2017 Goals and Word of Year: Write

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Happy 2017!

I was originally planning for my Word of the Year to be “savor.” I wanted to have a year to sit back and relax, to enjoy the fruits of the whirlwind that was 2016.

However, all that changed on Christmas Day, when I found out my cousin passed away unexpectedly the night before. She was only six months younger than me and she and I were the best of friends when we were little, so it hit me very, very hard. She’s the first relative that has died that I was really close to (no offense to the others) and the first person near my age. It really made me realize how fleeting life is and how we aren’t promised the 80+ years we tend to take for granted, so I changed my focus.

I have this horrible fear that I will die or something will happen to my brain (like a stroke or something) before I can get all the stories in my head written. That’s why I’m going to push myself this year to write my little heart out, which you will see reflected in my goals below. It’s also why I chose the word “write” as my Word of the Year.

2017 Goals

  1. Write and publish at least two books. This includes Mistress of Legend and a non-fiction book about Guinevere that I’m currently working on. The latter won’t be long, but it will be a synthesis of all my research. I’m really more putting it out for fun than as a money-maker. I will also release an ebook bundle of the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy once Mistress of Legend is out.
  2. Write Isolde and Morgan’s stories for 2018 publication. I’ve been wanting to do this for years now and it just feels right to make this a year of Arthurian legend. Doing so will keep me in the mindset and help the books have more continuity and consistency. Also, once those books are done, I can move on to other time periods and subjects without guilt that this one isn’t finished.
  3. Continue to attend conferences and speak. I am finding that I love to speak and teach, so I want to do this as much as possible. I have seven events between March and July, so this is shaping up to a good start. Some of my events are for readers, while others are for writers.
  4. Turn some of my blog posts/presentations into online classes. For those who can’t come hear me speak or who want to learn more, I’d love to start offering classes. This may be a stretch goal for 2017, but it’s been on my mind a lot, so I want to list it.
  5. Continue to learn about marketing and indie publishing. This is an ongoing goal because things keep changing and I’m of the opinion that you should never stop learning.
  6. Break even on expenses incurred in 2016 and 2017 by the end of the year. Running any business, including indie publishing, comes with it’s fair share of costs. I’m publishing less and plan to do less marketing this year to help accomplish this. And of course, hopefully I will see increased income from my books!
  7. Lose 30 lbs by my 20-year high school reunion in September, which means exercising regularly and eating right. All this “butt in chair” time writing and editing and such has led to a huge weight gain for me. But more important than the number on the scale are my health and self-confidence, both of which will improve as I lose weight.
  8. Reignite my social life. I’ve really let this slide over the last few years in favor of my writing career, but now that that is established, it’s time for me to find some balance. Luckily, I have some new friends (Mia and Greg, I’m looking at you), so hopefully I will have people to do things with. I already have tickets to finally see Rent live, so that is a step in the right direction! (Those of you who have read Been Searching for You know that Rent is my favorite musical. Can you believe I’ve never seen it on stage?) Bring on the concerts, musicals and plays, ballet, and anything else that sounds like fun!

So, there you have it, my plans for a busy, but hopefully balanced year.

What are your plans for 2017? What’s your Word of the Year?

Looking Back on my 2016 Goals

2016 was a hard year for so many people, so I feel like no matter what I say here I will sound ungrateful. Part of me feels bad that it was a great year for me personally. But a bigger part says STFU, embrace your success and be thankful. And I am. I did so many things I never would have imagined and am so proud of the books I released. (If I don’t sound like it, it’s because I’m going through a lot and feel kind of flat right now.)

I just looked back at my goals for 2016 and started laughing. I did very well and some and deplorably on others.

  1. Enjoy the whirlwind of releasing four books in under seven months – I don’t know if “enjoy” is the right word for all that craziness, but I did survive it. And I did have fun, but it was a heck of a lot more work than I thought it would be. While I have proven it can be done, I don’t recommend that schedule to anyone. I’m glad it’s over and am so proud of what I accomplished! I’m even more proud that the books are out in the world and in the hands of readers.
  2. Write at least one new book (two is my stretch goal) – Not so much. You can totally tell I didn’t know how much work I had cut out for me when I wrote this goal. I didn’t write anything new this year. I did edit a lot and I have started on the research that will form the basis of a book to be published next year, but that’s it.
  3. Continue to market my books and learn about self-publishing – This one I actually did really good at. Talk about a crash course! I read what feels like a million books (and have about a million more to go) and tons of blog posts. but I learned the most through doing. Indie publishing is all about trial and error. This will be an ongoing goal, as it is a never-ending learning process, especially as the industry keeps changing.
  4. Exercise on a regular basis and eat healthy – I was so bad at this. I am ashamed to admit how bad. I haven’t exercised in about a month now, and not much before that. Some it is time, most of it is laziness, and a lot is that I can’t find any kind of exercise right now that interests me. I used to dance, I really want to get into yoga but so far I’ve been bored, and I’m too out of shape for the boot camp I used to love. I’m not really a taking classes kind of person, but right now DVDs/YouTube isn’t working for me either. That HAS to change. Suggestions?
  5. Nourish my spirit – This kind of fell by the wayside too. I did work with a life coach this year, which was an amazing experience on many levels, so I think that counts. But I need to make daily prayer/meditation a regular practice again, as well as taking time off to refill my creative well.
  6. Take time to have fun – I had a ball at the conferences and book signings I went to this year! While I can’t say I really did much outside of the writing community for fun, I wouldn’t trade the great experiences this year for anything (although I could have done without American Airlines losing my luggage and not reimbursing my expenses. I’m still sore over that, can you tell?)

For those who don’t know, this year has come to a close on a sad note for my family. My cousin, who was only six months younger than me, passed away suddenly on Christmas Eve. She and I were very close when we were young, so this was a great shock. I’ll talk more about how this affected me (grief, obviously) in my January 1 post, but I wanted everyone who had a rough year to know I understand how you feel, at least to an extent (and that’s without getting into politics).

Like everyone else, I’m looking forward to kicking 2016 to the curb and welcoming in 2017. I’ve learned so much this year, but it is time to move on.

I wish you all a wonderful remainder of the holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Reflections on 2015: The Year that Wasn’t at All Like I Planned

2905BWhen I look back on what I thought 2015 was going to be like, I have to laugh. It’s one of those “you have your plans and God has his” type years. I thought I was going to be moving to Chicago, getting a new job and a new agent. I ended up staying in St. Louis, loving the way my day job has changed (thank you, new SVP, whom I love) and self-publishing. Never would have expected that, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

These were the goals I set for myself in 2015. How did I do? Well…

  1. Write at least one book – Nope. Didn’t write anything new this year – I even crapped out on NaNo because of all I was doing to get ready to publish. I ended up spending all year editing my four previous books. But that’s okay. They are stronger now and that’s what matters.
  2. Write a short story to submit to an RWA anthology – Um, I started it. Does that count? I actually started two short stories, but didn’t finish them. I just can’t write short. That’s all there is to it.
  3. Continue to blog once a week – I’ve done pretty good at this. I’ve missed a few weeks here and there and my Femina Aequalitas blog didn’t work out because no one had time for it (including me), but that’s fine.
  4. Attend conferences and speak as possible – I did this! The Historical Novel Society conference in June and the AllSoulsCon in September were both life-changing in their own ways. Plus, I spoke at several local events.
  5. Continue social media – I succeed here as well. I’m really active on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Facebook and I continue to have a love/hate relationship when it comes to my author account. Tumblr…well, I’m given up trying to figure it out.

IMG_0580But what I did accomplish that I never would have imagined:

  1. Started my own publishing imprintLawson Gartner Publishing is a legal entity and is something I never thought I would ever do. But it’s also one of my accomplishments I’m most proud of. I hope it will be a great success. People keep asking me if I’ll ever publish other writers’ work. Right now, I’m going to say no, but I’ve learned never to say never about anything.
  2. Finaled in 9 writing contests and won several – The whole list is here. I learned about pre-publication writing contests through my local RWA chapter and was smitten. I’m a competitive girl, so these were right up my alley. And apparently other people like my writing, too!
  3. Prepped my first book for publication – In the space of three months, I got Daughter of Destiny ready for you guys to read on January 1. Thanks so much to Cassie, Jenny Q, Liz, Morganna and everyone else on the team who helped. Self-publishing is a misnomer; it takes a village of professionals to do it right. And the next two books are being edited as we speak.
  4. Had fun! – One of the most important things to me is that through all of this, I had more fun than I ever have. I love being in charge of my career and am loving every bit, from editing (even when Cassie makes me think of the whys I don’t want to think about) to creating social media graphics.

My word of the year for 2015 was Valiant. While it didn’t apply the way I thought it would, it was certainly appropriate. It took a lot of courage to part ways with my agent, face rejection after rejection from other agents, and decide to go it on my own as an indie author, not to mention to start my own company. But I did it! And this is just the beginning.

I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!

How did your 2015 go? What are you planning for 2016?

2015 Goals

Goal-Setting-2015-1024x1024Last year I was pretty darn ambitious with my writing goals and it nearly did me in. So this year, I’m keeping it simple:

  1. Write at least one book – I’m planning on writing another historical fiction after I get this one edited and finished. As I’ve found another woman no one has written fiction about (that I can tell), I’m not revealing who she is until the book is done. But I can tell you this: she survived the French Revolution and went on to run a business empire in an age when women did not dare set foot in the work force. Her name survives on her product today and chances are good if I said it, you’d recognize it right away. I’ve also got two contemporary stories fighting for prominence in my head, so if I get the time, I’ll write one of those.
  2. Write a short story to submit to an RWA anthology – I never thought I’d do this since I generally can’t write short, but there’s a historical romance that’s been slowly piecing itself together in my mind and I think I know the plot now. I wrote the first part a few weeks ago. It’s set in 1920s Chicago smack bad in the middle of Al Capone’s mob. The story guidelines are 5,000-7,000 words, so we’ll see if I can get it done in time for the March deadline (along with editing and going on vacation).
  3. Continue to blog once a week – That’s here, plus my monthly post over at Spellbound Scribes and posts over at Femina Aequalitas whenever I can (I have to get to doing those more regularly!) Oh, and we’ll have a special guest here at Through the Mists of Time later this month. I’m very excited because she’s a pretty well-known historical fiction writer.
  4. Attend conferences and speak as possible – I’m planning to attend the 2015 Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver in June, as well as Sirens (also in Denver) in October. Right now I also have a tentative speaking engagement at Webster Groves High School in February.
  5. Continue social media – I’m on Twitter and Pinterest all the time, just found Instagram (follow me as Nicole Evelina), and I’m on Facebook about once a week. That’s about all I have time for. I may add some more, but that’s good for now.

Is there anything you’d like to see on this blog this year? Anyone want to guest post? I’m up for suggestions!

This Writer’s Life

I don't have a source for this image. If anyone knows it, please contact me or put it in the comments so I can attribute it.

I don’t have a source for this image. If anyone knows it, please contact me or put it in the comments so I can attribute it.

I received an interview request from Webucator: Expert Instructors Blogging last week to help celebrate National Novel Writing Month. They are going to share my answers with their students and I hope you can benefit from them as well.

What were your goals when you started writing?

Writing is an innate thing for me. I started writing when I was a little girl, simply because I wanted to tell stories. I can still remember typing out my very first story (one whole page!) on a typewriter, years before computers became the norm. Throughout my school years, I wrote several stinkers and one that was actually pretty good, never having a clue that I was honing skills for a future career. That was the last thing on my mind. Even up until a few years ago, my goal was just to tell the stories that were in my head.

What are your goals now?

My current goal is to get my first book published. (I’ve completed several, both in historical fiction and women’s fiction/smart, sweet romance.) After that it will be to continue to be able to share my novels with the world. But that’s just the distribution, behind it all the goal remains the same: tell the stories that are desperate to get out of my brain. If I didn’t have writing, I’m sure I’d go insane (although the current state of sanity is questionable at best).

What pays the bills now?

I work in the marketing department of a health care system, handling internal communications. I’m a certified business communicator, and one of two writers in our department. That means when I’m not novel writing at night, on weekends and vacation days, I’m doing business writing. It’s not a bad thing to have your entire life be writing, but it can be exhausting!

Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?

The voices in my head! Seriously. I’m one of those crazy writers who hears her characters and when their story is ready, darn it, they want out and they let me know it! Beyond that, it’s a passion for writing and a certainty that this is what I was born to do. The world may not know it yet, but I do, and I’m going to keep telling stories until one finally catches on. I have no doubt that it will happen. It may just take time.

What advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?

Write every single story that comes into your head. The more you write, the better you get. And write the stories that appeal to you, not what seems to be popular at the time. If you’re going to see a book to publication, you will read it dozens of times, so it needs to be something you really care about, otherwise you’ll get sick of it and that will show to the readers. Plus, it takes so long to write and traditionally publish a book, that if you chase a trend, chances are good that it will be over by the time you try to sell your story.

Read as much as you can, both within you genre(s) and outside of them. Note what works and what doesn’t. Over time, you’ll find yourself “reading like a writer,” which means you can’t just enjoy a book like you used to; whether you realize it or not, you’ll be mentally dissecting both the good and the bad to try to figure out why you did or didn’t like something. And that’s how you learn. Don’t discount the bad books; oftentimes, they teach you just as much as the amazing ones.

Once you’ve finished a draft of your novel, celebrate – this is something few people accomplish – but also realize you are far from finished. You’ll go through several rounds of edits before your book is ready for an agent or editor to see it. Take advantage of beta readers and consider hiring a professional editor. Their critiques may hurt your ego (some have made me cry), but after some time, you’ll realize your writing (and your skill) benefits from honest feedback.

Finally, don’t give up. Writing professionally is a tough business, full of rejection from agents, editors, critics and readers. There are days where it seems like everyone but you is announcing successes. But the only way your turn will never come is if you quit. Just keep writing. If one book doesn’t make it, write another, and another if you have to. On the tough days, it can help to remember why you started writing in the first place. Chances are good it wasn’t for money (the blockbusters really are rare). Remember your story and your characters. You have a duty to them to tell their story, to keep going. And once that story is done, there will be another to which you are bound. Writing isn’t so much a choice, as it is a responsibility – to your stories and to yourself. Treat it with the same respect you would any other job or commitment. That’s what separates the pros from the hobbyists.

Do you have any other questions for me? Thoughts about what I’ve written? Please share them in the comments below.

2014: The Year of Blooming

2014 is the year our lives will bloom. Photo by Lee Safar. Used with permission.

2014 is the year our lives will bloom. Photo by Lee Safar. Used with permission.

They say that what you put out into the Universe becomes your reality. That’s what I’m doing in this post: setting my intentions and goals for the new year, putting them out into the Universe.

My friend Courtney had an interesting idea. She suggesting picking one word for the year, defining it and writing a personal statement about it. I liked that idea because it forces me to distill all the amazing things I’d like to accomplish down to a single concept.

The word of 2014 for me is: Bloom.

I got this idea from a tweet from my dear friend Lee Safar in which she said “2014 feels like the year that flowers will bloom!” The more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized how appropriate it is for where I am in my career and life. I’ve spent the last several years sowing the seeds of success. Last year was definitely one of sprouting seedlings and watching them grow. Now it’s time for them to bloom.

 In 2014, I will see my career as an author and various things in my personal life bloom and come into fruition, bringing with them beauty and joy into the world.

Now, I can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen. I have to work at it with all my might. To that end, I have a series of goals for things I want to achieve this year. They include:

  • Delivering book 3 and another non-related book I’m working on to my agent by the end of June.
  • Finally being able to announce when Guinevere book 1 will be available to the world.
  • Researching and beginning writing another Celtic era historical fiction novel.
  • Attending the Sirens Conference with several of my writer friends in October (and possibly speaking there if I can come up with a topic and get it approved).
  • Finding balance in my life between my day job, writing and all the other demands of life.
  • Getting healthier so that I can have more energy to devote to the things I love.
  • Being more active on Facebook. (I’m already on Twitter all the time.)
  • Traveling for research (cross your fingers that I’ll have an announcement on this soon) for book 3 and my current non-related book.
  • Continuing to find new ways to use this blog to reach out to Arthurian/Celtic fans, book lovers and writers. (You may see some new topics from me this year out of this goal.)

That may seem like a lot, but it’s all interrelated. And it’s what I’ll be focusing on over the next year as my life blooms. I hope your year is wonderful in every way possible.

What are your goals for 2014? What is your word for the year?

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National Novel Writing Month – Who’s With Me?

Did you know November is National Novel Writing Month? Seriously, it is. National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short) is a movement of writers in which participants aim to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. Some writers use this time to begin new works, some aim to write an entire novel in that time, while others use the motivation to finish works in progress. And yes, for the first time, I’m one of them.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo a few years ago and thought it was crazy. Why would you want to try to write an entire novel in a month? What kind of quality could you possibly get out of that? In some cases, it’s gotten a bad rap because of writers who think they’re done after that month, who submit to agents or self-publish without going through the rigorous editing process that turns an average novel into something truly great.

But what I didn’t realize then is that it’s more about the discipline, motivation and the support from your local writing community than it is the word count (in my opinion). I had no idea there were local events and that other writers would be there to encourage me along the way. But so far, so good. Here’s how my NaNoWriMo activities are shaping up:

  • Last Sunday, I attended my local pre-kick off party and met writers who are just starting out, as well as those who have been hammering away at novels for a long time – writers from every genre, including erotica, sci-fi, horror and fantasy.
  • Tomorrow, I’m going to a workshop on Scrivner software.
  • Starting on November 3, I’m going to structured writing events at local coffee shops every Saturday and Sunday. All I know about these is that you write for several hours straight, surrounded by your fellow novelists.
  • On November 17 comes the big “write in,” a seven hour writing marathon at a local library that I’m told is much like lock-ins in high school. You can’t leave, but with that much creativity swirling around, who’d want to?
  • In between, I’ll be writing on my own time, but I doubt I’ll get much done at night during the week. My goal is maybe 500 words per night a few times during the week. (I write all day for my job and when I get home, my brain declares a strike.)
  • In December, after it’s all over, we’re having a party to celebrate everything we’ve collectively achieved.

My goal isn’t as much about the word count (although I love the idea of winning), as it is trying my hardest. My dream is to finish the first draft of Book 2, which means about another 80,o00 words. But as I’ve been outlining my next several sections, the story is getting more and more complex, so I’ll be happy with however much I get done. I’m really looking forward to the extra motivation and having somewhere outside of home means I might actually do it, rather than deciding the laundry or dishes need to get done first. If you want to follow my progress, there’s a little counter on the right navigation that will start counting my words on November 1 and update as I include them in the NaNoWriMo system.

If you’d like to play along, please sign up. You don’t have to “win” (reach 50,000 words) to be successful. Personally, I’m proud of anyone with the guts to try.

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? If so, what are your tips for success? If not, what do you think about the idea?