The Secret of Success

Fun fact: I’ve never been financially stable. Not one year in my entire adult life.

I’ve scraped by. Some years, the years I considered windfalls, were still relatively slim. Others, I never would have made it without help from my family.

I live in the home I grew up in, with other family members. I share a car. I don’t go on fancy vacations. Or eat out. Or get my hair done.

Is this a sacrifice?

It’s supposed to be. But I don’t feel as though I’m missing anything. I don’t get excited by designer handbags or flights to Hawaii. I get excited by tools of the trade (and every year, it seems as though I need another subscription to another piece of software for formatting or design or some other aspect of book creation).

What I’ve struggled with over the years (the lede’s buried a bit here), is the question of whether this is success. We’ve all been conditioned to consider one’s finances as the true indicator of success. If it’s in the bank, your idea worked. Congratulations. We’re told that our main goal–or perhaps the only goal–is income. An accumulation of wealth. Anything that doesn’t pay out wasn’t worth our time. And, by extension, if it isn’t already popular, I, as a consumer, shouldn’t be interested in it, either. Because monetary success = good. (This attitude obviously helps to keep unknowns from breaking out and making that oh-so-precious money, of course.)

In 2016, I saw two different books release from two different Big 5 publishers. My writing take-home that year? Four figures. (It’s important here to note that’s not the full amount I made on those books–but because of how advances are divided up, that’s what I made that year.) That line of reasoning didn’t help relieve the disappointment, though. And I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a disappointment. Something I felt should be hidden away, not admitted to.

In the years since, I’ve felt myself letting go of these feelings. Not because I was trying to. They just slowly dissipated. The same way I felt myself letting go of checking on my online stats every two seconds. My dream was to become a writer. By hook or crook, I am a writer. I get up every single day and immerse myself in stories.

What is that, if not success?

There will always be people who buy into the idea that monetary success is the only success. Often, these are people who are happy to share what they make each year–because they’re proud of it. They aren’t having four-figure years. They have new cars and pictures of Hawaii. That’s fine. It’s not wrong. It’s their definition. It just doesn’t happen to be mine. 

My definition (I’ve said this so many times the last few years) is, simply, this: Success is getting your teeth kicked in and then getting back up the next day and putting your heart into your work all over again, with the same passion and enthusiasm you felt the day before. Not letting the outside world convince you what you’re doing isn’t worthy of your time. Holding on to your passions, even when other people think it’s foolish.

That’s it. 

Because the thing is, I don’t have to live up to anyone else’s definition of success. Only mine. 

The same is true of you–you only have to live up to your definition. 

That, it seems, is the true secret of success. 

2023 Goals

To be honest, I was a little bummed at my ’22 output. I had a ton of ideas and partial drafts and not nearly as many finished products as I would have liked.

I’ve said it before, but ’22 was rotten. Everything broke. I got Covid twice. I was in an unending cycle of feeling crummy and repairing some random something in the house and dealing with dog seizures and all the everyday life stuff–cooking dinner and putting away laundry and mowing and changing oil and painting windows and, and, and…

It all does a number on finishing projects.

So the finished-project goal for ’23 is enormous. Nine projects. Nine. They all got started and quickly derailed by ’22. I’m completely aware I may (read: probably) not get every single one of these done. But I’m committed, this year, to sticking with a single project until it’s completed (and not getting derailed by anything short of a literal tornado). It’ll be fun to challenge myself to get as much done as I can.

I’m currently hard at work on finishing my MG (project #1 on the list), and have already begun my New Year’s Resolution (which is in addition to the nine projects): learning handlettering in Procreate. I mean, resolutions should be fun, too, right?

Anyone else setting crazy goals this year?

Updates coming soon!

Booktoker –

So I’ve officially joined those over at TikTok, offering sneak peeks and writing advice. It’s really the most fun I’ve had on a social media site.

Where to find me:

I used to think this would be a terrible way to write–that it’d result in a mess of a first draft. But it’s one of the best ways I’ve found to get from idea to completed draft–and often needs less rewriting. #writingtips #booktok #authorsoftiktok #amwriting #writingcommunity

♬ Paperback Writer – Remastered 2015 – The Beatles

Suddenly a Podcast Junkie

I’m as late to the party as it gets, but I’ve suddenly become a podcast junkie. I’d never really been able to get into audiobooks much, but I’m in love with scripted, serial podcasting. They come with music–and sound effects–and actors! (See what I mean? As late to the party as it gets.) I’m sure it’s like listening to radio programs of old.

I’m in love and fascinated with the power of sound in storytelling.

Right now, I’m really into horror podcasts. The scarier the better. Alice Isn’t Dead has my complete attention right now:

I can’t wait to see what else is out there. Got any recommendations? Drop ’em in the comments.

Jutoh Writing Software – Speech Function for Copyediting

My new favorite function of Jutoh (which I’ve been using for formatting Ebooks) is the speech function. Not dictation–speech. As in: the program reads your work back to you.

To be fair, other writing softwares have this feature as well. (I found it in Scrivener and it might even be in Word somewhere–I know some versions of Word have dictation, so it might also have speech.) But the program I tried it out in is Jutoh, so I’ll focus my post on that experience.

I used it for my copyediting. And it’s fantastic.

My mind has a tendency to wander a bit on the very last read-through. At that point, I can usually recite the book. And there’s something about finding mistakes that can also help keep you focused. But on the last couple of reads, when the typos are down to a minimum, it’s so easy to read right by a mistake and never see it.

I found the speech function helped keep my mind on the text. You really do have to stay zeroed in on the project in order to keep your reading in time with the voice. (I was also pleasantly surprised by the voice–it didn’t sound too terribly artificial, wasn’t too fast or too slow, and it even did a surprisingly good job of pronouncing proper nouns that were unique to my work.)

The best part is that when there’s a typo, the speech function will read an incorrect word: though instead of through, for example. It stands out in a way it wouldn’t if you were reading quietly.

I’ll be using that function on final copyedits from here on out.

A Blue So Dark – The 2022 Re-Release

It feels really good to announce that this one’s live again: my very first ever published book, A Blue So Dark!

It was an utter joy to return to this one. I think your first always has a special place in your heart, and as I was going back through the text, it all came back: the lovely reviews, interacting with bloggers, getting to introduce myself as an author for the first time to local librarians and book sellers.

It was all such a fantastic experience.

To celebrate, the ebook is currently $.99. Prints will come soon–doing both paperback and hardback for this one. (The book has never before appeared in a hardback edition. I’m going to offer both a case laminate hardback as well as the more traditional cloth cover hardback with a separate jacket.)

Click to order:





February Is The Cruelest Month

It’s been such a rough month. I mean rough. Snow storms and ice dams on the roof. A canine epileptic seizure. Crazy tax stuff. Credit cards getting canceled because of fraudulent activity. If it could break, it did. A bookcase collapsed. Tile fell in the bathroom. And this:

Yes, that’s a hole in the ceiling. My brother and I were in the attic, when suddenly, we weren’t. Actually, we kind of half-fell, half caught each other to keep from tumbling all the way down.

That said, I’ve been copyediting like crazy, working to republish my debut novel, A Blue So Dark:

This time around, I’ve just been reading the manuscript on a pile of drywall.

Subscribe to my YA Newsletter for the official release announcement–hopefully, hopefully, hopefully that will be soon!

You Need to Indie Publish Something

January’s my birthday month. It was a (semi) milestone year, the kind that makes you want to impart some sort of golden nugget of wisdom. I’ve been asking myself: If I could give one piece of advice to writers, what would it be?

Simply, this: You need to indie publish something.

Twenty years ago, I never would have believed I’d be giving that advice. I got my master’s degree and took the plunge into full-time writing with the dream of the hardback book on a B&N shelf, a pretty little logo on the spine from an imprint at one of the big New York houses.

I’ve done traditional publishing. I’ve done indie (self) publishing. I’m in no way going to try to sell you on one vehicle being superior to another. There are definite benefits and drawbacks to both.


Nothing’s taught me about writing quite like indie publishing has. I’ve learned so much–about formatting, about promotion, about book classification and marketing. I’ve been able to try out new blurbs and covers, and watch in real time what kind of effect it has. I’ve learned what appeals to readers. And it’s impacted my actual writing. Covers and marketing are right there in the front of my mind as I begin to draft a book. It’s tightened the entire process.

If you’re an author with a drawer manuscript that went nowhere, publish it. If you’d rather do it under a pen name, that’s fine. But publish it–and DO NOT FARM ANY OF THE JOBS OUT. Learn to format it. Create a cover. Advertise it.

I’m a firm believer you’ll grow in ways you never thought possible.

Happy Holidays!

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for their support this year. For reading the new books, following along at the blog, taking a moment to drop a line. I can’t tell you all enough how much that means to me.

I wish all of you the very best this holiday season. May your nights be lit up with twinkle lights, may your gingerbread houses stand strong, and may you all get the best gift of all–the warmth of love from family and friends.

Looking forward to seeing you all in 2022!