Friday, August 25, 2017

Ten Years Later--alive and trusting

It's hard for me to think about what life will be life retired. After a combined total of 12 jobs, 1 college degree, 2 sold houses, and 4 moves all done in the last ten years, you can understand why I find it hard to believe my life might finally settle into a nice routine.

It was August 27, 2007 when the call came from my husband that would forever change our lives. "I'm getting it tomorrow," he said. A RIF, they called it. Reduction in Force. 60+ people in one day. It was called the Great Recession and we were living and working at ground zero--construction in Florida. Second only to tourism.

It was our thirtieth anniversary. I had just arrived in Seattle to meet our first grandchild. I remember wondering what life would look like after my husband lost his dream job. I found out quickly. Dark days followed as we cried out to God to help us understand why this had to happen to us. Getting out of bed to face endless hours of applying for non-existent jobs became harder and harder. I wanted to hide in my closet and come out when the sun shone again on our lives. We had just married our daughter off the year before. These days were supposed to be filled with empty-nester fun--travel, eating out, visiting with friends. None of that happened in the years to follow.

When life sends you a roadblock, you have two choices: give in or go forward. I'm thankful to be writing this post on the tenth anniversary of the change that grew our faith. Our view of what life should be like is so much different than reality. Because you work hard, and be kind to everyone and honest does not mean your life will be a bed of roses--excuse my cliché. No, life will give you trials no matter what you do. But how you deal with them makes all the difference.

After a lengthy phone call with a friend, I started to write our blessings on a piece of paper stuck to the refrigerator. Little things at first. No bills in the mail. I didn't cry today. We were able to find a discount grocery store that sold soup in dented cans. Looking at my blessings and being thankful for every little thing saved me. But it didn't change what we went through--selling our home we loved, moving across the country to a job my husband hated, moving again and again and again to find something that would support us and let us get through each day without fear of ending up on the street.

The fear was real. We were those people on the nightly news who couldn't find work to support themselves. We lived on unemployment, savings, retirement and finally sold our house before we lost it. Friends were empathetic but couldn't save us.

Only our faith in Jesus saved us. Only the trust that He would see us through like he had in the past only this time our situation was much more dire than not having enough money to send our kid to camp. This time we had to believe or give up. It took some time --some anger, some tears, some disbelief, more anger then finally we gave it to God. Let me say this, the surrender wasn't a pretty picture. It was a work in progress (still is) but God never turned his back on us like some people in our lives did.

He still hasn't.

So here we are. Ten years later. Packing. Selling our house. Preparing for a semi-retirement because one can never totally retire after the run we had but we will be doing life at our own pace again. Together. A tiny piece of me keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop. I doubt that feeling will ever go away but then I tell myself to breathe. Breath more. But mostly to pray. Pray and give thanks that I'm still here to tell our story.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Celebrating SIX Months for THE BEND

I'm excited that THE BEND has been out for six months now. To celebrate, I'm doing a sale where it will be only $0.99 for a limited time.

I can't thank my readers enough who have supported my efforts into self-publishing by buying my book, reading it and then leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads. That means everything to me.

I'm also excited to share about my next book, a departure from THE BEND, but intriguing in its own way. WINTERHEART is a mixture of women's fiction, romance, suspense and a little bit of magic thrown into the main character's path to make her and the reader wonder how the town of Winterheart can change hearts the way it does. Check my Facebook page for updates as we get closer to next year.

Also, I have big news for those who aren't following me on Facebook but I'm not going to share that until next month. I know, I know, but I think that news deserves a special post with photos and all.

In the meantime, please pass on this sale to your friends. It's a great time for a fun summer read before it's back to school.

Thank you!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Five Months Post Self-Publishing

Five months after self-publishing THE BEND, I'm still learning so much. If I'm going to repeat this process again next year, I wanted to learn as much as I can with my first.

To date, I've earned more royalties with this book than with the traditional publisher and my first book. But those earnings come with a price--marketing costs. I committed to using as many marketing opportunities as I could to get my book out there. Every day, a zillion books come onto Amazon. How will someone know about mine if I don't advertise it? At least until word-of-mouth kicks in and that may never happen. I scoured the Internet for promo sites and of course, BookBub is  #1--but cost-prohibitive for this writer. So I started smaller.  Bargain Booksy, Ebook-Soda, My Book Place, Book Reader Magazine, Book Man, Bargain E-Hunters and Amazon ads. I tracked those that worked (sold my book) and those that didn't. I did not reduce the cost of my book for any but I plan to do a 99 cent sale in the coming weeks using the site that produced the best marketing for THE BEND.

Overall, the Amazon ads have given my book the most exposure but I'm breaking even on cost to sales. But since my book is still new, I prefer to have my cover in front of readers using this method. It's hard to count the pages read KENP but those have continually increased over the months so I feel there is residual effect and that is money earned.

Along with monthly promotions, I've connected with a producer to create an audio version of my book through ACX. I've read where many readers prefer to listen to a book on their phones or IPad so going that route might be worthwhile. It costs nothing and again, Amazon does most of the work for you through their program. My timeline for delivery is early fall in time to promote for Christmas shopping.

Finally, my biggest challenge has been garnishing reviews. I added a request to the back of the book hoping that would help. I've found more readers leave reviews on GoodReads than Amazon and trying to bridge that gap frustrates me. More reviews on Amazon help sell the book.

I also tweaked my book cover to add words that are used in search engines when a reader is looking for a particular genre --like psychological thriller, heart-pounding, etc. In my Amazon ads, I added search words that come up when I typed in thrillers. I also studied the top sellers in my category and used words from there that worked for my book.

Overall, the marketing of a book takes more work than writing the book. There have been days when I wanted to stop and let it go but then I remembered how long it took me to write THE BEND. It deserves a good shot. Plus, think about this--ads are run for famous writers' books long after they first come out--a year or more. Why should I settle for less for my book?

Happy Marketing!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

When Mediocracy is Good Enough

I watch America's Got Talent every week, crying when a contestant gets a standing ovation or the gold buzzer. Excited that they found their courage to take the step and share their talent with the world. But not all have that something. Most of them are average people hoping and dreaming they have that something special.

Aren't we all like that or am I the only one? Hoping deep inside, there is a talent that you can share with the world. Not to be famous, or make money but to be really really good at something. I have tried to learn so many things in my 60 some years. Ice skating, (could not do it) music--piano and the guitar and finally realized I am not musically inclined. Same with singing--my father told me to give it up. Ouch. And then I dreamed of acting but instead was given backstage duty in my senior play. I tried out for cheerleading, couldn't do the flips, and so I tried color guard. Not a chance. The list goes on. Is yours similar?

Then I turned to my love of writing. Surely someday I would be another Stephen King. Someone would read my book and make it into a movie. I'm sure all writers dream that dream. I'm no different. Finally reality stumbles through my door and reminds me that a zillion people write books. Few rise to stardom. Few books turn into Hallmark movies. Instead you must read reviews that make you cry, market into a vast void of emptiness and pat yourself on your back that at least you "did it."

I count the years I have left to pull out of average--out of mediocracy. Maybe if I studied harder. Wrote more often. Hired more editors. Maybe, maybe. Maybe I'm just not that good.


Like my musical ability or my physical abilities, maybe these other talents I'm trying to cultivate will always be hobbies and nothing more.

The question is: Is that ok? Can I live with being an average writer, photographer, etc. What if the one thing I'm good at will never be publicly applauded or recognized? What if the one thing I'm good at will always be between God and me? Is that enough?

Of course I know the answer. It's the answer that pops up each time after I work through another meltdown. Another reality check.

I have one audience and that is always enough. His applause deafens anything the world can bring at me.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017


I've joined with other indie writers to share in a GIVE-AWAY from July4-11. Enter as many links as you want and earn a chance to win a FREE book to enjoy this summer!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Heart Shifts

I find myself waking early before the golden light shines through my bathroom windows and into my bedroom. My brain shifts into gear and soon I'm lying in bed, detailing my plans for the day. Update my book on Amazon, write a tweet that will drive traffic to the book, watch a few videos on YouTube about portrait photography, make a cleaning schedule and plan what's for dinner. 

Then I roll over. Shut my eyes. Wonder where my life is going. 

I had hoped to be living in Pennsylvania by now--working on our home, planting a raised garden, photographing the hills and rivers, looking out my front windows from the desk I purchased four years ago and has since been buried beneath boxes of all my household goods.

Instead, I'm here. In Florida. Carving a life in a town where I am uniquely familiar with every CVS, WalMart and Publix. And I can't forget Panera where once a month I meet my writer friend for lunch.

But my brain and heart keep pulling me north to the place where so much sweat and love went into. I roll over on my back, stare at the fan blades revolving over my head. I'm blessed. I'm healthy. I am luckier than many people. I go through my list of why I should not have one complaint in the world. I tell myself others would kill to be living six miles from the beach, in a community of nice people, with the ability to stay home and work.

I know I'm blessed. I thank God every day. So why does my heart keep plunging me into thoughts of my other home? Why can't I anchor it here? Obviously, this town is where God wants me to be so why can't I get my heart on board with that plan? What am I doing wrong? 

Finally I shift my blankets off me and touch my toes to the floor, grounding myself to today's plan. Thankful. Happy. Trusting. Shutting the blinds to my northern home for another day.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Self-publishing three months later

It's been awhile since I've written a blog post so I thought I would share what's been happening with my book and writing life in general. It seems blogs and reading them are so time-consuming anymore with all the other social media one has to keep up with.

On Memorial Day, I gave my book away, THE BEND, for free. One day. 1,000 readers took me up on my offer. Much more than I expected but I did it as a promotion. The next day my Amazon rating was much lower, Then I sold the highest number of  books on Tuesday. My page reads also increased significantly. All in all, the promotion did what I had hoped it would do--create more interest in my book. A few weeks ago, I did a Panera gift card giveaway and to enter the person only had to follow my Amazon page. I gained over 1400 followers who will be notified when my next book comes out next year.

All this promotion work isn't easy. But it is necessary or my book will never get out there. Posting a book on Amazon guarantees no sales at all. It's work. Hard work. I miss just writing but so far I have made more money doing the self-publishing route than I did in three years with a publisher.

I am also deep in checking out all these book promotion sites such as BookBub --but there are smaller more affordable ones I am using first. I have one set up for next Sunday for $15 and a free one the same day. I am using Amazon's promotions and will offer a reduced price on my book in August or Sept and combine it with one of these promo sites.

I consider this year with THE BEND the time to learn about book marketing to prepare for my next novel. Maybe I'll be better at it when I release the next one. Also doing work with setting up an audio version which can be done through Amazon as well. Got to take a deep breath to dive into that one as there is a learning curve there too.

Finally, I am editing with my CP's help my next book for the second time around. A chapter a week.

And my son-in-law wondered if I was bored at home all day.  Not A Chance.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Self-Publishing Insights

I thought it was time again to share about my experience with self-publishing. I sent The Bend into the world on Feb. 17. Recently I decided to go Amazon exclusive and take advantage of one of their giveaways. I priced my book free for four days, heavily pushing it on all my social media for two days and let it ride the other two days. I ended up giving away 1800 plus books.

Hopefully doing the giveaway will increase exposure and sales. What I've found so far: I still continue to sell books at full price. But mostly my pages with the KNEP program where I get paid approximately a half a cent a page has soared. I don't know what is normal but readers are borrowing my book through Kindle Unlimited. That usage translates into books sold, and my overall rating numbers improve.

What else do I wish I had done? Probably advertise my sale on a site where you pay a fee and they send the book to their list of people who like my genre--like BookBub--but I wanted to save $$ and see what happened with my own social media.

Also with 1800 people now having my book on their Kindle device--there is opportunity for increased reviews. And that's what all writers need for books to sell.

Because I don't want to be a nag, I have limited my subtle encouragement of posting a review on Amazon to a now-and-then gentle reminder and a little begging. I need at least 50 reviews to be considered serious. As of this writing, I sit at 28. A tough pull. Even a bad review is something but it's only been a week. I'll update you again in the future.

Next I played with my categories on Amazon--realizing The Bend is not Women's Fiction but more suspense and thriller. Changing categories to bigger categories can change your ranking but I feel it is better that future readers can find the book.

I'm enjoying my self-pub journey. I've made mistakes--and learned from them.My next book will come out stronger, with my marketing plan intact. In the meantime, I'm thankful for the reception of this book, the readers and friends who have encouraged me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

FREE EBook until 4/22 on AMAZON

I decided to celebrate April --taxes done, selling our home, husband putting my newest book THE BEND for free on AMAZON until April 22. If you enjoy clean suspense, now is the time! Just go here to get your free copy.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Six weeks post release of THE BEND

It's been a journey--releasing my first book. The additional edits, begging for reviews, worrying about the marketing choices.

Will I do it again?

I'm leaning toward yes but with better preparation. When I used Amazon this time, I did not immediately use all their promotion tools. I should have pre-released at a lower cost and then a month later done the countdown to get my book out there at a better price to boost sales.

I will also not set a release date until the entire book is beyond perfection. At least as good as I can get it with even more eyes on it. A mistake here or there kills me.

I never thought I would self-publish. The stigma is still there but I'm learning that many of my friends buy from BookBub where you can get free or cheap books from new authors. That course of action--setting a lower price on my book initially to garner more readers might be an option to consider. I too use BookBub now that I have a Kindle and have found authors I might never have read before. It is hit and miss.

Life is all about the curves, the mountains and the valleys. If we don't start walking and choose a course, we won't ever see or learn anything.

What's your next goal?