Random Inspirations

Welcome to my blog, full of fun inspirations and insights on writing, self-publishing, and more!

Blog Multi-Tasking: 5 Ways to Successfully Maintain More Than 1 Blog

Blogging is so much fun that it can be addictive–literally. Once you start a blog and see it gain a following, it’s oh-so-tempting to start another. We writers are generally multi-faceted people with a wide range of interests, and blogging is an amazing form of self-expression. So why not write multiple blogs about various topics?

The challenge is maintaining the blogs.We don’t want our blogs taking over our lives, and ultimately detracting from other writing projects, yet a blog must be updated regularly to keep it relevant and grow a following. So what’s a blogger to do?

I have been writing my blog, Random Inspirations, for over 2 years. Posts started on a once-weekly basis (or sometimes even less than that if my work schedule was particularly demanding). Once I started writing full-time, I began composing 2 posts a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. I have followed this schedule for the last 8 months almost without deviation, and I have seen my readership  grow accordingly.

I also started a pregnancy blog, Prego in San Diego, last month, and have been posting once a week there. I really enjoy blogging about the things I learn as I advance in my pregnancy–especially health news, interesting studies about embryonic development, and nutritious and yummy recipes.

blogging

Based on my own experience, here are 5 ways to successfully maintain more than one blog:

  1. Define clear-cut goals for each blog – Keeping up with your blogs is largely about motivation–you have to feel like each is worth writing. So, for each blog, ask yourself questions like: What value do I hope to bring to readers? Do I bring a unique voice or perspective to my blog topic? Any time you feel demotivated or uninspired, remember why you wanted to start these blogs in the first place, and you’ll be more likely to maintain them!
  2. Set a regular posting schedule – Ask yourself how many times per week you would like to post on each blog, based on factors like how much time you have, how often readers are likely to desire new posts, and how much relevant material you can write about. For each blog, determine exact days of the week that you’ll post, and stick to them.
  3. Write when you’re inspired – One of the best features about blogging platforms like WordPress is that you can schedule posts in advance. Sometimes, inspiration strikes on a non-blog-posting day. If that happens, write your post ahead of time and schedule it for its regular day. Not only will you feel ahead of the game, chances are you’ll write a more engaging post than you would if you were forcing yourself to write.
  4. Be discoverable – Blogs are so much more fun to write when you feel like people are actually reading them. Because of this, you want to make sure your blog posts are discoverable. One thing I learned recently is the 15-rule on WordPress. For each of your posts, you must use only a total of 15 categories and/or tags. If you use over 15, your posts will be less discoverable because they will be flagged as irrelevant.
  5. Invite guest bloggers or do a vlog – Even the best time managers might feel overwhelmed by multiple blogs. If you start feeling bogged down, recruit other bloggers in your field to write guest posts. It’s great exposure for them, and easy street for you. Also, you can shoot vlogs. For example, I post episodes of my YouTube show, Business, Publishing, and Life on my blog as vlog posts.

Bloggers out there, do you have more than one blog? If so, what tips worked best for you? I’d love to hear what you think!

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It’s Here: Amish in College #3 is Out!

Today is a very exciting day–my latest Amish in College novella, Amish Scholar: Samuel’s Book, has launched!

Here’s the Amazon descriptionMercy’s boyfriend Samuel has accomplished a feat that he always thought was impossible: He’s won a full scholarship to a local university where he’s studying agriculture and business! He’s sure that his newfound knowledge will help him to save his family’s failing farm. 

As classes and demands on the farm intensify, Samuel finds himself struggling to balance the dual tasks of school and work. His brother John suddenly abandons his duties on the farm, opting instead for a higher-paying job at a factory. Meanwhile, both his father and Mercy pressure him to quit college. His father needs his help full-time, while Mercy thinks that college is taking too much time away from their relationship. 

As conflicts heat up, Samuel learns about an innovative new farming niche that might be the answer to his family’s woes. Can he apply what he’s learning in school to save his family’s farm, or will he succumb to the pressure and give up on college? Will his brother John return to the farm he once loved, or is he lost forever? And will Samuel and Mercy survive their relationship challenges?

Those of you who follow my blog may remember the post about channeling a male protagonist. It was definitely a challenge to get into an 18 year-old guy’s head, considering that I’ve always written from a female perspective. I think you’ll enjoy the way Samuel looks at things, especially the way our favorite Amish twins, Rebekah and Mercy, appear through his eyes!

Amish Scholar Cover

I also loooove the new cover above, courtesy of Antonio, man of many talents. 🙂 He surprised me with an incredible mock-up of this design, which we tweaked one evening. What do you think of the new design? I think we’ll definitely be doing our own covers from now on!

And finally, here’s a free excerpt of the book, so you can try it before you buy it. Enjoy!

It turns out that we are able to repair the wheel ourselves, which makes my father very happy. I wince at the knowledge that the bounce in his step doesn’t only come from accomplishing a difficult task; it comes from saving a few extra dollars.

 And when I see my father’s books, I can completely understand why he’s worried about money.

“Wow,” I say without even thinking, as we sit in the living room poring over the farm’s numbers after dinner that night. “We definitely need to do something different.”

My father sighs. “That’s all you have to say? I was hoping some of that book learning would come in handy right now.”

I rub my left temple, feeling a headache coming on. “I’m thinking, Vadder.”

John passes through the living room. “Looking at the farm numbers?” He cranes his neck, peering over our shoulders. “Ooh-wee. You should just give up now.”

This comment doesn’t help my budding headache any. Nor does the way my father’s eyebrows draw together, his face etched with lines.

 I frown at my younger brother. “We can never give up, John. Just because you have doesn’t mean everyone else has to.” I turn to my father. “Don’t listen to him. We’ll figure out a way to keep the farm alive. I know our income is low right now, but I also know that things will look up in the spring. Farmer’s Almanac says it will be a favorable year for crops.”

“Hopeless,” John mutters under his breath, lumbering up the stairs.

“There’s not a lot we can do right now,” I continue. “But we have enough money to get through the winter. What we need is a new business niche, some kind of market that’s in demand, but not as competitive as organic. That should be our project this winter: coming up with a new business plan that will save our farm come spring. In school, we’ll be starting a unit about today’s trends in farmers’ markets. Maybe I’ll learn something there.”

“I hope you’re right, son,” my father says, but his voice sounds flat and lifeless, as though he’s given up already.

I drape my arm around my father’s shoulder. I can’t bear the thought of him letting go of everything he’s worked so hard for. I know, at that moment, that there’s no way I’m giving up. I will find some way to keep our farm afloat, and I can’t help but think that school will be the answer.

***

 The next day, I sit in the very front of all my classes, ready to soak up helpful information like a sponge. But all the agriculture professors seem to know is new farm technology, and all the business professors seem to know is how to make more money once you’ve already amassed a small fortune.

At least it’s Friday, and Mercy and I have planned a buggy ride for the evening. I pick her up at her house, chat with her parents for a few minutes, and then we drive around the empty, moonlit roads together. It’s chilly, so I’ve closed the top of the buggy and brought extra blankets; I know Mercy gets cold easily.

Mercy grins at me. She’s snuggled up in a blanket, with one small hand resting in mine. She looks so beautiful, and so womanly.

“You’re awfully quiet tonight, Samuel,” she says with a flirty smile, the same one that won the hearts of practically every Amish boy in our community, and many Englischers as well. But now, it’s reserved only for me, which makes me feel special. “You must be thinking hard, planning the next surprise for me, right?”

I laugh. “You know it.”

But a moment later, Mercy’s face becomes serious. “All joking aside, Samuel, I think something is bothering you.” She studies my face closely.

I take a deep breath. I don’t want to tell her what’s wrong. A man should never tell the girl he’s courting that he’s having money problems. Even though worldly wealth is not important to us Amish, we need a modest, comfortable income to live on. If Mercy knew that my family was counting dimes and even pennies to buy basic necessities, she’d probably run the other way like a spooked horse. After all, she can have any man she wants. I know she loves me, but I don’t want to risk losing her, either.

So I tell her what any self-respecting Amish man would say. “Everything is fine. I just had a long week.”

But Mercy is a smart girl. From the way she raises her eyebrows, I know she doesn’t believe me. 

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Business, Publishing, and Life Vlog Episode #5

Yesterday, Antonio and I shot a brand-new episode of BPL. This is my favorite episode yet since we have our first-ever special guest, international business expert Edward Layoun!

Edward shares 2 awesome business tips that you’ll want to apply no matter what your chosen field, and one life tip that will inspire you to reach new heights. Edward has great energy, and I hope his tips will jump-start your week! Click here to watch. Enjoy!

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The Ring of Fire in San Diego County: Reflections on a Natural Disaster

Natural disasters are one of my greatest fears, precisely because they’re out of control and there’s not much that normal people (i.e. non-emergency personnel) can do except get out of the way and pray for everyone affected…and of course, help out any way possible in the aftermath. This is my first summer in California, but I’ve quickly learned that perhaps the most frightening natural disaster in SoCal is an out-of-control brush fire.

In our case yesterday, we had eight–all sprinkled through San Diego’s North County. The hot, arid conditions, coupled with unpredictable gusting winds, created fire-friendly conditions. Embers blew in the powerful winds, igniting the grass and vegetation and spreading the fires to private residences and businesses. Here’s an article from the LA times with more information on the scary happenings of yesterday.

Here's a map of the 8 fires in San Diego's North County yesterday. Image courtesy of WIldfire Today.

Here’s a map of the 8 fires in San Diego’s North County yesterday. Image courtesy of Wildfire Today.

The Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad was the most destructive of all, and just happened to be half a mile from my neighborhood, with winds moving the flames west toward my house. The fire broke out at 10:40 AM, right when I was leaving home for a meeting. By the end of the meeting, everyone was buzzing with news about the fire that had spiraled out of control in the past hour. My good friend Jenny had also called and invited me to stay with her and her family. All the schools in the area had been evacuated, and will remain that way until next Monday.

Naturally, I had to try heading home to see if I could grab a few things, but all the main access roads had been blocked off, and emergency personnel were telling me to turn around and stay away from my neighborhood. All I could see was billowing black smoke on the hill beyond, with an airplane flying above the scene.

For the entire drive to Jenny and Patrick’s house, I rapidly cycled between nervous adrenaline, tears, and, finally, an odd sense of calm. I drove past the Carlsbad lagoon and saw people water-skiing without a care in the world, probably not even aware of what was happening mere miles away. I also thought of all the things Antonio and I had in our house: wedding presents and mementos from our relationship over the years, the special piano book that had belonged to my teacher in college, my journals from elementary school on, even my collection of clothes, shoes, purses, fragrances, and make-up. But I realized that, no matter what happened to our house, so full of happy memories and sunshine after 8 months of living there, the most important things would remain intact. Antonio was safe at work (and headed toward home as soon as he heard how severe the fires were). Good friends were there to support us in the hard times. I had just visited my family, and felt close to them.

We spend our lives working hard to build our dreams, but so many people become caught up in materialism or workaholic tendencies, forgetting what’s really important: the love of our family and friends. My contemporary YA novel, “Winner,” explores exactly this topic. The only positive thing about these fires was that they reminded us of what is truly important: our lives and our loves. My heart goes out to the people who lost their homes or workplaces; they have been in my thoughts and prayers. No one was physically hurt, thanks to the county’s prompt response, and for that we can all be grateful.

That evening, we were allowed to return home, and Antonio and I drove around to buy hoses and a fire extinguisher, as well as to see the progress of the firefighters. The fire in our neighborhood was looking much better, but another in nearby San Marcos was blazing under an eerie yellow-orange full moon. Thank God that this fire has now been contained. I heard on the news that county officials are “cautiously optimistic” about the fires in North County, and I can only hope this is true.

Readers, were any of you present at these fires? Have you seen other natural disasters, and what were your feelings afterward? As always, I’d love to hear your opinions.

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Evolution: 5 Ways to Evolve as an Indie Author

Being a self-published author is hard work. The industry is constantly changing, the author is responsible for his/her own marketing and promotions, and, like an old car, a career as an indie author needs constant maintenance.

I’ve found that one of the most rewarding parts of being an indie author is the fact that our careers are constantly changing, and there’s something new to learn every day. As is the case in many new industries, the field is wide open–to those who have the perseverance and drive to take it!

I’ve realized that the greatest key to success as an indie author is evolution. Just as our careers are constantly evolving, so must we, as writers and people. Here are 4 ways I’ve found to evolve as an indie author.

Evolution is key for a career as a successful indie author! Image courtesy of challenge2.com

Evolution is key for a career as a successful indie author! Image courtesy of challenge2.com

  1. Start a new blog –  Most of us have blogs centered on our expertise as writers, but what else lights up our lives? The more we blog–in different places–the more we build our author platforms, increase our discoverability, and, most importantly, practice our writing skills! Plus, starting a new project makes us more creative. It’s inevitable, with the surge of fresh new ideas. I just started a pregnancy blog, Prego in San Diego. I had an amazing time discovering a new WordPress theme, customizing it, writing my first post, and interacting with all the almost-mommies out there who commented on the blog. If you don’t want to start another blog, guest post on other people’s blogs, and encourage them to do the same on yours.
  2. Expand your services – It’s not enough to write and blog–ask yourself what else you could be doing to help other writers. Maybe it’s starting a YouTube show, or perhaps you’ve always wanted to get into writing coaching. I speak from personal experience on both matters; last month, Antonio and I started a YouTube show called Business, Publishing, and Life, and it’s been a great way to connect with friends and writers. I also joined a collaborative office called Hera Hub, and have connected with several women who are interested in meeting with me to discuss writing and self-publishing–hello, beginnings of writing coaching!
  3. Learn a new skill – There are so many different skills that go into a career as an indie author. Not only must we be awesome writers, we must know social media, business, marketing, editing, and book formatting. Learning any of these skills takes time, but it’s totally worth it. Think of the time and money you could save by doing these tasks yourself. Of course, editing is not something I’d recommend doing by yourself; an editor and/or a group of beta readers is essential. But many of the other skills can be accomplished alone. My latest example of skill building is learning to design an eBook cover. I have artistic background, but zero graphic design experience. To fill in the gaps, I took a cover design course on Udemy. Skillshare also offers a variety of courses. I’m finishing up the course soon, and am planning to design my own cover for my next book, “Amish Scholar: Samuel’s Book.”
  4. Read – One of the best ways to become a better writer is to read more. Read fiction books, non-fiction books about writing or indie publishing, whatever you want. Reading is the perfect way to expand your mind and improve as a writer.
  5. Discover other publishing platforms – I’ve been singularly focused on KDP Select, and love Amazon as a platform for indie authors. However, I realized that it might be time to expand my reach by discovering other platforms. I’ve started researching Google Books and Apple Books, as well as Smashwords. So far, I’m still exclusive to Amazon, but I’m doing my research and, after all, that’s the first step. 🙂

Indie authors, what do you think are the best ways to evolve? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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“Write” Your Wrongs: 5 Ways to Write Yourself Out of a Corner

I’m nearly finished writing Book 3 in the Amish in College series, “Amish Scholar: Samuel’s Book.” This book follows Mercy’s boyfriend Samuel as he attends agriculture and business classes at a local university, in the hopes of finding a solution to save his family’s failing farm. The only problem: both Samuel’s father and Mercy think he should quit college because it’s taking too much time from the farm (his father) and from his free time (Mercy). Samuel struggles to not only find the solution to the farming dilemma, but to balance his love life, his studies, and his work on the farm.

The book was flowing along quite nicely until yesterday, when I wrote a little over half a chapter and then got stuck. Annoyingly enough, the more I tried to get un-stuck, the deeper I sank, as though I’d fallen into writers’ quicksand. Half an hour later, I put Samuel and friends away for the day, working on other projects instead.

Writers' quicksand can be hazardous. Here, I share some tips to get out! Image courtesy of horseandman.com

Writers’ quicksand can be hazardous. Here, I share some tips to get out! Image courtesy of horseandman.com

When I reflected on this later, I realized that my unusual case of writers’ block had occurred because I’d written myself into a corner the previous day. There was literally nowhere to go, so I was stuck on Chapter 26. Ugh.

Luckily, all I needed was some time away from Samuel, a good night’s sleep, and a little distraction, and I was able to write 4 full chapters today, back to back. Woohoo! Based on personal experience here are 5 ways to write yourself out of a corner.

  1. Distance Yourself – It’s great to be close to your characters, but don’t forget what happens when you’re too close–you get smothered! Once I gave myself a little time away from Samuel, I was able to write myself out of the corner and create a few new twists and turns along the way.
  2. Meditate – Sometimes, we write ourselves into corners simply because we haven’t thought enough about what happens next. In moments like these, it pays to turn off the computer and look out the window, or close our eyes and just think. And remember, meditation can happen anywhere–and it frequently occurs in unexpected places, like the shower.
  3. De-clutter – Your book, that is. I had to delete some scenes to keep things more open-ended and effectively set up the next few scenes. Even though no one likes to delete his or her hard work, responsible story decluttering can be the best way to move a story forward. To me, it feels like knocking down a wall in an old house to create an airy, open floor plan, full of possibilities.
  4. Outline – As an organic writer, I usually only outline once per book, right before I begin writing Chapter 1; even that outline is more like a rough synopsis. However, if I’m stuck, I turn to outlines to get my ideas flowing and organized. Remember, you can always deviate from your outline, but at least you’ll be out of the corner.
  5. Sleep on it – Sometimes, all you need to solve a plot problem is a good night’s sleep. Many times, I’ve only been able to write myself out of a corner after a nice long rest and a cup of morning coffee. A fresh start works wonders.

Writers, do you ever write yourself into corners? What’s your best tip to get un-stuck? I’d love to hear your experiences!

 

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Business, Publishing, and Life Vlog Episode #4

It’s that time again… Time for BPL Episode #4. Antonio and I share a business tip with a new perspective on goal-setting to help you get ahead this week. The publishing tip relates to one of my favorite things: blogging. And the life tip is based on a personal experience I had this weekend at the swimming pool, of all places!

Best of all, this episode comes with a very special, life-changing announcement, so be sure to check it out!

BPL Episode #4 comes with a special announcement!

BPL Episode #4 comes with a special announcement!

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5 Reasons Why Becoming a Successful Author is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

If you’re a runner or know someone who is, you’re well aware that we’re in the height of marathon season. We just had the Boston Marathon of course, and it seems like every time I turn around I’m hearing about a different marathon, half-marathon, or 5 K race in my area. Antonio is even planning to run a 5 K with obstacles!

Marathons are not just for runners, though. I think that the writing life is a marathon–we writers have a burning desire to get our work out there, but first we have to train for it, and then work hard every day. And just as unexpected obstacles might pop up when running a marathon on unfamiliar turf, the same thing happens as we discover our voices, move towards publication, build our platforms, and promote our work. So many writers give up their dreams at some step along the way, but persistence is key. A marathon runner is not going to drop out in the middle of the race, and we writers can’t drop out either.

Writers can take some hints from these guys! Image courtesy of fansided.com

Writers can take some hints from these guys! Image courtesy of fansided.com

With that in mind, I’ve devised 5 reasons why succeeding as an author is a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy!

  1. It’s a full-time job – Marathon runners train for months so they can crush it in the race. Even if they’re working full-time jobs, they wake up earlier, train in the evening, and do whatever it takes to come out ahead on race day. We writers can take a lesson from this. I worked full-time as a pharmacist, but dreamed of being a writer. So for about a year, I dedicated most of my free time to learning all about self-publishing, taking advanced writing courses, attending conferences, and, of course, practicing my writing! I treated writing as my other full-time job, and soon I was able to make it my only full-time job.
  2. You have to be in for the long haul – Sprints are quick and intense, and runners have to expend maximum energy in a short period of time. But marathons require endurance. A successful career as an author is pretty much the same. Very few authors will write one book and live off its royalties for the rest of their lives. Most of us have to write many books and keep them coming regularly. As soon as we finish one, we have to start writing another. This is not only because of how the creative process works, but also because more books=more discoverability.
  3. It requires discipline – Marathon runners are some of the most disciplined people out there, and they have to be. They must build their strength and endurance to almost superhuman levels, and this can only happen by living a structured life. Writers have to be disciplined, too. It’s very easy in a creative field, especially one in which we’re self-employed and determine our own hours, to just put off writing to go to the beach or go shopping. It’s also easy to get carried away running errands, or even doing something mundane like cleaning the house. But the fact of the matter is, we have to discipline ourselves to put distractions aside and write every day. Which brings me to my next reason…
  4. It’s all about setting goals – When training for a marathon, a runner must set daily and weekly goals: distances covered, running paces, and healthy eating goals. Writers can do the same thing. Weekly writing quotas keep me in line with my bigger goal of releasing one eBook per month. And it’s not only about writing quotas: the goals of successful authors also include ones related to social media and networking, timelines for speaking events, blogging, and platform building. Writing a list of goals for the day or week is one of the best ways to become more productive–and more prolific.
  5. It’s a growing process – Many runners have told me that, when they’re training for and running a marathon, they feel as though they grow not only in strength and endurance, but spiritually and mentally as well. Being an author is a constantly evolving process; we as writers are growing every day as we experience new things, find new inspiration, and hone our craft. And our reward for growing as writers is much the same as the reward for a marathon runner: not only having fans “cheering” for us, but feeling a sense of accomplishment as we grow. The mental and spiritual rewards are rich for us as well.

Writers, have you had similar experiences? Can you think of any more reasons why becoming a successful author is like a marathon? As always, I welcome your feedback!

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