Pre-order Pen & Xander on Amazon

Pen&Xander.v9

Pre-order Pen & Xander on Amazon now!

Pen Prado has a passion for cooking. Specifically, cooking her father’s food in her father’s restaurant. It’s the heart of their immigrant neighborhood, a place where everyone belongs, and second chances are always on the menu. Except for Pen. Despite the fact that there’s something almost magic about her food, her father can’t imagine anything worse than her following in his footsteps. And when Pen confesses to keeping a secret from her family, he fires her, ensuring she never will.

Xander Amaro is undocumented but that doesn’t stop Ignacio Prado from offering him a job at his restaurant. For Xander, it’s a chance to make amends and to sever his toxic relationship with the druglord, El Cantil–a man whose been like a father to him since his own disappeared. Soon after, his mother abandoned him too, leaving behind a void that not even his abuelo can fill. Until he meets Pen.

Both seeking a place where they feel like they truly belong, they end up finding each other, and in the face of tremendous fear and self-doubt, they end up finding themselves.

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Pen & Xander Cover Reveal

Pen&Xander.v9

Pen Prado has a passion for cooking. Specifically, cooking her father’s food in her father’s restaurant. It’s the heart of their immigrant neighborhood, a place where everyone belongs, and second chances are always on the menu. Except for Pen. Despite the fact that there’s something almost magic about her food, her father can’t imagine anything worse than her following in his footsteps. And when Pen confesses to keeping a secret from her family, he fires her, ensuring she never will.

Xander Amaro is undocumented but that doesn’t stop Ignacio Prado from offering him a job at his restaurant. For Xander, it’s a chance to make amends and to sever his toxic relationship with the druglord, El Cantil–a man whose been like a father to him since his own disappeared. Soon after, his mother abandoned him too, leaving behind a void that not even his abuelo can fill. Until he meets Pen.

Both seeking a place where they feel like they truly belong, they end up finding each other, and in the face of tremendous fear and self-doubt, they end up finding themselves.

Add it to your TBR list on Goodreads

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Want an ARC of my next novel?

The last thing I wanted was for it to take me an entire year to publish my next book. After the reaction to TDOTN I wanted to purge the experience as quickly as possible by getting something new out there, something that would allow me to prove to myself that I could finish something else, that it could be good. I needed another book to help me get my confidence back.

And yet, here I am, exactly one year later, still trying to squeeze out these last three chapters.

But I will get them out. And I will publish this novel. And if people hate it…I will still write another one. Because that’s what I do. What I have to do.

So, here’s the plan: finish the final chapters of this novel before the weekend, complete my final read-through and formatting by Sunday, and then send out ARCs Sunday night.

I think providing trusted friends and loyal readers with advanced copies is the perfect way to dip my toe into the sometimes treacherous waters of public opinion. And if I get good feedback maybe I’ll actually be able to sleep at night during those weeks leading up to publication on October 31st.

If you have a blog and would be interested in an advanced review copy of my novel please fill out the form below so I can get the correct format to you. I’ll post the full synopsis soon, but for now, here’s my Twitter pitch:

Pen & Xander is a contemporary YA romance about food and finding where you belong set in a Mexican restaurant that is the heart of an immigrant neighborhood.

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My Writing Process

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Yesterday’s post got me thinking about the value of indie authors being transparent about the diversity of their experiences and how seeing that every writer life is different can help us alleviate so much stress, envy, and anxiety from the creative process.

I don’t post about my personal experience as a writer because I think it should be the blueprint for all other indies. I try to be transparent about the ups and downs of my own writer life in order to show that I’m still just trying to figure things out and that I can still be “trying to figure things out” while also making good money from writing, which is proof that there is no perfect formula for self-publishing success.

This is good news. This means that despite what advice is floating around online, despite what other indies are doing (including me) there is no right way to do this writing thing. There is only your way, and as long as your way honors your beliefs and values and safeguards your health and well being, then your way is the best way. Keep doing it.

I think after reading about my own writing process, you’ll also begin to see that sometimes the best way actually means no way and that’s still okay too.

My writing process looks different during the school year than it does in the summer and for the purpose of full transparency, last year while I was teaching there were many months when it was pretty much nonexistent (hence why I’m still working on a novel that was supposed to come out in April).

Summer 2017:

7:00 AM–> Wake up *hey, I’m sleeping in a little*
*check KDP & Draft2Digital to calculate revenue for the past 24 hours and make sure nothing catastrophic has happened that will drastically change my projections for that month
*I’ve also been checking Tapas, which so far has not turned out to be as lucrative as I thought it would be *make a note to revisit Wattpad presence*
*Check email
*I should also be honest and say that I’m also simultaneously scrolling through Twitter while doing most of these other things

8:30 AM–> Writing time OR working out (it depends what time my Pure Barre class is that day *yes, I’ve joined the cult*)
*Right now, writing for me is writing this blog post but sometimes it means re-reading what I wrote the day before, making a few notes, and then getting back to work

12:00 PM –> Lunch, which is usually guacamole
*I’m lucky if I can hold my creative focus for this long. Sometimes I’ll write straight through, which usually leaves me with a HUGE writer hangover the next day, which I must recover from with the help of even more guacamole and a bunch of mindless shit on Bravo. But usually the three and a half hours between the beginning of my writing time and lunch are a combination of writing sprints and more Twitter checking

1:00 PM –> Writing Time Part II
*I try to grind out as many words as I can before my boyfriend gets home so I’m not glued to the computer screen while he’s trying to tell me about his day (sometimes this works but sometimes I’m nearing the end of a project–like now–and it’s more difficult to wrap things up, especially if I’ve finally found a bit of momentum)
*If my brain starts getting tired I’ll switch to blogging or reading (either my library books or blog posts/articles online). I’ve also started listening to podcasts a lot more lately

3:00 PM –> Try to relax *emphasis on TRY*

*Evenings* –> These are constantly changing…
*If my boyfriend wants to spend a couple of hours working on music before dinner I’ll try to get some more writing done
*If he’s doing live sound that night I’ll definitely make myself get some more writing done (I’ve felt guilty this summer taking writing breaks while he’s at work all day)
*If he’s exhausted from work I let myself be too and we watch TV until it’s time to go to bed, which for me is embarrassingly early *usually, 9 PM*

The next day…
*Sometimes I can get up and do it all again
*Sometimes I can’t
*When I was really in the meat of my novel this summer I found myself only able to write new material every other day and the days in between my brain only had enough energy for revisions. Sometimes I needed a break from both but anxiety over my looming deadline would force me to at least have the laptop open and my MS pulled up while I picked at it like a zombie

School Year 16/17:

August-October–> I was waking up every morning at 5:30 AM to spend a few hours working on The Daughter of the Night. It was miserable and I probably won’t ever do it again

November-December–> I hardly wrote at all and took a much needed break after all those early mornings and then people didn’t even like it and it really sucked and made me sad…

January-March–> Tried to write on Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes that meant writing on Saturdays and revising on Sundays. Sometimes that meant writing on one of those days and sleeping on the other

April-May–> Pushed back my deadline to June; continued my weekend routine

June–> Pushed back my deadline to July; continued my weekend routine until school let out. Gave myself a week to recharge and then began my summer routine

July–> Even with my new summer routine of writing almost every day I still had to push my deadline back ONCE AGAIN to August

13 days in…and I’m praying I won’t have to push it back to September.

As you can see, I sort of need structure but I also need the flexibility to be kind to myself. What isn’t as visible from my descriptions above is how often I’ve actually been letting myself take breaks. Sometimes that means taking a 2-hour lunch in front of the TV before getting back to writing and sometimes that means doing no writing at all. It just depends on what my brain and body are telling me, which I think I’ve gotten much better at interpreting through the course of writing this novel.

What’s wrong with this way of doing things? Well, the novel still isn’t finished yet and it’s the only one I plan on putting out this year, mostly because I can’t produce anything at a faster rate. But because I know that about myself it’s not a huge disappointment. This means that instead of beating myself up every time I need to take a break I can just take a freaking break. After almost 8 novels I’m no longer trying to prove to myself that I can finish. I’m no longer trying to prove anything to anyone at all, except maybe to you. That YOU can come up with a routine that works for YOU and still achieve success. And the best part? It doesn’t have to be grueling. It can be kind. You can be kind to yourself and still reach the finish line, possibly more refreshed and more in love with writing than when you started.

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Long-term

dan-carlson-141263I’ve been pretty committed to my resolution to stay in my lane. When I first started this indie journey I was a sponge, absorbing every blog, tweet, and news article related to self-publishing and not just the useful bits of information but the toxic jealousy inducing stuff too. It wasn’t long before this started to get in the way of my writing.

First it just felt impossible to start and then in the midst of writing it would be harder to keep going. I was doubting myself at every turn and eventually I had to stop. I had to stop watching what other people were doing, I had to stop comparing my sales to theirs, I had to stop thinking that I was supposed to be anyone other than myself.

Today, I only check-in with a few of my favorite indie authors and bloggers like Joanna Penn, J.A. Konrath, Nick Stephenson, and Lindsey Buroker. Not only do they provide excellent resources for other indie authors but they also offer an excellent perspective on indie publishing as a whole, which seems to be formulated around the idea that there is more than enough room for everyone. I share in this belief, which is why I only try to expose myself to likeminded creatives online.

This summer (my first since becoming a teacher), as I’ve been slugging through the emotional fatigue of finishing my 8th novel, I’ve had a lot more “free” time (i.e. brain breaks between writing/revisions) and have found myself dipping my toe back into the online indie world mostly out of curiosity but also out of my desire to stay semi-plugged in to the changes that are happening in self-publishing. What I’ve discovered is that not only are there more ways to reach success as an indie author these days there are also a lot more definitions of what that success actually looks like.

I used to think the only goal for an author was to be able to write full time. Turns out, plenty of people have day jobs they love and enjoy writing on the side for a little extra income. Speaking of income, I used to think that an author had to be making at least as much as that day job in order to make the transition. In actuality, people are leaving their jobs for a lot more and a lot less in order to pursue their dreams. For some writers, a couple thousand dollars a month is plenty. For others they won’t be satisfied until they reach six figures. For some authors freedom means having the time and flexibility to write 10 books a year and for others it means being able to squeeze in writing time between a full-time job and a family without having to worry about their creativity being the sole means of paying the bills.

Everyone’s writer life is different.

We work and reach milestones at a different pace and the milestones we reach are totally unique to our needs and goals. And that’s okay.

Listening to other writer’s stories over the past few months has gotten me thinking about my own goals–not the short-term yearly goals that I discussed in this post (speaking of which, I’ve got 2 down, 1 to go, 2 to be postponed until 2018)–but my vision. What do I want life to look like in the future? How am I building something for the long-term?

At first this vision was contaminated by all of the things I’d been reading and listening to from other indies. I have to be making six figures, become a public speaker, teach self-publishing workshops, create a podcast, become Instagram famous, become friends with all of the big name indies on Twitter, buy a huge mansion, and eventually become a multi-millionaire.

And how was I going to get there? Don’t worry, other authors online had plenty of advice for that too. From what I gathered…

I need to write 5-15 books a year, I need to pump up my mailing list to 10K, I need to blog 2-3 times a week, I need to find an agent and become a hybrid author, I need to wake up every morning at 5AM to write before work and then I need to forgo personal time and stay up writing until 1AM, I need to buy FB ads and Amazon ads and BookBub ads, and I need…I need…I need…

What I needed to do was stop focusing on what others are doing and stay in my lane. Not only because most of those things are not humanly possible for me (who writes 15 quality books a year?) but also because they have absolutely nothing to do with my vision.

Which is, very simply, to make enough money not to worry about having a bad writing day.

Over the past four years I’ve learned so much about the importance of my mental health and now all of my writing goals–short-term and long-term–revolve around taking care of me first. So even though I still get a twinge of envy when I see other authors who aren’t so crippled by their own anxiety that they can quit their day jobs after making only twenty thousand…thirty thousand a year from writing, I know that my path requires patience for a reason. That reason being my mind and my body’s inability to deal with the pressure of putting all of my eggs in one basket. So even though some people might think I’m crazy for pursuing a totally different career and sticking with it despite the fact that I’m on track to make almost fifty thousand dollars this year…I just don’t think I’m in a place yet where I can take the plunge.

And, like I said before, that’s okay. Because I’m not thinking about the fifteen books I could write next year if I’d just quit my day job. I’m thinking about the books I’ll be writing over the next fifteen years that will be so much stronger thanks to the fact that I’m not constantly worried about whether or not they’ll make me money.

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