Tending To My Book Garden

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You might have noticed that things have been a bit quiet on the new release front of Cege Smith books. I wrapped up the last book in the Bloodtruth series in March, and then kind of disappeared for awhile.

There’s a few reasons for this:

  • I have the luxury for the first time since February 2012 of picking where I want to go next without having to worry that I’m disappointing readers (because you were waiting for the next book). I could write a sequel to Ageless. I could write a companion story to the Shadows trilogy. I could start something brand new entirely. It’s a bit heady really.
  • I was feeling a bit of burnout. 25 published works since November 2011 is pretty nutty when you think about it. By this time last year, I had published 3 short stories, 1 novella, one novel, and was halfway through a 2nd novel. That pace is exhilarating and exhausting, especially when still trying to find time for family and holding down a full-time job.
  • I realized that I had finally had the time and space to do some tending to my book garden.

This last point is really important for anyone who has jumped on the hamster wheel of being an indie author. There is always something to be done, whether it’s writing your next manuscript, promoting your work, or balancing your writing life with everything else you feel like you should be doing. A lot of things get prioritized much lower on the list and sometimes sacrificed altogether.

Dean Wesley Smith shared a great blog post on this recently in his “Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing” series. The post, called “Put the Book Up and Leave It” goes into great detail about the importance of tending to your book garden. I didn’t even really realize it, but this is what I’ve been doing since publishing A Heart’s Deceit in March.

I have three complete series under my belt, and honestly, the Shadows series has been the star performer since day one. I had some fantastic success with making Edge of Shadows free as part of the early days of the KDP Select program, and I also managed to complete the trilogy in just a tad over a year. I’ve only rebranded the covers once, although I continue to tweak the blurbs. It does well with promotions, and so I often feel like if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Love it or hate it, that trilogy has earned out its production costs in spades and so, for now, to me it ain’t broke.

I’ve always thought that the Bloodtruth series suffered from the anti-Twilight backlash. Those characters are some of the nearest and dearest to my heart, and that is probably why it was the series that took the longest to finish. I so wanted to do Angeline’s story proper justice. Still, it wasn’t until I rebranded the covers late in 2013 and ran a successful Bookbub promo on Heiress of Lies in January that I felt like it was finally starting to get its legs. With the final book now done, I’d say it’s treading water and showing some very positive signs of momentum.

That brings me to the Twisted Souls series. It pains me to say that this series has yet to find its footing with readers. I’ve made tweaks here and there to covers and blurbs (and even the first book’s title), but I’ve never spent a lot of dedicated attention to it to try to figure out what went wrong. It’s a strange, quirky take on the zombie mythology, with some dystopian horror elements mixed in. That’s probably part of the problem too. It doesn’t fit well within any specific genre.

So I decided to spend some of my newly found down time rebranding that series and trying to find it a home with readers. So far, I’ve had positive comments about the new covers (which I personally love) and so I went ahead with my plans to finally put the series in paperback. I’ll keep tweaking, but I think the major work has been done. Perhaps this will be the year that series finally breaks even.

The future is full of promise, and I’m excited to see where the secondĀ half of 2014 takes me. Just know that if you don’t see me writing, I’m probably out back tending to my garden. šŸ™‚

(Photo credit: Raddish + Rose)

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Give Me Balance, Or Give Meā€¦Death? Another Resolution Post

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Five days into 2014, I have to admit I’m feeling pretty good about my New Year’s resolutions. I know, I know. It’s only been five days, but you have to start somewhere. As I reviewed my list of potential resolutions during the last few weeks of December, I realized that I could easily drive myself bonkers trying to be “Cege v2.0” in 2014. But if I’ve learned anything about myself over the last thirty-eight years, it’s that I latch onto goals, have a short burst of energy, and then burn out, and crash 2-3 weeks later.

Then I ran across this meme which completely changed my perspective on approaching my resolutions:

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It was time to pull out the KISS method to create my resolutions (Keep It Simple, Stupid if you’ve never run into the expression before.) Hence I refocused my resolutions on changing engrained behaviors, which should lead to the results that I want.

So let’s start here:

BALANCE

2013 felt lopsided to me for many reasons. I started out the beginning of the year with an extremely aggressive production schedule for my writing that included rolling out a new pen name. I actually did pretty well on that front through the first quarter, but that output wasn’t sustainable when my personal life fell apart in a way that dramatically altered many aspects of my life.

By the time I recovered, I felt so derailed that I slowed down even more. The result of that? The delay of the conclusion to both the Twisted Souls and Bloodtruth series.

Careful examination of every diet and weight loss program I’ve ever attempted yields an interesting thing. After finding initial success, things fizzle out because I never spend the time to change the behaviors that caused me to overeat to begin with. I went into it every time full force, but then burned out, and was right back where I started from.

I’m an extremist. I’ve learned over the years that I get short-term results by immersing myself into whatever activity I’m doing, and that works. But it never sticks long-term. I need to learn patience, celebrate small milestones, and keep an unwavering focus on keeping my feet on the balance beam of life, and that includes not acting like a crazy person when the newest diet fad comes around.

It applies to my work, my play, my diet, and my mental health. Achieving BALANCE will push me higher and further than any short-term burst of productivity.

WRITING IT DOWN

This probably sounds silly coming from a writer. I put words to paper and computer screen all day long every day. But that’s my stories and messing around on Facebook and Twitter. That’s not outlining a life plan that clearly spells out what I want to accomplish and how I’m going to measure if I’m successful.

We’ve all probably hear about the Harvard (or Yale) class study that studied the effects of writing down goals. The problem with that study is that is never actually happened. But, an educator at Dominican University did her own study and was able to confirm the results of the supposed Harvard/Yale study. When you write down your goals and hold yourself accountable (in collaboration with a partner), you have a greater chance of achieving your goals.

To keep things organized and keep myself from being distracted, I plan to write down short and long-term goals in a place where I see them daily, and reassess them often to adjust as needed. That will keep the goals and action plans fresh and relevant.

No doubt about it. Sometimes notĀ making New Year’s resolutions seems like the path of least resistance. But I’m still optimistic, and I’m going implement the tweaks to behavior that I mentioned above.

That’s it. Two things, but two things that if I stick with them can mean a tremendous difference in my life for many reasons.

What about you? What are your 2014 resolutions?

Photo Credit: dleell

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The Twisted Souls Journey is Complete!

As a series writer, there is always a bit of sadness that comes along with finishing the whole story. I had no idea of the adventures that Samuel, Cameron, and Marius would take me on when I met them two years ago in The Soul Ripper (previously known at The Soul Garden). It has been a wild ride for all of them, and the end is bittersweet in more ways than one.

For those of you wondering, I’ve always known how this one was going to end, but their journey to that conclusion was the part that was the mystery to me. I hope the end resonates with you as it did me.

Now that the series is complete, all of the covers got a much-needed facelift that hopefully conveys the story arc a bit better. I’ve also released the box set- readers can get a 25% discount by buying all four books together (deal!).

If you are a Twisted Souls fan, please be sure to drop me a line and let me know what you thought of the ending. I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Reading!

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Write and Publish a Short Story in 8 Hours? I’ll Take That Challenge!

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People might not know this about me, but I’ve got a deep-rooted competitive streak that’s a mile wide. I hide it well behind a lot of smiles and polite talk, but, at the end of the day, if somebody throws down the gauntlet in front of me it’s Game On.

So when I read a post over in the Writer’s Cafe on Kboards (my absolute favorite writerly place to hang out) about Joe Konrath’s 8-Hour Challenge, I was stoked. The basic premise of the challenge is that you had to write, edit, create a book cover, and publish a story on Amazon in 8 hours. HA! I laugh in the face of that challenge. I had no doubt I could do it. I’m Speedy Gonzales on the keyboard when the muse strikes, and I love the short story medium.

However, I had a dilemma. I had this past week off work because I was dealing with some personal issues that I had put off that required 100% attention for a few days. On top of that, I feel like a lynch mob of Twisted Souls and Bloodtruth fans are going to descend on my doorstep any minute demanding that I finish the final books in those series.

So I decided I wasn’t going to do it. Even though I felt like this challenge was tailor made for me, I thought I’d do the grown-up thing and let it pass. I watched the thread of Kboard Ā participants get longer and longer as they each raced against the clock to snare their win. By the morning of August 29th, the final day of the challenge, I was gnashing my teeth wanting to throw my hat into the ring.

My personal issues dealt with, and with 8000 words down on A Soul to Settle (Twisted Souls #4), I decided to go all in on the Konrath challenge. I HAD TO DO IT, if no other reason than I knew that I could do it.

Four hours and ten minutes later, I hit publish on Forbidden. I had been waiting for the right opportunity to return to my haunted house roots, and this short story scratched that itch perfectly. Clocking in at 5500 words, it is a horror short about a girl who defies her mentor and decides to test her special abilities on her own with disastrous consequences.

Alas, I fell down in properly following the directions of how to submit my entry to Joe to get credit in his epic post that showcased all the challenge winners (all 140+ of them!!). There’s a lesson to be learned there, and it’s a mistake I won’t make again.

Hopefully Forbidden will whet the appetite of any new-to-Cege readers, and for those of you who might have noticed I haven’t published anything in awhile, this will (hopefully) remind you why you liked me in the first place. šŸ™‚

Forbidden is FREE on Amazon through tomorrow (9/2/13), so go grab your copy today!

 

(photo credit The U.S. Army)

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Time To Do It Again!

2012. Wow.

I really don’t have much more to say about that. In case you were wondering where I thought I’d be at this time last year, you can check out my 2012 resolution post. Yea- there were some changes made in timing and titles, but ultimately I said that I would publish six books last year.

And I did.

That made me think that I need to up my game in 2013. So I sat down last week and put together my production schedule for the year. My knees are still shaking just a little bit. To say that it is ambitious may be an understatement. But I’m a big believer in the saying “Go Big or Go Home.” I set a BHG (Big Hairy Goal) for 2013, and I think I’m going to have a ball going after it.

I am hoping that you will join me for the ride as well. That will multiple the fun factor for me by about a thousand!

So I know you are about ready for me to stop babbling now and just tell you what’s going on and when you are going to hear next from Angeline and Connor, Cameron, Samuel, and Malcolm, and maybe even Violet and Jeremiah. Well, here it is (please note that I say this is tentative and subject to change!):

Cege’s *TENTATIVE* 2013 Production Schedule

January 2013: The Shadows Trilogy omnibus

February 2013: Soul Cycle (Twisted Souls #3)

March 2013: Trials of Truth (Bloodtruth #3)

May 2013: Step To My Bones

August 2013: Twisted Souls series #4

September 2013: Bloodtruth series #4

November 2013: Immortal End

I am planning to release a paranormal thriller serial starting in April, and those episodes will be interspersed with my novel releases. Each of those will be 10K-20K words each, so that’s a lot of writing for those as well.

I’m also launching a new pen name that will serve up stories in the contemporary romance genre. It’s a completely new endeavor for me, and one I’m really excited about. There were be several short story/novel releases under that name as well.

Whew- I’m exhausted already. šŸ™‚ Ā And nervous. But really psyched about what I’ve got spinning for this year. By the way, I can’t stress enough that I love to hear from readers of my series, and if there is a big push from fans, I may consider moving some things up to accommodate.

In the meantime, you’ll find me in my favorite writing chair.

Happy New Year!!

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