Sayonara, RT Booklovers Convention 2016!

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Wow, what a ride. For my very first writers’ convention ever, I really hit the jackpot (no gambling pun intended)!

For those of you who do not know, I attended this year’s RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada—six fun-filled days where I had the opportunity to mix business with pleasure! There were over 200 workshops readers and writers could attend featuring a wide range of topics, from YA Spooky Slumber Party to Charmed by the Cowboy (and everything in between). Feel like discussing New Adult trends with the very writers you read? There was an event for that! Are you an aspiring author ready to pitch your book to several eager agents and publishers? There was an event for that, too!

You could literally hob-nob with your favorite authors at one panel then go straight to another where you’d receive a gift bag full of goodies, including books—yes, FREE BOOKS! It doesn’t get any better than that (just make sure you have plenty of room in your suitcase to take them all home)! It truly was an amazing experience. And on the final day of the convention, more than 625 authors gathered at the Giant Book Fair to sign their books, including Brenda Drake, Jennifer Armentrout, Shayla Black, Sylvia Day, Kiera Cass, Eloisa James, Tessa Dare, Anna Todd … and the list goes on and on. Talk about a fan-girl experience! As an avid reader, this convention was a dream come true. And as an author, I found it to be very inspirational.

Participants could either register for the full six day event, which included several after-hour parties, or purchase individual day passes. Basically, it was a giant party where you could mix and mingle with readers, authors, bloggers, editors, agents and publishers. In fact, there was so much to do you had to pick and choose! It was impossible to fit everything in.

My advice to anyone hoping to attend a future event—besides wear comfortable shoes—is to go over the schedule very carefully and decide which workshops are most important to you. Every hour, new events and panels begin and often times there are several interesting topics taking place at once. You’ll need to know in advance which ones to hit so you do not miss out on something you really want to do. And don’t forget to leave room to eat or before you know it you’ll have missed meals!

After it was all said and done, I left Las Vegas feeling exhausted yet motivated. I met new friends and found something I would love to participate in every year—and plan to! Next year the convention will take place May 2nd—May 7th in Atlanta, Georgia. Who knows … maybe I’ll even be signing my very own book at that one. Eek!

So mark your calendars now! I promise—you won’t regret it.

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Authors Lindsey Summers, Ali Novak, Sarah Benson and me … living it up at RT Booklovers Convention 2016!

Countdown to the RT Booklovers Convention

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So, I’m counting down the mere hours until I head to my very first writers’ conference. And while I should be feeling like this:

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I’m feeling more like this:

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Don’t get me wrong. I am super—and I mean super—excited to have the opportunity to attend. Seriously, this is a dream come true. There are going to be so many talented authors there, authors whose books I’ve obsessed, and in some cases, down-right drooled over.

And then there will be me.

Gulp.

I will be flying into Las Vegas and stepping foot inside my very first convention one year to the day that I found out my story Strawberry Wine would be published. One year to the day. Woah. Talk about a crazy coincidence. And when I think about how much my life has changed over the past twelve months, I’m left speechless.

I’ve been told I’ll have a blast, and I am quite certain I will … especially since I’ll be meeting some writing friends (who I have only corresponded with online) for the very first time face to face. That alone is surreal.

But what have I gotten myself into? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared out of my mind.

I have no idea what to expect. None. But I do have my business cards. Can you believe it? Me … with business cards? I never would have guessed I would need business cards. I also have an itinerary: meet as many people as I can. I’m in the mindset to make connections. Networking equals knowledge, and I am prepared to soak it all in.

One thing I do know is that if it weren’t for Wattpad and Kensington Publishing I wouldn’t be facing this new experience at all. The amount of gratitude I feel toward them, my family for supporting me, my friends for their consistent encouragement and the lovely people who call themselves my “readers” takes my breath away.

So, to those of you I have mentioned … thank you. This is a gift not many people are given but for some crazy, wonderful reason I have received.

I promise to make the most of it.

Welcome to Camp NaNoWriMo!

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April is right around the corner and you know what that means: it’s Camp NaNoWriMo time!

What is Camp NaNoWriMo?

Well if you’re familiar with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where you commit to writing 50,000 words during the month of November, you’ll find that Camp NaNoWriMo is somewhat similar, only a little more laid back. At camp, YOU get to set your own writing goal! Whether you want to write a novel, edit a first draft, tackle a script or maybe some short stories, Camp NaNoWriMo will be there to encourage and support you along the way.

How does it work?

During the month of April (and then again in July), you will challenge yourself to write every single day. That’s the first step to establishing a habit that will last throughout the entire year (and with any luck result in a completed manuscript).

Camp NaNoWriMo offers several online writing groups, which they cleverly call cabins (to give you that whole camping vibe). You’ll meet other “campers” by being sorted into a cabin based on your age, genre, or writing goals.

Already have a group of writers you’d like to bunk with?  You can create a private cabin for you and your friends to share! How cool is that?

According to the Camp NaNoWriMo website:

To join a public cabin, you must first make sure you’ve:

  1. Created a writing project for the current session of Camp
  2. Filled out your profile.
  3. Set your preferences on the Cabin Settings page:

If you want to be sorted into a cabin randomly, select the “Surprise me with random cabin mates!” option and click “Submit.”

If you’d prefer being in a cabin with writers that share similar interests, select “I’m looking for campers that match specific criteria.” Then, you’ll be able request cabin mates within your age group, writing in your genre, and/or with similar word-count goals in mind. Once you’ve selected all the preferences you’d like, click “Submit.”

Cabin assignments will begin shortly before the start of the event and will continue throughout the month on a rolling basis.

Joining a private cabin is a little different:

  1. If you’re acting as the cabin administrator, go to the Cabin Settings page and select “I want to create a private cabin.”
  2. Once in your cabin, you can invite your friends by typing their usernames into the invitation field. You can invite up to 11 Campers. A Camper must have created a profile, a novel, and deselected “I don’t want cabin invitations this session” to be eligible.
  3.  First, make sure you have defined a project for the upcoming event.
  4. On your Cabin Settings page, make sure you have: 
    • Selected “I don’t want to be included in a cabin” so you are not sorted into a random cabin. 
    • Deselected the “I don’t want cabin invitations this session” option.
  • When you’re invited to a private cabin, the invitation will pop up the next time you log in to the website or refresh the Camp NaNoWriMo page. “Join Now” will take you to your new cabin home and “No Thanks” will delete the invitation.

You’ll find all sorts of inspiration and conversation on the Camp NaNoWriMo website and there’s even a camp store where they sell a variety of merchandise, from t-shirts and hoodies to pencils and books.

Not enough? Visit Camp NaNoWriMo on Facebook and Twitter and start networking!

One of the great things about the NaNoWriMo community is that you’re never alone. Whether you’ve been writing for years or just getting started, you’ll have the opportunity to meet other authors and forge friendships with people who share the same interests as you.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, grab your bug spray and head on over to camp!

Snow Day! Translation: Mom Will Get Nothing Done.

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I had big plans for today, BIG plans, but they all flew out the window and into the wintry mix the second we received the dreaded phone call: “School will be closed today due to inclement weather.”

Yippee, right? I get to sleep in, right? WRONG. The children, let’s call them Son and Daughter, have already made their agendas and they do not involve Mom working.

Daughter believes Snow Day is a victory of sorts that should be celebrated by spending copious amounts of money, while Son believes Snow Day is a ticket to play video games and make as much noise as he can. Throw in two poodles who want to go outside the second you let them in and it just makes for one big, noisy, snow-sodden mess.

And trying to find something to do that will make everyone happy is next to impossible. Son and Daughter cannot agree on what to have for lunch much less what movie to watch on TV and the harder I try to fit in some writing the more distant the goal becomes.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to spend the time the kids are normally at school getting my work done. Evenings and weekends, when everyone is meant to be home, are family time so it’s difficult losing those precious hours during the week when I know there’s a deadline looming overhead.

Being a writer is hard. Being a mom is way harder. Everyone’s dependent on you for everything and often times the things you want, or even need to do, are pushed aside.

So what happened? I gave up the idea of writing. Instead, we all settled in for a The Amazing World of Gumball marathon and called it a day. I may not have written a single word, but the kids were content and maybe we made a memory that will bring a smile to their face when they look back on it. I mean, how often do we have a snow day? Family comes first. In the end, they’re all that matters.

15 Inspirational Quotes to Start Your New Year Out Right

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Another year has come and gone and if you’re anything like me you’re thinking of different ways to make the next 365 days count (technically 366 days—thank you leap year!). Whether you are setting health goals, personal goals or professional goals, the key to a successful new year comes from within. Here are some inspirational quotes to help give you the strength and courage to start 2016 out right:

 

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”— George Addair

“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”— Helen Keller

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”— Walt Disney

“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: to rise above the little things.”— John Burroughs

“The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”— Aesop

“Think big and don’t listen to people who tell you it can’t be done. Life’s too short to think small.”— Tim Ferriss

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”— T.S. Elliott

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”— Thomas A. Edison

“Nothing is worth more than this day. You cannot relive yesterday. Tomorrow is still beyond our reach.”— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”Epictetus

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”— Mark Twain

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”— Albert Schweitzer

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.”— Maya Angelou

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me.”— Erma Bombeck

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”— Ronald Reagan         

                                                                                 

 

It’s That Time Again. NaNoWriMo!

The month of November means falling leaves, football, big cozy sweatshirts, pumpkin-spiced lattes and most important . . . NaNoWriMo!

What is NaNoWriMo you might be wondering? It stands for National Novel Writing Month and it begins every November 1st. The whole idea is to write a 50,000-word manuscript by 11:59 PM on November 30. Sound impossible? Difficult, yes, but definitely not impossible. Broken down, it’s roughly 1667 words a day, 7 days a week for 30 days.

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Last year was the first time I had ever heard of NaNoWriMo and I wanted to give it a try. In the end, I failed miserably, but I did take something away from the experience.

Throughout the month, NaNoWriMo sent several messages. Tips for staying on track, finding motivation, what to do when you hit the brick wall of self-doubt. Basically, they equip you with what you need to know to finish the challenge successfully. So, I took everything I learned and applied it to Wattpad’s first #JustWriteIt Challenge, which mimicked NaNoWriMo. I wrote 50,000 words during the month of February and I did so with help from the pep talks I received during the month of November. Wattpad was also kind enough to send words of encouragement throughout their challenge, just like NaNoWriMo. When it was all said and done, I ended up with an 85,000-word gritty, new adult manuscript called Fast Lane which is currently being featured on Wattpad in all of it’s first draft glory!

Think you want to give it a try? Here are some simple tips that helped me along:

1.) Start preparing long before November 1st. Plot your draft, even if you’ve never plotted before. It will come in handy when you sit down to write. Life happens, and if you miss a day you’re going to find yourself behind (or as I like to say, totally screwed). Knowing where your story needs to go will help push you along the way. It might even deter writer’s blocks—if you believe in that sort of thing. You can research the many different ways writers plot, or you can do what feels most comfortable to you. Just make sure you make that outlines—you’ll be happy you did, in my humble opinion.

2.) Check out the NaNoWriMo forums. They contain a wealth of information. I’ve also stumbled across some helpful threads on sites like Wattpad. It might seem a bit overwhelming with all that information being thrown at you, but take what you can from it and apply it to what you need to do.

3.) Do not, let me repeat that, DO NOT compare yourself to others. It will kill your creativity. Just do what you do and stop worrying about the next guy. It will get you no where fast.

4.) DO encourage others. NaNoWriMo can be a very stressful time. Help relieve some of that anxiety by being supportive and encouraging. What comes around goes around, you know what I’m sayin’? And wouldn’t you like to receive some love?

5.) Write. Every single day. Write, write, write. Make an appointment with yourself and do not miss it. Once you fall behind it might be difficult to catch up.

6.) Have fun! This is a personal challenge, not a televised race. And it’s all based on the honor system. You are under no obligation to show your work to anyone, although you can enter in your daily word count on the website to help you keep track. And don’t forget you’re free to write about whatever you want: any subject, any characters, any languages—the sky’s the limit!

Now go sign up and get started, and best of luck. I hope to see you at the finish line!

The Wattpad Block Party is Winding Down!

The summer edition of the Wattpad Block Party is starting to wind down—have you mingled with your favorite authors yet?

I was invited to participate in this epic event created by USA TODAY Best Selling Author Kelly Anne Blount. My post was featured earlier this month, but it’s not too late to check it out! Just click here to read my Strawberry Wine Bonus Chapter! Plus I’m giving away a strawberry charm necklace to one lucky reader in honor of my debut novel Strawberry Wine! Click the link to enter (it’s totally free) Free Giveaway! Deadline to participate is July 31, 2015, winners will be selected shortly thereafter. Enter now before it’s too late!download