Reflections on the Old Year

On New Year’s Eve 2014, I wrote a list of goals that I wanted to achieve in 2015. It totaled over forty items, spanning four sheets (single-side) from a small, ruled notebook. I sealed that list in an envelope and scrawled “TO BE OPENED ON DEC. 31, 2015” across the front and the seal of the envelope. I tucked the sealed list in a journal and went about my business.

Yesterday, I opened that envelope and went through the list, checking off those things that I accomplished and making notes otherwise (e.g., maybe I accomplished part of a goal, or the goal needed to be modified during the year). Sadly, I didn’t check off most of my list, though I was proud of those things I did (the year wasn’t a total wash!). Among those was:

–Established a business banking account
–Found an accountant that specialized in small businesses
–Set up my author website
–Did book signings at independent bookstores
–Guest blogged on a site
–Got new glasses & a fresh supply of contact lenses
–Regularly exercised 3 times/week
–Wrote more handwritten letters, which of course led to
–Getting new stationery 🙂
–Got a new winter coat (not that I’ve had much occasion to wear it, what with temperatures being in the 60s & 70s for most of November and December 2015)
–Got more involved in my college alumni association and local chapter of the alumni club.

I also achieved some goals that I hadn’t listed, such as having my sports articles published in major, national publications such as Sports Illustrated (via The Cauldron on Medium) and Ms. magazine, and other articles published elsewhere around the web WOOT!  I was fortunate to make some cool connections with some like-minded folks in both the same and different industries, and I’m looking forward to our collaborations in the upcoming year.

I tried some new things and failed (applied for writing grants and submitted short stories to two publications), but got positive, valuable feedback that will set me up for success when I try again (and I was actually encouraged by The Powers That Be at each organization and publication to try again. How cool is that?).

Even those goals that weren’t accomplished were valuable. For some, they were only partially completed (I wanted to publish four books last year, but only did two: The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic and Stormbringer. That’s still better than zero. I also released BFC: Dominic and a previous book, Blizzard, in mass market paperback formats.).

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This a speculative fiction novel (a new genre for me!), written under the pen name Tai Daniels

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This is the second installment in the Bastille Family Chronicles series

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Now avaolable in mass market paperback, only on my website, tiffscribes.com

For others, they gave me an insight as to the work that was still to be done in order to check them off my list. Some goals were too vague, and some were too specific and didn’t allow for the twists and turns of life.

Still others became no longer relevant in retrospect, and these uncompleted goals are the ones to which I’m paying more attention. Their lack of relevancy to my life is forcing me to closeer inspect them and discover alternate routes that may be better suited to my needs.

Oprah Winfrey is often quoted as saying “Man’s rejection is God’s protection.” While some of my goals weren’t reached due to personal error, others weren’t due to circumstances beyond my control. There may be a reason for this, and that reason may be that Goal X isn’t what I really need–or, upon reexamination, what I really want. Not reaching those goals may have been a divine form of protection, and it’s up to me to figure out if this is true, and the way forward if it is indeed true. And for those unrealized goals that were my fault, having a long, hard look at some harsh truths is the best way to garner progress. As the Twelve Steppers say, admitting a problem is the first step. 🙂

Though 2015 didn’t shape up to be all that I hoped it would, the year ended up a lot better than 2014 was, for which I am truly grateful. I’m excited and optimistic for 2016, and I’m looking forward to opening the sealed envelope of goals that is now inscribed, “TO BE OPENED ON DEC. 31, 2016”.

Happy New Year, all, and thanks for stopping by.

CYBER WEEK SALE: 50% off ERRYTHANG!

AAAAAAGGGHHHHH! This was supposed to have been sent on MONDAY, but when I switched from “draft” to “publish” on the WordPress app, I guess the app/phone interface didn’t get the memo. Grrrr…

Anyway, here is the original post that SHOULD have gotten to you a few days ago. *sigh*

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Hi all,

I haven’t blogged in a long while because I was dealing with an ill family member, NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving, and the imminent publication of my fourth book.

Well, the family member is better, I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo this year (only got to 27K words), T-Day is over, and my fourth novel, Stormbringer, is out as of today. WOOT!

Since it’s that time of the year where everyone and their grandmother is offering a sale, I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon. 🙂

Here ya go: my biggest. sale. EVER.

50% off (yeah, I said it), all titles through my website. Yes, that includes my newest book, Stormbringer.  Enter code CYBERTIFF at checkout.

You can find details in the latest email that went out to my mailing list (and if you aren’t on my mailing list, then what are you waiting for?)

http://eepurl.com/bHIIdL

This sale is going on all week through Saturday, 12/5. Free U.S. shipping on all orders of $10 & up. How cool is that?

For those of you who wanted to try my books but were frugally conscious, now’s your chance! And did I mention that I now offer the mass market versions of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic and Blizzard: A Sebastian Scott novel? The regular price for those is $8.00 each; if you buy them this week, you can get them for $4 each.  That’s two for the price of one, which is a pretty good incentive to buy both. 😀 And the larger paperbacks, which are $14.95 each, can now be had for about $7.50! At this price, you can get all the titles and stock up for your holiday reading.

Oh, what a bargain! What a bargain for you!

And did I also mention that the books come autographed? And that they make great gifts? Just saying.

The offer is only good through my website, and ends at 11:59 pm ET on Saturday, December 5. Remember to use the code CYBERTIFF at checkout. Come through and gitchu a piece.

Thanks for stopping by.

Writing and The Conundrum of “Free”

I love “free”.

Food samples? I’m on it. Giveaways on the corner? I’m widdit. Free items via shopper’s card at a grocery store? Yes, indeed.

I’m all about that something-for-nothing life….except when it comes to books.

I suppose this makes me a hypocrite because I check Bookbub and Choosy Bookworm every day to get ebook deals and if it’s good and free, I usually partake. The upside: I sometimes discover good authors and I didn’t come out of pocket. The downside: I have a glut of ebooks across Kindle, Google Play Books, and Nook that I still haven’t read from two-plus years ago, and I keep piling on more.

The “write/don’t write for free” debate has raged across the literary landscape for years. It’s especially more pertinent now, with so many authors choosing to self-publish. Some self-proclaimed experts insist that giving away books is one of the best ways to build your audience. Others ignore that advice in an attempt to preserve the value of their work.

Which is the best path?

I can’t say for sure. I was always taught that people don’t value that which they didn’t have to work to obtain, be it via money, time, or work. This value statement applies to physical objects, relationships, goals…you name it. If you don’t put some skin in the game, some kind of way, it won’t matter to you once you get it. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “In it to win it.”

I have written articles and book reviews for free, especially when I was venturing into a new area outside of my comfort zone. Each time, I parlayed those free writings into paid gigs–which was my end game (I’m an unapologetic capitalist). Writing for free doesn’t mean you have to keep doing so; if your writing is good, it will get noticed by people who are willing to pay for what you have to say–unfortunately, this sometimes means giving a larger sample of free writing so that the lucrative gigs can get a better measure of your writing style and determine if you are worth the cash and will enhance their media brand. I get it: it’s good business sense, particularly for internet-based companies without the resources and reserves of more established brick-and-mortars. And while I implore all writers to value their work, make sure you are actually writing something of value–boring, trite, repetitive, error-filled, cookie-cutter writing may work for those fly-by-night, clickbait-laden sites, or for those whose reviews/follows were purchased, but won’t cut it for the major players. and/or serious readers.

I’ve given away my books for free. Usually, there is “payment” in the form of an email address so that I can increase my mailing list, or an agreement to provide an honest review, or some other sort of mutually profitable arrangement. All to increase my book sales some more (sales are lifeblood to the professional author, whether traditionally or self-published. The love of the art is the catalyst, but in the end it’s about cold, hard cash, continually increasing sales, and ending up in the black.). Likewise, when I’ve won books via a giveaway, I had to pay in the form of providing my email address; answering questions (anyone who has entered a contest via Rafflecopter feels me on this LOL); (re)tweeting my entry into the contest; following the author on Twitter or liking a Facebook page. There was a payment involved, an exchange of energy that made me look forward to getting that book–which I read almost as soon as I received it. In the end, I paid for those books somehow, and I valued them more because of that, even if it was just an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) and not the finished, shelf-ready product.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

I think of those hundreds (and counting) of ebooks clogging up my platform apps. I also look at the books (e- or otherwise)  I tend to read and re-read: the ones I actually purchased, even if it was only for 99 cents. To not read them, after I bought them, would be a waste of money and that is counterintuitive to my personal beliefs. The free ones? I’m not so pressed about, which is why they continue to stockpile. I have no incentive for reading them NOW. I recently went through a bunch of books I had in storage. Most of these I’d gotten free from the Book Expo of America (BEA) over ten years ago. Most of them I still haven’t read and don’t know when I will. I didn’t pay for them: I lived in New York at the time and my entrance fee was paid for by a publication for which I used to write reviews. So they will continue to gather dust and be relegated to the “I’ll get around to it” zone. And before you ask: I’m keeping them because most of them are out of print, or have original cover artwork (and have since been re-released, perhaps as a movie tie-in or as part of a move to a different publisher), so that makes them more valuable to me. And they were…well…FREE. 🙂

This is my personal conundrum: give away books with no type of “payment” from potential readers in an attempt to bolster my audience and sales, or charge money? I’m all about building my audience (and sales), but I also don’t want to end up in anyone’s (e)book glut, either, to be discovered one, five, or ten years down the road…or never.

I can’t dictate what’s best for each writer. You have to do what you feel is best for you and your career, and blessings be to you on whatever you decide.  But as for me and my house, I prefer to get paid.

Thanks for stopping by.

I’m doing a HUGE book giveaway!

Hi all,

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I am collaborating with Black Girl Nerds to do a HUGE book giveaway! That’s right, I am giving away each of my three books, in both electronic and paperback format:

The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille [Bastille Family Chronicles #1] (BTW: email me at tiffscribes [at] gmail to get a FREE e-book copy, from now through May 27!)**

Camille ebook cover

The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic [Bastille Family Chronicles #2]

BFC Dominic cover ebook

Blizzard: A Sebastian Scott Novel [Sebastian Scott #1]

Blizzard_Cover_for_Kindle

Simply visit Black Girl Nerds daily from now until May 27 (next Wednesday) to make an entry. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!

And don’t forget to email me at tiffscribes [at] gmail to get your FREE e-book copy of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille** (now through May 27)

Please spread the word, and thanks for stopping by.

**DISCLAIMER: by emailing me to receive a free e-book copy of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille, you are consenting to be added to my mailing list. You may unsubscribe from the mailing list at any time. 

DOMINIC IS HERE! Let’s celebrate with a special sales deal!

Drum roll, please…

The second installment of The Bastille Family Chronicles is here! WOOT!

BFC Dominic cover ebook

(BTW: the title is not missing: it’s on the spine. Chuck Palahniuk used a similar setup for his novel Haunted.)

The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic is the story of Dominic Bastille, a transplant surgeon and one-half of the youngest Bastille siblings (he has a twin sister, Nicollette. Look for her story this summer). Dominic has relocated from Newark, New Jersey to Atlanta, Georgia for a unique professional opportunity. Unfortunately for him, his past has caught up with him…in the form of his ex-fiancee, Cecily Porter. Three years post-engagement and Cecily still isn’t over Dominic; to make matters worse, Dominic has hired Taryn McIntyre, a very brilliant and attractive game developer, to help him with his medical research, which tends to integrate a lot of technology with commonplace medical procedures and training. Of course, Dominic and Taryn start a personal relationship in addition to the business one. But Cecily is not done with Dominic..and she plays for keeps.

Read an excerpt from The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic

This was more fun to write than The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille, and that’s saying something!

Read an excerpt from The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille

In the original draft of BFC: Dominic, Taryn was a freelance journalist who specialized in healthcare, and met Dominic when she was assigned to interview him for a new healthcare magazine. But I didn’t want to be accused of writing about a thinly-disguised version of myself (I worked in healthcare for years, once upon a time, and I’m a writer, so there’s that), so I changed her to a game developer. I liked this version of Taryn better because I have interacted with quite a few female gamers and game developers on Twitter, and I am also a fan of Back Girls Code and Women Who Code. These ladies deserve some literary shine, and I hope I did them justice. I also wanted Dominic to have a romantic relationship with someone who isn’t necessarily like the women he usually dates. Taryn, with her shoulder-length, bi-colored dreadlocks (I use the term “locs” in the book) eyebrow ring, and sleeve of tattoos is not the type of woman Dominic usually goes for. Plus, she’s smarter and makes more money…definitely not Dominic’s usual wheelhouse. 🙂

While this is technically Dominic’s story, I explored some issues that have been going on with women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields in general, as well as entrepreneurs. Taryn is in the minority regarding her viewpoints on life and her priorities…read the book to find out exactly how.

Check it out: in honor of the release of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic, I am doing a sale special: if you purchase the paperback from my website (which is autographed, BTW), you get the ebook FREE! How cool is that? Use code EBOOK at checkout to get the free ebook. This deal also applies to The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (BFC #1) and Blizzard: A Sebastian Scott novel (which I wrote under a pen name and is more of a suspenseful book. It is centered around Brooklyn-born, Trinidadian-raised, San Francisco-based DEA Special Agent Sebastian Scott, who was introduced in BFC Camille).

Read an excerpt from Blizzard: A Sebastian Scott Novel

Camille ebook cover  Blizzard_Cover_for_Kindle

In order to get this book/ebook deal, you HAVE to purchase the book from my website; the code doesn’t work on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Can’t choose? Check out the starter pack, which includes BFC Camille and Blizzard, since they are the first books in their respective series. Good bargain!

To recap: Buy paperback from website. Use code EBOOK at checkout. Get free ebook. Lather, rinse, repeat. 🙂 Ebooks are also available for separate purchase in epub (Apple, NOOK, Kobo, Google) and Kindle formats.

Please spread the word, and #SupportINDIEWriters. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.  Feel free to drop me a line with your comments about the novel(s). Got Twitter? Speak your piece with the hashtag #BFCDominic (or #BFCCamille, or #SebastianScott ).

As always, thanks for stopping by.

I’m being interviewed! Sunday, 5/7, 7pm EDT

Hi all,

I will be interviewed in the Black Girl Nerds podcast on Sunday, May 7, 7 pm EDT. The interview will be hosted by Jamie Broadnax, founder and khaleesi of Black Girl Nerds. WOOT! Tell a friend or three!

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I will be on a panel of three self-published authors (I’m the lone female author), along with Thelonious Legend (Sins of the Father, the first in the Parker Girls YA series) and Kevin Wayne Williams (Everything I Know About Zombies, I Learned in Kindergarten). We’ll be talking about our respective works, and I will especially bring up The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic, which is the next installment in the Bastille Family Chronicles series (the first was The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille). It drops next week! Double WOOT!

Since the podcast starts at 7 pm EDT, there’s plenty of time to listen before you dive into Game of Thrones, House of Lies, the second round of the NBA playoffs (#GritAndGrind, #GoSpursGo), or your preferred Sunday evening programming. If you’re on Twitter, make sure to hashtag it: #BFCDominic, #BGNPodcast

Also…keep your eyes and inboxes peeled next week, as I do my first-ever book giveaway for all three of my titles, It’s gonna be epic!

Thanks for stopping by.
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Stuck (pt. 2)

Back in January (I know, it’s been awhile), I posted about a bout (ha ha) of writer’s block and how reading The Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader helped me break out of it. I promised to follow up on what I meant, so here it is.

It took so long to write a follow-up because I got unstuck, then stuck again, and had to get re-unstuck. Plus, I had to indulge in my annual “holiday”, March Madness, so there was that. 🙂 Anyway, in The Ninja the main character, Nicholas Linnear, is training for a specialized form of martial arts: ninjutsu, or the art of the ninja. As part of his training, he is told to read No Rin Go Sho (The Book of Five Rings), a classic yet short Japanese military tome by Miyamoto Musashi. While The Book of Five Rings is primarily devoted to victorious sword-fighting it, as most Japanese books do, incorporates philosophical and spiritual elements. The main underlying principle to the book is adherence to the Way, which I interpret as an honorable place of spirit that is applied to every endeavor in one’s life. The Way is when a person is true to him/herself in whatever s/he does; by doing so, it’s implied that any decision made will be correct.

Study strategy over the years and achieve the spirit of the warrior. Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men. Next, in order to beat more skillful men…not allowing your heart to be swayed along a side-track. Even, if you kill an enemy, if it is not based on what you learned, it is not the Way. If you attain this Way of victory, then you will be able to beat several tens of men.” — The Book of Five Rings, Musashi Miyamoto

I was stuck in my writing because I lost my Way (or way). I was writing to fit myself into a marketing category, instead of just writing and figuring it out later. When I look at my first book, I see where I went wrong (and a future rewrite/re-release is still an option), and how I could have had more fun with the book. Even with the third book in the works for a late April/early May release, I’m slowly getting away from what I think I should be writing (e.g., the romance novel formula that is set forth by the Romance Writers of America) and just letting the story take me where it wants to go. That’s where the most honest writing lives, anyway.

It’s hard sometimes because the story may not be in line with what my current readers want or expect. Therein lies the rub of the published author: give the people what they want, or stay true to self? Stephen King said it best in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft :

“What would be very wrong, I think, is to turn away from what you know and like…in favor of things you believe will impress your friends, relatives, and writing-circle colleagues. What’s equally wrong is the deliberate turning toward some genre or type of fiction in order to make money. It’s morally wonky, for one thing…Also, brothers and sisters, it doesn’t work.” — On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King

So here I am, finding my Way, writing what brings me joy and what may not fit into the Census-like boxes of the publishing industry. To that end, I may even abandon the whole pen name thing as well; I usually end up signing my real name out of habit, so what’s the point? The best I can do is turn out quality product, and hope that readers will (continue to) ride with me. The minimalization of book category may even help gain new readers, since they won’t automatically see a genre (e.g., romance) and think, “Nope, not for me.”

If you’re in a stuck place in your life (no matter what your profession or day job), I encourage you to go back to the beginning of when you were hopped up with excitement, when you felt, deep down, that your path was the right one for you. I encourage you to find your Way (again). And you might want to check out The Ninja; it’s a pretty cool read.

Thanks for stopping by.

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