System Restored!

After 3 months with a soft social media detox, a computer in for technical repairs, and chemotherapy, it’s time to get back to the regularly scheduled program and reflect on what I did with all that free time… and does social media really warrant the amount of time we spend on it?

At the beginning of March, my computer screen suddenly went dark. I could turn the system on, but was only met with a blank display. Immediately I thought of how much it would cost for repairs, of the potential expensive replacement. Then I agonised over the loss of my files. I back up at the end of every week and the fault happened at lunch time on Friday – so a week’s worth of writing on my WIP (just over 3 chapters) was hanging in limbo. Would I get to recover my work or not? Then there’s the months’ worth of blog posts I’d worked ahead, sitting on a hard drive I can’t get access to.

I elected to take a social media break while my computer was in the shop rather than scramble and create new content immediately. It seemed like a lot of stress to put on me for no reason. And buggar trying to rewrite those chapters to my WIP from memory. The first week was strange. After being used to a tight schedule for so long, I found myself constantly sitting in my study in a Pavlovian response, ready to write, blog, scroll the socials… to an empty desk. Instead of trying to fill this time with more work, I decided to catch up on all those relaxation activities I’d been saving for a rainy day. My chemotherapy is coming to an end and the sessions a little more intense with stronger dosages, so indulgence in reading and catching up on television shows were top priority. Plus, in hindsight, a lot of the writing I was doing towards the end was word salad or stopped mid thought… the chemo brain was hitting hard and from my perspective, I didn’t notice the lapses until now. Admittedly I felt very lazy and unproductive. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a holiday, that I’m taking time to rest and recover, and get over the guilt of not having daily accomplishments.

The social media thing, I did not miss that so much. It’s lovely to keep in contact with family and friends, but did not realise how much time and head space that takes up. On my hiatus, I didn’t have to dress up and look nice every day, I could veg on the couch in trackies, without a care in the world. Maybe if I wasn’t sick and exhausted from my treatment I’d have a different attitude and miss the social interaction; but frankly, I loved the time alone where I didn’t have to put on a smile. Or comfort people because they felt uncomfortable because of what I was going through. I could be sullen and cranky all by myself, cry and get doggy cuddles; it might sound morbid, but it was heaven to revel in that emotion for a while. Purge it from my system.

I watched many (many) seasons of shows that I’d been meaning to get to, read four trilogies that have been tormenting me from the TBR shelf for years, played some video games, and slept. A lot. It kind of feels like a cheat, because now I’m well over three months in front for my book reviews… so despite doing little, I accomplished something.

I usually limit my social media to an hour, or hour and a half a day in the mornings with breakfast. And I think that is not going to change, I don’t need to be wasting any more of my day than that. But I do think I want to limit my time spent on blogging a little more – as much as I love it time spent relaxing instead of scheduling every minute of my day has left me feeling calmer and more refreshed. I have a bad habit of always trying to do too much, and taking time to just be feels important. That doesn’t mean I need to slow down with the blogging, just make sure the time I spend there count.

So I guess I’m back. The hard part of my health is behind me (fingers crossed) and even though I am still having technical difficulties, there are work arounds to keep my productivity up. But the social media break actually helped remind me of what is the correct balance – and let me reclaim time back to spend on more important things.

Have you ever done a social media break? Did it give you anything in return, like perspective, recharge the batteries, or did you miss it too much and swear never to do it again?

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hitting your stride… starting small and building up your reading and writing habits.

A February 2021 wrap up

I have to admit, I’m making a concerted effort to get my TBR down so far this year. I managed 6 novels this month, taking my total TBR down to 407.

I’m also getting back into the swing of writing regularly again, though most of my writing this month has been in edits and re-writes on my current WIP. I’m giving myself a few months to polish off this draft and am really excited with the forward momentum despite losing work time for chemotherapy and recovery. I’m planning on spending the first half of 2021 drafting and the second half polishing manuscripts ready for submission. With 3 drafts completed, I need to get them to a point I’m satisfied with, and start querying. I can’t keep putting it off or toying with the manuscripts. Otherwise I’ll never get past where I am.

So, I’m past the halfway mark on my queer contemporary novel, which makes me feel like doing a happy dance.

Having this enforced break from my regular pace of writing and work, and now trying to break back into productivity, it’s like I’m starting over from scratch. I’ve mentioned it many times before that you need to create a writing habit. It gears your mind and circadian rhythms into a rewarding routine. So for my first month back into writing, my word count was down (and the fact I did a lot or re-reading and editing to get back into the tone and setting of the novel after time away) in comparison to what I would usually turn out. But I feel a great sense of joy to be back at the keyboard and working towards my goals.

I’m a huge lover of checklists, graphs for productivity, and making spreadsheets where I can colour in squars with each achievement… a visual reminder of progress in very motivating for me and keeps reminding me of what I have achieved and not to be so hard on myself.

What do you do to track your progress?

What helps motivate you in organising your writing?

Besides all that I’ve just been concentrating on getting through my treatment and fighting my way back to health! Combining a bit of physical therapy with my treatment has helped no end. It’s keeping up my physical fitness as well as stacking the cards in my favour for a quick bounce back after all this chemo is over. (It is beginning to look like mid-year until I’m finished with treatment. UGH!) You have good and bad days, but I’m seeing slow progress which gives me a warm fuzzy inside.

I have to wrestle with my pooch for the couch on a daily basis, he seems to think it’s his spot for naps – he still does not understand that it’s for ME to take naps on. My furbabies bring me joy each day, and don’t seem to mind that I don’t have the stamina to play with them too much or take them for long walks. My little fluffy cheer squad!

Not the best quality of picture (because I used my phone and not my regular DSLR camera – and it was a few days before they got groomed, so my boys are looking a bit scruffy. But still cute as all getout!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Finding the motivation to write

Pretty much my attitude to writers block or being unmotivated is simply ‘write the damn thing!’

When I am having that spark of creativity and the words flow easily and reading my prose back it feels entertaining, witty and on point… other times it feels dry, stagnant, and uninspired. It’s painful to have to write in those moments. Sometimes I’m lucky to get a paragraph down before I feel like bighting a bullet.

The thing is, editing is much easier. Adding to something feels like a more possible task. So filling the blank page with the mechanics of your story, or article is the hard part. But if you can get it down, then improving your piece becomes infinitely easier. Well, in my process it does.

I cannot ever recall a time where I wrote something straight from my head and it was instantly a masterpiece. I’ve had to edit, improve, embellish everything I’ve ever written. So why do writers have this hang up of writers block.

There is always something for me to do – jump ahead in the timeline and write a scene in a future chapter. Explore my characters motivations in dialogue, write about the world, put on some music to inspire some words, switch to another project altogether, edit, design some marketing activities, read something in a similar genre and take note in the writing style and how that reflects on your own.

Stick to a schedule. Whether it’s every day, or on the weekends, make a set time for your writing and get the thing done. I have to say that has been the most helpful thing to impact my career – forming a habit of writing. I started small, and eventually it grew to a point where I can put in a ten hour day if I needed to. I don’t do that now if I don’t have to. I like to end the day with something to look forward to tomorrow. Like teasing myself with a little cliff-hanger that I need to write. I get to mull it over in my head overnight so the next day I have a semi-formed plan and am excited to get to work.

So most of the time, lack of motivation, or writers block, does not hit me because I’m always inspired. Whenever I get new ideas, I write them down and file them away for later. I have literally so many book and article ideas stored away I couldn’t get them all written in my lifetime. So when my flow for a certain project dries up, and I have exhausted all the ways to move it forward, I can take a few days break to work on something else with ease.

I have a friend who had a massive cork board that they collect ideas, snippets of dialogue, pictures to inspire character profiles, places, mantras, etc as a source of inspiration to write – a board that is constantly changing and evolving so it never runs dry. You just have to find a system that works for you. Mine’s digital, and I like to work on a few projects at the same time. A fellow writer buddy I know can only write one book at a time and in sequential order (a pantser) and when she gets stuck tends to daydream a little with what-if scenarios, flesh out character profiles, go out to shopping centres and cafes and eaves drop on conversations and take note of peoples mannerisms for things that she could use. Or if the block is really bad, she will re-write her chapter and take it in a different direction.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, art, music, reading, movies and television, or simply switching off for a moment. It’s important to refill your well of creativity just as it is to create a habit of writing to offer longevity in your career.

If your sitting at your keyboard and nothing is coming, start asking why? Is the scene you’re currently trying to wright, not right for the overall plot of the novel? Is it a boring topic? Is there another more interesting way to approach the subject matter? Can you switch perspectives or tense? Are you just not into this whole writing thing? Maybe the content is not relevant to you, so you are not connecting with it? Like any job, you have to find ways to get things done. Make writing comfortable, methodical, entertaining and inspiring for you. If you are constantly having to struggle to fill a blank page and you can’t work out what is wrong, maybe writing isn’t for you? Try changing up your process – write the ending first and work your way backwards. Write the key scenes to your story first and then fill in the gaps later. Create mood boards for each scene/chapter to keep the emotion or tone of the writing present in your mind.

The whole thing about writer’s block is that it is all in your head. And we are wired to think, to be creative, so if you are genuinely blocked take a serious look at yourself… is writing really a vocation for you? Writers deal with fact and imagination for entertainment, information, or discussions. Maybe look at how you are delivering your prose and switch up that tone? There is literally thousands of way to re-ignite that passion. You just need to momentarily step back, re-orientate your thoughts, and get back to work.

I’m generally in the field that if I’m ‘blocked’ it’s because the scene or article isn’t working. Something is missing. It’s irrelevant in the bigger picture; so stepping back to get a fresh perspective always illuminates some solution. And if not, there is plenty of other projects to get on with, so I am always writing something.

Do you suffer writers block? What are some of the ways that you have overcome a slump in your writing habits?

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Starting 2021 with some productivity and positivity

A January Wrap up and a look at how well I #BeatTheBacklist in 2020.

January has been a small reprieve for me – I got a break in chemotherapy over the holidays and let myself remove all the stress of trying to achieve anything and just enjoyed my time with family while my spirits were up.

With spending much of the time tired and ill on and off, a lot of resting is needed, which means: reading time! So I managed to complete 10 books for this first month. It makes me feel like I’m starting to hit my stride again. I was gifted a tonne of books as belated Christmas presents so my TBR has grown rather than reduced from 413 to 440. Many of the new books added to the pile were to finish off started series, and a number of new releases I’ve been pining over during the book buying ban of 2020. Technically I have not bought any books for over a year now (which I am proud of) and am hoping to continue the trend this year.

Casting an eye over last year and my attempts to #BeatTheBacklist I read 45 novels that I’ve owned for years (and published prior to 2017) that I needed to catch up on. With an addition of completing 12 series. Out of my reading year, there was only 23 recently published titles. It wasn’t my best reading year, but it was the most productive in clearing my shelves of older (and forgotten) books, and for completing abandoned series. I’m really attempting to up the ante this year.

I’m already lining up to complete 14 series that were already underway this year, but will be adding in all the new (gifted) titles into my reading rotation. The night stand is already overflowing with books to complete in the next coming months, and have a stack on the dresser waiting for attention before the middle of the year. It’s the most organised my reading has ever been. I’m a mood reader, so assigning books has never fared well.

On the writing front, well, feeling like I’m tired, dizzy and nauseous most of the time – when I have moments of energy, I’d rather spend them up and about playing with the dogs or hanging out with family, so it’s been relegated to the background for January. Though with school returning and holidays now over, I’m looking to get some words down in February.

Because I’m still an immune-compromised risk, social outings have been a big no-no, even though we don’t have any pandemic restrictions where I live at the moment. Plus needing to eat a low-microbal diet means no restaurants, coffee and cake, or fast food.  I really miss going to the shopping centre for a look-see and stopping for a gossip at a coffee shop or having sushi for lunch. I just have to hang on for 4 more months and I can start stepping out into the sunshine again. In the meantime I get plenty of puppy cuddles!

So with the month ahead roughly planned, and some excitement for the projects I want to tackle… and being over the half-way point for my schedule of chemotherapy I feel like I’m running a race with the finish line in sight and am looking forward to the party at the end.

Are you doing any reading challenges this year? Does anyone have ridiculously large TBR piles like mine? What is the one thing you are looking forward to most in 2021?

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Are you blogging for the right reasons?

When I first started my blog I had visions of writing fun and informative articles, book reviews, and getting to connect with writers across the globe to discuss all things literary… eight years on and I get a little disheartened because while my goal is still the same, I’m not really getting the connection that I imagined.

This topic came about from a combination of Briana’s post on discussion topics for her blog, predictions for 2021, and her 2020 review:  it prompted the thought of what content performs well in the blogosphere opposed to what we actually post… and my heart sunk a little. I don’t want to write click-baity articles, or post content that I’m not genuinely interested in, or superfluous articles regurgitating what many others have already done without corroborating those claims with statistics or real-world experience.

I enjoy blog hopping and starting up conversations on other’s blogs, but it is usually met with a generic thank you, or just a ‘like.’ Yet are these the same people complaining that their blog is not gaining any traction? They want interaction, yet are not taking to time to build a conversation? Just posting content hoping for a like. Is this a social media thing around blogging activity in searching for validation, or do we truly want to discuss books, ideas, and help other writers develop their craft?

Maybe I’m expecting too much from a bunch of strangers on the internet. Maybe successful writers are too busy to run a blog, comment, and interact with fellow bloggers and maintain a writing career?

There is such a mixed bag of content out there around writing, reviewing, and reading. Much of the writing advice I see is fairly general and rarely breaks things down to specifics and provide examples – is it a secret we’re not meant to find out? Many reviews I read are fantastic, insightful, and really attend to the mechanics of story craft; whereas others are maybe a paragraph long, summarize the story, or worse, bullet points, and give an opinion of a thumbs-up or thumbs-down without ever discussing things like character, character development, world building, pacing, writing style, plot… But that’s me viewing this platform through the reasons I blog. Many others may have different uses for the blogosphere.

There’s other types of content that I’m, really interested in, like journal/lifestyle blogs, trend forecasting, tips, design, nature blogs, and science related content: so it does not have to be directly related to writing and satisfies my other interests. But still, blogging feels like a niche juxtaposed. And many are hoping to make a living from their writing and monetise their content. I’m starting to think I’m really out of touch with my community, that I’m looking in the wrong place. Maybe I should start venturing out into other online mediums to connect with likeminded souls?

A blog is meant to perform one, or a combination of three things: to inform, entertain, or discuss, if my introduction to writing, literature, and journalism means anything. I get more of these types of things from writing groups, clubs, and paid subscription services. Is it because the content is ultimately vetted in those places? That its membership is exclusively professionals?

I guess people blog for different reasons, and mine is just another drop in the ocean, floating in the currents yet to find a reef to drop to where I can feel like I can make a home. Has anyone else felt this despondency around blogging? Like it’s not really fulfilling the purpose you wanted it to? That it is not achieving what you want it to?

My main reason for blogging is to share my love of reading, writing and improve how I craft prose, connect with other writers and swap bits of information on the process, editing, marketing, and publishing. I’ve maintained this course since I initially started the blog. I will never class myself as an expert because you can always learn and change as this craft and the market evolves.

I’m genuinely interested in the reasons you write your blog. Comment below and let me also know if you are satisfied with what you are getting out of blogging, and what your expectations are.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing a business strategy (for writers)

A guide for beginners – the business of writing doesn’t have to be a drag, it can be an example of adventure.

“For the past couple of years, I’ve been fine-tuning my business strategy as a writer. At a recent writing conference, I discovered that many writers, even those with years of experience, find setting business goals daunting. It isn’t. It’s only frightening because it seems complex. By taking it one step at a time, your business strategy can be made simple and understandable.” – Lynne Lumsden Green

When I think of a business strategy for writing, my mind instantly goes to spreadsheets and budgets, but that is only part of managing your career… and the number crunching part is really a small part. Used as a way to track and monitor progress. An article published in WQ (Jun-Aug 2020) Lynne Lumsden Green discusses this topic which I think helps demystify the task many of us baulk at. She suggests that we start by asking ourselves these questions:

  1. What are your long-term goals? Where do you want to be in five years?
  2. What are your short term goals? What do you want to achieve in the next six months?
  3. What has worked best for you in the past? What hasn’t?
  4. What can you learn from your successes?
  5. What can you learn from your failures?

Upon first reading her article and going through the list of these questions an issue prominently jumped out at me regarding my own career goals. These questions prompt you to not only keep on track with your goals, but highlight what is, and is not working.

The key takeaway for me was the question about what is not working – how long have I been doing the same thing and seen little or no positive growth. It really gave me that ah-huh moment. It’s time I should be trying different methods, tackling different tracks towards my goal. What’s that old saying : doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I’ve gotten too comfortable in my systems and habits that it is now impeding growth.

These questions are all about finding out what works and using those methods to get you to your goals. Ditch what isn’t working.

Lynne Lumsden Green goes on to discuss:

“Let’s look at part of my business strategy as a stepping of point. For 2020, one of my goals is to get more paying gigs. This means I need to write nonfiction articles for magazines, as well as short stories for paying markets. From January, as part of keeping proper records, I’ve been keeping a monthly spreadsheet separate from my nonfiction submission spreadsheets. I started by wanting to sell an article a month, but I am hoping to increase that to one article a week by December. To do this, I need to develop a pitch/query at least once a week. To do that I must develop relationships with the editors of my target markets.”

“Can you see how setting goals leads to implementing a series of logical actions to achieve that goal?”

I love how Lynne explains desire/goal through to a practical application to achieve a result. My writing goals are more based around getting first drafts completed by the end of this year, gearing up for putting out for submission later in 2021. So I have set scenes I have to write each day (notice I didn’t say word count, but story elements of the plot.) In conjunction with this I am researching Publishers who are accepting submissions, what their guidelines are, creating paragraph summaries, tag lines, 1 and 2 page summaries, noting themes, writing up short character profiles… all that lovely marketing material you need for a pitch/submission. Additionally, some publishers (mostly overseas) require that you have a literary agent to represent you, so I have been researching that as well. Again, many are genre specific and have their own guidelines for accepting applications. Another aspect of this goal is researching writing competitions – these can not only put up on the radar of publishers/agents, but if you win, it commonly results in a publishing contract. All of this activity not only makes the whole writing activity real, but gives you a deadline. And each bit of information or step you achieve along the way is ticking off a small task towards your longer term goal.

If you want to get even more technical you could also be tracking the amount of time you spend writing, researching, marketing, so that when you start to earn money through a book advance, sales or royalties, you can estimate how much money you earn an hour. If it’s not high enough for your goals, then you can look at different ways to improve upon your system… and ultimately your earnings.

Writing when inspiration strikes, passively submitting a story here and there one at a time can be a little soul crushing because you are eagerly waiting for a payoff instead of concentrating on a schedule and already moving on to your next target/goal. A business strategy for writing forces you to take in a bigger picture, a career making attitude, and leave you little time to fall into depression from rejection letters and failed submissions.

Lynne Lumsden Green also states “As writing is my business, I try to keep to a schedule. I spend an hour or so every morning on mail, updating my files, and researching new markets. This part of my business strategy won’t be changing any time soon. I then spend an hour every day on social media. I recently had over 400,000 people come through my Steampunk Sunday page on Facebook; a ready-made audience for my writing! You might want to do writing courses or attend more conferences, or join a writing group, so don’t forget to include those in your plan.”

Again this shows by example how much a schedule, consistency, and trying new things are important you your long term success at being a writer. Simply posting to social media blindly does not ensure success, you need to add value, offer a solution to a problem, tap into a niche market. Research your demographic. Try different forms of social media. Reach out to other writers who are having success and mimic their methods for a trial period.

There are a lot of resources out there to tap into. Courses, platforms like SkillShare, YouTube videos, blogs with advice, writing groups, state and government bodies that are running local initiatives to support the publishing industry and writing community, even emailing an author with one or two questions to help you figure things out…

“Don’t forget to be brave. Take risks. Having a business strategy doesn’t mean it has to be boring.”

I hope this discussion helps to change your thinking and provide some inspiration to develop your writing career a little further. Go get ‘em!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wrapping up 2020…. And good riddance!

Looking back through the year that was, a lot has happened, but a lot did not… It’s kind of a 2020 thing. All my friends are saying the same. My yearly goals have mostly been thrown out the window because of Covid-19 and a cancer diagnosis (again, sigh) but let’s get this wrap up done and put a positive spin on things.

Book worm:

My last catch up was in October leaving my TBR at 423, I didn’t post a November wrap-up because I’d not long started chemotherapy and was focusing on my health and wellbeing, so any work and reading goals felt superfluous. (Plus I was tired and in pain all the time and it was difficult to concentrate.) Though I did read 2 books in November, and completed 8 novels in December, taking the TBR down to 413. I’m still on my buying ban until I get below 400.

I set my reading goal to 52 books for the year, but was really hoping to reach 104… I kept it light with all the financial stresses, health issues, etc… but managed to complete 68 book for the calendar year which I’m happy about.

Thinking back over the year though, I would have to highlight my top five reads:

This Mortal Coil (trilogy) the first two novels were outstanding, it’s action packed and choc full of STEM themes of what the future could look like under heavy influence of genetic manipulation and body modification.

Highway Bodies is a zombie apocalypse with diversity. Highly entertaining and so proud of a fellow Aussie author.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a comedic historical fiction that had me laughing up a storm, really looking forward to completing the series.

I’ll Give You the Sun was a surprise hit out of the park. Bring your tissues for this roller coaster ride.

Reckoning a non-fiction title by Australian darling Magda Szubanski was beautiful melancholic writing that captured a lot of my youth and challenges what it means to not only be an Aussie, but a human being.

Scribe and scribble:

I only managed a paltry 1500 words for the year. With distractions, having to work long hours, being the only one to stay employed through the Covid-19 lockdown for six months, then having to manage doctors’ appointments and chemotherapy, not only did I have little time to write, but my mind simply wasn’t in the right headspace to get creative. It was a depressing year, but I am thankful the worst is behind me.

Levelling Up:

I still haven’t completed my marketing course, it had to put on the back burner in favour of other priorities. But I am still keen to complete it in 2021 and am eyeing off a few other short courses. I love to learn!

Social Butterfly:

My biggest goal for 2020 was to be more social, get out and about more… and well, it goes without saying that it didn’t happen. Lockdown and being immune-compromised has meant I’ve become a bigger homebody than ever. Oh the irony! On the upside, I’ve caught a lot of good television. Australian series ‘Glitch’ has been a big favourite, tv series ‘Insatiable’ had me in belly laughs, ‘Dickinson’ staring Hailey Stansfield was strangely hypnotic, I re-watched the ‘Teen Wolf’ series and making a start on re-watching ‘Supernatural’ now that it is ending; props to ‘Love, Victor’ and ‘Never Have I Ever.’ Fell in love with ‘Little Mix : The Search,’ squee’d over ‘Julie and the Phantoms,’ and like everyone else got a big sci-fi hit with ‘The Mandalorian,’ ‘Star Trek Discovery’ and ‘The Expanse.’

Some movies that brought me joy include: ‘The Invisible Man,’ ‘Underwater,’ ‘Like a Boss,’ ‘We Summon the Darkness,’ ‘My Spy,’ ‘Enola Holmes,’ ‘Love and Monsters,’ ‘Happiest Season,’ ‘Uncle Frank,’ ‘Freaky,’ ‘Godmothered,’ ‘Superintelligence,’ and ‘Monsters of Man.’

Work that body:

I was working out before the Covid-19 shutdown, and was making progress, though it wasn’t until 6 months later that the gym re-opened and I only got in a month before getting diagnosed with cancer and not being able to return. Though as a part of my treatment and recovery I am doing stretches, getting adrenal massages, and anything else the doctors have recommended to increase my chances for a quick recovery. I have lost some weight, my hair has been falling out, I feel a lot of aches and pains and lose my breath easily; but with a prognosis of 100% recovery I know it is all temporary and am looking forward to normalising my health in the new year. Some scary emergency hospital stays knocked my confidence a bit, but the idea of simply being able to take my dogs for a walk around the park keeps me motivated – I mean those soulful eyes would heal anyone!

As much as 2020 has been a dumpster fire, it’s forced me to focus on what is important and plan out my 2021 – it’s going to be a cracker of a year, because I don’t think I could do worse that 2020 anyway. The only way is up!!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

C-word… and the month that was October

A short monthly wrap-up with a message of positivity.

I was all fired up at the beginning of October, I have been fighting with fatigue and general ickiness and was determined to shake it off and get down to business. Then the dreaded C-word happened. Not Covid-19, but cancer. I have fallen out of remission again and started chemo. I have been struggling on whether to announce it or not. Saying something makes me feel like a failure of some kind. Which is ridiculous. My prognosis is very good and we’re hoping to finish treatment and get clear test results by Christmas. That’s my personal goal too. So my productivity for October has been wobbly. Getting through this mental hurdle, while not as difficult as my last two times, still threw me off-kilter. Now it’s just managing feeling like crap most of the time, trying to maintain concentration to get my days’ work done. I’m not announcing my diagnosis for sympathy or well wishes; just a statement to explain a lull in my activities… and probably from now until the new year. Though this blog has become a point of contention for me -> if I can keep it going as usual, then I’m not letting the c-word completely rule my life.

The funny thing is, the Covid-19 restrictions actually help me – it’s how I have to behave now I’m immunocompromised anyway.

This month I only managed 3 novels (all with cool toned covers, hey I created a theme unintentionally) – I find I get tired, or my concentration wanes quickly at the moment. Which means I’ve only whittled the TBR shelf down to 450. Better than nothing I suppose. So too has my writing suffered. I have managed a couple of chapters, but that’s it. Now I’ve adjusted my work ethic and adapted my routine to chemo and treatment I might be able to get more written in November. I really wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo, but I feel it’s unrealistic in my current condition.

I’ve taken everything off my roster. I don’t need stress or negativity around me at the moment. Just focusing on little wins that bring me joy. Watching tv shows and movies that make me laugh, music that makes me want to dance. And lots of puppy cuddles!! Focusing on the positive: I’m actually going to lose that weight I’ve been struggling with. No more trying to come up with meals – it’s all pre-packaged and balanced for my convenience. I get to spend more time snuggling on the bed with my dogs… and read! If I’m not sleeping.

Most of us are having a crappy 2020, but what are some of the positives that this year has brought you? I’d love to hear some positivity that others have found amongst all this chaos.

Is anyone taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Let me know what you’re working on in the comments…

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Quarterly Goals – July-Sept 2020

Keeping track of my yearly goals – ¾ of the way through…sheesh where did the year go?!

Much of my local area is returning to normal with relaxed precautions from the Covid-19 pandemic, but I am starting to see the long road it is going to take for the economy to return to normal. We’ve been lucky. One of us in the household has always been able to work which means no financial stress or worrying about putting food on the table. Though not completely stress free. I worry about my friends and family. I’ve been daydreaming ways I could make the world an easier place for them… but it’s just that – a dream. It would take a massive Lotto win to accomplish anything like that. (Hint, do you hear me Universe. A Lotto win would be just peachy.) As with nearly everyone I’ve spoken to, concentration and creativity can be difficult in these times. I’ve found motivation a huge obstacle, and many of my yearly goals are focused around networking and connecting with people more in a social setting. With 6 month of the year in lockdown, 2020 is going to be a poor year for progress to my goals. Anyhoo, let’s check in on my achievements:

Book worm:

I’ve managed to get my TBR down from 417 to 407, BUT caved with all my free time and with my goal to #BeatTheBacklist in completing series that I started years ago and yet to finish, I had to purchase so remaining titles to complete the collection… And well I haven’t bought any new releases since last year. I splurged. I might of read 10 for this quarter – which is pretty poor for me – but I purchased 16 titles. That means my total TBR pile is at 423. I’m going to have to get that down again if I want to get any books for Christmas!

Books completed in September… and one blurry puppy (because he was too excited to bet his photo taken.)

Scribe and scribble:

July turned out to be my best month for writing, however the following two months were sadly very low with the word count. Mainly because I’ve returned to the gym and found myself so exhausted of late I kept dozing off or having lapses in concentration for my allotted writing time. Turns out, I just needed to add some more iron to my diet. I’m determined to make coming last quarter my most productive for the year. I have two novels that I definitely want to have a first draft done! Get writing girlie!!

Levelling Up:

Because of above mentioned lack in concentration – and having to pick up more copywriting work, I’ve made no progress on my online marketing course. I have been doing a little more research into other marketing and writing avenues however to help grow my income. Not really helping with certification or professional development, but did increase my portfolio.

Social Butterfly:

Well… emailing, facebooking, and zoom are my entire world for social interaction at the moment. I did venture out once for dinner with the neighbours – which meant we had to line up for ages (socially distanced) provide our personal details for contact tracing regulations, and had to be in and out in 45 mins. It was nice to get out of the house, but not the relaxing social occasion I was hoping for. Apart from that, does quietly obeying my personal trainer at the gym count?

Get creative:

Still on a budget, and busy bidding for work projects so all creative projects are still on hiatus. It’s been six months now and I am getting a serious hankering to do something crafty. Some sewing or maybe furniture restoration… The last quarter for 2020 is looking promising.

Cash grab:

I’ve tripled my regular income, needing to pick up the slack from members of the household losing their jobs because of this pandemic. We support each other. With help from my now unemployed housemates, we are at the stage where we can list items of eBay for an online garage sale hand give our petty cash tin a bit of love.

Work that body:

So great to be able to work out again. I managed to put on some weight with the lockdown, and was feeling depressed and frumpy. And by gosh, that break has made me feel so unfit. It’s been an adjustment getting back into the groove, but now I’m over the hump of returning to regular exercise, I should start to see results and get back to pre-Covid-19 status.

So professional:

My goal to start expanding my digital platform has made no progress this quarter. My time has been so busy elsewhere with more urgent priorities. Maybe I’ll get something done before the end of 2020, but I think it’s more likely this goal will have to wait until next year.

Overall, progress towards my goals for 2020 has slightly improved, and now with lockdown restrictions eased and the country aiming for everything to be back to normal for Christmas, it can only get better. 2020 has been a strange year for tracking my goals. I feel like just skipping over this year – like those awkward teen years – it’s a grin and bear it kind of situation. Though I am counting my blessings and trying to stay positive and focused on the future. Reading about fellow bloggers and their journeys through the pandemic has made me feel not so alone. Like my trainer at the gym says – that last little push makes all the difference, and I plan on bringing the year home with a smile.

How has the current world climate affected you reaching your goals? What has been the biggest influence in helping you get through the pandemic and remaining in a positive frame of mind?

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tip Sheets – and why it is important to create at least one for your book.

There are many aspects to launching your book and creating awareness, tip sheets are a must-have element to include in your marketing strategy.

Launching your book, or gaining exposure through media outlets can give you immediate results and boost not only your sales, but your profile as an author. When you have toiled for months and years writing your novel and honing it into a masterpiece, you would want it to have the best possible chance to become a commercial success. You can outsource this kind of task to a publicity or PR firm, blast it on social media. However, creating a tip sheet for release to the media can save you some big dollars and give your marketing schedule a massive boost.

I know numerous authors who have created their own tip sheets, and implemented them with local media outlets and seen immediate results. Below is information I have collated from several sources and examples to help you create and implement your own tip sheet for your book launch, or increase exposure in conjunction with a special offer.

What’s a tip sheet?

A tip sheet is a short publication intended for media outlets containing the latest information, anecdotes, theme-related content, and quotations pertaining to your book, usually in easy-to-read bullet form.

It is similar to a press release – a self-contained story focused around elements of interest from the book (not the book directly) that can be run as-is for the media bodies

Generally tip sheets showcase a novel’s content, theme, message, or author related subjects, while getting the book title in front of the target demographic.

Tip sheet topics and elements

If you hire a PR company or publicist they will do all the hard yards for you and provide a proof for approval before release, but if you want to save some bucks and tackle this yourself, here’s some examples of things you could include. Don’t throw everything and the kitchen sink in your tip sheet, keep it succinct, on topic, and easy to read.

A must is an attention grabbing headline. Something that will not only peak the interest of the media outlets, but also your target audience. It should directly lead to the topic you are discussing in your tip sheet information.

Have an opening paragraph that introduces your topic, or raises a problem/issue that your are going to provide solutions for.

Don’t forget to have a concluding paragraph with information about you, the author, and your book (and it’s release date.)

Here are some ideas to prompt you in crafting your tip sheet:

  • Providing factual or historical information on what your book is about/ where it is set
  • A unique anecdote about the author, or material/themes from the novel
  • Solve a problem that is introduced in the book in some way, or something that the author overcome to write the book.
  • How topics or themes in your book relate to trending news stories.
  • Something that is unique about you, or your book.
  • A top 10 tips list

The list is endless, it’s about hooking the interest of your reader – but remember a tip sheet is not directly about your book, it’s a publicity tool that relates to your book. We’re not spruiking ‘buy my book because it is a fun read with great magical elements and a tough-as-nails protagonist.’ Instead we are creating ambient buzz. For instance, you could be discussing the influence of pop culture on the rise of wicca from tv shows like ‘Charmed’ and ‘Buffy’… and then mention at the end of your discussion how your interest in this topic lead you to writing a unique magic system for your novel.

Breaking it down

HEADLINE

Think of a tip sheet like a news or magazine article – a catchy headline. Click-baity. On-trend words and phrases. What titles grab your attention when skimming the newspaper, what blog article headlines do you click on when browsing the internet? Pay close attention to those elements and you’ll have a roadmap to creating a great headline.

OPENING PARAGRAPH

In that opening paragraph when you state what this story/tip sheet is about – use facts, statistics, and/or quotes to ground your article. This shows you are coming from a place of knowledge. An expert.

A well researched tip sheet is a successful one. It lets the media outlets your pitching to sound like experts too. The less work the journalists, presenters, or bloggers have to do, the better. They are usually time-poor, so the less preparation they have to do, the better your chances are for them picking up and running with your story.

Provide a quote from yourself, or someone else (cite sources) that add something new to the story – a new fact or perspective, a twist, or even inject some humour.

INTRODUCE your tip sheet topics in one sentence.

TIP SHEET Topics

List your tip sheet topics in bullet form, short, to-the-point  and easy to read.

CONCLUSION

The final paragraph ties everything up with two or three factual sentences about the author and the book.

Here’s some examples of what a tip sheet looks like to get you started on creating your own:

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

4th September 2020

FRIENDS AND FAMILY FOR CANCER… AUTHOR JENNIFER DUGGAN TAKES PART IN A VARIETY SHOW TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE CANCER COUNCIL

On the 20th of November the Town Hall will be transformed into the glitziest venue in the city for a charitable variety comedy show to raise funds for cancer sufferers. Author Jennifer Duggan brings her unique style of stand-up in a star-studded event. Miss Duggan asks that the audience make a donation upon entry for the Cancer Council.

Audiences will see six performers, Jennifer Duggan, Michael Plott, Michelle Foley, Frederick Grainger, Kate Millichamp, and Doug Deep bring the funny in ten minute sets, with drag sensation Willma Fingerdo as MC for the night.

With her cutting and sarcastic wit Jennifer Duggan has paved a successful career with her comedy stylings, and with one her sister currently diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lympoma, Jennifer Duggan follows her passion of stand-up and raising money to help those like her sister who are fighting cancer.

The Olivia Newton John Foundation states that “We all know at least one person who has been affected either directly, or indirectly by cancer.” With members of the foundation in attendance along with some support staff from the local hospitals oncology ward.

Jennifer Duggan has said “It’s important we get the funds needed to fight this thing that is taking so many members of our family. Research into a cure is paramount. Nobody wants to be sick. Being able to laugh in a time of such difficulty has been important for me and my sister, so I wanted to share that with everyone. That’s why I’m taking part in this variety show. It’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart.”

Jennifer Duggan also has a memoir being released on 5th December that further showcases her humour and anecdotes of growing up in Australia and a behind the scenes look at the world of stand-up comedy.

Don’t miss all the action on the 20th of November at the Town Hall. Come down and support our local artists and raise money for our fight against cancer with all proceeds going to the Cancer Council. Doors open at 7pm. Visit http://www.jenniferduggan.com.au for more information.

ENDS

For further details, interview or photographic opportunities please contact:

Jennifer Duggan

Telephone 555-456-9910

email author@jenniferduggan.com

Contact: Jane Doe, 555-727-3910, Janetheauthor@janedoebooks.com

Nine tips for writing op-eds that get published

ROCHESTER, NY – November 15, 2014 – Op-eds – essays that appear opposite the editorial pages of newspapers – are powerful communications tools for nonprofit organizations working to influence public policy or initiate change. But one communicator says that too many local nonprofits miss some of their best opportunities to inform readers through these opinionated essays.

“National headline news stories give nonprofits the hook their opinion pieces need to catch an editorial page editor’s attention, but nonprofits don’t always take advantage of this because they can’t react quickly enough to write and place an essay when it’s still timely,” says Jane Doe, author of Publicity for Nonprofits: Generating Media Exposure That Leads to Awareness, Growth, and Contributions (Kaplan Publishing).

Jane Doe recommends having at least one op-ed written in advance to use when a news event brings the op-ed’s topic to the public’s attention. She cites recent headlines as examples: The latest celebrity starting a family before getting married creates a news peg for pro-family organizations while a weather disaster provides a hook for groups helping businesses and individuals prepare for disasters.

Jane Doe’s book offers these nine tips for writing effective op-eds you can update according to the news story for immediate publication:

· Introduce yourself to your newspaper’s op-ed page editor by telephone or e-mail and request the publication’s op-ed guidelines. Then follow them.

· Determine your goal. What do you want to achieve through your op-ed? Do you want people to behave differently or take a specific action? Keep this goal in mind as you write.

· Select one message to communicate. Op-eds are short – typically no more than 800 words – so you have room to make just one good point.

· Be controversial. Editors like essays with strong opinions that will spark conversation.

· Illustrate how the topic or issue affects readers. Put a face on the issue by starting your essay with the story of somebody who has been affected or begin with an attention-getting statistic.

· Describe the problem and why it exists. This is often where you can address the opposing viewpoint and explain your group’s perspective.

· Offer your solution to the problem and explain why it’s the best option.

· Conclude on a strong note by repeating your message or stating a call to action.

· Add one or two sentences at the end that describe your credentials as they relate to the topic.

“With this approach, when your issue is suddenly making headlines, you can write an introduction that connects the news to your essay and e-mail it to the editor quickly,” adds Miss Doe.

Publicity for Nonprofits: Generating Media Exposure that Leads to Awareness, Growth, and Contributions is available at neighborhood and online booksellers or by calling 800-245-BOOK. For more information, go to http://www.nonprofitpublicity.com.

  • Simply substitute in your details, quotes, resources, and information and there you go!

Useful hints to remember when creating your tip sheet:

Remember to look at a plethora of newspaper and magazine articles before writing the tip sheet. The news writing style is informal and factual. 

A tip sheet is commonly written to help people solve a problem. State a problem . . . offer your solutions.

Offer an incentive or reason to buy your book.

Promote something important or unique in your story.

How to use tip sheets

Distribute tip sheets to media outlets that would be interested in the content.

There are interesting tutorials on skillshare.com about this if you need more of a visual learning aid, coming from people who successfully use what they are discussing. You can pay for a month’s subscription for a small investment in your career, get what you need, and cancel the service.

There is information on media outlet websites with guidelines on how to submit your material, so be sure to check those out before emailing. Make sure that your story is similar to the types of articles they frequently publish.

Alternatively there are services like eReleases  that can help.

Welp, I hope there’s enough information here to get you started. And remember, tip sheets are just an aspect of your book launch, or growing your author profile. You should calendar out your book launch and use tip sheets in conjunction with many other activities like social media marketing, book signings, talks, interviews, blog tours…. start building your marketing schedule today!

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.