New Direction…


Good day, readers!

Back in 2015 I decided to shift some aspects of my business around.

First, I stopped blogging here and entirely focused those efforts on my diary-style blog. Over there I'd share life, career, book launch info, and sometimes help for indie authors.

Second, I put freelancing on hold to write and publish my fiction and non-fiction through Writesy Press, LLC . I don't for a minute regret that decision because I'm super proud of the 8 titles I've released since 2015.

However, 2018 is a different beast.

Let me first say, I love writing fiction and don't plan to stop anytime soon. But, the self-pub world is a tough one and my writing style doesn't fit with the way an Indie has to publish these days in order to stay at the top of the searches (AKA: the only way to make a living as a fiction writer). Trying to accomplish that level of volume actually caused me a bit of a nervous breakdown earlier this year.

It forced me to take a hard look at why I was even writing at all and I had to make some tough decisions in order to preserve the joy I always used to get from my writing. That joy had all but disappeared with stats, reports, algorithms, and the myriad of business goals I suddenly had to attach to my creative pursuits.

For a minute, my writing life seemed bleak and hopeless. I just wanted to write!

But, something really important suddenly occurred to me: even my books had shifted in recent years. I started writing more help books for fiction writers and I loved working on those.

I loved the ability to take all of my past mistakes, victories, lessons learned and plunk them into a book that someone just starting out as a fiction novelist could take and apply to their work so they could finish their book, too.

Because that shit is hard.

But, so is marketing a fiction writer with a small-ish following and I’d already written and self-published ten titles.

The proverbial light bulb went off in my head.

I reevaluated every aspect of my writing life and business and came to one eye-opening conclusion:

Fiction is my passion, but freelance and teaching are the clear paths to a career.

I know, right? It surprised me too!

But only partially. Because, in truth, I've been writing voicey blog posts for 11 years and studying all things real estate/homeowner for over 16. The moment I figured out how all of my background fits together and how I could use that expertise to help people, it was as if all the weight I’d been toting around suddenly lifted and I felt free.

Free to make my career. Free to write what I want as a self-publisher. Free from the constraints of must-do tasks that were killing my love for the written word.

And I’ve never felt more clear or more happy about my writing life!

Freelance blog posts were something I specialized in for a couple years and I made some money but I never had a specialty so I bobbed around trying to find driftwood clients to hang onto. Not a good strategy.

Like I said, I recently realized just how I could teach people and use my experience as a way to specialize.

So, now, I’m working on a novel in my spare time (time I’ve carved out of each week on purpose) but I’m in the process of building two really killer ventures that I’m more excited about than I could have thought possible.

First, the freelance side of things.

I will specialize in content marketing for real estate agents in Phoenix, specifically blog posts to connect with their clients. I’ve written and published a few articles already on Medium and this is the stuff I LOVE to research.

You all know I’m a DIY queen, ran a faux finishing business for 5 years, spent the majority of my life surrounded by the construction industry, have worked with a bunch of agents over the years, and have even bought multiple homes.

I can help agents teach their clients about good-bad-ugly in the world of buying and selling. I’m already pitching clients and I can’t wait to start writing for them!

Second venture is my desire to help new writers and hopeful authors get their book written.

As of now (August) I'm leaving all past posts here on the blog so new writers have a place to check out some of my prior advice. As 2018 winds down, however, I'll be launching a new site for new fiction writers who struggle with finishing their first novel and most or all of the advice here will migrate over.

I promise to let you know when that happens.

And when it does, this site will be taken over by my B2C blog writing business for agents.

The funny thing about all of this is, the focus on building a profitable business has made me love my fiction writing again. I can give the care and attention to my stories they deserve because I’m not on this manic publishing schedule anymore.

If I ever hit it big with a book I won’t be sad but that’s not why I started writing and that feels pretty great to admit to myself and the world.

Phoenix real estate agents and first time authors, just know I got your back and I really look forward to connecting with you in a more meaningful way in 2018 and beyond.

Let’s do this!

• • •

Jenn Flynn-Shon is a B2C content writer specializing in blogs for real estate agents and their clients in Phoenix, AZ. Find her articles on Medium. Also, ten-time published author and micro-press owner her books are sold on Amazon.

Protect your Self-published Writing from Online Theft


Hey writers, do you hesitate to release your self-published writing because you’re afraid the content could be stolen? I hate to say your fear is well founded but it happens to so many writers these days.

Wait, that’s not what you wanted to hear, right? You want to hear that trolls and criminals have been sent to idiot island where there’s no internet access and everyone can live happily ever after, right?

Sadly, that’s not the case. But, I’m here to assure you that your self-published writing can be protected. After reading this article you’ll be in the know about how to put the smack-down on those nasty thieves and come out the other side smiling because your work is finally seeing the light of day!

DMCA takedown notice: If you share your work, fiction or non-fiction, on a blog, there’s a possibility it could be swiped and re-posted. I’ve had this happen but knew just what to do about it and the problem was solved swiftly. DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act and is something every writer should know about. A DMCA notice is sent to the host of the site with the copyright-infringed material in order to have it removed. When I sent my notices, not only was my copyrighted work taken down, the entire site was brought down both times! Most of what they had on their sites was ripped off material from other writers and the DMCA meant the site host had to investigate and take proper action.

Copyright office of the United States: As a self-published writer living and releasing work in the good old U.S. of A. I take full advantage of submitting my work to copyright.gov. For fiction works it costs $35 to upload a deposit (your book). You’ll have a much easier time in court if you already applied for legally binding copyright status. Yes, your copyright is yours the moment you put “pen to paper” but that fact will be much easier to prove when you have a big government entity standing behind you with the proof.

Creative Commons licenses: There’s a fine line between being ripped off and having someone share your work in today’s world. If someone copies your work then pastes on their own blog but links back to your site, there’s not much you can do. Most bloggers and writers would be fine with that type of share because the link back is a good thing. But here’s the rub. Google doesn’t like the exact same content in multiple places. When a site gets pinged to be removed from Google indexing, 9 times out of 10 it will be your website! Uncool. Tell people how much they’re allowed to share by placing a CC on your site. Then, if they go outside the parameters of the license you provide, loop back to that DMCA.

So how can you find out if your work has been swiped?

I do the following things every time I release any kind of self-published writing:

1. Set up a Google alert. If the work in question is a blog I generally set up 2 alerts – one on the title, another on the keyword I built the post around. For books, I set one on the title. It can get cumbersome to have all those alerts show up in email, but I’d rather scroll for ten seconds every day to make sure nobody is trying to steal and re-publish my work as their own than have someone else profiting off of my hard work!

2. Share the link everywhere. This might sound strange but it works. The more of your networks and followers who see the content of your self-published writing, the more who could recognize it if it shows up somewhere else. When your “street team” sees the stolen work, they’ll let you know and you can get with the takedown.

3. Consider launching an LLC. When I first started blogging it was just me and my thoughts. Intellectual property, sure, but I didn’t consider it self-published writing (even though it is!). Once I started writing books I knew I wanted protection from weird people who will stop at nothing to take down a little old indie author like me. So I contacted an intellectual property attorney and created my LLC. The LLC covers my micro-press (I self-publish under my own house, Writesy Press) and all my DBAs (Copywrite That for freelancing, Jenn Flynn-Shon for bloggers, etc.).


Protecting your self-published writing can be a bit of work for those of us running a business all on our own, but in the end it is so worth the extra effort just knowing our words are protected. Now, put fear aside, get out there and get publishing!

Have you ever been robbed without proper credit? How did you fix it? Share in the comments!

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My Boss is Kind of Crazy but in a Good Way


We’ve all been there. We get to work and immediately encounter a boss who makes almost impossible seeming demands of our time, talent and resources. We come home at the end of the day exhausted, wondering if this is really what we should be doing with our life.

So what happens when you work for yourself? Do you tell your boss she’s crazy for the schedule she wants you to keep, or do you blindly follow everything she wants you to do in order to run a successful business?

As self-employed people we have a great responsibility resting on our shoulders. We’re everything in a company from intern to owner and sometimes it’s really tough to keep at it day in and day out.

And, if I’m being truly honest here, that dedication can be more intense for a writer running a self-publishing business. Why? I think this quote pretty well sums it up:



Because it can take years, decades even, to become a writer who starts making a steady income stream from their words.

If at all.

Seriously.

We can type, scrawl and scribble for years and never make any headway at being able to do it full-time. Hell, I wrote fiction since I was 14 but didn’t even publish my first blog until I was 34. The books came later and the income? Well, that’s an entirely different issue.

Right?

Disheartened yet? Thinking of quitting? Believe me, I’ve been there.

But bear with me and hopefully you’ll see why:

Quitting is the last thing you should do!

Last fall something amazing happened and not only did I blow my own mind but I completely changed the way I looked at my writing. It’s made all the difference in my dedication level to running this thing I call a business and I actually can see an income stream beginning to grow. Yes, as a fiction author!

Want to know what happened?

It was two-fold.

First, I fractured my wrist in early October last year. I’d love to tell you I was doing something super cool like playing hockey but not so much. Drunken patio yoga did me in for almost 2 full months. Sigh. What can I say, I’m human. AKA: sometimes a freaking idiot.

But, second, and this is actually where my mind-shift began, I had to do that to myself. Because, in the end, it led to my ah-ha moment. It was imperative I allowed myself to go through the physical and mental pain of that injury because it solidified my thoughts from the entire prior year.

So let me back up and give you a bit of that story.

Will write for pay

I was freelancing for a couple years ghost-writing/tweeting, blogging, writing web copy and other marketing pieces for clients. It was okay. I was pretty good at it. I made money. That’s where my love for it ended, however.

Because I didn’t want to do that shit for someone else. I wanted to do it for myself. I just struggled to see how all that blog, tweet, newsletter writing could lead into anything for my company.

My flailing, sinking, haven’t-released-a-book-in-3-years company.

If I could just figure out how to write blogs and tweets for my readers, I could probably re-launch Writesy Press, LLC.

Fucking lightbulb.

All the work I’d been producing for clients for two years was my training. I learned how to write to entice. To write marketing stuff and keep it going consistently by establishing a schedule.

And I had all of this old work (fiction and reference) just sitting around doing nothing. Like I had been doing for 8 weeks with a broken bone. We both needed to get back in the game.

I bought voice-to-text software immediately.

No way was my stupid identified drunken injury going to keep me from doing my job anymore!

And at that moment, my job was all about getting my real message weeded out, shared, and to start connecting with people. Helping other writers who might be struggling with writing their first book.

Because I was a fiction author at heart, not a freelancer. I’d already written 3 books, released 2, and it was the only job I ever did as a writer that brought me joy and income (regardless of how small that number was to start).

Once I started dropping freelance clients I simply replaced the hours I worked for them with doing the same thing for my company. Blog client gone? I write blogs for my readers. Web copy client gone? Time to start that newsletter I’d been mulling over. You get the point.

When the last client dropped off, I knew the time was there to get back to writing my books too. So I started and in the process lost sight of all the other stuff – blog, newsletter, twitter – making real connections.

Enter Oktoberfest and broken wrist

Isn’t it Murphy’s Law that as we get ahead we fall behind? Well, after a few weeks of introspection & lack of activity due to pain (Hallmark movies rule!), I turned it into a sign to get my shit together before trying to move forward.

During my downtime I handwrote a lot of the book Reckless Hearts (broke left wrist & I’m a righty) and started getting my marketing materials in check:

  • First and foremost, wrote a business plan.
  • Second, wrote and implemented a marketing plan.
  • Blogs that furthered my message were left alone.
  • Blogs that didn’t were deleted or moved.
  • Created shortened links to remaining posts.
  • Developing a spreadsheet to track/organize/manage tweets.
  • Researched hashtags for writers.
  • Started a tweet database with hashtags & links.
  • Opened a hootsuite account so I could schedule my tweets (AKA: free up time for fiction).
  • Created a newsletter template.
  • Established a monthly schedule for work days and days off (very important!)


And within three months not only was I following the schedule, I was crushing it! Why? Because I birthed a viable monthly schedule out of 2 of my darkest months ever.

What’s that quote about doors and windows opening and closing?

If I never got hurt I wonder if I even would have finished Reckless Hearts, not to mention seven months of consistent tweeting/connecting and a second title this year – Creative Writing Kickstart. That title is a culmination of six months of writing prompts, plus a lot of new ones, that I shared with my fiction writer following.

Holy shit!

Even writing it out I’m amazed I was able to pull it together to write a business plan but it was that very document, coupled with my marketing plan, that forced me to evaluate in total honesty where I came from, where I was and where I wanted my business to be.

From misery came determination and if I learned anything on that journey it was this:

When you want to give up is when you’re most honest, your emotions are raw and that truth is going to come through in every word you write.

Use it as fuel to stoke the fires of your business building and you’ll never look at your boss as the crazy person ever again. Instead, you’ll build a business you can be proud of, high-fiveing yourself for being the best boss you’ve ever had!

If you need a nudge at killing writers block and want some cool story starters check out my book Creative Writing Kickstart. With over 365 writing prompts you’re sure to find something that jumpstarts your fiction and career.


Because there’s no better way to shut up the boss than by doing your job, am I right?

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Why Spellcheck Sucks


I love writing in a program that indicates my spelling and grammar mistakes. It helps when I’m on my seventh read-through of my own book and have to get through it even though I’ve all but glazed over at the jumble of my own words.

Google Docs will give me spelling advice, and I love to use it when working on project pieces with Kate for Blogging Your Book. But my go-to program is MS Word.

In lieu of having an editor on staff (because, well, I’m an indie author so let’s get real about the level of income that’s happening in this office, huh?) I can rely on Word to give me similar suggestions as an editor when I’m doing my first read-through.

Or can I?

Take, for example, the following sentence that I wrote for a personal blog post about 3 years ago:

“Regardless that Stephanie Meyer is a Phoenix based Author.”

Notice the spelling mistake? Yeah, well neither did Word. Or my brain while I was typing it or when I did my read-through after pasting the text into my blog post.

Because that line should read:

“Regardless that Stephenie Meyer is a Phoenix based Author.”

If you aren’t familiar with her work you might have done something similar to what I did and just typed her first name the way that name is generally spelled. I wasn’t really thinking, I was lost in a Twilight haze and since it was spelled “correctly”, Word didn’t flag it.

People have spelled my name wrong too. The most common is Jen because that’s the usual way people spell it, not with 2 n’s. But I’ve also seen Jenn Flynn-Shonn – 2 n’s for everyone!

It wasn’t until the post came out that I noticed my error, then made the necessary edit. Luckily, my blog wasn’t super popular so I’m pretty sure nobody noticed except me. Still, I was partially mortified. I mean, I’m an author too and it makes me cringe when people spell my name wrong so how could I get the name of a famous local author wrong?!

But these things happen, right?

Sure, and it’s why, as fiction writers, we need an editor!

Editors and proofreaders will help you to ensure as few spelling and grammar mistakes as possible. But they leave your voice alone. They still let you tell your story in your way, just, better. More polished.

And proofreaders will help you reign in where you typed ‘an’ instead of ‘and’, where you missed the word ‘to’ in the narrative, or when your character is ‘charging if the front door’.

These pros are an invaluable asset, especially for an indie who has probably read their own book so many times the prose is blurring together in one big glob of letters.

However, I’m sure you’ve noticed the myriad of these pros scattered about the internet and social media sites. So how can you know if the pro really is a pro, not just a fly-by-nighter trying to make a quick buck with no real experience behind them?

Here’s my criteria when looking for someone to help polish my books:

  • They must be a reader (bonus if they read my specific genre).
  • They must have a website.
  • That website must look and feel professional, and be easy to navigate.
  • It also shouldn’t have any spelling mistakes (hello, red flag!).
  • They have to understand modern fiction (because sometimes we have to dangle participles or end a sentence with a preposition in order to stay true to a character’s voice, but we also shouldn’t make a habit of it.)
  • Their fees should be reasonable (we’re talking Goldilocks Zone here, people – one cent per 100 words isn’t realistic but neither is $50 per page, for a 500 page book, as a proofreader).
  • At least one book in their portfolio (I don’t care if it was written by their BFF, mom, brother, I want references and examples of the kind of work they can do before I fork over my “baby” and all that moolah!)
  • They get back to me in a reasonable amount of time (because I don’t expect a response in 10 minutes but it should be less than 72 hours or I’ll question how much attention they can give their clients – fostering a relationship is key to repeat business).


Bottom line, don’t rely on spellcheck and grammar checks in programs to bring that finished quality to your fiction. Hire the right people and your investment will pay off in the professionalism of your work!


Do you have an editor or proofer you use on the regular? I’ll be looking for a new one for my next book and would love suggestions. Leave their twitter ID in the comments or come on over and connect with me on twitter

Due to a severe spike in spam, I no longer accept comments from Anonymous users. All comments made on posts 3 days or older will be moderated. Spam will be deleted (it is up to the blog administrator to determine if a comment is spam). A new window opens when you click to comment.


Planning by the Seat of my Pants


If you’ve spent any time reading the inner musings of novelists then you know there are essentially two types of writers – pantsers and planners.

To define each, a pantser is someone that flies by the seat of their pants and writes whatever comes to them in the moment their fingers hit keys while a planner meticulously details a full outline of each book and sticks to it through the end.

Which is better? As far as I’m concerned either way is terrific if it works to produce a quality piece of fiction.

Me?

To the tune of the Osmonds: I’m a little bit pantser, a little bit plan it out. But to fully understand how that’s possible, let me share a bit of my writing process.

Outline pantser

When I sit down to start working on a new book I think about the characters, the basic plot and some of the scenes. I’ll start writing and maybe come up with one or two gems that stick around but at the beginning all I really try to do is figure out what the characters are trying to say and why they do what they do.

In other words, I am an outline pantser.

An outline can be a great tool while working on a book. Consider how many characters there might be in a piece of fiction. Then how many personality traits each of those characters have. How many places they go, things they do, moments they have that push the story forward.

Those little nuances are what give a book a feeling of completion, fullness.

But I couldn’t possibly plan for those moments, sometimes spontaneity is crucial to a story so it feels organically birthed and not contrived.

The first 25 or so pages I write will work toward developing a story. One that isn’t real yet but is on its way. Meaning that I haven’t spent enough time with the characters yet to understand their motivations or background.

Think of it like this: you get invited to a dinner party but know no one other than the host. Could you tell me what will happen at the end of the night before you even arrive? (If you can then you might be a planner!)

Likely, the answer is no.

What might happen at the end of the night only becomes apparent after a glass of wine, some food and dialogue among your peers. A book is the same thing with the only difference being it all comes out of your head.

Planning plot points

That’s the point where things get interesting for me as a writer. After meeting and getting to know all my characters in a pantsy way, I start to dwell on the good and evil sides of their personalities.

After all, I write mystery fiction. Which means every character in the book will have something to hide as well as the face they put on for the general public around them. Good guys aren’t always 100% good people, just like killers aren’t always 100% evil.

But once I have a general idea about who those characters are, because of the handful of pages I write to work it out, that’s when I can get down to the planning phase.

In the past I mentioned my novel journal where I make notes of the various aspects in my book. That journal is a direct result of caution-to-the-wind pantsing (and yes, I’m using this as a verb, sue me). The cast is established, motivations of the killer/victim/observers are clear and the setting established.

Then I can take that info and start building scenes because, like a game of chess, I can now see three moves into the future.

The moments that make a book special are the ones that seem to spontaneously appear on the page though, the unexpected things that turn a corner or change a reader’s perception of a character.

All that stuff comes with pantsing an outline.

They surprise me in a good way and then I work hard to fit those surprises into the greater structure of the story as a whole.

Some make it, some don’t, but all of that early work has merit because it gets you closer to your character’s inner motivations.

But I don’t get bogged down

To be a pantser means writing stream of consciousness and not caring much about how it will fit. Because, to be a pantser also means you understand how much editing you’ll be doing later, regardless if there’s a solid outline or not.

For me, to embrace being a pantser means to just keep writing. Even when I encounter things that trip me up.

For example, a new character can be confusing at times. I’m just getting to know them so sometimes I can’t name them until more of their “self” shines through.

In that instance I use brackets and come back to the issue later. Sometimes not until the end of editing the first draft! Here’s how that might read as I pants my outline:

I looked out the driver’s side window at this twenty year old kid in front of me. He was average height and build and his fancy nametag read [VALET NAME] but all I could think of was that episode of Friends where Ross bleached his teeth. The kid’s smile had to glow in the dark.

How I do it:
  • Use the bracketed label in the story as I write
  • Immediately note down the character and bracketed info in my journal (for reference)
  • Use the same label throughout the book
  • Take advantage of Word find/replace when the name comes to me
  • Note the name in the journal (for future reference)


So, as you can see, I feel there’s a lot of merit in both styles of writing and I use both in the crafting of my books.

Which do you use? Do you do a little of both, like me, or does your writing tend to lean one way or the other?



Due to a severe spike in spam, I no longer accept comments from Anonymous users. All comments made on posts 3 days or older will be moderated. Spam will be deleted (it is up to the blog administrator to determine if a comment is spam). A new window opens when you click to comment.


Excerpt from soon to be Released Reckless Hearts


For the past few months I’ve been writing, editing and creating a new adventure for Shaw McLeary, the main character from my first book, Reckless Abandon.

And I’m really excited to announce that my sassy leading female will be back for book 2 in The Shaw McLeary Mystery Series – Reckless Hearts.

My latest work of fiction is slated for novella length of about 30k words and a release in July. And I can. Not. Wait!

If you read Abandon you remember there were a few nagging questions that didn’t quite get answered. Things that could totally alter the direction of Shaw’s future. The wait is almost over for those answers. Hearts will answer them all!

Of course that begs a new question – what might Shaw have to work through this time and what decisions did she make after finding out the truth?

Want a little taste of what’s to come? Just go ahead and continue reading. Then don’t forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter so you’ll be the first to know when you can pre-order Reckless Hearts!

Excerpt from Reckless Hearts A Shaw McLeary Mystery #2**




Ready to find out just what happens when Shaw and Krista get where they're going?

Reckless Hearts is out now! To get your copy please stop on over to Amazon and buy it here.

Don't forget to leave a rating and review after you finish reading it, reviews really help Indie Authors to connect with their fans and write even better books in the future! Thanks & keep reading!

Reckless Abandon Cover Re-release!


After weeks of design consultation back and forth, the re-booted, re-designed cover for Reckless Abandon is HERE!

But before I get to showing it off, first please allow me a minute to thank my kick-ass cover designer extraordinaire – Judi FitzPatrick!

For those of you who don’t know Judi, here are a few fun facts:

  • She’d been snapping fine art photos for more than half her life.
  • Judi started blogging about photography and her process 8 years ago.
  • She loves to do collage and manipulation to bring ideas to life in visual format.
  • This isn’t her first rodeo (AKA: Not her first book cover).
  • Judi is my mom.


Now, you might be thinking that I’m super biased and the truth is, well, I am! But as an objective artist I can also see so much freaking awesome in this new cover that I can’t even stand it!

Let’s review my old and lame as hell cover first. Remember this exceptionally boring design:


SNORE!

That’s because I had no idea what I was doing. Not really. Three years ago when I asked my mom to put the original cover together I was so green and had just started reading Indie Author books. Covers were one of the last things on my mind.

Of course they shouldn’t have been last, I even wrote about judging a book by its cover.

But now…

I knew the cabin image had to remain (because it has SO MUCH plot intertwined) but didn’t know how to really convey the book in visuals. So what to do?

Well, that’s where my mom came into play. Because, now I've got this:



Can someone say BOOM?!

Even if you haven’t read the book there’s no denying a sense of the mystery, the story and the characters (maybe even some of their motivations?) just by looking at the cover.

And that’s what a cover should do after all, right?

Right!

Judi, AKA: mum, totally nailed it! Thanks so much mum, I am in love with this new cover and I'm so excited to share it with the world!

Please visit Judi’s (AKA: mum’s) website and check out some of her work to see if she can help you put together a cover that really pops and sings - like this one!

If you haven’t read Reckless Abandon yet you'll want to pick up your copy soon because book 2 in the Shaw McLeary Mystery Series – Reckless Hearts – will be out this summer.

And wait until you see the cover!

Pick up Reckless Abandon for your eReader today, just go here.


Plus, to get the inside skinny on when Reckless Hearts hits the stores sign up here for my newsletter and be the first to know!

EDITOR NOTE: Due to a severe spike in spam, I no longer accept comments from Anonymous users. All comments made on posts 3 days or older will be moderated. Spam will be deleted (and I decide what's spam). A new window opens when you click to comment.