Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year’s Resolutions: 5 Tips for Creating and Achieving Them

It’s that time again.  Time for us to think about what we want to accomplish over the next year and time for us to make some life-changing decisions.  That is what New Year’s Resolutions are all about, right?  We decide what we want to change and we resolve to make it happen.  

Unfortunately, according to a study by the University of Scranton, 92% of us will fail to achieve our resolutions.  In fact, the older we get the less likely we are to achieve them.  But you shouldn’t give up on creating resolutions.  You should simply modify them a bit.

Here, I’m going to walk you through some tips that will help you to achieve success in the coming year.

1. Don’t set yourself up for failure.  I could say “I resolve to get a multi-book contract this year” but, while confidence and determination are certainly great traits to have, is it possible to achieve that goal in less than a year?  Your answer may be yes, but mine is no.  Know what you are capable of achieving and don’t set goals beyond that or you will be setup for failure.

2. Make your resolutions quantifiable and not vague.  Don’t resolve to lose weight.  Instead, resolve to exercise three times a week or eat at least one healthy meal per day, thereby increasing your odds of achieving success.  Setting a goal to lose weight is great but without a plan to achieve that goal it is doomed to fail.

3. Don’t set a goal you have no control over.  Don’t say “I’m going to win the lottery this year”  or “I’m going to sell my book this year” because you don’t have direct control over those things.  You can, however, resolve to buy one lottery ticket per week or send queries to one literary agent per week. These things you can control.

4. Make your list short.  Don’t resolve to change too much at one time.  Doing so will only overwhelm you and decrease your chances of achieving anything.  Instead, choose up to five goals that you really want to achieve in the coming year and, who knows, you may achieve more in the process.

5. Make yourself accountable.  There is no greater motivator than the fear of public failure.  You are more likely to try your hardest when there are people who will know if you fail.  Chances are, this will work in your favor because you will likely gain some cheerleaders in the process.

So, while you’re busy scribbling down your resolutions for the coming year, keep these tips in mind.  They might just help you achieve success.

Do you have any tips to add?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Blog Tour: A Home for Christmas by Ann Vaughn

A Home for Christmas
Ann Vaughn

Publication: November 28, 2013


Single mom, Jenna Blackwell wasn’t having a very good start to the Christmas season; her purse got stolen on Black Friday. She’s cursing her luck and herself for even being out in the Black Friday madness when the store manager brings in Riley Stanton, a former Navy SEAL who chased down the thieves and recovered her purse. Jenna is blown away by Riley: his looks, his smile, the fact that he ran down the purse snatchers, everything.

Riley Stanton had no idea when he chased down the kids who stole a few purses that he would walk into a room and have his life changed forever. He looked into the eyes of Jenna and saw a strength in her that he found intriguing.

Riley soon learns that Jenna is everything he ever wanted in a woman. He falls for her and for her son harder than he expected to. Jenna is cautious but welcoming and hopes that she and her son can give Riley the one thing he hasn’t had in years, A Home for Christmas.


Riley came over every evening after work. He helped Cam with his homework. he got there before she did on Wednesday and he and Cam had dinner ready by the time she got home. Jenna had to fight tears as she sat at the table. It had been so long since someone had cooked for her. To be honest, other than her mother, she didn't think anyone ever had. Wade, her ex, certainly never did. Watching Cam work so closely with Riley, having Riley there filling the role that Wade had abandoned, even sitting at a table with candlelight and roses and food she hadn't had to prepare...it was a lot for her to handle. She was barely hanging on by a thread and when Riley had initiated the blessing, she lost it. "Mom?" Cam asked, uncertain of what was happening. Jenna covered her face with her hands, silently crying. She heard the scrape of a chair and then suddenly Riley was there, his arms around her, lifting her from the chair. She heard him say something to Cam and then he carried her from the room.

He sat on the sofa and cradled her in his lap and just held her while she cried. After several minutes, when her tears had subsided somewhat, Riley reached down to cup her chin in his hand and lift her head so he could look into her eyes. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "Nothing to be sorry about," he said, smoothing his hands over her cheeks to wipe her tears away.

"Mom?" Cam asked again, drawing her attention. "You OK?" "I'm good, bud, I'm sorry." Riley looked up at Cam and made eye contact with him. Jenna wasn't sure what passed between them, but Cam got up and left, leaving her there with Riley. "Look at me," he said, softly. When she raised her eyes to meet his gaze, he lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles. "What's going on?" She took a deep breath. "It's just...no one's ever done something like this for me before." "Like what? Take care of you?" She nodded. "Better get used to it, babe. I'm not going anywhere." She squeezed his hand, tears falling down her cheeks again. This time, Riley leaned forward and kissed them away before touching his lips to hers. For the first time, Jenna didn't hold herself back.

Maybe it was because Cam was just down the hall and she knew it couldn't get out-of-control. Whatever the case, she turned in his arms and wrapped her arms around his neck, deepening the kiss. "Thank you, Riley," she whispered when they pulled apart, pressing her forehead to his, and placing her fingertips against his lower lip. He nipped her fingertip lightly, then ran his tongue around her finger. "Anytime," he replied, "and I mean that. You don't have to do it all alone any more." "Riley," she whispered, kissing him, "please don't make promises you can't keep. My heart is fragile enough, but Cam..." He kissed her back. "Quit while you're ahead. Don't piss me off." She smiled and combed her fingers through the hair at his nape. "I'll try." "Good. Let me take care of you, Jenna.

You and Cam." She took a deep breath. "Tell you what. You're still here by Christmas? We'll talk," she said, giving him a final kiss then sliding off his lap. He watched her walk down the hall to Cam's room. Closing his eyes and letting his head fall back on the couch, he reached down to adjust himself in his jeans. For the first time since leaving the Navy, Riley felt like he wasn't just spinning his wheels.


Check out Ann's previous novels:

Publication Date: August 7, 2013

Shane McCanton and Tessa Kelly were childhood enemies. Everything was a contest to them and Tessa always seemed to show Shane that nice guys finished last. Things change, however, when hormones take over and Shane begins to see the perpetual thorn-in-his-side as more than just his childhood nemesis...

Tessa had never meant to set into motion events that led to their childhood rivalry, but once it started, she embraced it with gusto...until her world started to fall apart and she realized that Shane was the one constant in her life, her rock who would never leave her and help her find her Long Way Home...

Book Trailer:

Publication Date: November 4, 2013

Colt Harris wasn't on the hunt for love when he looked up from his lunch and spotted Sarah. As cliched as it was, time stood still - all he could see was her. Hearing her laugh sealed his fate; he knew his life was about to change.

Sarah Sauter was used to being alone. She lost her parents when she was eighteen and after a really bad love affair, had given up on ever finding love. Since then, her life had been all about simply surviving. Little did she know that when she went to lunch with her co-workers, she would have a chance encounter with a man who would literally turn her world upside down.

When Colt steps into Sarah's life, he finds that things with her aren't exactly as they appear to be. Secrets hidden deep in her past begin to surface, dropping Colt and Sarah in the middle of a nearly twenty-seven year old mystery. It will take all of Colt's strength, patience and resolve Finding Home for Sarah.

About  the Author
Ann Vaughn is a Native Texan now living in Oklahoma. She's been writing since the seventh grade (many MANY moons ago) when she and her friends were obsessed with the Sweet Valley High series. Back then, access to books wasn't as easy as it is now, so to tide her over between SVH releases, she began writing her own, Texas versions of SVH, full of lots of Texas Friday Night Lights and pitfalls and perils of teenage life in the 80s. Writing has always been a comfort and a release for her, though she never expected to be published. It wasn't until a conversation with her husband about the rise of eBooks that she decided to try her hand at self-publishing. It was scary and exciting and ever since the release of her first book, Long Way Home on August 7, 2013 she has been on a wild roller coaster ride that she wouldn't trade for the world. 

Contact Ann:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Meet my old friend, Thesaurus

Have you ever asked the question "what's another word for....?"

Yes?  I thought so.

Whether spoken aloud or just in thought, this is probably the most common question asked by (and of) writers.  Just the other day my hubby asked me this very question.  Our conversation went like this:

Hubby:  What is another word for <insert random word here>?
Me:  Um, I don't know.  Do you want me to look it up for you?
Hubby:  You're a writer.  Shouldn't you know these things?
Me:  I know how to look it up.  In the thesaurus.

It is not possible for a non-genius-type person to know synonyms for every word in the english language.  Though, I have to admit, the more you write the more synonyms you know.  Searching for the perfect word is par for the course and so the thesaurus has long been a valuable writing companion of mine.

So how do you use a thesaurus?  Well, this part is easy.  Read on...

Imagine you've just finished writing a very rough first draft of your latest novel.  In revising, you've found that you used the word "suddenly" sixteen times in the first three pages.

What do you do?  Delete the pages?

Maybe, but not yet.  Let's try to fix them first.

Step one: open up your thesaurus to the word "suddenly."  If you use an online thesaurus you should see something like this:

I use reference.com for all my word-smithing needs.  The dictionary and thesaurus are both excellent writing tools.

Step two: read through every synonym until you find one that works as good as (or better than) the word "suddenly."  The best word will depend on the sentence in which it is used.  Read the sentence aloud, replacing "suddenly" with an alternative word.  Continue this until you've found the perfect word.

You'll know when you've found the perfect word (I usually exclaim YES! when I've found it).  If you don't find the perfect word, most likely the whole sentence needs to be rewritten.

It doesn't get any easier than that!

Happy word-smithing!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Self-Doubt and the Naked Writer

Today is the deadline for the Writer's Digest Competition.  I submitted my short story at approximately 8:30 pm.  But I have to say I'm a little surprised that I submitted it at all.  Even yesterday my self-doubt reared its head and I started thinking it wasn't good enough.  So I revised.  And I revised.  And finally I was done.  Want to know how I knew it was ready?

I hated the thought of reading it again.

I revised so much that I didn't care if I ever saw it again.  And so it was submitted to the competition.  Now someone else gets to decide if it's good enough.

I'm a little nervous.  This is the first time (in my adult life) that my writing will be seen by someone other than me.  I feel naked.  Vulnerable.

I don't like it.  But, like eating your vegetables, sometimes you have to suck it up and do what's necessary if you want to get somewhere in life.

So, kids, eat your vegetables.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Writing, Betrayal and Weeping Books

Life has been busy since my last post.  Between the norovirus (shared by the whole family) and baby boy's first birthday I have been almost useless when it comes to writing.

Despite all of that, I managed to finish the third draft of my short story for the Writers Digest Competition.  I believe it is almost ready to be read by someone other than me.  I am trying to decide if I want to do a fourth draft but I feel like I'll be beating a dead horse at that point.  I could potentially keep revising it forever because I'm pretty sure I'll never think it's good enough.  One of my many flaws...

I've been reading Stephen King's 11/22/63 and as I previously stated on twitter: The man is a genius!  This book (like all King books) is about the size of Texas and I have a difficult time putting it down.  This is evident by the fact that it jumped to the front of my very long reading list.  I can practically hear my other books weeping from the betrayal!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Titles...Chicken or Egg?

I've been thinking about titles lately.  When do you title?  Before the book is written or after?  (Get it?  Chicken or Egg?)

With my novel, the title was one of the first things that came to me.  Though lately I've been considering using that as the title of the series and renaming my first novel.  I haven't even outlined my second but I'm already considering titles for that one as well (I have done some minor brainstorming though).

I have my short story written except for the VERY end.  Seriously, I'm literally lines away from finishing.  I just can't quite figure it out.  But I have no title.  I thought I would come up with something by the time I was done with the first draft but I've had no such luck.  Maybe the second draft will provide some inspiration.  Maybe...

I've been noticing titles of TV show episodes for years now.  The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men are the ones that stick with me the most.  Episodes of Two and a Half Men are usually a line from the show which make no sense until you see the episode.  Big Bang episode titles are usually scientific wit.

I actually thought about titling this blog post "The Titular Quandry" in honor of Big Bang.  But, the Chicken or Egg thing made me laugh so I went with that.  What?  You didn't laugh?  That's ok.  I'm sure I laughed enough for all of us :-)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Quick Update on Competition and Reading

It does not feel like it's been two weeks since my last blog post.  Time flies, I guess...

I am still working on my short story for the Writer's Digest Competition.  I have just under 3000 words right now.  So, 75% done.  I have not touched my novel in many moons.  I am ashamed.  But, I'll get right back to it after I get the short story done.  It helps that my short story is a prequel to my novel so I get to write in the same world.

In all of my "spare" time that I should have used for writing, I was reading.  I finished all four books in Larissa Ione's Lord's of Deliverance series.  I assume that's all for the series.  Four Horsemen = four books....but I may be wrong.  This was a great series.  Very hard to put down these books.  I would totally read this series again.  And I might do just that.

That's all for now.  Sleep beckons...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Writing: A Study in Time Management

I ran across a blog on Writer's Digest several days ago entitled How to Write While Managing a Full-Time Job: 5 Ways to Maximize your time.  If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen me retweet it.  Anyway, as I was reading this I kept thinking to myself "I DO THIS!"  It is so very similar to what I have written in my previous blogs that either this guy is stalking me or he is a fellow genius. :-)

So, here are his 5 Ways to maximizing writing time (abbreviated) and how they relate to me (and my blog):

1) Never ever ever leave the house without a way to record your ideas.  I can't find where I have specifically mentioned this in a previous blog but I carry my MacBook, iPad and iPhone with me everywhere I go (as well as a notebook and pencil).  Yes, it's probably overkill but I have used them all for note taking purposes.

2) Take advantage of small moments.  I talked about this in my blog post "What can you do in twenty minutes?"  I often write in short spurts now.  I feel like I get more done this way than trying to write for hours at a time.

3) If you can’t give it your best, then give it what you can.  I talked about this in my blog post "Take the good with the bad."  I'm sure that's not the only time I've mentioned this since it is a common occurrence.  Good writing doesn't come all the time.  Sometimes you're lucky to walk away with anything useful.

4) Train your mind to think like a writer.  This one I mentioned very recently in the blog post "So you want to be a writer."  Actually, this particular blog post mentions most of these points.  Anyway, once you train yourself to think like a writer you start seeing plots in everything!  This is very helpful for getting new story ideas.

5) Make writing a priority.  I have talked about this many times, I believe, but my favorite was in the blog post "How bad do you want it?"  I actually don't still get up that early to write (which I discussed in a more recent blog entry) because caring for an infant is exhausting and I just cannot get up that early anymore.  Maybe one day...but for now, I do most of my writing at night.

All true.  I can vouch for it.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Let the Games Begin!!!

Ok, so I gave in and decided to write the short story for the Writer's Digest Competition.  I don't think I really ever had a choice.  This character's story has been in my mind for about a year and a half now just itching to get out.  I actually feel a sense of relief that I'm getting it on paper.

I managed to write over 1300 words (out of the 4000 max) in what totaled to be about an hour and a half this weekend.  I'm doing fairly well but I'm sure I will have to pare it down when I finish.

I can say that I have learned something from this experience though.  I've never before written while trying to use as few words as possible.  Writing a short story is certainly an exercise in brevity.

Assuming I have something worth submitting on May 6th, I will be entering the competition.

Game on.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Temptation in the Form of a Writing Competition

So, I got an email the other day from Writer's Digest about their annual writing competition.  Immediately I began plotting a story in my head.  However, I am wavering on whether or not to enter.  I barely have time to revise the novel I have written.  Now I'm considering using what little spare time I have on another story?

But, contest beckons me...

IF I enter it will be in the Genre Short Story category.  This category has a maximum of 4000 words.  I could do that in my sleep (perhaps literally).

The story I have concocted is actually a prequel to my novel.  My main character is a minor character in my novel.  This short story will be his backstory.

The "story" part is cheesecake.  The "short" part may pose a problem.  I'm not sure I can successfully write an entire paranormal romance story in less than 4000 words.

We shall see.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Epic Fail, News and Reading

I have failed in my goal to blog at least once a week.  I have no excuse except that my day job has literally been sucking the life out of me for the last two weeks.  Seriously, I think I may have lost a couple of years off my life because of it.

I haven't had a lot of time to work on the revisions to my novel due to the constant life-sucking that is my day job but I have made some progress.  Some.

In other news there is something BIG going on right now!  My favorite YA series is being made into a movie!  That's right, Vampire Academy (of Richelle Mead fame) is going to be a movie!!!  Squee!!!  They just cast the main characters this week!  I love, love, love the Vampire Academy series and can't wait for the movie(s)!

Know what else I love? Larissa Ione's Lords of Deliverance Series!  I just finished the first book, Eternal Rider, and can't wait to get started on the second!  I know I'm behind the times, the fourth book just came out in November!

I also just realized that I apparently have a love affair with exclamation marks...not sure what that says about me.  Just go with it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

So you want to be a writer...

Over the last three years I have done TONS of research about writing.  I have many books on my shelves and my iPad as well as saved web pages.  All to glean as much information about the writing process as I possibly could.  

But, the absolutely most important thing I have learned is this:

To be a writer, you have to write!  That means you have to stop saying "I wanna write" and start actually writing.  Sit your butt down with your computer and type (or get a pencil and paper if you like to kick it old school).  It doesn't matter what ends up on that page.  What matters is that something ends up on that page.  Write first.  Revise later.

The second most important thing I learned is that you have to read.  Yes, read.  Will that waste your precious writing time?  Absolutely not.  Why?  Because you won't only be reading the words on the page.  You will be learning how to incorporate flow, timing, plot, dialogue and so many other things that I'm not going to bother continuing.  The point is, you will learn writing technique while you read.

Another thing that really helps with the writing process is the ability to think creatively.  Most people call this the muse or inspiration.  It may start small.  You may see a news report about a woman who murdered her husband and start thinking "Well, what if that woman killed her husband because she found out he was a demon?"  Pretty soon, you will start seeing plot ideas in absolutely everything.

Just today, the name of my main character (for book 2) popped into my head.  So, I opened my computer to write it down.  I spent the next fifteen minutes writing down plot ideas for that book.  The ideas flowed all because I wrote down the name of my main character.

My point is that you never know what you can do until you do it.  Even if you think you don't have anything to say, just try to write for five minutes.  You'll be surprised how easy it will come once you start.

And yes, this is my second blog post in less than a week.  Shh...quiet!  You might scare it away!

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Blog and Writing Goals

Welcome to my new Blog!  You can still see my old posts at writerleigh.livejournal.com.

I was going to post on a writing topic but my day job has sufficiently sucked the life out of me this week and I have no creative juices left.  Thankfully it's a three day weekend so perhaps my creative tank will fill back up to a workable level!

I have been working on getting this blog site up and running in my spare time (yes, instead of revising my novel).  I am quite proud of myself.  I patted my own back several times in the last few days.  Now, you super techie techie type people may be thinking that what I did was nothing.  But, for me, this is freaking awesome!  My husband didn't even have to help me (and he usually handles my techie stuff)!  Seriously...gadgets and widgets and layouts...oh my!

It's been a while since I've made writing goals, so here are my top five goals (in no particular order):

1) Blog at least once a week
2) Revise the crap out of my novel
3) Somehow coax an agent into representing me
4) Write books two and three (yes, I'm writing a series)
5) Make enough money to quit my day job (aka the life-sucking parasite)

I have just realize how bad my grammar is when I'm tired.  So, if you find errors that I missed please smile and nod and pretend you didn't see it.