Getting To Know Aila, Positive Mindset, Self-Care, Writer's Life

Aila Loves The Snow, and other stuff!

Aila Snow BW

When it snows in the South, it’s a big deal, y’all. My Northern friends get a good laugh at us because it’s such a big to do around here. We buy up all the milk and bread, gas up our cars, and start calling our friends to see who is the most well-stocked with provisions.

I get it’s funny when our world shuts down with three inches of snow, and our neighbors to the North don’t bat an eye with a foot of powder. But let me tell you something.

I LOVE THE SNOW.

There’s something about it that cleanses my soul. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of a blank sheet of paper, therefore giving me a boost of creativity. I’m not sure. But we just had a surprise five inches of snow and it has more or less shut the city down for two days and I couldn’t be happier. I took some pictures, but since I’m unwilling  totally incapable of leaving my house, they’re all around my apartment, so not terribly impressive…but they’re all I have to share.

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Also, this is a picture I took after our last snow in December. I totally slacked on doing another book photo shoot, but I do want to share what my babies look like when they’re playing in the snow:

BooksInSnow
No books were harmed in the making of this photo, there is an unseen prop underneath keeping the books from harmful moisture. Always practice book-safety when photographing near/around elements dangerous to books.

I swear I’ve done more than just stare at the white fluffy stuff…though I’ve done quite a bit of that.

I’ve written. (And wrote some more, then a little more, then I cut out about 1000 words because it was shit, so then I wrote some more.) I’ve cleaned. (I’m talking I cleaned out my pantry, my refrigerator, and my cabinets.) I’ve watched a couple of movies. I’ve taken walks outside in the snow, I’ve delighted in watching my dogs play in some fluffy stuff. This suits my introverted personality quite well, being snowed in.

Truthfully, the roads are probably clear enough I could go to the grocery if needed, maybe Target or the Haywood Mall. But, I much prefer using this wintry wonderland as an excuse to stay in and cook comfort food and stay in my slippers all day.

That’s the long-winded way of saying I’ve been kicking ass at self-care these past two days.

Which is what I had originally scheduled to blog about today…then snow happened.

Self-care is something I wanted to take a lot more seriously this year, for a variety of reasons; the most important of which is that I matter. My happiness matters. My mental-health matters. So, I’m making this a priority.

Not only is it a priority, but I got myself a “Self-Care Accountabilibuddy,” a term coined by my dear friend, Jewel E. Leonard. [Jewel’s Twitter | Website | Interview] She and I decided we would help each other by being self-care cheerleaders for one another. Just the other day we agreed that if I would get take-out and spend some time healing myself (horrible, lingering headache), that she would go attempt a nap. It instantly made me feel a little better knowing that she was doing what she needed to do for herself because I know she’s had a rough go of it lately.

It’s also just a nice boost having someone to remind you that you matter and to insist you take care of yourself. (Thank you, Jewel! I appreciate you for telling me to make myself a priority!)

Self-care means a variety of things to different people, but I thought I’d share a few items from my list if you’re looking for ways to make yourself a priority. Remember, some of these are probably unique to me, but feel free to adopt whatever looks good to you!

  • Buying a fellow Indie’s eBook
  • Reading for at least a half-hour
  • Dancing as silly as I please to music from my teen years
  • A relaxing foot bath with Epsom salts and essential oils
  • Buying a new shampoo
  • A ride in the mountains
  • A short hike
  • Playing with my dogs until they, I, or all three of us are tuckered out
  • Play around with a new recipe
  • A husband-provided neck and back massage
  • Going out for sushi
  • Watch a movie
  • Meditate for ten minutes (I try to do this nightly!)
  • Buy an essential oil I’ve never tried. (I use Piping Rock)
  • Order take out instead of cooking dinner
  • Talk to my 4-year old nephew on the phone
  • Go on a fun date with the husband (think arcade games and miniature golf)
  • Doodle or color one of those zen coloring pages
  • Make something out of clay
  • Search Pinterest for pyrography ideas, then burn some wood
  • Watch Dirty Dancing (I know this may seem redundant because I already listed watching a movie…but this is Dirty Dancing, and deserves its own bullet point.)
  • Enjoy the whole process of crafting a cup of coffee with my French press
  • Enjoy a cup of hot tea
  • Scour through a thrift store

This list is fluid and growing. Since I’ve really made caring for myself a priority, I’ve noticed a huge shift in my mindset. I’m happier and these acts, even the simplest ones, recharge me.

I urge you to make time for yourself. Even five minutes where you put yourself above everyone else can make all the difference in the world for your psyche. It’s difficult, especially if little ones are in your charge–or big ones, if you’re a caregiver to a parent or spouse…hell, it must be, because it’s still difficult for me and all I have is a husband and two dogs, the former capable of tending to himself, and the latter prefer to burrow under blankets all day.

We’re trained to think that putting ourselves first, even for just a few minutes, is selfish and wrong. That somehow we’re supposed to be everything to everyone except ourselves. Like all things in life worth pursuing, it’ll take practice, but the benefits you reap will be amazing, I promise.

How do you self-care? What is on your list that I might like to try? Please share in the comments!

I’m going to go gaze at this snow before it all melts away.

Until next time, my lovelies! xoxo


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Getting To Know Aila, Goals, Self-Publishing, Success Mindset, Tips, Writer's Life

The Success Mindset For Introverts

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“That’s the thing about introverts; we wear our chaos on the inside
where no one can see it.”
-Michaela Chung

We’re two weeks into the new year! How are you doing on your goals so far? I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve been writing every day—just not always on the right project. But, I’ve managed to stay on track with my goals for Alabama Rain anyway, though ideally I’d like to be ahead of the game. Which I’m not.

As for my other goals, I’m really pleased with how I’m keeping up with my personal goals. Things are happening and it’s nice. With my author goals, I’m pacing myself. I’ve learned I’ll burn out quickly if I do everything now, now, now. I’m still daydreaming, though, of new things to try. Different avenues of reaching readers and new writer friends.

The other day at work I shared some of these lofty new ideas with one of my employees, along with a general update on how I’m tackling some of my current, active goals. And she posed this question to me:

“How will you react if your dreams come true?”

Listen, if you’re an extrovert (or even an ambivert—which, by the way, lucky you!) who hasn’t a single issue with public speaking, or hell, even speaking one-on-one, who is visibly happy around people, who never gets sweaty palms, who is bubbly and bright in every situation, and has never met a stranger…this post is probably, most definitely not going to mean much to you. I encourage you to read on so you know what the rest of us go through.

Guys. I’m so introverted (not to mention some social anxiety) that sometimes I need a vacation from myself. And while being a successful author might not mean I’d have to be in front of people as often as if I were a, say, actress, attaining even a modicum of success will put me in situations far outside my comfort zone.

I tried to reconcile this by saying that I’m good at what I do in my current field and that I’m no longer scared to death to speak during meetings. I interview people, do performance reviews, and I even have to tell people no who are otherwise not used to hearing no—and I do it with relative ease now. So, for a few seconds I thought this might segue nicely in my writing journey.

But, no.

 Being an introvert isn’t going to stop me, though. It doesn’t stop me in my current job, so why should it stop me at reaching high on a path I truly love? 

The answer: It won’t. You and I are going to prepare right now! Here are five ways introverts can prepare for meeting new people and public speaking engagements.

1.| Shun the notion that being an introvert is a character flaw. It isn’t. It isn’t a crutch, either. We are just as capable and just as deserving of success as our extroverted friends. Being an introvert isn’t something you can fix because it doesn’t need to be fixed. We’re perfectly fine just the way we are. It may mean we have to prepare in different ways, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t apologize for being introverted—to yourself or anyone else.

2.| Start small, but push your boundaries. It’s called reaching for success for a reason. If success was just sitting around at arm’s length, everyone would have it. But maybe don’t send out press kits to your local TV stations before you’ve been interviewed by someone for their blog. Growth should always be a goal. One of the ways I’ve begun working on this step has been simply to tell people in my personal and professional life that I am a writer. This has garnered lots of questions, some I was prepared for, some I wasn’t. But each time I have told someone new, I’ve gained a little confidence and it has become less difficult each time.

3.| The 12.12.12 rule. Have you heard of this? I’m fairly certain I’ve also heard this referred to as the executive presence rule. This is something you can, and should, practice if you’re going to present yourself to the world when your natural inclination is to hide from it.

This is all about first impressions.

Get a friend or a loved one who doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable and ask them for help. How do you look from twelve feet away? As writers, we aren’t usually found in the wild in business attire, but do you look clean and presentable? Most importantly—does your body language make you approachable? What are the first twelve words you say in response to common questions? And finally, what tone do you give off in the first twelve seconds of conversation?

4.| Right along side #3, Distinguish between introversion and a lack of confidence.

The two are not mutually exclusive. You can be an introvert and also hella confident in yourself!

You want to present yourself as someone who is confident in their abilities, you want a certain degree of authority when you speak—without sounding arrogant, of course. So say, for instance, you’re seeking out small speaking engagements like I am: know the gist of what you want to say and research the hell out of it. You can’t bury your nose in your note cards, so you will want to know what you’re talking about without having to sound rehearsed. Don’t sign on to speak at an event on how to pitch to agents and publishing houses if you’re an indie writer who doesn’t know anything about traditional publishing. Don’t go to speak at a technology conference about [insert something impressive here] if your area of expertise is [insert something equally impressive, but not in the same ballpark here.] Yeah, shows you how much know about technology, huh? But you get what I’m saying.

A lot of times introverts think no one will want to listen to what they have to say. We may feel we sound less impassioned than our 417ea4037d82e6f8494c9a900524c2bcextroverted friends, and often times the world thinks of us as geeks or nerds. But have you ever asked a geek or nerd who their favorite Doctor is and why, or what they’re doing these days with Raspberry Pi? You’ll get some of the most impassioned answers you’ll ever hear, most likely. (By the way, guess which Doctor is my favorite.)

Your dreams are probably something you feel quite passionate about, and it’s perfectly fine to exude it. (And stop apologizing for it!)

5.| Use your introversion to your advantage. In most situations, you don’t have to be the first one to speak. If you’re in the position to let others speak first, do it. Gauge the room. Listen to what others are saying and how they say it. This isn’t for you to mimic them, but it’s for you to strategize. Did someone leave a vital piece of information out, that you can now offer? It isn’t that you want to make someone else feel stupid—you should never, ever do that—but it may help you to listen first. One of the traits of an introverted person is that we sometimes feel other people won’t want to hear what we have to say, so why bother? But if you listen, you’ll often times find you have more than plenty valuable thoughts and ideas to bring to the discussion.

If you find yourself in a one-on-one situation where the other person isn’t likely to drone on and on, you can still use this listening strategy by asking broad, open ended questions that will give you time to listen and gauge the trajectory of the conversation.

Use those listening skills to your benefit!

Bonus Tip: If you haven’t checked out my blog post from last week, we discussed setting goals using the SMART method, which I believe is also a handy-dandy way for us introverts to prepare for success. Especially the part about acknowledging the hurdles between specific steps in your process and achieving them. So give it a glance.

If you have any tips for introverts I didn’t cover, leave’em in the comments below!

Until next time, my lovelies! xoxo


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Alabama Rain, Getting To Know Aila, Work In Progress, Writer's Life, Writing

Say Hello To My WIP: Alabama Rain

 

Social Media (2)“Besides, don’t God’ner the devil want me. I reckon I’m fine right where I am.”
– Corrie Bryant, Alabama Rain

 

Is it lame to say Happy New Year to you again? I don’t think so. Is it? I’m thinking it’s perfectly all right to pass on this wish throughout the first week. After that it might be somewhat overkill. But we’re only on day four of 2018, so what the hell: HAPPY NEW YEAR, YOU!

I hope you’re all busy working toward your goals for the year, whatever they might be. Unless it’s world domination. (Looking at you, Don.) Be it weight loss, a promotion, saving for a house, writing your first novel or your second, third, or twentieth—I am rooting for you!

As you’ll recall from my last post, I mentioned my new WIP: Alabama Rain. AR first came to me while as I dozed off one night while I was still writing Technicalities. I read once that you never have to erase what you get up to write—which is exactly what I did. The line of dialogue underneath the image up top is the exact line I heard just before the Sandman got the better of me, and my eyes flashed open as the rough plot unfolded in my mind. I sprang from the bed and grabbed a pen because I didn’t want to forget anything.

An affliction many writers suffer from, known as the shiny new idea syndrome, had bitten me and made it all but impossible for me to concentrate on finishing Technicalities, then made it difficult to start Formalities. I had no choice but to write a little here and there, and my husband can attest that it took me a long time to shut up about it—but now that it is my official WIP and not just a lovely idea flirting with me in the dark reaches of my messed up writer brain…I don’t really have to shut up about it.

So, what’s the gist? A part of me would happily sit here and divulge every secret because I am all kinds of excited about this story, but I will resist. Here’s a blurb-in-progress, instead:

Alabama Rain follows the enigmatic life story of Corrie Bryant, an elderly lady who hasn’t had a filter for her thoughts in years and who has recently been accused of the brutal murder of her husband, Jed. In order to sort out what actually happened to her father, Sarah Johansen, a lawyer from Columbus, Georgia, comes home to Dry Creek to spearhead her own investigation. Of all the things she’s seen during her practice she isn’t prepared for the secrets she uncovers, and isn’t sure finally getting to know her mother is the silver lining around the dark cloud as she hoped.

This story I’ve tasked myself with is stretching me, forcing me to grow as a writer. While the investigation takes place in 1994, Corrie’s story takes us all the way back to The Great Depression. This is a brand new challenge for myself, as I’ve always worked lineraly, and in modern times.

I don’t know about you but sometimes it is hard for me to imagine a world without easy access to the internet—though I can remember not having it. The same applies to cell phones and GPS, satellite radio and high-definition television…see where I’m going here? In 1994 it is estimated only 10,000 websites existed, and only 2 million people were readily connected to the internet. (Compare that to today’s ~50 billion websites and 4 billion people addicted to using the internet!)

So I can’t give my character a GPS, or even have them download and print directions from MapQuest. (You remember MapQuest, right?) I’ll have to reorient myself with primitive objects like paper maps that never fold correctly and bulky landline phones that hang on the kitchen wall. Payphones instead of cellular, and libraries with backlogs of newspapers instead of sitting down at a computer and having any bit of information at my character’s fingertips.

I look forward to sharing snippets from this book here and there, as well as some of the struggles and triumphs. I’m sure I’ll learn a slew of new tricks of the trade both with writing and self-publishing.

If you’d care to join me during the gestation of Alabama Rain, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and especially don’t miss out on subscribing to my newsletter—when you sign up for my newsletter you’ll receive a welcome aboard email that contains the first, raw chapter of Alabama Rain and you can expect chapters two and three to float into your inbox before you know it. Sign up at my website, submission form is at the bottom of the page.

All that said, I’ve got some writing to do. 🙂 Take care and see you on Monday when I examine some ways to make that crazy-long list of writing goals less scary, more manageable, and easier to cross off.

See you soon! xoxo


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Mapping Out My 2018

Social Media (1)One day, it will be over. There will be two dates, either side of a dash—make 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—which 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—and 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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Getting To Know Aila, Holidays, Writer's Life

Happy, Merry Whatever

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Per my new blogging schedule, this is supposed to be some sort of writing advice blog. But it’s also Christmas day, a day slap bang in the center of a massive holiday season encompassing many significant days across many religions and spiritualities, so, I thought there’s a chance you’re enjoying the day with families and friends. Hence the post’s title. I can’t take full credit for it, though. I’ll explain it later. No authorly advice, though. I don’t think. Who knows? We’ll just see where the holiday spirit takes me.

Some years it is terribly difficult for me to get into the spirit of things. This year, not so much. We got a tree earlier than usual this year, and unless I am an absolute grump next year’s holiday season, I’d like to get a tree even earlier.

I’ve been watching Christmas movies, listening to Christmas music on the radio, I hummed along to whatever was playing in the stores while I went shopping. I’ve been generally happy this year. Which is surprising because this year has basically sucked. Maybe I’m just glad it’s about to be over. Whatever the reason, I’m just trying to fully appreciate this festive feeling of exuberance.

Instead of getting all sappy, though, I thought I’d tell you some of my favorite Christmas stuff. So, here goes.

Cookie: I love snickerdoodles this time of year, especially these cream cheese filled ones, but then there are the fruit cake cookies my husband’s grandmother makes every year. I’ve never had fruit cake cookies before I met her, and I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone else make them. And screw actual fruit cake…but those cookies? Fruit cake cookies, FTW!

2nd Place: Those snickerdoodles.

3rd Place: English Butter Cookies

Song: Carol of the Bells. It’s always been my favorite. It both creeps me out and gets me excited for the season. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s a little dark. Haunting. It’s not bubbly. While I love most interpretations of it, the one that springs to mind is by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. If somehow this eargasmic score has eluded you, here. Take a listen.

2nd Place: It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, Perry Como

3rd Place: Christmas Canon, Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Movie: This one is tough. I am going to name National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as my favorite because my husband and I sit down and watch this one together every year. I don’t think I have to list my reasons for loving this, so I’ll spend more time on second place.

2nd Place: Dolly Parton’s A Smoky Mountain Christmas. It was made for TV a long time ago. No one, except maybe CMT, plays it anymore. (Wouldn’t really know, as I haven’t had cable in nearly five years.) But this movie makes me feel so peaceful, and it is set in my absolute favorite place on earth. It’s simple. I love Christmas decor that leans on the simplistic, rustic side. So, this is most definitely not a popular choice of movie, and I watch it alone every year because my husband doesn’t care for it, but for me, Christmas doesn’t start without it.

3rd Place: A Christmas Story.

Memories:

     Childhood: Decorating the Christmas tree. My mother despised having just colored balls hanging on a tree, so our family tree was filled with ornaments that had meaning. And we often discussed that meaning every year when the ornament was taken out of the box. Some ornaments had written histories with them, but I would often times see my mom in deep reflection as she selected an ornament from the box.

My brother and I also had this rather odd tradition of creating a “Christmas village” of ornaments we specifically hung on the underside of the tree. Often lying under the tree like mechanics meticulously arranging them and rearranging them, and of course fixing them when gifts would knock them down.

       Bonus Childhood Memory: Actually, this isn’t a memory of mine, but it is a story that gets retold every year. Apparently when I was a youngster I had no interest in getting up early. Not uncommon. But, this extended to Christmas morning. The story goes that my brother, somewhere around 9 or 10 at the time, woke before everyone else and spied the bounty under the tree—but wasn’t allowed to touch anything until I, aged 4 or 5, also awoke. My parents eventually gave into his pleas to wake me up, and followed him into my room. They say it was so sweet and went something like this:

Brother: “Hey, sis, it’s time to wake up.”

Me: *nothing*

Brother: *gently shakes me* “Come on, get up. Look. Santa Claus came!”

Me: *rolling over and looking out the window* “Nuh-uh, Cwiss (Chris), Santa Claus ain’t come yet, it’s still dark outside.” *proceeds to close eyes and go back to sleep*

Brother and Parents: *Jaws drop collectively*

Yep. That story gets shared every year, just like fruit cake…only it’s more enjoyable, methinks.

     Adulthood: My third married Christmas. We were still blissfully young, but we had our own house (big mistake, but we didn’t know it at the time) and we invited my family over for Christmas morning. We’d decorated the house beautifully…I spent an insane amount of time on the mantle. We had a fire going. I made a huge breakfast. (My family has always been big on breakfast.) It was wonderful. Peaceful. My brother was so grateful that I’d remembered to buy him pulp-free orange juice that it is still sometimes brought up nearly a decade later. Dad’s health wasn’t the best, by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it is now. That was an exceptionally great Christmas.

Gift:

Fingernail Fun
Hellooooo 1995!

     Childhood: So many to choose from. We weren’t rich by any measure, but my parents always made sure my brother and I had a good Christmas. I will always treasure the story behind one particular present, though. Does anyone remember something called Fingernail Fun? I was 10, and I wanted this so badly, and apparently lots of other little girls did, because my folks had a hard time finding it.

One fateful night, very close to Christmas, my brother found one and I forget the particulars, but for some reason he had to get down on his belly to reach underneath a display to procure the very last box. For that reason, Fingernail Fun will always be a special memory for me.

     Adulthood: I honestly don’t know. I never know what I want for Christmas anymore. I’m good with socks. This year my husband did surprise me with something I’ve wanted for a long, long time and that is a set of All Clad pots and pans. I haven’t talked about them in a few years, so it meant a lot to me that he remembered. Last year, however, my mom was browsing a thrift store local to her and had an impossible find, which I suppose takes it for sentimentality’s sake. She found a teapot that once belonged to my grandmother. Now, you may think that it might have just looked like a teapot that once belonged to my grandmother, but no. This one really did belong to her. She’d broken it, and repaired it. And it was very obviously hers. It had been lost after my grandmother died in 2003, and my mom found it randomly and gave it to me. That’s going to be a hard one to top.


This is my last post of the year! When we reconvene on January 1st, we will be talking about setting goals and resolutions for the New Year, and I’ll list mine. We’re going to try some public accountability. Woo-hoo!

I’m going to end this here and get back to spending time with my nearest and dearest, but I’ll leave you with the story behind the blog title.

Many moons ago, I worked in retail management…not pleasant around this time of year. One lady had just berated one of my employees and myself because the cashier said “Happy Holidays” rather than Merry Christmas. Another lady happened to hear the exchange, and very loudly said “HAPPY MERRY WHATEVER! I’ve never seen someone get so upset because someone wished them well! You should be ashamed!”

I so loved that second lady. Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Whatever you celebrate, I hope it has been the most joyous it can be. If you’d care to share some of your own holiday favorites and memories, I would love to see them in the comments below!


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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. 🙂

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

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

The Death of Literature?

@AilaStephens (1)“All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, 
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”
-Walt Whitman

 

Halloween looms. I love Halloween. I don’t do anything, really. I’m not often accused of being a social butterfly. And we only get about four kids trick-or-treating. (It’s a burden having a giant bowl of unclaimed candy!) It’s Fall, though. The leaves are changing and padding the ground. The temperature is dipping, and pumpkins dominate the produce department of every grocery store.

Though I don’t really go out and celebrate Halloween, I do enjoy the lore. I used to be keen on watching all the scary movies—the more gore, the better. But nowadays I tend to stick to a few classics that I’m drawn to every year. Of course no Halloween would be complete without Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic, Sleepy Hollow, *the* Halloween movies (Because, Michael Myers!), and Ghostbusters.

I always wonder why it is we spend so much time and money to scare ourselves. What with the costumes, the tickets to the latest slasher films, haunted houses, housefuls of decorations, etc—we spare no expense in curdling our own blood, despite the fact there is already so much out there to fear.

Of the plethora of scary topics, I was scrolling through social media not long ago and I saw a satirical image that I find inherently frightening. Perhaps not in the way that causes one’s hair to stand on end or heart palpitations, but it’s frightening nonetheless.

The image, by artist John Holcroft, depicts a book in the shape of a coffin and the nails each depict a different social media outlet. The artist is clearly predicting the bye-to-booksimminent death of literature, with social media to blame for its untimely demise. Now, as a writer, this scares the hell out of me. I don’t think it is that society doesn’t still enjoy a good story, but because social media plays such a huge role in our lives now, the way people want their information has changed. We get our news as we scroll Facebook while waiting on our doctor’s appointment. We prefer our interactions 140 characters at a time. Does this prevent people from reading books? Have our attention spans diminished to the point where cracking a book and making it to the end is a foreign concept?

A 2016 Pew Research Center survey cites that 26% of American adults hadn’t read a book in the 12 months prior to the survey. 19% of those adults had also not visited a library in those 12 months. I suppose those are fairly small numbers, and may not on their own suggest the demise of literature…but there’s more. In another study, it is suggested that approximately 50% of American adults cannot read past an 8th grade level—with a whopping 33% of high school graduates who are unlikely to crack open a book for pleasure after they graduate high school.

What then might happen with the children of that 33%? Will they have a love of reading instilled in them or will that skip them, causing that number to rise over the years? Surely, as with most technologies, social media is going to continue to grow, evolve, and firm up its grip on society.

Does that in and of itself have to be a bad thing though? I hope not.

I’ve never really done much as a writer or a reader when it comes to WattPad, but my understanding is that it is pretty much a social media+writer’s delight. Perhaps it will help keep the love of reading and writing alight in the hearts of teens and young adults while satiating the addiction of social media.

The scariest statistic I came across, though, is this: 80% of US families did not buy a book this year (statisticbrain.com: August 4, 2017). I’m not statistician, obviously, but this number seems awfully high. It doesn’t state whether it refers to print books, eBooks, a combination, picture books, etc. I suppose some factors may have inflated that: used books might not be counted, lending libraries, thrift stores (where I buy a lot of books, personally), children’s books, etc. etc.

Other statistics to note:

US Inmates who are literate: 15%
Books started that are not completed: 57%
US Adults who haven’t been in a bookstore in 5 years: 70%?! (How do people resist?!?!)

It isn’t surprising to me that with statistics like these, John Holcroft foresees the death of literature. Personally, I don’t think literature will (or could ever) die. It has already evolved. Can you imagine what Walt Whitman, Charlotte Brontë, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, or any other pre-internet age author would have thought if you’d said to them that people would one day be able to get their work through their telephones? Or that one day there would be a way they could write and share their work instantly with the whole world? The publishing industry and writers alike are already adapting and dipping their toes in possible solutions to attract new readers.

What do you think? Have you personally noticed any changes in the reading habits of your family, friends, or even yourself? Is literature dying or thriving?

Until next time, happy writing…and for crying out loud: HAPPY READING!

 

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—and 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.

Getting To Know Aila, Mail Box Fun, Uncategorized, Writer's Life

MAIL FUN w/ Minx Lit

mail“Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.”
Lemony Snicket

So not long ago, I was watching a video by the insanely talented Kristen Martin. [Her Twitter] [Her YouTube] In this video, Kristen did an unboxing of a new monthly subscription box (aren’t those things so much fun?!) called the Minx Lit Box.

[Minx Lit] Allow me to preface this by saying I was not contacted by Minx Lit to do this post, nor was I given the box for free or at a discounted rate. My husband purchased the box as a surprise for me, at the full-price. These opinions are my own. (Thanks, husband!)

I received an email several days ago telling me that my Minx Lit box had been shipped, and was provided with a tracking number—which I checked almost obsessively.

Ya’ll when I tell you that last week was rough, understand that rough is an understatement. From Monday morning, all the way to Friday when I was so stupidly busy that I didn’t even have time for a cup of coffee. When I got home Friday, I parked in front of my apartment and stared at my front door. My poor, caffeine-deprived limbs barely had the gumption to get out of the car. Then I remembered my Minx Lit box should have arrived! That was all the motivation needed to walk all the way to the apartment office, where I was sure it had been delivered.

Our apartment office people are great and as soon as she saw me walk through the door I was greeted by name (amazing, seeing as how there are hundreds of residents here) and she hopped right up and got my package for me. The first thing I noticed was its heft.

I scurried home and tended to my dogs, leaving the Minx Lit box to flirt with me from its perch on my dining table. Once my canines had calmed down (because they’re always certain their mama is never coming home, so it’s a celebration when she does) I sat in front of the box and smiled. It was so nice to have such a luxurious treat on a Friday after such a long, arduous week! I ripped away at the wrappings and was greeted by this:

IMG_2179

For a new business, I was very impressed with the professionalism of the box itself. For some reason, I didn’t expect branded boxes.

The second thing I noticed—which was even more unexpected—was for the box to smell so damn good! But once I opened it, I leaned into it and inhaled an extremely pleasant aroma.

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Instead of ripping away at the carefully wrapped items to investigate where the scent was coming from, however, I took a moment to appreciate that each item was lovingly wrapped. I also found myself amazed by the quality of the literature included in the box.

The longer the lid was open, the stronger the fragrance became. I couldn’t place my finger on what it was, but I enjoyed the guessing game.

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I moved stuff around in the box, just browsing, when I realized there was a card, and as my mama taught me, you always start with the card before diving in for the goodies. So, I followed my mother’s orders.

It was adorable! I love pink and teal.

IMG_2180

 

 

 

 

It blew me away when I realized it was personalized! (Covered up the name, because the husband bought this for me as a gift, and he used my real name.)

After I read the card, my conscience was cleared to delight in the rest of the treasures. First thing I wanted to know was what had filled my apartment with such a decadent aroma. Turns out, it was a candle!

And not just a candle, but a massage oil candle in a succulent watermelon scent. (Bottom right-hand picture.)

Untitled design

After I stopped sniffing the candle, I discovered a mug—and anyone who knows me, knows I love mugs!

Further inspection revealed even more smell-good treats with bath dust, and some wildly aromatic teas, which I couldn’t wait to brew. I smiled when I saw the beautiful bookmark with one of my favorite quotes (top left picture) There were just so many neat little things in this box, each one stripping away my stress and anxiety from the week, and replacing it with giddiness.

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Unless I misread, each box is promised to contain a journal—and this one is adorable and just the right size and weight for me to carry in my purse. As writers, we can never have too many notebooks to jot down those elusive golden ideas for our next best-seller.

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While I read mostly fiction, I am stoked at the book that was included in the inaugural box. I’ve heard good things about it, and it already has a place on my nightstand!

 

Also included was a booklet (as seen in the freshly-opened box) that contained extras and coupon codes: one for two free sessions of life-coaching, another for a discount on book cover design. It also provides writing prompts and blogging topics…which is something you all know I suffer with from time to time—so I will definitely utilize those!

My birthday is coming up (Friday!) so I may have to go ahead and pre-order the next box as a gift to myself. I imagine as this subscription gains momentum that they may have to drop the handwritten cards, but I am intrigued to see what else they include.

I had so much fun with Minx Lit, that I’ve decided to have even more fun with my mail carrier and find other bookish, writerly things I can order and therefore share with you.

Until next time, my lovelies! Happy writing!