No Days Off

I read a couple issues back in Writer’s Digest that Steven King never takes a day off from writing.  At the moment, I thought that was kind of intense, but now I understand the reason for it.

A few weeks ago my family flew down to California to attend my grandfather’s wedding and visit my husband’s sister.  It was a wonderful vacation.  Because we were traveling light–a backpack for each of us–I left my laptop at home.  I took a composition book and installed an app on my iPhone called Index Card (great for organizing scenes in your stories) with a plan to write a bit every day.  I had all the tools to get some work done, I just neglected to do it.  Caught up in the spirit of vacation, I floated from day to day, watching TV instead of working (there’s a reason we don’t have cable or dish at home).  I think my pen hit paper twice during the week long trip.

When we returned home, I assumed I would snuggle right into my office and get to work.  The problem was, all that time off had caused my writing muscle to atrophy.  It was weak and almost useless.  It took days for me to get my writing mojo back.

Thankfully, during that difficult week I discovered a group of people on Twitter who had the same writing schedule as me.  We started doing writing sprints every afternoon, and some of us started meeting off and on in the mornings.  Around the same time, a member of that group began a hash tag called #WriteChain.  We set our daily writing goals and get to claim a link in our chain when we complete them.  What great incentive to get work done!  These people have encouraged me to write every day.  It’s easier to show up when you know someone is looking for you.  Rough days are smoothed out with encouraging words and well timed ribs.

The beauty of being a writer is that I can work almost anytime anywhere.  It doesn’t matter if I have my laptop.  As long as I have paper and pen, words can happen.  I will meet up with my computer at some point and log them into the appropriate place.  There is no excuse not to get my work done each and every day.  Days off just create space for self-doubt to creep in.  I must write every day to remind myself I am a writer, and I’m going places.

My current goals are to write in my journal for twenty minutes a day and log 1,000 words either on the blog or on my current work in progress on weekdays.  I am giving myself a little breathing room on weekends.  I must either journal for twenty minutes or log 1,000 words.  My goals will change depending on where I’m at with a project.  Words may translate into editing time or research, but it’s all part of the process.

I am building myself up for a challenge in November.  Many of you have probably heard of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  Though I don’t feel ready to commit to writing an entire novel in the month of November, I am going to challenge myself by raising my weekday word count to 2,000.  I’ve got a little over a month to prepare, but I am already blowing past 1,000 words on most days, so I think I can do it.

Thinking about beginning a daily writing habit?  Start small.  Commit to twenty minutes of journal writing a day and go from there.  Want to try out word sprints?  Join us on twitter at #SprintDaily.  We’d love to have you!

A Space of My Own

When I first started on this writing journey, I hauled my laptop around the house and settled wherever looked the most comfortable that day.  The set-up was okay, but not perfect as I didn’t have a way to escape my family and close a door so I could really work.  After a lot of encouragement, I finally decided it would be all right to invest in myself and create a space I loved to be in–a place with a door.

The spare bedroom in our small house was always used as a guest room–not a very welcoming one at that–and Brett’s messy man cave.  He agreed to share the room with me, because I’m spoiled like that.

Office Makeover 005This giant futon from our newlywed days took up about half of the room.  Thankfully we live in a college town, and I was able to sell it in less than twenty four hours.  Turns out I don’t have any pictures of the room in its before state other than this as I HATED it until now.

So, without further ado, click HERE for the video tour of my new office.  I apologize for filming it the wrong way, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get the narrative as perfect if I tried again.  I’d love to see pictures/videos of your writing spaces!

A Day to Remember

“Memories have the power to both remind, refocus, and renew us.” Chris Hogan

Twelve years ago I woke to a gorgeous, early fall day.  I got in my old Ford Tempo–the one I bought my senior year in high school–and set out to my new job in Moscow, Idaho.  I was taking a break from college, re-evaluating my life, and it was already clear to me that being a receptionist in a small law firm was not going to be a long term option for me.  Only a few months in, and I was bored.

I flicked on the radio hoping some upbeat tunes would get me revved for another mind numbing day.  Instead, I got the news.  It took me a few moments to realize this wasn’t the usual ninety second update I listened to each morning between witty D.J. chatter and my favorite country songs.  This was breaking news.  The announcer kept speaking these incomprehensible sentences about towers being hit by planes.  I’d lived on the west side of the country my whole life, much of it out in the sticks on a beef ranch.  I had no idea what the World Trade Center was, but my ears perked up when he said the Pentagon had also been struck by a plane.  Not long after that, another plane skidded to a stop in a field.  What in the world was going on?  It was just to crazy to latch onto.

As I searched for an elusive downtown parking spot, I remembered my grandparents were somewhere on the East Coast.  Grandma had always dreamed of experiencing the famous fall colors, so they had driven their motor home across the country.  I was pretty sure the last I had heard, they were headed for New York.

Cold panic filled my stomach and my chest constricted with fear as I wiggled the Tempo into a barely big enough space.  That was the year I learned to parallel park.  I didn’t want to be crying when I entered the old house turned legal office, but I’d been holding the tears back while behind the wheel.  They were sliding freely from my eyes as I turned the front doorknob.

“Your mom is on the phone,” one of the legal secretaries said when she saw me.

I rattled off a quick explanation for her calling me at work, as if these people had no idea what was going on thousands of miles away.  When I picked up the phone, Mom told me my grandparents were safe–not even near New York City.  You see, when you have never been anywhere, you kind of just think the state of New York is New York City.

The morning passed in a blur.  I’m sure I copied, filed, transcribed dictation, and took calls.  It all seemed so meaningless.  Finally my lunch break rolled around, and I retreated to the empty conference room at the back of the house–formerly a dining room.

The television was on, and I forced myself to nibble at the food I’d packed at home.  All I wanted at that moment was to hide away with my husband in our cozy apartment.  Things would be all right there.  Images of air hazy with dust and battered people crossed the screen.  At one point the camera landed on a man crawling on his hands and knees.  His face was grimy, his suit a mess, but I could tell that hours before he’d been polished up for a day at the office.  He crawled beside a car, a small bit of shelter a midst the chaos and threw up.  I got up and switched off the TV.  I couldn’t take anymore.

A lot has changed in my life in the last twelve years.  I went back to school full-time less than a year after the events on September 11.  I had gained a lot of perspective that day.  I finished my degree.  Brett and I bought a house and had a daughter.  We have lived purposely each and every day, working toward our dreams.  Today I’m blessed to be home doing my dream job: raising our daughter and making a living as a writer.

I’m not the only one who has moved forward.  This country pulled together in a way I had never witnessed after 9/11, and has several times since.  We have fought wars and slogged our way through tough economic times, but despite life’s challenges America has still continued to thrive.  One nation, under God truly is indivisible, and there will be justice for all.

Talking Shop With J. Elizabeth Hill

Today is a special day at Kayla Dawn Writes.  I have author, J. Elizabeth Hill, here with me to talk about her writing journey.

Hi, Julie! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here. I always love to talk about writing, almost as much as I love writing.

So far you have one published novel and another just days
away from release. What got you started down this road?

I’ve always been a huge reader. As a child I played make believe endlessly. It was an easy step in many ways to start writing it down. I didn’t think much of it though until I was 16. My 11th grade teacher had us write a short story for class. After that, I was hooked. All I wanted to do was write. A couple of years ago, I decided to get serious, to treat it like a job. I’ve been pretty successful at finishing stuff and growing as a writer since.

Your worlds are very unique. Where do you get your ideas?

They usually start as a small thing, a little spark of something. With Bound, it was the idea of something like twins, someone who was the other half of you, but with magic. They all start small like that and then I explore them. As I do so, I try to avoid the things I’ve seen a lot of or the easy route. I’m always looking for a way to make it my own. I also want to make the world I’m writing that story in the only place that story could happen. For me, the story flows out of the world and the world serves the needs of the story. It sounds a bit circular, I know, but really, the world and the story are kind of co-dependent.

You have chosen to self-publish your work. How did you make that decision?

A lot of reasons, but the big one has to do with how much and how fast I write. My first full year of writing after I got serious, I completed five novels plus half of a sixth, one novella and four or five short stories. While some of those novels are still in revisions, they’ve pretty much all been progressed to some extent. On top of that, I was also developing a number of story projects (pretty much all trilogies). I keep myself pretty busy. My concern at the time was that, even if I slowed down a little, I’d still be going pretty fast and I didn’t think I’d be able to publish that much in a year through a traditional publisher. Being able to publish what I want when I think it’s ready was a huge upside to self-publishing for me. I also like having control over the cover and who I hire for things like editing.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those considering

Be realistic in your expectations. The number of debuts that hit it big is relatively small. Remember that you get out of it what you put into it. That doesn’t mean spam the crap out of everyone, but it does mean that if you put it out there with no build up before hand and no real effort spent getting the word out after the book is published, you’re not going to see big numbers. Always hire an editor. Don’t think that one’s optional, ever. And finally, ask for help if you need it. This isn’t something you really do alone.

What would you say to someone who wants to write their first book, but are feeling intimidated by the process?

Dive in and do it anyway. Maybe you’ll finish that fist one, maybe you won’t, but you definitely won’t if you don’t start. Push yourself to do more and make sure you sit down and get something done, even on the days when you’re not feeling it. Inspiration can’t strike those who don’t show up. Find the process for writing that works for you. A lot of people say a lot of things about how you should write, but really they’re saying what works for them. If something resonates with you, try it, but if it doesn’t work, throw that method away and try something else. Finally, keep at it. Don’t give up. Remember how much you love the story and that will carry you through even the rough days.

Thanks again for stopping by, and best of luck on your
new novel, Possession, which is the sequel to Bound. Will
there be any more titles in this series?

One more, as the Mirrors of Bershan is a trilogy. I can’t give a firm date yet, but I’m hoping to have The Nine, which is the final volume, out in early February of next year. Beyond that, there are a couple of things I’ve written in this world that aren’t part of the trilogy. I have a short story about Keari that I’m mulling publishing, and a novella about Faylanna’s mentor, Ganson, that will be coming out December 10th, 2013. Who knows if there will be anything else
in this world after that. Maybe, if there’s a story to tell.

You can check out my review of Bound here.  If you haven’t
picked it up yet, I highly recommend you do, so you are all set to read Possession when it comes out on September 10th.

Julie is offering a generous giveaway to celebrate the release of Possession. Three lucky winners will receive signed copies of both of her books! Click here to enter!

Cover Reveal: Aspen by Rebekah Crane

It’s a busy week at Kayla Dawn Writes with special posts about two books that will be released in the near future!  I love to promote authors who have proven to weave amazing tales, so I’m delighted to offer up my little  corner of cyberspace to plug their awesome work.  So without further ado, I present the cover reveal of Aspen by Rebekah Crane.  She is the author of Playing Nice, which I loved.  You can read my review here.

We are so excited to release the cover of Rebekah Crane’s next YA contemporary novel, ASPEN, today! Dance break!

Stephen Colbert GIF

Now that that’s out of the way. We present… ASPEN!


About the book:

One quiet night in Boulder, Colorado, Aspen Yellow-Sunrise Taylor made a mistake.

In the next instant, her life changed forever.

Aspen doesn’t want to remember when Katelyn Ryan, a sleek-haired popular soccer player, crossed the yellow line in her car and smashed into Aspen’s. But forgetting is pretty hard- because Katelyn may have died – but she didn’t leave. Her ghost is following Aspen around, and heading into senior year, it’s kind of a problem. Especially when Katelyn’s gorgeous former boyfriend Ben appears to be the only person at school with a clue as to how Aspen feels.

Popularity, college, Homecoming Court, hot guys – none of these things ever mattered to Aspen. She’s been busy trying to rein in her giant mass of blonde curls, keep her stoner mother Ninny away from Toaster, her mom’s awful bongo drumming boyfriend, and prevent her best friends Kim and Cass from killing – or kissing – one another. But with Ben sitting next to her in Physics looking all too gorgeous, Katelyn’s spirit dogging her steps, and her obsessive snow-globe collecting therapist begging her to remember all the things she wants to forget, Aspen is thrust into a vivid, challenging world she can’t control … and doesn’t want to.

A darkly funny, emotionally gripping story of opening up, letting go, and moving on, ASPEN is about the best-worst accident of your life … and what comes next.

Release Date: January 2014
Category: YA contemporary
Publisher: In This Together Media

And an awesome cover reveal isn’t complete without an equally AWESOME giveaway, so let’s tell them what they can win… *dramatic pause*

10 eARCs of ASPEN!
1 tie-dye shirt from Moe’s Broadway Bagels in Boulder, CO (an actual restaurant in the story!)
2 Grateful Dead bumper stickers! Groovy!
5 Friendship bracelets because WHY NOT?!
1 hacky sack! Rad!
3 flower stickers you can stick to your laptop or desk or wherever! Peace, man!

Click here to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter and you’re on your way to getting some awesome swag! The giveaway closes a week from today.

About Rebekah Crane:

Rebekah Crane fell in love with YA literature while studying Secondary English Education at Ohio University, but it wasn’t until ten years and two daughters later that she started to write it. Inspired by her past students, growing up in Cleveland with its fabulous musical theater community, and music of all kinds (particularly the Avett Brothers), she created PLAYING NICE. It is her first published novel, but having an unbridled imagination, it’s not the only fantasy world she’s lived in (just ask her husband). ASPEN, her second YA creation, is set to release in January 2014. She now lives in Colorado, where the altitude only enhances the experience.

Twitter: @RebekahCrane