New Year, New Plans

January 21, 2024  •  No Comments

Like everyone, I get distracted by the holiday whirl leading up to the main event, but every year I spend a delicious few days post-feast surviving off leftovers and planning the writing year ahead. Some of the items that make it to the to-do list are practical (do I have all the right vendors listed on my website?) and some are more strategic. Very few are quick wins because, if they were, I’d have done them already.

Still, I was able to plan the coming year with more confidence than I’ve had for a while. Part of this is due to having some books already written—while I’ve not been releasing as much lately due to personal life chaos, I have been working ahead.

That said, it’s not just the book in front of my nose I need to think, but the two following ones as well. What needs to be done in terms of promotion each month? How much prep time is required? What can I outsource, and what do I need to manage on my own? What will it all cost?

To this end, I had approximately 5,678,341 pieces of paper with bright ideas stuffed into an assortment of folders. I spent quite some time sorting and distilling all that into a series of tasks lists. Research, release plans, blog, social media, newsletter, paid advertising, administrative upkeep, upskilling, etc. The awkward aspect of all this is that they are interconnected and can’t be treated in isolation. They are also mostly timebound items with a best-before date when applied to a specific book. However, I came away with a calendarized workplan to test out.

The first and probably the most important realization is that this isn’t just about add-on activities to check off a notepad. These streams of activity (blog, research, social media, and so on) are like the infrastructure of the house where my creative output lives. If I don’t fix the roof or ensure the heat is working, it’s not a good shelter and my creative output can’t thrive. These activities are more than a necessary evil. They are an extension of the works themselves and deserve as much imagination and interest for their own sake. That’s a mind shift!

Some takeaways:

* In order to treat my creative infrastructure well, I need to set aside dedicated time to attend to it. I’m still playing catch-up, but I’m thinking 1 day a week for maintenance-level activities once the catch-up is done.
* The time to start assembling promotional material is the instant I start Chapter 1.
* Content marketing is 1,000 times more interesting to me than advertising. This is the “here’s my research” approach rather than “buy my book”
* I’m building places for our collective imaginations to hang out. This isn’t about individual products but entire story worlds, so the focus has to be broad.

I’ve set some steep goals, but I do have specific ideas on how to achieve them, which is something. Let’s see what works and what doesn’t.


December 27, 2021  •  1 Comment

coffee cup on booksAnyone with an email address knows that spam happens, and email providers weed out the worst offenders by sending those emails to the junk folder. Unfortunately, automated systems don’t always know the difference between stuff you do and don’t want. Whitelisting ensures that emails from a certain address reach your inbox every time.

An example is my newsletter. If my newsletter goes to your spam folder, that’s sad for both of us! After all, you need to whitelist an address just once. Here are two methods:

1. Adding our address ( to your contacts is one way to ensure my newsletter arrives safe and sound; or,

2. Here is a link to instructions (with pictures) for a comprehensive list of email clients (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, Apple, AOL and many others) if you need something specific.

Whitelisting can, of course, be done with any newsletters (besides mine) you want to receive.  I hope this helps!

By the way, if you aren’t on my email list and want to be, sign up here for Sharon’s paranormal romance and here for Emma Jane Holloway’s steampunk books. We’ll send you a free read! And yes, you may sign up for both lists.

2019 – what was that about?

December 31, 2019  •  2 Comments

Some authors are posting dazzling lists of publications, and I heartily salute their accomplishments. I thought I would have a bumper crop of books, too, when this year started. Somehow, though, things changed along the way and the year didn’t end the way I thought. 2019 was a dumpster fire for a lot of people and, while I count myself lucky, I didn’t entirely escape the smoke. 2020 will be better.

What did I actually get in front of readers this year?
  • In January, did a re-release of an older book that rounded out my 2018 goals.
  • Released two books in box sets, hit the USA Today bestseller list for both, and then put them in the vault for later.
  • Published an essay in an academic work.
  • Wrote a short story that’s now a lead magnet.
  • Got my extended print distribution onto Ingram Spark.
  • By the end of this week, I’ll have finished a draft of a new, full length, first-in series.

I also investigated a lot of marketing courses, played with various ad platforms, and listened to many podcasts. That’s all hard to quantify as achievement, but it will serve me well in future.

Where did that get me?

I think it’s safe to say all authors want enthusiastic fans and financial freedom. It’s not an impossible dream, but it’s not an easy road. It requires groundwork such as intelligent branding, scheduling, and development of infrastructure like engaged newsletter lists, reader funnels, and social media. There are a thousand choices to consider, and dozens of platforms to learn. It’s all behind-the-scenes stuff readers don’t consciously notice and most authors despise unless they have an aptitude for business. However, it’s like gas for a car. It stinks, but you don’t go anywhere without it.

2019 was my trip to the gas station. I’m not done putting everything together, but I’m well on the way. Part of the process has been discovering what mix of marketing makes sense to me, given my time, money, and introvert tendencies. I’ll probably blog more. I’ll review craft resources. I’m also very interested in sharing some of the ingredients that go into world building, especially with the fantasy stuff. I think it’s going to be fun.

And 2020? I haven’t scheduled it all yet, but I’ll have a nice list of the year’s releases by next New Year’s Eve. I’ve put in the work to be ready.

The Weekend Writer

October 10, 2019  •  No Comments

Unfortunately, the income of most authors is not enough to sustain a mouse, much less a modern household in a large urban city. Without a doubt, this is the most common reason for the rise of the weekend warrior writer, who toils for pay five days a week and pounds on the keyboard during weekend hours. The disadvantages of this state are obvious—who doesn’t want to be a full-time writer rather than drudging for someone else? Plus, if one is serious about a writing career, the time commitment is equivalent to a second full-time job.

But there are also advantages to a double life.

  • Some of us actually like our day jobs (or at least the benefits package)
  • Part-time writers might have fewer titles under their belt, but they may have gained other useful busness skills.
  • It’s far easier to let the imagination frolic when there’s less pressure to succeed.
  • If writing to a niche market is your thing, financial security allows you the luxury of taking a creative risk. So, go ahead and write that book of your heart about vampire sheep conquering distant galaxies!

Whatever the trade-offs, we do what’s necessary to get words on the page. So here are some survival tips for writing around the edges of your day:

Organization is obviously important for any home business, whatever its nature. For us, this means breaking down writing, marketing, and production tasks into manageable bites and fitting them into our schedules. There are people who can squeeze in writing time in uncanny circumstances, but others get more mileage by blocking off set times for creation. The important point is to manage time in an intentional way. If I go with the flow my day is soon circling the drain.

I’ve experimented with an endless series of calendars and apps like Things 3 to corral my to-dos. I need something that offers repeating reminders (daily, weekly, or monthly) and groups tasks by project and type (writing, personal, household, etc.). The combo of ideal tools will vary with every person, but the basic goal is to avoid reinventing the to-list every morning. Ideally, your app fairies have that figured out before you roll out of bed. The less time spent puzzling over the day’s tasks, the more time can be devoted to actually crossing items off the list.

Know your peak productivity times. Some people can knock off a thousand words before breakfast. Others (like me) are night owls. Put your creative time where (and when) it counts. I might be able to schedule Tweets in the morning, but don’t ask me to make complete sentences, recognize faces, or handle anything sharp. Once, I actually put cat kibble in the coffee maker.

Be professional. Show up fully wherever you are. In other words, leave writing at home and work at work. Keep your deadlines and commitments, whatever hat you’re wearing. Bottom line: avoid emailing your manuscript to your boss by mistake.

Respect your muse.  Writing can a hard business, with a ton of expectation placed on our creative selves. In particular, there is a lot of pressure to produce material quickly, which is especially hard when writing time is hard to get.

Deep breath! It is possible to get faster with practice. Solid plotting skills and a regular writing routine naturally increase the pace of book production. Drafting by dictation speeds things up for me, but it took months to produce something beyond stream of consciousness babble. Sadly, there is no magic software that makes you write a bestselling novel in two weeks. Believe me, I’ve tried them all!

Most of all, be patient with yourself. Weekend writers aren’t on a learning curve, we’re on a mandala, looping in and out and around everything else to pursue our path. We’re proof positive that there are plenty of ways to find success, even if it’s by the scenic route.






I am such a geek – social media scheduling software

November 25, 2018  •  No Comments

I like order. One glance at my desk would make you think otherwise, but I geek out on diaries, lists, schedules, planners, and post-it notes. It is no surprise that the Black Friday sale I fell prey to was for social media scheduling software.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest…I suck at them all. It’s not that I don’t like spouting off in public. I just forget, get busy, chase squirrels and a week goes by in radio silence. Hence, I need an internet butler. He keeps things running while madam chases virtual butterflies. I still have to check up on things throughout the day, but my odds of success improve when I get to do the fun bits and the software does the heavy lifting.

We’ll see how this goes. It’s all part of my author business refit, which started with a new website and newsletter platform. Every improvement I’ve made has seemed a little overwhelming at first but ultimately made outreach to readers easier. Here’s hoping this works just as well!