Loser

Every morning I wake up and prepare myself for battle. I scoot to the edge of my bed and reach for the heavy sword lying on the ground. With trembling fingers, I grip the sword so tight that my fingers ache as I anxiously wait for the moment when I will have to fight once again. Sometimes my opponent doesn’t show up until afternoon, but sometimes he’s there the minute my feet hit the floor, flaring his nose and digging his feet into the ground. Some days I fight with vigor, getting in slice after slice. Other days I miss him with every jab. And then there are the days I’m too tired to even try; when I leave the sword on the ground, and allow him to pummel me until I’m black and blue. However, there are also times when I’m victorious and I take him down.

Better yet, there are days when he doesn’t show up at all. But those are few and far between.

I first met my enemy as a small child. I don’t remember what made him first arrive, but I know that he grew larger after my parents’ divorce. And he continued to grow as I got older. He was there when I was hurt by those I trusted, and when I was abused by someone I loved. But he didn’t try to help me. No, he made everything worse. So much worse.

As a young mother doing the best I could, he teased and tormented me, caused me to second guess myself, to worry myself sick.

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He mocked me when we lost our home, when we filed for bankruptcy, and when we carefully tried to piece our life back together. His presence often made me feel I couldn’t do it; that I wasn’t strong enough, good enough, or capable enough to dig myself out of this hole.

Still, he never won. In all of those instances I was ultimately triumphant. My sword was sufficient. My swings landed, maimed and bruised him, wore him down.

Until about five years ago when I got sick with an unexplained illness.

That’s when he grew too big to fight.

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My enemy is fear, and his weapons are worry, anxiety, paranoia, and doubt. He wields them at me every opportunity he gets. I have the scars to prove it. Scars that some say are supposed to make me stronger, but in reality only succeed in reminding me how weak I really am.

I’ve grown weary. Weary of the battle. Weary from the fight. Just plain weary.

I’ve been begging God to take this enemy from me, and there have been times when I believed he had. Times when it seemed my opponent had left the ring, but he always returned. And when he did, my spirit sagged, and I felt even more defeated than before.

Then one day at church I was handed a new weapon. Bryan and Katie Torwalt introduced a new song called CHAMPION. This simple phrase “Champion, you fight for us” breathed hope into my soul. For the first time in years I felt like I had permission to hand over my sword, to give it to someone stronger, and to let him fight FOR me, not just alongside me.

I’d like to say that was the end of my fear journey, but that would be lie. I’m still not to the end of it, but this song, this weapon, gave me a reprieve and helped me start walking a new path. I also believe that it allowed me to begin hearing more of the truth, and less of the lies.

You see, my opponent does a lot of trash talking. It’s kind of his thing. And he’d been telling me a lot of lies. In fact, the first day I handed over the sword to my champion the doubts kicked in. The enemy’s voice was low and heavy, “What makes you think he can get rid of me if he hasn’t been able to before? You’ve been asking him to get rid of me for years, and yet here I am.” And the minute I gave in to his voice and snatched my sword back, he reminded me, “See. You haven’t won. You’re a loser.”

And there it is. His go-to. “You’re a loser.”

“I’m a loser.” That’s what he’s led me to believe. 

And every day that he reappears, I know he’s right. If I had more faith, more strength, more trust, he’d be gone.  Only a loser would still be fighting after all these years. A winner would’ve been victorious by now.

A couple of weeks ago, after a day of being beat up by my opponent, someone I love and trust so much called me. And she told me that she felt like I needed to know that I’ve come far in this journey. That I’m not who I was. That I’ve grown.

Grown….in the area of fear.

Grown…in this battle that has me battered and bloodied.

I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t. Because deep down something happened in my soul. Deep down I knew it was the TRUTH. I’d been listening to lies for so long it took me a minute to realize it. But when I did, it changed things.

That statement quieted the words of my accuser, and opened up my ears to hear what my champion was saying. There’s a line in the song CHAMPION that says, “And what was stolen, you brought back to us.” One morning as I worshiped along to this song in my room, God reminded me that years ago he’d redeemed me from a life of drug addiction. He’d gone into the enemy’s camp and he’d taken back what the enemy had stolen from my family – ME – just like he’d promised my parents he would. And then he said, “Amber, I didn’t rescue you so you could live bound like this now. This is not the life I have for you.”

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A few days later my opponent began his usual trash talk and went straight to the “You’re a loser” statement. But God squashed it immediately, saying, “No, you’re not.” And, amazingly enough, I believed him.

Once again, I heard his voice, “Amber, I didn’t rescue you so you could live bound like this.” And I finally understood. It was time to give up the fight. To let my champion take over.

So I handed over the sword again. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I don’t think I’ve ever understood that better than I do now. I’m tired. My arms are weak, my body is battered. I can’t fight anymore. I have nothing left.

So I won’t.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I know that today I will put down my sword, and I will not worry. Instead, I will rest and trust my champion to fight for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

logo

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The struggle is real – getting back into it

We’ve all been there. We go on vacation and then come home to reality and it’s just tough. Tough to find our routine again. Tough to get back to the daily grind. Tough to stop longing for the lazy days of vacation and focus on reality.

That’s where I find myself today.

Normally I look forward to my kids returning to school, but that wasn’t the case this year. And there are many reasons for this. One is that they are older now. My son is 16, and my daughter is 13. It really hit me this summer that I don’t have a lot of time left with them. In fact, next summer I’m fairly certain I’ll hardly see my son. I can already feel him slipping away… drifting toward adulthood. And I’m not certain I’m ready to let go. Two is that my health is still precarious, and having an empty house is often my worst enemy. Silence breeds anxious thoughts. Being alone is the perfect environment for my imagination to run rampant. And if it’s running with a story line that’s great, but if it’s running with fear and worry about my health, then it’s not as great.

So it’s no surprise that I was dreading the first day of school this year. I dropped my kids off last Tuesday and then came home feeling a little down. To my credit, I kept my chin up and immediately started work on my new series. And the truth is that it’s exciting. I am really looking forward to this new series. And as I started writing, I found myself falling quickly for the characters.

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But there were also setbacks. I suffered a flare up the last week of summer, and last week I was put on new meds. Apparently my body didn’t like the new meds that much because I had an allergic reaction to them, and had to stop taking them. And I found myself longing for summer. Longing to go back to days of hanging with my kids instead of sitting at home in an empty house while not feeling well.

But time moves forward, and I have to find my way back to a healthy routine. Today has started out rough. I thought I would get a lot of writing done, but my characters are pretty tight-lipped. However, I know they’ll start chattering at some point. Most likely it will happen tonight when I’m trying to sleep, so I’ll do my best to coax them out before that.

I’ll keep chugging along. I’ll keep surrendering to God, and trusting Him for healing. And I’ll keep cherishing every moment I have with my kids. I have no doubt that before I know it, this book will be written, my body will cooperate and I will find my routine.

Until that happens I appreciate your prayers, and kind words. I love knowing that you, my sweet readers, are pulling for me. I am doing my best to deliver your next book boyfriend to you soon.

Picking myself up, dusting off and gearing up for 2015

2014 was productive. I released 7 books and 1 novella under my name:

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ForTheWin-ebook

And 1 chick lit book under my pen name:

Confessions-of-a-Harried-Housewife-ebook-web-resolution EK Andrews

I have been a published author for 3 years this month. My first book PROWL released January 20, 2012.

Prowld

As I assess my successes, challenges, disappointments, and highs and lows of the last few years I’m left with these impressions:

1. There is nothing sweeter than hearing from a reader who really “gets it.”

2. There is nothing more disheartening than releasing a book that you love beyond reason, a book that you pour your heart and soul into, and watch it tank.

3. By the same token, it’s amazing when you release a book you’re unsure about and it climbs the charts.

4. Being an author is the best job in the world.

The past three years have been a huge learning experience for me. I went into this business pretty blind. The only thing I knew for sure was that I had to write. Stories were pumping through my veins, characters were filling my mind, plot lines were taking over my thoughts. I had no choice but to listen to the voices in my head, and share their stories with the world. For the most part, I write what I hear, I write what I love and then I publish it.

But 2014 made one thing painfully clear to me. That writing in lots of different genres, while fun, may not be the best decision for me financially. As much as writing is a labor of love, it’s also my job. Therefore, I’ve realized that I need to focus in on one genre this year. Last year I tried my hand at a few different genres. I took some risks artistically, hoping they would pay off. To be honest, I wrote what I think is my best work yet. I wrote books that were difficult, and took a lot out of me. I wrote books with crazy plot twists, books that were darker than my usual sweet romances, books that stretched me as an author and a person. And I don’t regret it. I think it made me better. But it didn’t pay off for me financially. In 2014, I realized that my readers like my sweet romances. It’s what sells. It’s what my readers want. And believe me, I’m not complaining. I’m just stating fact.

Taking this into account, I’ve put together my 2015 business/writing plan. My bestselling book of 2014 was FOR THE WIN. It’s become very clear that sports romance fans are awesome. Therefore, I’m dubbing 2015, the year of sports romances. I plan to release at least 5 more books in the PLAYING FOR KEEPS series. The first one, FOR THE GAME, will be the conclusion of London and Cooper’s story. After that I will begin FOR THE RUSH, a football romance.

I also have a secret project in the works. It’s a story my son and I have been brainstorming for the past 6 months. I’m keeping it to myself for right now, but I’m sure you’ll hear more about it in the future.

Thank you for supporting me. You allow me to keep living this crazy dream and I can’t tell you how grateful I am. Praying that this year is filled with possibilities, crazy characters, fun plot twists and happy endings!

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).

Prowld

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.

Prowle

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.