Random Inspirations

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

Writing and Kids: 5 Ways to Have Both

Shortly after I gave birth to my daughter, I wrote a blog post listing 6 essential tips for working from home with a newborn baby. The strategies I outlined worked well for me; in the past 7 and 1/2 months, I’ve released 4 books and am nearly finished with the fifth one. Of course, there have been setbacks and less productive days (and weeks), but one look into my little girl’s big, bright eyes and I realize I’m doing the right thing at the right time.

No doubt about it, balancing writing and parenthood is no easy job. However, this writer-mom combination can be immensely rewarding, and is much more common than I thought. I realized this when I went to the writing section of the library the other day and picked up a book called Writer Mama: How to Raise a Career Alongside Your Kids

This book, published in 2007, is chock-full of amazing tips and tricks on everything from identifying your writing specialty to time-management. It was written before self-publishing and eBooks were popular, and the emphasis on query letters and agents shows that. As I’ve progressed through the book, I’ve decided that writing is an even better career option for moms today, because of the flexibility that self-publishing allows.

I’ve also realized that life as a writer mom (or dad) is very individualized. Author Christina Katz’s thoughts prompted me to reflect on my own experiences balancing writing and motherhood, and I just have to share them with you.

Writer-Mama-Cover-Final-257x300

Here are 5 ways to balance writing and kids (okay, in my case kid. We’ll probably get to the plural form in a couple more years.)

  1. Record your inspirations – Creative story or blog post ideas come to us moms at the most random times, and sometimes those ideas have to sit for awhile before they can be transformed into brilliant prose. In Writer Mama, Katz recommends various kinds of notepads or notebooks. I keep an inspiration notebook, but I’ve also been known to send myself an email every so often if a new idea strikes when I’m out and about.
  2. Write during nap times – New moms are often told to sleep when the baby sleeps, and I agree with this–to a degree. At night, Xaviana and I sleep around the same time; my earlier bedtime (around 10 or 10:30 PM) helps me to be more alert when she’s raring to go in the morning. But daytime naps are a different story. I use those to get as much writing done as I possibly can, especially now that Xaviana is more playful and aware, and is not content to just sit there in her chair and watch me write. The nap time schedule is an ever-evolving one, and some days Xaviana naps more than others. But I’m usually able to write two chapters of my Amish book per day and one to two blog posts per week while she’s asleep.
  3. Meet other moms and babies – As Xaviana becomes interested in other babies, I’ve been attending more and more meetups and one-on-one playdates with my mommy friends. Meetup.com has been amazing, because it’s allowed me to network with other moms at exercise classes, picnics, and coffee dates. Some of us are mompreneurs, and it’s fun to bounce ideas off each other. After these events, both Xaviana and I are energized and happy, and I’m more productive for the rest of the day.
  4. Set daily and weekly goals – I find that the best way to optimize my achievements and efficiency on any given day is by setting goals the night before and writing them down. I put my daily goals in the form of a to-do list, and take pride in checking them off. However, mom-life is variable, so I don’t always meet them right away.  This brings us to #5…
  5. Don’t stress – Any time you’re freaked out about your seemingly-endless to-do list, remember how blessed you are to be able to work from home and spend time with your baby. It’s an incredible privilege and responsibility. If I don’t meet my writing quota for the day, I just remind myself to treasure the gift of work flexibility–and the irreplaceable opportunity to bond with my child–that I’ve been given.

Moms out there, how do you navigate life as a writer-mom? Writer-dads, do you face similar challenges? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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5 Essential Tips to Turn Your Passion for Writing into a Career

From childhood, our parents and teachers encourage us to hold on tight to our dreams, just as the song says. However, some time between preschool and prom, many of us lose that amazing and innate child-like ability to believe we can do anything. In college, we might put aside our passions, like music, acting, or writing, to focus on some “marketable” major that will land us a “secure” (and likely immensely boring) job. After we graduate, we take said job and soon find ourselves stuck in an annoying day-to-day routine, one that leaves no time to realize our childhood dreams and passions.

In my first bestselling eBook on Amazon, Rumspringa Breakan Amish girl who wishes to become a veterinarian is told by her boyfriend, “Don’t just hold on tight to your dreams–actualize them.” This is the mantra by which I try to live my life. As a child, I had many dreams: to play Mozart for my dad on the piano, to play the flute in marching band, to become a cheerleader, to act and sing in a musical, and, most of all, to publish a book. By the time I was in high school, I’d accomplished all of these childhood fantasies except the last one. Self-publishing was not “a thing” yet, and I obviously wasn’t going to land a literary agent in high school, when my focus was split so many different ways. Besides, I was an amateur. I’d have a lot of work to do before I could become a published author.

So, I put aside that dream, instead earning my Doctor of Pharmacy degree and practicing pharmacy for 6 years. Although the field was lucrative and I enjoyed many aspects of it, I couldn’t let go of my dream of becoming a published author. I just had to do it. If I didn’t pursue my passion, I knew that I’d regret it for the rest of my life!

Here I am in my office, doing some writing!

Here I am in my office, doing some writing!

Going after your passion is hard work, and it takes guts. I’m a practical person, and I value financial stability, so I took my transition slowly. Here are five essential tips that I used when I decided to turn my passion for writing into my new career:

  1. Pursue your passion part-time first – I kept up my writing skills by journaling, and worked on my teen novel when I wasn’t at my “day job.” I also started a blog, attended writing conferences, and took advanced level writing classes to hone my skills. I worked toward my goal every day–while still keeping my full-time job for financial comfort. After a few glasses of wine, throwing your steady job away and rushing headlong after your passion might make sense, but it’s much less stressful to start pursuing your passion part-time first.
  2. Build an author platform – While I was working as a pharmacist, I began to dabble in indie publishing. I published my first teen novel on Amazon, but it barely sold any copies since I had no author platform. I realized that if I wanted to actually turn writing into a career, I would have to find my readers and sell some books! So, I became active on social media, began blogging twice a week, and hired professionals to create an author website for me. My next book, a teen short story, landed on the Amazon bestseller lists, mainly because I’d found a readership and learned to promote my work.
  3. Network, Network, Network – The indie author community is a friendly one. Since self-publishing is a relatively new field, we authors love trading tips. I attended several writers’ conferences and local meet-ups before my daughter was born. Now, I do most of my networking online. I’ve found many like-minded authors through blogs, Facebook groups, and Twitter. These contacts have been invaluable, providing me with moral support, as well as fresh ideas.
  4. Know where to look for work – If you want to make a full-time career of writing, chances are you’ll also have to do some freelancing in addition to indie publishing. TheLadders.com is a comprehensive career resource for professionals, and can assist professional writers in finding freshly-posted jobs. Also, local writers’ groups are an amazing place to meet other professionals and find out about interesting career opportunities.
  5. Evolve with the industry – Self-publishing is constantly changing, since it’s still a relatively young industry. If you want to keep doing your passion (i.e. writing and publishing books), you have to be willing to constantly change with the business. This means you must publish on multiple stores (I was exclusively on Amazon, but am now expanding to Kobo), and stay abreast of the latest trends in promotion.

So, there you have it: 5 essential tips for turning your passion for writing into a career. Writers out there, how did you pursue your passion? Aspiring writers, how are you planning to take the leap into the industry? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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KDP Self-Publishing Glitches–And How to Fix Them

Let me preface this post by saying, I absolutely love Amazon, and I’d be willing to bet that most indie authors feel the same way. IMHO, Kindle Direct Publishing is the best way to self-publish and distribute eBooks around the world. However, KDP is not without its glitches, and, unfortunately, our chances of encountering them increase with every eBook we publish.

I’ve published 22 eBooks, so I’ve encountered some rather interesting–and irritating–glitches. The good news: I’ve learned more trouble-shooting tips to share with you! Here are two glitches I faced, and how I overcame them.

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Problem #1: The Amazon description of my book was showing html code!

When I published Amish Awakening, I was appalled to find that the html code had shown up in the description. My first thought was, OMG, did I mess something up? But a quick and frantic check confirmed that the problem wasn’t on my end; a glitch in the system had caused all of the eBooks published between certain hours to show up with the html code in the description.

How I Fixed It: Naturally, I contacted Amazon support right away, and the representative emailed me that technical support was working on the problem and should be fixing it “soon.” However, I didn’t want my book description to show up looking unprofessional and sloppy for some indeterminate amount of time, so I took all the html code out of my description and republished the book. There may have been no bolds or headings, but at least my description didn’t look like some type of “Coding 101” project. When the representative emailed me the next day to inform me that the glitch was fixed, I re-inserted the html code and republished the book once again–a lot of work, but the best alternative. There’s nothing worse than seeing a funky description under your book on your launch day!

Problem #2: It took forever for my book to become available in the Kindle store!

Last week, I hit the publish button on my newest creation, Amish Gossip, and checked to make sure it was available in the store the following day. I was shocked to find that it was not, since the usual turnaround time for a book to become available in the Kindle store is usually 12 hours or less. In my author dashboard, it showed up as “in review.”

How I Fixed It: I emailed the help center after 24 hours, and was told that the book was being reviewed and a representative would let me know when the problem was fixed. Imagine my surprise when the problem was pending for a week! I replied to the same email thread periodically, and would get a different representative every time. The responses were very vague, and no one ever told me what the exact problem was. Finally, one week after the intended release date, I started wondering whether I should just try republishing the book. I replied once again to the pending email, and the representative suggested republishing the book. I did, and the book became available about 12 hours later. The original publication, however, was still stuck in review. I wished that the representative had told me this sooner. If this happens to you, I would recommend republishing your book right away instead of waiting for a satisfactory answer from customer support.

Writers out there, have you encountered similar glitches when self-publishing? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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Mindset Matters: How to Change Mindset When You Switch Writing Genres

I’ve just begun my newest writing project: a return to the YA Amish genre. After my foray into mermaid fantasy fiction, I missed writing inspirational and entertaining stories about the plain people. The only problem: after my four-month hiatus from Amish fiction, I wasn’t sure what to write about, what characters to include, or how to inject something fresh and new into my latest Amish creation. I knew that I wanted to write another spinoff series of my popular Amish Hearts books, but when I brainstormed story concepts, I couldn’t come up with anything!

Genre switches are difficult; when I’d begun writing the California Mermaids series, I’d published a post about it. At that time, however, I’d been delving into a brand-new genre with all the energy and inspiration that goes along with such a switch. In some ways, returning to a genre in which I’d previously written has been much harder. I’d been publishing one Amish book per month, and had really been in a groove. By switching to mermaid books, I’d interrupted my momentum.

However, I’ve found that it is possible–but not easy–to regain that momentum. My first step was to visit the library and pick up some Amish books. I’m a firm believer in reading to write better, and I often enjoy reading books that mirror what I’m doing at the moment, whether it’s going on vacation, going through a certain stage in life, or writing a book. The Amish books did the trick; my favorite was Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler. In his memoir, Wagler made his childhood and Rumspringa years come to life–and inspired parts of the plot line of my new book. 

This book helped me to reset my mind in preparation for writing my newest Amish book.

This book helped me to reset my mind in preparation for writing my newest Amish book.

The second thing I did was begin to reread my own Amish books, starting with Book 1 of the Amish Hearts series, Rumspringa Break. This put me back in touch with my characters, as well as with the events that had happened in each story. It’s strange, but when you write one book per month, you actually forget what you’d written six months or a year ago. That’s why it’s so important to periodically reread your own books when you’re writing a series or spinoff.

I’m still in the process of rereading my Amish books (There are ten of them.), but the third thing that really helped me to change my mindset was plain old meditation. After all my reading, I suddenly had tons of inspirational thoughts swirling around in my head, and I needed to focus them. Ten minutes in the hot tub were all I needed to plant the seeds of the story line, and to sketch out the first few chapters of my new book in my mind.

My Amish book will be about some young upstarts who decide to start a new community after an unnecessarily strict bishop takes over in their own community. I’ll be posting excerpts and reflections as I write, and the book itself is due out in late February.

Writers, have you ever returned to a genre after leaving it? If so, did you find it as difficult as I did, and what did you do to facilitate the process? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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6 Tips to Throw an Epic Book Release Party on Facebook

On Wednesday, I took part in my first-ever Facebook launch party, and it was awesome! My latest eBook, The Mermaid’s Secret, had just been released, and teen author/blogger Hayley Guertin hosted the party.

I loooove parties, and I have tons of experience hosting them–live ones, anyway. However, I knew nothing whatsoever about Facebook ones, although I’d “attended” a handful of them in the past. It turns out that FB parties are a lot like house parties–minus the loud music and cocktails. You must make sure the guests are engaged and entertained, or they’ll leave. And contests are a must. The only difference is that instead of playing Flip-Cup or Beer Pong, your guests will be playing trivia games, or liking author Facebook pages. Your prizes will be other eBooks or perhaps Amazon gift cards. Finally, if you do it right, your guests will leave exhilarated and will be commenting on the event page long after the party has ended!

Here is the image we used during the party. I then provided a short summary of each part of the book, including teasers, to generate interest.

Here is the image we used during the party. I provided a short summary of each part of the book, including teasers, to generate interest.

Here are 6 FB party tips that I’m psyched to share with you today:

  1. These events are best when another blogger and/or author organizes them for you. You’ll get your work in front of a new audience, in addition to your existing friends and fans. Another perk is that your host can indirectly promote your work by mentioning your other projects–whereas if you did the same thing, it might come off as overly promotional or even as blowing your own horn. For example, Hayley commented, “Did you know that Kristina also writes Amish fiction?” I was then able to chat with some of the guests about my other books, and many were interested in checking them out.
  2.  Hold contests throughout. Everyone likes a chance to win something, and there are so many types of contests you can try. For example, write out trivia questions from your stories, and the first guest to answer correctly wins your latest eBook.
  3. Offer prizes from other authors. Hayley held eight contests during the event, and most of them involved winning the books of other authors. The authors had donated a certain number of copies of their eBooks, and contestants had to like their FB pages and then comment on the event page for a chance to win. This was great because it introduced new fans to my work and helped other authors to receive more likes on their FB pages.
  4. Offer your own grand prize. I gave away 5 copies of my first two California Mermaids books to contestants who liked my FB page and invited at least 20 of their friends to like it, too. As a result, I received 62 new likes to my FB page!
  5. Keep engaged the entire time. This is kind of a no-brainer, but you must be present and interacting the entire time. Like people’s comments, and try to gauge whether they’re having fun. Always be thinking about the next topic you can discuss. For example, people were commenting about how much they liked mermaid fiction and how excited they were for The Mermaid’s Secret, so I posted a link to my blog, where there were free excerpts of the book. One guest seemed very interested in my Amish books, so I messaged her and offered to gift her my Amish Hearts box set. She was super excited to claim her gift.
  6. Tell readers about your book. Antonio made the above graphic for me, with the book cover on one side and the sections of the book on the other. I summarized each section briefly and included some teasers to generate interest in the book.

So there you have it: 6 tips to throw an epic FB book launch party. Did these tips help? Do you have anything to add? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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5 Random Places to Find Inspiration

As writers, we have to be open to the weird and the wonderful, and inspiration often strikes in totally random places. Often, we don’t even need to search for inspiration; it finds us instead. With that in mind, here are 5 random places where you might find your next story idea!

Image courtesy of somethingoneverything.com

Image courtesy of somethingoneverything.com

  1. Vintage Stores – Writing historical fiction? Then head to your local vintage store before you slide into your desk chair. Browsing is so much fun because each item has its own unique story–and it’s up to you to find and tell it.
  2. Gyms – Your blood is pumping and the endorphins are flowing; these factors can launch your creativity into overdrive. Add to that the fact that your mind is mostly blank when you’re doing reps or running on the treadmill, and you have the ideal environment to dream up awesome new writing projects.
  3. Your Shower – Many times, you don’t even need to venture out of the bathroom for inspiration; just take a shower! Great ideas often hit when you’re sudsing up.
  4. Bed – The saying, “Sleep on it,” is so true; sleep really lends us a sense of clarity. If you’re stuck at a stubborn point in your story, “sleeping on it” is often all you need.
  5. Public Transportation – Not only do you have uninterrupted time on a bus, train, or airplane, you also have an abundance of people and conversations. Hello, people watching!

Writers out there, what is your favorite random place to find inspiration? Is there a special location that always works for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories.

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5 Easy Ways to Regain Your Momentum This Year

I always enjoy some time off around the holidays, and although I’ve written a bit here and there over the past two weeks, today is my first official day back to writing full-time!

No matter what you do, returning to work after a long break can seem daunting to say the least. Luckily, I’ve got you covered! Instead of dreading your return to work, try these 5 easy ways to regain your momentum after the New Year. I applied them last year after the holidays, and they worked incredibly well. I’m psyched to implement them again.

New Year's was fun, but now it's time to get serious. Check out these 5 tips to find out how!

New Year’s was fun, but now it’s time to get serious. Check out these 5 tips to find out how!

  1. Start the week by doing something you love! I kicked off the week with an impromptu yoga class yesterday morning. Yoga is one of my favorite workouts because it exercises not only our bodies but our minds and souls as well. I always feel more focused and motivated after I practice yoga. This session, however, the true revelation came at the end of class. After everyone left the exercise room, I still had so many endorphins circulating through my system that I didn’t want to leave. So, I took advantage of the fact that there were no back-to-back classes that day; with the room to myself, I began dancing and doing splits, cartwheels, and front handsprings. I felt wild, free, and completely in touch with my innermost essence. Gymnastics and dancing were two things I loved as a child and a teen, and practicing them again felt divine. As I walked home in the sunshine, I was pumped for everything  in life, including returning to work.
  2. Create a mantra. I always create a weekly mantra, but I believe that it’s especially important to do so before returning to work after a long break. My mantra came to me at the end of yoga practice, and it is Discipline, Drive, and Determination. Over the holidays, I relaxed and cut loose, but now it’s time to return to the core of what makes us all successful: the 3 D’s. I repeated my mantra to myself before I sat down at the computer today, and I was raring to go!
  3. Read voraciously. This is my only tip that applies exclusively to writers, especially those of you who are working on fiction projects. Reading is the perfect way to regain your momentum; reading a book in your genre will inspire you and impart a feeling of accomplishment. After all, you’re not just reading for pleasure–you’re conducting market research! And if you’re working on a manuscript that requires research, dusting off those non-fiction books and reading up on your topic will give you ideas and help you to feel more in touch with your story. For example, I’m working on a mermaid novel set in 1920s San Francisco, so I dug up some new resources on the 1920s in general and prohibition in San Fran in particular to put me in the mindset of the story.
  4. Write a list of goals. I think most of us do this in some way or another, and call them New Year’s resolutions. However, even if New Year’s resolutions aren’t your thing, don’t fret. Write goals for your workweek–and your year–instead. This is an excellent habit to get into, and it will help you to start, and finish, your week strong.
  5. Take care of your body. Many of us gorge during the holiday season. After all, we won’t see some of these foods again for a whole year! But remember, sugar is a toxin, and the starchy, salt-laden foods of the holidays kill your energy. Returning to your regular healthy diet is paramount in regaining your momentum at work, because if you feel sluggish and bloated, how are you going to perform to your full potential? Additionally, many of us neglect our exercise regimens during the holidays. Working out again will get your blood flowing and your endorphins pumping, and will fill your entire body with an amazing sense of well-being. The sooner you can return to your healthy habits and take care of your body, the better it will be for your momentum at work!

So, there you have it: 5 easy ways to regain your momentum this year. Have you tried these? Do you have anything to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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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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