Here’s What Happens When You Just Stop Writing. #Passion2Profession

I’m dealing with this…horrible thing that I didn’t ask for. I used to love to write. It brought me incredible joy…I woke up every day, filled with excitement and an urge to rush to my computer so I could continue to tell whatever story I was currently writing. It was never easy, but it was always fun, and somewhere down the line, it stopped being fun…So I’m in free fall, because you’re right. I don’t know who I am, or what I’ll be if I just stop writing.” — Shay, SOME KIND OF HERO by Suzanne Brockman.

By sheer coincidence I was reading my first Suzanne Brockman book when she took the stage at RWA in Denver. There was a certain amount of irony that her speech touched on how a lot of people were feeling, while at the same moment her written words were touching on how I, specifically, was feeling.

So what happens after you realize you’re in free fall because you don’t know who you are or what you’ll do if you just stop writing?

Let me tell you all about it…in short, it’s a roller coaster ride.

In the last few weeks I’ve bounced from relief to disgust to acceptance. I’ve also found myself suddenly sobbing for no obvious reason, eating way more carbs than I should, and being unable to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes.

But, let me tell you something else: There is hope. And beyond that, there is learning, and pivoting, and there are dreams bigger than being a famous-wealthy-award-winning-bestselling-insert your personal goal here- author.

Here are some of the amazingly positive things that have happened since I wrote this post—>> eight weeks ago:

1. I admitted I was no longer earning a living through my writing, and picked a different means to make money. I’m still training to teach English as a second language, but the decision to pursue that employment has given me the freedom both to engage in interests outside of writing, and to explore options in writing I never would have if I were “trying to earn.” There is a tremendous relief that has come with removing money from the equation in terms of what I write, where I write, and how I publish, in considering partnerships and avenues I’d turned a blind eye to years ago. My entire career developed in the age of Facebook, Amazon, contemporary romance, and Indie. I saturated myself in those worlds, hyper focused on those platforms. But guess what? There are other ways and places, other genres, other options. If I hadn’t “given up” so to speak, I wouldn’t be seeing all the things I am now.

2. I left behind the things I’m not good at and don’t want to do. No more fretting over ads and algorithms, cross promos and giveaways. Will I do those things again someday? Maybe. Will I ever spend a bunch of time trying to “master” them? No. I’ve been focusing on story ideas, refilling my well, the process of creativity. And I’ve been working with other amazing women who are interested in exploring the same things (come join us here—>>

3. I decided I don’t want to be multiple people anymore. There isn’t a “Selena the author” and a “Selena the person.” I’m building an umbrella brand because I’m too complex not to. “Selena” loves language and books and humanity. And those things aren’t contradictory. One of the first things a “real life” acquaintance said when she read one of my books was, “it’s amazing how you wove human rights into a romance novel. I didn’t know that was possible.” Of course it is, and yes, I do it, but I do it in my own way. It’s not a marketing tool or a selling point, it’s just me. I’m going to keep on doing it, but I’m also going to discuss it outside the books. I’ll never make a speech like Suzanne Brockman’s, it’s not my style. But I’ll advocate and educate and use books and language and the skills I’ve gained over a lifetime to make the world a better place.

4. I’m deciding to go deep. When I woke up all those weeks ago and realized I couldn’t keep doing what I had been, I was faced with some choices about how I view myself. The easy thing was to say, “I don’t have what it takes to succeed.” But deep down that didn’t feel right. The harder thing was to say, “I haven’t gone to the right place to succeed.” There are places I haven’t taken my writing and my career because I was scared. Places I’ve told myself are “too good” for me. No more. It’s time to test the waters, take the plunge, and go deep.

A few weeks ago I felt like Suzanne Brockman’s heroine. And some days I do still. But more often I am feeling that this is not an end, but a pivot, a shift into something that while more complicated and intimidating may end up being much more fulfilling. All this is to say: your dreams aren’t an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to view this career as a zero-sum game. There are as many ways to be a writer as there are books to write. Open your mind, release your creative energy, and build your own road.

#Passion2Profession How to Bar-Con With Purpose

Another RWA national conference is in the bag and it’s time for the “lessons learned” portion. There are lots of notes being traded, stories being told, and ideas being exchanged. Some experiences were good, some unfortunately were bad, but all are useful and help newer writers decide whether they might want to brave the world’s biggest confab of romance writers the next time around.

I’ve attended three of the last four RWA conferences (because I refuse to add Disney World to the existing madness of a 2000+ attendee conference), but I’ve done it a little differently each time. And this year I finally felt like I was hitting my stride. Here’s how I did it:

  1. I am known for my inability to sit still and be talked at for long periods. I’m also known (at least to myself) as having a four-hour cap on my ability to people. Most of you reading this understand what I’m saying. It’s a lot of talking, and smiling, and trying not to overanalyze what you just said and how everyone around you reacted to it. Because of all this, I decided not to register for RWA this year (since it was down the road from my house) and “Bar-Con” instead.
  2. However, I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to learn some new things, so when the Kiss of Death romantic suspense chapter announced their annual pre-con day-long workshop, I jumped on it. This year the Denver ATF presented for six hours on what they do and how they do it, and it was fantastic! If you’re going to Bar-Con, look for opportunities like the Kiss of Death pre-con workshop. There are almost always a variety of mini-workshops directly before the conference that use a separate registration. They’re a great way to get the “learning” without committing to several days worth of workshops.
  3. I attended an awards reception. Granted, I was up for the award (and won it, thank you very much! 😉 ) but even if you aren’t, go to a reception for a friend who’s a finalist, or for one that your local RWA chapter hosts. It’s a good way to be involved with one of the industry’s other functions–applauding excellence–and whether it’s your’s or someone else’s, it’s important to contribute to it.
  4.  I scheduled one professional meeting and several social meetings. The social meetups were with a variety of people, and while they didn’t always turn out exactly as planned (twice I didn’t actually get a chance to talk to the person I’d come to meet with 😦 ) they were well worth the time and ended up refilling my well in ways nothing else could. I talked to old friends, met new friends, signed things for readers who were local, met up with newer writers who were also readers, handed out audiobooks just for fun, and talked about business, people’s families, future projects, etc. I came away with gratitude for the friends I’ve made in five years, awe at the level of talent of my fellow writers (I had FIVE friends who were RITA finalists, y’all), joy for the successes they’ve experienced both professionally and personally, and amazement that there were enough people who actually specifically wanted to see me that I filled four whole days with meetups.
  5. When you Bar-Con you don’t get to attend the  RITAs. I live streamed instead and really enjoyed it. However, if you’re super into getting dressed up and love to be live at things like that, you’ll need to consider what you’d miss if you go the Bar-Con route.
  6. I am in no way advocating that everyone stop paying registration fees and hang out in the lobby at RWA conferences. The organization needs the registrations, and depending on where you are in your career, there are dozens of useful and unique workshops that you won’t find anywhere other than the national conference. However, I learned something valuable about myself by taking a step back this year and sticking to the Bar-Con. For an introvert (like me), the combination of attending workshops all day and then trying to socialize on top of it is overwhelming. I did more “networking” and positive socializing this year than I ever have at past conferences, I also enjoyed this conference more than any previous RWA. I know that was because without the workshops I had the energy left to people.
  7. I now feel liberated to register for next year’s conference, and skip the majority of workshops. I’ve realized that what we sign up for at RWA is much bigger and more significant than workshops alone. It’s about the experience in its entirety and you aren’t wasting your money if you go and spend the vast majority of your time doing things other than sitting in panel sessions. So if you’re unsure about whether to attend a future RWA, or if you simply can’t afford the travel plus the registration, consider the Bar-Con, but do it with purpose, plan a variety of experiences, make those connections a priority, and release yourself from the idea that RWA is mainly about the workshops. Then commit to registering for the subsequent conferences because it’s how we give back to the organization that brings so much and so many together in such a unique way.

#Profession2Passion: It’s Called a Sabbatical

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about where I’m at with Indie publishing. It was hard to do, but freeing at the same time. And before I wrote that and since I wrote that, I’ve been thinking and considering and listening, both to myself, and to others.

And I’ve come to some decisions. The first is that I’m going to change the way I approach my writing. From day one I’ve viewed this as my profession, I’ve done it full-time, and because of that I’ve worked my ever-loving ass off to do everything possible to sell books. But no more. I will never stop writing and publishing, but I have to leave the earning worries behind. I want my writing to be a joy again, and these days it can’t be that when it’s also my full-time job.

To jumpstart the new outlook I’m going to take a sabbatical! I’m not going to give myself any deadlines or make any major commitments from now until the end of the year. I’ll still have a release in September (it’s already written) and some Radish stories to finish, but thanks to my understanding publisher, I’ve postponed the other major projects until 2019.

As I start my six months of taking a really deep breath, I’m doing other projects–things for fun, things that need to be done, things that matter to me. I have a huge list of house projects–painting, stripping wallpaper, decluttering–I’m continuing to volunteer with immigrant and refugee children each week, I’m planning a trip for my daughter’s 20th birthday, I’m dreaming about retiring to Portugal, and I’m dogsitting for all my neighbors, because dogs, y’all. Tons. Of. Dogs. ❤

And I want to do something else while I’m on break. I want to create something that’s the opposite of what’s destroying this business. I want to create something that’s a haven from the  totalitarianism of Amazon, that’s the counter to algorithms and ads and bookstuffing. I want to help other authors feel good about what they’re doing, give them a place where they don’t have to worry about sales numbers or review numbers or conforming to tropes. I want to listen to authors and talk to authors. I want to help someone learn to format their first book, or choose a beautiful cover, or talk about whether to have their main characters kiss in the scene at the winery or the scene at the beach. I want to be someone you can talk to about your career in terms other than how many sales you made.

So this is your official invitation to help me build something. It’ll be organic and evolving, and completely ours. We can talk about ideas and creativity, we can post drawings, photos, knitting projects, and recipes. We can organize philanthropy projects or celebrate birthdays by posting excerpts from things we’re working on. And we can talk about our jobs as writers, but not about cross-promo and algorithms. In this place we’ll talk about how to write with a toddler in your house, which diverse romance to recommend this week, or how your latest trip triggered your creativity and helped you plot a whole new series. We can talk about how to develop niche readerships or get books to readers in new and different ways. I want to make a place where we get back to what really matters–creating things we love, getting them to readers who love them too, and being happy in what we do.

Join Here:

When the Business of Books Steals the Joy of Books (#Profession2Passion)

It started two years ago–a disappointment here, a disenchantment there–and bit by bit, it seeped into everything: the writing groups I quit, the associations I ended, the decisions I avoided making. My natural inclination was to put my head down and write. And I did. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I wrote what I think is the best book of my career. I wrote new and different things. I wrote things that were a challenge, and things that were just for fun.

But then the writing part would end, and the rest would flood back in–I’d be faced with the other half of my job, the business.

I began Indie publishing five years ago, and I loved it. I studied it and practiced it and I was decent at it. Not phenomenal, but decent. I learned things that worked, I wrote books that sold, I got better. I was never bored, and I never dreamed there would come a day when I would begin to loathe the business I was so committed to.

But somehow in the last few months what I thought would never happen, did–I fell out of love with Indie publishing.

It’s not news to most devoted Indie readers, and certainly not to any Indie writer, that there have been tremendous changes in the industry since it first exploded in 2011. The market flooding, the advent of KU, the monetization of Facebook, algorithm changes, more KU–the list goes on and on.

Any author will tell you it’s exhausting. And more than that, it’s demoralizing.

There are plenty of authors who have weathered these changes and come out even better–selling more books, earning more money, gaining more fans. But there are also many who, like me, find themselves losing something at each one of these turning points–sometimes it’s income, sometimes it’s self-confidence, sometimes it’s the ability to master the newest skill needed to succeed. And I don’t use the term “lose” lightly. Because it’s a refrain that plays in my head a lot these days: you lost, you’re losing, you’re a loser.

Those incremental losses really caught up to me in the last few months. I woke up one day and my first thought was: I don’t think I can keep doing this. That’s when I knew I couldn’t ignore it anymore. It’s been a difficult few weeks, and I’ve faced some very hard choices. I don’t have all the answers yet, but I do know this: for me, the business of books has stolen the joy of them. The frenetic pace of publishing and marketing, the intensely competitive market, the unyielding social media pitfalls and online vigilantism, the constant barrage of new road blocks to cross, new tools to master, new rules and fads–all of it has eroded my love of this industry. After five years, my workplace is filled with conditions and demands that I am supremely ill-equipped to handle, and even more ill-equipped to enjoy.

So now I’m faced with yet another incarnation of this journey. What that looks like isn’t entirely clear to me. It doesn’t mean I’m going to disappear, I’ll always write and I’ll always put those stories into the world to entertain others, but where I do that and how I do that is something evolving (after I complete my contracted works during the remainder of this year of course). My initial thought is it will mean options and platforms where the parts of the business that crush my soul are handled for me. I am certain it’s going to  mean other sources of income because this was my full-time job and I have a kid in college. And in the end, I hope it means a lot less time online, a lot more time outdoors, and a life where books mean reading, writing, and friends, rather than ads, algorithms, and lawsuits.

BREATH OF DECEIT is Live on Amazon and FREE in KU!

Happy Release day everyone! The first book in my new Romantic Suspense series, BREATH OF DECEIT, is available on all Amazon sites and FREE in KU! This book has been a true work of passion for me. After years of watching shows like Sons of Anarchy, Animal Kingdom, The Sopranos, and Billions, I had to admit it to myself: I love dark, gritty, suspense.

So, I decided to go for it, write the book I’d always dreamed of, one that has ALL the things:  suspense, family drama, crime, heroes, sacrifice, and yes, just enough romance to make us want more. It was scary, and it was an entirely new challenge, but I knew it was time to give my dream a shot. The Dublin Devils were born, and today you can meet Cian, Liam, Finn, and Connor for yourselves. Four brothers born into the Irish mob, fighting to find a way out with the women they meet along the way. It’s available in ebook, paperback AND audiobook right now! I hope you’ll love the guys and their world as much as I do!

Here’s where to read it, and what early reviewers are saying:

Amazon –>>

Amazon UK –>>

Amazon CA –>>

Amazon AU –>>

Audio –>>

Paperback –>>

“Cian MacFarlane is one of the most complex and fascinating characters I’ve ever read in a book. This book has it all—turn the page suspense, a story of the bond between brothers, betrayals, secrets, and romance. BREATH of DECEIT is Selena Laurence at her finest.” – Sandra Owens, author of the bestselling K2 Team and Aces & Eights series.

“Selena Laurence takes readers on a wild and exciting ride filled with sizzling suspense and heart pounding intrigue. I want my very own Dublin Devils mobster!” — New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Sarah Castille.

“A rare combination of spine tingling suspense and burning romance. You don’t want to miss this.” —Award-Winning Author Scarlett Cole

“The powerful plot, the intense storyline, the perplexing characters, the polished delivery, the impeccable grammar and structure all combined into one product that resulted in an impassioned satisfying and eloquent read.” — Girls Just Wanna Have Books Blog

“a fantastic start to a mafia family focused suspense story…I will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for book two.” — Between the Bookends Blog

“I am not a big fan of mobster romances BUT, this one is really, really, REALLY GOOD!! It is exciting, intense, full of twists and turns and a beautiful romance that adds a richness to the story.” — Goodreads review

“full of twists and turns and will keep you hooked to every page.” — Goodreads Review

“This book is wonderfully written…I devoured every element of the story right from the start. I can’t wait for the next in this series.” — Goodreads Review