Announcement, Organized, Self-Publishing, Tips

Stepping Up for 2018‚ÄĒThe SMART Way

steps up to 2018“There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.”
– Ray Goforth

 

We’ve survived a full-week of 2018, ya’ll. ūüôā I hope it’s shaping up to be a good one for you‚ÄĒso far it has personally been 1000x better than 2017’s first week for me.

Last week I divulged some of my #WriterGoals2018 with you and already I’ve added a couple of projects I’m going to hold close to my chest…my to-do list grows! So, this week we’re going to talk about setting ourselves up for success this year by making our goal setting and goal chasing a little less scary.

I touched on this last week when I said that saying you’re going to write 80,000 words in X number of days is a lot scarier than saying you’re going to write 500 words per day. Taking any lofty goal‚ÄĒwriting or no‚ÄĒand breaking it down into simpler terms will significantly increase your chances of turning that goal into a reality.

This is where the SMART method comes in to play. Sure, it’s simple enough to say your goal is to grow your business. That’s a perfectly¬†sound goal to have, but it’s extremely vague. Wouldn’t you agree? Growth can mean all sorts of things.

Seeing as how I’m a writer, we’re going to use growing an author platform as our example but the SMART method can be applied to literally any goal. Let’s dive in!

SMART blog graphic v2

Those are just some of the words associated with the acronym SMART you’re likely to find if you choose to search the web for the SMART method of goal-setting. This concept is not a new one to me, though it is one I haven’t put into practice nearly enough in my life, and thus is probably one of the reasons I’ve fallen short on some of my goals.

I’ve chosen to apply Sensible, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely as my focus words for goal-setting this year, for reasons I hope become clear as we apply this to the example of growing an author platform.

Goal: Growing An Author Platform

Looking at the goal, what is the logical next step? If you don’t explore that, then you’ll be all over the place, not applying focus to any one direction. When you don’t see the arbitrary marks of platform growth, you’ll likely count your goal as¬†failed.¬†You will not have set yourself up for success. Growing¬†an author platform should be viewed as the broad goal, or the ultimate goal. Now it’s time to break it down sensibly.

Sensible:¬†¬†You can break your ultimate goal into as many sensible goals as you find necessary. At this stage, you’re really brainstorming impactful ways to make your ultimate goal a reality. I’m going to break our example into two sensible goals.

1.) Grow blog’s reach¬† ¬† ¬†2.) Grow Instagram following

Measurable:¬†Here is where you want to define tangible results, as we’re still a little vague. Often people will combine these two steps together without even thinking about it, but sometimes this step is forgotten altogether, but it is very important.

1.) Grow blog subscribers to 500     2.) Grow Instagram following to 1000

Attainable: Do you currently have the tools for obtaining the goal? If not, can you readily obtain them? What do you need to make this attainable?

1.) Creating useful content and tools, hold more frequent giveaways, better visuals
2.) Utilize Instagram more often, create stunning visuals, use Instagram to get blog visits

Realistic: Are these goals feasible for you at this time? Do you need monetary funds to accomplish these goals? Education?

1.) Set a budget for giveaways, do not forget to include shipping costs.
2.) Research photography, photo editing, and shop around for fonts–keep in mind licensing for visuals and fonts.

Timely: When should you start working toward this goal? Do you have a target date for completion? How can you track progress to keep yourself on track?

1&2.) Start immediately. Track monthly progress using built-in analytics. Target date for completion is December 31, 2018.

Applying the SMART focus words will help you discover the feasibility of your goals. Let’s face it, sometimes we bite off more than we can chew‚ÄĒand that shit is disheartening. So I encourage you to take a few minutes and run each of your goals through the SMART method and set yourselves up for a more focused, successful 2018…

And I’m here to help! I’ve created some free, printable guides I hope will help you turn your goals into success stories.

photo (2)

 

 

Please excuse my horrible handwriting. Also, don’t feel obligated to try and make me feel better about it. I’m 32, I’ve accepted the fact my penmanship is sorely lacking.

In this document, my intention is for you to start with your ultimate goal. Your main goal. The over-reaching goal.

Then I want you to begin breaking it down with the SMART method.

 

photo
Obviously this is just for show and tell. ūüėČ

Once you’ve broken down your main goal into more sensible goals, I’ve got you covered with the tools to turn that goal into a success. Give yourself a deadline, define your baby steps, acknowledge the barriers between the task and success, and brainstorm solutions.

 

Track your monthly progress so you can see if what you are doing is working or if you need to tweak things somewhere.

Focus on¬†why you’re doing this by giving yourself a reminder as to what you stand to gain. Motivate yourself. And give yourself a reward if you complete it on time.

 

photo (1)

Do you need to stick to a daily or semi-daily habit in order to make these goals into realities? Got you covered there, too. I’ve seen weekly habit trackers, but I want to see my year as a whole as I progress, so I created a perpetual habit tracker with a reward sidebar. Brainstorm reward ideas for yourself to keep you motivated.

In my tracker X’s mean I’ve worked on my blog in some fashion, and I’m going a step further by highlighting my posting days.

 

Why these printables when there are so many organizational apps out there to help you stay on top of things? (I’ll let you know my favorite organization app in a few)

Because research shows that when you write something out by hand it will stick with you far better than if you type something out. Your brain and your hand have to coordinate on a different level than when you do everything digitally. Maybe it’s hogwash, but it certainly seems to work for me and I think it will work for you.

 

Copy of SMART Goals - Ultimate Goal Breakdown v2.0

 

 

 

 

Get it as shown:

SMART Goals – Ultimate Goal Breakdown v2.0

Get it in blue!

SMART Goals – Ultimate Goal Breakdown v2.0 BLUE

 

 

 

Copy of SMART Goals - Sensible Goal Reality Maker v2.0

 

 

Get it as shown:

SMART Goals – Sensible Goal Reality Maker v2.0

 

Get it in blue:

SMART Goals – Sensible Goal Reality Maker v2.0 BLUE

 

 

 

 

Copy of SMART Goals - Habit Tracker v2.0

 

 

 

Get it as shown:

SMART Goals – Habit Tracker v2.0

Get it in blue:

SMART Goals – Habit Tracker v2.0 BLUE

 

I sincerely hope these will be of help to you. I updated the borders to allow more writing room as well as I just think it’s a cleaner presentation.

For those of you who participated in the poll I did on Twitter to decide my second color, I say a fond thank you!

So, you’ve downloaded, printed, and started using those guides. What now? Now it’s time to get digital. There are¬†countless¬†organizational apps for every smartphone‚ÄĒhow the hell do you choose which one to use? It may take some time and experimenting before you find the one that works just right for you, and there is no way possible for me to cover each and every one of them…I do have a novel to finish writing, after all. ūüėČ So instead, I’m just going to tell you about the one that is working¬†super, awesome, amazing, wonderfully, perfectly¬†for me right now.

That would be Trello.

photo (6)

 

The beautiful thing about Trello is that the website and the app communicate so flawlessly. As soon as you update something in one, it is immediately available in the other, unlike some of the apps I’ve tried where there is a weird lag and pieces of information go missing.

As you can see, I have a board for each of my writing projects, one for social media, and one for blogging and newsletters. Each one of those boards is a hub for ideas, pieces of inspiration, resources, etc.

 

 

photo (5)When you enter a board, you can add categorize your cards, and they can easily be shuffled around by the touch of your finger‚ÄĒdragged and dropped so things are¬†just¬†right.

I can’t show you the scenes for Alabama Rain, but this drag-and-drop-move-em-where-you-please feature is helping me execute this novel with ease.

Even if you aren’t planning a novel, this will help you prioritize and re-prioritize as things change.

Want to collaborate with someone on a project? Trello makes this super easy by inviting collaborators to certain boards, while allowing you to make other boards private. Couldn’t be easier!
photo (4)

See those little green rectangles with dates in them? That’s because I assigned those cards deadlines, and I have it set to give me a reminder the day before so I have no excuses for not completing my goals.

photo (3)

What about clicking on a blogging date? What good will that do? I’ve given myself¬†blogging topics to alleviate the stress of always having to figure out what to write about. Not only that, but I can add in websites that will come in handy for researching that particular topic. I can attach pictures so I’m never without a blog graphic, and it doesn’t matter if I add it from my desktop or phone, because it syncs immediately: and if you use Instagram, you can probably imagine how valuable this can be.

As I complete a deadline, I virtually check it off and I get the happy green rectangle as a visual reminder that I have completed a task. This makes me a very happy girl.

 

 

Now that you’ve downloaded those free printables and properly broken down your ultimate goal(s) into manageable pieces, this will help you greatly when you start setting up your Trello boards…so what are you waiting for?

Oh, yeah. You’ve got to finish reading this blog post first. There’s something sorta, kinda special coming up. Maybe. It is to me, anyway.

You’ve done the aforementioned things! Fantastic! On paper, both analog and digital, you’re set up for a very successful year, no matter what your dream happens to be. That’s all there is to it, right?

Not even in the slightest. But what could possibly be next?

Doing the work, of course! You can plan and plot a novel and never write it. You can join a gym and never go. You can get an education and never use it. But that’s not what you’re going to do this year, is it?

This is the part where I can’t hold your hand. I can be your virtual cheerleader, but I cannot join you at your desk and help you crank out your best-seller, nor can I run your miles, lift your weights, or get you that promotion you’re vying for. This part you have to do on your own. And there are literally hundreds of thousands of websites, blogs, vlogs, etc. that will tell you how to coax yourself into being more productive and shake off that decade-old case of the lazies. I’m here to tell you, this will take a metric-ton of trial and error. It will be hard and frustrating. You will have to give up certain things in order to make your fantasies realities. Instead of spouting every conceivable way to boost your productivity, I’ll tell you a few of the things I have done.

  • This may seem extreme, but¬†I got rid of my cable television. Years back, actually. It doesn’t keep me from sitting down to binge-watch something on Netflix from time-to-time, but I sure as shit can’t get mired in mindless channel surfing. If I watch something it is a conscious effort. If I do make the decision to forego writing in one of my WIPs for watching a movie or bingeing Californication for the fifteenth time, I will still use this “downtime” for working on my various social media platforms, making blog visuals, or even researching blogging topics. I¬†rarely ever¬†use my television time as an excuse not to work on my author platform in some fashion.
  • No matter what you do, there will only ever be twenty-four hours in a day, so you have to get creative on how to score some extra time to work toward your goals. I’ve taken back an hour or two each week by¬†ordering my groceries online. This option isn’t available to everyone, depending on where you live. But if you can, try this for yourself and see if it will work for you. Several grocery stores have this option, but the two I use are either Walmart or Lowe’s Foods. (Lowe’s Foods charges $4.95 for this time-saver, but for me it is well worth it! I love their meats and fresh vegetables!) This small change gives me so much more time to write and it can really help your budget by keeping you from impulse shopping!
  • Positive reinforcement is wonderful, so¬†I created a reward system. You’ve seen a hint of what might¬† be on my list of rewards. Give yourself a good mix of rewards. Cheap and easy, mid-level, and high-end. This will vary for everyone based on your financial means, but for me a cheap reward might be doing a special face mask or treating myself to my favorite smoothie. Mid-level might be going out for sushi, or getting that sweater I’ve been eyeing. High-end would be a new purse, a special day-trip. You’re catching my drift…I know you are.
  • If positive reinforcement is wonderful, negative reinforcement is painful. Which is why I’m utilizing that as well. I laid out my goals for you guys, and I’m going to have to fess up if I fail. If I fail, you’ll lose faith in me. It’ll be that much harder for me to gain your respect as an author and human being…I could let this spiral out of control if I wanted.

And I suppose it wouldn’t be a blog post on goal-setting and productivity if I didn’t toss this old chestnut at you:¬†Show up and do the damn work.

So, I said something special was coming at the end of this blog post, didn’t I? Well, if you liked those free printable pages up there, I am offering additional free printables to my newsletter subscribers that are specifically tailored to growing your social media audiences. If you’re interested, you’ll need to subscribe here.¬†The form is at the bottom of the page. (That’s right‚ÄĒI don’t annoy you with pop-ups!)

But wait! That’s not all!¬†(I did that in my very best infomercial voice!)

I’d love to see you using the sheets I created. If you use them and like them, please snap a picture of how they’re helping you and tweet them (Or Instagram them!) using #WriterGoals2018 and don’t forget to tag me, @AilaStephens. In anticipation of these beauties helping you buckle down on your goals, I’m doing a little giveaway! I’m calling it the “Be Successful” toolkit.

What might you win, you ask?

A paperback copy of Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit
A really awesome book of motivational stickers for your planner
(not pictured) A super-helpful journal
(not pictured) A pack of my favorite writing pens
Coffee–DUH!
Tea–DUH!
+ Other little prizes to help make achieving your dreams fun!

Enter the giveaway. You know you want to.

Entries accepted until February 4th, 2018.

In the meantime, let me know in the comments how you’re keeping motivated after the luster of a new goal is beginning to wear off.

Until we meet again, my lovelies! xoxo


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Announcement, Getting To Know Aila, Holidays, Writer's Life

Mapping Out My 2018

Social Media (1)One day, it will be over. There will be two dates, either side of a dash‚ÄĒmake sure that dash is not empty. Make sure it is full of life.
– Quote from a Fearless Motivation motivational speech, full speech below.

Remember back in 2016 when everyone was so excited for that horrible, crappy year to end, and how hopeful we were that 2017 was sure to be full of success and happiness?

I hope it was for you.

For me, not so much. I was certain 2016 had been so bad that 2017 would surely glisten, but instead 2017 turned around and said to 2016, “Hold my beer, kid.” Yes, last year wasn’t much better, if at all, than its predecessor.

So, just like last week’s post, this *should* be a writerly advice post. But, alas, it falls on yet another major holiday. So, instead, I thought today would be a great day, if not cliche, to talk about planning for the coming year.

I have been brainstorming what I’d like 2018 to look like for some time now, and I’ve really spent the last few days narrowing it down as best I can before I spread it all out in my Erin Condren LifePlanner…because it pains me to scratch things out. As I was mapping things out in my head, then began scribbling them down in a list, the amount of stuff I want to accomplish in the next 365 days is¬†seems seemed incredibly daunting. I’ll admit, I’m still afraid I’ve given myself more than I’m likely to accomplish. But, if I don’t push myself, I’ll never grow. So I’m not backing down. I’m just breaking it down.

For instance, and I’m aware this isn’t¬†new advice, but saying I want to write 85,000 words by mid-April sounds a lot worse than if I say I want to write 5000 words per week, which gives me a rough daily goal of 714 words per day. Considering that I can average between 1500-3000 words per day when I’m able to shut out all other distractions, now my goal feels more attainable.

When I said a while back that I wanted to write a blog post every Monday and an additional one every other Thursday, I realized that was a much tougher blogging schedule than I’d ever attempted before. I mean, well, let’s face it: I never attempted to keep to a blogging schedule before. But it’s important. I know that. So, I sat down for a few hours with Trello and a notebook and I started brainstorming ideas for what I’d like to blog about. Very vague ideas. But, now that I know what I’m blogging about throughout quarter one of this year, I’m not really afraid of my schedule. I’ve even got a sizable chunk of quarter two fleshed out, and I’m confident those posts will segue into ideas for quarters three and four.

Another goal I’d like to accomplish is a monthly newsletter. That’s 12-15 emails per year, if I add one for the occasional special event or book release. That doesn’t sound so daunting. So, I’ve been studying other indie authors’ newsletters making note of what I like and what I’m not so fond of, so I can make mine something I’ll be proud of. (Edited to add: I have officially launched a newsletter! Score one for Aila. Sign up at my website! Newsletters go out the last Friday of every month–but new subscribers will get a welcome email containing the first, raw chapter of my current WIP, Alabma Rain.)

Some of my goals are simple enough, but either slightly time-consuming or they cost money‚ÄĒwhich I don’t part with easily. For instance, I¬†want need to print business cards, but I keep fiddling with the design…even though everyone I’ve shown them to thinks they’re lovely. My website is in horrible need of updating. I really should schedule in a day every single month to update my website. I should, so I shall.

In an effort to keep myself accountable to my goals, I’m going to start each quarter by listing the things I’d like to accomplish, and going forward, I’ll also recap how I did for the previous quarter. Here goes nothing:

  1. | Print business cards
  2. | Print bookmarks
  3. | Get signed copies of Technicalities and Formalities for sale
  4. | Write 65,000 words of Alabama Rain (at 5,000 words per week)
  5. | Update the website at least once per month
  6. | Send three newsletters
  7. | Keep up with the blogging schedule
  8. | Utilize Instagram no less than 5x per week
  9. | Update both cover and interior of Sex, Love, and Formalities
  10. | Attend the writing/book festival in Dahlonega, GA

Those are just for the first three months of the year. I’ll let you know how I do on March 29th. To be honest, if I accomplish 8 out of those 10 goals, I’ll consider it a successful quarter, because I have a ton of personal goals as well, including health goals‚ÄĒand not just weight loss. For those of you who don’t know, I suffer from frequent headaches. Some are mild, but some are crippling, so this year I want to do whatever it takes to get a handle on them without having to chew up fistfuls of painkillers.

As you can see, I’m going to be a busy girl. I figured if I had such a lengthy list of goals, that surely other writers were feeling a bit bogged down by everything they wanted to accomplish too. Thus, #WriterGoals2018 was born on Twitter. If you haven’t checked it out, I hope it will become a jumping off point for encouragement between authors as we step off of the invisible milestone of a New Year. With any luck, I look forward to seeing you there.

Whether in the hashtag, or the comments below, I am genuinely interested in how your goals are shaping up for the year. Younger me would choke on these words: but I make a pretty good cheerleader! Happy New Year, my friends! I wish you all the best and nothing but success!


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Announcement, Getting To Know Aila, Self-Publishing, Writer's Life, Writing

Going Forward: Self-Publish or Trad?

Going ForwardThe worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
-Sylvia Plath

 

First things first! Congratulations to Rebecca Yelland for winning the giveaway hosted by Vania Rheault! Let me tell you what she won:

  • Signed copies of Sex, Love, & Technicalities and Sex, Love, & Formalities.
  • A cute notebook
  • A shawl perfect for snuggling up¬†with a book on a cool night
  • A candle
  • An inspirational mug
  • A full-sized bag of *delicious* micro-roasted coffee (Dirty Nekkid Lady!)
  • Three samples of my favorite loose-leaf teas from my favorite little tea shop…and…
  • A $25 Amazon Giftcard

This subject came up recently after introducing a real, live person to one of my paperbacks. After a few minutes of questioning me on things like how does an author even come up with an idea they can turn into an entire novel, to how the heck does someone even know where to find a printing company (the answer to everything, kids, is Google) she asked me if I always wanted to self-publish or if I’d ever want to “go the other way.”

I’m going to be completely honest with you:

I HAVE NO IDEA.

If someone came to me and said: “Aila, that idea you have there is top shelf, and we like the words you wrote, so here’s a check, now go write something else!” That would be hard to turn down. But, that shit ain’t easy.

I’m not saying that the sheer amount of work involved in getting traditionally published would keep me from trying. I’m just not sure I’m patient enough to wait years upon years to find out if someone is that interested in one of my book babies.

See, I’m not one of those people who think that a self-published book is only self-published because it’s “not good enough to warrant traditional publishing.” I’ve read some¬†amazing self-published pieces of work. I would like to think that the work I add to the self-published community only adds to its validity, not diminishes it.

That said…getting paid up front for something would be nice. Maybe I’ll give it a go. With my upcoming project, Alabama Rain, an immense amount of work is going into it. It is Historical Fiction meets Women’s Fiction, set as far back as The Great Depression. Research is critical. There is a very particular feel and mood I am going for each scene and for the book as a whole that will require me to stretch my writing skills farther than I have done to date. (Which by the way, I think should be the goal of each new project) By the time I am finished with it, I very well might cast my line into the traditional publishing waters and see if I get a nibble.

If I do, I do. If I don’t, I don’t.

But, Aila, how long will you go fishing? I dunno. I’m not sure how long to give it before I go ahead and self-publish the story. Six months doesn’t seem long enough at all. A year would probably feel like an entire lifetime. Hell, I’m already itching to share the story with the world and it’s nowhere near ready yet.

So, I suppose this was the most pointless blog post of mine to date. I started with a question, and I’m leaving it mostly unanswered. I’d love to hear from you, though. Which publishing avenue tickles your fancy, and have you ever dreamt of crossing paths? (I’ve heard of a few trad-published authors who longed for more autonomy and say-so in their book baby’s journey.)

In other news: I’ve actually mapped out an entire year’s worth of blogging dates and even pending blogging topics! Every Monday I’ll discuss tips or pertinent news about writing, publishing, or marketing, and every¬†other Thursday will be more of a personal blog post where I post my writing goals, update you on previous goals, share a new recipe I’ve concocted…whatever is happening with me in that week.

I had so much fun with the launch and Vania’s giveaway for Sex, Love, and Formalities¬†that I’ve decided I want to do more giveaways in 2018, so be on the lookout, because some of them may be quickies! xoxo

What do I have in store for Monday? We’re looking ahead to expanding our writer platforms in 2018 and examining the Social Media climate for the coming year. Spoiler: It ain’t looking good for me unless I make some changes. How will you do?

Have a great weekend my lovelies! xoxoxo

Announcement, Getting To Know Aila, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing

Sex, Love, and Formalities : Launch Day

WIN

First things first, there is still time to enter the giveaway above. The lovely Vania Rheault is hosting this giveaway on her blog, and you can find my interview with her here, where you can find out how to enter the giveaway. (If I may say, one of the teas I selected for this giveaway is so good I had to buy extra so I wouldn’t be tempted to keep it all for myself!)

On to the ugly author confession: I didn’t have a blog post for launch day.

That must be breaking one of the Writerly Ten Commandments. Whoopsie! *sigh*

What can I say? It’s difficult being a full-time worker by day and a writer by night…especially for someone like me who often times comes home thinking about the day I’ve had and planning for the day I hope to have tomorrow.

I didn’t exactly rest on my laurels, though. I was an active participant in my launch day because if I’m not, who will be? (Aside from my #1 cheerleader, Vania!)

This particular book launch was¬†much different than my first. How? I’m glad you asked.

1 – I wasn’t stressing the eBook layout issues I had with the first one. This time there was no other company trying to hijack my book through some weird back door. (Pulling your eBook off the digital shelves on its launch day is a horrible feeling–one I hope I never feel again.)

2 – I already had a reader base. A small one, mind you, but a reader base nonetheless. I went into this launch day knowing I already had sales lined up. This was an interesting feeling. I was excited because I knew a few people were excited to read the continuation of Brie and Liam’s love story…but I’ll admit I’m also a little petrified because I hate to disappoint people. At the end of the day, I wrote the book I wanted to write, told the story I wanted to tell…and I think that’s lovely.

3 – I realized that by publishing book deux I obtained something I didn’t have before: The beginning of a back list. Since book two wouldn’t really make sense unless folks were familiar with book one, I decided to make Sex, Love and Technicalities free for the first five days of Formalities’ launch. THIS WAS A HUGE HIT….

Because…

And I really…

Really…

Really…

Wish I had a drum roll to play for you.

Let’s pretend! Badadadadadaddadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadaadadaa….

Sex, Love, and Technicalities made it to #14 on the Amazon Best Sellers List (free books, mind you) for Women’s Fiction > Crime!!!

Fourteen.

I cried. I did. I really¬†shed a tear or five-hundred. Now, I know this isn’t going to make me famous and I know that I didn’t even make a dime from it because they were free books… But to see your title on a best seller’s list is…I can’t even.

Then my husband told me I made it onto two additional best seller’s lists simultaneously! I was on three separate Amazon Best Sellers lists. (As of this post, I’m still hanging on to the Top 20 in Women’s Fiction > Crime!!!)¬†I may not have made a penny, but it made me feel like a million bucks.

Point number three on this list was a long one. A good one, but a long one.

4 – Amazon apparently hiccuped while setting up my paperback title from IngramSpark. It’s technically listed…just not functioning. This is a letdown on launch day, yes, but I only know of about three people who had intended on ordering the paperback on launch day, and they don’t seem to be too peeved. I’ve spoken with Ingram and they’re confident it’ll be fixed within 24-48 hours. Fingers crossed!

5 – The people in my personal life seem to take me a little more seriously as an author now that there is an official book two. People who more or less smiled and nodded whenever the subject of my writing came up are now actively GOOGLING me. For instance here’s a couple questions I’ve been asked this week: “Did you¬†know you had a 5-star rating on Amazon?”¬† ¬†“Oh my God! Since when was your book available on Barnes and¬†freaking Noble?!”

Yes, I could even hear the interrobang.

It was my turn to smile and nod. ūüôā

There you have it. Five things about my book launch I’ll file away to remember for the next one…I’m hoping for late Spring 2018. New year, new book, new lessons. I’m looking forward to it.

Speaking of looking to the future, I really do intend on making blogging a much more regular feature on my agenda. And by agenda, I really do mean that. In order to help further organize my life, I bought an Erin Condren LifePlanner, and I am working out a blogging schedule that will hopefully work out better for myself.

In the meantime, if you are interested in reading Sex, Love, and Technicalities, the eBook is available for free on Amazon until December 1st, and you can find that here.

The sequel: Sex, Love, and Formalities, can be purchased on eBook here.

And don’t forget to enter the giveaway where you could win a signed copy of each!

I’ll leave you with the book trailer for SLF. I’m so proud of it! xoxo

Announcement, Getting To Know Aila, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing

Author Confession

@AilaStephens

I sometimes wonder if other authors grieve their characters once they’ve finished writing a book or series. I finished writing Sex, Love, and Formalities a few weeks ago, with minor tweaks here and there based off editor and/or beta feedback…but for all intents and purposes, the story of Briella Logan is finished.

She’s the first character I’ve ever created who has seen the finish line of not just one, but two books. She’s my first entry into the publishing world. I’ve spent over two years agonizing over her syntax, her emotions, her likes and dislikes. I know the lifetime of backstory that readers will never know.

For instance, when Briella was in high school her father was in the hospital and when he came home, Brie made him dinner and he said it was the best thing he’d ever eaten‚ÄĒand that’s why Brie decided to become a chef. It *never* comes up in either story, but I knew how she came to that decision. I know that she secretly listens to Alanis Morrisette while she cleans house, but changes it to something else if someone comes home because she’s embarrassed to be seen dancing around using a whisk as a microphone.

I know why Liam never,¬†ever mentions his parents. I know that although Liam fawns over Brie’s gourmet cooking, he sometimes craves overcooked Toad in A Hole like his grandmother made him on the nights his mom abandoned him on her doorstep. I know Liam doesn’t like horror movies because he hates not being able to help the damsel in distress.

If I am being honest, I’d write a hundred more Brie and Liam books because I just adore writing them. They’re not always the best versions of themselves they can be. They’re flawed. Perhaps that’s what makes them so real to me.

I won’t write a hundred more books about them, though. I will probably never write another book about them. I’m comfortable with where I’ve left them. I feel like it’s finished and nothing further would do them justice. (Not to mention I have other ideas and characters to bring to life!) But I will miss them. I’ll probably catch myself daydreaming about what Brie is doing. I’ll write a recipe and wonder if it’d be up to snuff in her eyes.

I don’t know if I’ll always feel this attached to my main characters, but in a way I almost hope I am. I hope I always care this deeply for getting their stories just right. I hope I always find myself this invested in the lives of my characters, because I hope it always translates in the writing.

Please don’t think me crazy. Brie and Liam, Alex, John, Kara, Heidi…they’re just characters I had floating around in my head and I gave them some dialogue on the page. Trust me, I know this. But I hope if you happen to pick up a copy of either SL&Technicalities or SL&Formalities, you’ll adore them as I do.

I know it’s not uncommon for readers to feel sad when they say goodbye to beloved characters, but writers speak up! Have you ever felt saddened to finish writing a book or series?

Until next time my lovelies, happy reading and writing!

———————————–

The conclusion of Briella Logan and Liam Abbott’s story, SEX, LOVE, & FORMALITIES, will be available in paperback and eBook on November 28, 2017.

Announcement, Self-Publishing, Tips, Writing

Won’t You Be My Beta?

Thrice
Mistakes are proof that you are trying.

-Unknown

Ugh. It’s Monday.¬†We must all drudge back to our places of work and cope with a certain amount of monotony until we get to fight traffic to get back home. But, it’s also the day I have penciled in to really get cracking on edits and revisions of Sex, Love, and Formalities. Now, this post is going to be in three parts: A little bit of editing advice. A character confession. And an invitation. Let’s dive right in, shall we? Continue reading “Won’t You Be My Beta?”

Announcement, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing

SL&T: It’s Getting Close

I’m taking a little reprieve from the A-Z Series. I’ll pick it up again in the first week of August, and I’ll post a few each week to get caught up. Let me say that I have really enjoyed writing that series so far. It has given me the chance to get to know some seriously¬†cool authors and read some amazing work, but I have a few really good reasons for the break:

1.| I should¬†launch a new website this week. It’s actually ready and awaiting publication, but I’ve changed hosting companies and I’m waiting for them to sort their crap out. (When this launches, I will be giving the novelette¬†No More Running,¬†prequel to SL&T, away to mailing list subscribers for free!)¬†I am toying around with merging the blog straight into this website, but for now, I will still use¬†Wordpress for all my blogging.

2.| I have my book completely laid out and ready for publication as well, both for an eBook format and for paperback. I, being the OCD person I am, am having one last go through the book, reading it on different media and aloud making the tiniest little adjustments, but I have to force myself to have a cutoff for this, and I’m looking at Wednesday. If I don’t give myself a cutoff, I will be stuck in this stage for the rest of my days.

3.| As per reason #2, I have been spending an exorbitant amount of time getting my cover, spine, and back cover designs the way I’d like them, which means I had to write a short Author Bio, and I am not exaggerating in the least when I say I would rather write a hundred novels than Cover Design.pnga single paragraph about myself.

The cover has evolved many times. Generally speaking, I create cover art for each of my books. I’m not sure why exactly, but it has become a part of my process. Each of the covers I have created have been designed in Canva, with a little tweaking in Photoshop afterward.

Whenever I work¬†through a difficulty in a¬†scene, I ¬†just tinker around with the corresponding cover design until I have it figured out. If I had to guess, this would be version 483.7, or somewhere in that vicinity. ūüėČ

In anticipation of the book’s release, I thought I would take an opportunity to tell you a little bit of the behind the scenes information about the book and give a quick introduction to my main character’s family…¬†and reveal which actors or actresses most frequently played them in my mind. Yes. I said that. (I’m only admitting to what¬†every single one¬†most of us do!)



| By the numbers|

The first draft of SL&T was about 82k words and it took me a whopping eleven days to write. Interestingly, my most productive day was 11k words. Also, the original chapter eleven was slashed from the book first. There was just something about the number eleven. I was very fortunate to have the time off from work which allowed me to write so much in such a short amount of time. I was also lucky that my husband didn’t walk out with as much as I talked about it and with the sheer volume of ideas I bounced off of him. I was very motivated to write this book. Now the book sits at around 76k words, broken into 40 quick chapters.

I knew early on in this book that it was going to have a sequel, which I’ve already gotten through about 1/3 of the way. I had gotten through it about 1/2 way, but then I had an epiphany about the way SL&T ended, and I rewrote so much, the sequel had to change shape. Well worth it in the end. I’m much happier with SL&T’s ending now.

| Other Tidbits – Warning: Contains Spoilers, however minimal |
While this book is a far, far cry from autobiographical, there are a few parallels between myself and the main character, Briella Logan. Brie, as she’s called for short, is a chef. I’m a chef. She struggles with turning thirty. I unexpectedly fell apart over turning thirty. She struggles with whether or not she wants to continue being a chef. I had the same struggle. She’s very close with her father, who has precarious health problems. I’m very close with my dad, who has been in poor health since I can remember. (Brie’s dad calls her Pumpkin, my dad calls me Chickadee.)

The numbers in my book are [mostly] from something significant in my life. For example, the number 927 shows up in the book. That number is the date of my father’s very first heart attack.


| Introducing The Logans |

Briella Logan:¬†Brie is the head chef of a popular restaurant called Table Twelve, she’s a workaholic who has been avoiding any sort of social life for quite a while, save for her best friend John. She lives alone in an apartment with a view of the water and the city of Nashville. She enjoys wine and British television. On the occasion she does go out with friends after work, she drinks to excess‚ÄĒsomething she hides from her well-to-do mother, Deidra. [Among many, Rachel Bilson probably had this role most often.]

Deidra Logan:¬†Is somewhat of a socialite in Nashville, especially amongst the ladies in her Bible study group. She has high standards for her family, and generally isn’t shy about letting her daughter know when she isn’t living up to them. She’s a bit of a worrywart when it comes to her husband, and is known for elaborating. [Geena Davis or Sela Ward]

Geoffrey Logan:¬†The head of the Logan family, Geoffrey, usually finds himself trying to keep some sort of tranquility in his family, as he is usually put in the middle between his wife and daughter’s arguments. He is a very calm, rational man who loves the outdoors and taught Briella early on the pleasures of camping and fishing. He enjoys golf as his health allows. [Kevin Costner. I don’t know why.]


I am brimming with so much excitement as this whole process is coming to a close, I am having to restrain myself from dropping some major spoilers. If you have previously checked out the prologue, which can be found here, please check it out again. Things have changed a bit.

As ever, thank you for stopping in. Sex, Love, and Technicalities will be available this month, and you can bet there will be some giveaways centered around the launch, so check back!