June 29, 2015

Overcoming Insecurity : Denise Grover Swank

There were some amazing keynote speakers at this year's UtopYA conference. First up was Denise Grover Swank, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author.

She's sold 1.3 million copies of her books (currently totaling 21) and has hit the USA Today list eleven times and the New York Times list four times. Yet with each new book she said she still worries and feels pressure. She's found most writers feel deeply, and because of that, they have increased insecurity. 

After writing her first book in the fourth grade, several English teachers encouraged her. Still, it took until she was forty to tell herself it was "time to do this." Then, tragedy struck. Her husband was in a single-engine plane crash. He barely made it, but then five weeks later, he died. She said it felt like the rug was pulled out from under her, and she had to reinvent herself. With six children, she started a blog called: There's Always Room for One More. Then, in 2009, she did NaNoWriMo. In the next year and a half, she wrote three books.

In the spring of 2011, she was getting discouraged with querying. In her head, she thought she wasn't good enough. By then, self-publishing was more accepted and more easily accessible. So she took charge of her own career.

She studied the market and came up with a business plan, determined to succeed. But the insecurities were still there. She pushed through and didn't let fear rule her life. Book after book she pushed. But then she hit a rough year of reviews and lacking sales. 

"The more success I get, the more insecurities I get," she said, always fearing that the next book would be the one to "totally suck." 

Her advice: surround yourself with people you trust, write everyday, work hard, set your own goals for success (make them realistic so you can achieve them and set higher goals).

Still, she said, "I'm going to be chasing this demon the rest of my life."

Success is not a race, it has no expiration date, so you have to stay strong through the ebbs and flows, she said. 

But, she always tells herself (from The Help):

You is Kind.
You is Smart.
You is Important. 

I was so inspired by her speech. Later, I ran into her during the Saturday signing, and she was so gracious to take a picture with me and chat for a few minutes. Such a lovely woman.

How do you battle your insecurity monster?

About Denise Grover Swank

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Denise Grover Swank was born in Kansas City, Missouri and lived in the area until she was nineteen. Then she became a nomadic gypsy, living in five cities, four states and ten houses over the course of ten years before she moved back to her roots. She speaks English and smattering of Spanish and Chinese which she learned through an intensive Nick Jr. immersion period. Her hobbies include witty Facebook comments (in own her mind) and dancing in her kitchen with her children. (Quite badly if you believe her offspring.) Hidden talents include the gift of justification and the ability to drink massive amounts of caffeine and still fall asleep within two minutes. Her lack of the sense of smell allows her to perform many unspeakable tasks. She has six children and hasn't lost her sanity. Or so she leads you to believe.

You can find out more about Denise at www.denisegroverswank.com or email her at DeniseGroverSwank@gmail.com

Stay tuned for more UtopYA revelations and awesome talks. 

June 26, 2015

UtopYA is now Utopia

The last day of UtopYA is always full of mixed emotions. Part of me wanted to stay forever with the most amazing group of people I've ever known, but part of me missed my family. This year was even more magical than last, although I wasn't sure that was possible.

So, as I sat there, I wondered what the theme for 2016 would be... the fifth anniversary of UtopYA. How could it be even better?

Then, Janet Wallace told us.

First, UtopYA is now Utopia. Why? Because it will include both middle grade and Adult novels and genres. How exciting!! Then, came the even more exciting announcement of next year's theme... #FightForYourWrite.

Yes, someone immediately shouted out that the theme song should be the Beastie Boys hit. And I'm okay with that.

For authors and bloggers who've never attended, please consider coming next year. In addition to amazing panels with awesome advice on publishing, marketing, blogging, writing, and so on, next year there will be people covering topics on how to nurture more than just our blogging and writing. There will be life coaches, nutritionists, and more. 

Who isn't enriched when they feed their soul in addition to their brain?

Over the next couple of months, I will have many UtopYA/Utopia-laden posts. First, I will be featuring Meet Some UtopYA2015 Lovelies (Unofficial), a series of interviews with people I hung out with at the con. (See the 2014 edition here) Plus, I'll also be sharing my experiences at this year's event.

So, what are you waiting for? Until June 30th, there's even special pricing. Check it out here. Dates: 6/22-26, 2016. I hope to see you there.

June 24, 2015

UtopYA Highlights: Accomplishing Goals

I'm back!

UtopYA 2015 did not disappoint. Since the moment I left Nashville last June, I've been looking forward to returning for another UtopYA. The first year was overwhelming, because I was meeting almost everyone for the first time. Plus, it was my first major author event.

For the most part, I stayed in the shadows and took it all in. Thanks to Jo Michaels, I did make a handful of amazing friends.

This year, I was determined to...

1. Take tons of pictures.
2. Not be shy.
3. Walk right up and hug Janet Wallace.
4. Put myself out there.

I outlined this in a post

I'm happy to report that I accomplished all of these things! 

Last year, I ran an interview series highlighting some of the amazing women from UtopYA. I'm working on getting some amazing people to do it again this year. So, I'm saving a lot of my pictures for that. However, I have to share this one...

It's me with my Fractured Glass crew (Jo Michaels, NL Greene, Kelly Risser, and Casey Bond) and Janet Wallace. The FG crew and I did our lip sync not too long after. It was amazing. And, yes, I have video. I promise to share it soon.

Friday, I'll have a more emotional post. But I wanted to make sure and address my goals going in. I met every single one. Oh, and I'll be sharing some changes for next year's Utopia (you'll understand the spelling change more on Friday). It's the five-year celebration, and I can't wait.

Happy Wednesday!

June 22, 2015

Chasing Destiny Cover Reveal

Happy Monday!

Today, I want to share the cover for Chasing Destiny, Tala Prophecy Book 3. I debuted the cover at last week's UtopYA, and of course my newsletter subscribers and Street Team got a sneak peek before anyone else.

Cover by Jo Michaels
Don't you love it? Jo Michaels never disappoints!

I'll be sharing the blurb soon, and the expected publication date is July/August 2015. More details to come. 

To subscribe to my newsletter, sign up here.

To become a member of my Street Team, ask to join here.

Stay tuned for all my UtopYA posts. It was amazing!!

June 17, 2015

UtopYA Bound : Lessons Learned from 2014

My daughter and I are on a plane to Nashville today to attend UtopYA. 

I had an incredible time last year, but I was mad at myself for a couple of things that I plan to remedy this year.

I will take TONS of pictures.

I have incredible memories from UtopYA2014, but very few pictures. This year, I cleared off my phone and plan to be obnoxious with pictures. Maybe even -- GASP -- take a few selfies. 

I will NOT be shy.

Last year, I went in knowing very few people and came out knowing a lot. Still, I could have put myself out there more. This year, I will. I'm going to be a sharing, hugging, bonding fool.

I will walk right up and hug Janet Wallace.

Yes, I will. Last year, I was daunted by the aura surrounding her. She seemed beyond my reach. It was all because I was completely in awe. This year, I'm still completely in awe, but I also realize how friendly and approachable she is. 

I will be put myself out there.

Being part of the Lip Sync battle will help accomplish this. I will be sweating bullets, but there isn't a more comfortable environment on the planet than UtopYA to put yourself out there.

Next week, I'll report on how I did with these goals. 

Hope everyone is enjoying the start to summer!

June 15, 2015

LuLo Fangirl : Indie News & Highlights

Sorry. I've been MIA. There's so much to do to get ready for UtopYA. My 15yo daughter and I leave on Wednesday morning for Nashville, and I so can't wait.

Today's post is short but so sweet.

If you ever want Indie news and features, hop on over to LuLo Fangirl run by the amazing Christina Marie. She has her finger on the Indie pulse. 

Right now, she's featuring an interview series of UtopYA authors. My interview will be up tomorrow. 

Please go check it out here.

Stay tuned for amazing details from my UtopYA experience.

June 10, 2015

Passed & Past : Grammar & Editing Tips

A few weeks ago, I posted about Homophones and Contractions. Homophones are words that sound alike (can be spelled alike or not) but have different meanings. 

As an editor, I fix tons of homophones in manuscripts. From time to time, I thought I'd feature some commonly misused homophones. 

Today, I'm going to discuss passed and past. 

Each word had over 15 possible definitions, so it's easier to discuss examples when they are often confused.

Passed is most often used as the past tense of pass.

My daughter passed her exam. On the way home, she passed her friend on the street.

Past can be a noun (meaning the time gone by), an adjective (completed, finished, no longer in existence), and an adverb (so as to pass or go by).

She had more homework than in years past. The ball sped past the pitcher.

Where I see it most confused is in the verb versus adverb usage.

He passed the mirror and winked at himself. (passed is a verb)
He walked past the mirror and winked at himself. (past is acting as adverb for walked)

Is there an editing/grammar issue that's always caused you trouble? If so, share it in the comments so I can feature it in a future post. 

Definitions from Dictionary.com

June 8, 2015

Inevitable : Indie News & Highlights

Happy Monday to everyone. 

On Mondays, I share Indie news and highlights. Today, I have an exciting new release, Inevitable, from the awesome BJ Sheldon. It's the final book in the Dusty Chronicles series. I have ordered all three and will pick them up at UtopYA. I can't wait!

Without further ado...

About Inevitable

Inevitable is the final installment of the “Dusty Chronicles,” which includes author BJ Sheldon’s award-winning novel Haunting and its compelling sequel Imprint. 

Seventeen-year-old Dusty Vermeer wonders how much loss one person can take. She dreams of a normal life, but grief and fear have put her future on hold. 

Jack vows to stay away in an effort to keep Dusty safe from the vengeful shadows that seem determined to punish them for their forbidden romance, but his absence does nothing to stop the shadows from unleashing a reign of terror. To make matters worse, a new kid arrives in town and begins making life a living hell for anyone who gets in his way, including the people Dusty cares about—and those whom she must learn to forgive. 

The shadows sweep Dusty into a living nightmare where she must fight for her life—and her soul. In the end, the only way she can survive is to cling to her belief that love really can conquer all.

Buy it on Amazon

About BJ Sheldon

BJ Sheldon lives near Rapid City, South Dakota with her husband, a veteran of the US military. She is the mother to 3 beautiful daughters, 2 of whom are still living at home and making her crazy.

Most days, she can be found in front of her laptop or reading a good book when she isn't trying to keep her dog and 3 cats from taking over the world. Her hobbies include cuticle care, fighting off zombies, and traveling through space and time with a mad man in a blue box.

In 2011, BJ was awarded a silver medal in the Reader's Favorite Award Contest in the Young Adult/Fantasy category for "Haunting". Her first series, The Dusty Chronicles, is a paranormal trilogy that takes a different spin on "paranormal". Future projects include Sci-fi, fantasy, and contemporary romance.

Her favorite authors include Nicholas Sparks, Isaac Marion, Hugh Howey, Suzanne Collins, JK Rowling, Amanda Jason, Tiffany King, and Guy De'Maupassant.


If you have some awesome indie news to share, let me know so I can feature it on a Monday. Hope everyone finds some great new reads this week.

June 5, 2015

Happy Book Birthday to Chasing Memories!

Happy Friday!

Today marks the second book birthday for Chasing Memories, the first book in my award-winning Tala Prophecy series.

To celebrate, I wanted to give away four eBooks. So, if you haven't read Chasing Memories yet, please enter. If you have read it, please share the giveaway with others.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck!

June 3, 2015

No Matter What You Do : #IWSG

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (or IWSG) is a wonderful group put together by the amazing Alex J. Cavanaugh (which now has an equally cool Facebook group). 

The first Wednesday of each month is the perfect opportunity to share my insecurities on the #IWSG therapy couch, get encouragement and support about such insecurities, and to read how other writers are faring.

I just read an article about Why 20% of People Will Never Like You

A snippet from the article:
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, was proposed by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist who noticed that statistics rarely broke down into even 50/50 dynamics. Instead, they more often broke down into 80/20 categories.  
What he proposed is something like this: 
About 80% of your health problems are likely being caused by only 20% of what you eat. Or 80% of your companies profit is coming from 20% of its products. Or 80% of your relational frustrations are being caused by 20% of your relationships.
The author of the article then went on to say that no matter what you do 20% of people will not like you. No matter what. I really needed to hear this. Too often, I spend precious time trying to please the naysayers. Even worse, I worry about why certain people don't connect with me.

Sometimes the 20% are louder, so it seems like a larger group. Plus, negativity always drags me down quicker than positivity can keep me afloat. That's a shame, and something I need to change, especially since insecurity feeds off those 20%. 

So, today, focus on the amazing people in your life who support you and put a smile on your face. For the rest, remember that you simply can't make everyone happy. No. Matter. What. You. Do.

What do you think of this theory?

June 1, 2015

M by Jo Michaels: Indie News & Highlights

Every Monday I share exciting news from the Indie book community. Today, it's all about the cover for a new novel by Jo Michaels titled M

What's the book about? Well, keep reading!

Title: M
Author: Jo Michaels
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal/Urban Fiction
Publication Date: June 17, 2015
Length: 55k words

In 2026, it finally arrives, the drug promising to make life easier for the masses. One dose of M and anyone can gain an ability. There are no promises made as to what the power could manifest as, but people are crawling over one another to take a chance.

There's a problem: One pill costs a million dollars. Only those with extraordinary wealth are afforded the luxury of cleaning house with a click of their diamond-adorned fingers or solving a puzzle by talking to it.

A knockoff begins circulating in 2038 that does the same thing as M. Hundreds of thousands of people have mutated for a mere one hundred dollars.

Enter the year 2042.

Seventeen-year-old Griffin is a normal kid, who has a regular job, and dreams of going to college someday. When his girlfriend of three years succumbs to peer pressure, they break up. He believes the body is a temple not to be messed with outside of nature, and she wants to fit in. Once he meets the supplier, things take a turn for the worse.

He's left with nothing but pain in his heart and the desire to make them suffer when his plans for payback blow up in his face.

Thirst for revenge consumes him, and he finds himself locked in a battle he never anticipated with a merciless kingpin as they struggle to gain the advantage.

How far is too far?

***This book is a standalone novel, suitable for those over the age of thirteen. There is some violence that may not be appropriate for younger children.***

Ready for that cover? Wellp, here it is!

Now, it's time for the full wrap! Oooooooh yeahhhhhh baby!

Isn't it lovely?

Release date is set for June 17, 2015. That's right, you can pick up a copy at utopYA con or online at Amazon.com in June.

For now, you can keep an eye on its page on Jo's site!

What do you think? Like it? Interested in reading it?