. That way you can help me keep my bills paid and also get something in return.

My favorite self-published novel is Motocross Me, a YA series about Hana Fisher, a 17 year old who moves to live with her dad on his famous dirt bike track. She quickly learns that the extreme sport is filled with hot guys, and soon not one, but two of them are racing for her attention. Click the link below to get Motocross Me in eBook, paperback, or audio:

books2read.com/MotocrossMe

 

 

 

 

My Etsy shop will be closed from Jan 8-9th while I recover from surgery, but if you’d like to place an order later, you can use the coupon code NOVA15 to get 15% off. I sell bookish decals and items and can custom make any decal you’d like. You can find my shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/NovaBookish

So that’s my New Year. Broken and laid up in a recliner for who knows how long. I am so grateful for everyone’s kind messages and words of encouragement. This is the first time I’ve ever broken a bone, and now I have two broken bones to contend with, but having bookish friends to chat with while I’m stuck here has been a total lifesaver. The book community is the best community and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

My 2018 has started off on a bad note, but I’m hopeful that it’ll turn around soon. Let me know your bookish or writerly goals in the comments. I need some inspiration!

xoxo,

Chey

The Evolution of an Author Photo

Does something seem different around here?

Does my site look a little more … professional?

When I first made an online presence for myself as a writer, I don’t even remember what photo I used with my social media accounts. It was no doubt some cell phone selfie that wasn’t the least bit official. But I distinctly remember back in 2012 when I first self published on Wattpad and Amazon and I had the realization that I needed something a little better than a selfie to represent me online.

So I did what anyone would do. I sat in my office (with terrible lighting) in a Batman shirt (that I believe cost $5), dug out the cheap digital camera from the back of the junk closet, handed it to my 8 year old and said, “Take a picture of me.”

And my first author photo was born:

I can feel your secondhand embarrassment from here. But it eventually got a little better. When my YA superhero series was picked up by Alloy Entertainment three years later, they requested an author photo for marketing info. I knew I should get a “real” photo, and I had spent years looking at other author photos and admiring them, but I didn’t seek out a photographer for a variety of reasons. The first being a healthy dose of anxiety and social awkwardness. I knew I needed a professional, but I was too terrified to call one.

So I went outside (better lighting), set up the camera on a tripod, and took my own photo. There was an awful glare on my glasses, so I removed them and smiled blindly at the self timer until it clicked. And thus, my slightly better but still awful author photo was born:

Not bad. Not the best, but it was okay. I was content with it for 2.5 years. I told myself one day I’d break out of my shell of awkwardness and splurge on a professional author photo … one day.

One day I’d do it.

And then the best thing ever happened. I landed an amazing agent, who landed an amazing book deal with a publisher who would put my next book in bookstores. Unlike my superhero deal with Alloy Entertainment, which was eBook only, The Last Wish of Sasha Cade would be a tangible book in real bookstores.

And you know what that means.

My publisher needed a high resolution photo for the hardcover jacket of my forthcoming book. I couldn’t put it off any longer, folks. This needed to be done. So I scoured the internet, asked my neighborhood website, and talked to friends in the Houston area to find the best photographer and makeup artist around. (Because if I was going to get real photos taken, I wanted my hair and makeup done, too.)

My anxiety was through the roof, and insecurities bubbled up from out of nowhere. My hair was stupid, my face was stupid, I’ve gained too much weight over the last three years. I’m a writer, not an actress. I spend my days in pajamas with coffee stains and day-old hair in a messy bun. I am NOT fit for public viewing.

In hindsight, I fretted more than I needed to because in the end, I found Dani Raine, photographer and makeup artist extraordinaire. And the best part? She had a contact form on her website. We arranged everything via email! Oh bless you, Dani Raine. Seriously, she is the total best. Incredibly talented and super nice, too.

She did my hair and makeup and had me looking like a freaking rock star, and then we went on location and took pictures. I felt like a total dork trying to pose, but she has some serious skills and she was able to mold me into looking like a normal human and not an awkward camera-shy author who hasn’t been out of her writing cave in months.

The results were amazing, you guys. It was so, so worth it. My only regret is that I didn’t do this years ago. The hardest part was choosing my favorite pose. Here are some of the options:

In the end, I recruited my daughter to help me choose the official photo. And this was her choice:

Ta-da! A real, professional, high resolution author photo that makes me feel worthy of being on a book jacket. I am a super legit author now. Huge thanks to Dani Raine! If you’re an author in the Houston, TX area, you should reach out to her. (Through the internet, obviously, because phone calls are the worst.) 🙂

Read The Breakup Support Group on Kindle Unlimited!

I’m excited to share that my publisher has enrolled my YA romance, The Breakup Support Group, in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. This means if you’re a subscriber of Kindle Unlimited you get to read the book for FREE.

Don’t know what Kindle Unlimited is all about? It’s like Netflix for books. You pay a monthly fee of $9.99 and get to read all the books you want that are in the Kindle Unlimited library (like mine!, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and more!) Click the link below to get a free 30 day trial. You could then theoretically read my book for free and cancel the trial. 🙂

Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial

Then check out The Breakup Support Group on Amazon!

PS- My Teen superhero series is also in Kindle Unlimited. Check out City of Legends!

 

How to write with an Alphasmart.

Every time I post a picture of my Alphasmart online, people always ask about it. So today I made a video showing what exactly this bad boy can do. The Alphasmart is basically a keyboard that stores typed text until you can transfer it to a computer. THAT’S ALL IT DOES. That’s why it’s so beautiful!

Check out my first ever YouTube video below:

 

Why do you want an Alphasmart?

  • Write on the go with no worries of batteries dying.
  • Write FASTER. When you’re not on the real computer, you can’t get distracted with email, social media, etc.
  • Write simpler. Don’t worry about editing, don’t worry about grammar. Just write that first draft and edit it later.

How to use an Alphasmart Neo 2:

  • Choose a file (I use File 1) from the keys along the top row.
  • Write your chapter, scene, or whatever you’re writing up to 10,000 words.
  • Connect Alphasmart to your computer via USB cable (included).
  • Open your Word processor and put the cursor where you want it to be.
  • Press “Send” to on your Alphasmart and it will transfer your words onto the computer.
  • When it’s finished, disconnect the Alphasmart and edit your work on the computer.

 

So there you have it! Find your own Alphasmart on Ebay, (They’re going for $25-30 right now with free shipping!) and then let me know how it’s transformed your writing life!

Why I write books in 30 days or less

When I started writing my “first official novel”, I had a full time job that took up most of my day. I spent more time daydreaming about this novel than I actually spent writing it, and when I did write it, it was for thirty minutes here and there before I went to bed. It took me nine months to complete that first draft and the inconsistencies were hilarious. My main character’s mom had three different names and eye colors seemingly changed quicker than the Horse of a Different Color.*

And those were the easy fixes.

Now that I have a few dozen manuscripts written, I go about things much differently. I write fast. I use an outline and I write at least 5000 words a day, always finishing the first draft within 30 days. You might think the manuscript would suffer in quality from being written quickly, but it’s actually quite the opposite.

Something magical happens when you spend 3-4 hours a day–every single day–in your fictional world. You never leave the story. Your mind stays with the characters in such a way that they seem to pause when you stop writing for the day, and when you come back to it the next day, you still remember what you were writing. You can put your fingers to the keyboard and the characters hit play in your imagination, and start living the story again.

You’re still in your setting, still in the mood, still feeling the tone of the story. Your character’s motivations and emotions are still churning in your mind and you can keep up the same vibe for each chapter.

Nuances stick with you that you would otherwise forget. That side character has a smudge of motor oil on his shirt, and you’ll remember to have someone comment on it it when he speaks next. Your MC is starting to get a headache and in the next chapter, you’ll be able to note that it’s only getting worse.  Little things in your story’s surroundings will come out naturally as you write because they’re still fresh. These things aren’t in your outline, but they give the story a pulse.

Writing fast means you never have to go back over what you’ve already written to reorient yourself with the story. When I used to write slowly, it would take me at least 45 minutes of reading back over my MS to remember what exactly was going on. Total waste of time. If you step away from your story for a week or so it’s even worse when you go back to it. You’ve forgotten everything, and it’ll show in your writing.

There is certainly no perfect writing formula for everyone, and I always encourage writers to do what works for them. But I also encourage you to try something new. So if you’re a slow writer, try writing fast. Don’t overthink it. Just do it.

 

*Do ya’ll know what that is, or am I dating myself?

Level up your writing (by reading books)

 

I’ve got a great analogy for you guys.

When I was young and in shape and totally not dorky or weird at all, I rode dirt bikes every day. My dad would pick up my sister and me from school, bikes in the back of the truck, and we would head out to the dirt bike track and ride around until it got dark. It was the BEST! But then eventually I made some friends and started realizing my fun putting around didn’t really match up. I was slow, and they were fast.

I wanted to be faster.

I wanted to race and not be the last bike over the finish line.

So what did I do? I got on the bike and rode around and around and around, all by myself, trying to make myself faster. It worked, a little. But then my friend (a racer for over a decade with several motocross championship titles to his name) would get on the track too and just blow me away. I’d grit my teeth and seethe in his dusty wake, hating how I was so much slower.

I’d say, “How do I get faster?”

And he’d say, “Follow me.”

And I’d say, “Uh no. Screw you. You’re way too fast. You make me feel slow and stupid.”

And he’d say, “Just follow me.”

And so I did. My dear friend took pity on me and would ride juuuust fast enough to stay ahead of me without completely zooming away, which he was totally capable of doing. I wanted to stay behind him so badly that I’d push myself harder with each lap, pulling the throttle back more than I ever did, soaring over jumps faster and higher than ever before. Within days, I was faster. Within weeks, I was unrecognizable on the track. I actually looked like someone who knew what I was doing.

My friend was practically born on a dirt bike track and he knew exactly what he was doing. By making me follow him, I was pushed out of my comfort zone. I made myself go faster, work harder, and get better. I would have never gained this skill just riding around the track by myself, because when you’re alone, you’re only as fast as you want to be. There’s no marker. No level to reach, no way of striving for more.

That, my friends, is the same way you can level up as a writer. Several people have told me they enjoy writing books but they never read other books because it makes them feel stupid when the writing is so much better than theirs. Friends, this is NOT the way to live your life!

Read widely. Read the good authors. Read the outstanding authors. Read the best sellers and the popular books. Do it as much as you can, and definitely do it more than you write. By following in the wake of an excellent writer, you too will gain better writing skills. Their awesomeness will seep into your brain, subliminally teaching you how to pace, plot, write, and tell stories. Use their talent to motivate you, not discourage you.

Before you know it, you won’t be the last bike on the track. You’ll be crossing the finish line at the same time as the writers you admire.

Now, go pick up a book.