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I Challenge You to Challenge Your Challenges…

January 18, 2018-Read the title again. It sounds confusing, I know, but in reality, it’s quite simple. This year I want you to challenge your challenges! But what does that mean? Let me help you with the process:

  1. Make a list of all of the challenges you’ve had in your writing career to date. I’m talking everything. Some of these challenges might include not getting a traditional publishing deal, not meeting deadlines, not getting enough or any speaking engagements, not selling enough books or earning enough income to survive with your work. Maybe it’s not having enough time to sit down and write or scheduling blocks of writing sessions. Perhaps you haven’t been able to join any associations, or you haven’t been able to do any continuing education for your writing. Whatever the challenges you’ve experienced, write them ALL down.
  2. Make a list of all of your writing accomplishments to date. Yes, again, this means everything! Perhaps you’ve been able to read your book in schools, or maybe you’ve had something published in one of your favourite magazines, perhaps you’ve been able to secure a grant for the historical fiction book you’re writing, or maybe you’ve been asked to be a guest speaker somewhere. Maybe you’ve started a blog that has received tons of visits, or maybe you’ve self-published a book on Amazon. Whatever the accomplishment, however big or small, be sure to write it down.
  3. Find the gap in between. This is where challenging your challenges comes in to play; look over your list of accomplishments, look at everything you’ve been able to do thus far, you should be proud of yourself! Now study the two lists you’ve made and find the gap in between, the difference in between your challenges and your accomplishments is ACTION. So, let’s go back to the challenges list and use not having any speaking engagements as an example. Why haven’t you had any? Have you put forth enough action? Have you contacted everyone you know? Have you sent out emails introducing yourself and what your work is about? Have you labeled yourself as an expert in your field and have you knocked on every door to see if people are interested in what you have to say? Now, if you look at your list of accomplishments, do you remember what you had to do to get there? Do you remember the hours you put in? Do you remember the emails, postcards, phone calls, rejections, and getting up and trying again? When you apply enough effort to something, eventually, you get exactly what you want. Apply the same amount of effort to your challenges as you did to your accomplishments, and soon enough, the list of accomplishments will grow, while the list of challenges, changes.

I love the saying, you can do anything you set your mind to, even though I believe something needs to be added to that statement. Here’s what I’ll say instead, “You can do anything you set your mind to and anything can be accomplished with enough effort, discipline, and action.”

This year, I challenge you to challenge your challenges. Happy writing! X LLB

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You are NOT Shakespeare…(Poetry is a hard sell)

January 16, 2019Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.  

Sigh. Talk poetry to me. Another sigh, as I cup my chin in my hands and gaze adoringly into your eyes. Ok, we aren’t Shakespeare, far from it, I’m speaking for myself anyway even though I would beg for a fraction of the talent that he had. What’s the deal with poetry in the marketplace? Why is so hard to sell? Why doesn’t it get published as often as other genres? These are just a few of the questions that I get pretty regularly. Here’s are some answers:

  1. Poetry has a very niche audience. In mainstream publishing, there’s a small market for poetry books. Even established, well-known poets don’t sell thousands of books – maybe not even hundreds. I know what you’re going to say…”But, what about The Sun and Her Flowers or Milk and Honey?” Yes, those books did sell thousands, but they are the exception to the rule.
  2. Poetry doesn’t sell. Let me rephrase that, poetry doesn’t sell as well as mainstream fiction does. I believe that the world needs poetry and poets, but I also believe that I don’t want to take an enormous financial risk in publishing an unknown poet’s poems. The cold, hard truth about traditional publishing is that publishers want to make a profit. This is our business and our livelihood. The cost of publishing a book is in the thousands, to begin with, and as publishers, we want to make damn sure that at the very least, we get our investment back. Publishing poetry is one gamble that I’m not willing to bet on. We are in this business to make money just like anyone who is in any business is.
  3. Poetry is subjective. You may hate Shakespeare (perish the thought, he is an absolute genius and I am a huge fan of his work) but there are those in the world that would fight you to the death defending his sonnets. You may love Robert Frost (again, what’s not to love?), but others may find his poetry dry and outdated. Poetry is art and art is subjective. Yes, writing is art, but mainstream writing is less subjective. You can say, “I love thrillers!” and cover an entire genre, whereas, with poetry, it’s much more specific.

The point is, if you love to write poetry, keep writing! Write for yourself and your friends and family. There are a few publications that are still accepting poetry submissions and a quick Google search will let you know where to send your work if you’re so inclined. Here’s to your success! X LLB

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You’re About to get Lectured on Your Lecture…

January 14, 2019- As authors know, occasionally we must give lectures about our books or our work. Public speaking is something that we should be used to by now because we’ve been preparing speeches since we were kids. Public speaking doesn’t have to be scary and it doesn’t have to be scarier than death, (I’m not kidding when I say that people would rather choose death than to stand in front of a crowd and talk…seems crazy to me!) because here’s all you need to know to successfully speak in public.

  1. Prep your stuff. Chances are that you know what you’re talking about when you’re speaking on your profession or when talking about your book, but It’s always good to prepare in advance in case the butterflies make you lose your mind and forget everything you’ve ever known. A couple of index cards are great when giving a formal speech with some notes jotted down in point form, or when speaking about your book, practice what you’re going to say or read (like an excerpt from your work).
  2. Vocal power. Speak slowly, pause, breathe, and smile. The last thing you want to do is come across as incoherent. Remember that episode from Seinfeld with the low talker and the close talker? Don’t do either of these things. Speak slowly, clearly, and loud enough so that the audience at the back of the room can hear you. If you’re nervous about speaking in public already, the worst thing to happen is for someone to shout from the back of the room, “WE CAN’T HEAR YOU!” Cue red cheeks and sweat stains. Remain calm and speak with confidence and power.
  3. Listen. When the question period of your lecture comes, be sure to listen to what your readers/clients/associates are asking you. Pause a few seconds before you answer and never, ever interrupt when someone is asking you a question. Make your questioner feel good and avoid making negative associations. Don’t make them feel bad or wrong and watch your body language. You’ll have your fair share of dumb questions, but keep those feelings to yourself. We’ve all asked a dumb question at one time or another!

So, get out there and tell the world about what you do and what you’ve written! They deserve to know how awesome you are.
X LLB

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What’s in a Name?

January 11, 2019– Man, there are some pretty cool names out there. I remember the first time that I thought, “Whoa, that’s a cool name that totally suits his profession!” The gentleman I’m talking about is a real person named Harvey Karver. Want to know his real-life profession? Butcher. No joke. How perfect is that?

Naming your characters properly is as essential as picking an excellent title for your book, and really, they do the same thing; they let your reader know subtle information about the book or the person, both if you’re a pro. So, what do I mean when I say you’d better pick a great name? Here are three simple tips!

  1. Get your era right. You’re not going to find a Chase, or a Stormi, or a Madison in a period piece or historical fiction novel. Know the names that were popular in the era that you’re writing about or risk your credibility as an author and your entire career for that matter.
  2. Don’t do trends. See the names above? Chase, Stormi, Rayne, and Colt are names that sound like they’re ripped from the Kardashian’s Baby Naming Handbook. These names are unique enough but tend to be overdone in romantic fiction especially. Plus, anytime that you use a trendy name, you take a chance of aging your book too soon.
  3. Say them out loud. Does your character’s name sound right? Does it sound like it belongs in the genre you’re writing? Does it have a nice ring to it? Does it work with your character’s profession and personality? If not, choose something different. There are thousands of names out there and if you’re not stuck on yours, keep trying until you find something that you love and that you believe. Because if you don’t believe it or like it, chances are that your reader won’t either! There is name-generating software available on the web. Do a quick Google search for fictional character names or name generator.

Oh, and one more important piece of advice; if there’s any possibility that you’ve named your fictional character after someone in real life, be sure to put in a disclaimer at the beginning of your book in order to keep from getting sued…especially if that person is still living!

Happy writing! X LLB

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(It’s Been A While) Photo Writing Prompt…

January 9, 2018- We haven’t done one of these for a long time and we’re way overdue to have some fun; I love photo writing prompts! They certainly help me break out of writing ruts when the ideas just aren’t flowing. The picture prompt below has unlimited opportunities to write about; this photo can break into multiple genres. Your imagination is the only limit! Have fun with this and happy writing. X LLB

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Lie to Me…

January 4, 2019– Humans lie. Whether it’s white lies or big lies, or the lies in between, we all do it at one time or another. Lying can be essential for your manuscript depending on the genre! Here’s a really cool infographic explaining how to detect a lie; this is great for implementing into your manuscript if one of your characters is being interrogated by the police, or if a parent in your story is asking their teenage son what time they came home on Saturday night, or if you want to convey some subtle gestures throughout your novel for when your character is being less than truthful. Here’s to your success, and that’s no lie! X LLB

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Let’s Talk About Excess…

January 2, 2018– By now, I’m sure you’re sick of Christmas. Ok, maybe not sick of Christmas, but sick of the hullabaloo. It’s been over for about a week and the entire lead up to the special day has been excessive; holiday parties, work parties, get-togethers with friends, kid’s plays, decorating, shopping, eating, drinking, cleaning, spending, rushing, and cooking, it all becomes too much.

It’s time for a break! That’s what I love about a new year; it allows us to regroup and reset our lives and decide what we want for the coming year. I hate the word resolution because I think there are such negative emotions associated with it. I resolve to get fit, I resolve to save money, I resolve to climb to the top of the CN Tower, whatever it is, it’s all been said before. As humans, we are conditioned to want more, do more, spend more, say more, eat more, consume more, work more, pay more, and buy more. I for one, am so sick of it! It’s time to take control in all areas of our lives and use what we have until it runs out. And not to be the bearer of bad news, but most of the time when we resolve to do something, we fail. Sure, we start out strong with lots of momentum and we’re taking our healthy lunches to work, we’re hitting the gym five days a week at six in the morning, and we’re finally cutting back on coffee and getting more sleep. But, then the inevitable happens; life gets in the way and we slowly sink back into our comfortable realities. Of course, I’m not saying that it can’t be done, people change their entire lives every day, I’m just saying that there’s a better way.

The better way is to cut the excess. That’s it. It’s that simple and that hard. As writers and creatives, we often do things excessively; we use too many words, we have too many excuses as to why we didn’t write today, we have too many notebooks filled with ideas that we never follow through with. We have an excess of coffee mugs, an excess of deadlines, an excess of commitments, and an excess of time spent in front of our computers when we should be spending time with our loved ones. I’m pointing the finger straight at myself on this one. So, this year, I don’t resolve to do anything, but what I am going to do is finish what I start, one thing and one day at a time. I am NOT going to do anything to the point of excess. NOT. A. DAMN. THING. 2019 is my year of minimalism; it’s the year where I finally take control of my schedule, my writing, and my professional life. The funny thing is, it’s all been in my control from the start. I hope that you’ll join me in cutting out the excess in all areas of your writing life. Who knows? You could have your best year yet!

So, for 2019, the only things that I wish for you in excess are happiness, joy, and love.
X LLB

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The 60 Books I Read in 2018…

December 31, 2018– Well friends, it’s been an epic year in so many ways; I started some new adventures, made lots of new friends, traveled, and of course published a few books. But what about the books I read? It would be unfair of me not to mention them as some of them made such an impact on me, that my life and way of thinking will never be the same. 

60 books in a year was my goal, and I’m happy to say that I reached it. For all of you numbers nuts, that works out to approximately 1.15 books per week. Now, remember that not all of the books I read were in paperback format, some of them were audio books, and e-books. This method of “reading” allowed me to listen to books while travelling and while doing mundane tasks. I know that without audio books, it would have been much harder for me to reach my goal of 60 books read for the year. 

Let’s get on with it! Here is my list of books that I read in 2018: (A quick search on Amazon will show you details and the authors)

  1. 5 Thieves of Happiness
  2. Murder, She Wrote- Hook, Line, and Murder
  3. The Million Dollar Blog
  4. Thirteen
  5. Clockwork
  6. Profit First
  7. Murder, She Wrote- Dying to Retire
  8. Never Lose a Customer Again
  9. Mind Over Mind
  10. Outwitting the Devil
  11. Murder, She Wrote- Scared to Death
  12. Hocus Pocus
  13. Google Adwords
  14. Every Breath You Take
  15. The Couple Next Door
  16. You are Not so Smart
  17. The Brain that Changes Itself
  18. Tools of Titans
  19. You
  20. Make Your Bed
  21. Discipline Equals Freedom
  22. The Power of Gratitude
  23. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
  24. To Kill a Mockingbird
  25. Witches
  26. Unmarketing
  27. E Squared
  28. Do the Work
  29. 12 Rules for Life
  30. The Checklist Manifesto
  31. The 5 Second Rule
  32. The Obstacle is the Way
  33. Plum Lucky
  34. The 10x Rule
  35. 33 Strategies of War
  36. Brainfluence
  37. All Marketers are Liars
  38. The Toyota Way
  39. The Magic of Thinking Big
  40. The 48 Laws of Power
  41. Challenge Your Potential
  42. Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty
  43. The Positive Power of Negative Thinking
  44. How I write
  45. On Writing (Stephen King) 
  46. It 
  47. Delores Claiborne
  48. The Psychology of Winning
  49. 1 Page Marketing Plan
  50. The Art of War
  51. The Idiot Brain
  52. Screenwriting for Dummies
  53. Nocturnal Animals
  54. I See You
  55. The Woman in Cabin 10
  56. The Sales Bible 
  57. Save the Cat
  58. Book Yourself Solid
  59. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
  60. Holes 

So, there you have it! I look forward to reading another 60 books in 2019. Remember, you can never be overdressed or overeducated. Happy Reading! X LLB 

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Why are (Insert Name of famous Card Company Here)Movies so Predictable?

December 24, 2018 I’m not a fan of Christmas movies. I’m not a fan of all  Christmas movies, I do like Die Hard (best Christmas movie EVER) and the Grinch, but that’s about it. My loved ones, on the other hand, are major lovers of all things Hallmark. Here’s the whole storyline in a nutshell; a single, career woman who is too busy for love, but she has to move to a small town where a local, handsome bachelor teaches her the true spirit of Christmas. It starts snowing, they kiss, and there is a dog. The End. 

Did I miss anything? Didn’t think so. Yes, there is a place for story lines like this, people want to feel cuddly and cozy, and they want simplistic, feel-good stories with a happy ending. It’s fun to watch these movies with a cup of hot cocoa and baileys, hold the cocoa, and some cookies, while snuggled up with a blanket and a cat. But, there is no place for predictability in your writing. There ARE formulas to follow when writing of course; whether it’s romance or thriller, or mystery, there are certain elements that each genre contains.  Here are two easy tips to follow so that your writing doesn’t become stale like the leftover holiday treats currently sitting on your kitchen counter.

1) Approach your story as a reader

The above tip is probably obvious, but it’s the most important step when writing effective plot twists. If your reader can predict where the story is going, you’re sunk. There’s nothing worse than watching a movie and being able to know what happens before it happens. I do this quite frequently as a viewer/reader; we’ll be watching a movie and I’ll get up to pour some more wine (I have to drink wine while watching holiday movies…it’s the only way I can stand it) and as I leave the room, I’ll say to my husband, “Then her fiance comes back, she leaves with him, she returns when she realizes he’s the wrong guy, the Christmas guy and the main character kiss and live happily ever after.” UGH (insert eye roll here) I hate always being right.

When you’re plotting your novel constantly put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Which direction would you expect the story to go? What twists and turns come to mind? Write all of these down and then throw them in the garbage and delete them out of your manuscript forever. If you think there’s the slightest possibility that the reader can figure out your plot twist, you’re probably right. Change it.

2) Ensure your twist is believable and necessary – and makes sense

Plot twists are sudden, unexpected changes of direction, but they must still be realistic and believable. No matter how unpredictable your plot twist might be, a plot twist doesn’t make sense or further the story is not effective. Readers won’t be impressed and they may even get frustrated and stop reading. Don’t resort to hacks, and never introduce a plot twist just for the sake of including one. Remember Sharknado? Yeah. Well there you go, see what I mean?

There you have it, two sure-fire ways to make sure your writing is unpredictable, but meaningful. Happy writing! X LLB