Where Do We Go From Here?

Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet…

A little Adele to start off the blog post since this is my first post on this site in almost one year. I haven’t been keeping up with this blog because I’ve been doing several things. The biggest thing I’ve been doing has been running a personal finance and personal development site centered around rebelling against the norm of being in debt and fearful of money. I’ve LOVED doing it! It’s been a lot of work managing and expanding it but soooo fun to do.

Next thing? Thailand! I moved to Thailand in March 2016 to teach English. The experience has been a real eye-opener. I never could afford to do the study abroad programs while in university and I didn’t travel much growing up. For the longest time, I resigned myself to believing I wouldn’t be able to travel until my late twenties or early thirties, once I had paid off student loans and was at a higher salary bracket.

Getting the chance to move abroad and teaching in Thailand has been wonderful beyond words. It’s bittersweet to be leaving this month and going on my next adventure (to be announced on my Instagram).

FinCon was another wonderful thing I got to do in 2016. FinCon is the Financial conference for people in the personal finance online media. I didn’t think I would have been able to go but I unexpectedly won a scholarship and next thing I knew, I was in San Diego attending it!

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions and pivoting. Just over a year ago, I was working at a job I hated. I was depressed and suicidal, and wondering how to get out. I’ve been trying to formulate how exactly I was able to move past this terrible time.

The biggest thing that has helped me was changing my mindset. As cliche as it sounds, it’s helped a lot. But don’t believe those life coaches, motivational speakers and such that you see. Changing your mindset doesn’t happen at the click of a button. It doesn’t happen by reading one self help book or watching a TED talk.

It takes time (and that’s okay).

Getting out of the situation I was in back in America and moving abroad forced a shift to happen in me. For the past several months, I’ve been journaling, using small bits of time for my creativity, and doing morning pages.

Morning pages are where you write 2 or 3 (or whatever) stream of consciousness pages in the morning. It’s been helpful in a way I couldn’t imagine before. I’ve been able to control the negative self-defeating thoughts that swirl through my head. I’ve developed a more positive mindset.

Things have been getting a lot better.

As for this site, I gave it an updated look (!!) and plan on writing here ever so often. No set schedule. It doesn’t matter though. This site is more for my life pondering and updates. I’ll be busy running Rebel With A Plan.

I’ll leave you with this quote. It’s a good one. Talk soon!

Why I Almost Quit Blogging (But Didn’t)


Something happened a month and a half ago. I was in my bed, middle of the night, wide awake. I was desperately trying to get to sleep but my mind was racing with all sorts of thoughts. I didn’t have work the next day so it sleep wasn’t critical but I wanted to wake up early for the next day.

I keep thinking about this blog. All that this blog has been through and the experiences I’ve gone through while writing it. Bittersweet.

In April 2013, the spring semester of my freshman year of college, after several months of delay, I started this blog. It began on the free WordPress.com platform with a template site design that makes me now cringe. This blog started as a creative outlet for me. I posted about college life, movie reviews, things I was reading, and career stuff since I was beginning my upper level public relations classes.

Having a space on the web to call my own, fascinated me. My first foray into websites and blogging happened in 2007 when I was 13. I built a free website on the webs.com platform (then called FreeWebs) and ran with it. Games, polls, reviews, and horrid graphic design covered the website.

My 13-year-old self loved having a website. The feeling stayed when I began this blog. Throughout college, this site was my rock, the one steady thing in a constant stream of change.

When I graduated college and started a full-time job, things changed slightly. My job was demanding and I had less time to devote to this site. Then my passion started to slip. The blogging world changed. Words like monetization, sponsorships, and business blogging became a regular recurring conversation. I looked at my site and felt weird about it.

What was my site’s focus or the ever elusive “niche” as business bloggers recommended? If you look through the archives, despite some being deleted, you will notice this site has gone through different phases: college, movie reviews, entertainment industry analysis, writing, personal finance, social media, and so forth.

Through the years of having my blog, I’ve seen several people around me start blogs then have them fade away a few months later. People would stop doing their blogs out of boredom, discovering blogging wasn’t for them, or entering a new phase in their life (in my age bracket’s case, that meant getting one’s first full-time job).

To be honest, I kind of did quit this blog for a while. From August to December of 2015, this site was kind of on auto-pilot. It would take me several days or a week to write one post and I would schedule posts that had been sitting in my drafts for months.

I struggled with creating content, trying to figure out the site design and the direction of this site.

Let me say something many people know but it’s worth repeating: blogs are hard to maintain. 

I knew this and for a while I left blogging. Yet no matter how much I tried to walk away from it, my mind kept pulling me back to it.

Yes, blogs are hard to maintain. You have to do SEO, resize images, make graphics, get all the proper tags and keywords in place, create clever yet concise headlines, interact with other bloggers, write high-quality content…oh and do it while (usually) holding down a full-time job and a myriad of other responsibilities.

It’s hard work and sometimes I get exhausted from it but I kept coming back to it because even though it can be exhausting, I like it. I LOVE the blogging community (PF and Writing blogging peeps in particular!) and I love writing and sharing things.

Soooo where am I going with all of this?

Well, I’ve been running a new personal finance site for a month and a half now, Rebel with a Plan. It focuses on helping people master their money and rebel against the norm. Ah! I love writing for the site. My goal for the site is to make personal finance topics more approachable and not so intimidating. There is going to be some lifestyle stuff thrown in as well!

This site will still stay here and I will continue writing on this blog, albeit on a monthly basis or so. Having this site has been a joy but it’s just so awesome to stand behind something that really excites me. Something I learned while doing this site is I really like educating others on topics and I don’t like talking about myself too much. It isn’t some timid sort of thing, I just like having the focus be on something else.

Have you gone through a blogging rut in the past or recently? How do you keep the excitement alive while blogging? Let me know! Be sure to check out my new site! Rebel with a Plan. 


No More Half-Measures

If you’re going to invest your time into something that you really want to do, do it with full force. No more half measures.

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Break out the tools and get started

Many people are guilty of this. Heck, I’m guilty of it. You want to pursue something but you’re so worried in the process of doing it that you don’t give it your all. You’re so caught up in hanging out with friends, looking busy, and focusing on menial things that you never get around to actually doing the thing you want to do.

Let’s say you want to keep a blog. You write a few posts but you never really promote it or comment on other blogs to build an audience. Writing a book may be on your bucket list. Although you never get around to doing it. The common excuse for putting it off is “Oh, I don’t have any time.”

Is there a reason for this? Why do people give an okay performance to something they’re passionate about doing? Why do people put off something they’re passionate about doing?

Example time. During NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, a lot of people talk about writing a novel. They start, get 5,000 or 15,000 words, then stop. They don’t intentionally stop. It just sort of happens. They’re self critic is so loud, it drowns out the voice that got them starting in the first place.

I was guilty of this for so long as I wrote my novel. I would be writing, get a lot done, then think “Oh, this is crap, why am I doing this?” or “People have already written a book similar to this, so why am I even trying?”.

Last year I discovered a year-long project a recent college graduate was doing called A Year of Productivity. I loved the site because of how much he put into it. Productivity experiments have been doing countless times by people, yet the content he provided on his site was so refreshing. You know why? Because he was putting his perspective on it, looking at the subject from a new light, and most importantly, putting his own voice into the website.

This year I read a book called The Quarter Life Breakthough. It discusses the topic of millennials who might be having a quarter-life crisis and are on the search for meaningful work. The content of the book was thought-provoking and made me question the priorities I have in life. I loved the discussion points the author made and the exercises he gave.

In the book the author points out how he doubted writing the book because others told him “it’s already been written about a million times”. He didn’t give in to their opinions and continued writing. Since it’s release, the book has been pre-ordered in 38 countries and been featured on Fast Company, Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Under 30 CEO, and The Washington Post. He’s been speaking on various college campuses and bookstores across the country.

If he had given into what people said about how the type of book had “already been written a million times” then none of the press and coverage would have happened. If you have something you’re really passionate about starting and doing, do it, and don’t give in to the noise of others. Don’t stop because of the outcome people might predict you will have.

Also, if you’re keen on doing something, then try to do it whenever you have free time. If you want to play guitar, learn how to do photography, knitting, riding a unicycle, or whatever, then invest as much time as you can into doing it. You see, many people that are crazy passionate about doing something don’t read a ton of productivity articles, or schedule exactly 30 minutes to their passion project. They work on it as much as they can.

Ksenia Anske, a self-published author, finished a draft of her new book Corners in 20 days (20 days!!). That’s dedication. Now you don’t need to do exactly what she did, but understand her work ethic.

breaking-branding-22-638If you’re going to start on something, do it with full force. If you only put a fraction of your dedication into it, people will notice. No more half-measures. Mike Ehrmantraut (from TV show Breaking Bad) would agree. Now go forth and invest large in what you want to do. A few things to get you going:

—Next time you procrastinate and put off what you’re thinking about doing, write a journal to yourself. In the journal, write about why you decided not to get started, what you can do better, and what you plan to do to improve.

—I’ve seen this is in a post by The Muse, ask yourself these six questions everyday:

  1. Did I work towards my goals today?
  2. What bad habits do I need to stop?
  3. What motivated me today?
  4. Have I been the kind of person I want to be?
  5. What mistakes did I make today, and what can I learn from them?
  6. What am I grateful for today? (three things)

Your answers to the questions doing have to be super long, they can just be two or three sentences. The point is to do it so you become more aware of yourself and the time you use. Now get started on the the think you want to do!



Image credit

Why I’m Self-Publishing


Before the days of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform and paperback distributors like Createspace, the way the self-publish your novel meant going to a small indie press, they would make a few dozen of your books and you would hand them out to friends, family, and maybe put an ad in the classifieds sections of newspapers.

Things have come a long way. Self-publishing has exploded in popularity due to easy access tools like Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, and many more. The industry has gained notoreity due to smash hit self-publishing successes like Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, Brenna Aubrey, and E.L James.

Although there are many indie author success stories and self-publishing being tagged with the often touted benefit of having full creative freedom over your work, these were not major reasons as to why I chose self-publishing. Below are some of the reasons why I chose the self-publishing route.

I’m not about that publishing business mindset

When you go the traditionally published route, they whip your novel into shape, promote it, do some release day publicity and then…it’s a matter of being hopeful. Hopeful that readers will buy the book, connect with it, and recommend it to others. What happens if you don’t bring in a desired amount of money? You’re cut. It’s harsh but it something that happens in the traditional publishing industry a lot. I don’t see too much of a problem with it because at the end of the day publishing companies are still businesses. They need/want to hit a certain amount and if you don’t bring in the desired amount of money, you’re cut.

I’m in a tricky, emerging and not yet fully understood genre market

New Adult fiction. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. St. Martin’s Press coined the term in 2009. A genre sometimes labeled as “older YA”, focusing on characters, age 18-25 leaving home, navigating college and career and coming into adulthood. Self-publishing had been driving the genre into popularity.  Despite the growing number of New Adult novels, traditional publishers as well as others still don’t know what to think of the genre. Stereotypes such as it being a genre for reckless behavior, lacking responsibilities and casual sex have circulated.

My novel doesn’t involve any of those things, it just focuses on a woman, recently graduated from college, trying to determine her next direction in life. It has themes of courage, hustle, tenacity, and creating one’s own legacy. Publishing companies probably wouldn’t understand my novel and where it would fit in the book market. I want to be the one to drive readers to my book and show them the struggles so many millennials face when coming into new found adulthood. I understand my brand and novel better than some publishing company would.

Money & Pricing

If I went the traditional publishing route, my book would probably sell for $9.99 for the e-book and $15.00 for the paperback. Even with a publishing company to back me and several marketing and promotional efforts, I still think not as many people would buy the book at these prices as opposed to the lower prices indie titles are at (usually $2.99 or $3.99)

I’m selling my book at a lower price to attract more readers and engage with more readers. Word of mouth and awareness for my novel is far more important than money.

You have a longer window of opportunity with self-publishing 

With traditional publishing, they release your book, do a few book signings, interviews, and after a few weeks, or months, if you can’t bring in a certain amount of money, they pull it from book stores and minimize publicity and marketing. Many traditional published authors have talked about how a lot of the book marketing falls on them after releasing and they get little help from the publishing company.

With self-publishing you months and years on end to reach readers. Maroon 5’s beloved first album, Songs About Jane, was a slow burning success and took over two years to start getting recognition. While this isn’t a self publishing story, it is a good example of how sometimes it takes a while for things to catch on and have the so called “hitting it big”. Self-publishing allows a much longer period of exposure than traditionally publishing books.


Even with the list of reasons why I’m self-publishing, there are some not so sunny sides to it. Many like to romanticize self-publishing. There are things to note when going the indie route. For one, self-publishing (depending on the way you look at it) can get expensive. Developmental editing, copyediting, cover design, formatting, copyrights, and more can add up. Self-publishers spend an average of $2,300 for each book they release. You can spend a lot lower or a lot higher, regardless of the price, you will have to spend a pretty (but not soo pretty) penny to yield a quality book that people would want to buy.

Even though you’re self-publishing, some tradition publishing rules still apply: put together a media kit, figure out target audience, get a good editor, get a good cover design and make a welcoming author website.

Self-publishing has it’s advantages, disadvantages and is a lot of work but I’m embracing it. I can’t wait till I have that feeling of holding my own book in my hands and being able to connect with readers.

Image by Alice Hampton

21 Things


21 things learned at age 21

“Are you excited?!?” People would ask me over and over leading up to this very day.

21. I turn 21 years old last Monday. It’s one of those “big” birthdays where I’m supposed to feel different and like a new person. In some ways I do and in some ways I feel just the same (still madly into watching Parks and Recreation episodes on Netflix)

It’s been a good but bumpy year since June 2014 when I turned the big 2-0 (aka the most awkward age…not a teenage yet still not able to legally drink, check-in at a hotel, make reservations on some things, etc.)

Things are good though. I’ve accomplished a lot and have been reflecting these past few weeks about what I’ve learned so far. This was the year I became a full fledging adult, the year I started my first post-grad job. Good stuff. Below, are some 21 things I’ve learned so far.

1. If you’re going to do something, give it 100% or don’t do it at all. Taking a risk is scary. Taking a big risk, not knowing the exact outcome, is super scary. So what. That’s what you’re going to have to deal with if you want something really bad. I see so many people who want to:

-Get into photography/graphic design/consulting

-Start a successful and nicely designed blog attracting thousands of visitors each month

-write a novel

-etc. etc. etc.

So many people start things without fully knowing why they want to do it. Sometimes they only want do to something because they see others similar to them doing it so they think they should do it too.

Whatever you decide to do, figure out why you want to do it. What is the burning desire and motivation behind it? Once you figure it out, spend several hours a week doing it. When you are unable to do (commuting in the morning, grocery shopping, and so forth) continue to think about it.

2. You most likely do have time. As a recent college graduate, I’ve noticed something lately. When people start working full-time after graduation, they suddenly are always busy and never have time to do the goals they want to achieve.

Many of them come home from their full-time jobs exhausted, and instead of focusing on a project or activity they want to do, all they do for the entire evening is watch TV and make some dinner. It only starts with one episode…

Most who say they don’t have time to do the things they want probably do have time. Monitor your time and figure out how to maximize. Could you go to the bank at a different time to avoid the long line? Could you wake up earlier to go to the gym? It’s all about priorities.

3. Make exercise a priority. Exercise is obviously very important yet a lot of people don’t have it high on their list (or even on their list). Exercise makes you feel better, sleep better, and think more throughly.

Do it. You have time for it. Whether you have to wake up an hour earlier in the morning or skip watching an hour of TV in the afternoon, make time for exercising.

4. Get water at restaurants. Seriously, it’s cheaper, and better for you to drink water rather than soda. Bring those water enhancer packets if you want something more flavorful.

5. If you really want something, dedicate your time to work towards it. Even during times when you can’t work on it (commuting, down times at work, etc) at least think about it. So many people are afraid of diving into doing something because they don’t know the exact outcome. The common fear is:

“What if this is all just a big waste of time?”

Well, you’ll never know if you don’t try. Experience is experience. Trying and failing will help you sleep at night. Not trying at all will keep you up, wondering what could have been.

6. People can be really nice and helpful to you. Spring 2014, I applied to a NYC start-up PR agency and didn’t get the internship. Feeling super down, I decided to send an email to the agency’s CEO. Why not right? I didn’t thing he would respond…but he actually did. He set up a call with me and gave me great insight into starting his agency. Later on in the summer while in New York City, I got to visit the agency!

I’m sure he was helpful to me, in part, because of the personalized email I sent to him rather than some generic template email. Remember, people can and do want to help you. You just have to know how to reach out to them and ask. Lindsay Shoemake mentioned in a That Working Girl post of how she set up office visits with agencies and even got to work on some stuff! All by simply reaching out and asking.

7. People give empty promises & flake. just mentioned how people can help if you reach out to them. Well, people can also completely ignore you, give you an empty promise or just not deliver on what they said.

I experienced this last year when an article of mine went viral. Several people reached out to me and said they wanted to help me. They were going to help me find jobs, connect me with senior industry professionals, and so forth.

One of them I remember well. A news reporter from a well known station contacted me to get quotes for a feature story. She contacted me several times and said she had a flexible schedule and could talk to me whenever time opened up in my schedule. During the phone conversation, she mentioned how inspired she was by me and how if I needed any assistance in finding my first post-grad job, she would help. Things changed after the she had gotten her quotes and the story ran. When I contacted her with some questions, she responded days later saying she was busy and to just send the questions over in email.


The news reporter wasn’t the only one who backed out after saying she help me. Several of the other people who “had job offers” for me and “knew people” dried up and weren’t as responsive after the the fanfare of my article died down.

Point being, never rely too much on someone when they say they can assist you with something.

8. Don’t censor yourself. It’s something I’ve done for years and years. When I was in high school, I would talk about investing and design trends. In college, when discussing the types of jobs after graduation, I would always mention 401(k) retirement, building savings, web design lingo, indie film stuff and so forth. The people around me would always have weird looks on their faces. To them, all that mattered at the moment was drinking, partying, and trying to get through the semester with no D’s.

Don’t censor yourself. Don’t feel like you have to dumb yourself down when around people.

9. You are who you surround yourself with. It’s taken years for this to finally get nailed into my head. I found I was most productive and ambitious when I was around people who were smarter than me, and were working towards goals in the same vein as mine. Right now, I’m around people who are ambitious and have big plans. In the online world, I’ve connected with like-minded creatives through Twitter chats like Kayla Hollatz’s #createlounge.

10. Keep a journal. And write in it every day. Even if it’s just one sentence. Do it. I’ve keep a journal for the past three years and it’s so freaking awesome to see how much my perspectives on things have changed. Days aren’t lost. I get to know what did last February.  Write in detail about your day or just write a few sentences about the purpose of the day and what you did.

Time moves fast. It’s fun to reminisce every once in a while.

11. Traveling doesn’t have to be super expensive or time-consuming. Why is it when people think of traveling, they automatically think of prancing through Paris, backpacking through Europe, or visiting the “cool” places (I’m looking at you Italy, England, France, and Germany).

In this past year, I’ve visited South by Southwest Festival in Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; Chicago, IL; NYC 3 times (!!!); San Francisco; Los Angeles; and Cozumel.

Instead of jetting off to some foreign country for a week, why not visit some great sites in your home country. There are tons of great sites to explore in the US (assuming you live in the US). Embrace weekend adventures. Take Friday off of work and have a three-day adventure in Washington State, Napa Valley, The Grand Canyon, NYC, and so forth.

During my travels, I either stayed in hostel-type AirBnB rentals with other travelers or with friends. I looked for discounts on flights. Managed on when to eat out a nice restaurant or not, took lots of pictures instead of buying souvenirs, and so on.

Traveling doesn’t have to be this huge expense. The most important thing it takes is having an adventurous mindset.

12. “Dream jobs” take years of hard work. It’s the reality of working. The millenial generation was brought up on the mindset to “follow your passion”, “pursue your bliss” and so forth. We thought that by taking a career assessment, scoring high on marketing/fashion/PR/etc, and getting a few internships under our belt meant we would get our dream jobs right after college.

Not so quite.

Dream jobs take time. Just because you aren’t in yours yet doesn’t mean your a failure. Keep your head up, keep working, and don’t give up. Don’t stop searching and exploring.

13. Multiple sources of income are a must. I don’t want to just rely on a full-time job to provide me with income. I never want to be completely at the mercy of a job to provide me with the income I need to pay bills, rent, and life expenses.

Within the coming months, I’m going to start building up ways to make passive money to pad my monthly income.

14.Entrepreneurship is in the corner of my eye. I never thought I would want to own and operate my own business. After seeing the crazy commuting times people go through, the layers of bureaucracy corporate america has, and overall nature of many employers not treating employees well, entrepreneurship was become more attractive to me. I’m ramping up my web and graphic design skills at the moment. Within the near future, I hope to either have my own full-time business or be able to run a successful side business.

Nectar Collective had a great post on the grit and curious heart she had when building up her own design business.

15. Be very aware of your time. Since starting my full-time job, there has been some adjustments. I try to be more strategic with the time I have. Creating a routine has become vital. Here’s the loose one I’ve been following:

Monday/Wednesday/Friday: 4:00 a.m (Wake up)

4:00 a.m-5:00am (Shower/breakfast)

7:00 am-4:00pm (work)

4:00pm-5:30pm (commuting)

8:00pm (bedtime)

Tuesday/Thursday: Exercise days

3:00 a.m (Wake up)

3:30 a.m-4:15am (gym time)

4:30am-5:00am (shower/breakfast)

7:00 am-4:00pm (work)

4:00pm-5:30pm (commuting)

8:00pm (bedtime)

Saturday/Sunday: Exercise days

I make sure to hit the gym 4x per week. Doing it before work is a challenge since I have to be super alert on monitoring my time (I take only 5 minute showers on Tuesdays/Thursdays). I would rather just press the snooze button on waking up but going early in the morning is a lot better than the crowded evening time.

16. I love graphic and web design. I want to learn more about them. I want to go to a three month coding intensive bootcamp school.

17. Know the deep inner reason of why you want to pursue something before going after it. I want to start a design side business and finish my novel. Why do I want to start a design side business? I want to do it because reflect on the anxiety I had when being in between jobs, having to deal with bad work conditions, and struggling to make ends meet. I want to start a design side business so I can work on projects that fulfill and excite me and give me the opportunity to not be so reliant on a full-time job for a source of income.

I want to write my novel because I’ve always had a love of words. I want to prove my creative writing professor from college, who said short story wasn’t good despite the rest of the class loving it, wrong.

18. When in peril, watch Netflix or one of your favorite movies. At times, I get so consumed with all that I want to do. Burnout sets in. Watching some of my favorite inspiring movies can sometimes help me feel recharged and inspired again.

Remember though, good things are better in moderation. Don’t spend all day on Netflix watching Friends! No matter how tempting it is!

19. Your 20’s are for living below your means. After getting their first post-grad jobs, so many people start buying lots of things they may not need. Having a paycheck (and not as many bills as older adults) excites them and they go out and buy a new car, deluxe cable package (because they just have to watch Scandal), eat out a lot instead of packing their lunch at work and endlessly spend money on many things when they could just save.

Buy generic/store brands

Learn to cook at home. Plan your meals ahead of time

Hold on to your old car as long as possible and when it is time to buy another car, get a gently used pre-owned vehicle rather than a new vehicle.

Don’t worry about staying in some flashy, upscale apartment

Save. Save. Save. I’m saying you be super frugal and never go out. No way. By all means, hang out with friends and treat yourself every once in a while. There’s a balance to be struck. A balance between living in the moment while still planning for the future. Find it.

20. Having a dedicated workspace is crucial. For 12 months, I basically lived out of a suitcase. Bouncing between place to place with coffee shop visits sprinkled in. I carried my laptop, chargers, and external hard drive with me in a backpack for a portable workstation.

While it was great (I got to write my novel in several different locations across many states!) it was also distracting at times. Just last month, I finally settled into a place of living and have a desk and area where I go when I want to work on this blog, do graphic design stuff, write my novel, and so forth.

I have a space where I can go and get into “work mode”. It’s done wonders for my productivity.

21. I am going to be a published author

My novel. Oh, my dear little novel. I love it so much. I’ve been working on it on and off for two years. Lately I’ve made good progress on the editing of it. This year I will publish it. In the coming months, I’ll start to release more information on it. Get ready!

Book promotion: Stop trying so hard


Writing a book…is hard. You go through the happy, yet incredibly draining, experience of churning out the work. Then you manage to round up an editor, go through edits, get a cover designed, formatted, and (ah ha!) finally published.

Then it sort of goes nowhere.

Okay, maybe not nowhere. A good pile of reviews come in, book bloggers review the book, you do a blog tour, family and friends buy the book. After a few weeks or months of the promotion, where do you go?

You didn’t write the book for the money, although you would very much appreciate if people bought the book because then you could cover all the costs you went through to get editing, design, and formatting done.

Marketing your novel doesn’t have to be a draining experience. Sometimes, just maybe, the thing you need to do most of all is…very little at all.

I take it you have never heard of the web series High MaitenanceThe show revolves around the people a weed dealer interacts with as he delivers weed to customers around New York City (interesting, right?).

Well, there is insight to be learned from the makers behind High Maintenance. They did hardly any promotion at all for the series.

They sent out the first few episodes of the series to friends, family, and acquaintances…and that was it. They didn’t constantly pester bloggers to review their series, pitch to places, and so forth. The end result of their minimalist promotion? High Maintenance developed a cult following.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Not all people that do little to zero promotion for their products end up hitting it big. In fact, doing little promotion can be super risky.

Investing tons of your time to marketing your novel (when you should be writing) is another risk you take.

Well, there are some things you can do to help cut down on the time-consuming task of marketing your book and spend it on writing your next book.

Get people to sign up for your author newsletter

People who are subscribed to your author newsletter are around 25X more likely to buy your book than some random blogger you encountered or a Twitter follower you got.

If you don’t have an author newsletter, get one. Services like MailChimp help deliver the newsletter to potential subscribers.

Reach out to other people

Ksenia Anske, author of Siren Suicides, posts her word count for the day on Twitter. She responds to things people ask her. Best yet, she compliments other people on their work.

Talk about your writing process (no, really)

Okay seriously, don’t be another one of those people that posts pictures of your perfectly placed laptop along with a Starbucks cup. Show the actual process of your writing (and include visuals!).

Ksenia Anske posts on her blog about her writing process, how she is coming along, and so forth. She shows her writing process even when it is not so glamourous. People like a raw human element to things. 

When people see you at your rawest self, they have the ability to empathize and connect with you more. These are the types of people that buy your books.

Think of cool, subtle promotional techniques you can do for your book

You know that author newsletter you send out to people? What if had first few chapters of your work in progress in one of the newsletters. Send the first few chapters of your novel out, one by one, for free. Hugh Howey, author of the Wool series, did this at first. His books took off in popularity, partly due to it.

Ksenia Anske gives her books away for free, letting readers download files from the drafts of her novels. This in turn, gets her readers pumped up for the final version of the book.


Marketing a novel is hard work. Don’t let it consume your time and keep you from writing more. The purpose of your marketing should be on building a community around your books rather than just getting people to buy it.



  • This can be risky considering most self-published authors make less than $500 per year.


Mark Duplass’ SXSW 2015 Keynote

mark duplass sxsw keynote

I really like mumblecore film (i.e. microbudget, no-budget film). If you go the archives from years past, you can see I’ve done some film reviews, usually of independent films. Of the independent films I watch, Mark Duplass is a stand out I like. He’s gotten sorta huge in the past few years. Currently he has a TV show he writes and produces on FX called The League, HBO show Togetherness that he writes and produces, and has a guest-starring role on Fox’s The Mindy Project, all while still managing to have a movie career outside of all of those other projects. Busy guy!

He wasn’t always this way.

He used to be just like the rest of us: working a day job, living in a crappy apartment in South Austin, TX, and wanting to have a career as a filmmaker but having no connections to the industry. This wasn’t the typical tale of some twenty-something guy who passionately wrote a screenplay, happened to know someone who worked in the Warner Brothers mail room, and the script ended up at the studio heads who loved it and immediately produced it. That usually only happens in lofty dreams/hollywood movies.

Duplass didn’t know anyone who worked in the mail room at a studio. He didn’t know anyone in connection with Hollywood film, for that matter. He just knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. So set out to do that by making a no-budget short film with his brother, Jay Duplass, that cost them only $3 bucks. According to him the film was poorly shot and not that good. Despite the production quality, the taste and vision was there.

He worked at his day job, diligently saving money, and continued to make short films almost every weekend. He and his brother started to build a community of people they collaborated with, acted with, wrote with, and edited with.

Big piece of advice? Don’t go to film school. He says to minor in film and major in something that can get you a good paying job (since you’ll need to save money). When a guy in the audience asked a question about if he should go even go to college and film school, Duplass told him to think hard about it and maybe even skip college due to how expensive it is.

Duplass had some incredibly great, fresh, advice on up and coming filmmakers trying to break into the industry further. He talked about his experiences going from a guy having no connections to honing in on his craft, building a community, and moving up in the industry. There were eight tips he touched on.

1. The $3 Short Film

When you’re just starting out, find out the resources and locations you can work with and build the short film around that. Duplass said he and his brother spent $65,000 on a film called “Vince Del Rio”, it was their first film and it turned out horribly bad and him and his brother got depressed and almost gave up. They didn’t. They persevered and made another low/no-budget film and submitted it to a bunch of festivals.

“It doesn’t matter what your film looks like as long as it has a distinct quality and unique aspect to it”

2. Make a Feature for Under $1,000

Again, figure out all the resources, locations, and people that can help you and make a super low-budget film. Go make the movie on your own, with your own team.

3. Show Your Movie to Notable Stars

Even better, notable stars who are frustrated by the lack of choice in roles they get. Let them see your $1,000 movie at a festival and tell them you will build a movie character based on what they want. A lot of them won’t respond, but some will.

4. Make Another Cheap Movie–But With Notable Star

The cheap movie with the notable star will have the power to get distribution to video on demand services (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc).

5. VOD is the indie film’s savior

“This is where I think VOD is an amazing thing to have for independent film” Duplass says

The cheap movie made with notable star will get some attention on VOD, unlike it would if it played in just a few theaters, and agents and other people will start to notice you.

6. Next Stop: TV

At the beginning of the keynote, Duplass mentioned how much of middle class film is dead. There aren’t that many $5 million to $10 million dollar budget films that are produced unless they have a notable star in them. TV is the replacement. TV is the new age medium indie filmmakers can go to.

You pitch a show to a network, it will probably get denied, and so you independently produce a few episodes of the show and sell it to a network looking for fresh, inexpensive programming.

7. Raise Your Friends and Help Them Out

Now that you are in a better place, help out your lower level friends produce their projects. All about building a community of people.

8. Crossroads

People will be offering you directing, writing, and producing jobs. They will be tempting to take. A lot of the offers will fall through. It’s okay though. You have built yourself up. You won’t be rich but you’ll have a solid reputation, people will see you as a filmmaker. You will be able to show your kids your movies and say that was 100% no compromise, your movie. Some studio doesn’t own it, you do.


The speech ends at around the 25:00 minute mark. The floor is open for questions. One that stood out was about moving to Los Angeles. A person wondered about if, when they should move. Duplass answered by saying a filmmaker should keep making films where they are, where they know lots of people that can help them (with locations, props, crew,etc) and can get to know themselves. A filmmaker just starting out can’t do that kind of thing in LA.

Two pieces of great advice (don’t move to LA until you find your style/voice and don’t major in film) and eight tips on success in the film industry.

Watch the keynote for yourself. It’s a great viewing with lots of original and fresh bits of advice and anecdotes.

On Traveling & New Experiences

chicago bean summer time

Let’s talk about traveling for a moment.

All throughout college people would say over and over “You need to study abroad. It opens your horizons and makes you aware of other cultures!” Lots of the study abroad representatives would always say the slogan “You won’t know until you go.” They would give me pamphlets detailing trips visiting the Eiffel Tower, backpacking through Europe, touring the Irish countryside, visiting some castle in England, helping build things for kids in Colombia. You get the picture.

When people in class talked about the things they wanted to do, a recurring theme would always be to travel because they loved traveling. Where to? They would respond with far off places like the Greek Islands, backpacking through Europe or teaching English in an Asian country. When I’m older I’ll regret not having travelled when I was younger. Traveling can be expensive but the money is worth it to have the experience!

I always had a problem with these things. I wondered about some things. Why do people think that they need to go off to far away places to experience more of the world? Can’t you just do that by going to Canada, another state in the US, or maybe a place in Central America? To me, “experiencing new cultures” and “broadening your horizons” could be done by simply going out of your comfort zone and seeing how other people approach things.

Back in 2013, I felt discouraged. I had only ever been outside of Texas (where I live) three times. As part of a 2014 New Year’s resolution, I committed to getting out more and meeting new people. And I did. From March 2014 to March 2015 I went to South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas for the first time, New Orleans, then on a cross-country trip to Chicago and New York City with stops in Memphis, Tennessee and Cleveland, Ohio. Other visits for the year included Chicago for a second time, Twin Peaks, Colorado, and New York City two more times.

My full list included:

March 2014: South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas: I met celebrities like Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz and I sat/got sandwiched between Seth Meyers and Olivia Munn after a panel.

At the festival I got to meet a role model of mine, Mindy Kaling. She signed some photos for me and jokingly agreed to be in a movie of mine that I said would be like “a new age Sex and the City…but better and with less ego”.

While sitting in the hallways of the convention center waiting for a panel, a lady came up to me and asked if she could use the plug next to me. I said yes. In a weird twist of fate, she turned out to be a childhood friend of a famous film director I admire, Joe Swanberg.

April 2014: New Orleans, LA. Encountered copious amounts of horse poop and drunk people on Bourbon Street, saw the plantation from the movie Django Unchained and went to a WWE wrestling match.

August 2014: Cross country trip to Chicago and New York City: Tight on money, I decided to ditch taking a flight and instead took a MegaBus to Chicago and New York City. I scheduled meetings with seasoned improv professionals and visited with a communications agency I admired. The route let me make prolonged pitstops in Memphis, TN and Cleveland, OH.

On the 18 hour bus ride to New York City, I talked with a 63-year-old woman who was going to her 45 year high school reunion in Ohio.

“I want to look hot when I walk through those doors! Do you think I will look good in this dress?” (she hands me her phone with a picture of the dress. Amused and happy by her confidence, I nod in agreement).

While in NYC, I stayed at a hostel-type place and met a 19-year-old girl from Hungary. She talked about studying at university and how much she loved to study languages and cultures. She said she had always wanted to visit America but was unable to because of the cost. After several months of saving up money, she finally made the trip and was visiting NYC for a few days and then Chicago. She had such delight in her eyes as she talked about all the places she was visiting and food she was trying.

September 2014: Traveled to Chicago again to make a talk show appearance on Steve Harvey for an article I had written that went viral. The shows producers sat down with me and talked about their career experiences since college. I got to meet the other guest of the show, a 64-year-old cancer survivor who had beaten up a guy with, get this…a neck scratcher, when he tried to rob her house. Her adult daughter talked with me about the frustrations she had with the college system, how expensive it was, and how good-paying jobs were hard to come by.

On the flight back home to Austin. A woman came up and sat down in her seat beside me. We started talking and she mentioned how she had just visited her boyfriend in Chicago where he was working as a sound engineer for a great company. She had lived in Chicago while going to college but moved to Austin. For seven years she worked at an environmental agency as an editor. There was no upwards mobility in terms of promotion for her so she quit and started her own company.

The company, Austin Editing, had been something she was working on as a freelance side project for over a year before quitting her day job. I was surprised when she told me she didn’t have a lot of clients lined up when she quit her day job, just enough money to cover rent and a few things each month. Slowly but surely, with a lot of hustle, she built up a client list and today she had several team members that she manages as part of her company. She said something that stuck with me afterwards.

“Sometimes you aren’t fully ready and you just have to have this fuck it attitude and do it.”

November 2014: Twin Peaks, Colorado. I visited relatives and stayed in a freaking awesome cabin (I really love architecture so staying in the cabin was super fun). While in Colorado for a few days, I climbed mountains, sled down the hills, and had snowball fights. One of my cousins wives was studying to become a forensic photographer. She talked about how she had arrived at her desired career path and the way she loved photographing things to unravel a case.

January 2014: Visited New York City again for an interview. I got to see the inside and workings of a company whose site I read on the daily. By a stroke of luck, I got to meet with a seasoned PR professional near her workplace’s Williamsburg office.

March 2014: New York City for the third time. On my flight I met with a women named Denny who talked about how excited she was having just visited her son in North Carolina where he was graduating from Air Force training school. She said she loved Austin for all that it was and didn’t like the crowded, non-stop nature of New York City. She had a knack for solving crossword puzzles and sudoku.

Next month I’ll be going on a cruise with stops in Yucatan (Progreso) and Cozumel, Mexico. For the summer I will be going to Italy.

I traveled a lot in the timespan from this time last year to now. Did I go to some far off place, backpack through Europe, or help kids built houses in Colombia? No. Instead I just went out of my comfort zone, the safe nest of my apartment in Austin, Texas and visited places all across the US. I met a lot of people, learned their stories, their struggles, and how they approached life.

Many of the people I talked to who have gone on study abroad trips say it was great but they never seem to pull out anything other than talking about the different monuments and tourist spots they visited.

A girl once told me “Yeah, I just studied abroad for useless crap. I got to see some tourist spots and stuff but that was about it.”

You see? When people say they want to travel to “broaden their horizons” they usually think of visiting tourist spots rather than meeting people and seeing their walks of life.

My point with all of this is that you don’t need to go to Europe or study in England to broaden your horizons, sometimes the easiest way to do it is by going out your backdoor and talking with new people. I’m not discouraging international travel, if you have the money and resources, then by all means, go do it. I’m speaking to the people who say they can’t afford to travel, the ones who think it’s out of their reach.

Traveling can be as expensive or as cheap as you make it.

I used to think it was out of reach until I discovered that traveling can be as simple as going to another state. See the Grand Canyon, go to the Golden Gate bridge, see the nature of Washington state. You don’t have to break the bank just to broaden your horizons. 

There’s something more I have to reveal. Some people know about it but many don’t. Right now (and for the past several months) I’ve been writing a novel. I don’t talk about it much but it involves a women graduating from college and joining a support group.  The novel features people from all age ranges and walks of life. Throughout all of the flights, bus rides, and car rides while traveling, I was writing and working on the novel. The people I met along the way and interacted with have influenced my book in a great way. I can’t wait to share more about the book soon. For now I will leave you with the title’s initials (#LOTR). Can you guess what it is?

Also, if have an urge to travel, don’t let it go vacant. Go out to somewhere in the US you’ve never been, meet up with people you might know there, strike up conversations while in the coffee shops. Just get out there.

Happy trails.

Mindy Kaling at SXSW 2014
Meeting one of my TV writing role models, Mindy Kaling at SXSW
Imagine Central Park John Lennon
At Strawberry Fields Central Park dedicated to John Lennon.
message in a bottle coney island
Found a bottle on the beach at Coney Island. No long lost message in it.
chicago bean summer time
Rare photo of the Chicago Bean without a bunch of crowds around it. I woke up early and took this photo at 7:30am to beat the crowds
sitting on the Chicago skydeck
sitting on the Chicago skydeck
Chicago skyline from the Willis (Sears) Tower skydeck
Chicago skyline from the Willis (Sears) Tower skydeck
chicago skydeck
looking down from the skydeck. 103 floors high!
twin peaks colorado
Twin Peaks, Colorado
monica gellar apartment building
Monica Gellar’s apartment building from the TV show “Friends”
colorado cabin
Cabin view while in Colorado
My green room name display while getting ready to appear on Steve Harvey
My green room name display while getting ready to appear on Steve Harvey


Review: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving


The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

Life is something that can’t really be planned. Even when you have a plan, it ends up getting a few detours, roadblocks, and your plan may even drift away altogether. The only way to get past setbacks, disasters, and tragedies is to seek a new context, and focus on the now (and not the how or why).

Benjamin Benjamin (yep, he has two first names) is a 39-year-old guy who’s trying to figure out how to approach life in light of a terrible family tragedy. He’s separated from his wife and dodges all of her attempts to get him to sign the divorce papers. He hasn’t worked in months, getting by on a cashed out IRA and cash advances from an old Visa. Ben isn’t a deadbeat, he’s just a guy wondering what the next step is in his life after losing all that he had before.

He takes a 28-hour night course called “The Fundamentals of Caregiving” and gets a $9 dollar an hour job caring for a 19-year-old guy who is confined to a wheelchair due to duchenne muscular dystrophy.

The novel isn’t the typical tale of a saddened atmosphere surrounding a character with a fatal condition. The tone of the story follows a similar nature of John Green’s book, The Fault in Our Stars. Although even with the common characteristic of a character in fatal condition, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving follows a different tone.

The characterization is very good. Ben Benjamin is a broken guy wondering out to get out of the hole he’s in. The author interweaves the present day story of Ben’s care giving with his past life as a stay-at-home dad. The reader is introduced to his wife and two kids and gets a glimpse at the cherished, loving life he had before the tragic accident. (Note: This isn’t a spoiler, there is much, much the novel dives into).

Trev, a young guy slowly withering away, yearns for normalcy. He dreams of the seemingly simple things he could do if he didn’t have his condition, things like peeing upright in the way most guys do. When he gets a notice about his estranged father living in Utah, Ben decides to pack up the van and take Trev on a road trip from Washington state all the way to Utah.

Along the way they pick up a handful of characters like a runaway teen (Dot), a bright-eyed cheerful pregnant woman appropriately named Peaches, and her husband, Elton, a guy looking to get rich quick with a seemingly smart business idea.

The novel, with it’s delightful character anecdotes and scenarios, forms part road trip novel, part buddy novel.  The characters are real, flawed people trying to find the next direction in their lives. Along the road, the stop for sight seeing and evaluate their next steps.

Trev isn’t cast with the stereotypical brave soul sufferer. He’s real, and the reader gets to experience his want and desires in life. He yearns to experience what “normal” people do. He’s blunt in the way he speaks. When he develops a crush on Dot and creates experiences while living life on the road, he gets a sense of normalcy that he’s never had before.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is able being open to where life takes you, moving forward in life, finding your place, and forming connections with people that are experiencing the same difficult journey in trying to make sense of their situations.

In life there are a lot of things you can’t control. You won’t be able to control things like when setbacks happen, when things don’t go your way, when failure and mistakes set in and the circumstances your born into. The one thing you do have control in is how you respond to things in life and how you choose to move forward in life. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving ends on this commandment.


Note: In case you haven’t heard, the novel is getting a film adaptation! Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez, and Craig Roberts have all signed on to appear. The movie is currently filming in Atlanta, Georgia right now and is expected to be released this fall. Make sure to read the book before the movie comes out!


Never Settle, Keep Moving Forward

nQZcA7PRTyuduZPSZQ88_wanderlustWith New Year’s resolutions crossing people’s minds, and the everyday grind of work, it can be easy to feel stifled, unmotivated and wanting to be lazy. Don’t fret. Below you’ll find some awesome things to read and to use. Keep churning on!

Praytell Strategy: Never Settle 

Earlier this year, I got in contact with a startup “new school” public relations agency, Praytell Strategy. Aside from them having a freaking amazing site (I thought it was Squarespace, I thought wrong) they also have a great company blog.

One of the blog posts from earlier in the year could be super relatable to writers everywhere (even though it wasn’t even about writers). The agency’s founder, Andy Pray, goes through a rough time while drafting content for a social contest.

The post reminds me of when I was working on the first draft of my novel. Filled with doubt and an extreme critical eye, I would always not last more than thirty minutes or so of continuous writing time before getting frustrated and going on the internet, getting food, and so forth.

So what should you do as you’re trudging through writing and your self-critic won’t shut up as you try to reach your word count?

Keep going

Many times you have to go through the clutter to get the prize. If your writing isn’t working and you feel like throwing in the towel, don’t. Habits take time to build.Sometimes the grand idea is right around the corner.

Go on and read Praytell’s blog post on never settling. It’s short, to the point, and will get you thinking and ready to move.