Monday, August 14, 2017

Working on a New Outlook

A few weeks ago, I posted that I needed to find a new outlook on life. I thought I would update you on some of the things I’m trying. My life is still far from perfect, but baby steps are helping set me in the right direction.

One Day at a Time

I live with anxiety, with means at any given point in a day (or sometimes all day), my brain creates worse-case scenarios for every decision I make—even the mundane ones like what I’m going to have for breakfast.

The ones that really have an impact are the ones that involve what is going to happen in the future. My brain is fantastic about making me worry about all kinds of things, and it makes me feel helpless, worthless, and like a failure. I get so focused on these hypothetical situations, I feel like I have to fix the situation.

But, how am I supposed to fix the situation if I don’t know for sure that this is the future that’s going to happen? Plus, what if there is no fix? What if the scenario my brain creates is so fatalistic it’s apocalyptic? Is that even possible? My brain seems to think so, which then leads me to think so, and the process becomes cyclical.

This, of course, leads to exhaustion and more feelings of failure. There’s no way I can tell the future. And my brain can be a huge jerk.

So, instead of letting the potential visions dictate my actions, I focus on one day at a time. I look at my schedule, figure out what has to be done next, and move from one task to another throughout the day. Does this stop the thoughts from occurring? No. But it gives me something else to focus on that I can accomplish instead of fretting about things that may or may not happen.

I Shut My Brain Off

This task is a lot easier said than done, and it’s still a work in progress. After I’ve accomplished all of my tasks during the day, I allow myself the ability to chill and relax. Before, I would let the thoughts run rampant and attempt to find solutions to a future that might not exist. This would lead to more anxiety and desperation, which accomplished very little except to drive me crazy.

Now, I take the time to read, write, or watch a movie. I have a list of films on Netflix that I want to watch or re-watch, and I’m slowly getting through them. My boys are watching them with me, so I have to be a bit selective about what I watch. If you know me, you’ll know that the vast majority of the films on my list are horror films, and the boys still get freaked out—and I want to hang out with my kiddos—so I have to pick movies that aren’t too scary.

Again, these acts don’t stop my brain from creating scenarios, but it gives me something else to focus on and a chance to prioritize what I should worry about and what I shouldn’t.

I Remind Myself I’m an Adult

This seems like an odd task to undertake considering every day I’m reminded I’m an adult. From taking care of my family to feeding my dogs to paying bills to grocery shopping, I do a lot of adult things during the day. But in addition to all of those responsibilities, I have the ability to make choices.

As an adult, I don’t have to do what other people tell me. I can make my own decisions about what I eat, what I want to wear, and whether or not I’m going to work. Are there consequences for my decisions? Absolutely. But as an adult, with my experience, I’m pretty confident I can predict what those consequences are going to be and make an informed choice about what I’m going to do.

By reminding myself I’m an adult, I give myself power. I remind myself that I have choices and that there are some parts of my life I’m in control of. Whether good or bad, I get to decide what direction my life takes because I’m an adult!

I Focus on the Positive

It’s so easy when things go a little sideways to think that the sky is falling. It’s so easy to see how terrible the world is and that everything is out to get me. But underneath all that evil and devastation, there are amazing things that happen every day. They could be small or they could be huge, the important thing is that no matter how bad things are, something good is there to counteract the bad. I just have to take the time to find it and focus on it.

Life doesn’t feel as fatalistic as it did a few weeks ago, but I still have a ways to go before everything is peachy keen. The only thing I can do is keep swimming.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How Writing is Like American Ninja Warrior

Last week, an amazing thing happened: I became a VIP author for Stitched Smile Publications. I get some perks with that title, but the best of them is being part of an amazing team of authors that supports and encourages one another and others. I’m honored and excited to be part of that.

One of the other perks of becoming a VIP author included doing an interview. While answering questions, I was taken back to the very beginning of my writing career and talked about some of the things that made me who I am. One of those was the fact that in college, I had some professors who were less than supportive of my writing. In fact, they shattered my confidence, causing me to give up writing for several years.

I’m going to be honest: I haven’t thought about this incident for a long time. And why would I? It’s painful and difficult—and there’s no reason to live in the past. I’ve grown so much since that time, and I’ve accomplished a lot.

But at the same time, I can’t deny that the incident had an impact on my life and helped form who I am. But so did good things, like my friend who encouraged me to try writing again. Without her, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today.

As I was thinking about all the incidents that came together to get me to where I am today, I started thinking about American Ninja Warrior and The Voice.

My family and I love American Ninja Warrior. The boys often try to imitate the ninjas and develop their own obstacle courses in the house. When we lived in Wyoming, they would even spider crawl up the insides of door jambs.

I love watching the ninjas overcome the obstacles and how strong the women warriors are becoming. They are carving out their place in the sport, and it’s amazing to watch them make history.

If you’ve ever watched American Ninja Warrior, you know that a lot of the athletes get a segment before their run where they talk about the life obstacles they had to overcome to get to that moment in time. The same thing happens on The Voice. The contestants talk about what happened to get them to the moment before they step onto the stage to sing.

And most of the time, those obstacles were difficult, full of heartache, and could have stopped them from moving forward.

I’m fully aware that part of the reason these are shown is to make the contestants relatable and sympathetic. I don’t doubt that the TV producers carefully pick and choose which stories they are going to highlight to get the most viewers’ attention. Whatever the motive/process behind the stories is, you can’t deny one thing: life is tough.

But we all know this, right? We know that life isn’t a walk in the park and that we don’t get things handed to us on a silver platter. Everyone on those shows, I don’t doubt even the stories we don’t see, had to overcome something to get where they are. They had to put in the time, effort, and work to see their dreams come to fruition. They suffered for their art, whether it’s singing or running an obstacle course.

And once they get onto the stage or to the course, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be successful. There’s no guarantee they’ll turn the judges’ chairs or push the buzzer at the end. But they don’t let that minor detail stop them. And if they don’t turn a chair or reach the end, they use the moment to learn. They go back to the gym or the studio and work on the things that are going to make them better.

As a writer, I’m not much different. I face my own obstacles and judges every time I put words on a page or publish a book. If I fail, I use the moment to learn and to work on the things that are going to make me better.

If I’ve learned anything from American Ninja Warrior and The Voice it’s that the world doesn’t cut anyone any slack. It doesn’t care if we succeed or fail, and it will do all it can to throw obstacles in our way. We have to find a way to overcome them to reach our goals.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Young Adult Sci-Fi and Fantasy Giveaway

Books, books, some more books, and the chance to win a Kindle Fire!

I’ve teamed up with 30+ fantastic young adult sci-fi and fantasy authors to give away a huge collection of novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner!

You can win my novel Humanity's Hope, plus books from authors like A.J. Culey and Blake B Rivers.

Enter the giveaway by clicking here:

Good luck, and enjoy!

Caleb, a 17-year-old boy, survived the zombie uprising, but he didn’t come out of the ordeal unscathed. He’s been scarred—both mentally and physically. The rest of humanity is trying to rebuild, to make the world normal again. Caleb is trying to return to a normal life also, but after all he’s seen, after the loss of his family and friends, the transition is difficult. The darkness that led him down a path of self-doubt and self-harm keeps trying to creep back into his mind.

Things only become worse when he discovers he’s immune to whatever makes a zombie a zombie. Fighting zombies was predictable. He knew what to expect. Fighting humans is volatile. They are malicious and treacherous. They won’t stop to get what they want, and Caleb has to figure out exactly what that is.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Effective Marketing

Over the weekend, the family and I headed to Lincoln to check out the Natural History Museum on the university campus. To get there, we took various two-lane highways through a bunch of small towns. It was an idyllic drive. Every so often, we would pass a random billboard, and I wondered out loud: “Are billboards effective marketing?”

The answer to that question depends on who you ask. A billboard salesperson will tell you that they are amazing. Someone who spent a lot of money putting their ad on the board and didn’t see a return on their investment would say it wasn’t worth it.

That, of course, spurred a conversation about whether or not any marketing was effective.

There are so many different options when it comes to marketing, from free to paid advertisements, but all of them have their downsides. For example, if you advertise for free on social media, how can you be sure you’re reaching all potential buyers? You can’t. However, the same thing can be said if you pay for ads. You just never know who is seeing your ad and who is actually in the market to buy your product.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use social media, you totally should. Just use it appropriately.  And keep other advertising options open as well.

That’s why marketing is such a nuisance. There’s no guarantee that your efforts will pay off—that you’ll make those all-important sales. But you can’t not market either. That’s guaranteeing your product will fail.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer when it comes to marketing. When it comes to effective marketing, you have to have a little faith that your efforts will at least get you seen by potential customers and hopefully lead to sales. Having an idea what your sales goals are could help you create a marketing plan.

Who knows? Maybe your plan will include purchasing a billboard. If it does, I hope it’s effective for you.

Monday, July 31, 2017

A New Outlook

I need a new outlook on life. The past several months have been incredibly stressful and depressing, and they are taking a toll. I really noticed it over the weekend.

I try to stay positive on a daily basis, focusing on the things that make the day great instead of what makes it terrible. But that’s been tough, and I find myself being incredibly angry and disappointed more often than I probably should be.

I used to live my life like that back in the day, but I’ve been trying really hard to make a conscious effort to be happy. It’s not always easy, and the world keeps throwing me curve balls, but something has to change. It’s exhausting being angry all the time. And I’m sure my boys would really appreciate it if I stopped yelling.

Aside from trying to focus on the positive, I’m not really sure what else to do to change my outlook. What are some things you do to get you through stressful/depressing time?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sticking to a Routine Takes a Lot of Dedication

Last week, I talked about the importance of having a schedule if you want to be productive. I explained that I have a general outline for my day instead of a strict itinerary, but I still have an idea of what I want/need to accomplish.

What I didn’t talk about was how I accomplish my routine. It’s one thing to say I have a schedule, but it’s another to adhere to it.

Let’s be honest: if you work from home and you don’t know if/when you’re going to get work for the day, it can be hard to find the motivation to get out of bed.

I’m not a morning person. I’m also not a night owl.

But I’ve been forced to become a morning person. I thank my children and my pets for that. Of course, the kids are slightly better than the pets. They’ll sleep in if I don’t get them up or they don’t set an alarm. The pets will let me sleep for a while, but eventually, they think they need to eat.

Nothing wakes me up faster than the dog who eats poop licking my face.

I hate getting up in the morning. I have chronic back pain, so some days it is physically difficult to get out of bed. I’m the type of person who you really shouldn’t talk to until I’ve had my coffee. And a shower. And a few hours under my belt. I’m pretty cranky.

Since I have to get up in the morning, I’ve developed some routines to make it as easy on me as possible. It doesn’t make me less cranky, but it helps me wake up faster so I can at least talk to people in a civilized manner.

1. When I get out of bed, the first thing I do is open the shades

If the sun is shining through my windows, it helps reset my circadian rhythm and wakes up my brain. Plus, when my room is bright and sunny instead of dark, it makes it less tempting to climb back into bed.

2. I exercise

Being physical and breaking into a sweat helps wake me up. Depending on the day of the week, I rotate between cardiac exercises and weight lifting. This also helps keep me in shape since I spend a lot of time sitting.

3. I take a shower and get dressed

I work from home. No one is ever going to know if I’m still sweaty from my morning workout or if I’ve brushed my teeth. However, by getting ready for the day, I prepare myself mentally for what I have to do. Getting out of my pajamas and into my day sweats (hey, I work from home; I’m not putting on fancy clothes) resets my brain for work mode instead of lounging mode.

4. I schedule a time for lunch

It’s so easy to get engrossed in work and forget to eat—and that’s not healthy. Or, conversely, it’s so easy to not be working and spend most of my day eating—and that’s not healthy either. Sticking to a routine gives me a chance to take a break and get some much needed nutrition.

5. I end my day at a specific time

As I mentioned last week, it’s incredibly important to have boundaries when it comes to working at home. Otherwise, the potential exists to never stop working. Having boundaries gives me a chance to spend time with my family and unwind.

Again, being totally honest, there’s absolutely no reason why I have to follow these steps or develop a routine during the day. As long as I get the work I receive done by the deadline, I could spend the vast majority of my day dirty and sleeping. So why do I have a schedule?

Some days, I don’t know how to answer that question. I like to get things accomplished, and I have a Type A personality so I thrive with routine, but—technically—I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to meet my deadlines. I won’t get more work if I don’t, but work is overrated. Who needs money? There are other ways to get cash, such as selling things or sponging off my spouse.

I would like to tell you I stick so well to my schedule because of dedication. And, honestly, that might be part of it. Some days, it takes a lot to pull myself out of bed to face a day of maybe or maybe not working. It would be so easy to just plop down in front of the TV (or Netflix) and lose myself in shows.

In the end, what will sticking to my routine get me? Well, with a little luck, I’ll get more jobs, which means more money. With enough time, I’ll be able to write more books, which could potentially give me more money. My kids will see that dedication, perseverance, and routine can lead to amazing accomplishments.

There’s no reason for me to stick to my schedule and follow a routine every day. I could easily say screw it and do absolutely nothing and the world wouldn’t care. But I would care. My work and routine gives me meaning and purpose. It might not be making a huge impact on the world, but it makes my existence more meaningful.

Monday, July 24, 2017

It’s Here! Humanity’s Hope Is Finally Here!

Humanity’s Hope is finally available in ebook form—and it came early! Originally, it was supposed to be released on July 27th, but the process went swimmingly, so it’s now on Amazon.

I’m super excited for the book to finally be out. I’ve been chomping at the bit to share Caleb’s story for a long time. This book is the first in the Saving Humanity series.

In addition to this new release, I also figured out how to reduce the prices permanently on a few other of my young adult books. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but kept forgetting. I get distracted very easily.

Anywho, for those who are interested, you can now get the Road to Salvation series ebooks for just under $4.00. This isn’t a special. This is their new, permanent pricing. The books include The Appeal of Evil ($1.99), Dealing with Devils ($0.99), and Good Intentions ($0.99). 

My writing has been a bit of a roller coaster recently, so having these upswings makes me feel really good. I’m still plugging along on the third Ifs book, and I have a narrator working on the audiobook for Life After the Undead. I’m getting a lot accomplished.

As usual, I want to thank all you amazing readers for supporting me throughout my career. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Want to Be More Productive? Develop a Schedule

I love my schedule. I thrive in a structured environment. As someone with anxiety, a schedule helps me feel in control and able to control my panic. It also helps me get me work done.

For a long time, my goal was to be able to work from home. I was able to get a job that allowed me to do that last summer, then after a few months, things didn’t work out. However, before finding another office job, I worked as a freelancer. After moving to Nebraska, I find myself freelancing once again.

The month leading up to the move was chaos. I didn’t have a schedule per se because my days were focused on packing and cleaning my house and maintaining my sanity. As I look back on those days now, I think I probably would have been more successful if I had developed a schedule.

Are some of you groaning out there? Do you think I’m weird/crazy/Type A because I do better with a schedule? When I say the word “schedule” or “structure,” you probably think I’m not having any fun and it’s all work, work, work. For some people, having a schedule takes the spontaneity and spice out of life.

Well, that’s fine. Schedules aren’t for everyone, but life wants a schedule. It’s made for structure! There are benefits to having a schedule. And I don’t handle spontaneity or spice very well.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I can be flexible with my schedule when I need to be, and my days aren’t exactly predictable. Some days I get more work than I expected, and other days I don’t get work at all. That can throw off all my plans. What do I do then?

When I talk about having a schedule, I’m really talking about having a general guideline for the day. I make myself get up at a certain time, otherwise I’ll lounge around all day. I make myself exercise, which is incredibly important because I really enjoy dessert and I need a dose of endorphins. I also make it a point to end my days at a certain time, usually around 5:30, so I can make dinner for the family.

This part is incredibly important. If I don’t set boundaries, especially as a freelancer, I will be working all the time. I don’t want to do that (I’ve done it before, and it was no fun), and my family doesn’t want me to do that either. Once I’m done working for the day, I have my evenings to do what I want—and that usually means something fun.

If I have work, I get that done first. Since I’m freelancing at the moment, I prioritize what needs to be done by what is due first. If I don’t have work, I figure out what things I need to do around the house (laundry, clean, etc.) and get those finished. If I honestly have nothing to do, that’s when I allow myself time to read.

But, wait, you say, what about your writing? Writing is part of my daily schedule. When I’m done with my work, I sit down and put words on paper. I’ve always done this—even when I had an office job. Most of the time, my writing was scheduled for the evenings and weekends, but it was still scheduled.

Again, I realize that all of us are different and what works for me might not work for you. My point is that if you want to get things accomplished during the day, you have to set aside time to get it done. The world isn’t going to stop for you to work, and things will always pop up to keep you from getting stuff done. If you have a schedule, you have more of an obligation to get things accomplished.

Try it for a week. Set some general guidelines for your day and stick to them. Get up at a certain time every day. Set aside time to exercise—even if it’s for only 20 minutes—at a time that’s convenient for you. Set your end time for work and stick to it. I’m telling you: you might be surprised at how much you get done.   

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Boys Are Back!

We picked the kiddos up over the weekend, so everyone is home and recovering from their adventure. So far, things have been normal, and by that I mean not quiet. But I expected that. I don’t doubt we’ll be spending the next few days readjusting to life without grandma and grandpa.

On our way home from picking the boys up, we stopped at the Archway at Kearney. We’ve driven by it multiple times, so we decided to check it out.

It was pretty cool. It’s a museum dedicated to the history of travel. Apparently, Fort Kearney is a place where all three trails (the Oregon, the Mormon, and the California) converged before heading their separate ways. Fort Kearney was the gateway to westward expansion.

The exhibits were pretty cool. They have these devices with a speaker that narrates the story as you walk though. Throughout the area, there are cards with chips in them so you can get more information about a display. It was a nice break from being on the road—even though the museum was dedicated to being on the road.

I’m very happy my boys are back. Soon, sports and school will start. Until then, I’m hoping we get to have some more fun and visit some other cool places. We have a few on our list…

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Diversify Your Marketing Campaigns

Sometimes, I think “marketing” is a bad word. It’s one of those things that we as authors (and business owners) have to do, but it’s hard to do. I certainly don’t market myself and my works as much as I should. I’m pretty good about talking about marketing and marketing for other people, however.

I think the reason marketing is so hard is because we have to talk about ourselves, and most of us were taught that it’s not polite to talk about ourselves. When we market, we’re supposed to talk about how wonderful our product is and how great we are for developing it. It can be difficult to do that, especially if we don’t want to come off as bragging or being self-centered.

It’s also incredibly difficult to be heard and seen in a sea of others who are marketing their products. Consumers are so desensitized to calls of “Buy My Stuff!” or “Check This Out!” that they don’t notice the calls anymore. I’m exactly the same way. I get so irritated with ads, I tune them out. When I watch TV, I even go so far as to mute the commercials.

That’s why it’s so important to find a way to market your product but do it in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re selling something. That’s where branding comes into play. It’s a unique way of showing off you and your product without actually shouting “Buy My Stuff!” to the consumer.

There are a variety of different ways to brand yourself, and I’m not going to get into them in this post. What I want to focus on instead are the different venues you can use to market yourself and your product.

We’ve all been told that the best way to get your stuff out there is to be online. You have to have a blog. You have to be on social media. You have to send newsletters. You have to belong to discussion groups.

The list of “have tos” goes on and on. And while you’re being told you have to do all these things, millions of others just like you are being told the same thing. If all of us are going to be on the sites we have to be on, how do we stand out from the crowd? Of course, that’s the real challenge.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be on these sites, you should.  It still gives you a chance to be heard and seen, even if it’s by a small percentage of people. And who knows, maybe you enjoy being on social sites, so by all means, do something you enjoy.

What you need to keep in mind is that while social media has its benefits, it also has its downside, the most prominent being that it doesn’t reach a large percentage of your intended audience. There are so many people on Facebook and Twitter, they have to limit the amount of people who see your feed. If they didn’t, mass chaos would ensue. Either that or our heads would explode from the sheer amount of information in our feeds.

When marketing your product, it’s important to keep in mind that using different mediums targets different audiences. There may be some overlap from the different mediums, but for the most part, you are probably reaching new audiences. That’s why it’s important to diversify your marketing campaigns.

When I worked as an ad rep for my local paper, one of the biggest reasons people didn’t want to advertise in the paper was because it cost money. Why would you spend money when you could get free advertisement through social media? It’s a totally fair question.

It’s hard to justify spending money on something that may or may not get you a return on that investment. It’s much easier to take the low-risk alternative. But, as I mentioned earlier, you might not be reaching all the potential clients through social media posts. Technically, you might not reach them through a newspaper either, but you would at least be expanding your potential customer base.

What makes marketing successful is having a variety of people see your campaign. You can only reach so many people through social media or through a local paper or even on the radio. But when you develop a plan that incorporates all of these mediums, you increase your chances of being seen.

Marketing is tough. It’s hard to know what is going to work and what isn’t going to work. It’s challenging to invest money in something that may or may not see a return on that investment. However, if you run a business—even if that business is being an author—it’s worth it to develop a marketing budget and expand your reach to different mediums.

Monday, July 10, 2017

It’s Been So Quiet

Since last Wednesday, the boys have been with their grandma and grandpa. And my house has been so quiet. I both enjoy and hate those times.

As you can imagine, I enjoy not having to yell at my kids. It’s nice not to constantly tell them to stop fighting and if they can’t figure out how to share no one gets the ______ (fill in the blank). The doors aren’t slammed every time they go in and out of the house, and the dogs aren’t barking every two seconds because one of the boys is messing with them. (They’re just barking every two seconds because someone walks by on the sidewalk in front of the window.)

But on the other hand, I also don’t get to hear them laugh or have fun with one another. They aren’t here to tell me stories about the video they just watched on YouTube or what they saw on their bike rides. Sure, I call them and hear about their day, but it’s not the same as having them in the same house. If you’re a parent, you know the love/hate moment I’m going through.

Because it’s been so quiet, I’ve had lots of time to get my writing done, and I’ve taken full advantage. I still feel like the story is taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r to write, but I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not in a race and progress is occurring quite nicely.

I’ve also had time to catch up on my TV shows and start a new series. Has anyone else seen Snowfall on FX? It’s incredibly fascinating.

I’m enjoying the quiet while I can (and as much as I can). My boys will be home soon enough, then everything will be loud once again.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Holiday Threw Me Off

I hope everyone who celebrated the 4th of July had a fantastic holiday! I had a great time hanging out with my family, and my fabulous mother-in-law came out to visit. The boys got to light off fireworks for about a week, so they were super excited. Personally, I was not sad to have the fireworks end—and neither were my dogs!

Normally, I post on Wednesdays, but the holiday threw me off this week, so you get this post on Thursday. I thought about not posting anything, then I decided to throw some words onto the page.

Exciting things are happening around here. I’ve been working on the third installment of The Ifs series. It’s still going fairly slowly at the moment, but at least it’s going. For a while, I wasn’t doing much work at all—and that was incredibly depressing. Slow or not, I’ll take what I can get.

Humanity’s Hope is scheduled to come out at the end of the month. I still don’t have a date yet, but from the way the publisher was talking, it shouldn’t be long. When that happens, all my other zombie books will go on sale. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you when that happens.

It’s hard to believe that it’s July already. In a way, summer is half over. I hope you have or are on track to accomplish everything you want to accomplish. My only goal was to start writing again, and I have.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Fun at the Zoo

Last week, I had the opportunity to take my boys to the Omaha zoo. It was amazing! We had so much fun and saw so many animals I didn’t even know existed! Of course, now I can’t remember their names, but one seemed to be a combination of a squirrel, kangaroo, and mouse. There was even a squirrel that reminded me of my smallest dog. We called it the Siggy Squirrel.

There were even baby animals there. A sweet, adorable 5-month old gorilla, a giraffe, and a baby sea lion (I didn’t actually see this one, but my oldest did).

We walked through a butterfly pavilion—which I had never done before—and it was super cool. There are some really beautiful butterflies out there.

There was an aquarium and an exhibit dedicated to creatures of the night. When we went through this particular exhibit, there were some pools on the floor. They didn’t have any barricades around them, but they were next to the path. My oldest was making a beeline for one of them, and I grabbed his arm before he reached it. I had no idea if there was glass over the top (it didn’t look like it), and I wasn’t going to find out the hard way if there was or wasn’t.

As we were looking into the pool, a shadow passed by on the opposite wall, looking exactly like a shark (I’m sure it was probably one of the fish swimming close to the light), but it freaked my son out a bit. I thought it was super cool.

My kids even convinced me to get on the Skyfari, and I am NOT comfortable on chair lifts. I kept a tight grip on the bar and anxiously awaited for my time to get off. The chair went over some pens, so we saw some animals, but I was focusing on not losing my mind.

I took my hand off just long enough to take this picture of us. 

Zoos are both awesome and sad. It’s great to be able to experience and see animals that we might not ever see, but it’s sad that they have to be kept in cages. All in all, though, we had a great day together and created some memories. I look forward to going back.

Have you done anything exciting so far this summer? If you’re going to celebrate the 4th of July, I hope you have an awesome day and stay safe!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Getting Back into the Writing Groove

I did something this weekend I’ve needed to do for a long time: I started a new story.

It felt really, really good to put the pen to the paper and do something creative. I have been so busy with packing the house, selling the house, and then moving that there wasn’t much time for anything else. We’re getting settled now, so I’m getting back into a schedule.

It’s always hard starting a new story. I’m working on the third Ifs book for my boys. I have the basic idea of what is going to happen, but it’s always a surprise to me how the characters get there. I worry a lot when I write. I worry I’ll run out of ideas part way through the story. I worry the story will be terrible. I worry I won’t be able to finish. Some days, those worries make writing challenging, so I have to find ways to push through.

Per my children’s request, this story will have zombies in it. Like me, they are incredibly fascinated by the creatures and want a book just for them with the undead. I’m sure they are excited to see how the characters named after them will fight them off and be victorious. To tell you the truth: I’m excited to see what they’ll do too!

As of this post, I’ve only gotten two chapters written, but I’m going to keep moving forward. My goal with my middle grade books is to write a chapter a day, which means I will be done with a rough draft in a about two weeks. I’m a little behind, but it won’t take long to catch back up. From there, it’s edit, edit, edit. As my favorite saying goes:

Here’s to writing!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Life’s Terrible Moments

It’s astounding how life can go from being tolerable to completely unbearable in the blink of an eye. One moment has the ability to drive you deep into despair and depression. It stops your world and leaves you with pain.

Every so often, you’ll have the opportunity to look up from your loss, hurt, and suffering to realize that the rest of the world is still turning; they are moving forward like nothing ever happened. You’ll wonder: How? Why?

You know nothing but your devastation. The moment replays itself through your mind, and you question whether or not you could have done things different or better. No matter how much you tried to prepare yourself for the moment, to be ready for the inevitable, the moment still blindsides you.
One day down the road—maybe months or years from now—you’ll find that you can smile again; perhaps even catch yourself laughing. It’ll take you by surprise and make you think you are betraying the moment’s memory, but you’re not. The pain will seem less debilitating, but the loss will always remain. The moment will forever be there. But it won’t control you as much as it did before, even though it will always be a part of you.
You can’t stop these moments, and you can’t pretend like they don’t happen. They are part of life. They are not easy, and they will break you down. They will shape your future and challenge your emotions. Cope as best as you can and know that it’s all right to feel the way you feel.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Humanity’s Hope…Coming Soon

I received word from the publisher earlier this week (or maybe it was late last week; I can’t remember, my days have been screwed up) that Humanity’s Hope will be published by the end of July. I don’t have a date yet, but I should get one soon.

It’s hard to believe that a year ago I signed the contract with Stitched Smile Publications for them to put out my next young adult zombie series. So much has happened since then. It’s crazy!

I’m looking forward for this book to come out. I hope all of you enjoy it as well. As usual, I will keep you informed of when it’s available.

Until then, check out my recently self-published middle grade novels, The Ifs and The Ifs Return. You might just enjoy them.

Monday, June 19, 2017

And the Winner Is…

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for participating in the Beach Reads Blog Hop giveaway. It was a lot of fun. Below are the winners. 

Winner of the signed Road to Salvation paperbacks: Natasha

Winner of the Road to Salvation ebooks: A. Royale

Winners of the signed Life After the Undead paperbacks: Margaret and Angela

Winner of the Life After the Undead ebooks: Penny

Again, thank you all so much for participating!

In case you were wondering, we have made it to Nebraska! We are in the new house and slowly getting things unpacked. It was a bit touch and go at first, but we made it.

Moving is so hard and stressful, but it’s even more difficult when the moving company throws you for a loop. My spouse had called and reserved movers to help us load the U Haul three weeks before our intended move date. They were supposed to be there by 9:30, and at 10:00 I heard my spouse on the phone.

Long story short, the mover forgot to write us down on his calendar. And it apparently wasn’t the first time this happened. We needed help, so my spouse put a post on Facebook for people to come help us—and they did. Movers they weren’t, but they worked hard and got us ready to head down the road.

Thankfully, when we got to Nebraska, the movers were able to help us. According to one of them, he wanted to cancel because he had blown out his ankles. I’m glad he didn’t. That would have been extremely bad.

I’m glad we’ve finally made it, and as soon as the house is unpacked, I’ll get back into some type of schedule. Perhaps I’ll even write. I would like that. I have so many books I need to get onto paper.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Ifs and The Ifs Return

Several years ago, I decided to write some stories with my boys as the main characters. I knew they were going to be middle grade books, and I wanted them to be filled with action and adventure, along with a little danger. At the time, my boys were much younger than their counterparts in the book, and I had a lot of fun imagining how they would behave when they were finally that age.

The characters in the book and my boys share some similarities, but these are also a fiction stories, so I used my imagination. Still, they enjoy these stories and can’t wait for me to write the third book, which is next on my project list, and there will be zombies.

But I digress.

I found a publisher for The Ifs and The Ifs Return, and they were awesome. They asked me to create a different pen name to keep my middle grade books and all my other books separate, so I did. I even published some picture books under my new children’s pen name.

While the publisher was fantastic, the books didn’t do very well. When the publisher offered to give me my rights back, after a lot of deliberation and soul searching, I took them. I figured I would try releasing the books under Pembroke to see how they do.

As many of you know, with the amount of books that are put out on a daily basis, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. And maintaining multiple pen names is incredibly hard. I’ll admit it: I did a terrible job. However, I’m trying to remedy that now. I’m going to see if combining my efforts will allow the books to be a bit more successful.

So, without further ado, I give you The Ifs and The Ifs Return, republished under Pembroke Sinclair!

Book 1 in The Ifs series

Landon and Broden are brothers, and some days they DO NOT get along. They spend most of their days fighting, arguing, and plotting ways to get revenge on each other.

Then, strange things start happening… Noises in their room that are not from the cat. Homework that is mysteriously finished. A broken shoelace that repairs all by itself. Clothes that are put in the hamper on their own.

The brothers want to share their weird experiences, but they don’t know if they can trust each other. But when they find out who’s behind all the strange things around the house, they are called to battle with the most unusual creatures and wildest of beasts.

When the battle turns more dangerous than they imagined, Landon and Broden must face their fears, put their grudges aside, and learn how to work together.

Book 2 in The Ifs series

“Gage escaped.”

These are the worst words Broden could hear from his big brother Landon—just one day after they battled alongside Slade’s Ifs and his army of forest beasts. And Landon has more news…

“Gage has magic.”

As the boys are drawn into another adventure with the Ifs, they find out just how powerful—and dangerous—Gage’s magic can be.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Dreaded Basement

The house we live(d) in in Wyoming had a basement—and every so often, it would terrify the kids. Which was kind of weird because it was a nice basement. It was finished and bright and sunny. There was a long hall that led down to the guest room that was darker because we kept the doors closed down there, but on the whole, it was a nice basement.

If they want a scary basement, they should have seen my grandma’s. That was terrifying. It had the traditional concrete floor and tons of nooks and crannies covered in cobwebs and dust. There were even some random, half-hidden doors to closets. Boxes were stacked up to the windows, so it was dark, and the windows more often than not were covered in cobwebs, making it even dimmer.

The stairs were thin and creaky, and—of course—the basement was where they stored the toys. When we visited, if we wanted to play with the toys, we had to go down there. The laundry room was also down there, and it was on the darker side of the basement. The toys were at least by the stairs so you could leave the door at the top open and have a little more light. If the boys could have seen that basement, they would think nothing of ours.

I’ve often asked the kids why they thought the basement was so creepy, and they could never give me a straight answer. Now, to be fair, there had been a few times when I would turn off the light at the end of that incredibly long hall and imagine a shadow/person at the other end hiding in the darkness, and I freaked myself out with that. But I’ve also freaked myself out going to the bathroom in the middle of the night and imagined that if I looked in the mirror a demon would be looking at me, so that’s not an indicator of anything.

My excuse is having an overactive imagination, and maybe that’s the boys’ too. Seriously, as far as basements go, this one was pretty benign. It was actually cozy and had a lot of space. But I still wonder: what made the boys afraid of it?

Do you have any experiences with basements and their creep factor? What about any other rooms in a house that you dislike? I’d love to hear about them!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Making Progress

For the past week, I have been making progress on both my house and getting my middle grade books ready for self-publishing. It’s been a long, exhausting road (for both), but the end is in sight.

Next week is the big move, so things are going to get crazy for a little bit. I’m hoping to have The Ifs and The Ifs Return available before then, but we’ll have to play it by ear. Until I get my feet back on the ground, I won’t have a lot of time for writing.

But have no fear! I will get back into writing as soon as I can. Until then, don’t forget to take part in the giveaways for your chance to win some books. You can find them on the right side panel.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Text Stories

Recently, I applied for a freelance writing position to write text stories. I made it through the first two rounds, creating two stories, then I got cut from the roster. Not a biggie. They were apparently working with a lot of other authors.

However, I was having so much fun with the process that I created several more stories than just the two. Since I have nothing else to do with them, I thought I would share them with you lovely readers. Here is my first story. It’s called Shadows.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Beach Reads Giveaway Hop

Summer is almost here, and that means time to read! Who doesn't like to curl up anywhere with a book and enjoy the warm weather and a different world? I know I do!

In celebration, the Beach Reads Giveaway Hop is hooking readers up with reads for the summer, and I'm happy to participate!  I'll be giving away ebooks of The Road to Salvation series (one lucky winner) and the Life After the Undead series (one lucky winner) and signed paperbacks (open to U.S. shipping only) of the Life After the Undead series (two lucky winners) and The Road to Salvation series (one lucky winner).

The Life After the Undead series (young adult, zombies)

The Road to Salvation series (young adult, demons)

For your chance to win, all you have to do is leave a comment and let me know which of these books would be a favorite beach read!

Don't forget to check out the other bloggers involved in the hop!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer is on the Way!

Woooooooot! I can’t wait for warm weather and having fun with the kids! If anyone is super excited about the upcoming summer, it’s my boys. When we pulled up to the school this morning, the field was set up with the equipment for field day. They couldn’t get out of the car fast enough! There have only been a handful of times throughout the year when the boys were that excited to go to school.

The other magical thing about summer is that there is time to read books. Or, conversely, write them. I’m hoping to get The Ifs (my middle grade books) finished and ready for self-publishing, then get started on the third. My boys have been asking me for a while to write the third book, but I haven’t had time. I’m making time this summer.

Per their request, this book will have zombies in it.

As I was brushing my teeth last night, I was thinking about all the other projects I want to work on in the near future. I can’t decide what I’ll do after The Ifs book, but I have several to choose from—some of which include continuing some of the series I have out. Hmmmmm.

There’s plenty of time to worry about that later! I must remain focused on what has to be done in the near future, which is getting my family moved to Nebraska. After that, I can worry about what I’m going to write after zombie Ifs.

Do you have any fun plans for the summer? A list of books you’re looking forward to reading? I would love to hear about them!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day!

For those of you who are celebrating Memorial Day, I hope you are having an amazing day. It’s a great time to thank those who sacrificed to give us the freedoms we enjoy here in the U.S.

I am honored to have grandfathers and a grandfather-in-law serve our country. Their sacrifices and the sacrifices of all service men and women won’t be forgotten.

My maternal grandfather, Bud Lewis.

My grandfather-in-law, Dale Robinson

I’ve been able to spend this weekend with my family and relax. It’s just what I needed/wanted! I’ve been able to catch up on a few movies I’ve wanted to see too. On Friday night, my boys and I watched The Great Wall. We all really enjoyed it. Of course, if you give me monsters and action, I’m pretty happy—and this movie had just that!

On Saturday night, I got to hang out with my sister and her husband, and we watched Alien: Covenant. I liked it. I know it’s not a “traditional” Alien movie, but it was still fun to watch. My boys really want to see it, but they’re going to have to wait a few years. There are some pretty scary parts, and a few of the alien creatures are creepy as hell. I feel like I need to watch this again (and I will!) to tease out the meaning behind it.

I also get to go see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with my mom, my boys, and my niece and nephew. I’m really looking forward to that. My mom has already seen the film and says it’s good, so I can’t wait to form my own opinion. Plus, Baby Groot!

In addition to spending time with my family, I’ve also been able to get some editing done. I’m rereleasing my middle grade books under Pembroke Sinclair (they were previously released under J.D. Pooker), so I’ve been rereading them and making a few corrections. Next, they’ll get new covers and be ready for the world!

All in all, it’s been an amazing weekend. I’ve had the chance to chill out and enjoy my family. Have you done anything fun and exciting? What was your weekend like?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Getting Back into the Groove

My schedule has been thrown off for this week. I went to Nebraska over the weekend and didn’t get back until Monday. It’s a long trip to drive there, but that will be the last time I do it for a visit. The next time I go, it will be to move there.

Because my week has been thrown off, I’m not posting as much as I normally do. That will change next week. I’ll get back into my groove. Since I haven’t been posting, that also means I haven’t been writing fiction. I’ve been doing some freelance stuff, but I haven’t been writing for me. That will also change in the coming weeks.

Soon enough, I will have a schedule that will allow me to be productive and creative, and I’m really looking forward to that. I have several projects that are demanding my attention. On the top of that list is getting my middle grade books ready for self-publishing.

I don’t foresee the process taking long, but it still requires time. They need to be edited again, then formatted and fitted with new covers. It’s an exciting process, and I really enjoy doing it, I just have to have the time.

Soon. It’s going to happen soon.

In the meantime, please feel free to keep yourself busy trying to win signed zombie paperbacks. The sign up is in the right hand column. May is Zombie Awareness Month, so I’ve been giving away free books. This is the last one for this month, so don’t miss out. It’s my nonfiction book, so it has some great advice on how to survive zombies.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Re-evaluating My Career Path

When I was an undergrad, I remember sitting in one of my English classes and having guest speakers tell us what kinds of jobs we could get with an English degree. One of the speakers was an editor (she was also one of my classmates and fellow English major), and I remember being a bit jealous of her and thinking, “That’s what I want to do.”

As I continued through my schooling career, I had dreams of also being a fiction writer. I took several writing classes and workshops—and had my dreams of writing crushed. I still wanted to be in the writing world, so I figured editing was my best option. After earning my master’s, one of the first jobs I got was as a document production specialist. It’s wasn’t editing, but it was still working with manuscripts. And my editor friend was my coworker, which was an added bonus.

As time went on at that job, I eventually became a technical editor. My duties included reading reports for the normal stuff—grammar, sentence structure, proper English—in addition to ensuring that the information in the text and tables/figures was the same, that references were cited and included the works cited section, and that acronyms were properly defined.

I loved it. It was exactly what I wanted to do. The work was repetitive, but I didn’t care. I was formatting and editing reports. It was amazing. In fact, to do this day, I still freelance edit for this particular company.

I continued to believe that I wanted to edit and took on roles as a freelancer for indie book companies—doing editing from content to proofreading. I enjoyed that also, but it was a lot of work for very little pay. And by this time, I wanted to focus on my own fiction, so I drastically reduced the amount of fiction editing I did.

I took a job at the university where I was called an “Editor,” although editing wasn’t my only duty, I also wrote quite a bit. Again, it was a good fit for me. When I had the opportunity to work at home as an editor, I jumped. It was my dream job.

Well, without going into details, that job didn’t work out, and it seems since then it’s been a downhill slide. I’ve applied for multiple editing positions, and I can’t pass the editing tests. More often than not, I don’t get the results back so I don’t know what I missed, but I’m worried about my future as an editor.

Getting terminated from my at-home job was quite a blow. I’d never been fired before, so it messed with my self-confidence. Continuously failing editing tests doesn’t help at all. I don’t know if I’m having a mental block and subconsciously failing them or if I’ve always been a terrible editor but good enough to get by. Either way, it’s made me rethink my career choice.

I want to switch my focus back to writing. Of course, I’ll always write fiction, but I want to see if I can be successful getting paid to write other stuff. I’ve been a freelance writer in the past, and I’m finding some places to do it again. It’s strange to think that the reason I originally wanted to edit was because I lost confidence as a writer and now I want to write because I lost confidence as an editor.

On one hand, it feels really good to turn my focus away from editing. It’s freeing to not fail any more tests. On the other, I’m not good with change, so I’m freaking out internally that I’m never going to find a job. I need a sign, I guess, to let me know that I’m making the right decision.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Hope You Had a Happy Mother’s Day!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Mother’s Day! Mine was pretty good. I got to hang out with my family and eat my spouse’s famous smoked pork ribs. Mmmmmmm. Pork ribs. They were delicious!

I also got a new Kindle Fire. It’s a good thing too. I’ve had my other Kindle for a while, and it was getting to the point where I would order a new book and I couldn’t download it because my Kindle was too old. The files weren’t compatible. I’ve been reading on my boys’ Fires, but now I don’t have to!

I also had a garage sale this weekend, which went a lot better than I expected. I was convinced no one would show up and I would have to haul all my stuff to Goodwill—which would have been fine, but this weekend was university graduation, so they were stuffed to the gills with donations. I doubt they would have turned me away, but wow! So.much.stuff!

In addition to the fun, there was a little bit of stress over the weekend, but it certainly wasn’t caused by my family doting on me. No, it was just life. I keep trying to tell myself that everything is going to be just fine with the move, that things will work out the way they are supposed to, that most of the stuff is out of my control, but my brain doesn’t always listen.

It starts playing scenarios over and over and shows me the worst-case scenario, making me freak out that things aren’t going to work out the way they are supposed to. This, of course, leads me to stress out and try to find way to fix the problem—even though there might not be any ways to fix the problem. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves me feeling worthless and exhausted.

I’m trying to take deep breaths and lets thing happen, but it’s not always easy. Most of the time, that’s when I turn my attention to writing. I need to do that again. I’ve been a little busy to put words on paper, but that’s going to change. For my sanity, it needs to be soon.

Here’s to looking toward a great week where amazing and wondering things happen! Are you looking forward to anything in particular? I would love to hear what exciting things are headed your way.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How We Define Ourselves as Authors

As authors, we are used to defining ourselves. More often that definition is applied to the types of books we write (whether it is literary, sci fi, fantasy, horror, or any of the other genres) or by what age group we write for (children’s, middle grade, young adult, new adult, adult).

Within the last 10 years (or so), we have also been defined into other categories based on how we are published: whether we are indie, self, or traditional.

For me, the definitions of each are as follows:
  • Traditional: being published by one of the Big Six publishers and having an agent that represents you
  • Indie: being published by a small, independent publisher that you don’t have to have an agent to submit to
  • Self: being your own publisher and incurring the cost of book covers and editors and using any of the various sites, including, but not limited to, Amazon
Up until the last 5 years (or still to this day, it depends on who you talk to), having the label of “self-published” had a negative connotation to it. Other authors, especially traditionally published ones, looked down their noses at you, like you weren’t a real writer/author because you weren’t traditionally published. Today, some authors still look down at self-pubbed authors, but it seems to occur less often. There’s not as much stigma and more freedom with being self-published.

But it got me to thinking: why is it so important that we place these labels on ourselves?

For the genres, I totally get why. What I’m referring to is why we feel the need to label ourselves based on how we are published. One way is not better than another, and it certainly is not indicative of quality. At one time it might have been, but that’s changing now. And more and more often, even traditionally published authors will self-publish books. Do we still need the labels?

My questions arose while having a conversation with another author. I asked him how he was published, and when he commented indie, I asked if he meant indie publisher published or self-published, and he said he believed self-published and indie were the same thing.

That got me to thinking and wondering about my own biases in the publishing world. I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that one form of publishing was better than the other—I’m also an indie and self-published author—I honestly was just curious which one of the two he was. I’m endlessly fascinated with author’s stories of their failures and successes in the various publishing realms. I enjoy learning new ways to market myself and my books or to hear if there are publishers out there who should be avoided.

But how important is it that we define ourselves by the way we are published?

After all, whether traditional, indie, or self, we face a lot of the same problems when it comes to marketing—or dealing with editors or finding new readers or [insert publishing issue here]. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to everyone if we just classified ourselves as “published” and help each other be successful?

I have no answers to my questions, and I’m wondering if any of you have thought about this same thing. I would love to hear your thoughts on how authors define themselves through how they are published! Is it good? Is it bad? Should we change it? How would we go about changing it?

Monday, May 8, 2017

It Started with a Souvenir

Every summer for the past few years, my boys have had the opportunity to spend some time with their grandparents. They usually go on fun and exciting adventures, such as checking out the dinosaurs at Vernal.

On one occasion, my youngest was being super sweet and bought me and my spouse souvenirs—one of which was a tiny coffee cup.

I don’t drink a whole lot of coffee in the morning (but darn it all, I need my tiny cup full of it!), so I started using this small cup, and my obsession began. From then on, I’ve been on the hunt for tiny coffee cups. And believe me, they aren’t always easy to find.

I was able to find one while visiting Seattle a few years back. We had gone into a souvenir shop on the boardwalk downtown (I can’t remember what it’s called), and I saw the cup from across the room. I was so excited, I almost knocked over my child to get to it.

My spouse found me one when he visited Minnesota. This cup used to have a wrap around it that said Minnesota, but I didn’t read the instructions that it wasn’t dishwasher safe, so now it’s just a black cup. It still works.

My sister-in-law found me one at Starbucks, and recently, my oldest made me one in his art class. It was the best present ever! Unfortunately, the clay on the bottom didn’t quite fuse together, so there are some holes. He was pretty bummed about that. Honestly, though, I’m not sure I want to use it. I don’t want to ruin it.

Whenever I travel anywhere, I keep my eye open for tiny coffee cups. It’s a fun adventure, and I’m excited to see what tiny coffee cup I will find next.

To put these in perspective, here they are next to a normal-sized coffee cup.