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My Business and Marketing Plan for Q3 2017

I can’t believe we’re already almost halfway through 2017. The past six months have been tumultuous, to say the least—not just in the publishing industry but also throughout the world and in my personal life. At this point I’m writing just to give myself some sort of center of gravity.

Or maybe it’s way too late for that.

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Toward the end of every quarter, I review my current business plan and see where I’m at. I also re-evaluate my writing goals for the year. I try to keep track of that here on my blog but yeah. I posted my original plan toward the end of last year, but forgot to post when I updated my plan in March. So if it seems like you’re missing something, that’s why.

Goals

I recently realized that I was pressuring myself to write every book as a series just for the sake of writing a series. Sometimes books truly are standalones and there isn’t enough story to span over three, five, or more books. It took me a long time to stop being stubborn and “should”ing on myself. I also had to acknowledge that my series wasn’t selling well enough to justify writing yet another book.

After some careful thinking, I decided that the titles in question could stay the way they were. Crazy Comes in Threes got a makeover and the South of Forever series is complete with one prequel and three novels (though I can always add more if I want).

I did write a fourth book for the SOF series, but it just didn’t feel genuine to me. I ended up scrapping thousands of words because I can’t publish something I’m not proud of, even if it means losing money or ending a series a bit early. I look at it this way: if I’m not into it, my readers won’t be, either.

Right now I’m writing the companion novel to Just One More Minute—small town f/f romance Any Other Love. It will be released this summer.

I’m also working on a new series that will begin this fall.

I’m still working on getting my books back into paperback editions; I’ve been using Vellum to format my ebooks and when they announced they’d be adding paperback formatting this summer, I decided to wait for that. If you’re an indie on a Mac, I highly recommend Vellum. It’s amazing.

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Marketing and Platform Building

I’ve been trying some new marketing strategies, mainly to build my email list. To be completely raw here, I have little to no marketing budget (though I’ve been doing a lot of copywriting in an effort to change this). Much of what I do has to be at low financial cost right now. This includes:

  • using Instafreebie, Bookfunnel, and Noisetrade to give away copies of books in exchange for readers’ email addresses and permission to join my list
  • joining cross-promotions with other authors in my genre
  • organizing my own cross-promos (though admittedly this is a lot of work and akin to herding kittens)
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When my new book comes out this summer, I’ll have a small advertising budget, but I’m planning on doing more advertising for my new series.

I’m also working on expanding my social media platform—mostly on Facebook. Throughout the past five years, I’ve determined that the majority of my readers and intended readers hang out on Facebook. This is backed up by research conducted by marketing experts (see Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast: Episode 39).

Recently I separated my personal and business Facebook profiles. I’ve also been making an effort to post to my author page three to five times a week, with more frequent posts in my reader group (as well as more live videos). I’m considering doing some takeovers again, though in the past I felt that they were very time-consuming with only a small amount of ROI.

Mostly, though, I’m spending my time writing.

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Basically I’m going to regain momentum in the second half of this year. I’d love to get back to releasing every two or three months.

I’ll have more details—and actual dates—soon.


Get a Free Copy of Diving Into Him

Jett might be sober, but she can’t kick her addiction to Koty.

Join my email list to get your FREE ebook copy. Click here!

Sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll—that was Jett Costa’s old life. After her wildly popular band falls apart, she’s determined to remain sober and rebuild her career. There’s just one problem. The only person who still has any faith in her is her ex-boyfriend Koty, and Jett isn’t sure that she can keep her hands off him.

Maybe living together wasn’t such a great idea after all.

She may have been sober when she made that decision, but she definitely wasn’t when she agreed to play a show on behalf of a band that no longer exists at one of the biggest bars in Boston. Now she has less than three weeks to get her new band together. Can she ignore the sizzling sparks that fly between her and Koty every time they play?

Click here now to get your FREE ebook copy.

Read Diving Into Him for FREE

Jett might be sober, but she can’t kick her addiction to Koty.​

Sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll—that was Jett Costa’s old life. After her wildly popular band falls apart, she’s determined to remain sober and rebuild her career. There’s just one problem. The only person who still has any faith in her is her ex-boyfriend Koty, and Jett isn’t sure that she can keep her hands off him.

Maybe living together wasn’t such a great idea after all.

She may have been sober when she made that decision, but she definitely wasn’t when she agreed to play a show on behalf of a band that no longer exists at one of the biggest bars in Boston. Now she has less than three weeks to get her new band together. Can she ignore the sizzling sparks that fly between her and Koty every time they play?

Diving Into Him is the first book in the South of Forever series, a steamy contemporary romance that follows a fledgling rock band on its way to the top.

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  • exclusive discounts, promotions, and giveaways
  • and more!

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Any Other Love: Chapter 1

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The following is a raw, unedited excerpt from Any Other Love (available August 21st, 2017). Click here to pre-order!


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Charlotte stood in the driveway watching smoke curl from the chimney into the pale lavender sky. Though it was March and the weather should have been warming up, Mother Nature had just dumped two feet of snow on them. She had to admit, the house looked picturesque, like a photograph straight out of a New England magazine.

Her best friend, Rowan, slung an arm around her shoulders. “Sorry to have to put you to work on your first night home.”

“We’re totally getting a snowblower,” Charlotte replied.

Rowan pretended to pout. “But if we do that, then Matt won’t come in and rescue us with his plow.”

“He could’ve rescued us a lot earlier,” Charlotte grumbled. Her muscles ached from shoveling so much. At least it was done, though. With the sun setting, the temperature was dropping quickly, making for miserable snow cleaning.

Rowan turned and trotted over to where the truck idled. She climbed onto the stepped, leaned into the window, and kissed her boyfriend Matt. “Thank you,” she murmured.

Charlotte tucked her shovel into a snowdrift and headed inside to give them privacy. If it wasn’t her first night, she mused, Rowan would be inviting Matt to stay over. Though she’d been looking forward to a night in with her new roommate, some wine, and Netflix, she felt a little guilty for unintentionally cockblocking her friend. Snowstorms always put Rowan in a romantic mood, and she usually spent them snowed in with Matt.

Making a mental note to make it up to her somehow, Charlotte peeled off her boots, coat, and thick gloves, leaving them to dry on a hook over a vent in the front hall. She climbed the stairs and headed into her bedroom, where dry clothing was calling to her with its siren song. She could add “snow” to her list of things that she hated about living in New England. Then again, she’d lived in Connecticut her entire life. Maybe she only hated it because she didn’t know any better. Maybe she wouldn’t be any better off anywhere else.

She shucked her damp clothing and traded it for her softest pair of sweats and a thermal long-sleeved shirt that hugged her curves. Just as she slid her feet into slippers, Rowan knocked gently at her bedroom door.

“Yes?” Charlotte practically sang the word. She grinned at Rowan, excited for their first night together as roommates. She’d never lived on her own before. When Rowan asked her to move into the spare bedroom, she hadn’t even hesitated.

Rowan held up two matching pairs of fuzzy socks. “We can’t have a night in without these!” She handed one to Charlotte, then tugged her own onto her feet.

Charlotte eyed the bottoms of the socks. “Can’t even,” she read. She lifted an eyebrow at Rowan. “Seriously?”

“We’re going to binge dramas tonight,” Rowan said with a shrug. “We need socks to speak for us.”

Giggling, Charlotte put her pair on. “Of course we do.” She padded downstairs after Rowan, following her into the kitchen.

“Thank goodness I just went shopping.” Rowan opened the freezer. “Does pizza and a bunch of appetizers sound good?”

“Sure, and maybe a salad to make it look like we tried.”

“This whole roommate thing is going to work out beautifully,” Rowan said.

While Rowan arranged the frozen food in the oven, Charlotte got to work putting together the salad and dressing. There was just something so soothing about chopping and stirring and tasting. She didn’t get to do it often, considering most of her job at The 545 entailed frying onion rings and boneless wings. Not that she didn’t like her job. She was doing what she loved, and she got to meet all kinds of interesting people. Drunk people, but still. It was fun and it put her four years in the culinary program at Kaynor to good use. Still, she didn’t love it.

As she poured the dressing over the salad, Rowan joined her at the counter.

“So,” her best friend said.

“So.” Charlotte gave the salad one last toss, then snapped the lid on the bowl and slid it into the refrigerator.

“Amarie’s birthday is coming up and Matt wants to throw a party for her.”

Glancing up, Charlotte noted the careful expression on her friend’s face. As Matt’s girlfriend and co-owner of Elli’s, the little bakery they’d both inherited, Rowan had inherited all of his friends. She almost always invited Charlotte to their gatherings, which Charlotte appreciated, but sometimes she felt totally out of place.

“I know you’re almost always the seventh wheel,” Rowan said, “and I know it’s weird for you, being around Amarie . . .”

“Weird” didn’t even begin to cover it. Charlotte bit back a sigh.

“But I wanted to extend the invitation. Amarie’s had a rough time lately, so we wanted to do something nice for her.”

The sigh escaped Charlotte’s lips, and she immediately regretted it. She did not want to make Rowan feel bad for being part of a “we.” Still, being the sole single person in a group of neatly coupled up people took its toll sometimes. She wasn’t about to be that desperate girl, hitting up clubs in New Haven just to find a girl to take home with her, but she had zero opportunities for dating otherwise.

The 545 mostly attracted singles—straight singles. Watertown wasn’t the most diverse place. Not that she had much time for scoping out the dance floor between orders. Drunk people wanted their food right away, and there were always plenty of them queued up at the bar, desperately trying to soak up the alcohol in their stomachs before closing time.

“You don’t have to come,” Rowan said gently.

She didn’t. That was true. If she sat Amarie’s party out, though, she’d just be the lonely girl binge-watching something she’d seen a thousand times on Netflix. Possibly drowning her sorrows in wine and leftover beer-battered onion rings from work. On the other hand, if she went to the party, she’d be the lonely girl giving Amarie’s boyfriend the green eye of doom.

It wasn’t that Lucas was a bad guy. At least, she didn’t think he was. But he was Amarie’s boyfriend. In the almost year since she’d met Rowan, she’d hung out with Matt’s friends several times. At first, she’d thought she was just imagining the little glances between her and Amarie—or maybe just projecting. But a couple weeks earlier, during a housewarming party at Matt and Lucas’s apartment, a tipsy Amarie had squeezed her hand and given her a look.

A real look, not a “Maybe I’m imagining this” look.

Amarie had leaned in close, those bright brown eyes of hers smoldering into Charlotte’s so intensely, Charlotte had been convinced she was about to kiss her. And, before she could stop herself, her own hand had lifted up and brushed Amarie’s fringe of curls out of those eyes. She was convinced they would have kissed, had Lucas not walked into the room at that particular moment.

She was convinced Amarie was into girls. Convinced. Maybe she didn’t know it yet herself, but Charlotte was totally getting the bi vibe off her. And she knew—dammit, knew—that Amarie was attracted to her too. She was no girlfriend thief, though. No matter how pretty the picture of her and Amarie together looked in her head, she was not a homewrecker.

So she was just going to have to deal with the “we” that was Amarie and Lucas. Or at least, she could if they weren’t always a “we.” He would definitely be at his girlfriend’s birthday party—and maybe it was for the best.

Rowan smoothed a hand in soothing circles across Charlotte’s back. “You can totally sit this one out.”

“It’s her birthday, though,” she whispered. If she was a true friend, she’d be there. Especially if Amarie was having a hard time. She swallowed hard. “What’s going on with her, by the way?”

Rowan crossed the kitchen and peeked into the oven. “Just one more minute,” she said, eyeing the pepperoni on their pizza. She took out the mozzarella sticks and garlic bread, though, setting them on top of the oven.

“Ro?” Charlotte took several steps toward her, then hesitated. “What’s going on with Amarie?”

“I didn’t purposely keep this from you,” Rowan said, “but she’s been really sick. Like . . . bedridden, Matt said. I guess Lucas is having a really hard time getting her to leave the house.”

Charlotte frowned. “You mean depressed?”

Rowan shook her head. “Remember that time we saw her walking with a cane? I guess she has some kind of autoimmune disease. Matt said it’s undiagnosed but it’s basically ruining her life. It’s like arthritis but her doctors can’t figure it out because her blood work doesn’t match up or something.”

Biting her lip, Charlotte looked down at the floor. “I can’t believe I didn’t know this.”

“You wouldn’t have,” Rowan said gently. “Matt said she keeps it really quiet. She usually plays it off when she’s out and about. But it’s been really bad lately. I don’t know much about autoimmune diseases but Matt said she’s talked to him a bit about it. I guess hers gives her awful joint pain. That’s why she needs the cane. She has it really bad in her hip.”

“So my girl is sick.” Heat flushed Charlotte’s face. She pressed her lips together, as if it wasn’t already too late to stop herself.

Rowan gave her an understanding smile. “Yeah. And from what Matt says, Lucas isn’t the most supportive.”

Charlotte frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Shit, I forgot to keep an eye on the pizza.” Rowan opened the oven and inspected the pizza. “Hope you don’t mind your crust a little crispy.” She pulled it out and set it beside the other goodies.

“Aw, that’s perfect.” Charlotte nodded toward it. “The pepperoni is nice and crispy, and I never eat the crust, anyway.”

Rowan stumbled backward, a hand pressed to her chest in mock agony. “You’re an alien! How can you not eat your crust?”

Charlotte shrugged. “It always cuts up the roof of my mouth, no matter how ‘soft’ it is.” She waved a hand in dismissal. “Anyway. What’s Lucas doing?” Her eyes narrowed as she brought the conversation back on track.

“This is coming from Matt, so it’s past secondhand at this point, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah. Spill it.” She needed to do something to keep her hands busy, or she was going to brave the storm and show up at Matt and Lucas’s place and punch him in the face. She carried the pizza over to the counter and grabbed a pizza cutter from the drawer.

“It’s really sweet how protective you are of her. It’s not even me and I’m swooning a little,” Rowan said. “Anyway . . . I guess Lucas was bitching that she never wants to go anywhere anymore. The four of us were going to go skating at Taft, but Amarie canceled at the last minute. That was the night you and I went out for karaoke.”

“Yeah, I remember.” Charlotte grinned. It’d been a good night. She’d nailed a song that had once been out of her range. Practicing in the shower had paid off. She finished slicing the pizza and set the cutter down.

“The guys stayed in, and Matt got some beer. He said Lucas got pretty drunk and was going on and on about all of the things he and Amarie don’t do anymore.”

Scowling, Charlotte took out her ponytail. Fading teal locks fell onto her shoulders. She needed to touch up her hair. “If she’s not feeling good, of course she isn’t gonna want to go ice skating and shit. That’s super physical. It takes a lot out of you even if your body is up to the challenge.”

“Yup.” Rowan grabbed paper plates and handed one to Charlotte. “Come on, let’s go start the movie before this gets cold.”

Taking the plate, Charlotte started loading it with food, but her appetite was long gone.

* * *

Streaks of light from the occasional passing car drifted across Charlotte’s bedroom ceiling. She’d been lying awake long enough to know that Rowan’s street—or her new street—was a ghost town after about 8 p.m. It was a major change from where Charlotte had grown up. French Street saw steady traffic throughout the night, the susurrus of passing cars as soothing as the sound of waves. Though she’d lived on a side street, she’d been close enough to hear them, always drifting off to sleep to the sound.

It was too quiet at Rowan’s. How had she not noticed that before? She’d slept over plenty of times. Apparently girls’ night and actually moving in were two very different things.

She sighed and rolled onto her stomach, hoping that the change of position would remind her brain that it was bedtime. Her mind churned, though. At first she’d been busy thinking about the movie they’d just watched, a disaster movie based on a true story. Eventually, though, her thoughts had turned to Amarie.

She had to stop thinking about her. Amarie was none of her business. Their connection was gossamer, acquaintances connected by mutual friends. Nothing more. She shouldn’t worry about how Lucas might be treating her. She had enough of her own problems, anyway.

Of course, that just got her thinking about said problems.

She was outgrowing The 545, maybe even Watertown in general. She didn’t want to admit it, since she’d just moved in with Rowan, and her best friend was super excited. Of course, she was happy, too, but she wanted more. She always had. During the long days at Kaynor when she was a teenager, she’d daydreamed of someday being the boss while she scrubbed stainless steel counters with Comet. When that day came, she’d be the one watching grunts scrub away while she worked on the next day’s menu. She was going to own a five-star restaurant in New York someday.

That particular dream had shrunk, just a little bit.

After high school, reality had stuck its face in her plans and put her in her place. The distance between graduation and award-winning restaurant seemed more like a chasm the longer she was out of high school. It was far more likely that she’d eventually become head chef at some place like TGI Friday’s or something.

Great. She’d gone from reliving the tsunami scene of a drama to mentally beating the crap out of herself. Apparently she would not be sleeping.

* * *

Charlotte woke to sunshine and a silent house, as if the storm had never happened. When she glanced outside, she saw that Matt had come back at some point and plowed the driveway again—probably early that morning, before he and Rowan left for work. She was glad that she never had to get up that early. Not getting up before the birds was one perk of not living her dream, at least.

Nope, she was perfectly content with rolling out of bed on the later side of morning and relaxing until she had to go in and get started with prep. There was only so much to do, though. Most of the bar’s menu came in frozen bags and required deep frying. She did make the onion rings from scratch, though—and the sauce that went on the wings. Still, realistically she could go in later than scheduled and still get everything ready before her boss walked in the door.

She could do it all in her sleep, really.

Yawning, she made her way to the carafe on the counter. Next to it was a Post-it. “Good morning, roomie,” Rowan had written in black Sharpie. “Have a great day!” The smiley face she’d drawn was slightly lopsided, as if Rowan hadn’t quite been awake yet herself.

Still, Rowan had made enough coffee for her to have some. Grinning, Charlotte poured herself a cup and saluted the empty kitchen. It was weird to wake up in an empty house, but it was nice to have coffee ready and waiting for her.

She brought the mug along with her as she got ready for the day. By the time she finished showering and had French-braided her hair, her mug was empty. Rinsing it, she left it in the sink, then grabbed a blueberry muffin.

She was the first one to the lounge, as usual. Her bartender, Brandon, was never on time, but he’d be in soon. She could count on him, for the most part. The rest of the people she worked with, though, were as flaky as they came. With a sigh, she tossed her bag underneath the bar counter, then grabbed her chef’s jacket from a hook on the wall.

Brandon came in just as she finished mixing the sauce. “How’s my favorite girl?” As he slid past her behind the bar, she caught a whiff of his cologne. With his piercing green eyes, olive skin, and short afro, anyone with a pulse couldn’t help but appreciate his good genes.

“I’m only your favorite because I don’t blow up your phone, begging you to call me back,” she replied as she set the sauce on ice.

“Touché,” he said. He grabbed a tray of clean beer glasses and began putting them away.

“Nor do I show up at your work before they’re even opened.”

“Aw, come on. That’s never even happened.” He gave her his trademark shy grin—just enough of a flash of teeth but short-lived.

She nodded to the young woman standing in the lounge’s entryway. “It is now,” she murmured.

Turning, Brandon nearly dropped the glass he was holding. “Sweetie,” he said—probably because he couldn’t even remember the poor woman’s name. Over his shoulder, he muttered something to Charlotte about taking care of it, then strode toward his latest.

She sighed. While she could never be a serial one-night stand girl, at least Brandon wasn’t alone, pining after a straight girl who would never return his feelings.

Glass shattered, making Charlotte jump. She turned back toward the entryway. The woman made to grab the other glass that Brandon was still holding.

It was going to be a long night.


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#TeaserTuesday: From Every Angle

From every angle, they were a mismatch. Warning signs screamed that they shouldn’t be together. She’d known from the beginning that it was a long shot, yet there she was, sharing a hotel room with the girl she couldn’t imagine living without.

Any Other Love will be available this summer! Join my email list to get updated as soon as I have a release date for you. Click here.

I’ve got just over 32K words down for the WIP. They’re on their first real date now and it’s basically the cutest thing ever. I created a spoonie comedian just for the occasion.

I’ve got some freelance work this week, as well as lots of words to write for Any Other Love, so I’m going to be pretty quiet online. See you on the other side!

Lessons Learned

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Five years ago, when I first started out on my publishing journey, I naively thought that I could use my existing social media for my new business. It wasn’t hard to separate business from personal at first, but everything changed when I signed with my publisher. Suddenly authors were friend-requesting me on Facebook, even though I’d resolved to keep my personal profile separate from my business page. I felt bad denying requests, though, and soon my feed became a mix of everything ever.

A friend suggested I make a separate account strictly for business. She’d done so and, even though it was one more account to manage, it’d helped her separate the two. I still stubbornly insisted that I only wanted one. Over the years, readers began friend-requesting me from my reader group. It was fun being friends with both readers and colleagues as well as my IRL family and friends, but it also got tricky.

For example, if I wanted to go on Facebook just for fun, there was no avoiding work-related things. If a friend tagged me in an off-color meme, I had to do damage control.

Keeping the two separate was getting more and more difficult. I kept tossing the idea around, but hesitated because creating a second account and moving people, pages, and groups around would be a gargantuan task. It wasn’t as if I had spare hours to just sit around cleaning up my social media act.

This weekend I decided it was time, though. Today I sat down and created a separate Facebook; soon I’ll be doing the same for Twitter. If you’re an author, reader, or someone else in the book biz and you get a friend request from this account, it’s really me. I’m friend-requesting here and there, though, so it doesn’t get too tedious or hard on my wrists. Feel free to add me if I haven’t already made it to you!

There’s an old saying that you can’t mix business with pleasure, and even though I love what I do, it’s still true. I’m really looking forward to being able to sign into Twitter, for example, and just see book stuff.

Speaking of book stuff, today I hit 28K for Any Other Love. I’m thinking about release dates now, and I’ll be able to share more info soon! 💜

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5 Comfort Movies for When You Need R&R

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When I’m having a bad pain day, dealing with bone-deep fatigue, or just need to feel safe, I look for a calming movie to watch. They’re the kind of movies that you can nap to, if you wanted to. No alarming soundtrack music swells out of nowhere. Though there is conflict, it’s light enough that it doesn’t stress you out.

Usually I look for children’s and family movies—something immersive and soothing. Romances and dramas are good, too. I look at the movie art and description. If the colors are soft or pastel, it’ll be calming—something I can nap to. If they’re bright, chances are it will be a relaxing experience that I can almost fall into.

When I can’t find something new, I have a few go to movies from my childhood.

Phenomenon

On his birthday, a man is struck by a strange light and develops extraordinary abilities.

Though there are a few exciting moments, you can easily lie down and relax. Just a heads up: though Phenomenon is a bit tragic, it ends on a happy note.

The Dark Crystal

The last two Gelflings embark on a quest to repair the Dark Crystal and save the world.

I remember watching this on rainy days as a small child. The Skeksis scared the crap out of me back then, but since it’s become a staple. It’s a colorful movie set in a fantasy world, and few things are more calming to me.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

A trio of pets get separated from their humans and decide to find their own way home.

I may or may not have watched this 1,900 times as a kid. Shadow, Chance, and Sassy made me desperately want a pet, and Sassy made me fall in love with cats. “No, dummy dummy dummy.” 😂 I think there are two moments in this entire movie where your heart rate kicks up, and everything turns out all right in the end anyway.

The Secret Garden

When an orphaned girl comes to stay with her uncle in his manor, she discovers a secret garden—and the key to restoring her family.

Here’s another movie from my childhood. Are you noticing a pattern? Though there are some sad undertones, The Secret Garden is visually stunning with all of its beautiful landscapes, and there are few loud moments.

A Little Princess

A young girl becomes a servant at her boarding school when her father goes missing.

Another movie based on a Frances Hodgson-Burnett book, and also one of my all-time favorites from childhood. Sarah’s stories alone are super soothing. I wish someone had the foresight to hire that kid to record audiobooks. Even though there are a couple sad moments, this is another movie that has a happy ending.

Each of these has a bit of a fantasy element to it, most of them are children’s movies, and all of them were filmed in the ’80s and ’90s but have an evergreen feel. There’s no distinct decade music (though the score from The Dark Crystal is admittedly pretty ’80s).

Unfortunately none of these are on Netflix or Amazon Prime at the moment, but they’re worth renting or owning.

What are your favorite movies for R&R? Let me know in the comments!

Almost Adults: The Perfect NA Movie

via almostadultsmovie.com

Everyone who knows me well knows I’m still not-so-quietly grieving the abrupt cancellation of Chasing Life. For those of you who somehow missed out on this treasure, it was an ABC Family Freeform show about a young woman who gets diagnosed with cancer just as her career is beginning. It followed the ups and downs of April’s navigation of adulthood, family, illness, romance, friendships, and the journalism industry, and it was fucking fantastic. Then ABC Family decided to re-brand themselves and they canned a show that meant a lot to many people affected by cancer (and new adulthood).

Honestly, don’t get me started on Freeform. Not long after that, they had a show called Recovery Road that was aimed for their re-branded teen audience. That was a kick-ass show about substance abuse recovery, but it too got canned for reasons I will never understand.

Yes, I’m bitter. #saltyaf

Anyway, between the loss of Chasing Life and the downward spiral of New Adult fiction, I’ve really had a hole in my life. I’m pushing 30, so I’m not really in the NA target audience anymore, but I really, really love it anyway. I could write a whole other post all about my love for NA—and I have—but I’m here to tell you about Almost Adults.

Where lit has failed, TV and film have swooped in to save us all. I’ve noticed more and more shows and movies telling compelling stories about 20-somethings, and Almost Adults is one of them.

This comedy feature follows two best friends in their final year of college while they transition into adulthood. One embraces her sexuality and tries to catch up on everything she has missed during her teenage years, while the other ends a long term relationship with her boyfriend and discovers her life isn’t going as planned. Both struggle to keep their friendship together as they begin growing apart. (via)

I stumbled upon Almost Adults while sifting through Netflix for something lighthearted. I loved the BFFship between Mac and Cassie, and even though I’m getting to be a seasoned adult (sort of), I related to a lot of what they were going through. It’s always difficult to find your ground when you’re in a lifelong friendship and you both seem to be moving in different directions.

I thought the characters were pretty realistic, and there were some great one-liners. Though I didn’t quite find it believable that Cassie had no clue Mac was a lesbian, I still loved the dynamics and true-to-life situations. Elliot was adorable and I’m now looking for an excuse to name a character after her (though I like spelling it with two “T”s).

These kinds of stories are (still) what I want for NA lit. Though I’ve broadened my brand a little to include YA and adult stories too, I still write the kind of NA that I want to see on shelves. Almost Adults was fantastic inspiration, and a great feel-good movie to snuggle up with.

Have you seen Almost Adults? What did you think? Which movies have you seen lately? Let me know in the comments! I’m sort of a Netflix junkie.

I Want to Be the Kind of Person Who…

via Unsplash

I’ve been in reactive mode for as long as I can remember; things keep happening, and I do things in response. For years I’ve felt like I’ve only just been keeping my head above water. Now, I know shit happens in life and I can’t necessarily control everything, but I’d really like to break out of that cycle.

Yesterday Sandy and I were looking for a laugh and searched for “how to adult” videos on YouTube, when we came across this.

What I thought was going to be funny ended up really opening my eyes. I don’t think I’ve been victimizing myself, per se, but considering all the trauma I’ve been through, it’s really easy to fall into a trap where I feel like bad things just keep happening to me.

It’s time for good things.

I keep seeing all of these indie authors making it and thinking things like “When is it going to be my turn?” and “What am I doing wrong?” I see friends buying houses and going on vacations, and I wonder if those things will ever happen for me. It’s not my fault that I got sick or that my pain is so debilitating I can’t hold down a “normal” job, but there are things I can control.

In December I got a new phone and one of its features is a bedtime and wakeup time. It’s been a game changer for me. All I had to do was tell it how many hours of sleep I wanted per night, then fiddled around a bit with a dial until I found times that I could live with. Since then, I’ve been going to bed around 11 p.m. and waking up at 8 a.m. almost religiously. I say “almost” because I have it set for weekdays and let myself stay up and sleep in a bit later on weekends. Aside from a few exceptions—painsomnia, events, Stardew Valley or Netflix rabbit holes—I’ve been sticking to this for months. And you know what?

I’ve been much more productive. I sleep better. I have more energy. I’m in a better mood.

I still have pain, I still have fatigue, I’m still sick, but combined with my new meds, I’m in a much better place. And all I did was change one small thing.

Kalyn’s video got me thinking: What if I took things a step further? Rather than stumbling upon and playing with an iPhone feature, I can make some conscious tweaks and improve my life even more. I sat down and thought about the kind of life I want, and I came up with this list:

  • I want to be the kind of person who will write every day.
  • I want to be the kind of person who is able to comfortably pay my bills and buy necessities.
  • I want to be the kind of person who has my own car.
  • I want to be the kind of person who can buy a house.
  • I want to be the kind of person who will regularly treat myself to a manicure and pedicure.

 

This week I wrote every day. I didn’t set a daily word count goal (though I do like to write at least 1K words). I was just happy with myself as long as I wrote. Usually, even if I didn’t feel up to it, the words started flowing after I pecked away at the keyboard for a bit. It didn’t hurt that I’m really enjoying writing Any Other Love. Even though I’d like to write much more, much faster, I’m still making progress. I’m making my way to 25K, then 30K, then 40K… all the way to my projected 70K.

I don’t work on weekends, so I don’t usually write then (but sometimes if I’m really fiending, I “sneak” in some writing). Saturdays and Sundays are mine to do with as I please. Netflix and chilling on my couch in the old fashioned sense of the word? Yep. Playing an obscene amount of Stardew Valley? Yes. Spending time with friends and family? Oh yeah.

Those are two more simple rules that I follow, and it works.

I’m still figuring out a plan for the other things—after all, one doesn’t simply buy a house out of thin air—but they feel achievable using these principles.

What kind of person do you want to be? Let me know in the comments!

Setting Up a Spoonie Couch Office

via Unsplash

Chronically Creative: Creativity and Lifestyle Tips for Spoonies

I say all the time that, while I’d definitely rather not be chronically ill, my disease did shove me onto the path of being an author. Before I got sick, I was only dancing around writing; I wrote for myself and sometimes posted things online, while working 10-16 hours a day as a web designer and social media consultant. When I had to leave the workforce, I started writing full-time. I was laid up most of the time anyway; I might as well be productive.

Since then, I’ve discovered lots of tools and tricks to assist me in my career. I’d like to start sharing them weekly, as well as interviews with other creative spoonies and some lifestyle tips. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but I’m kind of terrible at keeping schedules and staying consistent—mostly because being chronically ill is a full-time job in and of itself. So these Chronically Creative posts might not be weekly, but if you enjoy them and find them useful, I’ll try my best to do them as often as possible.

This week I’m sharing how I set up my own couch workstation or office.

Disclosure: The links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. I earn a small commission from your purchase, which goes directly to my writing business. Your support is much appreciated!

Since I’m often laid up on my couch with an ice pack, heating pad, or hell, my electric blanket, I’ve been doing most of my writing there. I’ve had to find a balance between being comfortable and creating an ergonomic setup to prevent any further damage to my joints.

I work on a MacBook Pro, with my couch reclined just enough so that my legs and feet are propped up. Behind my head, I tuck a flat throw pillow for support; otherwise I tend to lean forward, especially when I’m super into what I’m writing. I typically wear my wrist braces while using the computer, and often have my TENS machine handy for a nice massage on whichever joints are being assholes that day. Since painkillers tend to make me loopy or sleepy, I try to use other methods of pain management while working, which I’ll share as well.

Please be sure to consult your own doctor to create the best setup for your individual needs.

Wrist Braces

Over the years I’ve tried many wrist braces, but the only ones I can stand wearing are 3M’s Futuro for Her. I originally found them at Target. Unfortunately, you have to purchase the left and right braces separately—though I do suppose that’s because the average person has arthritis or carpal tunnel in one or the other.

They come in black or pastel blue; mine are somewhere between white and blue because I’ve bleached the hell out of them. My hands tend to get sweaty when I sleep with them on, okay? Not to mention I don’t have washer/dryer hookup in my apartment, so when I’m in a pinch I soak them in a bucket of bleach in my tub.

I can’t recommend these enough. I’ve had them for years and they’re well past due for a retirement and replacement. Previous braces I’ve had were too scratchy or immobilized my fingers too much to type. These keep my wrists straight so that I can continue using my laptop. (Someday I’ll get me a fancy iMac, with its sexy ergonomic keyboard and mouse. Someday!)

Lap Desk

I bought my first laptop back in 2006—a clunky Gateway that I was super proud of. I was living with my grandparents and didn’t have a desk at the time, so I often worked on a TV tray in the living room or propped up in my bed. I finally caved and bought a ridiculously flimsy plastic lap desk at Barnes & Noble. It eventually cracked and I replaced it with a laptop desk on wheels that I could use from the couch. I still needed something for when I was bedridden, though, so I finally broke down and got a new lap desk.

It’s so old, I honestly couldn’t tell you what brand it is or where I got it. Probably Target, because I’m a junkie. Mine is like a vinyl, and not really ideal for keeping your laptop cool. When we got my sweet Biz Noni a laptop, my sister and I bought her a lap desk with a wooden surface. I’m not sure of the brand either, but this one is pretty close, as well as comparable in price.

Between my wrist braces and lap desk, I’ve got the perfect (mostly) ergonomic setup right in my living room. The lap desk can be tucked away behind my accent table, and my laptop can be put away in my office. (Eventually I’ll do a post on my office setup—but first I need to get in there and reorganize, because it’s become a disaster area again since I started working on the couch.)

Ideally, I’d have an iMac on an actual desk, with a nice comfy chair. But this setup works for me for now, and that’s what’s important. Like I said, I also tuck a pillow behind my head to keep from straining my neck and shoulders. Sometimes I take my laptop, desk chair, and Ergobeads wrist rest and work from the kitchen table.

They also make a cushion for your mouse, but I don’t have mine anymore since I haven’t use a mouse in ages. I absolutely love my Ergobeads and highly recommend them, as they’re supportive even if you don’t have wrist braces and are working from a laptop or even using a regular keyboard.

In case you’re curious, this is my office chair.

I originally purchased mine last year from Walmart, which got it from Overstock. It appears to be only available through third-party retailers now. It’s not quite as shaped to my back as I’d hoped, but it’s still pretty comfortable—especially considering it was about $140, which is cheap for an office chair IMHO. I got it to go with the desk my aunt gave me, but unfortunately the seat is too wide, so I usually use it with my writer’s desk hutch thing. Brain fog is hiding the actual name for both desks right now, so I’ll try to update this when it comes to me.

Pain Management

I’m going to keep this section short and sweet, as this post has gone well over 1,000 words and I’d originally planned on it being much shorter.

Because I get a limited supply of Tramadol (not to mention it tends to be binding on the GI system), I try to use non-narcotic pain management during the day. Never mind that Tramadol can make me woozy like I’ve had a glass of wine, and some of the stronger painkillers make me outright loopy or sleepy.

My joint pain is migratory, so it’s important that I have a medicine that can target all of it at once or different tools that I can use in different areas. Hands down, my favorite is my TENS machine. I got mine a couple years ago at the suggestion of my friend Melanie, and it’s been a lifesaver. It’s so small and discreet, I’ve even taken it with me to doctors’ appointments, while running errands, and on trips.

I also have a heating pad that can be used for moist heat, too, using a special insert. I learned to appreciate TENS machines and moist heat packs during physical therapy. While PT didn’t help my hip, those sessions at the end were heavenly.

The cover is removable and washable, and the pad itself is super flexible. I’ve tied it around my waist to use on my lower back, and my leg and waist to use on my hip.

When multiple joints hurt and I’m not going anywhere that I will mind the spicy scent, I use Tiger Balm. My rheumatologist was actually quite pleased to hear that it’s sold here in the States and that I use it frequently.

I prefer the clear balm, because it doesn’t stain and it’s just as potent as the red. It does have a strong scent, though, so I’m not a huge fan of wearing it while out and about.

Last but not least, my longtime go-to for discreet and long lasting pain management are ThermaCare patches and heatwraps. Unfortunately, they stopped making the wrist ones, though I can sometimes find the CVS version. I live by the multi-purpose patches, which work perfectly for my hips.

I like these because the heat doesn’t stop if I have to get up or run out. Though I usually wear them to bed, they’re just as handy during my workday.


Did you find my tips useful? Please let me know! I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know in the comments if you have requests for future Chronically Creative posts.

#TeaserTuesday: Kissing Char

Kissing Char was like being enveloped in the clouds during sunset. Her lips were soft, commanding explosions of pastel orange and red behind Amarie’s eyes as they moved against hers. She melted into her, her hands finding Char’s hips, tugging her closer. She needed more, all of her, all at once.

Here’s another teaser for you from my work in progress, Any Other Love. I wrote this first kiss scene, believe it or not, after dreaming it. I hadn’t yet reached that part in my draft, but I created a separate doc and got it all down before it faded completely.

I’m over 21K into it now, so we’re way past the first kiss. I still don’t have a release date, but if you sign up for my email list you’ll be the first to know (and I’ll be sending an exclusive excerpt soon). Click here to join.

Side note: I’m having a lot of trouble finding stock photos of two women kissing, never mind a white woman with teal hair kissing a Latina with curly hair. If you can recommend any stock photo sites, please let me know in the comments!