New Year’s Resolutions & What I’m Working On

This upcoming year is just about having fun.

resolutions blog post

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The resolutions:

1. I’m not going to think of writing as a business anymore.

Authors are told to market and market and market their books all day long. After all, no one knows you have a book unless you tell them about it. While I can see why conventional wisdom says this (and yes, it does work when done right), I’m not a good business person. I never have been, and trying to force myself into a box to be a good marketer has never worked. It’s not my personality style, and it’s been making me miserable. So I’m not doing to do it anymore.

I’ll still be on Facebook and MeWe once in a while, but I won’t be there often. I will, however, still blog on a regular basis since I love blogging. I’ll also keep up with the monthly newsletter blog posts, which I also enjoy doing.

2. I’m only writing books I’m passionate about.

I’ve been doing this since November 1, and I’ve been shocked by how much joy and enthusiasm I feel for writing again. Over the past three weeks, I have averaged between 3,000 – 4,000 words a day when I write. Last Friday, I didn’t want to stop writing. I tried, but the urge to get back to one of the stories I’m working on wouldn’t leave me alone. For the first time in years, I actually wrote 6,000 words. And I wasn’t exhausted. I was energized and ready for more. But I made myself quit because I had to go to bed. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this kind of enthusiasm for writing. For the past three years when I hit 3,000,  I was relieved to be done for the day.  It makes a huge difference when you WANT to write. I will never go back to writing for a market ever again.

3. I’m going to be six months ahead of my publishing schedule.

I never want to worry about rushing a book ever again. There were books I, unfortunately, cut short because I had to reach a deadline. I’m not going to tell you what they were because it’s embarrassing to admit I did that. Fortunately, I didn’t do this often. Most books played out the way they were meant to.

I only admit this publicly is to give anyone hope who might have done something similar. Maybe this isn’t with writing a book. Maybe it’s something else you did that you only did half-heartedly when you look back and wish you had done it with all of your heart instead. There’s no point in beating yourself up about the past. It’s done. I had a friend who used to say, “Let lying dogs lie.”

The best way to move forward is by letting things in the past stay in the past. I am not going back and rewriting books anymore. I’m done with that. What I’m going to do is work on new stories because that’s where my heart is. I can do that whole-heartedly. The best projects you can do are those you can give 100% of yourself to. A new year is a great time for embracing new starts. You can make this year anything you want.

Okay, now for what is coming out during the first half of this year.

One Enchanted Evening is done and uploaded for pre-order. The date it comes out is January 6.

One Enchanted Evening ebook cover

Click here for more information!

This is Book 2 in the Marriage by Fairytale Series.

  • Book 1: The Marriage Contract
  • Book 2: One Enchanted Evening
  • Book 3: The Wedding Pact (to be written)

After not having anything out for what feels like forever, I am happy to announce I got a new book coming out next month! It’s loosely based on Cinderella. This is my fun trip into the gothic romance genre. I had a blast with this. It’s in the Regency time period, so there are titled gentlemen and servants, etc. I just wanted to explore a level of deeper emotion than I have been in the Regency arena. In this case, I delve into the issue of unrelenting guilt and the need for redemption. It was a lot of fun to place the heroine who is struggling with this in a romance. Also, if you love super sweet virgin heroes, this book has one.

The Imperfect Husband is due out March 2

The Imperfect Husband ebook cover 6

Click here for more information. (Not on pre-order at Amazon or Google Play yet.)

This is the last book in the Misled Mail Order Brides Series.

  • Book 1: The Bride Price
  • Book 2: The Rejected Groom
  • Book 3: The Perfect Wife
  • Book 4: The Imperfect Husband

For those of you who were upset I didn’t address the issue of Mark tricking Velma and Tony into marrying each other so far in this series, be assured I did it in this book. When you read this book, you’ll see why my subconscious mind had to wait until this book to address that lie.

But the unexpected fun I came across in this book was how insecure the hero was. I had fun working with a hero who gets to grow into someone who learns to be secure along the course of the story, and he needs the heroine in order to do it. I am a firm believer that the right person in our lives can bring out the best in us, and it was fun to show that happen in this book.

Shane’s Deal is going to be out in April

Shane's Deal new ebook cover

Not on pre-order. This will go to my awesome publisher.

This is the last and final book in the Montana Collection.

  • Book 1: Mitch’s Win
  • Book 2: Boaz’s Wager
  • Book 3: Patty’s Gamble
  • Book 4: Shane’s Deal

I will admit when I started this book, I was afraid I couldn’t pull it off. I had been wanting to finish up the Montana Collection for years, but I had trouble finding a plot that excited me. Finally, I had the inkling of an idea that involved a heroine who carrying a lot of money and is on the run. Anyone remember Madeline Thompson the outlaws were looking for at the beginning of Boaz’s Wager? Well, that is the heroine in this book. I always knew she was going to be the heroine and the marshal (Shane) was going to be the hero, but that was all I knew for years.

I started this book with such a slim idea that I expected this to be a novella. It turned out to be a full-length novel, and I’m thrilled with how the storyline progressed. I brought up a subplot in Boaz’s Wager and Patty’s Gamble that will finally reach its conclusion in this book, but I can’t say what it is without spoiling the book. Suffice it to say that this book really does complete the series.

Kidnapping the Viscount will be out in May

Kidnapping the Viscount Ebook Cover

Not on pre-order at Amazon or Google Play yet.

This is the last and final book in the Marriage by Fate Series.

  • Book 1: The Reclusive Earl
  • Book 2: Married In Haste
  • Book 3: Make Believe Bride
  • Book 4: The Perfect Duke
  • Book 5: Kidnapping the Viscount

I keep hearing that it’s best to write series that go on and on for many books, but I have found my interest quits around the 3-4 book mark. I threw this in an attempt to make this series longer. When I started it, I had planned for the typical storyline of a heroine who forces the hero to do something, and he ends up spending half the story sulking because of it.

To be honest, that bored me. So when I decided to write stories for passion again, I decided to switch things around. I wanted a romantic comedy, so I opted to give the book a twist. I set it up so that the hero schemes to make the heroine think she’s kidnapping him against his will. The result is a lot of great humor that had me laughing through half of the book. I’m glad I took this route instead of the one that was much more marketable.

 

 

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Money Management: How Do You Want to Pay Off Debt?

I’m in the middle of paying off debt. I’ve been married now for 18.5 years, and, unfortunately, debt is still a way of life around my house.  I had the head knowledge of why being debt free was a good idea, but the heart wasn’t interested in doing what my mind wanted. It’s only been in the past year that I finally got serious about being debt free. Today I wanted to make a blog post addressing the payment of debts.

debt reduction

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Here are the two main strategies of paying off debt that seem to be the most popular:

1. Smallest to Largest:

This is mostly known as the Dave Ramsey way (aka the snowball method). For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, it involves saving $1000 in an emergency fund. Then you look at all of your debts, from smallest to largest. You pay off as much as you can on the smallest debt while paying minimum payments on the other debt. Then when the smallest is out of the way, you apply that amount to the new smallest debt on the list.

2. Highest Interest to Lowest Interest:

Then there’s the Suze Orman method. Other people since have mentioned it, but she’s the first one who introduced me to the concept, so I’m giving her credit for it. In this one, you pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first while making minimum payments off the others. When you knock out that specific debt, you tackle the debt with the next highest interest rate.

I’ve tried both of these over the years, and neither worked for my personality. I discovered I’m not motivated by either method.

In my last post, I talked about not taking advice from other people, and I think this is an area where this fits. Just because some people are motivated by the Dave Ramsey or Suze Orman method of paying off debt, it doesn’t mean all of us are.

When you are looking for a strategy that best fits your life, here are some things to consider:

1. How much of a financial risk can you afford to take?

The question that often pops up is, “Should we save first or pay off debt first?”

In my opinion: it depends on your situation. I know this isn’t helpful on the surface, but let me explain my reason for this answer.

I think we need to use the method that is tailored specifically for us and our comfort levels. Some people may not be comfortable with a $1000 emergency fund. They may want one that is $5000. Some people may even want more than that.

If you’re an author who is living off of your writing income, you’re self-employed. If you have no one to help pay the bills, you may want to have at least 3-6 months of living expenses in your savings account before taking care of debt. By the way, most self-employed people take on a much higher risk in general because if they don’t sell their product, they don’t get paid. On the other hand, people who work for someone else will get the paycheck as long as they don’t get fired.

Also, whether or not you live alone plays a factor into the level of risk you have. If you’re living alone, you are responsible for all of your financial bills. Or, if you aren’t living alone, you might be the only one bringing home any money. That puts additional pressure on you to make sure you can provide for everyone. If you have a spouse who is bringing in money, then you have some buffer in case you can’t make enough money to pay your bills anymore. In my opinion, the more sources of income you have coming into your home, the better off you are. So if you have multiple sources of income, you can afford to have a lower savings amount before you start paying off the debt.

So consider how much you want to risk before starting off with paying off debt (or continuing to pay off debt if you’re in the middle of doing this already).

2. What motivates you the most?

I think motivation is more important than anything else when it comes to paying off debt. If our hearts aren’t in it, then it’s going to be hard to commit.

If watching your debt list quickly grow smaller because you’re paying off the smallest ones first “wows” you, then you would probably like the Dave Ramsey plan. If you like knowing you’re getting rid of the highest interest rates, then you’ll probably like Suze Orman’s plan.

I actually fall into neither camp. I hate both of those plans. They never motivated me. I found out that I’m more motivated by knocking out the debt that takes out the biggest chunk of my income every month. The more cash flow I have each month, the easier it is for me to relax. I have discovered that I’m best motivated when I focus on paying off the debt that takes out the biggest chunk of my household income every month.

For example, years ago I had a truck payment that was $726 a month. That is insane! (We never paid off cars and kept trading them in on others, so a lot of our car debt just rolled into the new loan. Do NOT do this. I know I said don’t take advice, but seriously, this is a trap and it will bite you in the end.) I had about five credit cards, and another car loan  at the time. My husband was active duty military, and we were barely getting by because his income kept going into all of the debt. I had been trying to get through the Dave Ramsey plan, and I just couldn’t get into it because I was taking care of the smallest debt first. I realized if I paid off the truck, I would have $726 a month to buy good quality groceries with. Whereas if I only paid off the smallest debt, I’d only free my cash flow by $50. I was tired of peanut butter, ramen noodles, and other cheap stuff for me and my family. I wanted to eat well. So that’s what I did. And I didn’t roll the $726 into other debt. I used it for food. When you have six people in a family, food is a huge part of the monthly budget.

So, this is what I’ve been ever since. I’ve been paying off the debt that takes out the largest chunk of my household monthly budget first. I don’t know if anyone ever came up with my particular method, but I discovered this on my own after trial and error.

My point to all of the rambling is this:

If you find a way to pay off debt that excites you, you’re much better off than following someone else’s strategy. Don’t be afraid to try different techniques. Don’t be afraid if you end up failing while trying one strategy. It just means that strategy didn’t fit your personality. Don’t feel guilty just because someone else could do it a particular way and you can’t. I think we beat ourselves up too much over this kind of thing. Person A’s debt strategy plan was a good fit for Person A. It might not be a good fit for you. We don’t have to pigeon hole ourselves into someone else’s box. We are free to explore other ideas. As long as you’re paying off debt, that’s what matters, right?

What are your thoughts? Is there a different way you’re paying off debt that I didn’t mention?

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Don’t Take Advice (Because You Already Know What You Want To Do and You Have to Live Your Life)

This post is loosely based off of the book I just finished titled The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha. (I’ll give the link to it at the bottom of the post.)

Before I get into this post, I want to say that this book is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s definitely going on my “keeper shelf”, and I’m going to take it out and periodically re-read it. If you’re struggling with finding happiness, I highly encourage you to check it out.

Okay, now to the post…

go your own way

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What? Don’t take advice? Isn’t that a terrible thing to do?

One of the things mentioned in the book is “Don’t take advice”. Upon first reading that, I thought, “That is crazy. Isn’t advice useful?” But then I thought over the portion of the book where the author mentions people often regretting not following their own path. They get so caught up in living other people’s dreams that they neglect their own. Also, they don’t want to upset others, and as a result, they go along in order to get along with them. At the end of their lives, a lot of people end up wishing they’d had the courage to do their own thing.

For example, I was stuck in this zone for some time. I get feedback on a regular basis from people telling me what I should or shouldn’t write. And up to now, I’ve been following it. This is what is called “writing to market”. I stopped asking myself what I wanted to write. Instead, I took advice on what I should write. What happened? I got to the point where I hated writing. This didn’t happen immediately. It took time. I think it took a total of three years. I was playing it safe. I was doing what would please the most people. And it slowly sucked the joy out of writing for me. The alarming thing is that the process was so slow that I didn’t realize what was going on. That’s the danger of taking advice.

People in our lives mean well. They are looking out for us. I get that. But there are four main problems I see with taking their advice.

  • 1. They aren’t us. They don’t have our unique blend of personalities and experiences.
  • 2. They don’t usually share our goals. What’s important to us might not be important to them.
  • 3. They might be thinking primarily of themselves when giving out advice. A quick example is a parent who wants their kid to live close to home when the kid might be better off taking a job on the other side of the country. The parent is thinking of the convenience of having the kid nearby while the kid might need to be independent. Plus, the kid might love that new job in ways they could never love the job that is nearby.
  • 4. They don’t have to live with the consequences of their advice. No matter what happens, they aren’t on the hook for living with what happens next. They remain observers. They don’t have to pay the price.

There will be critics.

Deep down inside, I think we know what we really want to do. Sometimes we ask for advice because we’re looking for someone to agree with us. This agreement leads to security. As long as you have someone backing up your thoughts, you can better justify what you want to do. It takes courage to go out alone and do something that is contrary to what others are saying. We risk failure. We risk the dreaded, “I told you so” from others. We risk disapproval. We risk ending a relationship that is important to us. There are many things we could lose. That’s why it’s not easy to travel our own path. That’s why it’s easier to follow someone else’s instructions for our lives.

But in the end, will that advice make us happy? If we’re not true to our own selves, can we really be content? Or will we just tell ourselves that we’re happy so that we can cope with the box we trapped ourselves in? Will we ultimately be slowly dying inside because we let fear hold us back?

Life is a series of choices. You have to decide if you’re going to let other people make those choices for you, or if you’re going to make those choices for yourself. Obviously, if you’re married, you will have to take your spouse into consideration with the choices you make. Single people have an advantage in this area. But even if you are married, there are areas of your life where you have freedom to make your own choices. There’s always something you can do to make yourself happier.

Going back to the example I gave above, early this year I made a decision to write my books the way I want to write them. But it’s only in this month (with the help of the material in The Happiness Equation book) that I started actually writing what I wanted. It has not been easy to dig my way out of the “writing to market” mindset. For every step I took forward, it felt like I ended up two steps back. It didn’t help that I suddenly got an onslaught of people expressing how unhappy they were with some aspect of my writing. It was weird how this feedback came all at once, but it did, and these people came from all over the place. I hadn’t ever heard from most of them before.

So when you decide to travel your own path, expect resistance. I think it’s to be expected when we change what we’re doing. I’m sure this will mean that some people will stop reading my books, and I’m okay with that. I see the reviews. I read the emails. I read the blog comments. I read the Facebook comments. I know what advice people are giving me. And I have decided to ignore all of that advice. It wasn’t easy. I’ve had to remove myself from social media quite a bit. I had to sit alone with the stories I’m currently working on. The more I focused on writing what I wanted, the easier it got. Last Friday, for the first time since 2014, I woke up excited about writing. I was having fun. I was happy. I didn’t even want to quit even though I’d been writing for five days straight. I made myself quit because I need to take care of non-writing things in my life. And to be honest, it felt good to quit writing because I HAD to. It’s a major difference from quitting the day’s writing because you finally got a certain word count in after “pulling teeth” all day.

Only we know what’s best for us..and doing that will make us better people to be around.

Sometimes you have to be selfish. I know that’s a hard concept to grasp because from an early age, we’re taught to put other people’s needs before our own. But I think sometimes we have to do what is best for us. Now, I do believe we should be nice to other people. That’s very important. I do believe in the “treat others as you’d have them treat you” motto. It’s just that you can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time. You need to pick when to say yes and when to say no. It takes wisdom to figure out the balance. If we get away from the noise going on around us, it’s easier to get to that balance. In the end, if we’re doing what we want to do, we’ll be better people to be around. We’ll be empowering ourselves to reach our full potential. When we are fulfilled in what we’re doing, we’ll naturally be pleasant to be around. So really, we’ll be doing our loved ones a favor, even if they don’t realize it. It’s a win-win.

Here’s the book I mentioned above.

The Happiness Equation

Click the book to go the author’s website.

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