Follow your Bliss got a Makeover!

Ooh la la! The Follow your Bliss series got a cover makeover! 

To celebrate, the three full length novels in the series 
are FREE May 28-30 for Kindle!

The books in the Follow your Bliss series can be read in succession or on their own. Each full-length has a companion novella (see below). They're linked, but standalone. Reading them in order, however, does create a richer experience. Read more here.

Have a look at them all and tell me what you think.

If you've already read the titles above, you can also check out Through the Jungle, the prequel & sequel to Follow your Bliss. 
And it's FREE when you sign up for my email newsletter. 

Happy Memorial Day to my friends in the US and to everyone, have a great weekend! I hope you find some time to read—that's what I'm hoping to do, well, and surf!


The Hybrid Author // Traditional & Self-Publishing

I recently wrote at length about traditional and independent publishing over at Forever YA for their Inkcouragement Series

Here are some more thoughts...

I've found that the life of a writer who then becomes a published author, whether indie or traditional, is multi-layered and reflects itself. Let me explain. There's the writing of the first draft itself, the page on which everything to come is born. This can take anywhere from months to years. Then, of course, there's revisions and editing. In my experience, I'll think I have a manuscript ready to send out into the world, but there's always a little a lot of tweaking to do, and I go back for another read-through or two, sometimes three. Then there's the preparation for publication: cover making, layout, marketing prep, and publicity. As with writing itself, these stages require patience and their own kind of review. I'm both a independently or self-published author and a traditionally published author. Let's talk about being HYBRID!

The Spark.

I officially dedicated myself to writing back in 2007-ish. Nearly five years later, I started querying my first manuscript, The Spark, which has since been shelved. (You may notice many of my social media accounts use the title as an homage to the book that got me started on this fantastic adventure). Sparks of ideas come to me, from where, I don't know, but you better believe, I'm sure to say a hearty thank you each time. 

I'm a fast drafter and a slow reviser and editor. I get a manuscript down and then let it sit for weeks or months before doing several rounds of digging in, working on character development, strengthening conflicts and tension, refining scenes, and upping the stakes. Basically I spend weeks writing and then years working on refinement.

The Querying.

When I thought The Spark was ready, I queried and queried and queried. Chirp chirp chirp

I wrote and queried other books. I queried when I wasn't ready. I queried manuscripts that still needed work. I queried the wrong agents. 

I was also bold. I took those nos and turned them into lessons and went back and did the work I was called to do to make the novels shine a bit brighter. I honed my query letters to reflect my personality, my writing style and voice. Alas, there was cursory interest from several agents, but no offer for representation. 

The Self-Publishing.

After a bit of disappointment, some soul-searching, and exploration of my goals and intentions, I opted to go the indie route in 2013. Internet research, inquiries to self-pubbed authors, and more than a few mistakes, I decided to do it all: the book cover, the editing, the formatting and layout, the distribution options, marketing, promotion, I really mean it, ALL THE THINGS. But that also meant I had complete creative control. However, it's a lot of work, especially as I completed the six book Follow your Bliss series and a digital box set, including a novelette that serves as a prequel and a sequel. Self-pubbing requires the author to wear multiple hats, multi-task, and maneuver the shadowy land of criticism

The Call.

A year and a half after I published To the Sea, my debut indie new adult novel, (followed by the companion novella Surfaced, and the second full-length in the series In the Desert came out), the editor at Skyscape Publishing reached out to me expressing interest in my young adult novel SUGAR. It was a delightful surprise and shortly after I signed the contract. 
Was there confetti? Yes. 
Was there lots of happy-squees? Absolutely. 
Was there some uncertainty and tummy bubbles? Yep. 

But after all those years of querying and hoping to have the novel that meant so much to me reach a broad audience, I was ready to take the leap. 

The Traditional.

While Skyscape isn't part of the "Big 5", it's my understanding that they operate in much the same way, meaning the manuscript received a round of "big picture" revisions and several line and copy editing passes to get the ms "Deirdre perfect". Compared to doing it all myself as an indie, working with a team with a shared vision pushed me to grow as a writer, they helped shape and hone the story into having more clarity and depth. They also handled the cover (with my input). While I enjoyed making the covers on my indie books, the skills of the professionals added a certain kind of polish that I couldn't accomplish on my own.

The Promo.

As an indie, I've had to come out of my introvert-ish shell. It falls on me to put my books and myself into the lit world, connect with readers, and collaborate with fellow authors. Much of what I did for To the Sea was a learning process, casting the net wide and trying new things, learning what worked and what didn't as I went. For my trad-books, I was generously given a marketing team and two publicists who pulled back the curtain, offering review opportunities, interviews, and guest posts that I wouldn't have been able to access on my own.

The Hybrid.

In the time since, I've completed over twenty manuscripts. Some will never see the light of day, a handful I hope to go back to at some point to infuse them with new life, and still others I'm hoping to publish sooner rather than later. 

The indie process gave me valuable insight into the work required to get a book to print and made me appreciate all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to create the books I love to read. 

On the other side, I've gone on to see SUGAR reach readers in a powerful and meaningful way and value the solid team work required to make that happen. In the last year, my sophomore novel, PEARL was bought by Skyscape, went through editing, cover creation, and promotion. 

*It's worth noting, that many aspects of self-publishing can be delegated to the pros: cover creation, editing (this is a good idea!), promo, etc. However, it all comes at a cost so if you're just getting started, you may not have the capital to invest. On the flip side, you can look at those costs as an investment in your career. 

The Verdict.

There are aspects of being an indie author that I like: creating my own publishing schedule, having direct influence over all aspects of the process, and receiving the support of the author and reader community is phenomenal. 

As for being a traditionally published author, working with the editing and marketing crews, and publicists have done things for my writing and extended my reach beyond what I could ever have done alone. 

While I know that my choices as a hybrid author aren't the only path to take or ways to make a book happen, I count myself lucky to have both experiences and hope to continue to both self and traditionally publish.

For more some of my author reflections.

If you have any other questions that I didn't answer, please ask them in the comments below.


On Writing and Anxiety

I've been keeping a secret, sorta. I mean, you never asked so I've never told, but I'm ready to come clean. There's a piece to my writing life that I've left out of my story of how I got started writing and my path to publication and why I write

Ready? Here it is.

*Deep breath.*

My name is Deirdre, and I have anxiety. 

I'm sharing this because May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and there's no reason for me to keep it quiet when I know other people may have a similar experience; together, we're stronger, right?

The reason I haven't shared this is because telling people gives me anxiety. In fact, that's a good starting place to discuss the subject because anxiety begets itself; it creates a loop. I live with anxiety, but talking about it, sharing it with others creates a new layer of anxiety and so it goes round and round.

The questions can start like this:

Will people think I'm crazy?

Will they read into what I've said?

Wait, what did I say?

Was it weird?

Will they make fun of me?

Think I'm unstable?

Am I unstable?

And so on and so on ad nauseum.

Anxiety comes in many forms, and I'm discussing generalized anxiety disorder as defined by the National Institute for Mental Health:

I'm by no means a professional, expert, or doctor, even though I occasionally pretend to be one in fiction. I also want to be clear that I'm talking about my experience and it's by no means prescriptive or blanket or even absolute. What I really want to talk about is how writing and storytelling has helped me manage my symptoms and how it's helped me heal.

Here's the thing: anxious thoughts are stories we tell ourselves.

In other words, the worries we have are stories, in our brains, the same as that idea for my next manuscript. Unless the fear is currently happening in the present, in which case it isn't really a fear, but reality and demands an entirely different scenario for how to handle it, anxiety and worry thoughts aren't real. With the aid of our brilliant imaginations, we make them up. 

This is a bit of a simplification because anxiety can often arise from situations we previously found ourselves in (however, that verges more toward PTSD, another topic entirely). 

Standard worries tend to be sticky and we may have the same ones repeatedly or fear the recurrence of a past experience. When seen in the light of day it may not be overly anxiety-inducing, but when pulled into the glue of anxiety, we fear, we're certain that it'll happen all over again. Our brains can be tricksy like that. But that's not the present, it's expectation and what ifs and a trick of the mind. 

'Cos if it ain't happenin', it ain't happenin'.

This is to say that being mindful of our present situation can work wonders. Tuning into the texture of the couch, the tickle of my hair against my cheek, the birds chirping outside, the relative stability surrounding me and dropping into it (and away from the scenarios playing on repeat in my mind) is one way to help manage the worry. But it's a practice and usually it takes me a few tries to really get it when I'm in an anxiety lather. However, being present to what's going on around me has helped me tremendously. And therapy and a host of other things...

And so has writing. Creating fictional worlds where characters play out situations has given me the opportunity to jump the groove of well-worn worries and fear based thinking.

Here's how I do this:

1. Acknowledge the worry I'm having is just my mind tricking me out of the present. (What a jerk! Just kidding, my amygdala and hippocampus don't always play nice, but we're working it out, learning how to share—it's todldler business.)

2. Root myself in the present. This might simply be a matter of looking at my surroundings both outwardly and inwardly. 

Feet on the floor: Plush carpet? Smooth tile? Cork? Trampoline? 

Then taking a deep breath, and connecting with a person in my proximity. All these things centralize myself to where I am.

3. Take a deep breath. And another and another. I'm a shallow-breather-breath-holder. Often this is the source of the problem because the message I'm sending my nervous system is danger, danger, when really it's girl, breathe!

4.  As a writer, I often have project ideas floating around in my head, so I latch onto one and ask, what would so and so do right now or if taking them into my world doesn't fit, I work them through a scene in theirs. Then this takes me onto the page, and I'll think of lines of dialog or the color of a dress I was stuck on.

See, it's all about managing my imagination. The thing is, I don't always get to choose my initial thoughts, but once I'm aware of them, I can direct them. 

I used to see anxiety as a huge burden, as something wrong with me (like I was saying above about how anxiety begets itself, having anxiety about anxiety! Whoa.) But now I try to look at it as an opportunity. 

What can I learn about myself in this situation right now? 

What do I need? 

What am I lacking? 

How can I use this perceived shortcoming as fuel? 

I can take care of myself. I can write. I can be open about it and connect with others.

Another thing I learned is that oftentimes anxiety triggers are a matter of stepping on the edge of comfort zones. So often with those of us who are especially creative and imaginative stepping into the space of putting ourselves out there, sharing the things we have to give, (for example our stories,) is scary times. It's as though our minds want to protect us from fear of failure, embarrassment, typos! by wrapping us up in another narrative about how we're not safe, adding another layer about how people won't like us, and another sheet about something else entirely and then taping it up tight with a little card on top that says what we're doing is pointless, stupid, redundant, etc. It hides the truth of what we're really here to put forth.

So here are some new questions I ask myself:

What is the craziest, most unique idea I can come up with that works in fiction?

How can I paint sentences that give readers a clear and beautiful and compelling picture of the story?

What can I draw from in real life to give the story texture and density?

Am I weird? I still sometimes ask myself that one, but I'm ok with either answer. I'm totally weird. It's kinda cool actually.

Will they make fun of me? Well, they might. There might be terrible reviews, people who misunderstand my intent, some who just don't connect with the story, and others who just aren't on the level, y'know? My work isn't for them and that's ok too.

The last one, am I unstable? No. I am a person with anxiety who does better some days than others managing it. And I'm not alone. There are many writers, creatives, and artists who deal with the same thing, which means if you're reading this and you have anxiety, whether or not you write or draw or whatever, you are not alone. That's the shitty thing about anxiety, it tends to alienate us, when in reality, it can truly bring us together because we're not so different.

The thing I know through all of this, days spent trapped in a loop of worry, nights lying awake with the same thoughts on repeat, is not to be afraid of my mind or the world. Because our biggest gifts are just beneath bows and wrapping that worries work to hide.

For those of us with anxiety, one of the surest ways I know to access those gifts is to stay present. (See what I did there? Gifts-presence, huh? Huh?) And instead of allowing the stories we imagine to interfere with our lives and well being, use it to create words on paper.

If you're experiencing anxiety please, please get help, don't keep it a secret, reach out—as difficult as it can be. Here's a starting point

Here are some references for writing and anxiety specifically. 

And here's another stellar post on writing like a motherf*cker. This is a MUST read for writers. 

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