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March 2016

Congratulations!! You Got a Book Deal…What Now?

With the Golden Heart® announcements taking place last week, it got me thinking of my own “class” of finalists in 2014. The Golden Heart® can be a huge stepping stone to publication. A majority of my class has gone on to ink publishing deals or get agents or self-publish or are *so* close it’s not even funny… I’m amazed by them every day. I’m sure the 2016 class (including our own BadGirl Sydney Carroll—woo-woo!) will be no different.

Yay, you got a deal! Celebrate and high-five and announce it over social media…but your job is nowhere near done. What actually happens after you accept an offer? Some of it depends on the house/editor and what kind of deal, but this skeleton of what happens is similar from house to house.

**A word on contracts…Don’t be surprised at how slooooow things move. If you have an agent, then negotiating the contracts can take months. I was through most of my edits before I signed the contracts on my Falcon Football series with St. Martin’s Press. As a new author, this made me nervous, as I worried things could fall apart at any moment. The reality is that accepting the offer is a virtual handshake. The contracts are red tape that your agent has to deal with. As a new author, trust in your agent, put your head down, and concentrate on releasing the best debut book ever.

The first thing you’ll get from your editor is your First Pass Edit notes. This can range from an email with bullet points to a Word document of several pages. It can also be very stress inducing. An author who enjoys receiving those initial edits is like a unicorn—I’ve never met one. Just remember that your editor offered on your book because they loved it and convinced an acquisitions board of its merit. Take a deep breath and tackle the issues. You’ll come out the other side with a better book. Once you receive edits, you’ll have ~1-4 weeks to complete.

Once you turn in your first pass edits, don’t twiddle your thumbs. If you signed a multi-book deal, get writing on the second book. Not only will you be chasing your contract deadline, but most likely, your editor will ask you for the first chapter or two fairly soon (before it goes to copy-edits) in order to include as a teaser in the back of the first book. If you didn’t sign a multi-book deal, start on your next project! You always want something in the pipeline!!

**Insert fun stuff** Typically somewhere in the editing process, you’ll get a peek at your cover! Hopefully, you’ll fall in love and plaster it everywhere. (I made a phone case out of KISS ME THAT WAYJ) Enjoy the high…now get back to work!

Depending on your editor’s schedule, (remember you are not her only author) you’ll receive Second Pass Edits. These are usually much lighter than first pass, and usually consists of detailed line edits rather than the big-picture edits. I’ve also had manuscripts that have skipped this step altogether and gone straight to copy-edits. In my experience, it’s depended on how light or heavy first pass edits were. You’ll have ~1 week to complete.

Once your editor accepts the second pass edits, the manuscript will be sent to a copy-editor. Their job is to get nit-picky about commas, hyphens, and awkward wording. They’ll also check for consistency of your time-line, character descriptions, and naming conventions. I’ve always received digital copy-edits, while some houses still send a printed out manuscript with markings. This can take several weeks. Remember, the copy-editing department services all the authors for your house. While you’re waiting on copy-edits to arrive, guess what? Get back to work!!

I *always* recommend reading through your manuscript one last time from start to finish after completing copyedits. At this point, you’ll be sick of reading it. Do it anyway. I promise you’ll catch a handful of mistakes. I’ve generally been given ~3 weeks for copy-edits, but I can usually complete these in a few days.

After you turn in the copy-edits, a few things can happen. For one set of digital books, copy-edits was my last review. For another set of digital books, I did a last review of a “book” formatted PDF version. For my print books, I get galley copies. This is a print formatted paper copy. I make any changes with a pen and scan the pages with changes back to my editor. The final step in all the processes is for a publishing house proof-reader to give the book one last read, catching any (hopefully) very small mistakes. Galleys take me ~3 days for a very slow, through read.

At this point, it’s all in your publishing house’s hands and the next step is your release. It can happen anywhere from four to eight months after you last touched your manuscript. In this time, expect to field constant questions from family and friends…when the heck is your book coming out anyway?

Guess what you should be doing with your time? WRITING! If you have other books due, it’s absolutely necessary to keep writing. Be professional; don’t miss your deadlines. If you aren’t under contract, you want other books published, right? They must be written to be published.

Harkening back to one of my previous posts on Debut Anxiety, the continued writing will also keep you (relatively) sane approaching your release. I’ve made no bones about the fact, I do not enjoy the pocket of time right before/after my books release. So, I’m like Dorie…I try to forget about the release and just keep writing…just keep writing…and (hopefully) repeat all the above over and over and over.

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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em – or How I Learned To Embrace The Beat Sheet

Hi. My name is Jeanette. And for the first three years of my writing career, I was a die-hard pantser.

So what the hell am I doing writing a blog post about embracing beat sheets?

Back at the beginning of my writer life, I found a lot of the joy of writing came from discovering my characters and my story along the way. I’d begin a book with the barest of sketches for my characters, some vague sense of how the story would begin and where it would all fall apart, and that was pretty much it. When I was writing short and novellas, it worked really well for me.

And then I decided to get serious and try writing full length novels.

It…did not go well. Two of my three first books that crossed the 70k mark have never seen the light of day, and those are just the ones I actually managed to finish. In 2012, I had a whole series of disasters where I wrote the first 25k words or so of a manuscript and then abandoned it. There just wasn’t enough there to drive the story – nowhere to go after the first kiss or—let’s be honest—the first fuck. My stories needed more structure. More conflict. Just more to keep them going past that opening act.

So in 2013, attending my first RWA National conference, I made a point of going to every plotting workshop on the schedule. Plotting intimidated me on a basic level. I loved the improvisation of pantsing. I loved the freedom. Would getting everything figured out ahead of time kill the magic?

In the end, what probably most effectively changed my process was a workshop on Save The Cat.

For those who aren’t familiar, Save The Cat is one of many beat sheets, or lists of major plot points that tend to happen in most successful stories. It has its origin in screenwriting, and as the presenter made clear, you can see its structure in a huge range of different popular movies, from Harry Potter to Legally Blonde to Midnight In Paris. How could this singular structure lead to such a wide variety of films?

Because it doesn’t dictate the story itself. It just keeps it moving along. It helps give the story resonance.

It helps make sure you have that more to drive a story along to its satisfying conclusion.

The first novel I plotted using a beat sheet from the get go was the one I eventually sold on. Did it kill the magic? Not at all.

Now, to be clear, I was not slavish in following every single note of the beat sheet. I approached the setup of the novel much the way I always had in the past. But before I set any words to paper, I looked ahead and used the beat sheet as an informal checklist to make sure I had turning points in mind. To ensure there was enough conflict driving the plot to get us to those turning points. To look ahead at the story’s end to make sure it would satisfy the questions set out on page one.

To my surprise and delight, this sort of flexible story structure still left me with plenty room for discovery and improvisation. I still learn things about the characters on page two hundred that I could never have foreseen before page one. But I fit the things I learn along the way into a well-rounded story that has enough there there to see it through to the end.

If you’ve never tried plotting with a beat sheet, I’d consider looking into it. See if it fits into your process. I never would have expected it to be a good fit for mine, but it’s now a tried and tested tool, helping me continue to write fresh stories.

And to feel confident I’ll actually finish them.

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Pre-published? What’s your path?

beach pool signpostOver the past couple of months I’ve been slowly wading into the querying process for Smiling Underwater, the first book in my series about women who perform as mermaids at a tourist trap in 1950’s Florida. I’ve sent out about a dozen queries so far, and I’ve had several full requests. Out of those, two Nice Rejections, in which the agents said extremely complimentary things, although no dice. Still waiting to hear on the other full from this batch, as well as a larger handful of partials out there in the void. Meanwhile, I wait.

So what do I do while I’m waiting? Get my next batch of queries ready for submission, first of all. Continue drafting Book Two. And then/simultaneously, question my entire existence as a writer! Maybe that’s too strong, but there is definitely something about sending one’s work out into the world that brings out the hardcore doubts. What if my subject is too niche? What if there’s too much romance for women’s fiction or too much women’s fiction for romance? What if the time period makes it unmarketable? What if, what if, what if……(insert downward spiral here). So with that going on along with the pressures of upholding my title of Last Unpublished Bad Girl Blogger, I realized I needed a plan… or several plans.

Plan A is to carry on as if I have no doubts. I’m this close, and The Call could be right around the corner. Priority One is to sign with an agent, as my ultimate goal is to be traditionally published, ideally in trade paperback. Hard cover would be nice, but I’m not getting ahead of myself! During this time, I’m writing the other books in my series.

Now, for a brief interruption by our sponsor, Writer Doubt…. But what if I can’t sell this book? Won’t my whole time writing Books Two and Three be a waste if I can’t sell the first one? Glad you asked! That brings me to Plan B.

Plan B applies only if the work is good enough. If I continue to get complimentary rejections, contest finals, and excellent feedback from beta readers, I veer onto the other path. My story is niche. I get it. But I’m not the only one into that niche. I believe I could be successful self-publishing or releasing through a small press with the right research and effort. So that’s settled, then.

The one trouble with this is the open-endedness of the query process. When do I know it’s time to take the other path? How long? How many agents should I query? All of them? It might take a year to hear back. And if I batch out my queries over time, that’s…. yikes. I want my work out there. Some of this might stem from being the last unpublished Bad Girl on the blog, but most is that I’m ready, despite the doubts. That means I need, not a new plan, but an amendment.

Plan A (i): Carry on parent Plan A, as I write the other books in the series. If I haven’t sold by the time I’ve finished Book Three, I implement Plan B. And I’ll have three books!

And as Plan B unfolds, I begin Plan B (i): write the contemporary that’s in my brain-queue, and when it’s ready for submission, resume Plan A.

So that’s my planned path. I’m sure things will change, because they always do, but at least I know where I’m going, and that’s gone a long way to ease the doubt. Fellow unpublished writers: do you have a path mapped out? And published peeps, what did you do? Drop me a comment–I’d love to hear about it!

Happy writing,

 

 

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Rushed or Ready!

I’ve spent the last few months working on a new project, and the adventure has been quite interesting. I’m writing a screenplay. Or should I say I’m trying to write a screenplay. There is this awesome screenplay contest for female writers over the age of forty, and the deadline for entries is early April. So when I started this endeavor, I based my completion date to be around that time frame.

My goal was to have it written, reworked and reviewed by my critique partners by the end of March.

I didn’t sit down blind, mind you. I’ve taken a few screenwriting courses over the last couple of years, read several craft books and purchased a great software program to help make the adjustment from writing novels to the visual medium of movies.

It’s not like I haven’t written a few books. How hard could this transition be? Piece of cake—right? Ummm….no! Wrong! In no way am I saying that writing a screenplay is harder than writing a novel. I’m just saying it’s different. Very different.

The FORMATTING alone that comes along with screenwriting has sent me crying in my wine glass a few times. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with how it works, but you are stopping constantly to change scene location, action and label dialogue.

Example:

INT. LORI’S OFFICE – AFTERNOON

Lori grabs her laptop and car keys and heads out the door.

EXT. PARKING LOT – AFTERNOON CONTINUED.

Lori hurries to her red mustang parked close to the building in a spot marked reserved. A hot guy leans against a truck in the next space over.

                                                                HOT GUY

                                                Nice car!

                                                                LORI

                                                Thanks . . .

Later if she actually gets in the car, you’re stopping AGAIN for INT., etc., etc. The constant interruption in the flow of the writing has taken me a while to get used to. Then there’s the fact that you only have 120 pages to tell your entire story. And in movies, the industry professionals like to see a lot of white space on those 120 pages.

When I’m writing novels, I have more time to describe my characters, actions and settings. I can get into their thoughts with deep POV. With screenplays you’re limited to only what you can see and hear.

Trust me, I’m not complaining. I love this new adventure I’ve embarked on. LOVE IT! Even so, with the adjustment being a little more complicated then I’d anticipated, I’ve had to face the harsh reality that  there is no way I will make the contest deadline. Sure, I could rush the process and send something in, but if I want this to be the best screenplay that I’m capable of writing, I’ll need to admit defeat. At least with this one contest.

Which leads me back to RUSHED or READY?

Have you ever found yourself in this type of situation? Maybe you’re under deadline and you find your work feels more rushed than ready. Unfortunately with the demands publishers are putting on their authors these days, the challenges are becoming more and more common.

However, if you’re not under deadline, please don’t be in such a hurry to enter a contest or send in a submission that’s not ready. Make sure you’re submitting the best work possible. You want your story to impress and stand out from the others. This is not an excuse to slack off on writing. Writers must write, just don’t rush it.

I know I’m missing my goal deadline but on the bright side, I plan to enter some other contest this year once my screenplay is complete. I’ve recently started reading another craft book for more advice on this new and strange way of writing, Michael Hauge’s, Writing Screenplays That Sell.2016-03-17 07.49.38

This way when I do submit I will feel confident in the fact that I’m READY!

How about you? Does your project have you feeling rushed or ready? I’d love to talk about it!

Remember to Dream Big!

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Brand Me! :)

It’s time for an author branding discussion! Are you as excited as I am? Listen closely, Bad Girlz of the World because this topic originated in an unlikely place—with me actually listening to my husband. *grins*

Why Book Cover

If you’ve ever met Mr. Alpha Male in person, you know he’s a talker. Actually, he could talk a talker under the table. So it’s fortunate that I was paying attention when he was going on and on about a book he and his coworkers had read, Start with Why by Simon Sinek. They’d read the same book in preparation for meeting with the author and writing their company mission statement. Why? Because this book is all about why. I recommend it—very informative and not just about corporate business strategy.  It can also give us guidance in building our brands as authors.
Why do we do what we do?
How does that translate into our branding?

The concept behind starting with why is that customers, or in this case readers, want to identify with us in some way. At first I said, well duh. We try to write characters that are identifiable already. We know this, but starting with why is deeper than that. It’s about your personal identity connecting with your reader’s personal identity and how they see themselves. Step one: ask yourself what brands you’re loyal to no matter what.

Here’s how the conversation went for me:

Mr. Alpha: What’s your favorite clothing brand?

Me: Guess.

Mr. Alpha: Why?

Me: Their clothes are well-made. Their jeans fit nicely and they have cute dresses.

Mr. Alpha: Those aren’t the only jeans and cute dresses in the world. Why them?

Me: *pauses for deep introspective thought* …Honestly? They have the Guess Girl as the center piece of their ad campaign, and the model they pick always looks like a modern day Marilyn Monroe. Their look is the perfect mix of classic and modern sass.

Mr. Alpha: And that’s the identity you want to show to the world—a mix of classic and modern sass.

Me: With big sunglasses, bright lipstick, and blonde hair…yeah, I guess so.

oh my tiara

…Did this concept just click for you the way it did for me? We don’t like the brands we like because of the product. We like them because they reflect something about who we are. People want to express themselves through brands. If you let them know who you are and what you represent, they’ll have brand loyalty with you. Now I know what you’re thinking because I was thinking the same thing: that’s fine for a car company or a clothing line, but I write books. There are many, many others who would have the same “why” that I do. How does that help me?

This is the part of the story where I had to percolate for a few weeks on the subject. Why do I write the stories I write? Because I love to tell stories. Because I like watching people fall in love. Because those are the books I like to read. Because… This had been at the back of my mind for a while until 2 days ago. I was driving back from a weekend getaway with Mr. Alpha Male and passing the 4 hour road trip by telling him about my current manuscript.

Me: Plot, plot, blah, blah, blah, plot, plot…I’m so excited!!! I think this is my favorite book I’ve ever written! *giant smiles and seal claps in the passenger seat of the car* I can’t wait for this one to come out!

Mr. Alpha: *laughs* You just want to meet everyone in the world, and make them all smile.

Me: You make me sound like a Coke commercial. [cue light bulbs turning on above E. Michels’ head]…OMG! Is that why I like Coke? I even have Coca-Cola bar stools in my back yard for goodness’ sakes. Apparently, I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony!

And just like that, I knew why I write these stories that have happily-ever-afters, why I’ve chosen a path in publishing that would lead to more foreign distribution than other avenues. I want to meet everyone in the world, give them a big ol’ hug, and make them smile. Through my books, I get to do just that, which makes me smile and the cycle begins again.

So, on the deepest level possible, why do you write?

Now for the fun part: How the knowledge of why you write leads to your author branding.

All you have to do is incorporate why you do what you do into your social media and into your website design. Show everyone who you are at your core at every opportunity you have, and they’ll want to connect with you even more. As for me, I’m going to remove the boring photo gallery from my website and start the “smile file” where I’ll post fun pictures of meeting readers at book signings. I’m going to post on social media about things that make me smile. And I’m going to in general, keep on smiling, like I do anyway. I can’t wait!

What brands are you loyal to? What does that say about your personal identity? Any clue why it is you write what you do? Let’s chat! 🙂

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A MOMENT OF BLISS Cover Reveal

It is with a ton of excitement, and more than a hint of eager anxiety, that I reveal the cover of                   A MOMENT OF BLISS! This is the first book in my Honeywilde Romance series. The book drops August 16th and I hope everyone will love Roark and Madison as much as I do. These two lightning-in-a-bottle personalities come together to mix pleasure with business, but they’ll have to lower their defenses and surrender hard won independence if they want something even sweeter.AMOB cover

Read an excerpt from A MOMENT OF BLISS:

No wonder a world-traveling music star remained obsessed with this place.

Honeywilde provided all of what was best about the South: the food, the warm, welcoming environment, the relaxed atmosphere, the gorgeous weather.

Madison grabbed a biscuit, cut it in half, and slathered it with butter before Roark could return and see how much she’d put on each side. The temptation to hurry and eat one now, and pretend like a second one was her first, was immense. She took a sip of her coffee while the butter melted. Roark appeared in the restaurant doorway a moment later.

Damn.

Not because she’d missed her opportunity for biscuit scarfing, but damn.

He spotted her and strolled over, saying hello to a few of the guests. His face was full of color from the morning air, his dark hair slightly tousled from the wind. He was still put together, top to bottom, in dark gray slacks and what looked like a ridiculously soft polo shirt, but she could easily imagine him less cleaned up.

Ruffled from the outdoors, his hair mussed up even more, smelling like sunshine and evergreen, and a day or two of scruff on his jaw. He was the kind of man who could work a bit of stubble. The kind who made your lips pink after kissing him, and rubbed deliciously against you in . . . other places.

Madison jerked her gaze down to her biscuit. Work, work, work. Job, job, job. She was not here to salivate over biscuits and Roark. She grabbed a menu, ready to fan her face until she caught herself.

“Hey.” He pulled his chair out and sat down across from her. “Chillier than usual this morning.”

She put the menu back down. “Uh huh. Chilly.”

Pre-order your copy today from: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kensington Publishing

9 Comments

Finding Your Way Back

Hi. My name is Brighton, and it’s been months since I’ve written.

Yes, you read that right. Months.

There are some writers who have to write on the regular or they go crazy. If they don’t, they feel off. I’m not one of them. The fact is, my entire writing life since I started on this journey many years ago can be summed up in two words: floods and droughts. Either I am going gangbusters, or not at all.

Since finishing Paige in Progress last fall, I’ve written blog posts and a short outtake for Tessa Ever After, but that’s been it. I have a work in progress I’ve tried fruitlessly to flesh out, but no characters would talk to me. None of my usual tricks worked. And so I did something that a lot of writers may have had a hard time with: I gave myself permission not to write.

Have I missed it? Yes, of course. While droughts are nothing new for me, this lengthy of a drought totally is. Five months with nothing more than a thousand word piece here or there is the least amount of words I’ve produced in seven years. And it’s been frustrating to say the least.

But the reason I gave that forgiveness to myself and said it was okay to take the break was because in the last year, I’ve had some health issues that have made writing—or even finding the desire to write—a struggle. One like I’ve never really experienced before. It’s like the worst case of writer’s block I’ve ever had, multiplied by 17,000.

Last April, what I thought was a minor problem of flared-again sciatica from earlier pregnancies turned into a severe bulging disc in my lower back that needed back surgery. By November, I was spending most of my days in bed because, while it still hurt to lie down, it hurt slightly less than walking, standing, and sitting. And being horizontal in bed, while great in my books (heh), isn’t so great for actually writing those books. Could I have written while flat on my back? Probably. My word count would’ve taken a severe hit, and thus so would’ve my progress, but, sure, it could’ve been done.

The problem was that I just didn’t want to.

Writing about happy people falling in love while in constant pain isn’t something I’ve ever had to work through, and bless all those authors who manage to do it. I just couldn’t. Prior to this little hiccup in my career, I didn’t think my moods affected my writing or my characters all that much, but hoooooooo, boy, do they.

It’s been four weeks to the date since my surgery (microdiscectomy between L5 and S1 for those curious), and I’m still working on finding that desire. Up until yesterday, the pain was equal to what it was pre-surgery, so nothing much had changed on that front (which is a real bitch to work through in and of itself). I’m hopeful that the meds the doc put me on has me on the right path to feeling better, and thus—hopefully—on the path to being in a headspace to write again. I kind of miss hearing the whispers of characters in my head—especially when I’ve been trying so hard to hear them for months.

I know I’m not the only one who’s heard others profess that writers have to write every day to be considered a “real” writer. Well. I’m here to tell you, on month five of my drought, that it simply isn’t true. Writers can write whenever they want. And if it takes you five days or five weeks or five months or five years to pick up your pen—or put fingers to the keyboard—again, you are still a writer. Once you’re a writer you’ll always be one, and a lack of words—no matter how great—can never strip that from you.

The good news is, that blank doc will always be there waiting for you. Whenever you’re ready.

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DICK, and Why You Need It

Beyond the skill and love of writing, there’s something more important. If you’re going to be a published author with staying power, you need some DICK.

Settle down and bear with me. DICK stands for:

Determination, Independence, Compassion & Knowledge.

(Get your mind out of the gutter – where it’s having a faaaaaaabulous time with mine!)

Determination. You’ve heard it before but it cannot be said enough. You get into the business of writing, you better be determined to keep at it, NO MATTER WHAT. Put on you perseverance pumps and your best resilient red lipstick because this industry will mow you down if you let it. Do not let it. Remember everyone goes through the valleys of darkness (yes, valleys, plural), even your very favorite NYT Best Seller. She or he probably considered quitting when their sales dipped or their contract wasn’t renewed, or their sub genre glutted, etc. etc. Here’s a little secret: everyone has considered quitting at some point. Probably a few times, but guess what. They didn’t. That’s why they’re still around, putting out books.

Real life will get in the way of writing, and sometimes you must let it. We will go through times when writing simply has to be put on hold in order to deal with bigger issues. Other times, you have to power through and write anyway. I’m currently writing the opening of book 3 and this blog post on my phone as I sit at the gas station around the corner from my house. Why? Because the people looking at my house still haven’t left and if they’re going to put in a purchase offer, I’m certainly not going to rush them. So here I sit. Me, typing on my phone and my son with his iPad, looking like we’re casing the joint because we’ve been here half an hour yet haven’t left the car. At the moment, my real life is a tornado of house showings, keeping my house tidier than I ever keep it otherwise (seriously, you could eat off the floor right now) a book deadline, day job projects, and wondering if and when we’ll sell or find a home, etc. etc. I know we will, but these ‘tween times ain’t easy. And still, the earth keeps on turning and I’ve got to keep on writing, just like you. 😉

Independence. Here’s something you may not know as a newbie author. Your agent or editor, amazingly fabulous though they are, cannot always be there for you for every little thing. Your critique partners, while THE best, most coolest people you know, have books and lives of their own. Sometimes you’ve got to go it alone. You’ll need to make a judgment call, turn in a novel that hasn’t received critique, think up a book title, resolve an issue – all of it, by your self. It’ll be scary, but I promise, you can do it.

Compassion. For yourself and others. For yourself, ease up on the harsh judgment. Maybe you didn’t write 2,000 words today. Hell, maybe you didn’t write 2. That’s you okay. Go get ’em tomorrow tiger! For others, realize they may be in the middle of a shit storm you can’t even fathom. If someone’s behavior is less than stellar, maybe cut them a little slack. But if they’re consistently horrible, that’s a whole other story.

Knowledge. This business is constantly changing. Uuuuugh, that sounds so trite, but it’s also true. Publishers close, new house lines open, editors move, sales trends change monthly/daily. Arm yourself with knowledge. Stay plugged in via a writer’s group, blog or loop, Twitter or Facebook or whatever. Stay informed so you aren’t left with your mouth hanging open like a fly catcher the next time some big news rocks publishing.

I hope this insight helps (and made you smile at least a wee bit). Just remember, whenever the going gets tough, think about DICK.

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Life’s a Beach!

A little more than a month ago, my husband and I sold our house in Tennessee, loaded up the moving truck and headed south. It was the culmination of a long and sometimes extremely stressful journey, but the end result was worth it. I’d long wanted to live near the beach, even though I have no plans to actually go in or on the water itself. I like being water-adjacent. 🙂 It’s peaceful, relaxing, warmer! We raced out of Nashville right after we signed the papers selling our house, in between two snowstorms.

12509811_10206517770957637_4184724349923614176_nOur journey to a simpler, less-stressful life actually goes back about four years. That’s when my husband retired early after being severely burned out by his corporate job. To me, it was worth losing his salary to see him put himself on a road to being physically and mentally healthier. The difference in him between then and now is huge. He’s happier and that makes me happier.

About a year later, I lost my mom. It was heartbreaking, and I had to get through the first year of the grieving process before I was finally ready to make some big changes in my life. That’s when we started what I like to call The Great Culling — selling belongings on eBay and Craigslist, having yard sales, hauling stuff off to the Goodwill or giving it to friends. We had way too much stuff for two people. And our house was too big, too expensive to maintain. While most people don’t think of Tennessee as a cold state, I was still miserable from about November through at least March. There was occasional snow and ice and single-digit temps. None of that made me happy. Quite the opposite. And dreary, cloudy days usually accompanied the cold weather.

I’d wanted to live at the beach, or at least nearby, for a long time. So we made that our goal. Last year we went through some very stressful renovations to the house to help it sell, two different contractors, and having the first two buyers back out. I fell and broke my wrist, had surgery and rehab and all the lovely medical bills that come with that. When we finally signed the papers selling our house to the third buyers, I almost couldn’t believe what I’d dubbed the Year of Suck was over.

12654256_10206619294575664_8371068781974053244_nWe didn’t know if we would buy or rent, so we booked a vacation condo for a bit more than a month. We leave here tomorrow for our apartment. We’re going to try apartment living again for a year to see if we like it. We haven’t lived in an apartment in more than 15 years, but the idea of not having to do yard work or be responsible for maintenance and having way less space to clean is attractive at this point. Will we feel the same in a year? We’ll see. I like the flexibility it gives us, too. If we wanted to up and move somewhere else in a year, we could without having to worry about selling a house.

We’re also cutting the cable cord and going with streaming. This relieves the frustration of having to deal with cable companies, their random price hikes and mysterious hidden fees. We’re trying to get fitter and healthier. We’ve been walking almost every day since we arrived in Florida. It’s not a trial when you’re staring at the sparkling water of the Gulf of Mexico. Our new apartment complex has an exercise room, so we’ll be making use of that as well. And eating better. I’ve lost count of how many shrimp I’ve eaten since we arrived here. 🙂

The hubby, though retired at an early age from a “day job,” stays busy with the financial stuff to make sure we can continue to live this less-stressful life and still pay our bills. He’s also the main cook and deals with all the time-suck activities such as figuring out our health care insurance, things that would take away from my writing and editing time and probably make me pull my hair out.

It’s taken a while for us to get here, but I’m looking forward to seeing what our new life has in store and exploring the area. If all of my besties would just move here, too, it would be perfect. 🙂 Making big changes are often scary, mainly because we get in a set pattern and place and it’s hard to heave ourselves out of it. Change is hard. But I believe sometimes in life, making the big change is exactly what’s needed.

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