Truth About Goal Setting

Since it's the last day of January, I would be remiss if I didn't talk about goals for the New Year.

(This article previously appeared on Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you'd like articles like this as soon as they are published.)

Do you set goals? I do, but this year, I decided to make my number one goal a bit different.

#1 Goal: Work less; enjoy more.

I worked so hard last year that I nearly burned out. This happened because I forgot a very important aspect of goal setting. The reward. Oh, I'll work just as hard, but by "work less," I mean I want to work more effectively. The "enjoy more" is a reminder not to forget about the reward.

You see, I set goals, and I give it everything I've got. I do whatever it takes to achieve my goal. Does that describe you? Yes? Then good for you. So let's talk about how you reward yourself when you've achieved that milestone?

Uh oh. Too many just shrug and look blank. I was like that last year. I thought just achieving the goal was reward enough. I was too busy to stop and smell the coffee or treat myself to something as a reward. This is just a blueprint for burnout.

Self-Employment Requires Self-Motivation

In any self-employment endeavor, from writing to art to a home bookkeeping service, the work is often solitary, arduous, and, on many days, unrewarding in itself. The payoff for all you do may be on down the line. This is true for any entrepreneur, but for those in the arts, the reward may be so far out into the future that you can't see a glimmer of it. Sometimes, you may work faithfully on a project that never pays off.

It's only human nature, after a lot of this goal seeking and goal achieving-- with no reward--to lose the fire of your ambition. Too many times, you may find yourself subject to apathy which is just a symptom of burnout.

For Writers

Goal setting usually means: get the damn book written. Okay, you get it from your brain to the computer. Now what? You try to sell it to a traditional publisher or you epub it and try to market and promote it, hoping it will find an audience.

With traditional publishing, you may get turned down flatly by everyone. Next step? Write another book. Full speed ahead. It's finished. It fails to find a contract. No reward again. Okay, now what?

With digital publishing, you may put it out there, but in today's ever-increasing competitive market, it just won't move--no matter what you do. Okay, now what? You must write another and hope it catches fire with readers.

You find yourself hesitant to try again, reluctant to start the process all over. Yet you do. Only this time, you're not so pumped. You aren't dedicated to the goal of getting that book contract or selling X number of ebooks. The evil voice of rationalization jumps in. Why bother? It won't get a contract either. It won't attract readers who will buy either. Just go watch Justified on TV.

This is where I'd yell like a Hollywood director. "You've got the scene wrong. Cut." Some flunky would come out and slap a black and white clapboard together.

What's Wrong With This Picture

First, you're working hard to achieve a goal without allowing yourself a reward. Now, don't tell me the reward will be getting it published or selling 1,000 ebooks this month because that's something you have NO control over.

Second, if you're setting a goal of getting a book contract or selling 1,000 ebooks this month, you've totally got it wrong.

Always remember: the goal you set must be something you can control.

You control the writing.

You control the submission process.

You control the epublishing process.

You will NEVER control the acquisition process. You will NEVER control the reader purchasing process. All the positive thinking and positive imaging in the world won't change that.

Lots of good books don't get published. Lots of questionable books do. Lots of good ebooks don't sell. Lots of bad ones do. In other words, book publishing and selling is a bit like a crap shoot that you can't predict. So if you're writing manuscripts and waiting for publication or sales as the reward, you're doomed to lose your fire. Worse, your motivation to write will erode like a sand dune in a hurricane.

What YOU Control

YOU set the goal. YOU achieve the goal. YOU reward yourself. And a corollary to that is: reward yourself every step of the way from little achievements to large.

Goal: write 4 pages a day. Result: you did it for 1 week. Great. What reward did you set? The purchase of that book you've been wanting to read? A banana split from Sonic?

Goal: finish a chapter in a specified amount of time. Result: you did it. Reward: anything you previously decided was appropriate. That's right. When you set goals, set up a reward system for every step of the journey toward goal achievement.

Goal: finish the book. Result: yes! Reward: dinner and dancing or a weekend at a B&B or anything that makes you feel rewarded for all your hard work.

So that's the deal. If you're a writer - or any other kind of entrepreneur who must be your own motivator - design a system of rewards for every step of your journey. I won't have to tell you how to celebrate and reward yourself if the outside world smiles on you, i.e. a publishing contract with a big, fat advance or making an Amazon Bestseller List. We all have our own ways to howl at the moon.

Takeaway Truth

Whether it's a smiley-face sticker or a sports car, make sure you celebrate the milestones from the seemingly insignificant to the magnificent.

Enforced Vacation

Earl Wilson said: "A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking."

In a way, that quotation describes my last two weeks. I had to take a vacation because I could no longer taken what I'd been taking, i.e., working through injuries.

Hand injuries and the severely cut fingertip two weeks ago really put a crimp in my writing plans. Even though I can finally type with all fingers and thumbs, the cut finger is still unbelievably sensitive. Every time I come to a letter that requires that finger, I've learned to gingerly press the key which works to get me back in the game.

Plan B

So I've had an enforced vacation from writing. However, that doesn't mean I've been sitting around an eating bon bons and watching soaps--well, substitute Butterfinger miniatures for bon bons and DVR'd programs for soaps, and I'll confess to a bit of those two activities.

For the most part though, I've been putting my house in order--literally. We helped our daughter move into her new town home, taking all the furniture and household items we'd stored for her. All that means that we got out house back so we're trying to put it back into pre-adult-daughter-move-in status.

Something else I've been doing as I've cleaned, de-cluttered, and sorted is what I call book-dreaming. I've got a couple of stories bouncing around in my head so I've let them simmer as I've gone through this week of playing domestic goddess.

Takeaway Truth

A writer may be working at other things and may be taking a vacation, planned or unplanned, but a writer is hardly ever not working at her craft.

Chess Is Child's Play

My Guest Star today is Laura Sherman who wrote Chess Is Child’s Play with Bill Kilpatrick.

This book teaches any parent, of any skill level, to teach any child, of any age, to play chess. That's rather amazing. You parents out there, make a note to get this book when it's released in April.

In Her Own Words

Why Chess Should Be a Part of Every Child’s Education
By Laura Sherman

Imagine a world where people all have excellent problem solving skills, where they are patient and respectful of each other on a daily basis. A society where citizens live for the future and plan long term, thinking of where their children’s children will be, following through, seeing each goal to its conclusion with ease. Now add to that an indefinable quality of artistic imagination, dreaming for more than can be reasonably expected, reaching beyond the status quo.

Chess can teach our next generation all these skills and more!

I learned the game when I was young and to this day I see the world as a giant chess game where any barrier can be conquered and any victory can be achieved. No goal is impossible and when I have a target in sight there is no stopping me. The same glint I had in my eye when I faced an opponent at a chess tournament still exists today when I face a challenge, along with the insouciant grin that comes from the pure joy of the experience.

Intuitively most would agree that chess improves a student’s grades and ability to study. Numerous studies have been done over the years throughout the world that show this to be the case. IQ increases, reading test results improve as do math and science scores. However there are so many other skills children pick up naturally from learning and becoming good at chess.

Imagination is a must in chess. You cannot form strategies and tactical plans without being able to envision your goals. It is impossible to win a game without first imagining the victory. You are the one to make the pieces dance to the rhythm you choose. Without the player the pieces just sit dormant on a dusty board.

A child’s self confidence soars as the victories pile up, especially when that child can routinely trounce adults. Allow that child to teach other children or perhaps even the adults and he or she will master the game quickly. Nothing helps someone learn faster than teaching others and nothing does more for one’s pride than to see someone improve under one’s tutelage.

In order to achieve a victory one must consistently play well throughout the game. You can make forty excellent moves and one thoughtless blunder and lose the game instantly. As a result you quickly learn to be thorough in your analysis and patient with your moves. Imagine if we all applied this little lesson to our daily lives. Thoughtless comments, heat of the moment bursts of anger, crimes of passion might just become things of the past to be studied as a part of a history lesson.

If every parent initiated regular family chess nights and if every school taught chess as part of their daily lesson plan imagine where our country could be. Children naturally are drawn to chess. If you don’t believe me try an easy experiment. Go to an area populated with children, put out a chess set and see what happens. I promise you they will flock to the board and become immersed in a game. We all have the power to fuel our children’s existing passion for learning and help our next generation soar. Let’s make a difference!

A Note From Joan

I did a little research about this and discovered that many research studies have been conducted about the effects of teaching Chess to a child. The results are all strikingly similar. In comparison to the control group, the test group showed: significant advancement in spatial, numerical and administrative-directional abilities, along with verbal aptitudes. The noted improvements held true regardless of the final chess skill level attained.

Takeaway Truth

Parents, get this book. You might even consider reading it yourself if you never had the opportunity to learn the game!

URL Tips For Authors

(This article previously appeared on Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you'd like articles like this as soon as they are published.)

Apple Bookstore

To search for your books in the Apple Bookstore:

Once there, click the genre of your choice and any sub-genres that may apply. The books that appear on the main page are the Top 100 Sellers. To find your book, click the letter of the alphabet that begins the first word of the title.

Kindle Digital Publishing Links

To understand Amazon Kindle Pricing Options:

To understand Amazon Kindle List Price Requirements:

Understanding Book Page URLs

Here's help for those long Book Page URLs on Amazon and Nook.

When you do a search for an author or a Book Page, for example, my book NOBODY'S CINDERELLA, you get a URL that looks like this:

Don't copy that and give it out as the URL. Everything beyond the B006LXJ7Q8/ is part of the search parameters--delete all that. Give out the URL as:

This is true for Amazon and Nook. The Nook link is

Cut everything past the B&N Product Number and you're left with:

Shorten All Links If Possible

Shorten all long links to the tiniest bit possible. Open an account with which is free. Or use which is also free. Paste the Amazon and B&N URLs which you reduced into or Tiny URL in order to make really tiny.

The Amazon shortened link above now becomes:

The Nook shortened link above now becomes:

Takeaway Truth

Learn the technical basics that will help you as an author.

3 Reviews: 3 Examples of Romance

My 2 days offline turned into a week offline. Today, I'm playing a limited game of Catch-Up, that oh, so, popular game which I seem to play on a near-daily basis.

Here are 3 romance novels--each uniquely different from each other.

Texan Undercover by Anne Marie Novark

If you like romance with the authenticity of a credible relationship that builds layer by layer, you'll love this book which has a lot to offer, not the least of which is the smoldering attraction between Internet cafe owner Claire Maxwell and long, tall Texan Dillon Anderson.

With a retro angle of a pre-millenium setting, Texan Undercover takes advantage of the hot trend in Hollywood and TV--stories about events in our recent past. I'm seeing this trend in several books, and a good example of when it works is Texan Undercover.

Set in 1998 Austin, Texas, the plot revolves around a hacker using an Internet cafe for his nefarious deeds. To the uninitiated, and I'm one because my technology expertise is limited to running the software I've learned, this story could be ripped from today's headlines. Even though most of us now use markedly improved security, the hacker's modus operandi detailed in the book still occurs--usually with a different delivery system but with just as devastating results.

Ms. Novark deftly handles the suspense elements as well as the relationship that grows from sexual attraction to love.

Jinxed by Beth Ciotta

Afia St. John, the heroine in Jinxed, was simply delightful. She made you understand and sympathize with her fragile emotions, and she made you laugh aloud at her entrance into the working world. If you're a fashionista, you'll certainly find in Afia a kindred spirit--just as you'll grimace about one scene in particular.

The perfect counterpoint to the hapless socialite was rough, tough Jake Leeds, a P.I. who ends up as Afia's employer. Their relationship just reeked of sexual tension from the get-go. Jake is hard-nosed but with an incredibly soft spot for damsels in distress.

This slightly different romance was amusing, sexy, romantic, and hugely enjoyable. You'll love it.

The Merzetti Effect by Norah Wilson

If you've tired of vampire romance novels and think they're all the same, this book may make you change your mind. Norah Wilson creates a vampire mythology that is a bit different. Yes, it's based on the vampire as virus theory, but there are some twists and turns along the way that keep you glued to the story and turning those pages.

Good characterization--especially the spunky heroine--gives the reader someone to root for, and the solid grounding in medical technology and practice gives the book an authority that helps one suspend disbelief. Then there's that out-of-left-field twist that the reader should see coming--but doesn't.

Well done, Ms. Wilson. You hooked me into your vampire mythology and made me click to buy Aiden's story in Nightfall, the next book in the series.

Takeaway Truth

More and more, the label Romance seems to be an umbrella under which many different stories may be found.

Define Your Hero

This morning we're chatting with award-winning romance author Nina Pierce.

Nina grew up in a house full of readers so becoming enamored with books was only natural. In her early teens, she discovered romance stories and fell hopelessly in love with knights in shining armor and the damsels who saved them.

Eventually, reading about alpha males and their journeys to find happy-ever-after endings wasn’t enough. She needed to write her own stories of fated loves and soul mates.

Nina discovered the passionate side of romance with her sexy stories. For her, she said, "It’s all about the sweet scent of seduction mixed with the heart warming aroma of romance."

Nina resides in the northeast with her high school sweetheart and soul mate of twenty-seven years and several very spoiled cats who consider her “staff”.

How To Get Nina's Books

For Kindle Lovers

For Nook Lovers

For all other formats

Now, take it away, Nina Pierce

Can You Define Your Hero?
by Nina Pierce

So who doesn't love a hunky, take charge guy in a romance novel? Well, it turns out ... I don't. Well, I mean I thought I did, but then writers and readers started talking about the alpha heroes they love and it occurred to me, that's not really who I write.

I thought all my guys were alpha heroes. Not that they steamroll over the heroine or completely wall off their emotions, but they do step up to the plate when the time comes. The problem was they didn't seem to have that pushy, never-give-an-inch attitude many people associate with alphas. But they definitely didn't fit into the wimpy sidekick beta hero either.

Okay, I know technically (especially in stories with shifters) there is only one alpha leader. Therefore if you write a story about the other guys, like I do, they would be considered beta. But I just can't go there. In my opinion, the beta hero is a pushover. He wouldn't come to the heroine's rescue. He'd send in his best friend, the alpha, who would save her. He'd be the one to comfort her when the hero's been a jerk, but then turn her over to him when the guy showed up at the front door. But no one writes characters like that. I'm always looking to write the next story so even my "best friend" characters offer more than a supporting role.

So maybe I have the definition all wrong.

In my confusion I checked out a post by Suzanne Brockman who writes all things alpha. But I still didn't get a good feel for this alpha hero. But I found this other article at The Road to Romance. But this post describes not alpha, not beta, but a gamma hero? Wai...whaaaat?

The Gamma Hero

Yeah, the gamma hero pulls the best from both the alpha and the beta heroes. He's a man with all the chutzpah of an alpha but the emotions of a beta. In other words ... the strong male who doesn't run roughshod over the heroine in his quest to bring down the bad guy, but works with her to find the key and discover the lost treasure or slay the dragon or free her world or ... well, you get my drift. This is the guy of romance stories in my opinion. The hero who could don the pages of any GQ magazine, but knows how to BBQ a mean steak for his lady and draw her a bubble bath. *sigh* Yeah, that's the ticket.

So I guess I'm aiming to write gamma heroes. Who knew?

The reality is. It doesn't matter what we call them. It's their heart and soul that brings the reader back to our stories over and over again. Readers need to connect to the hero. Believe he's real. Believe he's the only one for the heroine. Believe in their love story.

What about you? Do you like your guys all alpha in stories and keep your betas for real life or are you a combo kind of gal like me ... enjoying a gamma between the pages?

Tilling Passions Series

My recent romantic suspense series, “Tilling Passions” has three very handsome gamma heroes who know how to take care of their women!

Book 1, Blind Her With Bliss: She's trying to find herself. He's attempting to hide. Together they'll discover a truth that threatens them both...

Investigating the death of her best friend, uptight accountant, Julie Tilling, discovers an erotic world of adult nightclubs and Internet intrigue. When shock jock Damon Corey rocks her world in a wild night of lust, she wonders if she's found love...or the key to solving a murder.

Excerpt from Blind Her With Bliss

“When you said you wanted to play piano, you failed to mention you’re a trained pianist,” Julie said.

“My mother taught me.”

“Another side of Damon Corey I didn’t know.”

“That’s the real me.”

“Who? Tell me about the young Damon.”

He laughed. “Hell on wheels. That’s what my father used to say. I spoke three languages and could sweet-talk the girls in both of them by the age of ten.”

Julie laughed, the joy of it reaching up to push away the sadness that had filled her eyes. “Why doesn’t that surprise me?”

“My mother used to sit me on her lap when she played. I started making music on the piano before I could write my name.”

Julie traced a finger in the dimple framing his smile. “She’s a concert pianist?”

“Mama? No, she used to play the violin. The piano was my father’s instrument.”

“Used to? She gave it up?”

“My mother’s dead.”

“Damon, I’m so sorry.” Her fingers dug into his biceps. Of course she’d understand.

“Don’t be.” In an instant, his pride turned to bitterness. “She died when I was teenager. I’m over it.” Actually, talking about it still cut deeply, but he didn’t want those negative emotions to mar this day.

“No one gets over their mother’s death, Damon.”

“Yeah, well, seeing as she abandoned me to my drunken father and followed her lover to Europe, her death wasn’t really too much of a loss.” He swallowed, still finding the pill bitter all these years later. “She died on the autobahn in Germany exactly the way she wanted to live, fast and free.” He wanted it not to matter, but he could see by the furrow in her brow, that Julie understood it did.

“Damon, who knows why parents do the things they do.” Her palm cupped his jaw, and her thumb caressed his cheek. “But I might have an inkling why someone might run from familial responsibilities.” Dropping her hand to her lap, she turned to look out the window. “Sometimes they’re just overwhelming.” She shrugged as if to apologize for sympathizing. “Right or wrong, I can understand it.”

“Love can sometimes overwhelm a person.” Of course, he wasn’t talking about his parents. He was talking about his heart.

“So are you close with your father?” Julie asked.

He laughed derisively. “No. Without my mother to hold him up, he fell into the bottle and drowned himself. His death certificate reads liver failure. But in reality, he died of a broken heart.”

Leaving Damon utterly alone in the world.

Takeaway Truth

Thank you, Nina, for visiting SlingWords today.

Be A Better Blogger: Slant

Saturday, January 14, I had the pleasure of speaking to the West Houston Romance Writers of America Chapter. These talented writers leave me in awe. My topic was Blogging with a Q&A at the end about Blogging and Indie Publishing.

Sometime this year, I'll compile all my posts about blogging into an ebook Be A Better Blogger.

I gave 3 handouts at the presentation. Since I'm still being careful because of my slashed finger (code for avoiding typing), I'm going to post one of the handouts here as today's blog.

Blog Better & Faster: Find Your Slant
by Joan Reeves©2012


What is slant and what does that mean when you're talking about writing? It means you must find the angle, the smaller part of the bigger picture about which you want to write. You simply can't write everything about a given subject. This is where a lot of beginning writers go wrong.

They tackle a subject and try to tell every single thing about it. That's called rambling, and that's the surest way to ensure that you'll lose an audience. Also, if you're trying to write for money, you won't write something for which you'll get paid -- whether it's an article or a book.

Endless Ideas

You see, every subject has an infinite number of slants or angles. For instance, if you wanted to write something about book publishing, the ideas are endless. You can come up with hundreds if not thousands of ideas about book publishing.

A short list includes: paperback book publishing, hardcover book publishing, ebook publishing, book rights, the library book market, nonfiction books, fiction books, history of publishing, first novel published, how authors write books, how agents sell books, how editors bring a book manuscript to publication, how publishers make money on books, how publishers are now parts of conglomerates, etc.

Narrow Your Focus

You must figure out which part of the subject you want to address. That makes the subject manageable for you and your audience. You focus on that aspect, exploring it so that your reader comes away with real information that's of use. When you have an idea, you must play with that idea until you've figured out what narrowed, focused part of the idea you want to explore. Then you have the slant.

Takeaway Truth

Find your slant, and you'll write better and faster, and your writing -- whether blog posts or book-length will be the better for it.

2 Days Offline

I'm forced offline for at least 2 days. Yesterday, I cut my finger (on my previously injured right hand) so I again spent time in the ER because it would not stop bleeding. You see my right hand is still weak and a bit clumsy which explains the cut I guess.

Bottom line? I shouldn't try to act like a chef at Benihana just yet. Lesson learned.

I typed this with my left hand only. How challenging and exhausting. I'm not supposed to use my right at all for 2 days lest it start bleeding again.

Lousy way to start new year--especially for a writer.

If you have emailed me, Ill answer if I can. If you don't hear from me, be patient. I'll get back to you.

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes you must listen to the doctor especially when your darling husband threatens to take all the computers to the office with him if you don't promise.

When the Words Won’t Sling

I'm delighted to welcome Lois Winston, author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, to SlingWords.

The series, Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, is published by Midnight Ink. Today's your lucky day because you can pick up a copy of the first book in this series, Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, free on Amazon.

Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist when it was published last year. The book and its sleuth, Anastasia Pollack, are delightful.

Now, Death by Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series, is available.

You can read an excerpt at Lois's website. Anastasia even has her own blog: Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. Follow Lois and Anastasia on Twitter @anasleuth.

Now, here's Lois Winston.

When the Words Won’t Sling
by Lois Winston

I love the title of Joan’s blog: SlingWords. That’s because it’s what we writers do; we sling words. And if we’re lucky, they land in an interesting assemblage of plot and character development that will intrigue readers and leave them clamoring for more of our word slinging.

But what do you do when you’re suffering from the literary equivalent of a bad day on the mound? You’re all set to sling a fast ball that should nip the corner of the strike zone and send the batter swinging at air when you wind up tossing a lob that he hits out of the park. In other words, you’ve got writer’s block.

Some people insist that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Try telling that to someone who spent the last three hours staring at a blank computer screen. There are many reasons why the words don’t always come, but for me, often it’s because I’m just too tired to write. When I’m tired, my brain shuts down. But write I must because I’m on deadline, and if I don’t write, I don’t meet those deadlines.


When this happens, I’ve learned to listen to my body. I give myself permission to take a few hours off to rejuvenate. I’ll take a walk. Or watch a movie I’ve been meaning to see. Or curl up with a book by a favorite author. Whatever I decide to do, I give myself permission not to feel guilty about doing it.

And that’s key.

Most writers can’t afford to quit their day jobs. We juggle our schedules to accommodate work, writing, and family responsibilities. So when we have our writing time, we feel compelled to write and feel guilty when we don’t. We’re wasting precious writing time. What we forget, though, is that we’re not perpetual motion machines. Writers, like everyone else, need down time. Time to relax. To play. To do nothing but daydream.

I’ve found that when I give myself permission not to write, I can then get back to my writing with fresh energy and a brain no longer blocked.

What about you? Are there things you do to counteract writer’s block?

Free Books & More Giveaway

Post a comment, and you could win one of 5 signed copies of Death by Killer Mop Doll that I’m giving away as part of my blog tour this month.

The full tour schedule can be found at my website and at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. I’m also giving away 3 copies on Goodreads.

For anyone attending The American Library Association’s Mid-Winter conference January 20-24 in Dallas, Midnight Ink will be raffling off the hand-crafted mop doll shown here during the opening reception Friday evening. Register for the drawing at the Midnight Ink booth #1459.

Takeaway Truth

Thank you, Lois Winston, for visiting SlingWords, and good luck with your latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery.


I guess my theme today is moving since that's what we've been doing all weekend. Packing up our daughter's "stuff" that's stored at our Hill Country home so the large pieces can be picked up next weekend.

We loaded up 2 vehicles with smaller items and took them home. Once there we realized we needed to make another trip up there to shrink the stack of boxes.

That's what I did today. Tomorrow, I'll drive home with the car filled to brimming. Then next weekend the moving truck with a bunch of strong men will show up to empty all the stuff that is being housed in the garage.

Moving & Change

Gee, is there anything better than moving? Well, yes, about a billion other activities rank above moving in my book. Moving is change, and life is nothing, if not change.

Billy Crystal said, "Change is such hard work." I know he was talking about personal change which must be on a par with changing homes.

Takeaway Truth

Change is hard work? So is moving. I'm ready for this to be over.

Weddings Are Work

How come it's so much work when one of your kids plans to marry?

We've been working on this wedding and merger of our darling daughter's life and her darling young man's life since last July when he proposed.

Pardon My French

The wedding is not until March, but that doesn't mean we have idle time between now and March. Au contraire, mes ami! (Pardon the French, but I'm practicing in case they ask me to come to Paris for the launch of my books. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?)

Actually, I had an email Friday from my Editor's Assistant who had just finished reading the French translation of JANE (I'm Still Single) JONES. He was nice enough to say he really enjoyed it.

Weddings Are Work

Back to my wedding-is-so-much-work theme. This weekend we are in our Texas Hill Country home, packing all her stuff that is stored here in order to truck it home, store it in the garage there until next weekend when movers come to pick it up.

In fact, I think every weekend from now until the wedding is scheduled for wedding "stuff" so I'm just going to roll with it. Why I scheduled writing and assorted tasks for this time period just shows my incredible naivete, right?

Admittedly, today she and her beloved are doing 99% of the packing work, but I'm exhausted just watching them.

Next week the movers arrive to load everything into a big truck and take it to their new town home, but I'm off the hook there too. I'm speaking at the West Houston Romance Writers of America Chapter meeting. I didn't plan it that way, but that's how it worked out.

Takeaway Truth

Moving is never easy. Combining two households is never easy. But the end result will be, as they say, priceless.

Myth of the Muse

All the hoopla about my French deal has settled down a bit so back to business today. Let's talk about something that always tickles my funny bone: the Muse.

I had someone tell me, after I'd started selling well with my ebooks, that they craft memorable fiction rather than "crank it out" the way I do.

This person has one published book that isn't selling well at all. This writer went on to explain that he/she (no hints as to the identity) could only produce a book every few years because he/she wrote only when inspired--at the pleasure of the Muse. You know, that mystical, magical entity who whispers our books into our ears so that all we have to do is transcribe the soft utterances.

Pardon Me While I Laugh

I've known a lot of writers in my career, and I do mean a lot. Those who actually succeed in creating careers that produce a respectable income know that their writing is not dependent on some Muse. After all, the Muse only exists in Greek mythology.

Those writers I've known who talk about writing when the Muse or inspiration moves them never manage to create a genuine writing career. Sure, one needs a spark of inspiration that makes one think: "Hey, that's a great idea for a book."

However, one cannot depend on inspiration in the day in-day out grind of writing a book. Often, after one gets past the exciting beginning, the book does become a grind to get through the middle--or the muddle as many curse it--to the glorious two words: The End.

Writing Biz Reality

A lot of beginning writers want to write books. At least that's what they tell me and anyone else with a heartbeat who will listen. I know some who wants to get paid for freelance writing, but she hasn't actually tried to get any jobs. She hasn't written any spec articles to place in a portfolio of samples. Just like some self-labeled novelists I've known who haven't sat down and consistently produced pages of writing because they can only write when the Muse inspires them.

Fantasy vs. Reality

These writers who depend on the Muse have an unrealistic view of writing as a career if they think you only write when you're inspired. Ask any writer--freelance or novelist--who has signed a contract if that's how they work. They'll tell you--as soon as they finish laughing, or maybe groaning--that the business doesn't work that way. If you're under contract, you don't wait for the Muse to pay you a visit. You write whether you're inspired or not.

But, wait, you say. I haven't signed a contract. I'm an indie author so I can finish a book whenever I like. Ha! If you haven't made a contract with yourself--setting a deadline by which your next book will be finished--you're just kidding yourself.

Universal Truth

There's one law of the universe that you need to learn. A project expands to fill the time allotted. I'm sure I didn't create that aphorism, but I certainly have experienced it in my own life whether it's cleaning out the garage or writing a 75,000 word novel.

What happens if you don't set a deadline? The "why rush, I've got plenty of time" syndrome kicks into action. Hey! You've got all the time in the world so you can take today off. And maybe the whole week--or month. When six months have passed and you've got nada to show for it, writer's malaise sets in. The longer you don't work on the project; the harder it gets to tackle it again. Or the project expands and drags on and on and on until you're so bored with it that you'd rather wash windows and polish the silverware than write.

Be Your Own Boss & Be A Mean SOB

If you don't set a deadline, your book may never get finished, or it may take you so long to write one that your eager fans forget who you are. You must write consistently, and you must finish what you write in a timely fashion if you are to have a shot at success.

If you have a day job that's not writing, say you work in an office, if you're depressed, tired, and weepy, do you call in sick? Probably not.

If writing is your job and you feel all those negative emotions, do you call in sick to yourself? You shouldn't. You have to meet a daily quote and power through. Sure, what you write may be crap, but crap can be edited and made better. A blank page or monitor screen can't.

Got a deadline and got a cold? You write. Tired and sleep-deprived? You write. Don't know what this scene or even this chapter is about? You still write. Sure, there are times that are exceptions to my "write consistently/produce pages" rule, but, for the most part, I write consistently. Day after day.

Adopt A Work Ethic

Writers, if you want to be successful, adopt the work ethic of your peers out in the job force. Sure, writing looks easy--until you try it. Writing is hard mentally and physically. It's not a job for wusses. Those who write do so because they can't imagine doing anything else, but make no mistake.

Writing demands the same kind of dedication as careers in teaching or accounting or any other job. If you're a teacher, and you're tired and sleepy, you don't sleep in. You go to school and teach. If you're an accountant, and you're tired of the same old grind, day in and day out, you don't skip work and go to the ball game or a spa. You go to the office at your appointed time.

Do you get the idea? You need to establish a writing quota, and you need to put your butt in the computer chair at the appointed time and write. As a writer, you're lucky in that you decide exactly when you must place your butt in the chair and how long you must keep it there.

Develop a plan today, and set a deadline. Be disciplined and create on a consistent schedule.

Takeaway Truth

Quit waiting for the Muse. If you have a great idea, then the Muse has moved on. The rest is up to you. Discipline and consistency are the cornerstones of writing success. That's where the real magic lies--in you.

BIG News: French World Rights Sale

Since my countersigned contract arrived, I can finally announce my big news about selling French World Rights for Print and Ebook on the 3 books you see pictured here to Bragelonne, a noted French publisher of paranormal fiction.

I know you're saying, "But, Joan, you don't write paranormal."

You're right. I don't. Bragelonne is branching out into contemporary romance.


In late August 2011, I received an email from an Editor of Bragelonne who had obtained the ebook of JANE I'm-Still-Single JONES, one of my romantic comedies. She totally loved that book which has been one of my most popular romance novels.

She wanted to know two things: if I was the rights owner and who represented me because she wanted to make an offer for the book.

Homework Time

I replied that I was the rights owner and that I would probably represent myself unless I decided I was out of my depth and sought the counsel of a literary agent. At the time, I had no agent. In fact, I had dismissed my last agent about ten years ago.

Then, I posted on the lists of traditionally published authors to which I belong, requesting information about French rights sales. I'm not posting any names here because these lists are private and what is said on the lists, and by whom, is confidential.

Suffice it to say that a well-known NYT bestselling author who has had numerous foreign rights sales, emailed me and shared her experience. I have to say here that just about all the "big" authors I know are the most generous women around.

Decision Time

Based on what I learned, I decided that this could be very big for me. Therefore, I knew I needed a literary agent to negotiate the contract. I've been in the biz long enough to know that an offer made to an author without representation will be vastly different from an offer made to one who has an agent.

That wasn't an easy decision to make when most of NY publishing seem to consider you unmarketable. *LOL* Or so I had begun to believe which is why I gave up on traditional publishing and became an indie author. I just got tired of the rejection carousel based usually on query letters, not a manuscript.

I knew there was an audience who would appreciate my writing if I could just get my books to them. The creation of the Kindle and Mark Coker's work with Smashwords followed by the Nook from Barnes & Noble made that possible.

The Remarkable J. A. Konrath

I have also been in the biz long enough to know that a bad agent is worse than no agent. I didn't want to make a mistake here because I knew that most agents will take you on if you have a deal on the table. For advice, I turned to Joe Konrath, another generous friend who has helped many of us in our pursuit of finding an audience for our work. J. A. Konrath not only has juice, but also he knows people. (Thank you again, Joe!)

He put me in touch with an agent who immediately agreed to represent me for this deal. (Again, I'm not mentioning names because they don't take walk-ins, and I don't think it's nice to bandy their names about and have them absolutely deluged by writers wanting a similar deal.

At this point, I should probably point out that this deal was a matter of all the planets aligning. A Parisian editor just happened to read my southern fiction and love it at the same time her company was branching into contemporary romance. I mean, what are the odds?

Back To My Story

By the time my agent got in touch with Bragelonne, they had decided they wanted not just 1 book from me, but 3. Also, they didn't want to just republish as ebooks. They wanted Print and Ebook Rights with the print books coming out first.

My agent negotiated with the Editorial Director. In the end, the resulting contract for my first 3 ebook romances, JANE I'm-Still-Single JONES, Just One Look, and Still The One, was evidence that I had made the right decision in retaining an agent. I love it when it's a win for all parties--especially for the writer!

Moral of This Story

1. Sometimes good things happen to good people.

2. The law of miracles has not been repealed.

3. In an eye blink, everything in your world can change.

Most of us experience that in bad ways. I'm thinking of the last 3 years when my daughter developed a blood clot after surgery and could have died if I hadn't got her to the hospital in time--and that was just one complication. Sometimes, sweeping change can be change for the better. Thank you, Lord, that this was one of those times since I've had more than enough of the other kind in the last few years.

4. Something like this can't be planned, controlled, anticipated, or programmed in any way. When it happens, try to make smart decisions and roll with it.

5. I share what I learn.

I published my first ebook the last week of March 2011. Within a month I had sold 1000 copies. The next 1000 took a week; the next 1000, 3 days. Everything went crazy after that. I haven't had time to update my combined spreadsheet, but I ended 2011 with about 150,000 sales or more I think.

I've done an entire blog series about how I did it which may work only for me, but there might be lessons there for everyone. I'm finally compiling all that in Ebook Success: Joan Sells & Tells All which I'll publish in a couple of weeks.

6. Last, but not least, if I hadn't started publishing ebooks, this would never have happened.

Takeaway Truth

I owe everything to the readers who embraced my books. I felt there was an audience for the way I tell a story. I put my work out there, and my audience found me. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

How To Use Slang

The New Year is here. If one of your goals is to write better dialogue, this post is for you.

(Reprinted from Writing Hacks, my subscription newsletter for writers. Subscribe today if you'd like articles like this as soon as they are published.)

Characters Speak Slang

Slang: informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is used by people of all ages and social groups.

If you're writing conversations between fictional people, some of them will use slang expressions. Make sure the slang usage reflects the character's age, demographics, education, and today's pop culture.

A few weeks ago on SlingWords, I gave some online resources for slang: 3 Online Slang Resources.

Use Slang Appropriately

I often include current slang words and/or phrases in my freelance writing because they give a certain immediacy and conversational tone. Bad slang usage is laughable, as you've probably seen on television and movies.

How many times have you seen an older person trying to sound cool and using slang--from his generation. Instead of sounding cool, he sounds like a generation gap buffoon and usually identifies himself as an old fart out of touch with today's world.

Take the word marijuana.

Depending on your age, you will use one of these slang words: pot, herb, grass, weed, Mary Jane, reefer, Aunt Mary, skunk, boom, gangster, kif, or ganja.

If you're a good writer, you won't have a 16-year-old boy calling it Mary Jane, and you won't have a 70-year-old grandmother calling it ganja. Unless your purpose is comedic.

You need to get it right, or you risk sounding like an over-the-hill anachronism.

In print books, it's harder to know which slang word or phrase to use because the lag time between conception and publication is rather large. What's hip today may not be hip next year, or, worse, it may mean the opposite in a year or more. That's usually how long it takes a published print book to hit the shelves.

What's A Writer To Do

1. Choose judiciously.

Some words that were cool a generation ago are still cool, i.e., the word cool. That word never seems to go out of style. Sick may be the word of choice now, but it may be passe next week so be careful and choose wisely. Also, be aware that many young people use slang words they learned from their parents or grandparents.

It all depends on characterization. Example: I frequently use "geez Louise" because I heard it from elders in my family growing up. I used "see you later alligator" to my kids. That comes from some early rock and roll song, and my mom used the phrase. Now my daughter uses it.

2. Don't inundate your writing with slang.

Use it carefully to depict a few characters rather than all of them. If you're writing juvenile fiction, you may try to write all characters rapping back and forth in their own slang dialect, but if you eavesdrop on kids, you'll find that, in general conversation, most of them talk like the rest of us with an occasional slang word thrown in for effect.

Slang is a good way to characterize. If you have Nancy Jane, a grandmother, saying, "My stars!" when surprised, later in the book, you don't even have to write, Nancy Jane said, because the reader knows that Nancy Jane always says that. Of course that means that you must be careful not to put Nancy Jane's surprised exclamation in the mouth of anyone else.

3. Know what you're doing by consulting a good slang dictionary.

There are a bunch of them in print (less reliable because of lag time) and online. There are the 3 that I gave today on SlingWords that I listed above, or find one you like. Enter "urban slang" or "slang dictionary" into a search engine. Many of these are updated often from once a day to multiple times a day.

If you haven't consulted a slang dictionary before, be aware that some of the words may be offensive.

Takeaway Truth

Writers must write for the audience that exists today, not twenty years ago, yet the writing should be as clear in meaning today as in twenty years from now.

Makeover Your Blog

Every year, I like to begin the New Year with some advice about how to spruce up your blog.

I'm always tweaking mine, but most people don't. As this new year begins, take a good look at your websites to see if you can make them more appealing.

Here are some websites where you can obtain great free templates to enhance your blog's appearance.

Blogger aka Blogspot

Tutorials by Jennifer Apple offers some really good Tips For Blog Templates & Blog Design using PhotoShop.

Best Free Blog Widgets

Shop for a new theme or template. There are thousands of free templates available. Here are a few sources:


Free Blogger Templates


Blogger Blog

Wordpress Blogs

Free Theme Layouts has some stunning themes.

Free Wordpress Themes has 301 templates.

Clone 24 offers a huge selection with a category search in the right sidebar.

Don't limit your imagination to these few websites. Do a search for free blogger templates or free wordpress templates or substitute the word themes for templates. You'll find a dizzying array of choices and most are free. Also, many Wordpress themes have been bloggerized so you can look for those as well.

Takeaway Truth

The New Year brings change so why not make some changes that will enhance your blog?

Happy 2012

Before the first day of the New Year ends, allow me to wish you all the very best for 2012.

Takeaway Truth

A New Year offers the opportunity for a New Start. It's a Do-Better, not a Do-Over, but, truly, no one ever really gets a Do-Over so rejoice and resolve to Do-Better in whatever area you feel needs it.