Top 10 Results from One Week of Bodyweight Workouts

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I’ve never really been a bodyweight workout kind of person. Walking, aerobics, (attempting to do) Zumba: these are more my speed. But since I have so little time to exercise these days, I needed to find a way to fit an intense workout into a short amount of time–thirty minutes or less.

My husband talked me into downloading an app called FitStar Personal Trainer, which he’d been following for a couple of weeks. After taking an initial fitness test and inputting the usual information like height, weight, age, and sex, the app personalizes workouts tailored to your fitness level. Each workout takes you through a cycle of exercises, and you tell the app how well you did on each one.

I was skeptical, mostly because I am not in shape. I’d always assumed that bodyweight workouts like these were only for people who were already in somewhat decent shape. I was also nervous about the $40 yearly subscription fee, because I didn’t want to pay for something I didn’t end up using.

But something had to give, because my old exercise habits just weren’t working with my schedule anymore. So I did the fitness test, did the free sample workout, and bit the bullet.

I. Love. It. Here are my top 10 results and revelations from only one week of bodyweight workouts.

1. The human body adapts quickly. Within minutes, sometimes.

2. I packed on three pounds, but my clothes also started fitting better.

3. My balance has improved.

4. My energy levels are up.

5. I can go from sitting to standing without having to use my hands to push off.

6. My back doesn’t hurt anymore.

7. My flexibility is increased.

8. I can lift heavier objects with less exertion.

9. My joints ache less.

10. I have finally accepted that taking five minutes to stretch really does make a difference. Gym teachers don’t just make that stuff up.

I can’t wait to see the results I get after a few months on this regimen!

For more information on the FitStar Personal Trainer app, visit their website. 

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Top 10 Obscure-ish Movies You Should Watch on Netflix

More often than not, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, I use Netflix as a means to obtaining background noise when my husband isn’t at home. I cook dinner, clean house, and let my mind melt into a puddle at the end of a long day as long-familiar episodes of Friends, The Office, Parks & Rec30 Rock, and/or Gossip Girl play on loop on my mantel.

But every once in awhile, I use Netflix in the way it’s meant to be used. I scroll through the nearly endless lists of movies and documentaries until one strikes my fancy. This method of selection sometimes ends in horror and regret, like the time we tried to watch Children of the Revolution–trust me, just don’t–but oftentimes we end up discovering real gems. Here are the top 10 obscure-ish movies you should watch on Netflix.

Disclaimer: Some of these movies might have been removed from Netflix since I watched them last. If that’s the case, I apologize, but you should still track every last one of these movies down and watch them! 

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Top 8 Indie Books You Should Read in 2016

We avid readers are all familiar with the books that are hot right now, aren’t we? When we browse our local bookshops, we head first toward that shelf just up front that house those coveted New York Times Best Sellers spots.

But what if I told you that the books found in the NYT represent only a handful of the great books out there?  That some of the greatest authors of our time may never have the publicity they need to get their title on that list?

I honestly believe that’s the case. I’ve discovered some of my favorite books over the past two years, ever since I started reading indie and self-published books. There are some real treasures out there just waiting to be found. So grab a shovel, and come with me! I’ll make sure to show you where to dig.

1. Stay With Me by Carolyn Astfalk

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Stay With Me is an inspirational contemporary romance that somehow manages to stay light and sweet while tackling difficult topics like propriety, communication, theology, sex, love, family, marriage, and the nature of sin, and without coming across as heavy-handed or preachy at that! You will fall in love with Chris and Rebecca as they fall in love with each other. If you’re looking for a feel-good read, this is the book for you. Check out my review of this book here.

This book can be found on Amazon.

 

 

2. Ophelia’s Muse by Rita Cameron

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Ophelia’s Muse is an elegantly written piece of historical fiction dealing primarily with the life of Lizzie Siddal, and her work as a model for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, especially Dante Rossetti. This book rescued me last year, when after spending so much time working on my own writing I worried I would never be able to enjoy reading again. I was shocked to learn that this was Ms. Cameron’s debut novel, and I’m eagerly anticipating her next literary contribution. Check out my review of this book here.

This book can be found on Amazon.

 

3. Knotted by Quenby Olson

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Knotted is a quirky YA romance that follows Olivia Davies, an American teenager, as she journeys across the pond for her father’s London wedding. When she arrives, she discovers that her future stepmother, Emmy, is only a few years older than she is! As you can imagine, chaos and intrigue ensues as she struggles to walk the line between supporting her father and getting along with Emmy’s sneering snobby brother, Ian. Fans of Pride and Prejudice and contemporary YA lit will love the blending of old and new to make a fun, unique story everyone will relate to and love. Check out my review of this book here.

This book can be found on Amazon.

 

4. Under These Restless Skies by Lissa Bryan

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This book combines two of my favorite things, historical fiction and fantasy. Have you ever wondered what the court of King Henry VIII might have looked like if magic existed? Wonder no more. Follow this love story between Henry’s Fool, Will Somers, and his wife Emma, who just so happens to be a selkie. Filled with all the drama and intrigue you want from a story set in the tumultuous Tudor court, paired with the sweet love and fantasy Emma’s background affords, you won’t want to put this book down until the very last page. Check out my review of this book here.

This book is available on Amazon.

 

5. How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall In Love With You by T. M. Franklin20824759.jpg

 

If you’re in the market for a zany YA romance told from the male perspective, you’ve found the right book! Oliver Wendall Holmes (yes, that’s his real name!) is a shy, smart seventeen-year-old high school student determined to make his long-time crush, Ainsley Bishop, fall in love with him before they both leave for school. A quick, light read that manages to delve into serious topics. Age appropriate for all puberty survivors! Check out my review of this book here.

This book is available on Amazon.

 

 

6. Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb

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Soulless Creatures is part romance, part action/suspense, part metaphysical musings, and ALL eighties! Set on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in 1986, this laugh-out-loud hilarious story follows Roy Castleberry and Jonathan Campbell on their quests for glory and transcendence, respectively. Eighties kids will love all the rad references, and millennials will still enjoy all the hijinks these characters find themselves in. Check out my review of this book here.

This book is available on Amazon.

 

 

 

7. The Heartbreakers by Ali Novak

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This romance is cute, funky, and endearing in a way a romance involving boy bands and cancer can be. Stella will do anything for her sister, Cara–even if it means standing in line to get the autographs of a band she despises. But things get complicated when she realizes that the leader singer might like her . . . and she just might like him back.  If you enjoy YA books that give equal attention to romance and personal growth/family matters, you’ll love The Heartbreakers. Ali Novak originally got her start publishing the first version of this story on Wattpad, which is exciting to see for independent and self-publishing authors everywhere! See my review of this book here.

This book is available on Amazon.

 

8. The Business of Death by Leigh Teale

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Jacquelyn “Jack” Devlin has been lucky her entire life, but everyone around her has not been so fortunate . . . including her twin sister, Mallory. When Mallory decides to take fate into her own hands, she ushers herself into the great Beyond. Determined to make her sister pay for her good fortune, Mallory seeks out help from the head of the Department of Death and Demise, not realizing just how complicated the business of death can be. Ms. Teale’s debut novel is perfect for fans of speculative fiction–despite the macabre subject matter, the story isn’t overly gory or graphic, and it is more mystery and fantasy than horror. See my review of this book here.

This book is available on Amazon.

Top 10 Things to Do Before Publishing Your Novel

As I’ve mentioned on my past few posts, I recently celebrated my first publication anniversary. I’m a pretty nostalgic person, so I’ve been pondering over all the good and bad things that happened with that first release, and I realized that the Me from one year ago really could have used a publication checklist–some sort of guideline to make sure I was on the right track to releasing the book the right way.

So I decided to make one–not for the Me from one year ago, obviously, unless a Me from several years into the future happens to come across a time machine–but for anyone who is currently struggling with their very first book release. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a good starting point for beginners.

1. Choose a publication route.

Do you want to pursue a book deal with one of the Big 5 publishers, or maybe sign with an agent who can make that happen? Or maybe you want to seek out a smaller publishing house who can give you a little more personalized attention. Self-publishing is also an option.

This detail determines a lot about how you will move forward once you’ve finished your manuscript. If  you’re looking for a publishing house, either Big 5 or independent, you’ll need to start sending out queries and submissions to houses and agents currently accepting. You can find out more information about that route here.

If you decide to self-publish, shop around and pick a reputable site. I highly recommend CreateSpace, which is a print-on-demand subsidiary of Amazon, and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Remember: You should never pay a company anything other than printing costs when self-publishing. There are a lot of predatory sites out there that promise a lot of things to authors who are desperate to publish their work–things like movie deals and spots on the NYT bestseller list–in exchange for thousands of your dollars. Don’t fall for their schemes.

If you’re unsure of a publisher or printer’s legitimacy, look them on at http://pred-ed.com/.

2. Acquire an editor.

This is especially important if you are self-publishing, since you won’t have access to an editorial team like authors who work with publishing houses. At very least, you need a copy/line editor. Depending on the complexity of your story, you may need a content editor as well. Learn the difference here.

If you’re like most writers, you don’t have a large stash of cash just sitting there, waiting to be spent. That’s okay! Many editors will work with your budget by knocking a little off their usual rate or instituting a payment plan. Some might even be willing to trade their services in exchange for beta reading, or if they’re new on the scene, a reference. Whatever you end up paying, it will be worth it.

3. Cover Design

Most self-publication sites have cover creator tools, but I recommend you use these as a last resort. The templates and tools found on these sites are used by literally millions of people worldwide, and if you use them, your book will lack a unique look. You also won’t have much control over a number of elements, like font type, size, color, and placement.

If you have room in your budget, hire a cover artist. There are several sites with affordable covers listed for $100 and less, specifically geared toward the self-published author.

If you want to have more control over your cover, learn how to use Photoshop. There are hundreds of free tutorials on YouTube and all over the blogosphere, and honestly, you don’t need to know much in order to make the perfect cover. If you can’t afford the full version of Photoshop, you can download the free version, GIMP, which has many of the same capabilities.

The cover on the left was created using the cover creator tool on CreateSpace. I used the same photo to create the cover on the right in Photoshop. See the difference?

4. Select a varied panel of beta readers.

Think about your book. What demographic(s) do you consider your audience? If there is more than one category (and there should be more than one), make sure you consider all of them when selecting your beta readers. If, say, your book is aimed at women ages 18-50, don’t just ask 25-year-olds to read it. Readers of different ages, races, careers, interests, and levels of life experience bring their own flavor of wisdom to the table. You will need as many points of view as you can get.

5. Learn how to format.

Whether you’re publishing your book in print or electronic format (or both!), making sure that your files are formatted correctly is vital to putting out a professional product. CreateSpace has a great formatted template that is easily updated and personalized for every trim size they offer. KDP has a great handbook that teaches you how to create the perfect eBook. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to put out a dynamite interior file in just a couple of hours.

Not tech savvy? No problem! Most self-publishing sites offer formatting services for an a la carte fee. (Psst, shameless plug: I do paid formatting services for both CreateSpace and KDP. E-mail me for a quote at ofa.author@gmail.com.)

6. Spend time thinking about how you will market your book.

Is your book even remotely similar to a mass market book, one that is most likely a household name? If the answer is yes, use that to your advantage! See who the author follows on Twitter. See who follows them. Ask friends who are fans of that book what exactly they like about it, and  what you could say to make them excited about reading yours.

Contact book bloggers once your manuscript is complete and you’ve chosen a release date. Ask them to review your book on or before release day. If you give them enough warning, they most likely will agree if you send them a free copy of your book. To avoid the possibility of piracy, create .ePub and .mobi files of your manuscript using eBook management software like Calibre and send them directly to the blogger’s Kindle account.

Learn how to use Twitter and other versions of social media to your benefit. Join online writing groups like this one and connect with other authors and industry professionals. Conversation can lead to collaboration. There is almost always someone not only able to answer your questions, but willing to help you!

7. Pick a release day.

You should do this well in advance, and give yourself plenty of wiggle room. Advertise the release day as much as you can, plan an online or in-person event, and start sharing those pre-publication reviews. It will get potential readers excited about you!

8. Make friends with your local library.

Don’t worry about being a bother–trust me, they want to meet you! You’re a local author. They don’t care if your book was published under your own name or by HarperCollins, they think it’s pretty darn cool that someone in their ZIP code has their name in print. Swing by and introduce yourself if you’re not already acquainted. Ask them if they’d be willing to host a meet and greet for you. If they don’t already have a copy, consider donating one and ask them to recommend it to their patrons. This is a fantastic way to gain new readers, and they are wonderful resources to have!

The same goes for local newspapers. Contact a lifestyle or community reporter and ask if they’d be willing to read and review your book, and agree to an interview if one is requested. This is great publicity!

9. Order promotional materials.

This is especially important if you are selling your books at an in-person event. People probably won’t stop just to say hello, but if you ask them if they want a free bookmark–which just so happens to have your book synopsis, Amazon buy link, and all your contact info on it–nine times out of ten, they’ll snatch it right up. Adding something like, “This is my latest release, I write romance!” will probably make them pause and look at your table more closely.

10. Be prepared to talk about your next project in detail.

Nothing sells book number one like book number two! Even if your titles are standalone, people love to hear you have another project in the works. You don’t have to finish it or be able to give a blow by blow synopsis, but definitely know enough about the main character, the basic plot, and the themes to answer questions and get people excited!


Are you an author? What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!