fbpx
  • Blog

    How to get unstuck in 2016 – stop being the glue

    1/2/2016

    Coffee and NotebookA new year, a new notebook.

    Some people hate the blank page, but not me. In life, I love a clean slate and as a writer there’s nothing I like more than starting a new project. I know writers that find all that white space staring back at them scary, but not me. I love it.

    I have a girlfriend who says she’s not a finisher and I think I’m the same. We love to start new things. We love the project. Writing that report at the end, not so much. The handover to the client, not really. Formatting and getting the book out, not exactly.

    I love a new project and I love a new notebook. I get the same on each year in a different colour and I’m on my fourth version of the ones I love now (not the one in the photo). One for every year in a rainbow of colours. They’re a record of my writing life and my life in general – it’s a shame I have the handwriting of a serial killer and no one else will ever decipher them. The fresh notebook symbolizes a new opportunity, a chance to write things anew

    If only it were that easy in life.

    2015 wasn’t a great year for me. I’ll be honest with you it was pretty blah. Flat, flat is probably the best word. (Please let me note I know I’m an incredibly lucky person. I live in a safe and beautiful country and I happen to live in a spectacular part of it. Nothing bad happened to me or my family this year for which I’m extraordinarily grateful.)

    Still, it was a year of waiting, or marking time. Not much new happened. It felt stagnant. I felt flat.

    And here’s the really interesting thing about that, from a personal point of view, no one much noticed. I was quite lonely this year, melancholy for some of it and frustrated for much of it. And no one much noticed.

    There are a couple of reasons for that beyond people having busy all-consuming lives.

    We all play roles in life that’s a fact. There’s a reason there are archetypes and stereotypes in stories because we recognise those people. We know them, heck, we are them. One role I’ve played for a long time is I’m the go-to girl. If you have a problem I’m the one you call. I listen, I help, I step up. People like that.

    Most of us have that person or if we’re lucky, several in our lives. Those people are the glue. They hold together families, friendship groups, workplaces. They babysit, they make you food, they call and ask about your sick mother or your job interview or your broken heart.

    It’s amazing however, how little it works in reverse. Somehow you can be the go to girl but not be the come to girl. (Mon, what does that even mean?) It means people don’t come to me to check on me. They assume I’m fine. They don’t ask otherwise, they just roll with that assumption because it the easy way. First of all they genuinely want to believe I’m happy and cruising along and secondly if they think that then they don’t have to do anything.

    And some of that is my fault as well.

    “She’ll reach out if she needs me.” Yeah, no she won’t. Or probably she won’t. Some people aren’t wired that way and if it takes you three days to call back, if you don’t return texts, if you get on the phone or sit down at lunch and start talking about your own drama the go-to girl is wired to assume your needs are greater.

    So there’s that. So if you have a go-to girl or guy in your life I suggest you make 2016 the year you check up on them just a little. Instigate the contact, it can’t hurt after all.

    And then there’s the second reason – social media with all it’s smoke and mirrors. Liking someone’s Facebook post is not the same as sending them a text. And texting, while convenient, is no substitute for an actual phone call. We all rely on these quick and the easy tools to check in with people way too much – I do too. (If you know me you know I love Facebook and I quite like Instagram as well I’m not dissing them.) We see a photo of someone and their dog or their hamburger and we feel connected to them, as if we know what their day was like. We don’t see the mess in the kitchen or the fight they had with their teenager or their crisis of confidence. Of course none of us post pictures of that stuff.

    That means however that we’re basing our relationships on assumptions and not reality. We have the illusion of connection without the real deal.

    So what does this mean for me? I guess it means in 2016 I have to stop being the glue. I have to stop helping other people to hold it together at the expense of my own needs. Hence the title of this post, I need to stop being the glue to get unstuck.

    So time to open life’s new notebook – the new year – and get writing my own story in a more interesting way.

    (If you’re reading this and you know me for real, in the real non-cyber world. This is a blog post about me and my reflections on the year gone and the year ahead – it’s not about you or how I feel about you.)

    Comments

    Pamela Cook
    12/31/2015 10:08:39 pm

    A very honest post Mon. You are so right about people hiding their real feelings and life situations. We all do it. And you are so right about social media being a superficial connection. I think we all rely on it now because it is easier and quicker but it doesn’t provide the depth of connection a phone call or face to face catch up does. After my experiences in 2015 I’ve promised myself to make more effort in the ways I connect with friends and family – more meaningful conversations and taking more time to be together. Enjoy your new notebooks and I hope 2016 is a better year for you. x
    Reply
    Monique
    1/1/2016 02:22:42 am

    As you know I love me some social media Pam. I just think we need not to rely on it as our only point of contact with the important people in our lives…and we all do it. A new year is a good time to reflect on these things.

  • Blog

    2015 a year in review

    12/30/2015

    Writing hits and misses in 2015
    Monique McDonell Books and Champagne Flat Lay2015 is drawing to a close and that means it’s time to reflect on the successes and failures. Goals met or not.

    I suppose one should start with the positive. If I was critiquing someone else that’s what I’d do. (Funny how we much prefer to focus on our own failures and are far kinder to others than ourselves. Or is that just me?)

    I set myself the objective of writing #1000wordsaday. In fact I set up a Facebook group to support other writers with the same objective. The Facebook group has been wonderfully supportive of each other and of me. Having to post the date and my goals has helped me focus.

    One thousand words a day is 365,000 words in a year. Did I achieve that? Actually I did. I wrote two novellas and five novels this year. I didn’t write every day but I had days I wrote more and I had two months where I did 50,000 word challenges so I definitely met my objective.

    I guess that’s my achievement for the year. And it’s not nothing to set a goal like that and meet it so I’m happy about that.
    Monique McDonell Upper Crust Series Banner
    See this pretty series of books above. My goal was to have them all released in 2015 and that certainly didn’t happen. In fact Book 4 which I hoped to release in November and then December will be out next week. And books five and six will be released by April. I’m behind for a variety of reasons and that’s disappointing but they are all written and that’s something.

    I wasn’t a great blogger this year either, I started well but I definitely lost steam so I hope to get a better schedule set up in 2016 to counter that. (I also didn’t do too well with my newsletters but I guess we can discuss that in my 2016 objectives post later this week.)

    The landscape definitely shifted out there this year. Some things definitely became harder for indie authors. Finding traction and visibility is definitely harder than it was for a lot of authors and finding the right balance in book promotion is challenging.

    It will be interesting to see what 2016 brings for me and the industry as a whole.

  • Blog

    Moving forward and maintaining momentum on a Musical Monday

    9/13/2015

    To be a writer you need to write.
    Any Way You Fight It - Upper Crust Series - Monique McDonell - Original CoverI haven’t been much of a blogger lately and my social media engagement had been down as well, I suspect.

    Sometimes I really fret about that stuff – you can’t sell books without an online presence if your books are sold almost exclusively online. You lose visibility and people forget about you, or so everyone says.

    On the other hand you can’t sell books if you don’t write. Without that stage you have nothing to sell. That’s a fact.

    For the last couple of weeks I’ve chosen to focus on the writing and not get quite so distracted by the business and promotion side. Who knows if that’s a good strategy or not but I do feel more energetic, more engaged with my characters and more enthusiastic about writing so those are all positives.

    Any Way You Fight It, Book 3 in The Upper Crust Series is off at the editor now and will have an October release. Any Way You Plan It, Book 4 in the series is with the BETA readers now and Books 5 and 6 are ready for reading too. And I have a Christmas and a Summer/Valentine’s novella ready for readers as well.

    I guess that means I need to take a little break from the writing and get back to the promotion and other aspects of the writing business because that’s what it is, a business. I already run another small business so I guess this makes me a entrepreneur, with two businesses on the go.

    Like any business this one has goals – I want to get those four Upper Crust and two novellas published by January, I want to get better at organising my promos and newsletter, I have sales goals and marketing goals and now all I need to do is maintain momentum. Yeah, that’s the hard part.

    This song came me into my head yesterday for some inexplicable reason…and it reminded me of Marissa and Mike in
    Any Way You Plan It…so here we go an old Australian ’80s classic by Jenny Morris for Musical Monday.

  • Blog

    The book of your heart and hoping it finds readers

    8/2/2015

    A Fair Exchange - Cover
    Some of my experiences from US High School inspired this novel

    This week we have a Japanese exchange student staying with us. It has me thinking about my own experiences living in the US as a 15 and 16 year old. It’s a pretty obvious trigger of course.

    It’s also exactly 30 years since I made that journey…so many triggers.

    My novel A Fair Exchange drew on my experience as an exchange student. There are certainly some resemblances between the main character and myself and I did end up on the Massachusetts North Shore. Like Amelia’s character I struggled for a prom date but the story is fiction.

    Many of the really funny things that happened I didn’t appropriate because I wouldn’t want to tell anybody else’s secrets.

    The book is however, of all the books I’ve written, is the book of my heart. (Well aside from Mr Right and Other Mongrels which was my blessing and my curse). That’s true because I got to go back in time and revisit the joy of being young and brave and taking on the world.

    Matt, the male character in the book, while not even remotely based on anyone I know is my favourite male I’ve written and I like that Amelia struggles along the way because I know so many women who were bright and shiny at sixteen who lost their way as life went on. I wanted to write a happy ending for all those women. The book also has great female friendships, I should mention that.

    Yet here is a truth writers don’t like to discuss. That has been my least successful book. My favourite and no one much has read it. Heartbreaking really from a writer’s point of view. Was it the timing? The cover? The story? The blurb? The marketing? Do my readers not like stories where people get a second chance at love? Check, all of the above?

    It’s so sad to think the thing you most want to share is the thing that languishes. This happens to writers more than you might expect. We all want everything to go well and we know it won’t but I’m sure many writers would name unlikely choices as their books of the heart.

  • Blog

    I only have five minutes, I can’t do anything – oh yes you can!

    6/22/2015

    5 things any writer can do if they only have 5 minutes
    Facebook Screenshot
    We are all time poor and as writers we often struggle to find balance between the writing, the promotion, the social media and our real lives.
    “I don’t have enough time” is almost a mantra we use in modern society. It’s true that if you want to write, a five minute interval really isn’t much use, but what about all the other stuff? What about the horrible nitty-gritty little jobs we put off until we have a long, long list we can’t even stand looking at. Lots of those things are simple five minute jobs.

    1. Create a social media post

    The truth is it really does only take 5 minutes to put a post on Facebook. You can ask a question and add a photo (I just did the one above) and if you have it set up correctly it will link to Twitter as well. You’d really done two things in under 5 minutes.

    2. Schedule some social media for when you can’t be around
    Pop on to Hootsuite or Tweetdeck or whatever social media scheduling platform you use and schedule a post for tonight or tomorrow or some other time you know you will be busy. You can write something about where you’ll be or what’s happening with your life, but you can also link to an old blog post.

    3. Share the love
    Social media is about being social. Take the 5 minutes and visit the Facebook page, Amazon author page or blog of an author or other person you follow. Leave a comment, like their page, send them a message. Or you could go and retweet their lastest tweet. Do something for someone else. You can easily do that in 5 minutes. It will make someone’s day and create good will.

    If you follow hashtags on Twitter such as #MondayBlogs or #BYNR or #Fridayreads go and have a look at who is tweeting what in that hastag

    4. Ask for a review or guest blog spot
    If you are a writer you probably have a list of people you need to approach for a review or you’ve discovered a new blog you think will help you reach your audience. So take 5 minutes and write to the blogger of reviewer in a quick email. You have your book cover and blurb already to attach. You know what you want to say. You can do that in 5 minutes.

    5. Make a list
    Grab a pen and paper or which ever app you use for lists and make a list. Here are 5 you can write in under 5 minutes:
    a basic to do list
    a list of blog posts you’ve already written that you could re-share on social media
    a list of blog topics to write in the future
    a list of Facebook posts
    a list of people who have supported you who you could show some social media love to with a Facebook share, retweet or some other social media engagement.

    Comments

    Sandie Docker
    7/29/2015 12:43:23 pm

    Such good tips. It’s so easy to make excuses not to do things because there’s no time. There’s always something you can do.
    Reply
    Monique
    7/29/2015 01:09:33 pm

    I agree Sandy. Sometimes all we have is 5 minutes but we can usually find something constructive to do with them.

    Julie Valerie @Julie_Valerie
    7/29/2015 01:17:29 pm

    WOW. This is such a fabulous list. Imagine what 5 days of doing these 5 things would look like – a whole lotta stuff getting accomplished, that’s for sure.

    Great list. Awesome list. (Any chance you’ll brainstorm another list?) So incredibly helpful and such great ideas!
    Reply
    Monique
    7/29/2015 01:32:10 pm

    Julie I will brainstorm another list – maybe a 10/15 minute list. I often have 15 minutes….

    Melissa Field
    7/29/2015 02:34:13 pm

    These are great tips, even for when I do have time!!! Social media is something I often blow off because I simply don’t feel like it. When I think of it as a five minute daily investment, then it feels much more enjoyable. Thank you!
    Reply
    Monique
    7/29/2015 03:13:21 pm

    I agree Melissa it can be overwhelming – social media feels like a merry-go-round that never stops spinning. Breaking it down into small achievable tasks really helps.

    Sandrine Piat
    7/30/2015 01:28:21 am

    Wow! what great advice – and it actually feels like its really do-able 🙂 I have to admit that I am definitely one of those people who never have time to do anything and when you break it up that way, it really seems like there is a little time to fit everything in. Thank you 🙂

    Pauline Wiles
    7/30/2015 01:46:54 am

    Loved this post! I am constantly telling myself that a small amount of time is not enough to get anything worthwhile done, and of course that’s just not true. I’d love to see your 15-minute list. Meanwhile, I’ll be sharing this one.

  • Blog

    How can it be June and other questions for the universe?

    6/3/2015

    Time flies whether you’re having fun or not, right?

    Miss Chick Lit Winner
    It feels like this is one of those blink and you miss it years. One minute it was mid may and then bam we’re into June. (June in Australia means winter and I am SOOOOOOOO not a fan of winter, hence the not having fun!)

    May was a busy month with #ChicklitMay, the Sydney Writers’ Festival and the release of Any Way You Dream It. But somehow I feel like I missed that last week entirely. Not sure what’s up with that. It’s a bit like raising a child. I’m sure my daughter is still meant to be ten and not fourteen.

    Anyway, I had that thing I have after the release of every book – a rather counter-intuitive slump. You’d think one would be euphoric but it never quite pans out that way for me. The last two books have had major editing hassles that sucked any joy I might have expected right out of the experience. If I ever manage the energy to send a book to an editor again it will be a personal triumph.

    I think I’m back in the saddle. I’m doing a #50k30D challenge with the Romance Writers of Australia and so far I’m flying along with book 6 in the Upper Crust Series (13,000 words as of half an hour ago). Of course that means book 3 will need to get to an editor (see above paragraph) before the others can follow. I hope to have the whole series out this year. Any Way You Fight It (book 3) will be out in July.

    I’m enjoying writing about this couple. Todd and Sarah have been bouncing around in my head for a while, waiting their turn. Todd and his brother Mike appear in Any Way You Slice It and Mike gets to tell his story in book 4.

    In other news Allegra placed in the Miss ChickLit pageant as Miss Retro Rad and Mr Right and Other Mongrels had it’s third birthday last week. That’s quite a milestone.

    Lots of guest posts and giveaways this month so make sure you keep stopping by the blog. Or sign up for my newsletter for more chances to win.

  • Blog

    Any Way You Dream It – release day!!

    5/25/2015

    Release day for a new book – always a great feeling.
    Any Way You Dream It - Upper Crust Series - Monique McDonell - Original Cover
    It’s already May 26 in some parts of the world (good morning Australia, hello New Zealand) which means that Any Way You Dream It is available right now for some.

    Amazon US:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00XBFAUWO
    Amazon Australia: http://www.amazon.com.au/Any-Way-You-Dream-Upper-ebook/dp/B00XBFAUWO

    And then the clock strikes midnight around the world and it magically appears on the e-readers of those that pre-purchased and it is then available everywhere.

    What does that mean to me?

    It means in the past months I:
    – wrote a first draft
    – had a cover designed
    – put it down and revised it and then revised it again
    – sent it to BETA readers who told me what they did and didn’t like
    – made their changes
    – sent it to someone else to read through it for a story edit
    – made those changes
    – sent it to an editor (we had a major disaster this time which set me back ten days)
    – sent it to the editor again
    – waited
    – made the final edits
    – sent it to a formatter who loaded it up for release
    – booked a blog tour
    – reached out to people for review and promotional opportunities
    – waited

    People think that indie authors skip steps, which isn’t true. In many cases it just means we’re just doing all that all by ourselves. It’s kind of a lonely process. In fact as I type this I am alone. Where’s the balloons? The champagne? They’re not in sight – I will go get myself a coffee shortly.

    It’s a bit like the day your child starts kindergarten…lots of hard work to get them ready and then you’re all alone, wondering how they’re doing.

    So if you know any authors indie or otherwise here are some tips.
    Tips for supporting an author when they release a book

    1. Acknowledge their new book -call, email, comment on their Facebook page.
    2. Buy their book and let them know you did. (Take a photo and if it is a paperback take the photo in the store).
    3. Let people know you have a friend who has just written a book – either on your Facebook page or in real life.
    4. Leave them a review on Amazon, Goodreads etc – you have no idea how much that means.
    5. Remember it doesn’t matter if it is their first book or their tenth – to them it is still exciting.

  • Blog

    Three years since my first blog post – look how far I’ve come. (An uncharacteristically self-congratulatory blog post)

    5/5/2015

    Mr Right and Other MongrelsI was talking to my mother today and I said I’d been at this blogging and self-publishing game for three years. I came on here to check and May 5th is the birthday of this blog. So three years exactly.

    I remember being terrified and excited and overwhelmed – not much has changed there.

    That month – May 2012 – I was bravely preparing to self-publish my first novel Mr Right and Other Mongrels. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know a single person in real life who had uploaded a work of fiction to sell online. I knew almost no one (certainly here in Australia) with an e-reader. I knew nothing.

    What a gift ignorance can be.

    If I knew how much I didn’t know I probably wouldn’t have jumped off the cliff. Ask any indie author and they will talk about what a steep learning curve it is. Not only that just when you think you know what you’re doing the rules change. I’ve had to unlearn and relearn things many times in the last few years.

    Forget what you knew yesterday – it’s wrong today.

    I often think “Monique, you lazy chick. You’re just not doing enough.” (I’m not that kind to myself, I’m a little judgmental, not so great at celebrating the fabulous.)

    So here is what I have achieved in three years:

    – I’ve written and published six full length novels and one novella under two names.
    – I’ve contributed to two charity anthologies and had a piece in a non-fiction publication.
    – I’ve had a novel included in an international author box-set.
    – I’ve written another five novels that will be released this year.
    – I’ve had over 100,000 copies of my novels downloaded (sadly they haven’t all been paid for but 100,000 plus people have a copy of my books).
    – I’ve hosted countless authors on my blog and kept it running for three years.
    – I’ve handled all my own marketing and PR.
    – I’ve hired cover designers, editors and book formatters to help make my books look good.

    – I’ve guest blogged all over the internet.
    – I’ve done signings and author talks, both of which terrify me.
    – I’ve made hundreds of new friends, both readers and writers.
    – I’ve given loads of advice and support to authors looking to head down this path.
    – I’ve kept going when I wanted to quit.

    I’ve done this on my own, I certainly haven’t done it all right. Some things I’ve done I would undo. Some day, some moments, some choices would be best erased.

    Still, today I choose to focus on the positive. The list of what I have achieved looks pretty good to me right now.

    If you know another author like me who is alone, starting out and fumbling in the dark then – be kind to them. They probably don’t talk about their journey with you because they are pretty sure you’re not that interested but listen to them, support them, buy their books, leave them reviews…it does matter, at least to them.

    Monique McDonell Upper Crust Series Banner
    Comments

    Kerrie Paterson
    5/5/2015 04:23:07 pm

    Wow, what an awesome list of achievements! Well done!!
    Reply
    Monique McDonell
    5/5/2015 04:32:39 pm

    Thanks Kerrie, I think as writers we sometimes forget to look at what we’ve achieved. 🙂

    lily malone
    5/5/2015 04:41:15 pm

    I’m with Kerrie – well done Monique. I’ve read Hearts Afire of yours and I really enjoyed it.
    Reply
    Monique
    5/5/2015 05:53:37 pm

    Thanks Lily…I know your output has been amazing these last few years. I can hardly keep up!

    Pamela Cook
    5/5/2015 05:10:47 pm

    Nice to see you acknowledging your achievements Monique. And they are massive! You constantly inspire me with your ever increasing word counts, brilliant networking skills and fabulous PR abilities. Not to mention the fun books you write and keep us all entertained with. And the support you give to all your writing buddies, including me. I know it’s been tough at times but hang in there – I’m sure you’ll reap the best is yet to come.
    Reply
    Monique
    5/5/2015 05:54:31 pm

    Thanks Pam…I appreciate having you in my corner, reading my work, taking my calls and listening to me moan. I could not have kept going without you.

    Deb Nam-Krane
    5/5/2015 09:59:15 pm

    Happy anniversary, congratulations and good job!
    Reply
    Monique
    5/6/2015 08:43:41 am

    Thanks Deb…you’ve been a great supporter on my journey.

  • Blog

    What I’ve learned writing a series and #MusicalMonday (It’s only the beginning)

    4/27/2015

    Any Way You Dream It - Upper Crust Series - Monique McDonell - Original CoverBook two of my Upper Crust Series – Any Way You Dream It is now with the editor. Yes, I know, those of you who actually read my blog and read my books know it should have happened a while ago, but it has finally gone.

    “Why the delay?” I hear you cry.
    “Good question.” I reply.

    The truth is apparently I am really bad at writing BOOK TWO in a series. Book one is fine and book three is fine. I’ve written two series now (one under a pen name) and I’ve experienced the same issue with both. The whole series has stalled because of Book 2.

    I don’t exactly know why that is. Well, I do, I think in my effort to make the main character in that book different from the main character in the first book in the series I tie myself in knots.

    Additionally, I think book two brings about fear of success (what if everyone loves it?) and fear of failure (what if everyone hates it?) into play in a strange and disturbing way. By the third book I seem to have pushed through it and the interplay between the characters carries me through. By then I’m one of the gang (I’m probably Thelma not Daphne but I’m in the gang) and there is a gang, a group of characters I know well and enjoy spending time with.

    At least now we know. In the Upper Crust Series the good news Any Way You Fight It, Book 3 is done and will be released quickly after the second. Books four and five are also nearly done.

    I really love Chase, the hero in Any Way You Dream It and Lucy is a girl who deserves a happily ever after (HEA) so I think you’ll love the book like I do. (And Six books in the series will have been released by the end of this year, so I really hope you do).

    Now let’s turn up the music because it is Monday.

    I love this song and have since I heard it back in the olden days…it’s a great love song and it features in my first novel Mr Right and Other Mongrels…my first book baby.

    Comments

    Laurie Baxter
    4/29/2015 11:06:57 am

    Ooh, yay! Very excited to hear this! I really enjoyed book one. 🙂

    Sandie Docker
    4/30/2015 07:59:13 pm

    The curse of the second book!!! But to have 6 box released by the end of this year – yay you!
    Reply

  • Blog

    A writer’s update on #Musical Monday

    3/29/2015

    Alphabet Dating - Monique McDonell - 2015 CoverNew covers, #99cent sales and social media
    It looks like I haven’t managed to do any blogging for the last two weeks. I’ve had a few rather craptastic things happen which have meant my attention has been pulled in a few directions and as they say, something has to give.

    Still, I haven’t been entirely stagnant.

    * The lovely Scarlett Rutgers redesigned the cover for Alphabet Dating for me. (See Left). I just never loved the old cover the way I loved my other illustrated covers so I thought I’d give it a face-lift. I think she’s done a really great job of capturing the mood of the story.

    To celebrate Alphabet Dating is currently on sale for #99cents so if you haven’t got a copy now is a great time to do so. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CMHEVXG

    * I have kept up with my 2015 #1000wordsaday and my total now sits at 78,000 words which all in all I am very happy with. I’ve almost finished the first draft of Book 4 in the Upper Crust Series.

    *Upper Crust Series – Book 2 is back from my BETA readers and I spent today working through Book 3 to send it off. I’m still on track to release Book 2 /Any Way You Dream It for the end of April.

    * I had a great time on the weekend as one of the hosts of the March Madness ChickLit Style Party on Facebook. Sometimes I wonder about the so-called “social” aspects of social media but I feel like I got to connect to some great readers at that event, and hopefully they felt the same way.

    So I guess although my blog has been a little bit quiet I have been staying busy enough.

    And now for Musical Monday – a song that sums up the last few weeks and where I am in my life. This song is an old friend – Landslide the Dixie Chicks version.