Writing Updates: Shadow of the Magician and More

That’s a pretty cool sight, right?

As a writer, having all those words you’ve written in book format is really just an indescribable feeling. I can’t even accurately tell you what that feels like except damn good.

In May I finished the most recent draft of Shadow of the Magician. I’m really excited about where it’s finally gotten to and feel this is about the absolute best I can do with it, so it’s time to stop picking at it and start moving it forward.

It’s been heavily workshopped over the last year and change by my writing group and now I’m moving to the beta reader stage. As most of the readers in my beta group are 40+, I decided they probably didn’t want to read almost a 100,000 word book in PDF format. Plus one of my writing friends turned me on to the fact that yes, you CAN print on demand small runs of books for not very much money. I ordered from Lulu’s and ended up getting the books for about $10 a piece. I think the quality of the books turned out great, considering I’m entirely an amateur in terms of formatting books and making a cover. That wasn’t really my goal though, to create a copy that would be for sale. I just wanted something that would make it so much easier for my beta readers to read and (hopefully) enjoy.

There are now ten of these review copies in the world. Maybe they’ll be worth something someday. At the very least, it’s worth something to me. To other writers, I highly recommend doing this to your work…I think going forward I’ll create at least a few copies of every book I finish. If your goal is to publish traditional and you don’t sell it, man the satisfaction of having that thing for yourself is so, so good. Like I could get addicted to it.

My goal with this book is to hopefully publish it traditionally. So the next step after the beta read is to review their feedback, fix it, and then begin the process of submitting to agents.

If it doesn’t get picked up though, I do strongly feel I will publish it myself at a later date. A lot of time and energy have been poured into this project and I am both proud of it and excited for future explorations in the same world. Too excited for those future explorations at the moment to let this just fade away in a drawer.

I’m crossing my fingers that I can finish the next round of edits in a timely fashion, get my materials together, and start submitting to agents this fall before they shut down over the holidays. We’ll see if my work schedule actually allows for that. But I am trying to restructure and reorganize to inject better balance in my life because what I’ve been doing, it ain’t workin’ for me and it needs to change in a big way.

Along with finishing this draft of Shadow, I also wrote and submitted a short story to an anthology. Really crossing my fingers it makes it in. That short story takes place slightly after the events of Shadow (though it features different characters) and will serve as a bridge into a future book in the same world (or maybe two). I haven’t started trying to plot any future stories yet. I have two ideas and I feel I could do them both or just do one if I don’t feel I have enough meat for the both of them. But I need to do a lot more reading and research to start developing those ideas to see if they amount to anything.

If you’ve seen me any time in the last two months, you’re probably floored that I actually managed to do this much on the writing front. But wait! There’s more…

I wrote a flash fiction story in the fall, something completely different, and had a grand idea to maybe start serially publishing more stories in that world on this blog. For all that this has been my personal book and writing corner for the last eight years (!!!), there’s a distinct lack of my own writing on here for general consumption which I think is kind of a problem. So I started outlining a longer short story or maybe a novella I could serially publish on here….but then it quickly started to feel like that story was going to be another book. Or maybe more than one book. In any case, I ended up finishing an outline for whatever that work ultimately decides to be when I dig into it. So I got that done too!

I also have a draft of another book I had written a few years ago, before I decided I wanted to dig in and finish Shadow. I still really, really like that story and that world and I want to go back to it. It’ll probably need a total rewrite because it’s been three years (or maybe four?) and the opinion of pretty much everyone who saw my writing in 2018 and 2019, is that along with everything else going on in my life, I made really big strides forward in my writing abilities. Yay for that, but it means any of these other projects I have from the past that I might want to pick up again need to be revamped. Le sigh.

My group has really encouraged me to start something new though and not get stuck trying to improve something old. I think they’re right because it was really, really hard and discouraging at times for me to work through everything I needed to do with Shadow. Sometimes I felt like giving up on writing entirely. But as I said, I still really like the draft story I have even though I wonder that with our current climate of political correctness and sensitivity readers, whether I should even be trying to tell that story.

What I do know is that I’m not going to start another book right away. I want to write a few short stories set before the beginning of Shadow and I should work on the query letter and crafting some synopses of different lengths for Shadow while I wait on the feedback from beta readers. I also have a few more small fact-checking related items to look into which will require some emails to different people.

 

Reflections on a Year in Business

“Sometimes the only available transportation is a leap of faith.”

A year ago, I was clinging to this quote like a life raft. Trying to believe it was all going to work out, one way or another.

When I wrote this, I was sitting on a bench in Central Park. The night before, I’d worn the fanciest dress I’ve ever owned to a black tie dinner at The Grand Havana room in New York City for a client fundraiser.

A year ago I would never have imagined this would be my life. Never would have imagined the opportunities that were in front of me. The people I’d get to meet and help.

This year passed both fast and slow. Fast in that I can’t believe it’s only been a year since I was staring down the mouth of a major life change. Slow because the sheer amount of things that have been stuffed into the last twelve months makes it feel as if I’ve been running this business for at least a decade.

I haven’t done a good job at keeping up on this blog with updates on how my entrepreneurial journey unfolded. But frankly, most of this last year was just blindingly busy. I’ve worked harder than I ever have in my life – which is saying a lot because I’ve always worked hard.

There have been days full of tremendous doubt, incredibly solitary moments of doing battle with my own anxiety, and long nights of wondering if I’ll look back at these years and think them worth it.

But on the other end, there have been many moments of pure joy, utter excitement, and intense creativity. From publications to a simple, sincere “Thank You,” life is a revelation. I believe it is our duty to squeeze every drop of feeling from the moments around us, for good or for ill.

And I will say when you work this hard, every moment of relaxation is that much sweeter. Even an afternoon shooting the shit with the neighbors with a beer in hand is full of as much unadulterated happiness as laying on the beach in Mexico sipping a fruity drink. I would know, I’ve done both in the last year.

Things are far from perfect at the moment. There is much I’d like to change about my business, but for the moment, even being here is a gift not afforded many. I’ll be 30 in about seven months and while I had hoped for different things at this stage in my life, I believe that everything is unfolding as planned. I still have time and thus far, I have been tremendously and abundantly blessed.

So if you’ve read this far, it’s probably a good time to share what I’ve learned in the last year of business. The things that I didn’t uncover on any book or podcast, the things I had to learn through doing. If you are thinking of starting your own business, I hope you’ll take these truths to heart:

1. You Have to Get Your Mind Right

This is a huge, huge thing. I’ve learned that almost nothing else matters if your mind is not right. If you are not in a good place, your business won’t be in a good place. So it is absolutely crucial that you block, deny, and eviscerate anything that is significantly pulling you down. You have to be selfish about controlling your input and be sure that you are nurturing your mind and your spirit always. However that looks for you, that is what you have to do. Even if no one else understands, you have to be courageous in looking after yourself.

2. Your Network is Your Net Worth

Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so afraid a year ago if I had known this truth. The people around you are your riches in business. Even if they don’t or can’t work with you directly, treat everyone like gold. I’ve gotten referrals from the most unexpected places and people. I’ve had people I haven’t talked to in years re-enter my life or send me business because of a remembered kindness from years ago. When treated right, your network becomes both your army and shield.

3. Love Those Around You

A few weeks ago a thought started kicking around in my head: “You get more grace than you deserve”.

But I don’t think that’s true.  Instead, I’ve decided, you get the grace you deserve. When you love people well, treat them right, and do everything you can for them, when you need grace, love, and kindness in return, they will give it to you in spades. It’s as simple as that. And the ones that won’t…well they’re not your people anyway.

So today, I’m looking forward to another 365 day journey around the sun with my business and I absolutely can’t wait to see where I’ll be sitting a year from now. Thanks for being here with me and supporting this little dream one way or another. It means the world to know you’re out there ❤️

“Homecoming” in Print, More Writing News, and Other Updates

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I’m excited to share that my short fiction story, “Homecoming”, is out in the April issue of The Plaid Horse magazine. I won Honorable Mention in their 2018 Equestrian Voices Creative Writing Contest. So cool to see the story in print! If you get the magazine, make sure to take a look at the story and let me know what you think!

On other writing news, I’m also finishing up a short story submission for a pirate-themed anthology that’s due later this month. Along with Homecoming, this is one of the first completely new pieces I’ve wrote in a long, long time – I’d almost forgotten how fun it is to be creating! My story is set in the same world as my novel, Shadow of the Magician, and is also a work of historical fiction with supernatural elements. I’m honestly having so much fun coming up with more ideas for this world and I wish I had more time to write.

Speaking of needing more time to write, I am slowly chipping away at my last round of edits for Shadow. I have been working a lot on Minute Marketing the last few months and have not been able to find adequate time or energy to devote to finishing it so we have been crawling along. But we are slowly getting there!

As always, I am again trying to figure out what I’m doing with my blog. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been reading lately. Like at all. I’m in the middle of two books and they’re both just hanging around, waiting patiently for me to pick them up again. I’m still trying to read Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas and Talk Triggers by Jay Baer. I don’t think it’s the fault of either book, I just haven’t felt like reading lately. Hopefully I’ll get over that soon. My book club just picked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman for our May read – so I guess have to get started on that too. Have you read it?

Anyway back to the blog – I’m planning to get back to weekly posts. I also created an email list if you’d like to join. I have high hopes of putting together a semi-regular email with maybe the new release books I’m most excited about, some excerpts of whatever I’m writing, and maybe some exclusive writing content. Not positive on what it will be yet, but I’d love to have you as a subscriber! I love my blog and writing and hope to put more time into creating content here again soon! ❤ Thank you for being here in my corner of the internet!

 

 

No Regrets: Adventuring Through Life

No Regrets: Adventuring Through Life by Linda McDermott

No Regrets is the story of how one woman travels all seven continents in an effort to grow from the small, Midwestern beliefs with which she’d been raised. Linda leads the reader through an inspirational memoir including adventures that once seemed out of reach—from washing elephants in Nepal to working (twice) in Antarctica—all the while learning to trust herself.

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(A copy of this book was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review)

I don’t do that many sponsored posts on this blog – partially because I don’t always have time to read to a deadline and partially because if I’m going to do one, I try to pick a book I think I’ll really like.

Life’s been more than a little busy lately, but when I saw what this memoir was about, I immediately knew I wanted to read it. I’ve always wanted to travel, but it’s only now that I’m older that I feel like I have the opportunity to make that a reality. The last few years I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to one new place each year…a practice I hope to keep up for as long as I can.

Because I totally understand the motivation behind Linda McDermott’s wanderlust and the title of the book, No Regrets. We only get this one life, something I’ve also been intentionally conscious of the last few years. This quote from Tuck Everlasting often runs through my head:

“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”

I’m constantly trying to remind myself that I have choices to make about how I want to live, so that when I come to the end of my life, which will hopefully be a long, long time from now, I can look back with no regrets. That I packed a lot of life in my years and made the most of the time I was given on Earth. Which includes going out to explore said Earth.

No Regrets is a memoir of Linda McDermott’s life in travel. McDermott began traveling the mid-1980s on adventures that would take her from a road trip through the US to the Swiss Alps to Nepal to Fiji and even to Antarctica. Along the way she chronicled her adventures and experiences. I really enjoyed this book because I liked that her adventures weren’t run of the mill – there was a lot of spontaneity and a lot of off-the-beaten-path adventures. Not the typical tourist things. I also enjoyed that McDermott wasn’t a very young girl when she started and most of her travel was done as a middle-aged woman or older. In the epilogue, she tells the story of a trip to the Swiss Alps conducted in her seventies! This is not the memoir of a privileged young adult who set off to travel the world before settling down, but rather the story of a woman who worked hard and prioritized making the most of her time on Earth to have new experiences –  exactly the sort of woman I aspire to be!

This is a feel-good story filled with that sense of awe and wonder that only comes when you’ve truly opened your eyes to seeing the beauty in everything and everyone around you. This book is the perfect spring break or summer beach read – perhaps while you’re off having your own grand adventure!

I’m also pleased to share that if you review this book on Goodreads or Amazon, the publicist is offering two additional stories by the author for free. If you read and review this book, make sure you email Alyssa at Mind Buck Media to get your free stories (alyssa [@] mindbuckmedia.com)

 

Will It Fly?

Will It Fly? by Pat Flynn

Stop rushing into businesses born from half-baked ideas, misguided theories, and other forms of self-delusion. A lack of proper validation kills more businesses than anything else. As Joel Barker says, “Speed is only useful if you’re running in the right direction.” Will It Fly? will help you make sure you are clear for takeoff. It answers questions like: 

– Does your business idea have merit?
– Will it succeed in the market you’re trying to serve, or will it just be a waste of time and resources?
– Is it a good idea for you? 

In other words, will it fly?

Chock-full of practical suggestions you can apply to your business idea today, Will It Fly? combines action-based exercises and real-world case studies with anecdotes from the author’s personal experience of making money online, hosting successful podcasts, testing niche sites, and launching several online businesses.

Will It Fly? will challenge you to think critically, act deliberately, and dare greatly. You can think of the book as your business flight manual, something you can refer to for honest and straight-forward advice as you begin to test your idea and build a business that takes off and soars.

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I was initially hesitant to post a review of this book for fear it would make be seem like an obsessed fangirl. I’ve actually met the author before and I started going to his monthly entrepreneur meet-up in Downtown San Diego. BUT. This book is really good. Really good. And I figured you, the readers of my blog, should know about it!

After all, that’s why I started this blog right? To give reviews of books I’d read and liked to people in need of recommendations? So here you go!

This book is very practical and interactive. It walks you through the framework and encourages you to actually take time to do it as you move through the book.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Shannon there’s a million books like that on the market, why should I get this one?”

You should get it because I, who have spent a good chunk of the last couple years consuming podcasts and books about self-development, entrepreneurship, business, and marketing, still got something new out of this book. Something about the way Pat Flynn describes the Five Years exercise really made me think about my business in a different way and deepened my focus and commitment to what I really want and don’t want out of life.

But more than that, as I said, this book is highly actionable. Meaning if you put in the work, you will get something out of it. In fact I’ve had this book on my desk for two months since I finished it (yeah, I’m just now writing the review, leave me alone) and I keep thinking I need to go back and do the exercises from Part 3 because I didn’t have time when I was reading it to do the exercises. Though I’m know they’re really good and worth doing because I heard a scaled down version of it at a talk Pat gave that I attended.

Also if you enjoy his podcast, you will not be disappointed in the book because it sounds exactly like him. You can practically hear him reading it aloud in your mind. So that’s nice!

Leapfrog

Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs by Nathalie Molina Niño

Think the most critical factor for becoming a great entrepreneur is grit, risk-taking, or technical skills? Think again. Despite what every other business book might say, historical data show the real secret ingredients to getting ahead in business are being rich, white, and male.

Until now. Leapfrog is the decades-overdue startup bible for the rest of us. It’s filled with uncompromising guidance for winning at business, your way. Leapfrog is for entrepreneurs of all stripes who are fed up with status quo advice–the kind that assumes you have rich friends and family and a public relations team.

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Let me start by saying this is a good read for any female in business, not just entrepreneurs. And though this book does talk to and assume its audience is female minorities, there’s still good stuff to be gained if you’re a woman that’s not a minority. Basically, the only people I don’t recommend this to are the old money white males Niño names on the back cover blurb.

I heard about this book from an interview with the author on Sunny Lenarduzzi’s podcast. It was a really good episode, you can listen to it here. And as has happened to me so many times this past year, after the podcast was done I went to Amazon and purchased a copy of the book. I’m always looking for new books to fill up my Miracle Morning book pipeline since that’s the only thing I seem to be reading these days!

Leapfrog has a very loose structure: the fifty hacks in the book are divided by the themes of Ready-Set-Go-Fund-Grow. But what’s great about this book is that, similar to Tribe of Mentors, you don’t really need to read it in order or even read the whole thing in a timely fashion. You can pick it up and just read a hack here and there. Each of the hacks are only a couple pages long so the content is pretty digestible. But they’re also highly actionable!

When I’m reading fiction, I usually judge how well I’m enjoying a book by how often I get the craving to just pick it up and read a few more pages or another chapter. With non-fiction, I still use that same metric, but I also add in how passages I marked or how many pages I dog-earred (I know, I know). Leapfrog hit the mark on all three points.

I’ve already recommended this book to some female entrepreneur friends in my life so today, I’m recommending it to you too if you’ve ever found yourself frustrated or feeling alone as you build your business or career! This is a book I’m sure you’ll return to often.