Monday, November 13, 2017

Be Your Own Biggest Cheerleader

Today, I'm stepping up on my soapbox. Just for a minute, but read, and think about, what I write here. This may be a long post, so grab some coffee, settle in, and maybe take some notes. Let's get going!

I see so many people these days wondering if they're good enough, strong enough, or asking themselves if they can do it.

When you're asking yourself if you're good enough, what is it you're referring to? Let's start there and see if maybe your mindset can be altered. Just a little. That's all it'll take.

Am I Good Enough?

If you look at yourself in the mirror and ask this question, you're doing it all wrong. Instead, ask yourself: Am I the person I'm proud to be? Am I meeting my own expectations? If not, how can I change so I love who I am and can look at myself in the mirror, proud of what I see?

Why? Because you're the only one that truly matters. You need to be in love with yourself first. Love stems from respect, too. Have those two things, and you'll come to a place where what other people think of you doesn't matter, and it won't be because you believe yourself to be "above" them. You'll know that you're the absolute best version of yourself that you can be. If they don't understand that, it's really okay. Because you have yourself, and that's the one person that should believe in you no matter what.

If you're a writer, then write for yourself first. I know you're probably going to say that doesn't sell books, and you're right, but if you're in this business to sell a billion copies, you're doing it for the wrong reasons, and you'll end up quitting before you even get started. If you write for yourself first, you're always good enough, because you're the only critic that matters. This question will never be asked by you again. Sure, we want folks to enjoy our writing, and it's okay if that still makes you a little nervous, but don't put so much weight on it that a one star review ruins your whole day and ends up making you question yourself as a writer.

This goes back to: Put out the best version of your book that you can. Give yourself something to be proud of on all levels. If you love it and can stand behind it like you stand behind yourself, you'll be happy whether you sell zero copies or a thousand.

If you don't like something, CHANGE IT.

Am I Strong Enough?

Of course you are. You just have to want it badly enough and not depend on others to bail you out or do it for you (whatever IT may be). When I was in college, I had this amazing professor who changed the way I look at those who give excuses with a simple quote:

"If you want it badly enough, you'll find a way.
If not, you'll find an excuse."

That sums it up. Don't give up on yourself or your dreams. Not ever. If you can't make it happen alone, find someone to help you, but don't begrudge those who don't have the time or resources. Back up and try again. Don't be afraid of failing. In every failure, there's a nugget of golden wisdom you can use to help yourself in the future. Learn from your mistakes, and COVER YOUR OWN ASS beforehand. This, also, is a learned habit.

Yes, you're strong enough if you want to be. Most of all, don't be taken in by the excuses of others. If they wanted it badly enough, they would've made it happen. People will show you this. Be prepared to see, and be strong enough to walk away.

You're strong enough to hold yourself up, but you're not responsible for shouldering the burdens of others.

Can I Do It?

If you devote yourself to it, 100%, with no excuses along the way, you can do anything you put your mind to. Don't take no for an answer. Back up, regroup, and try a different path. Always be willing to morph and bend if you need to, but don't let folks walk all over you, and do NOT try the same thing in the same way and expect a different result. Eisenstein said it best:

If you do the same thing in the same way and expect a different result, that's the definition of insanity.

Don't be insane! Change something! Try again! Don't let anyone use the word can't in your presence. Be an advocate for the things you believe in.

Listen, life is going to throw you some serious curve balls along the way. It'll feed your doubt monster the cookies they love so they grow stronger and whisper louder in your ear, beating you down.

When you have a success, no matter how small it may seem, congratulate yourself. Pat yourself on the back, and be your own biggest cheerleader. Make it a big deal. You made that soup? Well, then, it's the best damned soup that'll ever be made. You learned a new skill or had a new idea? Celebrate that. Even if it's with yourself.

You don't need the validation of others; you only need the validation of the person that's been with you from the moment you were born and will be with you until the day you die: YOU. So, yes, you can do it.


I'm a work in progress, too, but I'm living every day by the words above and have been for years. Doubt creeps in, but learning how to combat it is half the battle, and I'm totally winning the war.

You're responsible for your own happiness, and you're NOT responsible for ANYone else's happiness. You also can't change them; they have to be willing to change themselves. Surround yourself with those that understand this and appreciate it, those upstanding people who are also happy, and be good to them.

The benefits to all these things will be unbelievably amazing.

Work hard, play hard, and find your love for yourself.

Do you ever fight with things like this? Got any nuggets of wisdom to share?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ozarks Indie Book Fest in One Week - Plus a Ticket Sale

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today, let's talk about OIBF! Eep! Get your clicking fingers ready, and let's get going!

Ozarks Indie Book Fest is having its inaugural event starting on Thursday, October 19, 2017, and running through Sunday, October 22, 2017!

There's a ton of awesome stuff planned, and you can find the full schedule on the OIBF website here. See any names you recognize on there?

Of course you do!

Our weekend will kick off with a keynote speech by the one and only Christina Benjamin, and then the fun shall begin with treasure hunt fliers being passed out! This treasure hunt includes several of the attending authors, and readers will get to seek out the authors during the signings, Friday and Saturday, and quiz them to find out what to put on the paper. A huge gift basket full of goodies is up for grabs.

Saturday opens with a keynote speech from the always awesome BJ Sheldon before readers swarm the signing hall!

Want to be one of those readers?

Use the code oibf2017
on this link for $15 off a two-day ticket! 

That's right, two day passes are just $20! With the single day passes being $10, and no t-shirt or bag being included, this is one HELL of a steal. With your twenty bucks, you get entry into the keynote speeches, all the panels, entry into the signing hall, entry into the Saturday night awards program, and both of these goodies:

That bag is FULL of alllll kinds of author stuff. Wow, am I right?

Plus, you get to listen to my keynote speech Saturday morning, and you'll get to come to the princess party Friday evening from 5-6:30pm! Three of the War and Pieces ~ Frayed Fairy Tale authors will be there! We have a ton of cool games and prizes for you all.

At the awards, you can dress up as your favorite book character. That's right, it's a COSTUME PARTY! Huzzah! So very fun, and so close to Halloween, you can reuse your costume to go trick-or-treating just a week and a half later.

You know you wanna come, so get to clicking that link!

Drop a comment in below if you're coming and will see me, and I'll have a special prize waiting for you at my table. ;)

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Utterances Available for Pre-order Soon!

Happy Wednesday, everyone! So, last week was all jacked up. I had a blog post I started on Wednesday, and I got so into my own head, I quit writing it and just stared at it until today--when I deleted it and decided to post this instead. Don't ask. There's certainly more of that tendency to dwell or hem and haw over a blog post than a novel for me. *shrugs* I have no idea why. Might be because I want to bring you all things that are relevant and helpful. Anyway, today, I'm gonna give you the release date for my upcoming book and rehash all the details I've provided so far (including excerpts).

Ready? Let's get going!

Title: Utterances
Author: Jo Michaels
Genre: Paranormal Coming-of-Age
Length: 77k words
Release Date: 12/10/2017 (will be $2.99)
Pre-order date: 10/13/2017 (will be $0.99)

Simone spent the last two years by her cancer-ridden mother’s bedside. Taking care of her was the number one priority. When Mom suddenly goes into full remission, Simone is left bobbing in an unfamiliar ocean with a young man named Tristan. What happens next is the stuff of fairy tales—and nightmares.

Shocking, heart-wrenching, and insightful, Utterances will make you question everything you thought you knew about self-sacrifice. Award-winning author Jo Michaels pulls reality and the paranormal together in a way never before seen, intensely examining what we call the human condition by diving into the innermost workings of one young lady’s mind.

Sneak Peeks (unedited):


“…and they lived happily ever after.” Simone closed the book and lifted her eyes to her mother’s still form.
Deathly white and blue.
Breathing shallow and erratic.
Tubes sprouted from her arms and neck, and the machines in the room kept up a steady beeping as though trying to create a beautiful melody amid the morbidity of the place.
Yvette was going to die. After fighting so long, the cancer eating her once vibrant body would complete its deadly feast and release her from the pain.
Simone’s eyes watered, and she stood to leave for the evening, eager to wash off the antiseptic scent clinging to her clothes and hair. Carefully, she placed the book of fairy tales in her bag, whispered a promise of something better to read next time as she kissed her mother on the forehead, and shut the door softly.

Chapter 1

Banging ensued as bags were carried through the door and dropped in the foyer on the threadbare mat. Yvette spun around with her arms extended, nearly knocking photos off the walls. “It’s so good to be home.”
Simone laughed. “It’s good to have you home.”
They embraced, and the woman kissed the top of her daughter’s head. “I never thought I’d see this musty old apartment again, that’s for sure.” “Me either.”
Sniffling, Yvette let go, took a step back, and put her hands on her hips. “I forgot how dismal it is. At least you managed to keep it clean.”
“Of course I did. I’m not a slob. You raised me better than that.” Simone winked and pulled two slim, red, plastic containers out of her purse. “How about you get the movies ready while I order the pizza.”
While her mother danced and whistled her way across the living room, Simone carried the bags down the hall, put them in the master bedroom, and slipped into her own room, shutting the door behind her. Carefully, she pulled the old book out of her bag and ran her fingers over the infinity symbol’s embossed edges. She then slipped the thick tome under her pillow before picking up the phone and dialing the pizza parlor’s number.
When she made it back to the couch, twenty minutes later, dressed in yoga pants and a tank top, she was much more relaxed.
Yvette patted the cushion. “Sit by me. Did you get the pizza ordered?”
Simone nodded as she plopped down and stuck her bare feet on the coffee table.
Her mother frowned.
“Have you been putting your nasty toes on my table the whole time I’ve been gone?”
“Mom. Come on. Don’t start on me the first day you’re home.”
One side of her mouth wrinkled back into her cheek a moment before she softened and patted her daughter’s knee. “Okay. You’re right. I shou—”
A knock at the door interrupted the moment.
“I’ll get it. You pour the drinks!” Yvette was off the couch in a fluid movement, ponytail swinging as she bounced toward the entryway.
Simone sighed before pushing off the cushions and heading for the kitchen. As she filled two glasses with ice, tendrils of panic weaved their way up her spine. She checked to make sure her mother was occupied before running down the hall and shoving a hand beneath the pillow, feeling for the book’s leather-bound edges. Satisfied it was there, Simone snuck back up the hall to continue her task—her mind still attached to the feeling of the book on her fingers.

Chapter 14

When the doc finally left, he was as white as his coat and moving fast.
Simone sat on the floor and watched as the fabric billowed in the breeze.
“Alexandra, honey?”
“Yes ma’am! Coming!”
Mrs. Shandy smiled. “Oh, good. I thought you’d done gone and left me!”
“No way, no how. We have a story to finish.” Simone dropped back in the chair, opened the book to where she’d left off, and continued.
That afternoon, she left a little early, with three chapters done, and decided to go to Tristan’s house to surprise him. On her way to Shady Pines, she’d texted him, but hadn’t said she had the evening off. After checking her makeup in the mirror—a new addition to her wardrobe thanks to Mom saying how tired and old her daughter looked, she started the engine and shifted into reverse.
It was twenty minutes before she got to his house, and she started to second-guess herself on the way up the driveway. He’d been off school that day, and she hadn’t pestered him to hang out. If he found out she’d been off work…
His truck was in the driveway, so she parked behind it and got out, suddenly nervous.
As she moved toward the door, she kicked herself for being impulsive. He was sure to ask questions she didn’t have answers to. She knocked three times and waited, a cold sweat breaking out on her forehead and palms.
He opened the door, his eyes got wide, and he stepped out, keeping hold of the handle. “Hey. What are you doing here? I thought you had to work.”
“Well, I knew you were out of school and had the day off work today, so I thought I’d drop by and surprise you.” She smiled, but her hackles rose. Something about the situation wasn’t quite right, yet she couldn’t put her finger on what.
Rather than pull her into a hug, he closed the door and grabbed her arm, guiding her off the porch toward her car. “How about I come to your house in a little while?”
“Um, why can’t we hang out here?” It was getting weirder, and he was being pretty obvious about wanting her to leave.
“My, uh, mom isn’t feeling well, and I wasn’t expecting company.”
She jerked her arm out of his grasp, turned, and sprinted toward the house, throwing open the front door and rushing in, looking everywhere. He was half a step behind her, yelling at her to stop.
A gorgeous, long-legged brunette with barely any clothes on was passed out on the couch, whisky bottle still in her hand. There was only one word to describe her: flawless.
Simone stared, her mouth dropping open. Every fiber of her being went into shock then flew into blind rage. Her world tinted blood red. She rounded on Tristan, spit at him, and bolted.
Words were being shouted at her, but all she could hear was the fury screaming at her to leave and not come back. Ever. Once in the car, she jammed the key into the ignition, turned, shoved the car in reverse, and spun around in a perfect one-eighty. Tears gathering in her eyes made the driveway blurry, but she managed, somehow, to make it to the base of the hill before she had to pull over.
There was another driveway about fifty feet up the road on the opposite side, covered with a lush growth of leafy branches that would hide her car, so she gunned the accelerator and pulled up far enough to avoid being seen. Once sure no one had followed or seen her, she shut off the engine and curled into herself, letting the tears loose. She cried, she screamed, and she beat the steering wheel with her palms until they hurt.

~~~~~~~~~~ End excerpts ~~~~~~~~~

What do you think? Are you excited yet?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What the Hell is an Author Platform, Anyway?

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today, we're gonna talk about that little thing called an author platform. Everyone uses the term, but few take the time to tell you exactly what it is and how to build it. Well, I'll rectify that! Get your coffee or tea, and let's get going!

When you think of a platform, you think of something you can stand on, right? Either to get a better look or to boost you up, support you. It's the same when referring to an author platform; only for authors, this also entails reach, or how loud your voice is in the social sphere.

Your platform is that which you may climb upon and scream a message to the masses that gets heard. Obscure sites don't really count when you're calculating reach--unless those obscure sites have rabid book fans that belong to you and you alone.

Social media sites, personal websites, blogs, and newsletters all add up to author platform, but a couple have more impact for you personally. Here's an example:
  1. Twitter--4k followers
  2. IG--13k followers
  3. Blog--2k subscribers
  4. Website--200 visitors per day
  5. Newsletter--20k subscribers
  6. Quora--2k followers
  7. Facebook Page (public)--4k likes
  8. Facebook Page (personal)--3k friends
  9. LinkedIN--300 connections
  10. Google Plus--2k connections
  11. YouTube Channel--150 subscribers
Now, you're probably looking at that and saying, "Wow. That's an amazing catch of numbers at around 105k!" You'd be right, but let's break it down further. Out of those followers, subscribers, and connections, how many people actually engage with your content?
  1. Twitter--5 to 10
  2. IG--50-60
  3. Blog--20-30
  4. Website--2-4
  5. Newsletter--100-200
  6. Quora--2-4
  7. Facebook Page (public)--2-5
  8. Facebook Page (personal)--20-30
  9. LinkedIN--1-3
  10. Google Plus--2-5
  11. YouTube Channel--50-70
That hit pretty hard, huh? On the lowest number, that took you to 254. Out of 105k. Well, you can break that down even further when you look at sales generated from each method. IG has high likes, but how many true sales?

Your bottom line number is your true platform. For every comment, click through to buy, share, plus one, like, or question asked, that's an engagement, but not a sale. You can't simply count opens of a newsletter--it needs to produce clicks. That's where the value of your platform lies.

As you can see, you need a HUGE platform to get enough sales to make a difference. This is why cross-author promotion is so helpful--but it only helps if your base platform and theirs are interested in the same genre. Imagine doubling or quadrupling those numbers above.

I know, right?

Anyway, I hope this helps to clear some of the fog off that vague "platform" term. When an agent asks about your platform, they wanna know how loud your voice is--they're looking for that second set of numbers.

What number would you say your platform is at?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Monday, September 25, 2017

Pre-Formatting Your Book - The Dos and Don'ts Your Formatter Wants You to Know

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'll be talking about something that not many folks discuss: How you should format your word document before you send it off to your formatter for typesetting and digital readiness. Ready? Grab your coffee or tea, a notebook and pen, and let's get going!

I'm just gonna hit you with a couple of lists. Easy peasy.

  • Use "normal" style always.
  • Add some indicator when creating a scene break (most authors I work with use *** for this).
  • Keep it simple. If there's a place you'd like a photo, don't embed it, mark the spot and include the photo with the manuscript.
  • Everything set in one font, and don't use anything that's not standard on a computer. I suggest Times New Roman in 12pt.
  • Use paragraph styles for your indents.
  • Include a title page, copyright page with all relevant info, and author bio page at the end.
  • Break your pages between chapters ONLY. Use Ctrl (or Cmnd) + Enter (or Return).
  • If you have a section you want set in a special way, note it in BOLD and use [brackets]. Tell your formatter beforehand that it's there. 
  • Title all your chapters the same way (whatever you want the end result to be: Chapter 1, Chapter One, Ch1, etc...).
  • Do not use tabs (see above note on paragraph styles).
  • No LARGE or special fonts. This will get stripped out anyway.
  • Don't hit enter a bunch of times between chapters to force the next one down.
  • Don't just add extra carriage returns between scene breaks. This looks like a mistake and could be removed on accident by your formatter.
  • Nothing fancy. Your MS should just be words on the page.
  • Do NOT use TABS. Yeah, it bears repeating.
  • Don't make assumptions that the formatter will know anything you intended in your head. Give them instructions. Be specific if your book calls for special treatment.
  • No colored fonts, please.
  • No wingdings or emoticons. If you want a smiley, let the formatter know in the email where you attach your manuscript.
If you follow these guidelines, it'll speed up production of your book tenfold. Special things the formatter misses the first time around causes a re-do, and it just leaves you both stressed.

I hope this helps in some small way. Your formatter is there to make your dreams a reality. They're the ones that polish your baby before you show it to your friends, family, and the world. Help them help you!

If you're looking for formatting services, take a gander at IBGW.

Are you guilty of any of these?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Friday, September 22, 2017

Barnes and Noble Yanks Books - Smashwords Offers Solution

Happy Thursday, everyone! Well, what an interesting month it's been, eh? Let's get to the publishing news, just in case you haven't seen it. Strap in, grab your coffee, and let's get going!

Over the last month or so, B&N has pulled several Indie erotica titles off their platform. Authors who were hybrid experienced an interesting effect when their Indie titles dropped off, but their publisher titles stayed up. What are they worried about? Well, if you caught my post from a while back that tackled the subject of what content would be allowed in books, you'll know. If you missed it, take a look here.

So, it seems the taboo topics are under fire. Namely:  Age play, bestiality, dubious consent, incest or pseudo-incest, non-consensual sexual slavery, rape for titillation, underage, snuff, scat, necrophilia.

Some of those have "never" been allowed.

Or have they?

According to the Smashwords blog, few retailers will take incest or pseudo-incest, and iBooks won't take them at all.

I beg to differ. After a quick search on B&N, I found the time-honored (even made into a movie) Flowers in the Attic series. I read that series. Not only do the children locked in the attic (the elder brother and sister) experience a coming-of-age sexual happening, but their mother slept with her uncle to conceive said children (which is why the grandmother wanted the kiddos to disappear). Sorry for the spoiler for those of you that haven't read it and had planned to.

Once I checked that out, I went over to iBooks. Guess what?

Yeah. There it is, but iBooks doesn't take books with incest in them?

By the way, it's also available on Amazon.

Doesn't it seem an awful lot like it's just Indie published books that are being targeted? Why not yank V. C. Andrews' books from those same platforms? If there's a taboo topic, she covered it. I've read several of her series, and MANY of them have incest happening across all arms of the family.

Guess what else? There are no "warnings" of sensitive material on ANY of those.

But JO! Those are referring to EROTICA titles.

Are they? Now, since the Great Blocking of Indies, if your book is erotica or not, you have to say whether you used one of those taboo topics. Yeah, even for sci-fi or paranormal.


Do the publishers get to skirt all that? They do. It's obvious by what I've shown above. I'm positive there are others.

Smashwords is trying to provide a solution for Indies and restore trust with their retailers. Read about it on their latest blog post here, which is where the list of taboo topics above came from.

But, the bottom line is, Smashwords shouldn't have to. It's getting out of hand, and something needs to change.

If you publish fiction with one of the taboo topics listed above, please go update your books on Smashwords. It's now part of their ToS, and if you're caught not labeling them, you'll be banned from using them as a distributor.


Can you name a trad pubbed book with one of the above topics?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Is it Wrong to Expect Readers to be Active Participants in the Story?

Happy Thursday! Today, we're gonna talk about description, how it might impact the reader, and what authors might or might not expect from the consumer. Ready? Grab your coffee or tea, and let's get going!

So, I'm on the phone yesterday with an author friend of mine, and we got into talking about what we expect from our readers. Both of us agreed that we write with the assumption that the person picking up the book has a brain and understands the basics of the world they live in.

For example: If you say someone walks into a bedroom, do you need to write out to the reader that there's a bed, or is that something you can expect them to infer by telling them it's a bedroom?

Several writers will go into great detail about the room's furniture, but those machinations are usually reserved for the times that it matters, right? Say, if there's something "off" about the decor, or if the bed is an antique and should be admired for a moment. Even if the scene calls for a description to tell the reader it's a male's room or a sex cave, that's okay. But if the character is just walking into a bedroom, is it really necessary to bog the reader down with minute details right off the bat?

Here are some other ways to work those details into the story without having an information dump--again, unless the character is actively admiring, or scrutinizing, the decor:
  • As the person is active in the room, they run their hands over things like the brocade on the chaise lounge.
  • When they tell someone else to sit, it could be noted they made the choice of where to place the person based on potential comfort level.
  • If the character lies on the bed naked, the satin sheets could feel cool on the skin.
  • While they're being made to wait, they can then notice one thing about the room and scrutinize it to give their brain a distraction.
There are several ways of describing a room's contents without going into infodump mode, as you can see above. Unless you're actively trying to slow the story down, is it really necessary to tell the reader everything that's in a common room (bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, etc...)?

I think, perhaps, we should give our readers a little credit and assume they have brains in their heads. If I read that someone is sitting at the bar in the kitchen, I have a pretty good idea of what that room will look like.

I've gone into description and when it's useful in this post, and I went into how to paint the scene in this post. If you're looking to heighten tension with description, here's a post I wrote a while back that breaks it down (this post also compares showing and telling).

What do you think? Do you expect a more active participation from your readers, or do you spoon feed them all the things?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!