A Love Letter to UtopYA 2014

Dear UtopYA 2014,

I’ve been thinking long and hard on how to describe what last weekend meant to me. There are so many things I want to convey. This letter is for you.

You inspired me. 

Seeing so many women in one place, with different life stories, connect and learn and support one another, is easily the best thing I took away from UtopYA. I’m still in awe over these women who write, read, and support the hell out of each other. This community is something unlike any other and I am so grateful to now be a part of it. It was never about “me or I,” but rather “we” as everyone connected and asked how they could help in their friend’s journey. I also learned at UtopYA that there is no set idea of plots and stories – each writer has a wild story in their head and readers are eager to read them all. It didn’t matter that they’d just bought a dystopian novel at the table behind me – they were ready to read a circus or mermaid book as much as the dystopia. THAT is inspiring, to see that there truly are readers for every type of story.

You introduced me to friends old and new.

Not only was I able to connect with friends I’d been chatting online with for years, but I also met a bunch of new friends. Everyone raved about the welcoming and warm atmosphere, but you don’t really KNOW it until you’re there. The “lift as you climb” motto is evident; I already know that women can get along (despite the joke about there being so many women in a room together), but this event makes it more obvious. They are supportive and enthusiastic, and the only shouting I heard was the squealing from excited women reuniting or fangirling over common interests. I have gotten so excited each time someone new requests to be my Facebook friend, because I already can’t wait to see them in person next year as we get to know each other over time.

You motivated me. 

Come hell or high water, I WILL have another book – hopefully 2 – out by UtopYA 2015. That’s in part thanks to you, who showed me that while I may work on my own timelines, it’s me and only me that can get it done. The panels were informational and different from anything I’d ever participated in. Nothing was about craft – everyone assumed you already had your ish together. The focus was about making your mark once you had your books out, and I loved that we didn’t have to remind writers to edit their work or not put out shitty covers. It’s expected we already know that – and we SHOULD. Information was new and I loved that it wasn’t really stuff you could get off Google. These were practical lessons from learned writers who are blazing paths and sharing their knowledge with others. We were encouraged to ask questions, but also to answer those which others didn’t know. I learned new things from every panel I attended and have already eagerly jumped into applying the lessons. And when readers asked when the next book would be out? Talk about a fire under my ass. There’s nothing more motivating than people who genuinely want your next story.

You accepted me. 

Much like my protagonist Lucy rejoins the circus hoping to belong, I too walked into each room with trepidation, nervous about what to expect. While the acrobats may have given her a dirty look, instead I was met with smiles and hugs, even from perfect strangers. No matter our appearance, religious or political beliefs, location, lifestyle or gender preferences, we all went in knowing we had one major thing in common: we love books. Didn’t necessarily matter what kind, either, and I loved the diversity across the board of book options. That in itself was a unifying factor, bringing us together no matter our backgrounds. And that’s just as a reader – as an author, well, I’m still reeling from the acceptance of my tiny little self into the big wide world of UtopYA readers.

You believed in me. 

As an indie author, I’ve never felt more accepted within a group of authors, both indie and traditionally published. It didn’t matter how we got the book out – what mattered was that we had a great story to share with others. My community at home is fantastic, but every once in a while I get that feeling that I’m not good enough because I’m self-published. UtopYA killed that stigma dead – I felt like a somebody, not only because some readers recognized me or my books, but also because those who hadn’t heard of me still welcomed me with open arms and took a chance on my books. I lost count of the people who raved over my table, who complimented my branding, who came back around to buy a book because the covers sucked them in each time they passed me. These are the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I’m convinced of it.

You made me a believer. 

I came in a little shy, a little nervous. I left with my head high and a stupid grin on my face. I even had a few tears in my eyes, because I was sad it was over and we have to wait a whole year for the next adventure. You made me a believer, not just in UtopYA or the readers and friends, but in myself. My confidence is higher than it’s ever been and I wouldn’t have that without you. I absolutely left with a UtopYA hangover, wherein I couldn’t stop obsessing over new friends and photos, what I’d learned, and what I will now plan in my future. I believe.

________________________________________________________

I already bought my ticket for 2015. I’ve set personal and professional goals, as it seems most of us have, and am determined to follow through. Not because I feel I “have” to, but because I genuinely want to. I want to impress and inspire as much as I’ve had done to me.

Ladies, I can’t wait to see you next year. Thank you for being you. Here are a few shots from the weekend that I’ll never forget – and that I’m excited to have again in 2015.

Special thanks to: Erin Hayes, for being a great table mate on Friday; I had so much fun with you! Bethany Lopez, for hanging out with me. Ethan Gregory, for making me feel like a somebody and his enthusiasm over my circus series. Michelle Files, for taking the time to chat with me at the dance party. Michele Miller, for inviting me to sit with her at karaoke rather than letting me hide in my room. Shana Benedict, for cracking me up with her hot boy talk and featuring Gifted on her $0.99 books blog post the day of my signing.

And finally, Janet Wallace, for putting the whole damn thing together like a boss.

Awkward Authors: An Introvert Prepares for Social Events

UtopYA is in a few short weeks (3 to be more precise). I’m super excited about it. On top of the whole socializing-and-learning-new-things shebang, I get to have my very own author table – well, half of a table, but that’s still pretty awesome. I can show off my books, meet potential readers, and in general get a better feel of how all these events work (as I hope to attend several more).

Confession time!

I’m shakin’ in my flip-flops.

Fact is, I’m aca-awkward at big events like this one. I can talk all day on social media, in part because I can be quick and witty and disappear for a while. I also have time to consider my responses (and not say something stupid and/or accidentally offend anyone. I curse a lot, for example). Large crowds exhaust me; while I’m not in any spotlights at this event, it’s a bit of a test. This is the first large conferences – in this case, young enough to be a “Con” – that I’ve attended in my author/reader/book field. For me, it’s a big step forward into my author status. (This doesn’t mean I’ll feel like a “real” author, however.)

On top of that, this is the first time I’m getting to meet many of my author friends for the first time in person. I’ve known some of these women for a couple of years now. That being said, will I have enough things to talk about? I’m worried I haven’t read the right books (or enough of them) or that we have nothing in common (I don’t have kids, so I’m out if those discussions occur). Many of these authors have already met and hung out, so I’m also a little nervous being the new kid.

But you know what? These women are strong, funny, smart, and have been there for me for the last two years, as I have been there for them. Who cares if I don’t know what book they’re talking about at the moment? We all have our strengths. I find it hard to believe there will be a lull in conversation, regardless of the topic. Here’s my warning to my UtopYA gals: Talking about the weather isn’t my strong suit. I curse a lot and make too many hand gestures when I talk. I make a lot of weird facial expressions (makes me a terrible poker player) and I’m a lot like Chandler from FRIENDS where I can’t offer much other than a joke or sarcasm (sorry in advance).

Despite the nerves, I’m excited. I’m positive that the second I actually start meeting people, I will be comfortable and overenthusiastic. We’re going to quote Pitch Perfect (because it’ll be aca-awesome). We’ll have cocktails (!!!). Who knows, maybe I’ll even dance cause it’s just a bunch of awesome women having fun.

Just Say No: Comparing Yourself Against Other Authors

Nominations came up for UtopYA last week. I’m beyond thrilled for my author friends and while I was not nominated in any categories, I can’t wait to celebrate with them the night the winners are revealed. I am SO excited to attend UtopYA and finally meet some of these girls in person. They have been my rocks through the last couple of years of the self-publishing adventure and I am so glad they are being rewarded with accolades.

That being said, I have a confession to make: I let the green-eyed monster get ahold of me.

The thing is, it’s not about being better than those nominated authors. Those authors are AMAZING. Many of the folks on that list are my friends and I know how hard they work to accomplish their goals. When I admit jealousy, I don’t mean to say it’s because I’m better than anyone else. I don’t believe my writing or stories deserve more attention than theirs – the envy doesn’t stem from that. It’s more of an internal frustration, at the idea that I’m not doing enough. I get mad at myself for not being more. You’ve probably been down that path once or twice.

I began to wonder what I was doing wrong.

If my marketing campaign was a mess.

If I wasn’t reaching the right people.

If my writing sucks.

If my books weren’t good enough.

If I wasn’t good enough.

It’s a dangerous game, comparing yourself and works to other authors. Even if that author is a terrific writer, you look at what they’re doing and wonder what you’re missing. Why don’t I have more Facebook fans, why don’t people retweet me more, why I have so fewer reviews than an author who hasn’t been on the block as long.

I’ve been in that place a lot lately, feeling sorry for myself. Maybe my sales slowed down or I don’t have nearly the amount of reviews that I’d like or insert reason here. Whatever it may be at the moment- you know how it is. Sometimes you just get in a funk. It’s a crappy cycle. I won’t let it get me down for too long, but eventually I’ve gotta shake it off and get back to my own work. You can’t compare yourself to other authors. There are too many factors, both internal and out, that have to do with why your work is or isn’t doing well. Many of my friends have made writing their full time gig, so I shouldn’t be surprised or frustrated when they have ANOTHER book release (where I mutter a lot: I mean damn, didn’t they just release one like two months ago?! How do they do that?!).

And like I said before, the other authors are fantastic. I’m thrilled they were nominated and are doing so well. They are my friends, peers, and in a sense, colleagues because of our like-minded community. Their goals and dreams are no less than mine, but their situations are not mine. Plenty of them write full time, but they also have kids and crazy schedules. Some of them DO have full time jobs like me, and still push through the chaos to get another book written. As for me, I make writing a priority, sure, but I also have a high demand job that sometimes wears me out to where I can’t stand to look at a computer anymore. Some days I choose to go home, accept the writing block, and watch a movie instead. That’s my choice, no one else’s. There’s no one to blame.

Then again, why is there blame? Because I’m an overachieving Hermione Granger? Partially, yes. I’ve always been hard on myself, especially when things don’t happen the way we expect them to. It’s human nature. It does not mean I’m a failure. As I’ve said on multiple occasions, I am my own worst enemy. I only have myself to answer to and I have the power to push myself into getting more books out. Readers and reviews motivate me, yes, but it’s my ass in the chair, fingers on keyboard, that make the book happen. I’ve attended enough webinars, conferences, and Facebook group conversations to know I’m doing the right things. It’s just a matter of staying on the path. 

How do you sell books?

Put more books out there to sell. (As in, keep writing, dummy.)

How do you get better at writing?

Honing your craft with each new endeavor. (I’d also add listening to your editor and reading lots and lots of other authors. I happen to know several good ones!)

Okay, so maybe I didn’t get nominated for an award. So what? Does that change my goals or dreams? Nope, not even a little bit. Why should I let it get me down? If you’re in a similar boat, I say we give the green monster about ten minutes of our time – and then move on, because no amount of envy in the world will get you what you want. You have to go after it.

I always tell people that in order to be successful, we must take initiative. Don’t sit back and let things happen around you. The harder I work, the more books I put out, maybe then I’ll gain more traction. In any case, I have to keep reminding myself, I already have some pretty nice traction! Solid reviews, good friends with better advice, and plenty of plots swirling in my brain are enough to keep me going. A break is okay – a sulk-fest is not. 

If you have time, go vote on your favorites for UtopYA winners. I might be a little green around the gills, but I’ll be damned if I don’t stand up and support my fellow writers. Because in the end, we’re all in this together.

Time to go get a new chapter written. And then another, and another, until I have another completed book to put out into the world. As for awards? Maybe next year. Maybe never. But awards or no, that shouldn’t stop you from doing what you love. Thus ends the pep talk. 

New Book Release: LAST CALL by Michele G. Miller

UtopYAfall
LAST CALL Balck and White EBOOK
The Blurb:

“You are cordially invited…” Four words that spark the fear of God into any gently bred, single southern woman. When Savannah Guthry receives an invitation to her cousin’s wedding back home in Charleston, South Carolina, her first thoughts aren’t of flowers and dresses. Instead, she’s reminded of the groom: her first love and the reason she ended up at a college 500 miles away from home. Determined to show up and dazzle not only her ex but her spoiled cousin too, Savannah allows her friends to set her up on a series of dates looking for Mr. Right.

Wrapped up in her memories of the past and the drama of her new romances, Savannah doesn’t see the dangerous threat to her life coming…

She might not land her Prince Charming before her Last Call.

**This book is a New Adult Romantic Suspense. It is intended for mature (17+) audiences due to sexual situations and mild language

Excerpt:
Date number three in as many days. All I really wanted to do tonight was veg out in front of the television and read a good book. Two bad dates in a row was enough for one week. To make matters worse, it was seven-fifteen before my date showed up. He was forty five minutes late. Then he waved at me and pointed to the restroom. What the hell? I seriously contemplated just walking out of the bar, and went as far as to slide off the stool, when a husky male voice stopped me in my tracks.
“Tom Collins?”
Sigh. That accent could melt the panties off a girl. I was sure it had happened many times.
Surprised, I met his warm brown eyes and asked, “You know my drink?”
“It’s my job to know what the regulars prefer.” I shook my head immediately. “Oh, I’m not a regular.”
He chuckled. That same deep chuckle I remembered hearing the night I left Mark at the bar. “My apologies, three nights in a row…I mistakenly assumed you made this a habit.”
“Whoa, what do you mean this?” I asked. I felt my cheeks begin to burn. He actually thought I was trolling for men! I suppose it did look like that to the casual observer. Oh, snap. I didn’t want to look easy.
This? Picking losers for dates – that’s what I meant,” he stated smoothly, his arm waving about the bar. He turned his back and grabbed a glass and ice. I watched as he made his way around the bar and effortlessly poured the gin, lemon and simple syrup into the glass.

“On the house.” He winked and walked away.

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Smashwords

#3 new cover

About the Author:

Michele is the author of the Amazon bestselling Coming of Age Fantasy- Never Let You Fall, The Prophecy of Tyalbrook Series and the New Adult Romantic Suspense, Last Call. She is currently working on the second book in The Prophecy of Tyalbrook Series, Never Let You Go.

Having grown up in both the cold, quiet town of Topsham, Maine and the steamy, southern hospitality of Mobile, Alabama, Michele is something of a enigma. She is an avid Yankees fan, loves New England, being outdoors and misses snow. However she thinks southern boys are hotter, Alabama football is the only REAL football out there and sweet tea is the best thing this side of heaven and her children’s laughter!

Her family, an amazing husband and three awesome kids, have planted their roots in the middle of Michele’s two childhood homes in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Email: authormichelegmiller@gmail.com

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