Writer’s Life


The End of Self-Sequester


080315_End_of_self_sequesterPart 1: Finding a goal worth the risk

Part 2 to be posted 8/15/15: How to hit the reset button after creative burnout and disappointment

The effort of maintaining a public persona births special kind of exhaustion. This weariness finally caught up with me, overwhelmed me. I slowed and quieted. My blog posts became fewer and father between until they stopped entirely. My social accounts focused on trivial games or industry updates. I ceased Facebook entirely. I made no new videos, scheduled no social events, published very little.

At the start of the year, I rigorously challenged my assumptions of myself and my place in the world. When I could have succumbed to the down flow, instead I gathered smart, supportive people around me. I read thought-provoking books, tested out new theories and models of living.

Once fully vetted, I latched on the passion I know that will not only sustain my family, but also meet my needs of challenge, art-making and intellectual engagement.

So now is the time to come out of hiding, to show and speak and share again the project I have been privately pouring my heart and mind into. Yet, I tremble and pause.

Always, there is a risk when you step into the arena.

What if I fail? What if what I create isn’t as good as I hope it will be?

My twitter profile describes me as “hopelessly happy”. How true and easy this was when the stakes were low, when there weren’t other people depending on me for their paychecks, then my failures weren’t so painfully public, when all I needed was to show up on the job and be slightly better than the schmo’ on my right.

I come from a cowgirl family. We get back on the horse after a fall. We feed the animals before we feed ourselves. If the gelding kicks you in the chest and breaks your ribs, as it did to my mother, you shut your mouth, finish your chores and go take a handful of ibuprofen.

You do not feel sorry for yourself. You do not cause any additional burden for anyone else. You take care of things and do what you have to do. If you fail, or if you drink, or if you feel pain, or if you drink, you hide it away and we all pretend not to know about it – out of respect for you.

I’m proud of my cowgirl family, of our tremendous strength and resolve. I am so thankful that I can take a hit and stubbornly stand to try, try again.

Yet also, I need help. And if I hide my losses, I may not fully commit myself to the next big win. So here we are, at the edge of yet another arena.

I close my eyes, take deep breaths and visualize bravery. Pause. A small voice whispers: It’s safer to stay on the sidelines, to do regular work that brings the regular paycheck, to apologize, acquiesce, condense, quiet.

No. That is not the life I’m built for.

It’s good to be back in the saddle again.


Let me buy you a drink in Jamaica (Winter Writers Retreat)

Jamaica_writing-retreatSlogging away on your novel while the wind, rain and snow batters against your window makes for a romantic scene. Behold the suffering artist hunkering down while she completes her masterpiece.

You know what else is lovely? White sand beaches. Not freezing. Getting drenched only at moments of your choosing and in warm water that doesn’t make your body shudder with cold shakes.

Little Bay Cabins in FREAKING JAMAICA is inviting writers to come on down to their little paradise. The deal is 4 nights for 2 people for $350. If you don’t feel like writing, you can swim, snorkel, kayak, or stroll to the Bob Marley cabin site.

Here’s the really nerdy, wonderful thing: if you book it using my code KELSYEJAM, I’ll buy you your first Jamaica Rum cocktail (via $10 bar credit) in honor of Book Lush.

The infamous and fabulous Dave Olsen (aka Uncle Weed, aka VP at Hootsuite ) sends you this video postcard from Little Bay with an invite to join him for the holidays in Jamaica.

Nitty gritty details…

  • Guests must book on-line (not telephone reservation number) using code KELSYEJAM.
  • Guests pay deposit by CC and remainder upon checkout.
  • Booking includes 4 nights for 2 people $350. Booking price does not include, 10% room tax, 10% energy surcharge, transfer from airport, meals.
  • Must be booked by Jan. 30th. 2015. Visits much be completed by end of June 2015.

Little Bay is legit and luscious. You can check out their reviews on TripAdvisor.

This is crazy, right? A last minute booking to Jamaica?

Yes. Gloriously so. Drop me a line if you book it and go. I might even make it down myself!

Book today. Live the dream.


Free Workshop: Choosing Between Self-Publishing and Traditional


Choosing Between Self-Publishing and Traditional

Saturday 12/20 at noon PST. Hosted via G+ On Air broadcast.

There are as many paths to publication as there are authors. How do you know which path is right for you?

In this workshop, we’ll explore the new evolutions in traditional, indie and hybrid publishing. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of various approaches and how you may utilize one or many methods of publishing to achieve your publishing goals.

This event is free and will be recorded. 


Kelsye_in_cafeAbout Kelsye: I’m an author, publishing consultant and Digital Publishing instructor at the University of Washington. I help authors across genres publish their books, including helping with launch strategy, interior layout, cover design, publishing on various platforms, marketing and author platform building. I have worked with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, Google Play, Blurb and many other publishing tools. I have publishing industry knowledge, publishing experience with emerging technologies, technical expertise, and business and teaching experience. Learn more here.

Want more help self-publishing? Enroll in my course: Self-Publish Your Book in 30 Days.

Book Marketing Q&A with Kelsye – Free Online Event

book_marketing_Q&ADo you have questions about book marketing? Join me for a live, half-hour book marketing Q&A session.

Book Marketing Q&A

Wednesday 12/17 at noon PST. Hosted via G+ On Air broadcast.

Get immediate answers to your book marketing questions. Ask about free promotions, does paid advertising really work, selling on social media, or whatever you wish.

This event is free and will be recorded. 



Kelsye_in_cafeAbout Kelsye: I’m an author, publishing consultant and Digital Publishing instructor at the University of Washington. I help authors across genres publish their books, including helping with launch strategy, interior layout, cover design, publishing on various platforms, marketing and author platform building. I have worked with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, Google Play, Blurb and many other publishing tools. I have publishing industry knowledge, publishing experience with emerging technologies, technical expertise, and business and teaching experience. Learn more here.

How K.M. Weiland’s Workbooks Might Just Save Your Writing Life

KMweilandDo yourself a favor. Get copies of K. M. Weiland’s new workbooks (Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel) and save yourself a lot of writing grief.

My first novel took me ten years to complete. I wrote vivid scenes and character musings until I had amassed a grand collection of literary excellence – also known as a vicious, confusing mess with no cohesive plot arc, obscure motivations and ice burg pacing. Ahem.

Unable to keep all those scenes organized in my head through magical willpower, I realized I had to make an outline, perhaps even write a synopsis. Plugging the work I had already completed into a new structure caused a great deal of stress and frustration. Not fun at all. However, If didn’t try an outline, all that heart-felt work would still be sitting in a sad stockpile of neglected word files instead of a nicely edited manuscript ready for my agent to send it its way. Better late than never.

My second time around, I implemented a tip I learned from Elizabeth George. I started with a three page synopsis, used that to craft an outline, then built the structure into Scrivener so that I simply needed to write my way through each scene card. World of difference. I wrote my second book in a MONTH. (Thank you NaNoWriMo.) My story arc is strong, my character motivations gut-wrenchingly clear and my plot wicked fast. I am now singing the outlining, structuring gospel!

Outlining Your Novel WorkbookSo,Structuring Your Novel Workbook imagine my delight this week when an email landed in my inbox from K. M. Weiland announcing her new novel outlining and structuring workbooks. She puts out an enormous amount of free writing and editing resources on her site Helping Writers Become Authors. For years, I’ve had her blogs bookmarked in my Feedly reader so I could scroll through her brilliant articles as I please and need.

K. M. Weiland has generously agreed to share an excerpt from her structuring novel with us. Yes, she’s one of those authors will share parts of her books for free while at the same time selling them to make a living. You can see why I like her.

So, for your writing pleasure and betterment, I present K. M. Weiland chapter on foreshadowing from Structuring Your Novel Workbook.

Excerpt From the Structuring Your Novel Workbook



The first quarter of the book is the place to compile all the necessary components of your story. Anton Chekhov’s famous comment that “if in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired” is just as important in reverse: if you’re going to have a character fire a gun later in the book, that gun should be introduced in the First Act. The story you create in the following acts can only be assembled from the parts you’ve shown readers in this First Act.

Foreshadowing comes in two varieties: heavy and light.

Heavy foreshadowing plants a solid clue of what’s to come later on. This kind of foreshadowing needs to happen early in the book. Your First Major Plot Point needs to be foreshadowed in your first chapter. Optimally, your Climax will also get a dab of foreshadowing early on. All the other major plot points need to be foreshadowed in the first half of the book—and preferably the first quarter.


  • In the first chapter, Ender’s brutal, do-whatever-it-takes mentality in fighting off the school bully foreshadows his reactions to further bullies at the First Plot Point and Third Plot Point—and his final battle with the Formic aliens in the Climax. (Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card)
  • The opening line stating, “Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that…. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate,” foreshadows Marley’s ghostly return at the First Plot Point. (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)

Light foreshadowing is where you remind readers of the previous heavy foreshadowing. It happens just prior to the foreshadowed event itself. This foreshadowing will almost always be applied with a much lighter touch. A little tension or foreboding or a glimpse of a symbolic motif may be all you need to poke your readers wide awake and warn them that the something big they’ve been waiting for is about to happen.


  • Ender’s clash with the bully Bonzo at the Third Plot Point is foreshadowed through tone, pacing, and the inevitable progression of Bonzo’s attitude throughout the story.
  • Just before Marley’s appearance, Scrooge sees Marley’s face in the door knocker.

Whether you plan your foreshadowing ahead of time, allow it to emerge organically as you write, or return to reinforce it during revisions, a solid understanding of story structure will help you plan it to its full advantage.

In the first column below, list all important characters, settings, activities, props, or events that will occur later in the story. In the second column, write ideas for foreshadowing these elements in the First Act. As you continue to fill out your structure, return to this section to note elements that should or can be foreshadowed in the first draft.

K.M. WeilandK.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


Three Things I Wish First Time Indie Authors Knew

first-time-indieI’ve been fortunate to work with many indie authors during the publishing of their first book. Self-publishing your first book is a thrilling, empowering process, but may also overwhelm or intimidate the unprepared. Once you’re through it the first time, you learn many valuable lessons that make the next one even easier.

Here are three things I wish first time indie authors knew about self-publishing.


Exact publication dates are very difficult to meet.

Publishing is a long and complex process. A great many opportunities for things to go wrong exist between all the editing, cover design and formatting that must be completely perfect before your book is live. Even if all goes well, you could hit the approve and publish button the night before your publication day only to find it will take 5 days for your book to actually appear on Amazon.

First time authors can get themselves in tricky situations when they pre-pay for advertising to run on launch day or make public promises about a specific day. This is easy to avoid.

Take a tip from startups, be very specific with yourself and your publishing team about your date. Manage the process tight to make sure everything stays on track. However, be more vague publicly. Instead of saying your book will be out “December 20th”, you can say it will be available “late December”. Small difference, but a huge impact on stress levels.


Your book will not sell thousands of copies simply because it’s on Amazon.

Do not tell me about the exceptions because you are not one of them.* Once you hit publish and post the link to your book on your Facebook page, your work is far from over. Your friends and family may buy 20 copies of the book, but then what?

In July of this year, there were over 30 million titles on Amazon (across all sites). Traditional publishers add another 300,000 new titles each year. On top of that, you must account for the legions of your self-publishing peers using Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace. Your book desperately needs your direct help to stand out above the rest.

I encourage my author clients to ask themselves how many people did they reach today. Your “reach” is how many people heard about your book. Scale matters when it comes to sales. Facebook is a great start. If you build an author platform, that will increase your reach. You can purchase ads to increase your reach. You can look for reviews, blog appearances and media coverage to increase your reach. If you aren’t working to market your book, no one else is either. It’s up to you to get the word out. You can’t rely on your book’s mere existence on Amazon to bring you sales.

*If you are a celebrity, you are an exception as you already have a great reach and an audience that will buy your book. In fact, you should probably share this blog right now with your loyal followers. Thanks!


 A stranger will read your book and it will feel GOOD.

2012 survey of indie authors found that only half make more than $500 on their books. However, only 5% considered themselves unsuccessful. Even the most artistically, altruistically-driven among us agree that it would be very nice to earn money from our creative pursuits. However, turns out that we’re not all that upset if that doesn’t happen. Why is that?

Imagine you’ve come home late on a Monday evening from the job you tolerate to pay your bills. You log in to check your sales and find you’ve only sold three books this month. Crushing bummer. But then, what’s this? A new five-star review from someone named MaryGold12 from Toledo says the story in your heartfelt novel was not only deeply moving and cleverly captured in beautiful prose, but also gave her the courage she needed to tell her own story. You sit back as the warm glow of meaningful human connection triggers all your dopamine transmitters and floods your body with pleasing chemicals. The joy of making a real impact on another soul, or even of having your art recognized by one person, is a better high than all the red wine and shiny new things can bring you.

Indie publishing presents an excellent learning opportunity. You may have great fun and find the experience wholly satisfying. I hope that the first book you publish will not be your last. Onward!

If you need help building your author platform, I’m leading a course called Small Town Writer, Big World Audience on Gutsy Creatives. If you enter the discount code BLOGGISH you’ll get $25 off the cost of the full course. Click here to register.

You can even preview a sample lesson here!

Best of luck on your publishing journey!


Book Nerd Party Drinks (Alaska edition #BookLush)

Those long, dark Alaskan winters create a glorious environment for fine reading and drinking. Not so long ago, I was lucky enough to be invited up to Alaska by Book Lush supporter Mainon Schwartz. At a fabulous party Mainon hosted for the Anchorage Library Foundation and the Wine, Women Words book club, I was tasked with matching drinks to selected books. It’s hard work, but some book nerd has to do it. They picked the books, I made the drinks.

I really like people that offer up children’s books for me to match with cocktails. These are my people. We even matched a drink with a Nancy Drew book – fabulous! Click the image on the right to download the full cocktail menu as a PDF, or feel free to scroll down to see the individual cocktail recipe cards.

A few specialty item’s were pulled from Mainon’s impressive stash of quality booze. I took some snaps of the ingredients you might not have on hand. Click the pictures to buy them online. To get the books, click on the individual recipe cards.






Fiction vs. Non-Fiction: Less structure does not mean fewer hours

fictionvsnonfictionGuest post by Seattle-based mystery author Tom Kelly. Originally published here.

I’m often asked about the difference between fiction and non-fiction writing. Both require dedication and preparation, yet a different mindset.

Both also involve a ton of time. Less structure does not mean fewer hours.

Forty years in the newspaper business teaches you all about deadlines, importance of accurate facts and writing to a definite space. There are hours spent on developing sources, research and interviews. In my case, it led to books with major publishers (McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, Dearborn-Kaplan).

The business did not encourage exploring a creative imagination or wondering what could be. Get it done, get it right, get it in the paper.

For example, I loved covering college football. I’d start the day by submitting a first half play-by-play from the press box, add the second half action, and then sprint the locker room for quotes. Returning to the press box, I’d file a game story, locker room sidebar and then sub both pieces for the next edition. Action happened in front of me. People spoke with me. I recorded both in a logical way and sent it to the newsroom.

When I began focusing on fiction, nothing happened in front of me at a specific time that I needed to document and record. There was no finite space to fill. Much of my research became remembering the thoughts and emotions, smells and colors of places I’d been. Observations and reflections needed to be stowed in a memory bank or an entirely different kind of notebook. Sure, facts needed to be checked and dates confirmed, but there was no library to visit to find what could be.

What I underestimated was the time and discipline required to enhance personal imagination. What are the variety of things possible? The results proved to be more rewarding—and the preparation more time consuming. Fiction may be more casual, but it’s not easier.


smallcoverTom’s debut mystery novel Cold Crossover is free today on Amazon. Get it here!

Cold Crossover is a riveting mystery based on the drama of small-town high school basketball, complete with the missed shot no local will ever forget. Along the way, Tom Kelly takes the reader from the Northwest’s wild frontier days to its equally crazy present as a real-estate mecca. Kelly weaves the ferries, crabbers, and timber-men of his region into a timeless and page-turning tale.”
Jim Ragsdale, Minneapolis Star-Tribune


Two-part webinar series: Score a Book Deal

score_a_book-deal-webinarI am so pleased to announce a new webinar series to my publishing class line up…

How to Score a Book Deal: Tips and Tools from the Publishing Pros

With this one-two punch from industry insiders Jen Worick and Kerry Colburn of The Business of Books, you’ll be ready to land a traditional publishing contract no matter your genre.

All classes are pre-recorded. You’ll be able to move along at your own pace, plus ask the instructors questions via email.

Webinar One: Prepare to Get Published

You’ve got a book idea, but how do you get it out of your head—and onto the shelves? We’ll show you how to hone your idea, assess the competition, bulk up your author bio, choose the right sample text, strategically research publishers and agents, and develop a complete proposal, giving you all the tools you need to create a savvy, on-point submission.

Webinar Two: Learn What Every Publisher Wants You to Know

Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall during acquisitions meetings with publishers and agents, so you could find out what they really want—and don’t want? We’ll cover the proposal components that are most crucial to landing a publishing deal, rookie mistakes to avoid during the submission process, the aspects of an author platform that matter most, and how to fine-tune your proposal to address today’s publishing climate.

The registration for the series is $249.

Class details and registration.

Jen&KerryJennifer Worick and Kerry Colburn are the dynamic duo behind The Business of Books (www.bizofbooks.com), a successful publishing consulting company based in Seattle. With nearly forty years of publishing experience and forty published books between them, they are in the unique position of having been “on both sides of the desk”— as both acquisitions editors and as authors.

Kerry is the former executive editor of Chronicle Books and the author of a variety of titles, including How to Have Your Second Child First, Good Drinks for Bad Days,and Mama’s Big Book of Little Lifesavers.

Jennifer, previously editorial director of Running Press, has co-authored or written more than 25 books, including Things I Want to Punch in the Face and the New York Timesbest-selling Worst Case Scenario Handbook: Dating and Sex. During their publishing careers, they have reviewed countless proposals and shepherded many successful titles to market.

Any questions? Please feel free to contact the class host, Kelsye Nelson, anytime. Ready to register? Just click here.



Do I Really Have to Move Today? Crafting Challenge in a World of Comfort

crafting_challegeI am a runner, so are so many other writers. Perhaps we run for clarity, or concentrated problem solving, or even for the lovely void of thought that may open and swallow us whole after a certain timespan of feet pounding on pavement. I run because when I do, suddenly I have arms, I have lungs that fill and burn and push and pull. I have legs and they are strong!

Not training properly for my recent half-marathon might have been a sub-conscious strategy. What would happen if I faced a challenge that wasn’t easy? What would happen when I hit a wall, or when I felt real pain?

Comfort infuses my life. I wake at reasonable hour, push button for instant caffeine, slip on whatever for the five-minute drive to drop kiddo off at school. Entrenched in my cushy chair in my home office, gazing out a window at golden morning light, probably not even wearing pants, I push the button to power up my screens. Snacks on my right, coffee on my left, big dog plopped over my bare toes. Hours pass.

How easy it is to forget you dwell in a body when you make a living using solely your brain, with occasional interfacing with the physical world through minimal hand movements.

My husband and I each bought those Fitbit bands to track and encourage daily movement. A minimum of 10,000 steps sets the bar. No sweat. A couple walks around the neighborhood gets that done licitly-split. If I make it out for an actual run, I’ll soar past the goal.

Imagine my horror when I discovered that some days I didn’t even come close to the goal of 10,000. After a day of click-clacking away, a casual check of my steps revealed that I barely broke 2,000. In fifteen waking hours, I’d only walked the equivalent of four laps around a high school track. No wonder my flesh seems to be filling and softening. No wonder fatigue comes over me so easily.

Regular runs help, but still fall short of some primal need. Yes, better fitness habits and routine improve not only my body, but also my mental health and over-all productivity. The tightened muscled in my thighs and calves provide much pleasure and pride. But soon those neighborhood jaunts feel ho-hum. It’s difficult to reach the void, to push hard enough that those little anxieties and concerns quiet down so that breathing may receive the full attention it deserves.

“I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing the blind, deaf stone alone with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.”

From Into the Wild

So I sign up for a half-marathon, even though I’ve only been running four miles at a time. The day before the race, some strange compulsion overcomes me. My plans for eating lean proteins and fibers falls flat. My husband brings home a box of day-old donuts for the kids. Cutting out 1-inch “tastes” at a time, I somehow manage to eat two entire maple bars, a jelly donut and a bear claw. In the evening, I drink two glasses of red wine. I do remember to hydrate, sucking down water whenever I think of it. I’m not a complete idiot.

Morning of the race I realize my horrible food choices have completely backed up my system. Oh well, I’ll just have to carry it with me.

I squeeze into hard-working compression pants, wrestle a sports bra over my torso and make the drive into the countryside for the race start.

Can I do this? I think I can do this.

Alone in the tightly-wound pre-race crowd, my nervous thoughts ping-pong around the corners of my brain. There is no guarantee. It will be entirely embarrassing if the aid team has to carry me off the course.

The race begins. I force myself to plod, to not let insecurity or intimidation spur my pace to match those of the runners gaily lopping by me.

This is easy, so easy. But I’ve only gone two miles. Eleven more to go.

At the five-mile marker, I’m certain a mistake has been made. Surely this is about halfway, more like seven, right? My GPS confirms 5 miles, but my legs beg to differ.

At eight miles, after I’ve passed the much anticipated turn-around point, my earlier insistence on plodding pays off. The crowd around me thins and slows. No one passes me anymore. I pass runners one by one.

At 12 miles, my legs feel like spaghetti noodles, but still keep cycling. I pass everyone – fit or flabby, male or female, young or old, gliding along on endorphins and relief. You made it this far, just don’t think about what you’re doing or how you feel and soon you’ll be at the finish.

There it is! The clapping crowd, the giant arch, the man with the megaphone. I kick hard, knock off a couple more runners before crossing the line, just because I can.

Walking somehow seems more difficult than jogging. Standing is worse. I can’t even think about sitting down. Another runner hands me a big red cup of water.

“Good run,” he says.

“Yeah,” I say. “You too.”

But really we’re saying, I just did that! You did that too! Wow! Life is amazing! Wow! Everything is awesome! I am awesome! Wow!

After I’ve stuffed myself on halved bananas and sample protein bars, I limp back to my car to head home. When I get out of my seat after the hour drive, my legs barely bend. I hobble like the tin man up my front steps.

My husband and kids nod at me, say good job. I don’t think they understand the depth of what I’ve just accomplished. The endorphin high I shared with the other finishers clearly does not transmit through proximity. I feel as though returning from war. There was this thing and I didn’t know if I could do it. I tried and it was really hard and then I did it. Everything is awesome!

I go to bed at 7 o’clock, very well aware of my body and still delightfully incapable of deep thought.

The week comes. I sit again at my comfortable desk. I plan, strategize, implement. I market, compose, organize. I think. I click, click, click.

Thursday morning my skin crawls. I can barely sit still. I can’t focus at all. I go for a run, eight miles. Ahhh, that’s better.

As an encore event, my husband signed us both up for a Tough Mudder the very next weekend, a 12-mile course containing 20 terrifying obstacles. I haven’t trained properly. My legs are strong now, but I have no idea if my arms can lift anything heavier than a venti green tea. Can I do this? I don’t know. I think I can do this.


Notes: This post was inspired by this brilliant piece by Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal). The half-marathon was the Beat the Blerch. Very fun. Do it with me next year! The 12-mile obstacle course was Tough Mudder. We finished moderately intact. Three days later, I’m still blowing mud out of my nose.

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