Random Inspirations

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

5 Ways to Make Your Historical Fiction Sizzle

I’ve been immensely enjoying my time writing The Mermaid’s Wedding, book 2 of my California Mermaids series! Not only does it allow me to stretch my imagination and indulge in my fascination with mermaids, it has also helped me to rekindle my love of history.

The Mermaid’s Wedding takes place in 1912, and Oceania and Xavier travel to San Francisco to meet with the conductor of the symphony, who has offered both of them positions. I’ve visited San Francisco twice, but I didn’t know much about its history. Therefore, I headed to the library to load up on books about the subject.

Here's a picture of early twentieth century San Francisco that I came across in my research. (Courtesy of timeshutter.com)

Here’s a picture of early twentieth century San Francisco that I came across in my research. (Courtesy of timeshutter.com)

As I began to read, I became enthralled in San Francisco’s rich history, and voila–I realized that I just had to share some awesome tips for writing historical fiction with you! So, here they are:

  1. Lose yourself – We write best when we’re entirely immersed in a subject, so by all means, hole up in your office amidst a pile of books. Or, if you’re like me, hang out in the library courtyard sipping an almond roca latte while–yes–being surrounded by a pile of books. Losing yourself in your research will allow you to pick up on the fine historical details and nuances that will bring your time period and setting to life.
  2. Remain accurate to the big picture but use your imagination for the rest – It’s important to know the key historical events and landmarks of the time, as well as how people talked, their modes of transportation, and what was fashionable. But for other things, feel free to use your artistic license. For example, I write about the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1911. I learned in my research that Henry Hadley was the director of the symphony at this time, but I’d already had a character in mind for the director. Therefore, I called him a different name and let myself go wild with my descriptions. Most readers won’t notice this discrepancy, but my imaginary director adds a lot of personality and flavor to the story.
  3. Only write about a period you’re passionate about – I’ve been interested in the turn of the century (the twentieth century, that is) ever since I was a little girl obsessed with Samantha, the “bright Victorian beauty” from the American Girls books. Therefore, deciding to set the first California Mermaids books in 1912 was a no-brainer. Originally, I’d wanted to set them in 1901, but I’d realized that I wanted them to take place after the San Francisco earthquake and fires of 1906, and after the symphony was established, so 1912 it was. But I digress… My point is that you should choose to write about a time period that has always interested you, and a place that you’ve either visited or dreamed of visiting. History can either be scintillating or terribly dry and boring, depending on your interests and personal preferences.
  4. Keep a “question notebook” during the writing process – I began researching my topic before I began writing the book, but realized that many of my questions arose as I was writing. For example, what was the most affluent area close to downtown San Francisco, where Xavier’s family would be likely to live? What was its proximity to cable cars? The questions went on and on. I actually began to write them down on a page of my inspiration notebook, since I didn’t want to thumb through my reference books right away and interrupt my creative writing momentum. After I’d finished writing, I would look up the answers and fill in the blanks, or change little details.
  5. Have a good relationship with your librarian – The librarians are awesome! They helped me to find the perfect nonfiction history books in two minutes flat. And not only have they proven helpful during my research, they’re amazing resources for all things literary in the community. As writers, we need to network with as many literati as we can, and librarians certainly fit the bill!

Writers out there, how do you research your topics when writing historical fiction? Did you find these tips useful? I’d love to hear your questions and comments!

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5 Ways for Writers to Build Readership on Wattpad

Recently, I joined Wattpad, a social media community that lets you read, vote for, and comment on the work of other writers, as well as post your own stories. Wattpad is the ideal platform for authors of YA fiction, since teens and young adults are the primary users. Once I checked out Wattpad, I knew that it would be the ideal medium to build my readership, allowing me to reach fans in my new genre, teen mermaid romances.

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With this in mind, I’ve spent a few hours a week on Wattpad, and have built up more than 50 followers in the past two weeks. I know this is just a start, and my goal is to reach at least 1000 by the end of the year. But here are 5 strategies I’ve implemented so far to increase my followers and build readership of my story, The Mermaid’s Curse.

  1. Search by keyword – I searched the keywords “mermaid,” “mermaid fiction,” teen mermaid,” and “merman,” just to name a few. These searches brought up stories as well as users with “mermaid” in their  usernames. I added all the stories to my library, and have been reading them as market research. I also followed all the users I could find related to mermaids. Many of these users followed me back automatically after I followed them, and still more followed me after I voted for and commented on their stories.
  2. Search by category –  I also searched by broad categories, such as “Paranormal,” “Teen Fiction,” and “Fantasy.” I joined some groups for users interested in these categories, followed several users, and added stories to my library. After I did this, my followers increased again.
  3. Follow users with large and small fan bases – I follow “big ticket” and “small ticket” users. The users with many fans are great, because I can study their profiles and works to ascertain how they became successful. However, I also like to follow users with small fan bases, since they’re more likely to have the time and inclination to follow me back, respond to my comments on their stories, and read my work. One strategy I found was to follow a very popular user and then check out the people who commented on his or her story and follow them, too. Many of these people have smaller followings, and I found that they follow me back and comment on my stories.
  4. Interact often – Comment on stories, message new followers or people you’ve followed, join groups, dedicate chapters to fellow Wattpad users, and vote on stories. Wattpad is a community of reciprocity, and if you give others your time, interest, and attention, it will come back to you. I have already had two chapters dedicated to me because I really connected with another user who incorporates celestial elements like the moon and stars into her stories, and liked the way I also did this in The Mermaid’s Curse. 
  5. Publish your best work – Wattpad is pretty raw, and many writers post first drafts with grammatical errors and punctuation issues. I like to give every story a chance, but when I stumble upon a work in which the author used “they’re” instead of “their” or some similarly offensive faux pas, I usually stop reading immediately. I know everyone is not so discerning, and many of the users are barely out of middle school, but I find that the works with the most views, votes, and comments are polished, with a sound plot structure and correct grammar. Sharing your best work on Wattpad can enable you to stand out. Another great strategy I’ve employed as I post The Mermaid’s Curse chapter by chapter is including a link to the book on Amazon at the end of the chapter. This encourages readers to buy it for only 99 cents. I also plan to message all my followers when I have a free promotional day on the book.

Other writers out there, are you a Wattpad user? If so, what strategies have you used to increase your readership? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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6 Essential Tips to Work from Home With a Newborn Baby

Being a new first-time mom–or dad–is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs there is. Every day is an adventure, and there’s nothing more precious than seeing the world through your newborn’s wide, shiny eyes. No doubt about it–your life changes forever the minute you hear your baby’s first cries. It’s super exciting, but many people find it daunting as well. The question on many new parents’ minds is, “How will I find time for my career and my own personal fulfillment when I’m faced with so many new responsibilities?”

People who work from home have it better than many, since we can spend the day with our babies while still staying active in our careers. Most of us have relatively flexible schedules and are motivated self-starters, both of which are ideal traits for balancing work and family. But still, the question remains… How does one work with a newborn in the house?

By practicing time management techniques, of course! Here are 6 strategies I use to incorporate plenty of work–and play–into days with my one-month-old daughter, Xaviana.

Want your baby to give you a wink for a job well done like Xaviana is doing here? Just follow these tips!

Want your baby to give you a wink for a job well done like Xaviana is doing here? Just follow these tips!

  1. Read Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West – Everyone is more productive after a good night’s sleep, but having a newborn in the house makes this seem impossible. That’s why I recommend this book. It’s chock-full of amazing techniques to find a sleep schedule that works for both you and your baby, and I used the tips inside to set up an awesome sleep routine at home. Babies sleep fifteen to eighteen hours a day during the first month, but the sleep is pretty scattered. Xaviana takes three main naps per day, one in the morning, one in the mid-afternoon, and another in the evening after dinner. My family sleeps around 10:30, and Xavi awakens twice at night for feedings, and typically wakes up a third time in the early morning around 6 AM. After I feed her, she snuggles with my hubby and falls back asleep until somewhere between 7:30 and 8 AM. I am not a napper unless I’m sick or severely fatigued, but luckily Xavi is a good sleeper and so am I; I get eight to nine hours a night, even though it is interrupted. This allows me to function optimally during the day and get a ton of work done while Xavi naps.
  2. Be Flexible – Tailor your daily routine to your baby’s moods, and know that you will seldom have long, uninterrupted blocks of time to work. Instead, learn to work in quick snatches of an hour or two, concentrating hard during that time. If you’re a writer like me, you’ll probably be able to write and take care of your baby all by yourself as long as you remain flexible. For example, when I’m in the middle of writing a chapter and Xaviana wakes up hungry and/or irritable, I make a note of where I was heading, and then focus on making Xavi happy. Afterwards, I can pick up where I left off. On the other hand, if you work in an industry that demands meetings–even virtual ones–with clients and coworkers, flexibility is a bit more challenging, and you may need some extra help with the baby during the day. This brings me to tip #3…
  3. Ask for Help – I’m the type of person who likes doing things myself. I detest delegating, and prefer to be left alone during the day to work and take care of Xavi. But I also know that sometimes, we just need a helping hand. For this reason, it’s super important to have a support system: significant other, family, friends, and baby-sitters. If you’re anything like me, you probably won’t ask for help, but remember, it’s okay to do it if you have to.
  4. Be Efficient – Don’t waste time–especially when your baby is napping. It might be tempting to nap when the baby naps, and that might work for some people. But I know that I accomplish the most while Xavi is asleep, since it’s easiest to concentrate and immerse myself in my work.
  5. Make a To-Do List – Starting each day with a to-do list is essential. Newborns break your day into little fragments that can seem disjointed and disorganized unless you have a clear itinerary of everything you want to accomplish. I include not only work goals on my to-do list, but also personal ones, such as playing piano, exercising, cooking, and cleaning. The list keeps me organized and lends a sense of accountability. It also helps me to structure my day. For example, I play piano and exercise while Xavi is awake, since she seems to enjoy watching me do these activities. I try to write, cook, and clean when she’s asleep.
  6. Be Realistic – Before Xavi was born, I would often write 4000 words a day, in addition to blogging three times a week, shooting YouTube videos, promoting, and keeping  up with social media. Now, I write about 2000 words a day and blog once or twice a week, but still make plenty of time to promote and keep up with social media. My goal is to return to my original level of productivity, and even exceed it. 😉 However, I also realize that this will take some time, and I’m okay with that. For now, I’ll challenge myself to write as much as possible while still enjoying the sweet little girl I waited so long to hold and adore. Newborns are amazing, and we should savor every smile, every wiggle, and every cuddly moment of this precious time.

New moms and dads out there, I hope these tips help you to work from home more effectively. What strategies work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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4 Ways to Stay Connected With Your Fans When You Write Multiple Genres

Writing is a life of evolution, and authors seldom stay pigeon-holed in one genre. After all, we must write about what inspires us, and staying in one genre for too long can lead to stagnant works, tired story lines, and overall boredom during our writing sessions. No one wants that!

Want to show the fans of both of your genres some love? Read on!

Want to show the fans of both of your genres some love? Read on!

However, authors who want to plunge into a new genre face a massive obstacle: How can they stay connected with the dedicated fan base of their first genre, while writing a project in a totally different second genre?

I faced this problem when the muse prompted me to try my hand at YA mermaid fiction after a whole year of focusing on YA Amish romances. I’d built up a dedicated fan base in the YA Amish fiction genre, and didn’t want to lose contact with them. Yet, The Mermaid’s Curse was just begging to be written.

Luckily, there are some easy ways for us writers to remain connected to our old fans while reaching out to new ones, and I’m pumped to share four tips that have worked for me so far. I hope they help you!

  1. Release a box set – If you’re giving one genre a break for some time but still want to stay on the best seller lists, releasing old material in a new form is the perfect way to stay relevant. Readers adore box sets because there’s something magical about having all the books of a series in one place. Capitalize on this by releasing box sets of the books in genre number one while concentrating on writing new material in genre number 2.
  2. Work your KDP Select free days – Offer your books of genre number one for free, and your fans will be psyched. Plus, you’ll have the added bonus of jumping your ranks on Amazon and reaching more new fans!
  3. Become active on Wattpad – Connect with the fans from both of your genres on Wattpad. I love this form of social media, because it allows writers to post segments of any of their books and reach new fans. Wattpad is also the optimal place to pilot a new series or genre, since followers are likely to give you their feedback, votes, and comments. I just joined Wattpad last week and really like it so far. As I familiarize myself with Wattpad, I’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date with my reflections and tips for success!
  4. Have a plan to return to genre #1 – Make sure that the fans of genre #1 know that you won’t be leaving them forever. I made sure to tell my Amish fans, via blog posts, emails, and Facebook statuses, that I’m not leaving Amish fiction for gut–it’s more of a temporary hiatus. This gives them something to look forward to, and I’m hoping that it will jump-start the sales of my next Amish book.

So there you have it–4 ways to stay connected with fans of multiple genres. Authors out there, have you tried writing in multiple genres, and if so, how did you stay in touch with your previous fan base while building a new one? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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My Version of NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again: NaNoWriMo. Love it or hate it, we writers must admit that it’s an interesting–and motivating–challenge.

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I have never actually participated in NaNoWriMo. Last year, I was just beginning my career as an indie author, and I was so caught up in writing and promoting my new Amish novellas that the thought didn’t even cross my mind. And in previous years, I was working full-time as a pharmacist and wasn’t ready for the challenge.

This year, however, I’m doing my own, slightly modified version of NaNoWriMo, just so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the fun yet again. 🙂 I will be working on Book 2 of the California Mermaids series, tentatively titled The Mermaid’s Wedding. The awesome thing is that I have a head-start; I completed the first six chapters of the book before I gave birth to my daughter, Xaviana Rose. The hurdle will be juggling my writing and my newborn–not literally, of course–with my parents visiting and my hubby going back to work. It sounds crazy, but you only live once, so why shy away from a challenge? 😉

As NaNoWriMo progresses, I’ll keep you posted with my progress–and I’d love to hear how you’re doing, too! Writers, are you participating in NaNoWriMo, or a modified version thereof? If so, what project are you focusing on? I always welcome your comments and feedback!

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