Getting Real: What it’s like to be an indie author

I love the reaction I get when I tell people what I do. The avid readers are always fascinated with my job and ask lots of questions including where to find my books. Usually they will be looking me up on Amazon by the end of the conversation. The aspiring writers want to know all about the business – how much I make, how did I get started, what a typical day looks like, how do I come up with ideas, etc. Then there are the people who don’t read, don’t want to write and are clearly uncomfortable with the idea that someone chooses to sit at home and make up stories all day. They usually smile tensely and then find the nearest exit route. But inevitably one question will be asked almost every time I share my profession – “Who is your publisher?”  When I answer with “Me,” I get a myriad of different responses. The hip, indie-friendly crowd thinks this is cool and wants to know all about how I make it work, while the old fashioned crowd looks at me all flustered and, frankly, a little disappointed. Suddenly to the latter crowd I’m not as cool as I was moments earlier. But the truth is that I don’t think either crowd really understands what it’s like to be a self-published author. I’m sure of that because I had no idea what to expect when I first took this career on. So I’m here to set the record straight and put an end to the false ideas of what being an indie author is and isn’t.

When I wrote my first novel ten years ago, I never saw self-publishing as a viable option. In my mind publishing my work on my own was admitting that I wasn’t good enough to be picked up by a traditional publisher. So I spent years querying agents and publishers. What I found was that I was getting a lot of good feedback from publishers and agents who liked my writing style, but couldn’t buy my book for many reasons. Either they had just purchased a similar story line or the genre was overdone or wasn’t selling anymore. It got so frustrating to try to come up with a novel that would meet an editors or agents expectations and fit into their very small box. But I found that those who I let read my books loved them. So in 2011 I started to look into self-publishing. I wanted to be a writer, not spend my life sending out query letters and proposals that went nowhere. After researching the market I was pleased to find that self-publishing didn’t carry with it the same stigma that it used to. Many indie authors were making it big and had great reviews and respect. I read a few indie titles and was pleased to find the books were professionally packaged, edited and were amazingly well-written. So I decided to jump on the bandwagon, and I self-published my first book on January 20, 2012.

The first myth I want to bust is that you’re not a real author if you’re not with a publisher. This is so untrue. I don’t care if you’ve only sold 1 book. You are a professional. You are getting  paid for what you do. However, most indie authors don’t only sell 1 book. In fact, most of us make a good living doing this. In my opinion that makes us real authors. If our books are published and people are buying them, it doesn’t get more real than that.

The second myth I want to bust is that being an indie author is easy money. NOT! I’m not going to lie – I do make decent money. But I have worked my ass off to get here. And I didn’t make it off my first book or my second or even my fifth. I started making money around the time I published my 7th book. It was a hard first year but I never gave up. When 1 book didn’t sell well I just worked that much harder to write another one. And when that one didn’t sell well, I worked hard to write yet another one. I kept honing my craft and getting help from people I trusted. I learned more, read more. And eventually I found my niche, and my books started selling.

The third myth is that I have all this time to do whatever I want since I sit around at home all day. If only! My day is slammed. Since I’m an indie author, I am IT. I’m the whole corporation. I am in charge of every aspect of my career. Sure, I have some amazing people who help me – a PA, author friends, bloggers, cover artists, editors, a formatter. Even so, it’s my job to pay them, to get my materials to them in time. And ultimately it’s on my shoulders if anything goes wrong. On top of that, I do all my own marketing, social networking, giveaways, etc. And I write books! A lot of them. One a month, usually. Truth is I work more than I don’t. My job is round the clock. It doesn’t end at a certain time and then resume again.  It’s an all consuming profession. And even more so since my characters rarely shut up and keep me awake at all hours of the night.

And lastly I want to bust the myth that I am in competition with other authors. This is a subject I’ve heard a lot about lately and it is so untrue. I don’t think of other authors as competition AT ALL. Readers don’t read just one book in their lifetime. They read tons of books. The more the merrier. Honestly, I want other authors to do well because I think it helps all of us. The more great books that are out there the more people are reading, and the more likely they are to find my books. I think it’s great, and I support other authors every chance I get. Indie and trad pubbed.

The bottom line is that if you want to be an author you have to choose the path that is right for you. Indie publishing isn’t a good choice for everyone. I personally love to have control over my career (I am somewhat of a control freak – ask my husband) so it’s a good fit for me. I’m a workaholic and don’t mind working round the clock. But not everyone is like that.

I feel super lucky to have my job and this post is in no way meant to whine about how hard I work or what I have to do. I love every minute of it. But I just wanted to be real with you. I get some strange questions and remarks that show me that people don’t have a clue what my job is like. So this is only meant for enlightenment. Do with it what you will.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Also, if you have questions or have any other myths you’d like me to bust, let me know!

 


BREAK FREE – Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek!

Writing BREAK FREE was one of the best experiences of my life. Seriously. I loved Kyler and Jade more than any characters I’ve written up to this point. This story consumed me, haunted my dreams, and pestered me nonstop. I fell in love with Kyler from the minute he stepped into that barn and looked at Jade head-on, ignoring her scars. I literally cannot wait to share this story with you, and I hope you love it as much as I do! Below is the gorgeous cover done by the amazingly talented Regina Wamba from Mae I Design and Photography. And below that is the Prologue and First Chapter.  WARNING: There is some language and a little graphic violence. Enjoy!!

 

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PROLOGUE

My face was on fire. And I’m not speaking figuratively. No, it was literally on fire. The flame, bright and red like blood singed my flesh, ate away at my porcelain skin. I clawed at it, batted it away, but it grew and spread like a ravage disease. Nothing could abate it. Nothing could stop the pain. The horrible searing pain.

My cries for help went unanswered.

His eyes watched me, uncaring, as the flicker of the flame danced in his irises. There wasn’t a hint of remorse as he stared at me, frozen in place. Then again, what did I expect when he’s the one who did this to me? Did I expect him to suddenly jump into action, play the part of the hero when all I’d ever known him to be was the villain?

Water finally stopped it. Glorious, cold water that I lapped onto my flesh, and splashed onto my skin until the flames quieted. But still the scent of burnt flesh lingered in the air, turning my stomach. And the intense pain was still there.

Reaching up, I grappled the tender flesh, skimming it with the pads of my fingers. Without even looking in the mirror I knew my face was damaged, scarred beyond repair.

That’s okay. I figured it matched my heart.

In school my teachers had taught me all about safety and not talking to strangers. But they never told me what to do when the danger lived in my very own home.

ONE

It wasn’t the first time he tried to kill me, but it sure as hell would be the last.

There was a time when I wanted Heath more than anything else. A time when one look from him brought me to my knees, made me worship the ground he walked on. All that ended the first time he beat the shit out of me. Now all I saw when he walked into the room was a monster. A monster way worse than the ones I’d imagined hidden under my bed as a child. There were times I swore I saw fangs when he smiled, a flicker of neon color in his eyes, horns protruding from his head, claws growing out of his fingers.

I had to fight the urge to throw up in his mouth every time he kissed me. His hands burned like hot irons when he put them on my skin. I imagined them leaving a trail of burn marks in their wake.

That’s all I was anyway. One giant scar. Marred beyond repair. Ugly. Broken. Damaged. Wasn’t that what he said in his fits of rage? Weren’t those the words he spewed as his fists rained down on me?

If it weren’t for the fact that he supplied the drug I needed to survive, I would’ve left long ago. But I didn’t know how to survive without meth. It had been my coping mechanism for as long as I could remember. I’d read enough self-help books to know that other people used methods like yoga, meditation, green tea and shit like that. There’s no way any of those things would work for me. Clearly those people had a different life than mine. I needed something a whole lot stronger to get me through my hellish days. But now even meth wasn’t working. The beatings were becoming more frequent, and even the best high wasn’t erasing the pain and agony I had inside. It was time to jump ship.

Heath came into my life at the right moment. As if he’d been waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike; looking for a girl who needed to be saved. I would’ve believed anything he said, as long as he promised to take me far away and never bring me back. I thought I was escaping into freedom, but all I did was switch nightmares.

But I was done. Through with all of it. He could find a new weak girl to prey upon.

While Heath slept off a bender I stole a couple hundred dollars from his wallet, preparing to leave for good. I contemplated stealing a stash of meth, but then thought better of it. If I was going to make a clean break I needed to really do it. The drugs would just bring me back. It would be hell to quit, but it was my only hope of gaining freedom. And wasn’t that what I’d always wanted? I wondered what that looked like. Was it even possible for someone like me to find it? I was skeptical, but willing to try. I picked up my backpack filled with all the belongings I had in this world. Sad that it could fit in a backpack. Even sadder that it wasn’t full. I could count off all my belongings on my fingers and probably not reach all ten. But I didn’t care. Things didn’t matter to me. Actually, nothing did.

I stepped over a pile of empty beer cans discarded on the ground near the coffee table, which was filled with overflowing ashtrays. There was a half empty pack of cigarettes and a lighter next to it. I shivered. Most meth addicts smoked, but I could never bring myself to do it. The first time I tried, I held the cigarette between my lips and flicked the lighter. When the flame danced from it, I started to draw it to my lips. I could feel the heat radiating from it and that’s when fear struck. I completely lost it, screaming and clawing at my face as if it were on fire again. Heath slapped me, demanding that I snap out of it. Only I couldn’t. It’s like it was happening all over again. From then on I knew I could never smoke. Even when Heath lit up his cigarettes I stayed as far from him as possible. In his particularly evil moments he’d flick on his lighter and tease me with it, bringing it close to my face or flashing it in my eyes.

I strapped my backpack on my back, and it caught on my long dark hair. I gathered up the strands, tugging them out. My hair was my favorite feature. It’s long and sleek, and I could use it to cover up the hideous scar on the right side of my face, the skin that was burned beyond repair. No amount of skin grafts in the world could make my cheek look normal again. I always wore thick bangs, straight and blunt, hanging right above my eyebrows. Hell, I’d grow them out over my entire face if I could. I liked to keep my face as covered as possible. I’d been told by guys over the years that my light blue eyes were beautiful, a startling comparison to my dark hair. But it’s usually right before they slept with me and never called again. Or right before they shoved their fist in my face. So I didn’t believe them. Besides, I knew the truth. If it’s true that your eyes are the window to the soul than my eyes must have been sad and dark to anyone who was really looking. Then again, I doubt anyone had ever looked that hard.

And, frankly, that was fine by me. It was safer that way.

When I stepped outside, the cool air circled me. Goosebumps rose on the bare flesh of my arms. I had a jacket in my backpack, but I didn’t bother grabbing it. The cold felt good. It made me feel alive. For a girl who was mostly dead, that’s saying something. Heath always told me that I was dead inside, that I lacked emotion, that I didn’t feel anything. I agreed with him, telling him I was ruined, numb. But the truth was that I did feel things. I felt it every time he called me repulsive and ugly. I felt it deep inside in that place where I stored the painful words spoken over me. The beatings I could take, it was the words that left the biggest mark. My physical wounds healed, but I could never erase the words that ran through my mind day and night.

Trash. Worthless. Damaged. Hideous. Stupid.

I wore those scars even more prominently than the ones people could see. I wore them in my heart, the place no one could reach. The place that no one could heal.

Cars passed me on the street as I walked along the sidewalk. The sky was dark, the windows in the apartment buildings lit up. If only I had a car. Then I could hit the open road and never look back. But Heath never let me drive. He kept me close, where he could watch me. Too bad he wasn’t watching tonight. Heath would be shocked when he found me gone. He didn’t think I’d ever leave him.

I smiled. A small smile that didn’t quite reach my eyes, but it was a start.

A car filled with teenage boys drove past. A few of them gawked at me from the back window. I looked down at my scuffed tennis shoes and pulled my hair over my face. But I knew it was too late. They’d seen the scar. I could tell by their horrified expressions.  And along with that, I’m sure they noticed the latest shiner, and the bruises along my neck where Heath had choked me. My fingers fluttered over the bruises, remembering how awful it felt to have my air supply cut off. Although there was a part of me that welcomed it. A part of me that waited for death to come. I wondered what it would feel like to slip into nothingness. No more pain, no more sorrow. It could be blissful.

But Heath didn’t want to off me, so he stopped before it got that far. Bastard.

I rounded a corner and headed for the bus stop. Heath could pay for my ticket out of town. Maybe I’d ride it to the end of the line. It didn’t matter where. As long as my past stayed here, I could go anywhere. I could leave it all behind, shed it like an old coat or a pair of worn out shoes. I’d never miss it. I’d never search for it. In fact, I hoped to never think of it again.

But I knew it wasn’t that easy. I could never outrun the memories no matter how hard I tried. And believe me I had.

The bus stop came into view and my heart stuttered in my chest. This was it. Time for a new beginning. As I took deliberate steps forward, I wondered if I could really do it this time. Would my attempt be successful or would I end up right back where I started?

Swallowing hard, I stepped into the line. A couple got in behind me, wedging me in. The family in front of me was loud as they chatted with one another. I scratched at my wrist, feeling itchy all over. I hated crowds. It made me claustrophobic. The man behind me bumped me with his elbow, and I curled into myself like a piece of origami, wishing I could transform like that. Change my shape and become something else. What I would want to be I wondered? A swan. Definitely a swan.

When I was little, I read a book about an ugly duckling becoming a swan. At the time it had given me hope that things could change. That maybe it was possible to alter your destiny. Life had ruined that idealistic view for me. But every once in awhile, I’d feel a glimmer of hope.

The line moved forward. I looked up at the board above the ticket counter, at all the potential places I could go. My chest constricted. I’d never set out on my own before. A bud of panic took root in my stomach and started to bloom slowly, like a flower opening up. The petals fluttered inside of me. It was my turn. Forcing myself to breathe, I stepped forward.

I could do this. I wouldn’t let fear hold me back this time.

 


 

 

 


Delaney’s Gift Series Makeover (and final book)

I feel like I’ve been writing about Delaney and Sam forever. And in reality I have been writing about them for years. The story first started several years ago when I participated in the 3 Day Novel Contest. The contest takes place over Labor Day weekend. You have from midnight on Thursday to midnight on Monday to write a complete novel. I decided to write a modern day retelling of Samson and Delilah in the bible. In that story Sam was truly a bad guy and Delaney was good. Sam seduces Delaney, cuts her hair and takes her gift. The story didn’t win, and I ended up shelving it, thinking I’d revisit it at some point. A couple years later, I decided to pull out the story, tweak it a little and make it YA.  I decided to set the story in a fictional world and make Delaney a warrior sworn to protect that town.  Then I added in nine other warriors each with different gifts, and that’s how the Delaney’s Gift Series was born. Originally I planned for Sam to be a bad guy even in this series. But as I wrote him, I started to fall for him, and that’s when he softened and changed. I can honestly say that Sam is my first true book boyfriend. I hope you have loved him too.

The last book in the series will release this week and it’s bittersweet for me. I will miss Delaney, Sam, Micah, Ariel, Jax and the rest of the warriors. But I’m glad that their story has resolved and I’m happy that the series is complete. In honor of the last book coming out, my graphic artist and I decided to remake all the covers – give them a little bit more magic. So here are the new covers, starting with Betray! My graphic artist, Lisa Eneqvist did a great job, Renae Lamb’s picture is lovely, and my model Brittany Norris is perfect as always.

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If you haven’t started this series yet, you can get Dazzle for free at any online retailer!


It was just a typical afternoon until…

I’m often asked how I come up with the ideas for my stories, and I never quite know how to answer that. Stories and characters come to me a lot of different ways. Sometimes characters just pop into my head with personalities and pasts all intact. Then it’s just a matter of coming up with a plot that will work with that unique individual. Other times a show I’m watching or book I’m reading will spur on an idea. Or a life experience of mine will fuel a storyline. Oftentimes, though, it’s a combination of a lot of these things which I form into one idea.

However, this book was different. I know the exact moment I came up with the storyline for this book. It was last summer and I had brought my kids to the gym. My daughter was swimming, my son was in the basketball court playing a basketball game, and I was laying out by the pool reading a book. I looked up from the pages to check on my daughter and my gaze landed on a teenage couple in the water. The guy was teaching the girl to swim. I was mesmerized. He was so kind and tender with her as he held her in the water. I found myself wondering about them. What was their story? Why did this teenage girl not already know how to swim? What was their relationship like?

And just like that HEAD ABOVE WATER took shape in my mind. I wanted to write a story about a love like that. About a boy who would teach his girlfriend to swim with encouragement and gentleness. The couple in the book looks nothing like the couple at the gym, and I never did find out their story, so any similarities would just be coincidences. But that couple definitely inspired me.

With the basics of the story in my mind I set out to come up with characters and Tag and Harper came very easily. Their back stories, secrets and tainted pasts took time. In fact, I didn’t learn of Tag’s until halfway through the rough draft. But that is typical for me. I hope you have enjoyed their story as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

And if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for? ;)


Want to go to the beach?

It may be winter time, but you can warm up with Tag and Harper in HEAD ABOVE WATER. A sexy lifeguard, a girl afraid of the water, and a sizzling romance. What more could you want to beat the rainy day blues?

Sometimes all you need is someone to hold you up.

Harper Elliott knows what it feels like to drown. To be unable to breath, to feel the crushing weight of your lungs collapsing while waves crash over your head and the surface is just out of reach. The ocean has stolen way too much from her and her family. Even though she lives just miles from the beach she rarely ever steps foot on it, and never goes in the water.

Until she meets Tag Williams, the sexy lifeguard with the funny name, kind smile, genuine eyes and smoking hot body. He makes Harper want to do more than just stick her toes in to test the waters. He makes her want to jump in with both feet.

But if she does, can she trust Tag to keep her head above water?

To purchase at Amazon click here

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Be Still

I am not good at being still. I’m a doer. I like to take action. Heck, I’m a self-published author, meaning I do everything from writing my books, to formatting them, to uploading them, to marketing them. I am not a person who likes to sit around and let others do things for me. I like to be in control.

But right now in my spiritual life God is teaching me to “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalms 46:10) Easier said than done, I’m afraid.

After my last blog post, my health took another unexpected turn. I ended up with an infection that you contract from the hospital or antibiotic use. It’s a scary infection and it kind of rocked my world. I was ready for 2014 to be my healthy year, not start with another illness. The truth is that at first I was angry, and in some moments I still am. I feel kind of like Job in the bible- just being pummeled by illness after illness. For the first few days of this infection I wallowed in self-pity and a woe is me attitude. In fact, if I’m being entirely honest, it’s easy for me to slip back into that at any given moment like a turtle hides in it’s shell. When I’m out and about I find myself jealous of all the people around me seemingly healthy, and wonder why I have to be the one sick. But God is teaching me to have a positive attitude, to enjoy every minute I have on this earth, and most importantly to be still and know that he is God.

The infection I have is very resistant to antibiotics and I’m now on my second round. Some days I think I will never get rid of this. But then God reminds me that he’s got this. He’s handling it. He’s working on my behalf. He reminds me in the sweetest ways. Like through a message on FB from a friend, or from my sweet friends who bring my family dinner every night, or from a word spoken over me when I ask for prayer at church. He keeps reminding me that He is with me, even when I feel so alone and scared. He is with me and He loves me and He is in control of all things. God works everything for the good of those who love him.

So when I feel like I’m drowning in the waves of anxiety and distress, I can just throw my arm up and know that He will pull me out of the storm. I don’t have to claw my way out when I’m too weak to do it. No, I can trust that He will be my strength.

This is sometimes hard for the control freak in me. I want to research this infection like a mad woman and fix this myself. And, of course, I have done my homework and I am doing all that I can to fight the infection. But while I’m doing what the doctors have told me, I also have to relax, to rest in God almighty, to trust, to listen, to learn, to grow. I can come out of this stronger than I was going in. I can glean what God is trying to teach me. Instead of asking him why this is happening, I can ask him what I can learn through this trial.

I think for me I need to learn not to fear tomorrow. Not to fear what could happen, but to live in the moment.

When I was a little girl I was in love with the music of Twila Paris. And there was a song I used to sing that said:

There Is An Ocean Surrounding Me
Mostly the Water Is Calm
Just Enough Breeze to Keep Me Sailing
I Feel Safe and Warm
Angry Winds Blow Suddenly
How This World Can Threaten Me
Then the Master Speaks With Sure Authority

Chorus
Peace Be Still, Peace Be Still
Peace Be Still to the Wind and the Waves
Peace Be Still, Peace Be Still
Peace Be Still and the Ocean Obeys

As a child, I don’t know if I really got these lyrics but now I do. I can choose to be bowled over by the waves of uncertainty and panic, or I can call out my God, the King of Kings who has all authority over the heavens and the earth and I can let Him speak peace over the chaos. What the enemy intends for evil I can allow to be used for good. Then God is the one with the victory.

If you are going through a storm right now, know that God is with you. That He loves you more than you know. That His peace is the peace that surpasses understanding.

Be still and know that He is God….


What I Learned in 2013

In June of 2012 I quit my day job to write full time. It was super exciting since being an author has been my dream since I was a little girl. By December 2012, I was making enough money that it seemed like I wouldn’t have to return to work in 2013, but could continue writing full time. So, I went into 2013 very excited for what the future had in store. But things quickly took an unexpected turn when I got sick exactly a week into the year. It started with extreme dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite and intermittent fevers. The doctors told me it was just an inner ear infection and would go away on its own. But after a month, I decided to see an ENT. The ENT administered an MRI and VNG test and both came back normal, meaning it wasn’t a neurological issue or tumor and it wasn’t an inner ear infection. Next I had a myriad of other tests, including vision tests and CT scan. Nothing showed anything abnormal, yet I was still dizzy all the time. By summer time I decided to just focus on my kids and give up trying to figure out what was wrong. I started seeing a chiropractor and got a little better. In the fall of this year I started seeing an acupuncturist and got great results from that. I felt really hopeful that I was on the mend. Then I started getting pain the right side of my abdomen. Doctors told me it was muscular and so I treated it that way for over a month. Finally when no improvement had been made I went in for an ultrasound. Long story short, my gallbladder was removed in emergency surgery right before it was in danger of rupturing. As I made my recovery I was really hopeful that my health issues were behind me. However, the pain in my right side never subsided and still remains 6 weeks later. I am now undergoing tests to find out what is wrong. I have now had 2 tests and have 2 more coming in the next few weeks.

On the bright side of this year, things have been going amazingly well with my writing. I published 6 books this year! And they are selling well and getting great reviews. When I think about this it makes my heart soar! Also, my family is doing great. My marriage is strong, my son is in high school and my daughter in middle school. It’s been good on the home front.

It’s odd to have horrible hardship in the midst of incredible blessing. On the one hand I feel so blessed to be doing what I love; to be able to pursue my dream! On the other hand, it is hard to enjoy my blessings when I feel so sick and anxious about my health. It’s hard to reconcile the two.

As many of you know I am a Christian. My faith in God and his great provision for me has gotten me through so many hard times. This year I have leaned on him so much. I’ve clung to him and put all my hope in him. However, I would be lying if I said that it was easy. I have struggled with my faith. I have struggled with doubt, fear and anxiety. Sometimes I have felt crippled by it even. And it has made me feel ashamed. Ashamed because I should be stronger. I should have more joy. I should have more faith. I shouldn’t allow worry to consume me. But even knowing these things in my head, it’s hard to convince my heart.

This year I’ve learned that life is unpredictable. I can plan all I want, but things may not happen like I’d hoped. I can worry so much it makes me sick, but it’s not going to change the outcome. What’s going to happen will happen. Health problems aren’t something you can plan for, prevent or control. If only.

The only thing I can control is my reaction to it. And I have to confess that hasn’t been very pretty this year. But with God’s help I’m working on it.

I don’t know what 2014 holds, but I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that God will heal me, that my body will be restored. But if not, I’m hopeful that I will find freedom in it. That I will learn to roll with the punches, to not get so anxious. That I will, as the saying goes, let go and let God. I’m hopeful that fear and anxiety won’t control me.

What are the challenges you’ve faced in 2013? How have they helped you to grow and change? What are your hopes and dreams for 2014? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


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