Random Inspirations

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

It’s Here: Amish Bakery Challenge is Out!

I’m excited to announce that Book 2 of the Amish Couples series, Amish Bakery Challenge: Mercy and Samuel’s Book, has launched! To celebrate, I’ll be offering the book at an introductory price of $0.99 today through Sunday August 31st! After that, the price will go up to $2.99, so be sure to get it while it’s hot. 😉

Cover Reveal: Here's the new cover of Amish Bakery Challenge, designed by Antonio! What do you think?

Cover Reveal: Here’s the new cover of Amish Bakery Challenge, designed by Antonio! What do you think?

Amish Bakery Challenge was one of my favorite Amish novellas to write, not only because I adore Mercy and Samuel, but because there’s so much at stake for the young couple. They’ve worked hard to build the general store and bakery of their dreams, but Mercy’s old boss, Mrs. Stoltzfus of Stoltzfus Bakery, accuses Mercy of stealing her recipes and her business. Soon, Mercy must deal with a boycott of her beloved bakery, and Samuel, ever the problem-solver, must devise an innovative way to appease Mrs. Stoltzfus while still keeping the business intact. The book is full of high drama, and even a shunning. It’s also my longest Amish novella ever, so I hope you enjoy it!

Here’s an excerpt from the book. Chapter One is found at the end of Amish Baby: Hannah and Jakob’s Book (Book 1 of the Amish Couples series), and Chapter Two is found in this recent blog post. Happy reading!

Chapter Three: Mercy

 I flounce upstairs, and Samuel trails wordlessly after me. I can’t believe that he’s even considering studying on a Saturday night, when we’ve both worked so hard all week. And I can’t believe that he’d want to “stay in” this noisy house. I know I’ve only been home for a little over an hour, but I already feel the need to get out. It’s as though the walls are closing in on me.

I fling open the door of our bedroom, which I used to share with my twin sister, Rebekah. One small bed sits in each corner of the room; Samuel and I can’t even sleep together—not that we haven’t tried. Once, we pushed the beds together, which ended horribly. They’re not exactly the same height, and I rolled into the crack between them in my sleep, and woke up the next morning with my hand numb from being wedged in there for hours. We also tried cramming ourselves into one tiny bed, which seemed like a fine option until Samuel rolled off one night and crashed onto the floor. Then, of course, my entire family came barging into the room, demanding to know if everything was okay.

There’s no privacy here, and even the beds are conspiring to ruin our love life.  Hannah always tells me how beautiful it is to fall asleep in her mann Jakob’s arms; I can’t even imagine feeling that romantic about bland, serious Jakob, so I’ll have to take her word for it. However, I’m sure that sleeping in Samuel’s arms would be amazing—if I ever had the chance to do it.

I launch myself onto my childhood bed, and Samuel flops down next to me. His big brown eyes study my face. “Okay, Mercy. What’s wrong?”

“What’s not wrong? We work all week, and then have to put up with being ambushed by my brothers and sisters in this little house where everyone knows our business. And then you don’t even want to get out to escape it for a while.”

Samuel rubs his callused, work-roughened fingers over the back of my hands. “You’re wrong about that, liebchen. I would love to get out tonight, and I know it’s perfect weather for a buggy ride. The problem is, though, that I have to study all this material by next week.” He holds up a stack of notebooks. “There are business notes, and agriculture ones, too. How am I ever supposed to get through all this material?”

“You shouldn’t have to study a lot,” I protest, making a face. “You’re practicing business and farming every day. You probably know it better than the professors. Can’t you just take one night off?”

I flutter my eyelashes and try my best to add a sugary, wheedling lilt to my voice, like icing on a cupcake. “Come on, Samuel. I really want to spend some time with you, and only you.”

Samuel’s face softens, and for a split second, I think I just might be getting somewhere. A moment later, however, he rubs his left temple—a dead giveaway that he’s coming down with one of his stress headaches—and says, “So do I, but not tonight. Can we just stop talking about this, please?”

I study my mann’s tight, drawn face, and wonder what to say. I know that he has a demanding school schedule, and balancing that with chores, farming, and working in the general store is nearly impossible. But I also know that I need time with him. Between work and my noisy, nosy family, I feel as though I never see my mann alone.

I don’t want to fight with him, but I do want to get my way. So, I purse my lips into what I hope is a luscious pout. “Okay, then, I’m going to sleep. There’s no need to stay awake if my mann doesn’t even want to take a short ride with me.” I collapse backwards on the bed, closing my eyes, but a moment later I open one eye ever-so-slightly to gauge Samuel’s reaction.

Samuel is glancing out the window. “You’re sleeping now? It’s barely even dark outside.”

“Yah, I might as well. There’s nothing better to do, anyway.”

“Mercy,” Samuel says in a warning tone.

I simply lie there, squeezing my eyes shut.

“Come on, stop it,” Samuel says, his voice heavy with irritation. My eyes pop open, and I can see that his face has turned the same deep red as the beets that I canned for the general store last fall.

“You’re being selfish and immature, like a spoiled little bobbel,” he continues. “Do you have any idea how much I’ve been doing lately? I have classes at Slippery Rock three days a week, and finals are coming up. I’ve been doing chores here and helping out on the farm before school. And I work at the store after school and the other three days of the week. I’ve barely had any time to study. Can’t you just leave me alone for one night?”

What? Suddenly, I can almost feel my blood bubbling through my veins, hot with fury. I squint at my mann and hop off the bed, slipping on my shoes and fastening my bonnet on top of my head.

Samuel frowns at me. “Where are you going?”

I stomp toward the bedroom door. “To leave you alone, of course. I thought that was what you wanted.”

Samuel springs up from the bed, grabbing both my wrists. “Mercy. Don’t run off and do anything foolish. You’re not going to the city again, are you?”

I stare at Samuel with narrowed eyes. The truth is, I hadn’t really thought much about where I’d go to leave him alone. I wouldn’t mind a change of scene, but I know I couldn’t possibly go to the city. When I snuck off to visit Rebekah, I’d been single and on Rumspringa. Now, I’m baptized and married, and would be shunned for leaving the community without the approval of my mann and the elders.

“Of course not,” I tell him finally. “I’m just going for a walk. I need some air. Maybe I need to be alone, too.”

Samuel sighs, glancing from me to his notes, and then back again. His shoulders sag, and at that moment, he just looks tired. “This isn’t how I want things to go between us. I love you. I just feel like you don’t appreciate the load I’m under sometimes.”

That’s not true. I’m well aware of the load he’s under, because it causes us to have next to no time together. But I just can’t fight with him when he looks so dejected. So I say, “Okay, maybe I forget sometimes. I’m sorry. But I don’t think you realize how hurtful it is when you shove me aside for work.”

Samuel takes both my hands in his, swinging them back and forth. “I’m sorry liebchen. Look, why don’t you give me about an hour with these notes, and then we can take a short, late ride? It can be like a reward.”

I grin at Samuel, squeezing his hands. “Sounds wunderbar. You see, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

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5 Writing Lessons Learned from Watching the VMAs

Last night, Antonio and I watched the VMAs. I adore these awards shows, not only for the elaborate performances and the glamour, but, of course, for the intrigues, conflicts, and awesome surprises!

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This year’s VMAs were fun to watch, and, naturally, they inspired me to write this blog post. I believe that the various forms of the arts (music, drama, literature, and visual arts) influence each other, and there are many lessons we writers can learn from the VMAs. Here are five:

  1. Sex Sells – Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” performance raised some eyebrows, with the steamy twerking and blatantly sexual costumes. In fact, parts of the routine were totally inappropriate for the large population of pre-teen viewers. But let’s face it: There’s no denying the fact that sex sells. This is the same reason that, in literature, erotica books are best sellers. I’m not advocating switching your genre to erotica if you normally write clean romances, but I’m also not judging the artists who inject a healthy dose of sex into their books or music. As a YA writer, I like to keep my books clean and uplifting, but sexy art makes the world go round. 😉
  2. Conflict Equals Drama –  Speaking of Nicki Minaj, according to several articles, the “beef” between Nicki and Iggy Azalea is over. Last night, Iggy reportedly told Nicki backstage that she did great, and Nicki said “Thank you, baby.” But Iggy’s face during Nicki’s performances seemed to tell a different story. I don’t know about anyone else, but I saw a little conflict there, and I felt like the camera people were honing in on it. And why not? After all, conflict equals drama. It hooks viewers, and in literature, it keeps readers entertained and drives the story until the end. Creating rivalries and conflicts is so essential to writing that the great teachers continually emphasize the importance of “torturing the characters.” So don’t be afraid to torture yours!
  3. When in Doubt, Add a Little Humor – The announcers at the VMAs were so funny; I found myself giggling on and off the entire time. Just as the humor balanced out the performances, wardrobe malfunctions, and little dramas, adding some “comic relief” to our writing can provide readers with much-needed reprieves from the heavier stuff.
  4. A Lot of Work Goes into a Polished Product – The VMA performers had months of rehearsals, not to mention hours of prep-time to look and feel their best on the actual day. Just as they had to work hard to make it look easy, so must we writers. Multiple drafts, professional editing, beta readers, and constant practice allow us to present our most polished products every time!
  5. Don’t be Afraid to Deviate from Your Genre–But Know When to Stick to It – I was a bit underwhelmed by Taylor Swift’s performance last night, in part because she has deviated so far from her original image as country-inspired girl with guitar. True, the artistic process is all about evolution, but fans expect some consistency as well. Taylor did not seem entirely confident with her overblown routine, and looked fairly awkward during some of the more demanding dance moves. While I give her props for evolving, I also feel as though she may have deviated too far from her genre for comfort. The same is true in writing. Many times, we find ourselves pigeon-holed into a genre that we may never have expected. I, for example, would never have guessed that I would write eleven Amazon best sellers–and counting–in the YA Amish Romance genre! And while I’m excited to try out a new genre, YA Mermaid Romances, I will continue to keep the Amish writing alive, since that is what many of my fans have come to expect and anticipate.

Writers out there, did you watch the VMAs last night? If so, did you learn any interesting lessons? I’d love to hear your random reflections!

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New Excerpt of Amish Bakery Challenge!

It’s about that time… I’m currently engrossed in revisions of my newest book in the Amish Couples series, Amish Bakery Challenge: Mercy and Samuel’s Book. The story focuses on Mercy and Samuel’s struggles as they adjust to life as a married couple (living with Mercy’s family), eagerly await the completion of their new house, and build their own business, a general store and bakery. Mrs. Stoltzfus, Mercy’s old boss, accuses Mercy of stealing her recipes and her business, and organizes a boycott against the bakery, so Mercy and Samuel must be resourceful to keep the bakery afloat.

Check it out! There's an actual Stoltzfus Bakery in Lancaster, PA! Image courtesy of www.europeandme.eu

Check it out! There’s an actual Stoltzfus Bakery in Lancaster, PA! Image courtesy of http://www.europeandme.eu

Currently, I have a small reserve of titles for this book, and would love to hear your opinions about the catchiest and/or most appealing title. Here are the options:

  • Amish Bakery Challenge
  • Amish Bakery Boycott
  • Amish Bakery Battle
  • Amish Bakery Wars
  • Amish Mercy (because of themes of forgiveness throughout the book, and Mercy’s name, of course)

Also, I am going to reveal another sneak-peek excerpt of the book today! Chapter One, which is told from Mercy’s point of view, can be found at the end of Amish Baby (Amish Couples Book # 1). Here’s Chapter Two, which is told from Samuel’s vantage point. I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter Two: Samuel

 As I plop down next to Mercy at the dinner table, I can’t help but notice the way her pretty face has crumpled into a pout. She’d seemed to be in gut spirits earlier, but perhaps she’s annoyed with her maemm, who still insists upon treating us like bobbels even though we’re baptized and married. Or maybe her younger brothers and sisters have irritated her; sometimes, their energy and chatter can be overwhelming. She could be grumpy from hunger, too.

Yah, I have no idea what’s bothering Mercy, but I do know one thing for sure—if I don’t figure it out soon, things will rapidly decline from bad to worse. I love Mercy more than anything in the world, but she can be as unpredictable as the weather in March, calm one moment and raging and stormy the next.

I squeeze her hand under the table as the ever-bouncy Katie and Sarah help their maemm to carry over a steaming tureen heaped with hearty beef stew and dumplings.  I steal another sideways glance at Mercy as the stew is passed around. She’s no longer frowning; now she’s simply staring blankly into the distance, totally ignoring the chitchat of her younger brothers and sisters.

When the food reaches me, I ladle a healthy serving into Mercy’s bowl before dishing out my own, and she smiles at me gratefully.

“Thanks, Samuel,” she says. As soon as Katie has finished saying grace and we’ve all thanked Herr Gott for the abundance of food before us, Mercy devours her dinner. Okay, so maybe she was just hungry.

Afterwards, Mercy hops up from the table to help her maemm and sisters to clean up, while I adjourn to the living room with her vadder and younger brothers John and Daniel.

Mercy’s vadder buries his face in his Amish newspaper, while the boys invite me to play a board game. They groan when I politely shake my head.

“Sorry, guys. I have schoolwork to do.”

“On Saturday night?” Daniel whines.

I nod. “Every night.”

I pull my business notes out of my college backpack and concentrate hard, repeating each sentence under my breath. Finals start next week, and unless I start studying now, there’s no way I’ll ever have a chance to review all the information for my business and agriculture classes.

I’ve just lost myself somewhere in the midst of a lecture on supply and demand when Mercy says, “Wow, you’re really into those notes.”

I jolt back to reality with a start. Mercy stands before me, her eyes shining with amusement. I hadn’t even realized she was in the living room.

Yah, I guess I am.”

“You sure were. Your lips were moving and everything. Did you get a lot of studying done while we were cleaning up?”

“Not really.” I wink at her. “You’re fast, after all. I’ve probably been sitting here for less than fifteen minutes, so I got through four whole pages.” I hold up the three-ring binder to show her my progress, and then I pinch the thick remainder of notes between my thumb and forefinger. “Only this much more to go.”

Mercy wrinkles her nose. “That’s rough. Any chance you’re ready for a study break? It’s such a nice night. Don’t you think we can go out for a buggy ride or something?”

I shrug. “I’m not sure I really can take a study break at this point.  We have church bright and early tomorrow, and we’re visiting my family after that, so I’ll only have tonight and tomorrow night to study. Why don’t we just stay in tonight? You can read while I look over my notes—”

“Or you can play games with us,” John interrupts. “Come on, Mercy. Samuel won’t play, but we know we can beat you.”

Mercy shoots her brothers a tight smile. “Maybe next time.” Then, she looks at me, her cheeks flushing bright red. She opens her mouth to say something, but then she glances at her vadder and brothers and takes a deep breath. “I have a headache, and I need to talk to you, Samuel. Alone.”

She sails toward the stairs, her back straight and head held high. As I follow her upstairs, I’m reminded of the time when I was about nine years old and in big trouble with my teacher for throwing spitballs with Jakob. I still remember the way Mrs. Hersch had pulled Jakob and me out of the classroom, narrowing her eyes at us before lashing each of us five times with a hickory switch.

Right now, Mercy looks nearly as stern as Mrs. Hersch. Uh-oh.

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Woohoo! Thoughts About Amazon Pre-order for Indies

Last week, Amazon nonchalantly revealed an amazing breakthrough for indie authors: Now, we can make our books available for pre-order! Here’s a blog post with some useful info about the change. I was psyched to hear about this, because in the past, pre-order status was reserved for authors with publishing companies behind them. Some indie authors also had the privilege, but I was never entirely sure how to go about setting up and/or applying to place my books on pre-order. It was all very enigmatic.

amazon_1

Now, there is no mystery–indie authors can set up their books for pre-order up to 90 days before the book’s release. This allows us to generate buzz and gives our books the opportunity to rank before they’re ever released, thus leading to increased discoverability and greater sales.

The process sounds fairly straightforward, and is outlined by Amazon on their Kindle Direct Publishing page. The biggest thing to remember is that the final version of the book or a draft manuscript (completed, but not copy-edited or proofread) must be finished by the time an author submits his/her book for pre-order. I’m sure that Amazon instituted this requirement to ensure that the books will actually be available on their promised dates.

I am planning to set up my next book in the Amish Couples series (tentatively titled Amish Bakery Challenge) for pre-order as soon as I have my cover and description completed, and I will be sure to pass on everything I learn! Uncovering the profitability of this new feature will be an ongoing experience, since indie authors don’t receive their royalties for final sales until the book is actually released and the pre-order customers have downloaded their copies–fair enough. However, the jump in rank will be apparent right away, and I can’t wait to see how it impacts my author discoverability and ranking.

Indies out there, what are your opinions on the new Amazon pre-order feature? Has anyone tried it yet, and if so, what results did you see? I would love to hear about your experiences!

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The Benefits of Reading 30 Books a Month

Ever since childhood, I was a serial reader–as soon as I finished a book, I’d immediately pick up another one. As a result, I never took a break between books. Sometimes, I would even read two at once. I was a great lover of fiction, but my parents had a rule in the summer that I had to read a non-fiction book for every fiction one. Luckily, I was a really fast reader, and could tear through the non-fiction quickly so I could move on to the “good stuff.” I would read first thing in the morning, sometimes during meals, and before bed to unwind. I also became a great multi-tasker, reading as I brushed my teeth, blow-dried my hair, or waited for a ride home from one of my numerous after-school activities.

Fast-forward to today, when I do pretty much the same thing. Now, however, being a book junkie is much easier because of awesome technological advances like Kindles and Audible Books. People often ask me how many books I read per week or per month, and I sometimes have difficulty finding an answer. Countless? I don’t even post every book I’ve read on Goodreads, although I probably should, to keep track of them all.

There are so many benefits to filling your brain with books!

There are so many benefits to filling your brain with books!

Last night, Antonio and I were discussing how many books I devour voraciously per month, and we boiled it down to about 30. This includes the books I agree to review for other authors, some of which are short self-help books (about 30-50 pages on Kindle), as well as Audible books and other eBooks that I read for pleasure. I love the library, but find myself reading eBooks most of the time because they’re inexpensive and super-convenient to download. Plus, I adore Kindle Unlimited and am always at my 10-book limit, since I like to think ahead. 🙂

There are so many benefits to reading 30 books per month, and here are just a few:

  • Continual learning – I’m over my aversion to non-fiction, and have started reading “factual” books in subjects that interest me, such as psychology and real estate investment. Once we graduate from college, it’s easy to let learning take the backseat to, well, life. The danger is that your mind will stagnate. Avid readers don’t have that problem, since they embrace the beauty of learning every day from books. Audible is my medium of choice for non-fiction, and I frequently listen to motivational books, like “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Guy Kawasaki, while working out at the gym.
  • Market research –  As a writer, I often read books in genres that I’m writing. Evaluating best sellers in the market allows us as writers to gauge where we fit into that niche. For example, when I decided to write my Amish series, I perused several Amish fiction eBooks. Right now, I’m writing an Amish teen novella and a contemporary teen novel about fame simultaneously, and I’ve been reading several YA books with themes of celebrities and overnight fame. Some of my favorites have been “Girl With Guitar” by Casey Quinn, “Relatively Famous” by Jessica Park, “The Accidental Movie Star” by Emily Evans, and “The Rock Star’s Daughter” by Caitlin Duffy.
  • Efficient use of time – Reading is the ideal way to kill a few minutes while you’re waiting in line or riding the train, and the fact that we can read on our mobile devices makes it so convenient! Audible books are great during a drive, or while running on the treadmill. And the best thing about reading while you wait is that the time passes so quickly and enjoyably, and your brain has grown in the process! It’s tempting to use all your “waiting time” for social media, but I always schedule some reading into the equation.
  • It’s entertaining – Reading is an awesome form of entertainment, and it’s more mentally engaging than watching TV or a movie. Antonio and I have a self-enforced 1-hour of TV per day rule, and sometimes we don’t even watch that much. Replacing some TV time with reading makes for a more active mind!
  • It expands your horizons – I love to travel, but on a day-to-day basis, reading is the next best thing. It’s incredible to immerse yourself in new worlds and become acquainted with interesting characters. And if you’re looking to learn something new, there are thousands of non-fiction books on any subject under the sun. Back to the subject of books and travel, I often enjoy reading books that take place in the region I’m traveling to, usually when I’m on the plane. For example, when I went to London, I read a book set there. Try it next time you’re going on vacation–you’ll be even more pumped when you reach your destination!

Avid readers out there, what would you say are the greatest benefits of reading? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Overcoming Fear: Unleash Your Inner Lion or Lioness

One of my favorite Sunday pastimes is attending church with Antonio, where we recharge our spirituality and find inspiration for the coming week. Yesterday, the priest’s sermon was particularly touching–he talked about fear: the way it can hold us back, and how so many people are motivated by it, when instead we should be driven by love and faith.

This really struck a chord with me. Fear impedes so many of us in our quest for self-actualization, and if left unchecked, it can prevent us from ever reaching our full potential. And fear affects even the bravest among us. In fact, it’s so sneaky that we may not realize it has caused us to fail until it’s too late.

I consider myself a pretty brave person–unless there are spiders or mold around. Then, all bets are off. But seriously, I have never been one to shy away from challenges, “scary” amusement park rides, weird new foods, or relatively adventurous activities. However, career-wise, I was always a play-it-safe kind of girl. I followed the prescribed path of academic success: high grades and a loaded extracurricular resume in middle school and high school, the accelerated and demanding Doctor of Pharmacy program in college, and, finally, the lucrative job as a pharmacist. I felt stifled in the box of the pharmacy, and felt that my very active creative side was begging to be unleashed. As a result, I packed my time outside of work with artsy activities like writing, piano, chorus, drawing, and various dance and fitness classes, but felt as though there was a schism between my real interests and my full-time career. I dreamed of becoming a successful published author, but fear of never being “discovered,” as well as fear of giving up my secure, well-paying job, prevented me from taking the risks I’d need to succeed.

I was forced to face my fears when Antonio, who was then my fiance, was offered a great new job in San Diego. I knew in my heart that San Diego would be the best choice for us long-term, with its near-perfect weather and healthy lifestyle, as well as the lucrative and personally fulfilling position Antonio was being offered. Yet, I was incapacitated by fear. I was deathly afraid of venturing into the unfamiliar territory of California. I wanted to launch a new career as a YA author, but I was secretly afraid that I’d fail and be just another “starving artist.” Finally, I was afraid of leaving all the friends we’d made in Chicago, and of being so far from my family in Pittsburgh. The list went on and on.

At this point, I knew that it was time to manage my fear, not the other way around. So after my several-month-long period of incapacitation, Antonio and I finally arrived at a brave solution. We maintained a long-distance relationship for a year before our wedding, during which time we attended writing conferences together and focused fully on launching my career as an indie author. I continued to work full-time as a pharmacist, and the year was incredibly busy. But by our wedding last September, I had learned enough about the publishing process to feel as though my career leap was warranted.

I am so glad that I faced my fear, because now I’m happier than I ever thought possible. There is no longer a schism between my career and my innermost desires. I determine my own schedule, and the pace at which I release my new eBooks. I can work from home, which is ideal because we’re expecting our first child in October. And, for the first time in my life since teenagerhood, I feel creatively fulfilled.

This period of struggle taught me so much about facing my fears and unleashing my inner lioness. As the week begins, I urge you to examine your life and identify your greatest fears, and perhaps how they’ve held you back from your dreams. Like me, many people let their fears stand in the way of realizing their full potential and achieving their career goals–no matter how nonsensical those goals may seem to those around them. Morphing from pharmacist to writer seemed weird to some people, but it was the best decision I could’ve made!

An unwavering support system is essential in unleashing your inner lion or lioness.

An unwavering support system is essential in unleashing your inner lion or lioness.

So, here are some ways to overcome fear and unleash your inner lion or lioness. After reading this, I hope you want to ROAR!

  • Identify your greatest fears – Sometimes, fear is so sneaky that you might not even realize it’s holding you back. Identifying it is the first step to overcoming it.
  • Visualize your ideal life – Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Then, visualize a day in your ideal life. Are you working in the same career, or a totally different one? Do you live in the same city and have the same relationships? When you open your eyes, compare your vision with the reality of your life. Maybe your dream career is the exact opposite of the one you’re doing, or you’re in some pretty toxic relationships. Identify the elements that differ from your ideal life, and pinpoint why they differ. Is it because you’re working toward change, but it just hasn’t happened yet? Or is it because fear of failure or change is preventing you from even trying to turn your life around? If this is true, then you’ll have to…
  • Set goals – Write down the goals that will transport you from your real life to your vision. This will make your goals more real and plausible.
  • Have a support system – Once you’ve identified your goals for change, share them with your significant other and trusted friends or family. This increases accountability and helps to alleviate your fears about making the change. Antonio was my biggest supporter as I launched my new career. Not only did he believe in me, he’s been with me every step of the way, helping me to build my platform, attending conferences and networking events with me, helping me to learn about marketing, and even designing book covers. In the end, I had to overcome my own fear, but his unwavering and loving support was instrumental in the process, as well as in my success.
  • Become comfortable with the unfamiliar – As you’re working toward facing your fears and achieving your goals, try other things outside your comfort zone, like unfamiliar vacation spots, new sports, and exotic foods. The stimulation and newness will increase your fearless factor, guaranteed!
  • Make the change – Change is slow, and it can only be achieved with hard work every day. Armed with your goals and support system, you can face your fear of change head-on. Change gradually. Just as I didn’t launch a new career overnight, you shouldn’t expect your change to occur instantaneously. Be patient, but work constantly.
  • ROAR – Soon, you will begin to see the fruits of your labor. And when that happens, make sure to celebrate! Maintain a balance between hard work and celebration. There’s nothing more exhilarating than facing your fears head-on and conquering them. Now, go forth and ROAR!
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5 Tips to Write Awesome Romantic Conflict Scenes

Conflict is the essence of fiction–it drives stories forward and keeps readers turning the pages and coming back for more. When I took an advanced level writing course a few years ago, I was told to really torture my characters by using internal and external conflict; to this day, I torture my characters as much as possible, infusing my books with tension and drama. Of course, conflict is a balance like anything else, and no author wants his or her book to read like one big brawl…but some artfully-placed conflict interspersed with moments of calmness is a good thing.

Romantic conflict is my favorite kind to write. When passions are high, discussions become heated. Romantic conflict is especially fun in YA fiction, since the emotions and thoughts of teens are so amplified and volatile anyway. I usually write romantic conflict from the point of view of one character, but in my new series, “Amish Couples,” I’ve been showing both sides of the argument as I alternate chapters between the male and female point of view. This has been an amazing exercise, and I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t tried it yet!

Romantic conflict is so much fun to write! Image courtesy of changeagentcareers.com

Romantic conflict is so much fun to write! Image courtesy of changeagentcareers.com

Here are some tips to write scintillating romantic conflict. I hope they help you next time you need to write an awesome scene!

  1. Know the stakes – In order to create believable romantic conflict, you must be aware of what’s at stake for each character. Why is this conflict so important to each character, and what does he or she have to lose that makes the cause worth fighting for?
  2. Understand what motivates each character – Character motivation goes hand-in-hand with knowing the stakes. In order to write a believable argument scene, you need to know the driving force behind a character’s (strongly held) opinion. Is the character motivated by ambition, pride, love, fear, or money? Ask yourself these questions about each character involved in the dispute, and the scene will flow smoothly and believably.
  3. Use dialogue – Dialogue is the perfect literary device to convey romantic conflict, since there’s just so much you can do with it. For example, if a character is agitated, increase the tempo of his or her speech. Dialogue is also a great way to convey each character’s personality quirks. Does a character morph back into the accent of his / her homeland when angry? Does a character stutter and stammer? Or does a character seem to turn to ice, shutting down his / her emotions and using cool or even sarcastic retorts? Infuse these elements into your dialogue, and you’ll have a sizzling “fight scene” that seems to jump off the page.
  4. Body language says so much – Just like dialogue, body language and physical description can bring a romantic conflict scene to life. How does each character physically respond to the conflict? Strive to exceed the usual red face or crossed arms and go a step further. Oddly enough, I found myself inspired to incorporate more animated body language into my romantic conflict scenes after I read a pop-psychology book about analyzing people’s body language in the workplace and at networking events.
  5. Lighten it up with humor – One thing you don’t want is for your romantic conflict scene to morph into pure emo, becoming dark and even hateful. To prevent this, sprinkle in some humor. One of my favorite characters to include in fight scenes is Mercy, because she’s often so selfish that it’s funny. Create a character like that, and romantic conflict scenes will never get so heavy that they weigh down your book, dragging it into a pit of despair. Readers should always have hope that everything will pan out in the end. 🙂

Writers out there, how do you write awesome romantic conflict scenes? I’d love to hear your techniques and feedback!

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Perplexed by Life and/or Human Nature? Turn it into a Story!

One of the pieces of feedback that I receive most about my books is that the characters, situations, and feelings are believable and relatable. And there are reasons for this. First of all, I’m an avid lifelong reader, and have been exposed to various types of literature. I know how touching it is to feel for a character, so I’ve learned techniques to create reader empathy for my own characters. Also, I love to channel my characters, really becoming absorbed in their worlds. And, most of all, I am fascinated by human nature and all of its oddities, which is probably why I enjoy making up fictional characters so much in the first place.

One of the most interesting things about getting well-acquainted with new people is learning to interpret their moods, and eventually being able to guess how they will react to certain situations. That’s why, with family, significant others, and close friends, we can often predict how they’ll handle the ups and downs of life–and even sometimes what they’re thinking or about to say. This same concept applies as we get to know our fictitious characters. Even if we create character profiles detailing everything from childhood background to favorite color before we ever start writing, we still have a “getting-to-know you” period with these products of our imagination, as they develop and become more real to us.

Perplexed face courtesy of SHERV.net

Perplexed face courtesy of SHERV.net

Human nature, and life itself, is so perplexing, full of twists and turns. Even when we know people well, they can surprise us and throw us a curveball, and when we’re writing, our characters sometimes do much the same thing. Human nature can be fickle, influenced by so many factors, and sometimes, uncharacteristic behavior can be most intriguing of all. Observing it in someone you know is interesting, but creating it in your own characters can be pure magic.

The other aspect of human nature that I find incredible is evolution. This is why, in my books, I always choose to write about dynamic characters as opposed to static ones. One of the most telling parts of a person’s character is how (s)he responds to challenges in life, and how life experiences shape personality. Just as a jagged rock in the ocean wears down and becomes smooth over time from the continued bashing of the waves, so can people’s characters be molded by their good and bad experiences. Will your character become rougher and tougher when (s)he faces adversity, or smoother and more worn down? You, as the author, are in control of that. Embrace it!

Some of my most dramatic books have been written in times when I’ve been most perplexed by my own life or my relationships with those around me. Do you find this to be true in your own work? I’d love to hear your reflections and experiences!

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