Thursday, October 15, 2015

Blog Tour: Geli Voyante's Hot or Not by Elle Field

Geli Voyante's Hot or NotGeli Voyante's Hot or Not by Elle Field
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh my goodness! This book was so clever! Once I got past the fact that Geli was British (slang kept throwing me), but I really loved how quick-witted she was.

The story moved on at a really fast clip, mostly because Geli's stream-of-consciousness rambling actually made sense and made me laugh along with her shenanigans. I honestly thought her rivalry with Tiggy was ridiculous, at first, but at the same time, what girl can't relate to her sworn enemy from childhood?

This is the kind of story that makes for a quick, fun weekend read. I was reading and couldn't put it down. Every spare second, I found myself reaching for my kindle to continue on Geli's journey and take a closer look into Geli's world (I seriously wanted her flat/apartment. It just sounded amazing, and if I could live with my best friend, too, I would. There were so many parts of Geli's life that made me seriously jealous from her job to her clothes, and her relationships.

It was slightly predictable, but most Chick Lit is, and I am perfectly okay with that. Sometimes you don't want to read anything too deep, and after the book I'd read before this one, I was wanting something on the lighter side. I really enjoyed this book and want to read more by Elle Field!

View all my reviews

This book was provided for the tour for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Things I Learned Writing, Publishing, and Unpublishing My First Book

As I've mentioned here before, I've wanted to be a writer since I was nine. I saw the Winona Ryder version of Little Women, and a light clicked on. It was what I had to be, and I wrote pretty much every day during elementary, middle, and high school. I had big dreams of making my mark on the world with the written word. Writing in college was harder because I wasn't writing for me, anymore, but for an audience who didn't like what I presented. I have learned some things about writing and self-publishing.

Writing One book does not a millionaire make

I had big dreams of this first book making me an overnight success. Like, I would be able to quit my day job before Christmas. This was in 2012, and I'm still at the same day job. So I want you to know that writing one book without a plan of action as to marketing won't make you a success. 

That's not to say you shouldn't try. Once one book is written and published, you've got to get on your next book. If your audience reads your book, likes it, but there's nothing else there, they'll move on to another author. If you want writing to be your business, you have to write. Don't rest on your laurels. 

Writing is Hard

I used to think writing was something mindless that I did for fun. But as I grew up, and learned about writing and storytelling, I learned that you have to put a lot of things in your book besides a day in the life of your characters. You have to think motivation, theme, characterization, etc. I've met so many people who tell me they want to write a book, to which I encourage, but I also tell them it's harder than it seems. It seriously is. There's a reason writers need a lot of coffee: ideas are fleeting, and we need to get them out of our heads as quickly as possible, no matter how late we need to stay up. 

Editing is Hard

Writing is nothing compared to editing. When I first wrote Sugar and Spies, I thought the editing was just going through, looking for typos. Subsequent read-throughs have shown me just how wrong I was, which is what led me to pull it from Amazon. The story is disjointed, there are plot lines that I never tie up, it ends on a cliffhanger (kind of). 

Editing goes beyond looking for typos. Looking for typos is called Proofreading. Editing is looking for story flow, characterization, plot, inconsistencies, It's best to pay for a professional editor, someone who doesn't have an emotional connection to your work. Do your research. I wish I had. 

Formatting is effing hard

Formatting, oh formatting. The biggest headache in the world of publishing, IMHO. Around the time I published my book, my mom had published hers, and my dad did her formatting. He walked me through it, but it was the biggest headache in the world. It's time-consuming, and if you don't save your work consistently, your computer could be a giant jerkface and restart (ask me how I know). 

There are a lot of places that tell you how to format, but none of them are written particularly well. You can pay to have it done if you're doing self-publishing (Indie or Mainstream publishing houses do this for you). I've actually started writing my stories formatted. It's amazing the difference it makes. It just looks cleaner, it makes it easier to look at when I'm reading it on my phone. It makes a huge difference. I'd say, save yourself the trouble and format as you go.

Hitting publish is easy

Who knew, right? The hardest part of hitting publish once it's all uploaded to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, etc, is telling yourself you're ready (though I really should've silenced the voice in my own head, but I digress). If you've done everything right, from writing to editing, re-editing, proofreading, formatting, given it your all, it's time to send your child out into the world. But your job isn't done. Not by a long shot.

Marketing is HARD

You still need to guide your "child" after you've sent it into the world. I didn't do this. I half-assed it, found one blogger to read it, sent it to my friends, spammed my Facebook page, started having Kindle sales, but none of it really made people want to get my book. I've learned a lot about marketing in the last three years, as well as the differences between Self-publishing, Indie Publishing, Mainstream/Big 4 publishing, and I know that either self or indie is the direction I'd really like to do in the future (Self is when you publish it yourself, indie is when you find a small, independent publishing company to publish your books. There are lots, too!). But with the big publishing houses, I've heard that you have to do most of your marketing, yourself, so if you have to do that, anyway, I'd just go through a smaller company who can focus their efforts on you, specifically.

I also wish I'd arranged some kind of opening day. I was so anxious to push it into the world, that I basically did it in the dead of night, and casually mentioned it in my blog the next day. That's what you do when you're ashamed of something, not when you've got something to share that you're proud of. 

Building relationships gets easier

With marketing comes making friends with other writers. The only writers I knew prior to this whole journey were about three friends from college, my mother, my sister, and several people from college that I wasn't terribly fond of. Since joining Goodreads as an author, I've made tons of new author friends!

From there, I met author Samantha Stroh Bailey, who wrote the novel, Finding Lucas, and she introduced me to a Facebook group of authors. I somehow met author Ashley R. Carlson when I stumbled across her blog, and got super excited watching her process in creating her own first novel, The Charismatics. I think that's the beauty of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter: finding people you admire, and building connections and a network of other people with the same dream. 

Finding optimistic writers has been instrumental in changing my own mind, business model, and how I do everything. Plus, when you have something good to share, these people are really quick to celebrate with you. We're not in competition, which is amazing. You just have to take the first step of reaching out and being open to meeting people. It's hard for introverted me, but it's been a blessing. 

Unpublishing, and why I did it

After I realized that my book was far from the perfect piece of writing I'd hoped it would be I knew my readers and future readers deserved better. I've been on the end of picking up a book that hasn't been properly edited, proofread, formatted, and was rushed into production. It wasn't ready, and neither was I. Unpublishing has been freeing if you can believe that. Now I know that there are only about twelve eBooks and six paperbacks out there. Those are better odds of people reading poor work than if it had become a runaway best-seller, with terrible reviews due to negligence on my part. It was just for the best to take it back until it was truly ready. 

Luckily, I've got it to rewrite, plus its two sequels pretty much were written, all just in dire need of editing for content, clarity, and pacing. 

  • Do you have any writing tips that have helped you?
  • Any great Twitter Chats, or groups I should know about? 
  • Have you ever unpublished a novel? How did you feel about it?

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Twitter: The Other Social Media

For a lot of people, Twitter is a way of life. For me, it was more, What the heck is this? I honestly didn't get the point of Twitter, I didn't really want to get it. 140 characters isn't enough for what I wanted to say (I feel like I'm more long-winded than I should be, especially when writing).

Where It All Began

Back in 2012, I went out to Denver to visit Lauren. We spent the weekend hanging out, enjoying each other's company, and doing what we do best: dreaming. I'd recently published Sugar and Spies, and was at a loss as to find readers, find an audience, and truthfully, why would anyone listen to what I had to say? I mean, really?

Well, that weekend in Denver, I finally signed up for Twitter. I had NO IDEA what to do, what I would post, how I could find followers. I think the first couple people I followed were probably from the cast of Chuck (Zachary Levi, Adam Baldwin), as well as people I know in real life (Lauren, Lindsay), and I left it at that.

Growing My Following

It wasn't until a couple years later when my followers really started to grow. I'd read this book called How I Made Over $42,000 in 1 Month Selling My Kindle eBooks by Cheryl Kaye Tardif, who directed me toward a website to find other authors to promote my books. I joined the Twitter group, and my following has steadily grown from there. 

I also started following the blog, Oddly Lovely, and she has some AMAZING Twitter use tips, which I implemented, including separating the people I follow into groups, which makes it less daunting to erad what people are sharing (I just want to read about politics? There's a group for that. What about actors? Got a group for that, too). Score. 

Getting The Hang Of It

It's really been in the last year that my following has really boomed, which has really surprised me. Part of it is because I've started utilizing Twitter Chats. I got the idea by following the blog, The Nectar Collective, and watching one of her chats, #NectarChat (Wednesdays at 8 PM Central). She asks a question, and you answer, and you can also answer other followers questions. I haven't participated, but I have enjoyed watching, and finding out blogging Twitter Chats. 

But that's not the best part about Twitter Chats. There are Twitter Chats for EVERYTHING. I've really participated in TV Show Twitter Chats. These are really fun, especially on Reality TV, like Project Runway and Ink Master. And you want to know the best part about Twitter Chats with TV shows? When famous people Like and Retweet you. 

I don't really have a lot of tips on how to build your following, aside from talking to people, joining Twitter Chats, and just being on it, but I think during those days when I'm watching my shows live, I get the most Twitter Action, because it's this great community where you're all following something (Though, it's SOOOOOOOO weird for me to join in a Twitter Chat for Ink Master, since I'm rooting for Chris Blinston, who is from Omaha, and people who aren't rooting for him see him as the villain. I see Matt and Kruseman as the smug villains of the show. It's like, are we really watching the same show?

  • What tips do you have for using Twitter?
  • Don't miss the live season finale of Ink Master tonight at 9PM Central on Spike TV! 
  • If you're on Twitter, follow me @martinbeks

Friday, October 9, 2015

Blog Tour: Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill

Center of GravityCenter of Gravity by Laura McNeill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an intense read. It took me awhile to get into it, mostly because I had no idea exactly what was going on. The story is told from several different viewpoints, which can be a good thing or a bad thing.
I honestly thought that Jack spoke a little too eloquently for an eight-year-old, but he was a good character, who definitely had a lot to say.
I think stories of sociopaths, ruining the lives of those around them are something that a lot of people can probably relate to. You're just going about your day when you suddenly walk into the line of fire. Hearing the story from Ava's POV was familiar, and you could definitely relate to her (at least I could). Every encounter she had with Mitchell was like walking on glass shards. You knew it wasn't a good idea to do it, and you felt every single cut. I was surprised that she didn't just sit in her house, not making any noise because God knows, he would've heard it, and had her arrested. I honestly thought it took a little long for Ava to get a backbone, but once she did, Look out!
Once I got into the story and the groove of the different POVs, I really got invested, but the formatting of my eBook made it really hard to focus sometimes. People would be talking, and then on the same line, someone else would start talking, it got really distracting. That said, I really did like this book. Mitchell was a scary antagonist, and while there were parts that seemed like Jack's character was a little inconsistent (He's eight, but later on, Ava tells her Father-in-Law that Jack is taller than her? How short is she?), but I liked it.

View all my reviews

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Blog Tour: "How Do You Know?" by Meredith Schorr

How Do You Know?  (Seeking Happily Ever After, #1)How Do You Know? by Meredith Schorr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meredith Schorr has a way of writing my emotions into books. I don't know how this is. We've never met in person, and until "Blogger Girl," I never knew she existed.
I don't mean this in a bad way, at all. Just gonna say that right now. In this book, Maggie is about to turn 40. She spends her entire year grousing about turning 40, and if she's ready, what her life should be at that age, based on what everyone around her is doing (Comparison really is the thief of joy). I know exactly how she feels. I just turned 30 two weeks ago, and all my friends are starting to settle down.
I did have a hard time getting into this book. Probably because it kept hitting the notes of how I feel, which is WEIRD. Blogger Girl did the same thing.
I think I'd probably be friends with Maggie. She swears more than I like (I'm such a lady with language, it's not even funny), but she's very sincere, cares for her friends and family, and most of all, doesn't want to be the reason someone's future gets ruined. We've all been there.
I really love that Meredith writes such relatable characters. One of the hardest parts of characterization is writing a person who isn't perfect. I have the problem of writing the person I wish to be into my characters. When that happens, you end up with a Mary Sue. Or worse. Bella Swan. That doesn't happen with Maggie Piper. She's funny, she's nice, she makes mistakes, she says the wrong thing, she can't lie to her family (again, I relate). She's a real person, which is exactly why you wanted to root for her, why you wanted to see her get her happily ever after, by any means necessary.

View all my reviews

This book was received and reviews as part of the Chick Lit Blog Tour. The book was free, but the opinions are my own. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Now that I'm 30...

So, I've been 30 for a week and a half now. Not much has changed. I'm still writing, I'm still broke, I'm still counting down the days until my vacation cruise (22 days!), and I'm still working full time, four days a week. 

But, I do think that I need to focus on a lot of things, and maybe by writing mine out, I can help you guys.
Photo by ellehem (c)Unsplash

Now that I'm 30, I'll try to stop obsessing over numbers. 

I've lived three decades. My 20's are gone. Finito. Just obliterated. 

There is this scene in the cinematic masterpiece, The Decoy Bride, where our heroine, Katie, almost drowns. When she's rescued, she says, "My entire life flashed before my eyes. Halfway through I was just bored!"

Sadly, this is where I am right now. Aside from graduating college, and that year when I thought my book was hot stuff (despite what sales told me), I honestly don't have anything that I want to recall that isn't vacation-related (22 days!). And that is so depressing to me. Which brings my to my next point.

Now that I'm 30, I'll push myself to get outside my comfort zone.

I used to be a social butterfly. In college, I was always out with friends, doing stuff, running up and down Broadway, painting Columbia Red. The year that followed graduation, I was torn down so badly that I'm still trying to recover, six years later. There was a year or two after when I was still going out, making friends, but no bosom friends. All my great friends are from college. I'm still trying to make friends as an adult. Hell, I haven't even had a legit date since about 2008. Talk about depressing.

"I've gone man vegan. They say after seven years, you don't notice."
But, I've signed up for to meet people in the area with similar interests. If I meet a man from this group, color me stunned. I won't be holding my breath. 

I did decide to sign up for a dating service after I return from vacation (22 days!). Probably Christian Mingle. My friends, John and Dinah met there, and CM seems less intimidating (and costly) than eHarmony.

I can't begin to stress how much I DON'T want to date online. But I'm going to do it. Because I'm 30.

Now that I'm 30, I'm going to learn some new skills

Have you ever heard of Codecademy before? It's a free service that teaches you different computer languages and programs to broaden your hireability. How about Skillcrush? They're another company that teaches you to code, but with an emphasis on their Career Blueprints, which can lead you into a new line of work that is extremely rewarding. I just finished their 10 day boot camp, and it was very interesting, and was explained very well. My plan is to save up the money for their Web Developer Career Blueprint, a 3-month class that is offered annually, and hopefully start to build up a side business to really make something of myself. And pay off my student loans. Aren't your 30's when you finally come into money?

Maybe one day I can be this smarmy.

Now that I'm 30, I'm going to go back to keeping a journal.

I used to write all the freaking time. In notebooks, in journals, if I had a pen, I would write on a piece of scrap paper, just to get my thoughts out of my head. I have a lot of thoughts and a lot of feelings, and that's how I would get them out and try to solve them.

Last week, the day before my birthday, I bought a journal at Walgreens that is green with dandelions etched on the leather cover, and it's got a ribbon bookmark and a magnetic closure on the front. It also says the word "Believe." I bought it because I wanted to start a prayer journal. I'm terrible at remembering to pray, which is ridiculous, because as I Christian, I should want nothing more than to cry out to my Creator for a good conversation. But how do you talk to the One who made the heavens and the earth? The one who designed the person you're meant to be to find oiut what you need to be? 

That's why I got the journal. I've paired it with a couple Bible Studies from YouVersion, a free Bible Study app which has TONS of studies from big name people like Joyce Meyer, Kari Jobe, and Billy Graham. I'm currently working through three, one on prayer, one on starting your day with Jesus, and also a read through the Bible in a year plan. What have I learned? 

So far? That I'll never be perfect, but that God doesn't care, so long as I have a repentant heart, and a desire to live my life on His terms. And they're not bad terms. At all. 

The journal is also to remember to pray for certain people, because I never remember to pray for people, which is a horrible thing for me to not do, as a Christian. 

But mostly, now that I'm 30, I'm going to get a freaking life.

By now, you've probably figured out that I'm a hardcore introvert who'd rather stay in and watch TV than go out around the people. If I wasn't, then the resolution to get out more wouldn't be on here. I haven't decided if I want to get married and have children or not. I'm so disenchanted with the world that the idea of me finding someone to share my life with is kind of crazy. It's remembered in my prayer journal, but we'll see what happens. 

The point of getting a life isn't to find a boyfriend or husband, it's be be fulfilled, and to be able to give my best to people. I want to live a joyous, active, adventurous life that isn't walled in by worldly convention. I want to la-la-la-la-live out loud, to coin a phrase by Steven Curtis Chapman. 

  • Please tell me I'm not the only one with decade resolutions.
  • Tell me yours. You know you want to.
  • What's your favorite adventure?
  • Have I mentioned I'm going on vacation in 22 days?!