My 2020 transformation

2020 was a hell of a year for everyone. Every person I know went through some sort of change last year. Whether it was physical change with the health of their bodies during quarantine, emotional change with the loss of loved ones, psychological change with a focus on growth… 2020 hit everyone.

I feel that I changed in so many ways over the past year, and I felt called to share that with you all as I announce the changes I’m making with my brand.

My Struggle


I was chasing dreams of authorship, I had one book out that barely sold, and I felt shackled in my day job. Throughout the pandemic I was grateful to work in a place where I had reliable, consistent, income and wasn’t in direct contact with the public. But. Things did change in my work environment. Half of us got moved to another building as a security measure. (If someone gets sick, half the department can still work.)

But in that second building, things weren’t quite the same. I no longer had access to stairs. We were restricted to the first floor, so I lost that little bit of daily exercise. We were all placed in a big open conference room with low tables instead of the standing desks we were used to. As a compensation, we were provided a near-endless stream of snacks. You see where this is going?

By November, I was miserable. We lost a lot of people and were chronically short handed and overworked. I complained and requested desk risers at every opportunity. I cited that we had all gained weight, that my legs routinely fell asleep, that we were too busy to be able to stand up and move around unless we were going to the bathroom.
Our request for desk risers was denied.

That day, I cried in my car. I felt like I had no control. But... The next morning, I woke up and I decided that I would no longer be a victim. I would take my life into my own hands, take back the control I’d unwittingly given away.

My Growth

When I went to work the next day, I arrived early. I scrounged some cardboard boxes from various places in the room. And I made my own riser with the boxes. It was unstable, but it allowed me to stand. This only lasted a day or two before the boxes crumbled and my back started to hurt from it not being high enough.

But it was a start.

I began to find more ways to move. I drank more water, and each time I went to the bathroom at work I would do squats or wall push-ups or run in place. At home, I tried a few different exercise regimens before I found one that stuck. And I started to feel my energy align, I started to feel things turning around for myself.

The kicker?

After I decided it was no longer an option for me to be a victim, after I decided that I was open to ways to improve my situation and that I would stop accepting excuses from myself… I found out that our complaints at work had been pushed up the ladder.

We were being relocated to a place with standing desks and stairs access.

When I decided that my three-year-old could no longer be an excuse for me to sit around and do nothing, she began to take an interest in exercising with me.

And when I decided that I needed to find an alternative source of income so that I could do something more fulfilling with my life, a multi-million dollar mindset coach that I admire announced he was doing a free 7 day course on how to get started in coaching.
What had been missing before was my mindset, my intention, and my openness to change.

As for authorship, something else began to happen.

I had come to the realization not long before that my strength lies in the emotional depth and journeys of my characters, and that part of my goal in writing stories is to help to teach emotional lessons and provide catharsis for readers. With that in mind and a fresh set of notes from my developmental editor, I began to rewrite Order of the Hunt.

Let me tell you, fam. This book is going to be a monster compared to my debut novel. I’m only just over 1/3 way through and it’s already doubled in size to the original draft.

What I’m saying is…

I dove deep into mindset work to make radical changes in my life. And now, I want to help other creatives like me to do the same. Because after making these changes, my creative flow has been higher than it’s been in years. New story ideas have been grabbing me out of nowhere. I’ve had to start a new notebook just to write them down as they come, so that I can focus on them after I finish my current series.

Whether you’re a creative or not, I highly encourage you to look into mindset. You can find tons of free valuable information from popular coaches online or through podcasts. Or, if you’re interested in some individual coaching hit me up. If we’re a good match, we can work together. If not, I can direct you to some awesome resources depending on what your personal needs are.

There’s no way to go but up!

Six lessons from 2020

Christmas is coming in hot–the year is almost over. So many people are eagerly looking forward to the calendar turning… as if the human invention of time will somehow constrain the plagues and social unrest ravaging our world.

Chipper this morning, I know.

Anyway, I’ve seen a lot of people reflecting on their year, and I’ve come to realize how beneficial reflection really is. But I also want to give something, so instead here are six lessons I learned this year: three achievements and what I learned from them, and three lessons that taught me something important.

1. The power of your beliefs

For a while there, I was just paying my bills and just had a bit of a savings account, but for the most part we were living right at or above our means. I believed that things had to be hard. That money was hard to find. Until… my husband and I sat down and really discussed our finances, made our goals, and put a deadline on paying off our debt. Seeing the numbers made me really believe that we could do it. And then, it started slowly, but once we had set our intention and our focus on this…. things began to happen. Those little things accelerated, and now it looks like we’ll be able to pay off our debts way ahead of schedule… maybe even by my birthday in August!

Seeing the miracle that belief has performed on our finances, I’m beginning to apply it to other areas of my life, too. And I expect nothing but great results.

2. The value of stability

As much as I’ve complained about my day job, it’s given me something during this year that all too many people did not have. Stability. Not only did I have structure and a consistent paycheck, I also had other benefits. Insurance is a huge one. They vowed to cover the cost for any Covid-19 tests and any medical bills associated with a positive test. We also were given a special bank of paid time that we can use in the event of a positive diagnosis. I’m incredibly grateful for the stability and peace of mind this affords.. and have learned to see my job as something good, for now. Once I outgrow it, I’ll be happy to go on my way.

3. The need for community

You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time around. I’ve heard this before, and it holds true (more or less). When I surrounded myself with high vibe, boss babes who are authors that are also launching their books and creating side hustles and businesses, you better believe it encouraged me to do the same.

These are online contacts, which is no different than real life contacts. Otherwise I’d probably be an amalgation of my fitness-inclined husband and my three-year-old, lol. Find your tribe. Create your tribe. Always surround yourself with people you look up to, as opposed to people at or below your level. Allow yourself to rise to meet them!

4. The power of doing things yourself

2020 is the year that I self-published my debut novel. I put a lot of work into it, I took courses, worked through programs, and got professional editing and book cover design. I don’t know that I would have done it all at least somewhat correctly without my coach’s guidance and the knowledge that I invested in myself enough to learn. While I didn’t do everything perfectly, I did learn what I did wrong (funny thing, I knew it was wrong at the time and I did it anyway. Limiting beliefs, anyone?) so I can do it right the next time.

5. The importance of discipline

The number one thing (outside of belief) that affects your results is discipline. That is something I have historically have been… sorely lacking. Let’s take my current work in progress as an example. I took ages to write it out but knew I wouldn’t make the deadline for release I’d announced if I didn’t get my self in gear. So I made a goal to finish Order of the Hunt and send it off to the editor by the end of November. I may have gone a bit too hard on that one, as I finished it a week or so early… and in the process, I let other things slip. A lot. So, the lesson I learned from that is to discipline yourself in order achieve goals, but at the same time… remember balance. If you achieve one thing just to lose another, did you still succeed? There’s something for you to ponder!

6. The need to align your priorities

This year I’ve had a lot of back and forth on priorities. Early on I went full blown authorship, disregard everything else. Then I burned out a bit and relaxed too much. Then I eased back in and tried to balance my time a bit better. Throughout none of this was I prioritizing my health. Finally, as the year comes to a close, I’ve been focusing much more on my health, my mindset, my goals, and yes, still on writing. I’m allowing myself time to do everything.. including some play and relaxation time with my family. While I’m making slower progress and updating less on social media now, I feel much more balanced.

I ignored my health long enough that it nearly had to hit me with a brick for me to pay attention. I pushed keeping my house clean to the back burner long enough that it became a nightmare to clean up. I pushed my re-writing back enough that now I might have to struggle to make my self-imposed deadline for April. We’ll see.

What I’m really trying to say is, sort through your priorities. Are you giving time to the things that matter most? Whatever it is that you’re ignoring, just think: What if I didn’t have this? How would that affect my life? If it’s something you need, then now you know to make time.


So, those are my lessons for 2020. I’m going to take them and go into 2021 strong.

Are you with me?

Comment below what lessons you learned this year.. or what of this you can adapt for yourself!

Are you a ghost?

Believe me, as an author with an interest in the paranormal, that question first sparks excitement in me. And I mean, who would disagree? It would be so neat to be able to pass unseen, to learn and explore and maybe do some innocent haunting.

But that’s not really what I mean… and I think you know that.

Ghosting through life

Tell me if this sounds familliar to you.
You wake up, have the same thing for breakfast each day. It’s pretty good, but nothing to be excited about. You get ready for work mechanically, or else in a rush because you didn’t give yourself enough time like always. You drive to work on auto pilot, listening to the same music or talk show, and then go waste the next eight hours working (or pretending to work–I see you). Then you go home, spend some time with your family. You’re too drained to do much but you still watch Netflix together, or play video games, or read books, or scroll through your phones in companionable silence.
And then? You go to bed. Get up. Do it again.

Gliding through life without much effort, with limited joy, with limited purpose.

Is this you?

I’ve been diving deep into mindfulness and mindset, and I want to share a secret with you.

Are you ready?

You can change. Literally any time you want. It doesn’t have to be the New Year, or Monday, or tomorrow. It can be right this second.
The hard part is knowing how.
And even harder is actually doing it.

Many people turn to self reflection, meditation, and journaling to figure out their lives. These are very valuable tools, but I’d like to offer up another one:

A coach.

I know, I know. Why on earth would you pay someone to tell you what to do when you can figure it out yourself?

There’s a lot to unpack around coaching, but I’m just going to address three points:

  1. They tell you what to do.
    Nope. They can share their knowledge and give advice, sure, but what coaches really are great for is to help guide you to find the answers that best fit your life and your goals. True coaching is tailored to the individual, not a mass marketed program.
  2. You can figure it out yourself.
    Sure, you can. You can find out anything you want. But how long will it take? How much will you miss out on because you took too long to find the answer… or even got discouraged and quit along the way? That’s the benefit in having someone who already knows the answer to guide you–you save time, effort, frustration, and probably money as well.
  3. Why pay?
    If something is important to you, if you want to change your life, why wouldn’t you pay? Or think of it this way–if you needed marriage counseling, how much would you pay to save your marriage? Besides, you’re not only getting someone to teach you, but also a cheerleader and someone to keep you accountable. They may even have more than that in store for you, depending on the sort of coach they are.

There are coaches for all sorts of things: skills (writing, swimming, cooking, you name it), business, fitness or wellness, career, life in general, and mindset. There are tons more, but you get the picture. Any aspect of your life that you seek to improve can be helped along with a coach.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well. As I mentioned, I’ve been diving deep into mindfulness and mindset. Like most people, I can often get stuck in a rut. I’m working a day job that isn’t my calling to pay the bills, and it’s forcing me to put my true dream career on the back burner. I’m trying to juggle taking care of my health, my family, and my house, just like everyone else. And often, something slips. Even if I do catch all the balls I’ve got in the air, sometimes the invisible one hits the floor.

My mindset.

Working with a coach has been invaluable for me. Not only can they see things from an outside perspective, they can also lead you to discover what you truly want and need for yourself. Once you figure that out, they can you come up with a plan to improve what needs improving and align your actions with your goals… and keep you accountable, which a lot of people (me) struggle with.

My point is….

If you’re struggling in any capacity, seek out a way to help yourself. Whether it’s through books, listening to podcasts about the subjects, or yes, hiring a coach, it makes a world of difference.

If you are truly a ghost in your life, do you want to stay that way? Or do you want to enjoy your time on this earth and be memorable to those around you? Do you want to affect change, to make this world better?

The first change you have to make is to work on yourself.


If this post helped you to gain some perspective, comment below! And if you would like some recommendations to mindset or business coaches, hit me up. I know some great ones!

Book review: The Fair Queen

The Fair Queen: A Young Adult Fantasy (The Fair Chronicles Book 1)

Lyndsey Hall | September 5, 2020

(Goodreads) | (Amazon)

Blurb:

The trees in Hartwood forest are hiding an ancient secret, a door into a magical realm where fairy princes and monsters are one and the same.

Seventeen-year-old Aria Colling is bored of her small town and dreams of a life filled with excitement and adventure. She’s about to learn you should be careful what you wish for.

After a chilling encounter at the local summer fair, Aria is ripped from her normal life and dragged through the Veil into the Fair Realm by a strange, silver-eyed boy and his band of fairy soldiers. They believe she is the legendary Fair Queen, the subject of a prophecy that promises to unite the war-ravaged realm and bring an end to the centuries-long conflict between the Five Kingdoms.

But it can’t be true. Can it?

Beset by terrifying creatures at every turn, and hunted by a tyrannical king who will stop at nothing to prevent the prophecy from coming true, Aria will have to rely on her wits if she’s to escape the Fair Realm with her life.

My impression:

This story was captivating. Between the gorgeous prose and the beautifully described world and characters, I had difficulty putting this book down. I got so attached to the characters so quickly…. and I may have messaged the author directly after a certain thing happened because I was just so invested.

I was particularly fascinated by the solitary creatures and their origins. So much was familiar from mythology, yet just different enough to keep me guessing. The little hints of romance throughout were lovely, and it made me happy to see openly gay characters treated just the same with their romantic dalliances as the straight characters.

This book is for…

I highly recommend this book to fantasy lovers–you won’t regret it! It may be marketed for Young Adults but I’m 32 and I loved it. All ages would enjoy this read.

Click the links above for Amazon and Goodreads, or go straight to Lyndsey Hall’s website to check her out!

Drum roll, please…

Fam, you may have already seen this on my Instagram but if not, I wanted you to know what’s going on with me.

This month I have:

  • Finished Order of the Hunt and sent it off to my editor
  • Dove deep into planning out awesome stuff for the future of my brand
  • Took inspired action to write a Halloween-themed short story involving the characters from The Wraith’s Bargain.
  • Searched through various drafts of my books to find the very best deleted scenes that I could polish and share as extra content.
  • And! I created a Patreon.

That’s right, fam. I’ve made the decision to provide exclusive bonus content to fans to tide them over until the April release of Order of the Hunt. If you don’t know much about Patreon, it’s a membership site where you pay a small monthly fee in exchange for access to extra content from creators. It supports artists and gives you more of what you love. Really, it’s a win-win.

And, everyone who joins before Nov 1st 2020 will receive a free Halloween short story about Dana and her friends – regardless of which tier they join.

My Patreon is comprised of three tiers, depending on how much you want to contribute or how much value you want to get out of the membership. I may add things in the future, but here’s what we are starting out with:

Tier 1: $3 monthly

This tier is for those who want to be a part of a community where everyone shares your interest in the books! You’ll get access to the exclusive Facebook group, receive behind-the-scenes updates and content, and twice monthly Q&A threads to ask me your burning questions (like about what really was going on during The Wraith’s Bargain).

Tier 2: $10 monthly

Everything from the previous tier PLUS:
You will receive monthly exclusive content about the world of the books, including deleted scenes. When books are near completion, you’ll also get early access to chapters. You’ll receive a complimentary digital ARC (advance reader copy) of new releases.

Tier 3: $15 monthly

Previous tiers PLUS:
You’ll receive first looks on drafts and works in progress.. and the ability to give input. You may be able to influence some aspects of the story! This tier also will receive bonus novellas as they are ready and access to exclusive short stories a few times a year. You’ll receive a complimentary paperback ARC (advance reader copy) of new releases (ship to USA only).

Sign up today to get access! I don’t plan on offering that short story again any time soon so this is your only chance to grab it.

Comment below and let me know what you’re most excited for–or what you’d love to see!

Was that a cough?

You know what’s been really hard this year? Having a body.

I’m not even joking.

Being a human right now pretty much sucks. You have to put yourself in danger to get your basic needs met. Your very lungs could betray you by bringing the virus into your body. Your brain can betray you–especially those living with anxiety–in the worst way.

I was listening to a podcast the other day and the host said something along the lines of: “Your beliefs create your reality. If you are sick and you believe you’re well, that’s the placebo effect. You actually become well, and it’s more effective than medicines in some cases. The opposite is true as well. If you’re healthy and believe you are sick, that’s called the Nocebo effect; you actually make yourself sick.”

That was something I needed to hear as I’d been struggling recently with whether or not I’d caught Covid-19 at work. I’m religious about wearing my mask–except in the one place I can’t, which is at work. Which is the one place I was exposed to not one, not two, but three people who tested positive.

There’s a cosmic joke here, in that many of the symptoms of the Coronavirus are also symptoms of anxiety. Chest pain, shortness of breath, chills, gastrointestinal issues, fever… yes, anxiety can cause a psychogenic fever. Granted, it’s a low fever, usually 99-100 instead of the 100.4 plus that is a real fever, but still.

Combine that with the beginning of allergy season? Hoo boy.

Long story short is that I recently was convinced that I had contracted Covid-19. I went to CVS, stuck a giant Q-tip up my own nose, sneezed all over it, and waited two days for my results.

Negative.

Thank the universe for that! But it goes to show that our minds are very powerful. As soon as I got that result, I felt better. Well, except for the normal allergy symptoms. But the rest went away.

What I’m trying to say here is…

While some of us with issues like anxiety disorders don’t have much of a choice, everyone can make an effort to try and keep their cool and try to remain positive about their situation in the world around them. That same podcast host that I mentioned earlier also said something along the lines of: “I’ve noticed I experience more anxiety when I don’t accept the world for what it is. But once I accept it and move to work through it the best I can, the anxiety goes away.”

During that week or so when I wasn’t feeling the greatest? I wasn’t accepting the situation. Anxiety sucked the creativity out of me and honestly I lost the will to do many things — like work out, pay attention to what i was eating, post to instagram… etc. All I wanted to do was escape reality through fantasy books. I was reading voraciously and really enjoyed the stories I was consuming. But it wasn’t healthy.

Did I have a point here?

Don’t be too quick to despair when things seem to be going downhill. I have a friend who is convinced that the worst thing will always happen to her–and spoiler alert, it does. Meanwhile, I have the opposite outlook–and my results are generally better. Even with things that are just luck of the draw.

And when all else fails and you can’t get out of your own head…do what I did. Grab a good (preferably big) book and settle down until the storm passes. Even just the change to your mindset the escape will give you can help your situation immensely!

Cheers,

Jo

Book Review: Hidden Realm

Hidden Realm (Legends of Lightning, Book One)

T.R. Slauf — October 6, 2020

(Goodreads) (Amazon)

Blurb:

“The next Realm Walker will bring with them a storm. Lightning must fight the Crimson shadow, or the lands will be cast into eternal darkness.”

When she was a child Esther was plagued with vivid nightmares, now they have returned to haunt her. Blood thirsty monsters chase her through a forest of dead trees while a mysterious hooded figure stalks her. After awaking with fresh wounds from her dreams Esther searches for the truth about who she is and the Hidden Realm she is destined to save.

Join Esther on her journey of self-discovery as she travels into a world long forgotten. Unsure if she can trust her hooded guide, she is hunted by unknown enemies and smothered by expectations of grandeur. Deciphering friend from foe as she travels the lands trying to unite kingdoms torn by pride.

My Impression:

Fam, this story was unbelievable. I won a contest and was able to read the book before it’s launch and I am so happy that I got to. The characters are realistic and nuanced. I love Esther and Oisin’s friendship, as many of the other characters grew on me as well.

Something I especially loved was the inclusion of the original Grimm’s tales in worldbuilding. I never would have thought to do something like that, and Slauf does it so well! I’ll be honest in that I’ve never actually read the original tales.. but my interest has been piqued by this and I may soon add them to my never-ending TBR!

Today is launch day.

Seriously, go check out Hidden Realms and T.R. Slauf’s website. This book is for you if you enjoy dark fantasy, twisted fairytale retellings, and gritty, realistic, tales. The book definitely has more than a few adult situations and is not for the faint of heart! Over all, I loved it and cannot wait for the next installment.

On living authentically

Since the pandemic hit, I’ve seen a lot of changes in people. Some for the better, some for the worse. Some (me) have let go of their health and let themselves become immersed in doomscrolling and comfort eating. Others (also me) have taken it as a wake up to take care of themselves and to work whole-heartedly toward their dreams.

One of the things I’ve always admired in other people, older women especially, is how some have learned to live authentically.

What is living authentically?

Well, my friends, that’s the question of the day. I actually googled this to make sure I’m giving you the correct answer here–Living authentically is essentially being true to yourself. Living your life the way you want to, not beholden to the limiting beliefs of others. It means speaking your mind, saying what you mean, and sticking to your word. It means taking care of yourself–your body, your mind, your soul–so that you can then take care of others. This could be self-care days, healthy diet and exercise, and moving away from toxic influences in your life. It means working toward your dreams… because if you don’t, what’s the point?

But there’s a struggle many come across…

How do I live the way I want to when I’m stuck in a 9-5 I hate, when I have bills to pay? When I have a family that depends on me?

How do I dress the way I want when I’m beholden to a corporate dress code?

My answer? Baby steps.

I’m still working toward it myself. My day job is a lower-level leadership position in a corporate environment. I have to look professional, speak professionally, and have zero personality.

At least, that’s what they taught me.

But since the pandemic started? I’ve seen a lot of people doing weird shit in public with zero ramifications. So I decided to test the theory in the worst possible place: my business.

What I’ve been wanting to do? Shift my aesthetic toward the one I’ve always admired. I want people to think I’m a witch.

But.. I’m at work. So? Corporate witch.

Let me tell you, there’s just about zero out there on Google about how to be a Corporate witch. Though apparently there’s an indie book by that name that I haven’t read. Anyway, I had to figure it out myself.

So the first thing I did? I started being more genuine when speaking with others. Aside from the boss, I’ve been letting my personality shine through a bit when talking casually with my employees. I also started allowing myself to wear things that still technically fit the dress code, but aren’t what you first picture when you think of corporate attire. Some plaid pants here, black nail polish there, and what I’m wearing today: a black and red pocket dress with leggings underneath. Actually talking about my book if someone happens to have heard about it. Little things that make me feel more real.

And? It’s working. One day I commented on how badly it was storming outside and that it was a bit apocalyptic. One of my employees said that seemed like my aesthetic–that, and the universe imploding.

I was overjoyed, fam. He was totally right, I love dark stuff like that!

But the moral of the story here is: being more myself, even in a corporate environment, hasn’t actually negatively affected me at all. I would argue the opposite.

I have yet to wear my witch-hat out in public–it’s been Summer here, after all–but I’m working toward that in the fall.

So, tell me… what steps are you taking to be more yourself? Or have you taken in the past? I’d love some tips!

Announcement: Next title release

Heeyyy fam! Thought all was quiet around here, eh?

Well, it was.

Anywho, I’ve been busy working on the next project. Without further ado…

Before Dana could join the Order, they had to find each other… and their own powers.

That’s right! The next novel is actually a prequel to The Wraith’s Bargain. It’s currently off with an alpha reader, but I’m planning on having it ready to release this coming April.

Some of you may have read some rough drafts of part of it on Wattpad… those have been taken down. But they’ll be back in this book, better than ever, with added content and a promising resolution. 😉

Now I really would love to know… which Order member are you most interested in learning about? The focus wasn’t on them quite so much in TWB, so I’m excited in sharing more about them!

Comment below or catch me on social media and let me know!

How it feels to be a published author…

Good morning, Fam. It’s 6 AM on a Saturday and I’m sitting here with my waffles and chai latte and realized, I haven’t really updated you all in a while.

So let’s talk about what’s been going on recently.

Yesterday was the 1 month book-iversary for The Wraith’s Bargain. And how does it feel?

Honestly? Not that different. Strange as it may seem. I mean, I feel immensely proud of myself, and I’ve already been working on my next project. That will be announced, soon. 🙂

There are little things, though. I’ve had some family and friends give their feedback on the book, someone my husband works with bought a paper copy and asked me to sign it, and said they really enjoyed it. That’s a good feeling. My husband surprised my for my birthday earlier this month with a mounted canvas print of my book cover. Now it’s hanging in the dining room, where I do most of my writing, so I can see it each day.

What is different is this sense of myself that I have. I’m an author. I can really say that now, and not feel as if I’m playing at something bigger than I can handle. I have a published novel, two in the works, and another concretely planned. I have ideas for books and series after I finish with The Wraith books. In short, things are good!

I’m nowhere near achieving the dream of quitting my corporate job and writing full time. Mortgages and insurance and important things. But still, baby steps.

One thing I would love to ask of you all, if you’ve read The Wraith’s Bargain, please leave a review on your favorite review site. I love to hear what people think of the story and I read every one! Reviews really help authors out more than you may realize. It helps other readers to decide whether this is a book they would enjoy.

Here are some quick links: Amazon | Goodreads

Okay now that I’ve done that shameless plug, it’s time to get ready for work. Duty calls! See you all next time. ❤