Thoughts, update

Change your Thinking

These posts are often a challenge to come up with ideas for (*slaps wrist – for which to come up with ideas), but it turns out that training a puppy can offer some important life lessons that translate to the rest of our lives.

So, from my torn-up, bleeding hands and exhausted mind to you, here are some tips on dealing with difficult situations:

  1. Find things to laugh at. When you’ve got a 10lbs dog’s needle teeth sinking into your ankle, and the only way to reach a safe place to put a barrier between you is to drag your leg behind you, you have two options: yell, curse, kick — which achieves nothing, or laugh at the fact that you look ridiculous to anyone lucky enough to see you. The laughter removes the tension and slows the tears, making it easier to deal with the stress once you reach your safe place.
  2. Forget the word “no.” I don’t mean don’t create boundaries and instill discipline, because those are kind of essential for everyone’s safety and sanity and development, but the word “no” is quite unhelpful. It doesn’t provide any information. Correction with guidance is more likely to earn cooperation and avoid discouragement.
  3. Go for walks. A puppy waking up for a long nap is a nice excuse, but why wait for one? Grab your shoes and go out for a 5-minuter to wake up the brain and get those synapses firing.
  4. Find the fun. You COULD get stressed about the fact that you’re behind on all your work and you’re waking up at unreasonable hours, or you find the joy of the small victories, the quiet moments, the glimpses of pure happiness that come up even in the most stressful, frustrating times.

These are the lessons we’re working on for the next little while (hopefully with more of that small victories, quiet moments, and pure happinesses as the weeks go on), and hopefully there are some little tidbits of wisdom in here to help you through the rough patches, too!

reading, update

New Resources

For myself but also all current and future clients, I’m always on the hunt for resources to help with proofreading/copy-editing.

Strunk & White’s Elements of Style is generally always on hand, various dictionaries, style manuals…

But this one, I think, will be a new trusted source. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on it for months, and the bookstore did not make it any easier, losing my order twice before it was finally delivered today.

It’s finally here! I WANT TO DEVOUR IT.

From everything I’ve heard and everything I’ve seen with a quick flip-through, my nerdy little heart is in ecstasies.

I’ll be sure to report back with my thoughts once I’m through it!

update, writing

Staying Organized

Before I start this week’s post in earnest, I promised to let you know how I set up my table for ComicCon this year.

Behold! The crates are just standard pine crates found at Home Depot, Michael’s, Canadian Tire, etc. that hubs and I stained, painted, roughed up and generally beat the crap out of to make them look AMAZING. I’m really happy with them. We did with the same with the price list clip boards.

And this? This is just the beginning. We have plans, baby.

But this week’s post isn’t about ComicCon. For an update on that, you can check out the post on my website.

For this week’s excitement, I give you…….

………

….. THE 365-DAY CALENDAR!

What can I say? Not only am I an organization nerd, I’m also an office supply nerd, and this takes the cake for both.

The reason I wanted to see the whole year at a glance?

For reasons that, who knows, might help you as well with whatever projects you’re working on: planning.

My production schedule, my promotion schedule, my release schedule, everything laid out for easy reference. The beauty is that it’s a whiteboard planner, so can be erased as needed. I’m not locked into anything, no pressure, no stress, just there to help me keep everything on track.

The main reason I wanted this? For promotions/sales.

I can never remember when I put what books up for sale, and I don’t want to discount the same book too often/too soon/too far apart. With this plan, I should be able to create a strategy.

Also: isn’t it a thing of beauty?

This right here: a thing of beauty

This picture just shows the public events I have booked for the next couple of months, but as we go, I want to colour code it with my production schedules, what’s due when.

Adding this to my daily bullet journal and my Trello boards, hopefully I”ll be able to stay on track of everything!

What various systems do you put in place to stay organized? Are you walls covered in notes? Calendars everywhere?

update

Putting My Best Foot Forward

As an aside, I accidentally wrote “best food forward” the first time around. Apparently I’m hungry. Please keep that in mind with any other typos that might pop tart up.

As you may have seen already on pretty much all my other social media pages/accounts, I actually did manage to snag a table at ComicCon.

I’m excited about this. The fact that I haven’t yet included a single exclamation mark in this post is merely an exaggerated effort to keep this blog professional. For a full use of exclamation marks, feel free to check out my website.

But I thought I might touch on one of the important (and, in my opinion, the most fun) parts of direct sales: presentation.

It’s probably a given that you should make yourself and your display eye-catching when you want to draw people to you, but I’ll say it anyway, because I often see it at vendor events: the folks with their heads always bent over their phones, sitting at their table not paying attention, expecting their merchandise to do the work for them.

In my experience… these folks don’t tend to do as well.

I’ve had a good amount of opportunity to try different styles and strategies. Like most people trying to achieve a certain goal, I have certain superstitions and must-haves before starting. These are things that develop naturally — fascinatingly, it’s a built-in element of the human psyche; we’re such pattern-seekers that we’ll attach significance to the tiniest details if we think it’ll help us move forward — and even though I know they won’t make a difference, I hang on to them.

For example, my table cloth. I love the green, and I believe it contrasts really well with my books. I’ve worked with a red table cloth, believing the brightness would be even more eye catching, but it didn’t make a difference, so I returned to my green.

Other than those little things, I like to adapt.

A burlesque dancer friend of mine has a great rule. Every time she re-uses an act, she levels it up. An upgrade to the costume, smoothing out part of the dance, tweaking the stage set-up. Just something to polish the act and really make it shine.

I took this rule and have applied it to my display, which means it will never be perfect and (hopefully) will keep getting better.

To give you a better idea of what i mean, I offer the evolution of my display, starting from my very first novel to the recent Geek Market I did in March (and that’s still nothing compared to what I have planned for OCC.)

Evensong Release Party- 2014
Photo Credit: Blossom Moments Photography
Note: Cake is always a win
Awesome Adventure Academy 2015
Tablemate: Megan Connell, who will be keeping me company again this year at OCC!
I actually really like this set-up with the postcards as reading material. Not bad for a small number of books
My first Byward Author’s Market 2017
Simple, with the important elements right out front (newsletter, price list, etc).
Not bad… but a bit bland.
I had the sign for the AAA as well, which was a great level-up. The font is big and legible, and pretty much says what it is. Easy advertising!
Byward Author’s Market 2018
I levelled up in sheer number of books, that’s for sure. I took out my newsletter (sign-ups at table were slim, so it was taking up space I couldn’t really afford to space).
Downside: it’s very cluttered. Easy access for me to grab sellable copies, which is huge and something I plan to keep, but there’s no white space.
I LOVED this display.
The tiered effect got rid of the cluttered look, using vertical space to showcase everything while still leaving parts of the table visible.
This was a shared table, which meant even less space to play with, but I still added little relateable props (the ravens, the box with my business cards, and the book (where I kept my extra boomarks)

I can’t wait to show you what I have to store for OCC! I will say that my husband has been very busy making everything look really amazing.

Want to see ComicCon updates, photos & video in play? RSVP to my Facebook event page! Even if you’re not able to make it in person, you can follow along for larks.

update

The Magic of “When”

Right after I finished reading Flow, I jumped into a book by one of my favourite pop psychology authors: When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink.

Barely a week and a half later, I’m halfway done and really enjoying it.

I love this guy’s research, easily accessible style, and practical tips and suggestions he delivers alongside all the studies and examples.

Drive was another great one, which follows the science behind what motivates us, but When is all about timing.

When to tackle the most challenging tasks of your day.

When you should book your next surgical procedure.

When you should schedule your next interview or start trying to form/break a new habit.

His research shows that timing really is everything. That if you aim to focus on a more cognitively challenging task in mid-afternoon, you’re more likely to make mistakes or have a harder time with it than if you take it first thing in the morning or after an afternoon break.

He introduces the concept of the “nappucino,” and goes into detail about what makes the perfect nap, and how naps are not a sign of weakness, but a gesture of self-care that more of us should embrace. Same goes with actual lunch breaks and actual opportunities to mentally and physically detach yourself from work to get your head clear before the afternoon trough.

If you’re interested in any of these things, you should take a gander at this book, especially if, like me, you have trouble convincing yourself to walk the heck away from your desk for lunch or are constantly pushing yourself through the afternoon mental fog.

Do you have any go-to strategies to clear your head or wake yourself up when you start flagging during the day?

Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts, update

The Art of the Direct Sale

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of sharing a table at the Ottawa Geek Market at the Nepean Sportsplex, and my experience once again reminded me how much I love direct sales.

I really do.

On a normal day, I have my people quota. It’s quite low. I prefer socializing in groups of 3 or 4, max around 6, and depending on the group, I have a limit of a couple of hours. Then I get tired, conversation gets difficult, and I just want to go home to a cup of tea and a book.

But you get me behind a table covered in my books and ask me to be “on” for an 8-hour stretch?

I am there.

And I’m good at it.

Want to know my secret?

I genuinely, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, enjoy it.

As an indie author, there’s a huge push for online sales.

This makes sense! People around the world have access to our books. I have readers on pretty much every continent, and much as I would love to get to all of those places and meet them in person, it’s not feasible at the moment, which means I need to learn how to connect with them via the wonderful world wide web.

This part…I’m not so good at and continue to study so I can improve.

In person, however, there’s nothing I find easier.

I love the personal element to it, the chance to chat about books in general and find out what someone else is reading/enjoys reading/doing in ones spare time.

When I work the market in the summer, I love finding out where everyone is from, whether they work downtown and are out on their lunch break, or in from another city/country. I like to hear about what they’ve seen in Ottawa, where they’re heading next, and what their favourite part of their trip has been.

My goal when a reader comes to the table isn’t a sale. Sales are nice, of course. Sales help fund the next event, the next book, the next internet bill, but they’re not the be-all and end-all.

My primary aim is the connection. Getting my card in someone’s hand and hopefully continuing the conversation either over social media or (even better) at my next event! Having return people show up when I least expect them is always such a nice surprise, and each time I feel like I get to know them a little more.

So if you have trouble with the idea of direct sales, that they’re too intimidating or nerve-wracking, try changing your perspective on it! You’re not in it for the sales, you’re in it for the chats (and the people-watching in between).

Want some practice? Next time you go grocery shopping, ask the cashier how their day is going so far–and mean it!

update, writing

Who You Know

No matter where your passions lie, networking is necessary evil.

Don’t stress or panic!

It doesn’t have to be as scary as all that.

Sure, it might mean chatting with strangers and remembering to brush your hair, but it can be fun and memorable and present opportunities you never would have gotten if you’d stayed at home, headphones on, nose in book/video game/canvas/guitar case/garden, etc.

I’ll even share a secret with you.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to put on pants.

Okay, if you’re leaving the house to do this networking thing, please, put on some form of clothing. Not only will you avoid the chill, you’ll also avoid the criminal charges, and that’s just better for everyone.

BUT you don’t have to leave the house.

Social media is a wonderful thing.

It can be.

Just avoid the people who make you miserable.

But that’s an aside.

Point is, social media is full of people who share your interests and are looking to connect with like-minded people for support, advice, discussion, inside jokes that only fellow writers/musicians/gardeners/gamers will understand.

And really, that’s what networking is.

To go out and expect to meet people just for the sake of getting opportunities is not going to get you very far. Most people have an easy time sniffing out when they’re being used.

Proper networking is right there in the name. Network. Connection. Information going back and forth to create a complete data set. The wider the network, the more information, the clearer the picture.

Twitter, when done carefully and when well-curated, can be a fantastic source of networking. It can be easy to fall into the world of trolls or instigators, but if you’re paying attention to the people you follow, you should be able to only see what you want to see.

In my case, the recent hashtag #WritingCommunity has introduced me to a whole new circle of writers in various stages of their careers.

It has allowed me to find support and encouragement and to offer it in others.

My time on Twitter led me to one of my first circles of writer friends, many of whom I’m still in contact with today, 10 years later.

One of those people is the person who get me into indie publishing.

I’ve met people who have brought me into anthologies and boxsets, who have led me to writing forums that have helped me hone my craft and get inspired, who have become close friends, confidantes, and kindred spirits.

This weekend, I’m heading off to meet a few of these people in person, and I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of getting the words written and talking shop with a whole cabin of people.

So try not to think of networking as a four-letter word.

Find your own way of reaching out and meeting people in your field.

You never know how your life will change for the better.

update, writing

Self-Editing: Personal Tricks

Last week or so (time means nothing to me anymore), there were a lot of posts going around about paying for edits and how it is so crucial to not bankrupt yourself for the sake of publishing, so I thought it might be a good time to go through some of my personal self-editing process to take some of the weight off the costs of edits.

Though I will always hold that it’s in any writer’s best interests to have a professional go through your work for content/line edits, that’s not necessarily where you need to start. Make use of critique partners and swapping work, and get a solid handle on self-editing.

None of this is always easy. Unless you’re one of those people who derives enjoyment from deconstructing all of your work (Hi!), the task can be overwhelming or boring or, *gasp* you skip that part.

Critique partners are fantastic, but it can be a challenge to find someone who delivers feedback in a way that meshes with your preferred way of receiving it, or who delivers on time, or who knows enough themselves to point out the relevant weaknesses.

I have a wonderful critique partner. I’m sure we curse and swear at each other over the interwebs, but by the time I finish making my revisions based on her feedback, I know I’m walking forward with a stronger book.

She’s not where I start, though, and my self-editing process has changed significantly over the years. Heck, I would say it’s changed significantly over the last year.

When I first started publishing, my editor at the time (and now my editor again, huzzah!) sent me a gift that has remained at the heart of my process. Susan Bell’s book The Artful Edit gives a fantastic and thorough breakdown of each layer to be considered during edits, from a macro and a micro level. Things like character, plot, conflict, theme, and working down to line edits.

In fact, thanks for the reminder me, I’m going to re=read this book to get a refresher on some of these things now that more of my system has changed.

One of the most common tips you’ll hear is to set your book aside and walk away for two weeks or two months or two years. Give it some time to breathe and distance yourself from it.

This is pretty great and necessary advice. If you jump right back into edits the moment you finish, you’re not going to see what might be missing. Your head is still going to be in the story, where you already know what’s supposed to be there.

It can be hard to set it aside though, so my way of forgetting about it is to draft another book (she says, somewhat facetiously).

When the time has past, my next step is get out a notepad and start reading. Ideally in a format where I can’t make any changes. I don’t want to be nitpicking at things just yet. Turn a blind eye to the typos and awkward sentences. At this point, it’s all about the big stuff.

I go chapter by chapter and take note of everything that needs to be changed. I treat myself as my own alpha reader, giving myself feedback in the way that will most help future me. I flag places where motivation is weak, where emotions are missing or where conflict needs to be tightened up. I can get a big-picture look at my story arc and make sure that all that necessary beats stand out with as much oomph as possible.

Obviously, this can’t all be done in one pass, which is why I do fifteen of them with various depth of focus, but with my most recent round of edits, I found this made a huge difference. I was able to rewrite full chapters knowing what I needed to hit instead. My character development is more consistent and my plot a bit less saggy in the middle.

I have one more major round of revisions to go before it goes to my critique partner, and at that point I know I won’t really be able to see anything else for myself. The rounds of self-edits would be endless, constantly wondering and tweaking and nitpicking to the point where the book can never be released, which is why, for me, it’s critical to have someone waiting to get their hands on it.

What are your self-editing habits? What have you found that works or what doesn’t?

update, writing

Why Proofreading?

As we’re now deeply in the new year and I’ve settled into a bit of a new routine, I figured it was time to start promoting my business again. You know, refilling the coffers post-Christmas, keeping myself out of trouble, making sure I keep my skills honed.

The year has gotten off to a good start, contract wise, but I still have a lot of room in my schedule for projects and manuscripts that need a fine-tooth combing.

And I don’t mean just novels.

One of the reasons I decided to offer proofreading services was my time at my dayjob. Part of my job was to distribute incoming correspondence to the appropriate teams, which meant reading them to see where they best fit.

Some of the letters were from private citizens, but most came from organizations. Not-for-profits, unions, funding programs, etc. Organizations and businesses that wanted to be taken seriously with their requests.

But often their letters were riddled with typographical, formatting, or grammatical errors.

Heck, I’ll go out to a restaurant, and the menu will be full of errors. We went to a mid-scale place one day, and they had spelled blackened salmon differently THREE TIMES (blackened salmon, backend salmon, blackend salmon), to the point where at first I thought it was actually three different varieties of salmon.

And yes, I am one of the people who questions the quality of the service and food if no one performs a quality assurance check on one of the first real impressions a customer will make of their establishment (yes, I am one of those people. No, I don’t point it out to the servers. It’s not their fault and they’ve probably already been told fifteen times).

From what I can tell, there are many reasons for these oversights:

  1. Most likely, the errors were just missed. It happens. Even with a proofreader, the chances of having a 100% perfectly error-free document is small, especially with longer projects. The human brain is fascinating and autocorrects what it sees so that everything makes sense. But having someone unconnected with the creation of your project will mean a cleaner end result.
  2. Hopefully not the case, but they might not care. Their mentality might be: Get the product out and move on to the next. The content will still be clear and the reader will figure it out for themselves. Sure… but impressions do matter. If you’re giving a presentation, do you make sure your outfit is tidy or go on in with a rumpled shirt and no brushed teeth after an onion- and garlic-filled sandwich?
  3. They brought someone in who was too familiar with the project. Again, the brain autocorrects. If you know the subject matter too well, you’ll know what was intended and miss the errors. There are ways to help with this: change the font of what you’re editing or read it on a different medium (tablet vs. computer; print off a paper copy). Just the change in appearance can help you see things you might have missed.
  4. They used someone they had on hand who doesn’t have the background/experience to know what they’re looking for. Typos can be caught easily enough, but grammar can be tricky. Sometimes it takes someone with a passion for knowing how semi-colons work to ensure they’re in the right spot.
  5. This last one is what I suspect to be a huge reason for official/important documents going out with errors: proofreading is often lumped in with administrative assistant tasks, and admins are expected to a) know how to do the work; and b) get the work done between all their other tasks. I’ve seen this quite a bit as I’ve looked for new contracts, and I find it staggering. For one thing, it’s a whole different way of thinking between editing a document and booking travel arrangements (nothing but respect for folks who are able to do the latter; just the thought of doing it makes my palms sweat. Give me commas any day). For another thing, how on earth do you expect someone to be able to hunker down and really focus on the nitty-gritty of a document while being interrupted to book travel arrangements? You can do it, sure, but the quality won’t be there.

So that is where I am offering to come in. Even if you’re not an author, even if you’re a student, an entrepreneur, applying for grants, getting ready to submit a thesis, a research paper, an article, a really important blog post, it can absolutely be worth it to fork out a few bucks to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward, making the best first impression. So if you’re interested in getting a quote, feel free to send me a message!

That being said, I also intend to continue doing research on how best to teach/share some of the rules and techniques I use to better help you do some of this on your own. Do you have any questions/any particular issues that pop up that you’d like me to cover? Let me know in the comments!

update

Take the YOU Time

When it comes to running my business, my process is always in flux.

For one thing, the sort of tasks I need to focus on changes every day, as does my concentration, my mental state, any other stresses going on in the world outside my office.

The part that always stays the same: every single day, there are things that need to get done, and there are things that can be set aside for a while.

This is true across the board, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a parent, a student, or a kid who needs to decide whether they want to finish their video game or binge watch the entire MCU.

And it can be overwhelming to stand at the start of your day, knowing that your to-do list is now onto its third page, and you still don’t have any idea how to start this project that’s due in three days.

One thing I have learned–the one part of my process that tends to stick around, because when I fall out of the habit my stress levels start climbing–is to take the time you need out of every day to prepare your battle plan.

I don’t care if it’s a to-do list, a schedule, an actual strategic map written in blood on your bathroom wall*, but if you’re the sort of person who finds you tend to run into your tasks with your war cry ready only to find yourself quickly torn down under the panic of having too much to do and no time to do it, take the time to stop and breathe.

For me, that routine starts with my bullet journal, a habit I formed thanks to my friend Kate, who has turned her journal into a work of art (as have many people, as you discover when you fall into the rabbit hole on Instagram and Pinterest).

Every single morning, the first thing I do is sit down and make the list of tasks I want to accomplish during the day, in both my personal and business life. I keep a daily spread, a weekly spread, and a monthly spread, each on designed to keep me en route to my goals, which, hopefully, brings my whole business forward.

Current template of my weekly spread

It doesn’t have to be in the morning, though.

Depending on my schedule, I’ve made use of lunch breaks during the dayjob, or as a way to wind down at the end of the day, planning my tomorrow so I didn’t keep myself awake at night trying to figure out what I needed to get done.

Since I’ve started this routine again and stuck with it consistently, I’ve noticed a huge change in my outlook on the day, my time management, my sense of balance between personal and professional, and just general mental well being.

But again, this might change. I could go from bullet journaling to drawing maps on the wall, but the change is part of the process right?

Wise words from Yoga with Adriene’s Adriene Mishler

What are your methods to stay on top of things/stay within a reasonable level of sanity? Post-it notes on the mirror? Pen and paper in your purse/backpack? A good pen and the back of your hand? Let me know in the comments below!


*please don’t do this. It would be difficult to maintain every day and would very quickly start to smell