Words hold weight. Let’s be wise in how we use them.

I was born a people-pleaser. When I was a little girl I wanted everyone to think I was the smartest, the sweetest, the cutest, the most talented. It’s the reason my poor brother endured endless amounts of torture at my hands when he was an infant and toddler. Jealousy. Pure and simple. He was stealing my spotlight, and I didn’t like it.

As I got older my need to be liked got me in a lot of trouble. It drove me into the arms of a boy who seemed to love me but ended up hurting me. It took me down the road of drug abuse and co-dependency.

I had no idea who I was, what I thought, what I valued. I was a chameleon. I liked what those around me liked. My opinions matched theirs. I couldn’t stand the thought of thinking differently. Of having people displeased with me for even one moment.

people pleaser

Luckily, God redeemed me of all that. He healed me, and then took me on a gentle, grace-filled journey. One where I learned who I was, and what I valued. As I grew and matured, I cared less and less about other people thought of me, and more and more about what God thought of me. Now my opinions match his, and I’m not afraid to speak my mind. It’s okay if people are displeased with me.

Everyone won’t like me or agree with me, and that’s okay.

But there is one area in my life where I still struggle with this need to please – my writing. Clearly when I release a book I want people to like it. Honestly, it wouldn’t make sense to write and publish a book if I didn’t. However, I also know there will be people who won’t like it, and sometimes that’s hard to swallow.

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When I finish writing a book I go through many emotions. First, I feel relief. Second, I get excited. Third, the doubts start to set in. My mind whirs through all of the possible things readers will hate about the book. I panic and desperately wrestle with myself, wondering if I should take things out, tweak the plot, etc. In the end, I almost always keep everything the same. I surmise that no matter what I change, someone will be unhappy.

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So I release the book as is, and inevitably there are readers that love it, and readers that hate it.

I write romances and typically they have an HEA. I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve gotten over the years, saying how predictable my books are. How they are unrealistic. And since I usually write in the young adult genre, I always get the reviews by the readers who are irritated at how “high school” or “juvenile” the book seems. As if it’s somehow my fault they bought a book without paying attention to the genre it was in.

In For the Win, there were those who were upset with my happy ending and how I made everything tie up neatly for London.But then Until the Sun Burns Out releases and there are those that are angry about the sad ending. Angry that things didn’t tie up neatly. Angry that the ending isn’t predictable.

It reminds me that I can’t win. I can’t please everyone.

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I don’t know why the bad reviews are the ones I remember over the good ones. But I suspect it’s because the little girl inside of me; that one that aims to please, is rising up and waving her fist.

But I also think it’s because I’ve never been that kind of reviewer. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. I used to have a blog where I reviewed the books I read. And I used it as a way to spread the word about books I loved. I never once wrote a scathing review of a book I hated.

The books I didn’t like, I simply didn’t share about.

And when I became an author I sort of thought every reader was like me. Boy was I surprised the first time I got a mean review. And, let me tell you, my first bad review was a mean one. The reviewer not only tore apart my book but she tore apart me as an author. Literally. Like she said mean things about me. I was floored. I didn’t know people did that, and I didn’t understand why someone would do that. If you love to read, don’t you love authors? Don’t you get that writing is subjective? That what you hate someone else might love?

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But I had to move past it. To get thick skin. To realize that readers are entitled to their opinions, even if they’re mean. Now when I see a mean review, I turn the other way and remember that I can’t please everyone. That one bad review doesn’t make me a bad author. That for every bad review there are dozens of good ones. 

This takes practice.

And I still will never understand someone’s need to tear down my books or me as an author. But it’s part of the deal, and I get that now. So I’m working on this. In truth, I mostly just don’t read my reviews much anymore. If I do, I try to stick to the five-star ones.

Years ago, I did the love languages study. I did it once with my husband and once with my kids. In it, I learned that my love language is “words of affirmation,” so it makes sense that reviews hold weight with me.

Words matter.

If you take anything from this post, it’s this: Don’t only share about the things you don’t like. Share about the things you love. Don’t only tell people when  you’re upset. Tell people when you’re happy. I feel like there is so much negativity in our world. Let’s spread joy.

And when it comes to the books you read, review the ones you like. Share with others when you read a book you love. Let the author know what it meant to you, and leave an awesome, glowing review. We need them. We cherish them. We hold them close.

I’m not saying you can’t review the ones you don’t like, but I would challenge you to think of the author as a real person when you do write the review. I’ve had negative reviews that were well-thought out and helpful, and I’ve actually made some changes in my writing because of them. So you don’t have to be mean. You can give constructive criticism. Don’t be a reviewer that tears a book or author down. Be a helpful, kind reviewer.

Words hold weight. They have power.

Let’s be wise in how we use them.

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He called me his summer girl

Usually the book idea comes first and then the cover is birthed out of that idea. But not with UNTIL THE SUN BURNS OUT. The idea for this story came to me after seeing a premade cover designed by the incredibly talented Alivia Anders. I loved this cover so much I paused, staring at it and wishing I had a book for it. As I looked at the four photographs, three of the couple and one of a drawing in the sand, it hit me. I was flooded with the story of Mina and Austin. Also, fun fact: You might have noticed that the couple on this cover is the same one I have on THE SUMMER WE FELL.

I’m so excited about this release. I’ve been dying to share this story with you for months! Pick up your copy today. Exclusive at Amazon currently. The paperback should release in a couple of weeks. Kinde copy is only $2.99 or FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

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We spent three perfect summers together.
He called me his summer girl, and said that was all I could ever be.
But that didn’t stop me from wanting so much more.

Click HERE to purchase from Amazon!

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To those who think I’m a potty mouth….

Sometimes it’s hard to be a Christian, and the author of secular romances. It can be a challenge to hold true to my values, but also write authentic books for a mainstream audience. I never want my books to be “cheesy” or unrealistic. That’s the reason I address sex in my books. It’s the reason my books have some colorful language. Because a teenage boy isn’t going to say “Darn it” when he screws up a play on the baseball field. And, whether we want to face it or not, teenagers think about sex. If they don’t, it’s not realistic. If they don’t, they’re not relatable, and no one wants to read their story.

I’ve written over twenty young adult romances, and I’m proud of every one of my books. I know some people don’t get how writing romances can be my calling in life,  but it is. I’ve been specifically designed for this job and I love it.

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But, as with anything in life, there is a margin for error. We all make mistakes. And I’m here to confess to a mistake I’ve made and apologize.

If you read my books you enjoy “clean romances.” You’re looking for a good story with a lot of passion, maybe some heat, but not anything more than that. And I’ve held true to that mandate.

However, there is one area that I’ve allowed to slip a bit, and recently I’ve been called on it. That’s the area of bad language. As I’ve said before, I want my books to be authentic, and some of my characters cuss. I’ve written jerks. I’ve written good guys. I’ve written competitive guys. I’ve written bookworms. I’ve written rockstars. The point is that all of my characters are different and they all have their own language. If a bad word is called for, I use it. No excuses.

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For instance, if there is a heated exchange between two ball players, and the guy says, “I’m gonna kick your ass” I’m not going to change that to “I’m gonna kick your butt.” No one would say that in the heat of the moment. Unless, of course, I’ve already written that character to be someone who never cusses. That being said a guy who threatens to beat someone up probably isn’t going to be my goody two-shoes character.

Anyway, my point is that as clean as  my books are there will be some foul language. That won’t ever change. However, it was brought to my attention by several readers that my language has escalated in the last year and a half. I still have never used the F-word, but the amount of other cuss words has multiplied to a level that makes some of my readers uncomfortable.

This bothered me because my books should never make anyone uncomfortable. Not in that way, anyway. Sometimes my subject matter is sensitive, but even so I always promise a “clean” reading experience. And if some of my readers aren’t feeling like my books are “clean” anymore that’s something I have to take seriously.

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So, first off, I’d like to apologize.  I’ve gone through my books with a fine toothed comb and I’ve identified the books in question. What’s weird is that I hadn’t even noticed this shift until it was pointed out. But now that I have noticed it is very obvious. My books went from a handful of bad words per book to a handful every page. I’m not sure how this happened. My only defense is that my characters feel like real people to me, so perhaps the shift happened with a potty-mouthed character and escalated from there. I know that the baseball books have a lot of scenes on the baseball field where guys are razzing each other, so the language became more colorful in those scenes.

Whatever the reason, I am fixing it. So far I’ve gone through and changed FOR THE WIN and FOR THE GAME. I am working my way through the remainder of the books. I am only taking out the unnecessary bad language. There will still be some, just not as much. It will take awhile to get through all the books since I also have to stick to my current release schedule. So I appreciate your patience in this.

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To those that have been offended  by the language in my books, please accept my heartfelt apology. Those who don’t care about the bad words, carry on.

To all of you, happy reading!!

 

Guide to Self-Publishing

I receive countless emails and messages from aspiring authors who want to know how to go about publishing their work. I do my best to respond to those messages, but many fall through the cracks because I’m simply too busy to keep up. Since I am an indie author, I do it all – from writing to marketing and everything in between. My job is full-time and then some. Therefore, my time is precious. So if you are one of the people who have contacted me and haven’t received a response, I’m so sorry. It’s not personal, I can assure you.

However, I do carry a soft spot for aspiring authors. The help I received when I was starting out was invaluable to me. I still remember all the writers who assisted me, and without them I’m certain I wouldn’t be where I am today. So that’s why I’m writing this post. This will give me a place to send the writers who contact me in the future.

If you are reading this post I am assuming you have a polished manuscript you are hoping to publish. And by polished, I mean, that you’ve had it read by multiple people other than yourself (or your family members) and that you’ve had it edited by a professional. If not, I would strongly urge you to do that.

At the bottom of this post, I have a list of editors that you can hire. I also use beta readers and they are free. They read through my early drafts and look for plot holes, inconsistencies, and content issues. My advice is to find avid readers who will be honest with you. You’re not looking for nice. You’re looking for someone who will be brutally honest about your story and what it needs.

All right, now that you have your polished manuscript, you are ready to read on.

I think the main thing to decide at this point is what you’re hoping to accomplish with your book. This will vary based on what you write – fiction, non-fiction, memoirs. For instance, I wrote my grandpa’s story a few years back. I didn’t do this to make money. I did it so my family would have all of my grandpa’s stories down on paper to pass down through future generations. Therefore, I strictly published this in paperback and I do no marketing for it. I really only published it for my family. However, with my fiction works, my goal is always to sell my work and make a living. It’s my livelihood. Therefore, all of my other books are available in both paperback and ebook.

To publish my books in paperback I use Createspace, which is a part of Amazon. I find that Createspace is user-friendly and responsive. There are other places you can use like Lightening Source, but I don’t know much about them.

Here is Createspace’s link: https://www.createspace.com/

If you are interested in getting your book in print, I suggest hopping on this link and starting an account. They can walk you through the publishing process. Createspace offers an array of services if you need formatting, covers, etc. I personally format myself and I hire my own cover artists. I do have a list of formatters and graphic artists at the bottom of this post to assist you in deciding what to do.

When you are finished publishing your print book, Createspace does have an option to publish your kindle book right there on your dashboard. However, I prefer uploading my kindle copy through my KDP dashboard. Mostly because I don’t like the way the book converts from paperback to ebook from Createspace. I like to make separate files. You will need to have a Table of Contents in your kindle book, so if you don’t know how to create one, I suggest hiring a formatter to help you with this.

Here is KDP’s link: https://kdp.amazon.com/

And here is where another decision comes in for you. Amazon has a program called Kindle Unlimted. In this program readers can pay a monthly fee and borrow as many books as they’d like (10 at a time). Authors who participate in this program get paid per page for the books that are borrowed. However, in order to be in this program your ebooks will have to be exclusively sold through Amazon. You can read more on the program at the KDP site. I’m giving you a tiny overview just to let you know that is an option. Personally, I am in this program and have found it to be a lucrative choice for me. But I know many other authors who successfully sell on other platforms and don’t want to be tied down to one. So that is up to you.

If you decide to publish on other platforms, the links are below:

http://www.smashwords.com/

https://www.nookpress.com/

http://www.apple.com/ibooks/

There are more, but when I published on all platforms I used smashwords as my distributor so I didn’t go to each individual site. I’ll let you figure that out. I can’t spell everything out for you, after all. 😉

Now that your book has a beautiful cover, is fully formatted, edited, and you’ve set up accounts at all these sites, you are ready to press publish…but wait!! Have you thought about marketing, branding, promotion?

I waited until I had many books under my belt before branding and, honestly, I think that was a mistake. I also waited until my first book came out before starting to build a social media platform. Second mistake. I suggest getting these together before publishing.

Join all social media sites and get fan pages going:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

And set up a website, like the wonderful one you are on right now. Make sure to post relevant, fun stuff on all of these platforms. Not just posts pushing your work, but personal stuff, quizzes, pictures, teasers, information, etc.

You can check out my pages here:

My facebook

My IG

My Twitter

Also, think of what kind of author you want to be known as. You are not only selling a product. You are selling yourself. You are a brand now, and you need to be consistent with that brand. Once you come up with the answer to that question, I suggest hiring a graphic artist to put together a branding package for you.

For me, it was important for readers to know that my books are sweet, clean romances. Therefore, my branding looks like this:

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Gah, this was a lot of information. Now it’s time to stop and take a deep breath. Let it all out. There you go! You can do this. It sounds more complicated when it’s laid out like this. But you’ll get the hang of it.

Now you’re ready to publish your book. Good luck!!

Below are lists of people in the business who will be more than happy to work with you!

 

Graphic Artists:

White Rabbit Designs

Mae I Design

The Cover Lure

Stephanie’s Cover Design

Melancholy Muse

Desiree DeOrto

Okay Creations

C & K Creations

ZH Designs

Emily Witting

There are many more, but these are the ones I’ve either personally worked with or think highly of.

Editors:

www.editsbyv.com

www.beyonddeflit.com

Editing for Indies

Crimson Editorial

Formatting:

Nadege Richards

Formatting by Leigh

Champagne Formats

Shanoff Formats

I hope this information was helpful. I wish you all the best in your endeavors.

 

 

 

I Quit: Giving up on the Self-Publishing Dream

When I wrote my first book in 2007, I had no idea what I would do with it. Mostly I just wanted to see if I could complete a novel. Once it was finished I allowed friends and family to read it and the consensus was the same – I should get it published. So I picked up a copy of the latest Writer’s Market book and started the arduous task of querying agents and publishers. I foolishly believed that they would love my manuscript as much as my friends and family did. I thought it was only a matter of time before my book was published. But after getting the first dozen or so rejection letters, my dream began to dwindle.

Fast forward 5 years and numerous manuscripts later and I had abandoned my dream of being traditionally published. I couldn’t handle the rejections anymore. Also, I had started to hear of authors like Amanda Hocking who had self-published and done well with it.  So I started to research self-publishing. And the more I learned, the more I started to see this as a viable option. I was ready to start my career, and I didn’t want to keep waiting around for publishers and agents to finally tell me I was good enough. I believed I was good enough. I believed that if readers could get a hold of my books that they would do well.

So on January 20, 2012, I published my first book PROWL (PROWL TRILOGY #1).

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The book didn’t make any lists and it didn’t make me a millionaire, but it sold. People were reading it and reviewing it, and it felt amazing. So I published the next two books in the series in quick succession.

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ProwlfAnd sales started to gradually pick up. Nothing earth shattering, but enough to keep me going. So I continued writing. I released an adult suspense novel and then published a young adult paranormal series. At that point I was making enough money that I was able to quit my day job to write full-time. Around that time, the NA genre was picking up so I decided to try my hand at a contemporary romance. Once I started writing contemporary romance I felt that I had found my niche. Not only did my sales sky rocket to places I had only dreamed of, but I enjoyed writing them. My sales continued to grow steadily and honestly it surprised the hell out of me. I was making more money than I ever had before.

But then about a year ago something odd happened. Sales just sort of stagnated. Then they started declining. And the decline wasn’t gradual. It was instant and it was significant.

It seemed weird that my sales would tank since I had more books out, and my fan base had grown. And I couldn’t find an obvious reason. I was still receiving great reviews, so I didn’t think it was a reflection of my work. It was baffling, and frankly kind of scary. Then I started hearing from other indies and they were in the same boat as me. It seemed we were all suffering.

Lately I’ve been hearing about indies who are suffering to the point where they have to go back to work and some are even considering quitting. And it makes me sad. I’ve read a lot of articles where experts in the business predict why this is happening, and some of them make sense. I do think that with all the indie books priced at $0.99, readers are starting to expect that. And so when I release my book at $3.99, most readers don’t want to pay that. The problem is that I can’t afford to pay my bills if my books are all priced at $0.99. And honestly, I don’t feel like $3.99 is very much for a book that I spend months creating, writing and editing. I pay that much for a peppermint mocha that takes 2 minutes to make, and less than an hour to drink. And I don’t feel like it’s a waste of money. I thoroughly enjoy every minute of my mocha.

The point is that there are a lot of reasons why this is happening, and I could sit around and think about all these reasons and let it get me down. Sometimes I do. But the truth is that writing is in my blood. I can’t stop even if I wanted to. The millions of rejection letters didn’t stop me, and declining sales won’t stop me either. Actually, these things tend to spark my competitive side and make me work that much harder.

I wanted to write this blog in honor of all the fabulous indie authors I’ve met in this crazy business. I want you to know that I love you, that I respect you, that I know how hard you work and how difficult this business can be. And I want you to know that I am here to support you. One of my favorite things about this business is you – my fellow indies. It’s such an amazing, supportive, encouraging community.

And I want to thank my die-hard readers. Even in the darkest times you’ve kept me going, and I can’t thank you enough. I know things will pick up, and they may even decline again. But know this – I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here on my computer plugging along. I’ll write as long as the voices in my head keep talking and as long as the readers keep reading.

What’s next?

Ever since I finished CUTS RUN DEEP, I’ve been brainstorming what to do next. I have a great idea for a new suspense novel, and you know how much I love writing those. The problem is that my sweet teen romances tend to sell a lot better than my suspense novels, which leads me to believe that the romances are what my readers want. Also, CUTS RUN DEEP drained me emotionally. It was an intense one for me to write, and I sort of need a breather.

One thing you probably don’t know about me is that both of my brothers are baseball players. In fact, my youngest brother plays professional baseball. He’s a pitcher for the Railcats. My other brother played all through high school and now coaches at the high school level. So, I’ve always wanted to write a baseball themed book. With that in mind, I decided to write a series of stand-alone sports romances. The first one will center around baseball and be titled FOR THE WIN.

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Blurb:

London Miller has one best friend.

Words.

She lives in the pages of the books she reads, preferring the safety of fictional worlds over the dark and scary reality of her own life. Books aren’t her escape…they’re her salvation.

Cooper Montgomery has one true love.

Baseball.

When he’s on the mound, throwing a pitch, the darkness of his world fades away. The game is something he can control, something he can count on.

A twist of fate brings London and Cooper together, a curve ball that forces them both outside of their comfort zones. As they spend time together, a relationship begins to blossom and both of them start to believe that there just might be something bright and beautiful in their lives.

However, the game changes when your heart is on the line. You have to play with everything you have for the win.

 

After writing FOR THE WIN, I plan to write a suspense novel called THE LAST TIME I SAW HER. Here’s a little teaser for that.

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That’s what’s coming for the next few months. Of course it’s all subject to change at the leading of the voices in my head, but most likely I will stick to it.

Summer Survival Guide for an Indie Author

My kids have one day left of school and then they are out for the summer. Which simply means life as I know it is ending for the next few months. Gone are the days of sitting in my quiet office writing for 6-7 hours everyday. My house will be filled with chaos. The chaos of teenagers no less.

Which means, I have to make a plan.

I know many people think I have it made in the summer. I mean I work from home, right? Right, but the operative word here is “work.” I WORK from home. Yes, it’s true that I don’t have to worry about babysitters or sending my kids to daycare or endless summer camps because I have to work outside of the home and need a place for them to go. However, I can’t get much work done when my kids are home, which is hard since I’m self-employed. I sort of need to still generate an income in the summer.

Last summer I wrote and released 2 books during the summer months, and let me tell you it was hard. I brought my laptop with me everywhere and wrote while carting the kids to their music lessons and sports camps. It was overwhelming. So as the summer months loomed before me this year, I sat down and wrote a summer survival guide. First it was filled with things like soundproof walls and more locks on the doors. Just kidding. As tempting as that sounds I’d never do that. lol

No, truthfully, it wasn’t so much a survival guide as a goal oriented plan. I had to ask myself what I wanted to accomplish this summer both professionally and personally. First and foremost, I know that my time with my kids is running out. They are 12 and 15. I don’t have a ton of summers left with them. Second, I don’t want to be stressed out about pumping out 2 books like I was last summer. So, I’ve decided I will only release 1 book – BREAK THROUGH. It should release end of June/beginning of July. Other than that I will be spending time with my kids and doing some marketing. I figure I have 18 books out. Marketing all of them can definitely keep me busy!

So I have some fun contests, giveaways and sales planned for the summer. In fact, I will have a fun giveaway coming up later in the week which will focus on my summer books: HEAD ABOVE WATER, WINNING ME OVER and FALLING TO PIECES.

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I also plan to do some fun contests revolving around ENGRAVED, my only adult mystery novel.

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What are some things you’re doing to survive the summer months? Comment below. I’d love to hear from you!