ARTICLE: So, what do you do?

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So, what do you do?

What have you been up to?

 Did you find a job?

As a millennial in her mid-20’s, this question has easily become the bane of my existence. My life in regards to employment is unconventional to say the least. I’m ridiculous busy, yet not busy at all. If you don’t know me personally, let me give you a brief overview of the things I do (in order of importance).

  1. Club. I own a volleyball club that runs year around because there is a girls and a boys season. My responsibilities include all bookkeeping, ordering equipment/gear, coaching at practices and tournaments, and general admin work. (aka it’s almost tax season and I’m kind of stressed.)
  2. Coaching. In addition to owning a volleyball club, I’m also the head coach at a high school for a boys volleyball team. This is a lot of work as well because I have to invest more time into it. I practice 2-3 hours every week day and two of the days there are travel games, not to mention weekend tournaments. Once March rolls around, until the end of May, my scheduled is BOOKED.
  3. Weddings. I also started my own wedding videography business a couple years ago. So whenever I don’t have a tournament on a weekend, I book weddings to film. Usually this is an all-day affair for filming and consists of about one month of editing.
  4. Writing. While I would love to dedicate more time to writing it is more of a hobby as of now. I just finished Kalcyon (The Phoenix Ashes, #2) and I should probably start on the last installment of the trilogy soon.

Anyway, you’ll notice I’m not the traditional 9-5 type of person at all. I dabble into a lot of different things and so organizing my life is kind of a nightmare sometimes because I have to make sure to meet deadlines for each “job.” Which brings me back to the original dreaded questions. “So, what do you do?” People/family always ask this; it’s the question to fill silence with an answer that may or may not be interesting. The real question is, “What don’t I do?”

Typically, I’ll answer depending on my mood at that given moment. I hate to list the things I do because it usually leads to a lot of questions, so I stick with one and don’t mention the others. I have the luxury of trying new things at this moment in my life and I’m always thankful for the chance to discover what it is I want to dedicate my life to. I think it’s easy enough for me to find an office job and work a 40-hr week, but that’s just not me and I would probably go insane. (I’ve worked in an office for a fashion company before and when month three hit, I just couldn’t take it anymore).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though the road is tough and may not yield immediate spoils, seek your dream job or passion if you have the opportunity. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how easy it is to put in hours and hours of your time without it feeling like work at all. Most of the times, you won’t end up where you thought you would five years ago. I never imagined I’d be where I am today and I’m ecstatic with what I’ve accomplished in my 25 years of life. I might not be rolling in the dough, but I can confidently say that I am more than satisfied with where I am right at this moment. I can just feel that this year will be an incredible milestone for me. Keep reaching for the stars, they’re closer than you think.

Stop asking, “So, what do you do?”

It’s time to be asking, “So, what do you want to do and what are you going to do about it?”

ARTICLE POST: Book Reviews, an Author’s Favorite Gift

As both a writer and a reader, I have come to realize the importance of book reviews. I want to emphasize reviews–I am not referring to a book’s ratings. While ratings are important, the review is much more precious. Ratings are subjective because there will always be someone who absolutely hates it and wants to spit on it, but then across the world there is someone who adores it and will reread it until the pages are falling out.

No book will ever please every single reader who reads it. And I would bet my life savings on that statement.

Ratings will show how the majority of the readers feel about the book. Is it popular? Is it mainstream? Whether a book receives a 1-star rating or a 5-star rating, you’ll never know if you’ll like it or not until you read it. That’s why as a reader, I don’t look at the star ratings of a book. First, I look at the summary. Am I interested? Yes. Then, I read some of the reviews (1-star & 5-star reviews). I choose the extremes because I like to read what readers really hated about the book and loved about it. I never read reviews consisting of spoilers though–I hate if I know what happens.

Reviews. What do I look for? I’m mainly searching for red flags of a book’s characteristic in the plot that I know I’ll hate. These red flags are purely personal, so while I might hate something, another reader may love it. For example, there are thousands of readers who love the “The Selection” series by Kierra Cass. However, many of the reviews (good and bad) I’ve read for these books state the main character is extremely annoying because she is an indecisive protagonist. If there is one thing I hate, it’s an irritating main character who can’t make up her mind. So, for this reason, I will not be buying this series anytime soon. Not to say, if I did stumble upon it somewhere for free, I might pick it up to read to see for myself. But, as of now, I have books on my TBR pile that are more appealing with characters I’d enjoy reading about.

Authors live on book reviews. I love reading reviews about my books and to talk to readers to see what they expected, what they were surprised from, and what they were disappointed about. I don’t take anything personally, because I understand that I can’t and will never please every single reader. That’s the human condition in life. No matter how hard you try, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it for some reason. How boring would it be if everyone loved every single thing about the book? There has to be some tug and pull to keep it interesting. A little debate never hurt anyone!

However, there are many times where I have seen readers get unfairly treated for leaving negative reviews of a book they read from other readers who loved it, and vice versa. READERS, RESPECT OPINIONS. Everyone is subject to their own opinions about the books they read. Whether they loved it or hated it, doesn’t mean it’s okay to attack them for their opinions. Agree to disagree.

So readers, I really encourage you to leave ratings and especially reviews of the books you read. Even if it’s only a sentence or two, let the author know what you loved about it or what you absolutely hated about it. Authors love to hear what readers feel about the stories that consumed hours, days, weeks, months, and years of their lives whether it’s praise or criticism.

Check out my young adult fantasy book Karnage (The Phoenix Ashes Book 1)! If you love special powers, dragons, and fantastical worlds then you’ll enjoy it!

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ARTICLE POST: Two Types of Writers

Writers write because they have something to share. Whether they get something back in return is entirely out of their control, so they should focus on what they can control, and that’s their writing.

Some writers will write for their reading audience. They want readers to like their stories (I mean, who doesn’t?) so they end up catering the plot to what they believe will bode well for their audience; books like this are referred to as commercial lit. These writers may twist the plot so that everything works out and nobody important dies and there is a happy ending.

Then, there are the writers who don’t really care whether the readers will like it or not. These writers focus on how they want the plot to progress. If they kill off a reader’s favorite character, so be it. If the heroine ends up dumping every guy and spends life alone at the end of a seven book series, that’s that. Readers can throw the book across the room or cry their eyes out, but that’s how this author wanted it and maybe it was their intention all along. Basically, these writers have a vision for their novel and that’s what they focus on during their entire writing process.

I’m not saying there is a right or wrong to either types of writer. I’m sure there are even some writers who fall somewhere in between the spectrum of the two. In the end, the writer needs to be passionate about his or her story for it to really touch those who are reading it. If readers can feel the passion and toils it took for a writer to complete their story, it’ll be a success whether it receives a 1-star review or a 5-star review.

Most writers don’t write to get rich. They actually assume they’ll be broke. And most writers never get rich off their writing. Even if their book is a literary goldmine, it’s all about the market, and the market is a fickle son of a b****. Writers can try to “read” the market and guess what the next big thing is going to be, but that’s like picking a needle out of a haystack, and finishing a novel is hard enough. First it was vampires, followed by risque erotica, and the current fad dystopian worlds. Who’s to say, maybe the next thing to blow the literary market off its feet will be talking animals who have humans as pets! (You read it here first!)

So, with a market that’s always flopping around as quick as readers turn a page in a book, writers need to focus on the one thing they can control, their writing. Write what you love and never lose your passion, because at the end of the day, whether ten people read it or 10,000 people read it, it’ll be a good day.

 

 

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ARTICLE POST: The Indie Book Stigma

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There are two types of authors: self-published authors and traditionally published authors. But at the end of the day, both authors are still just writers who want to share their story to readers around the world. There are benefit and consequences to both methods of publishing. I haven’t been traditionally published (yet) and decided to go the self-publishing route for my first novel.

Why?

Main reason was that I’m insanely impatient. The second, I’m a do-it-yourself type of girl in the first place and I wanted to try my hand at it. From the moment I started writing my book, I had the cover drawn in my head. When I finally hired someone to create it was a surreal moment for me and I may have squealed once or twice. Formatting the book was a complete nightmare. There were nights that I wanted to tear my hair out because I was struggling to get the correct page numbering format on Word. But when it was all done and ready, the moment I held my book in my hands for the first time was guaranteed one of the best days of my life.

Sometimes I think I should have pursued traditional publishing with a little more kick in my step, but other days I’m happy about my decision to self-publish. Self-publishing is definitely NOT for the faint of heart. Luckily, I’m made of steel, or maybe I’m just stubborn and resilient. You have to be committed to the process and know that you’re in it alone and have to rely on your own resourcefulness with no guarantee of a return.

The biggest consequence for self-publishing that I have faced is EXPOSURE. It is near impossible to get an indie book into the hands of the readers. Print on Demand companies have made it a much user-friendly process compared to years before, but still it is near impossible to get it into brick-and-mortar aka Barnes and Noble (THE DREAM!…I’m still in the process of trying to get it on the shelves). There is a stigma in the book publishing industry about self-published books, and it is that the majority stinks; it is not as polished as traditionally published books and come off as amateurish. I agree to a certain extent. While there is a plethora of duds in the growing pile of slush, there are definitely hidden treasures mixed in.

How do I find these hidden gems, you ask?

Book reviewers and bloggers. Trust fellow readers. Especially if you have a book blogger you follow and find their reviews are similar to your own thoughts of the same books, then you’ll find that your reading taste is similar. It’s a chain reaction in the book world, so I guarantee that even if a book was absolutely trash but everyone was reading it, you would end up reading it too.

I’ve sent many copies of my books to book bloggers for a review and many of them enjoyed it very much. So, even though I’m not the most objective person on this topic, I do believe readers should give self-published authors a chance. They work just as hard as traditionally published authors to create stories for you to enjoy and even if you end up hating it, most authors are glad that you took the time to read it. I’ve been blessed with ten 5-star reviews on Amazon, and twelve on Goodreads (not necessarily from the same readers) for my first book KARNAGE (The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy Book 1). However, I wouldn’t mind an extra review that was even 1-star, why? Because at least someone took their time to read it and tell me what they didn’t like about it. I’m always curious to see what readers didn’t particularly like in my books, because it makes me take note of it for my next books.

PS. I’M RUNNING A GIVEAWAY FOR 15 EBOOK AND 15 PAPERBACK  ADVANCED READER COPIES (ARCs) OF KALCYON! Click the picture below to check out my instagram for more info!

kalcyon cover

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ARTICLE POST: Connecting You to the Next Level

It is becoming inherently apparent to me how important it is to treat others the way you would like to be treated. I am a Christian and the commandment has been a long standing reminder in following in the footsteps of God, but I’m imperfect and I lose my footing here and there. If you’re not Christian, please don’t be turned off or stop reading! This won’t be a sermon of any kind, it’s really an observation that I’ve learned as a person living in this crazy world.

First some background information. I’m a writer, but that doesn’t pay the bills. So, on the side I’m quite the entrepreneur. There’s something about building your own business from your own two hands, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart! But it is one of the most rewarding experiences when things work out. Anyways, I run my own wedding videography business and volleyball club. (The combination is totally random, I know)

In all of my personal endeavors, it requires me to interact with many different types of people: stressed brides and grooms, athletic children, some not-so athletic children, overbearing parents, invisible parents, bibliophiles, etc. Your first thought would be that none of these people is like the other. Wrong. If there’s one thing about communities, it’s that no matter what there is some connection from one person to another, somehow someway.

Whether you run your own business or you’re running errands for a boss, it should be your number one priority to present yourself in the most professional manner and to treat people kindly no matter the situation, because I guarantee that one day later in your life there will come a time where you’ll meet that person from your past and you’ll wish that you hadn’t yelled at them for making you frustrated, or showed them mercy that one morning you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. And when I say “meet,” I mean either indirectly or directly, because remember everyone is connected. That person might just end up being a client’s best friend or the significant other of the boss in a company you would like to work at, or maybe even worse that person now IS the boss–if you leave a bad impression with them, you can bet they’ll remember; but it also works the other way around, if you treated them as a friend, then I guarantee they’ll do what they can to return the favor.

I’ll give you a personal example. For my volleyball club, I need to find gyms to rent out for volleyball practices (this is the hard part of my job). Over and over and over again, I have been screwed over by LAUSD and the experiences have been less than ideal. One day after another issue with a gym LAUSD matched us with, I got to talking with a parent of two boys we coach (his sons are delightful players to coach) and he shared the information that there’s a private school near his home that we should check out. We found out that it’s a school that we did use once in the past when we first started out (we LOVED that gym and were the best renters possible, but for some reason we weren’t able to get anymore dates and moved on to a new gym). Then, the parent told us that he actually knows someone who is well connected with the school and told us he would put in a good word for us. One short passing conversation and a good impression was all it took to get our foot back into the door of that gym.

Basically, you need to understand that even though the universe is endless, the world is a very small place. With social media and new avenues of communications constantly popping up like flowers, you can become friends with someone hundreds and thousands of miles away, and that’s just amazing. I’ve met so many new people on bookstagram (@AJLeighBooks, be my friend!) who share the same interests as me and it’s a wonderful experience sharing it with them. You never know how when you’ll meet that person again and how they may be able to help you when you’re in a tight spot. So, present your best self even on social media, because you can tell a lot about a person by the things he or she posts, but that’s a totally different article topic.