Release Day for Puppy Dog Tales (+ Our Quest to Find a Pet)

Okay, so guess what happens when you write a book titled Puppy Dog Tales? You end up being reminded of how sweet and adorable animals are and you talk your family into getting a pet! Well, kind of. As with any major commitment in life, there’s a lot to take into consideration. One, were we ready for a pet, and two, what kind of pet did we want? The first question was easy to answer. We had a dog for ten years who sadly passed away four years ago (here’s my “in memory” post about Sparkle), so we do have experience as pet owners and miss having a furry friend to love. When I say we however, I mean hubby and me because the munchkins sadly don’t remember too much about Sparkle, except for C’s traumatic memory of him snatching a waffle right out of her hand. And because of that memory, we thought we should get a pet for C’s sake, to help her get over her fear that all dogs are waffle snatchers. 😛 But we thought we’d go with an animal that would be less intimidating for her, which answered our second question; we decided to get a cat!

Fast forward to last weekend when we ventured into a cat cafe, a local hangout I found online where you can play with cats for an hour at a time. If you found one you got along with (and vice versa), you could apply to adopt him/her. Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it was … until we got home and E’s eyes were swollen and his nose was itchy and he started sneezing. And I realized how much easier I could breathe in the absence of felines. So, yup, we scratched* that idea. 🙁

The next day we decided to check out a dog adoption event at a local pet store. (You could say we had to settle for Plan B, but in reality, hubby and I were both happy Plan A didn’t work out because we’re both more dog people). 😉 I had looked through the profiles of the dogs that would be at the event and made sure there were some small dogs that C would like because if it were up to her, she’d get one like this:

Image courtesy of flickr.

Yes, it’s cute, but there’s just something not quite right about a dog that can fit inside your teacup. 😉 Anyhow, there were all kinds of dogs there waiting to be adopted. Big, calm German Shepherds, yappy lap dogs, and one tiny, trembling 4 month old puppy. And because there were SO many dogs together in one place, there were a lot of strong odors wafting in the air. I won’t describe them for you, but let’s just say that E and his sensitive nose couldn’t wait to hightail* it out of there! After literally five minutes, we rushed back to the car and drove home. And that, folks, was the end of Plan B. 🙁

I’m sorry to say we haven’t found the right pet for us yet, but I’m hopeful we will in the new year. But for now, I am super excited to announce that it’s release day for the book that started us on this quest: Puppy Dog Tales!

This story was one of the fastest ones I’ve written and it came together so well because it was just plain fun. It is a romantic comedy, by the way, and in case you need some convincing that it’s funny, let me assure you that hubby has said I’m much funnier in print than in person. LOL 😉 If you want a quick pick-me-up story with an opposites attract trope and some furry friends, you’re in for a treat* with Puppy Dog Tales! Get it today (click HERE) for only $1.99 or read it for free with Kindle Unlimited!

An animal hater and an animal lover’s paths collide the week leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Melvin Lai inherited the last thing he ever wanted from his favorite uncle: a cocker spaniel. Now he’s on the verge of losing his home to the unruly puppy and, much to his surprise, his heart when he meets Dr. Chu, Sparkle’s vet.

Vivian Chu loves caring for her furry friends, so she can’t fathom how anyone could think poorly of her new patient, especially his owner. To her, first impressions are everything, and the one Melvin left has her feeling disheartened and bruised–quite literally.

With a pair of matchmaking mothers and unexpected animal escapades, they encounter more trouble than they can handle. He longs to make her his valentine; she can’t wait to escape him. Can Melvin and Vivian pull together to find common ground?

And here’s the playlist I put together for the story! Enjoy! 🙂

*I couldn’t help using some punny, animal-related words in this post. 😉

Why You Need to Treat Your Kids Differently

When munchkin #1 was small, I read a parenting book in which the author (a pediatrician with 8 kids!) said he parents each one of his children differently. As a mom of a high need baby, I was so worn out by carrying and nursing him almost 24/7, my jaw dropped when I read that line. I remember telling hubby about it and declaring that, “This guy is crazy! How can a parent have the mental, emotional or physical capacity to use a different parenting style for each kid?” I was having a hard enough time just keeping mine alive … seriously! 😉

It wasn’t until munchkin #2 showed up that I began to understand why we need to treat our kids differently. Of course I love, appreciate, and value both of my kids as equally as my imperfect self is able to, but I don’t always treat them the same. Why? Because they have completely opposite personalities and temperaments. Yup, you could say hubby and I successfully cloned ourselves, haha.

E was (and still is) the most careful, cautious, and detailed kid I know. Even as a baby, he knew without us ever mentioning it that the top of the stairs was a dangerous place to be. He would always steer clear of it, going so far as to stick to the wall opposite of the staircase as he walked by. What about C? This adventurous, fun-loving kid is the reason they invented baby gates and why we finally had to buy and install one at the top of the stairs. She’s also the one who insisted on trying salsa as a toddler and wouldn’t stop crying about it until hubby gave her a bite … then resumed her crying when she realized it was as spicy as we said it’d be! E, on the other hand, would’ve heeded our warning the first time we gave it (I think he only tried salsa recently!).

That said, E and C are very people. And different people have different strengths and weaknesses. They also have different needs.

E needs lots of downtime and touch, so after school I’ll sit with him on the couch as I work and he reads or plays on the iPad. I’ve gotten used to him resting his foot on my leg or sitting close enough so our knees touch. He does his thing and I do mine and he’ll occasionally pause to show me a cool app he downloaded or ask me to choose a robot for him to use in a game.

C needs attention, but action, too. For her we’ll snuggle together for a bit, then play a board game or cards. She’ll draw pictures and have me color them. When we sit together on the couch, it’s more face-to-face so she can tell me—in great detail—about her day. I know all about who likes who in her 2nd grade class (man, are kids maturing faster these days or what?!) and what they ate for so-and-so’s birthday celebration (the last one was Oreo cookies in 2 flavors).

And because our munchkins are so different, we encourage and discipline them in different ways, too. We are a little more lax with E since he’s so rule-based already, but are a bit more strict with C because (as hubby understands all too well), she tends to push the limits. We push E more to try new things because he likes to play it safe (hm, I wonder where he got that from?), and we support C whenever she has a new interest (her latest thing? spy gadgets!).

So I totally understand now what the good doctor was saying about treating each one of his kids differently. It’s not because we love one more or less or want to show grace more to one than the other. It’s because we’re trying to love and nurture them in the specific ways they need to be loved and nurtured so they have the best chances of becoming the man and woman God intended them to be.

I like how this parenting article I read recently put it (it’s one of the best I’ve read, seriously!): “If we are in tune with the characteristics that make our child unique, we will have a better understanding of when they may need additional support, and when and where they will thrive.”

I love how the writer used the word thrive. Sure, the first step we parents need to do is to keep our tiny humans alive. But hopefully, with God’s grace, we can move beyond that to help them do more than survive: To thrive.

Take a listen to Shawn Hook & Kurt Hugo Schneider’s cover of Hercules’ “Go the Distance”. May we help our kids to go the distance in life.

What kind of parenting style did you receive and how did it help or hinder your growth?

When You Can’t Take Things Too Personally as a Parent

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We artistic types can be a little sensitive. Here’s a visual of what that looks like (and a throwback to one of my favorite shows from my twenties, haha). 😉

Meme courtesy of https://memegenerator.net/Dawson-Crying

This is the first meme I ever made! (Meme courtesy of https://memegenerator.net/Dawson-Crying)

I think there’s a logical explanation for this. Creative people—whether they be artists, writers, actors, singers or dancers—feel a lot and what they feel comes out in their various forms of art. That’s why when we hear a catchy song, watch a moving performance, or read a beautiful piece of writing, it touches something within us and makes us feel, too. And to make someone feel something you feel takes a bit of talent and hard work, of course, but most of all it requires a sensitive soul.

That’s why artists can be a little too sensitive sometimes for their own good. Take for example the author who got hung up over the fact that during her last free book promotion, she discovered not one, but TWO people had returned her book, even though it had been free. FREE, I tell you! Who returns something they got for free?! Either someone who accidentally downloaded it twice (totally wishful thinking here) or someone who disliked the story THAT much. (Insert Dawson’s crying face here! :P)

Well, I’ve had a few days to have my #authorpityparty and commiserate with other authors who had the same thing happen to them. (I’m sooo glad it’s not just me!) And the one thing I’ve learned? You just can’t take things too personally sometimes, even if you’re an artist.

But this applies even more when you’re a parent.

Have you heard of the saying, “Your child is not giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time“? Take a minute and let that soak in because they’re some wise words every parent needs to remember all the time. If I could rewind back to when my first munchkin was born, I’d print that statement out in big, bold letters and post it in every room of the house. And the car. And maybe even on my kids’ shirts, so that every time they did something that made me want to pull my hair out and cry, I would’ve remembered to not take it so personally. Because honestly, so much about parenting has to do with them and not us.

When they have a meltdown in the middle of the store, it’s not because they want to make you look and feel like a bad parent, it’s more likely because they’re tired or hungry or bored. When they huff and puff and storm off to their room and slam the door, it’s not because they want to undermine your authority (okay, maybe a little?), it’s because they’re frustrated and angry and overwhelmed by their emotions. In short, they’re having a hard time, not trying to give you a hard time.

During my kids’ hard times, I often have to remind myself to step outside of the situation and see things from their perspective. I find that I parent better when I don’t take their behavior personally. When I try to figure out what they’re having a hard time with, I respond with less anger and yelling and more patience and understanding. It’s no longer a case of me versus them, it’s me with them. And when you’re on the same side as your child, it’s easier to listen and love them.

Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t have your #parentpityparty afterwards. Parents have feelings, too, and we need to take care of ourselves, especially when we’ve been investing our energy into little people. So what can you do with all the emotions you have? Hmm. Maybe try something artsy? Just be forewarned … us artistic types can be a little sensitive. 😉

I’m loving this group I discovered on YouTube recently, the Gardiner Sisters. Take a listen to their lovely cover of Dan + Shay’s song, “Lately”.

How do you not take things too personally in your personal or professional lives?

Interview with Young Adult Author Marianne Sciucco

It’s been my pleasure to meet so many great folks in my Facebook writer’s group (click here to find out more about CIR!), and I’m excited to introduce another fellow author to you. Please welcome Marianne Sciucco and her latest release, Swim Season!

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Swim Season’s Blurb:

Sometimes winning is everything.

Champion swimmer Aerin Keane is ready to give up her dreams of college swimming and a shot at the Olympics. As she starts senior year in her third high school, Aerin’s determined to leave her family troubles behind and be like all the other girls at Two Rivers. She’s got a new image and a new attitude. She doesn’t want to win anymore. She’s swimming for fun, no longer the freak who wins every race, every title, only to find herself alone.

But when her desire to be just one of the girls collides with her desire to be the best Two Rivers has ever seen, will Aerin sacrifice her new friendships to break a longstanding school record that comes with a $50,000 scholarship?

Hi Marianne! Can you tell us about your background?

I grew up near Boston and earned my Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. I now live in New York’s Hudson Valley with my patient and reliable husband and beautiful, brainy daughter. We are ruled by Mr. Chance, a cat we rescued who thinks he rescued us. On weekends during swim season you can find me at one of many Skyline Conference swim meets cheering for my daughter and her team.

Tell us about your latest book, Swim Season. Why did you decide to write a novel about girls’ varsity swimming?

Like so many writers, I wear many hats, one of which is called “Swim Mom.” I’ve shuttled my daughter to swim meets and swim practice for years, and now follow her across state lines during her college swimming career. All those hours sitting on cold, metal bleachers waiting to watch her swim for a minute or two gave me more than a sore you-know-what: It inspired me to write a novel about girls’ varsity swimming.

My goal was to write a story about the whole high school swimming experience, to show others who may not be as familiar with the sport how much fun it is and how hard these kids work. But this story is about more than swimming as my young heroine, Aerin, deals with the aftermath of her parents’ divorce, a stepmother and two stepsisters she doesn’t want, her mother’s PTSD and drug addiction after two tours of duty in the Middle East as an Army nurse, and her best friend’s cute twin brother. And she’s just started senior year in her third high school.  Aerin is a girl you will definitely cheer for.

I love how you took your experiences (as a mom, and specifically a Swim Mom) and used it to write a book. For the parents reading this who have kids in sports, please share what the sport of swimming has taught you.

Swimming is such a great sport with lifelong benefits. Swimming competitively, especially in high school, can be a positive experience that builds character, self-esteem, and friendships. In New York State, girls can join the varsity team in seventh grade, when they’re 12, and compete against girls who are much older and bigger. When my daughter joined the high school team as a seventh grader, I was unsure as to whether or not she’d be able to meet its demands: practice after school every day and on Saturday mornings, and swim meets at least twice a week. She looked so small compared to the other girls. Could she really compete against them? Would she be crushed?  How would this affect her self-esteem? Would she quit?

Our kids often surprise us, and my daughter surprised me. She loved being on the team, loved her teammates, and never complained about going to practice or asked if she could skip. Sure, there were times when the older girls pushed her to work harder, swim faster, but that only made her a better swimmer. As the years went on, her skills improved and she quickly became a team leader, one of their top swimmers, and a contender in the division.

She grew up a lot in her six years on this team and learned many valuable lessons: keeping a commitment to a sport and a team that spanned a third of her life; setting and making personal goals; the grace of winning; the humility of defeat; confidence in her athleticism; pride in her body and what it can do; and the rewards earned through hard work and dedication. She has gone on to swim in college where she continues to exhibit the same skills and attitudes she cultivated in high school. These are lifelong lessons that will benefit her in whatever she chooses to do, in sports, work, and more. All girls should have the opportunity to learn about themselves through sports, any sport.

In addition to being a Swim Mom, you are a registered nurse and an author. Which comes first, the nurse or the writer?

I’m not a nurse who writes, but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, I dreamed of becoming an author when I grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. I later brought my two passions together and write about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. My stories are clean reads, meaning free of gratuitous sex, violence, and foul language. I think that much of popular media and entertainment today is saturated with these elements, and I choose not to use them. When I’m not writing, I work part-time as a campus nurse at a community college.

Do you have any unusual writing habits?

My repetitive strain injuries dictate a pretty unorthodox writing style. I don’t (can’t) write every day, a practice recommended by many authors. I have to respect my limitations or suffer pain and loss of function for days. So I work in spurts, constantly prioritizing my tasks, doing as much as I can to finish the novel I’m working on and promoting my other work. I use a number of devices to assist me: iPhone, tablet, Dragon Dictation, laptop, PC, pen and paper, whatever it takes. It’s frustrating, but I’m managing to pull it off.

What’s your advice for others considering writing a novel?

Don’t give up. Understand that this is a difficult undertaking and may offer little to no reward at the end, other than the fact that you completed it.

Thank you, Marianne, for joining us today! Please see below for her bio and the buy links for Swim Season!

Marianne’s Bio:

marianne-sciucco-wearing-authors-supporting-our-troops-t-shirt-at-assateague-island

During swim season, you can find Marianne Sciucco, a dedicated Swim Mom for ten years, at one of many Skyline Conference swim meets, cheering for her daughter Allison and the Mount Saint Mary College Knights.

Sciucco is not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she dreamed of becoming an author when she grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. She later brought her two passions together and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues.

Her debut novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, is a Kindle bestseller; IndieReader Approved; a BookWorks featured book; and a Library Journal Self-e Selection. She also has two short stories available on Kindle, Ino’s Love and Collection.

A native Bostonian, Marianne lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, and when not writing works as a campus nurse at a community college.

Purchase Links:

Swim Season is currently only available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Swim-Season-Marianne-Sciucco-ebook/dp/B01JVHIW3O

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.com/Swim-Season-Marianneamazon UK-Sciucco-ebook/dp/B01JVHIW3O

Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Swim-Season-Marianne-Sciucco-ebook/dp/B01JVHIW3O

Amazon Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/Swim-Season-Marianne-Sciucco-ebook/dp/B01JVHIW3O

swim-season-launch-blog-header

What NFL Players & Authors Have in Common

The family and I took a weekend getaway recently for hubby’s and my birthdays (which happen to be three days apart). On one of the mornings, we were in line for the breakfast buffet (yum!) when my eyes zeroed in on the shirt of a man walking past me. In big, bold letters, I saw the words NFL Alumni. Three thoughts immediately crossed my mind: the first being, Wow, cool!, then, Yeah, he looks like he could be a football player, and lastly, Oh … that’s kinda sad. 🙁

Why the sadness, you ask? Well, if you have to wear a shirt to tell people you were in the NFL, that probably means you aren’t well-known enough to be recognized as an NFL player.

Aww. 🙁 I almost wanted to go over and say, I know how you feel, buddy.

But I didn’t because I’m an introvert and even if I weren’t, it would’ve been a very strange thing to do. 😉 Instead, I told hubby about the shirt and how it struck a chord with me. It also made me wonder if there are any “I’m a published author” T-shirts out there in the world. In case you were wondering, the answer is yup! (They have them in pink, too—see below!)

Image courtesy of zazzle.co.nz/https://www.zazzle.co.nz/i_am_a_published_author_t_shirt-235621872671373455

The fact of the matter is that while there are 1,696 football players in the NFL (thank you, Google!), most of them won’t be as popular as Joe Montana or Tim Tebow. Likewise, most published authors won’t ever become a household name like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. (Hmm, maybe the key to success is to have initials in your name, haha?)

But that’s okay. Because most of the time writers write for the pure joy of writing. And writers publish for the pure joy of being able to see their name in print, hold their book in their hands, and to smell its pages—okay, maybe not everyone likes the smell of books*, but you get the idea. 😉 The bottom line is: Authors don’t write and publish books to become famous. We do so because we’re creators and we love to create and share our creations.

And, yup, there are a lot of us out there in the world, way more than the number of NFL players. Since you may not recognize a published author if you happen to pass by one at say, a breakfast buffet, it’d probably be a good idea if we made it easy for you. We could wear a shirt that tells you so. Hopefully if you see it, you’ll think to yourself, Wow, cool! She does look like she could write a book. I wonder what it’s about?  How did she get her inspiration?  Where can I get a copy?

If you do wonder about what it is that authors do, we would be more than thrilled to answer your questions. We’d love to hand you a business card. We could point you to our Amazon author page and show off our babies (the paper ones, not the human or furry ones). If you’d like to get technical, we could even talk about genres, story arcs, characters, and settings. And quite honestly, we wouldn’t mind at all if you wanted to ask for our autograph. (Kidding, not kidding!) 😉

After breakfast that day, I felt an odd sense of camaraderie with that NFL player. 🙂 Weird, I know, considering I didn’t talk to the guy, but I understood his passion for doing something he loved and was good at. Mostly, I admired his confidence and courage to share that part of him with the world—or at least, anyone who happened to see his shirt. Does that make me want to go order my own shirt? Sure … if it didn’t cost $43.50! 😛 Someone needs to let that company know that not every author has sold as many books as L.M. Montgomery. (Hmm, seriously though, I think I need to change my name to initials!) 😀

Take a listen to this cute song, “I Won’t Say I’m in Love”, from the Hercules soundtrack. I haven’t seen the movie, but I came across it on YouTube and it’s the perfect song for my next book’s playlist. 🙂

What would you want to share with the world about yourself on your T-shirt?

*Check out this nifty graphic for the chemical explanation behind the aroma of books.

 

 

Enter to Win a Kindle E-reader!

Love reading? Love electronics? Here’s your chance to combine your love of both by entering this giveaway. The prize? A Kindle E-reader! See below for details.

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The CROWN JEWEL PRIZE giveaway for a Kindle e-reader and 12+ e-books is sponsored by the authors of the “Meet the Authors of 2016 Royal Ball.” The giveaway will remain open until 12:00 am (EST) on Monday, November 14. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced on the event page (https://www.facebook.com/events/1755476794702604/) on Monday, November 14 at 1:00 pm (EST). No purchase necessary. Open to US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

When NOT to Let It All Hang Out

Grr. I struggle to write this post because although I know I’m not a perfect person, I don’t like to think about it too much. 😉 Anyhow, this blog is all about change and the process of change, so there’s no hiding the fact that I am a work in progress. A messy, dragging my feet, don’t wanna change work in progress.

First of all, a shout-out to my dear hubby who called me out on my messiness and didn’t let me stay in my rut. The other day he commented in a disapproving but calm way that “you’re not the person I married”. Ooh, I bet you’re wondering if he spent the night in the doghouse after that remark(!), but alas, no, we no longer have a dog (RIP Sparkle), therefore we have no doghouse, so no worries there. 😛 My response to his comment? Well, I had two: one in my head which shall remain safely tucked away there because if you ain’t got nothin’ good to say, it’s better to not say anything at all, and the second was something like, “I’m not the same person! I feel like a servant!” Eeks. Long story short, I’d been feeling way overworked and way under-appreciated and was letting it (ie. my anger, frustration, resentment) alllll hang out.

You know how when you first start dating, you make sure you’re dressed your best and you’re on your best behavior so you don’t scare your date off? And then once you’re engaged or married, you start feeling oh-so comfortable and doing all the stuff you never would’ve done before in front of your significant other (ahem, passing gas!) and essentially, you just “let it all hang out”? Well, yep, that’s what I’d been doing. Not the passing gas part exactly (that’s old news, haha), but giving stinky faces and a bad attitude and using my indoor voice with the kids (the kind you use only at home because you would never speak that way to strangers!). It was not a pretty sight. That’s why hubby said what he said.

And he was right. I’m not the same person he married. That old me (well, actually the much younger me) wasn’t a mother of two kids who’s trying to juggle multiple roles as a wife, mom, and a writer. That me was able to sleep in, do what I wanted most of the time, and not have to deal with meltdowns, sibling rivalry, picky eating habits, and 5+ loads of laundry a week*. So yeah, a lot’s changed in 15 years. And so have I.

And because I’m older and a tad wiser now that I’ve been on this life journey for 40 years, I was able to swallow my pride and think about hubby’s statement. I let it simmer in my head and heart for a while and consider the effect my actions and words have been having on the kids. How my yucky attitude has been affecting my mood. And how it makes NO sense for me to yell, “Don’t yell!” at the kids and expect them to do the opposite of what I was doing. Grr. You get the idea.

So I had to really make a conscious decision to NOT let it all hang out. I had to stop giving myself permission to treat my kids and hubby so poorly (because in my head I was telling myself it was okay to do so). And I had to remind myself to reel my emotions in and change my perspective.

Quite honestly, there’s a lot of things I have to do on a daily basis that I don’t want to do (*see the examples above!). But I’m choosing to do them because I love my family. And loving people means dealing with the messy, not-so-fun stuff sometimes. It requires looking beyond myself and caring for the needs of others. It means putting on my big girl pants and being a grown-up and doing grown-up things.

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I saw this meme on Facebook this week and I was like, ouch, okay, yeah, I get the message! I think a lot of times I forget I’m the adult or I wish I didn’t have to be one. But well, I am, and because I want to give my kids the best possible lessons on “adulting”, I’m going to keep on learning how to be the best adult that I can be.  I used to think it wasn’t fair that childhood’s so short in comparison to adulthood, but now that I think about it, it makes sense. Adults need way more time to mature and grow up. 😉 I know I’m still working on it. How about you? 🙂

Check out Maati Baani’s amazing cover of Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World”, performed by a bunch of cool kids!

The Dark Side of Self-Publishing (AKA Marketing)

Before I became a self-published author, I had no clue what going indie would involve. What I’ve learned is this: if writing books is one side of the coin of being an author, marketing is the other side. And to be honest, the amount of time it takes to share your books with the world takes about as much (if not more) time as it does to write these books.

Eeks. Welcome to the dark side of self-publishing. 😉

Since I currently have marketing on my mind, I thought I’d share some tips I’ve learned over the years for what works and what doesn’t work when trying to sell books.

For starters, imagine you’re floating along in a big, vast ocean, and everywhere you look there are other people floating along, too. This is what being an author is like. You’re just one itty, bitty voice in a sea of voices. About 800,000 voices to be exact, according to the Google search I just did for “how many books are on Amazon”. So, yup, you need to market your books if you want anyone besides your mom to read them. 😉 Even toilet paper companies advertise their products and everyone I know uses TP several times a day, every day. Imagine how much harder you need to work to sell something that not everyone needs on a daily basis.

Hehehe! I thought this was a cute pic.

Hehehe! Even frogs use TP?!

So, what works?

  1. Paid ads. Specifically on websites that have thousands of subscribers who—you guessed it—love to read. 🙂 These ads can range from $5 to $500, depending on the site, but they are worth it. The bottom line is this: You need to spend some money to make money.
  2. Free ads. Of course there are ways to advertise your books for free. There are tons of Facebook groups for people who love to read and you can usually write a post about your book once a day. I heard that a person needs to see an ad 5x before they’ll consider buying the product, so this is a good way to get some long-term exposure for free (vs. a paid ad that is only for one day).
  3. Sale books. Putting your books on sale for a few days is a great way to reach readers because who doesn’t love a good sale? Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program allows you to do a “countdown deal” where you can temporarily lower your book’s price. You’ll have to advertise the sale on your own (see points 1 & 2 above), but you’re bound to sell more books at a sale price than at regular price. And any sale is better than no sale.
  4. Free books. It seems counterintuitive to give your book away for free in order to sell books, but strangely enough, it works. The point once again is to get your name and book(s) out there. To be that one person in the sea that gets a spotlight shone on him/her for a few hours or days. Amazon also has a program where you can set your book’s price to $0.00 for a set time. Once again, you’ll need to advertise your freebie (see above). The key to giving your book away for free is that you should have other books published, too (preferably in the same series), so that readers who love your writing enough will buy your other books. That’s how you make sales by giving away a book for free.

I’m currently running a free promotion on the first novella in my Taking Chances series (get it HERE for free through Oct. 23!). It’s funny, but I was super excited yesterday to find out that I’d given away 2,089 books. The downside is that I don’t make money from any of those “sales”, but I did sell 5 copies of my other books and had 630 pages read from the Kindle Unlimited program. At half a cent per page, that almost pays for a cup of boba tea. 😉 But I did get one new review for the free book and am hopeful I’ll have more pages read and some more sales over the next few days.

So, what doesn’t work? Sitting on your behind and not doing anything to market your books. This is what I did for over a year and my sales (or lack thereof) reflected my stubbornness and frugality. 😛 I only started paying for ads back in May of this year, but I haven’t stopped since.

I hope my experiences can help another indie author out there! Let me know what you’ve tried and what’s worked for you and if you have any questions. I’ll be more than happy to help answer them if I can. 🙂

I’ll leave you with a sweet cover of K-Ci and Jo Jo’s “All My Life” by Kina Grannis, something I’ve been listening to while I work on my current book. Anyone else love ’90s music? 🙂

Confessions of a Non-Chef (+ Some of My Go-To Recipes)

My dear mother-in-law had knee replacement surgery back in August, so I had been cooking dinner twice a week for her and my father-in-law (she’s now recovering quite well, thank God, and able to cook for herself). At first I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to make a little extra food, except that a little extra food turned out to be a lot more food that required a lot of planning and cooking. You see, hubby’s family loves and enjoys eating, while mine basically eats to survive. 😉 Whenever we eat with my in-laws, we can expect to sit at the table for up to two hours, eating and chatting the day away. Eating with my parents on the other hand is more like a fast food experience; you get your food, you eat it, and you go. So, knowing how much my in-laws enjoy food, I had to up my game and really put some effort into cooking.

Grrr.

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/freedigitalphotos.net

If you can’t tell by now, I dislike cooking. Why? Maybe because it involves coming up with a meal that you know (not just hope) will taste good, buying the ingredients that are needed to make the dishes, and lastly, but most tiringly, cooking it. Which is why when hubby came home from work the other day and saw me standing in front of the stove with one spatula in hand, an oven mitt on the other, with a stream of sweat running down both sides of my face and asked me, “You don’t enjoy cooking, do you?”, I put on my best You’re kidding me, right?! face. I thought he would’ve realized this little fact when I made instant noodles for our first dinner together as newlyweds. 😉

So, no, unfortunately, I don’t enjoy cooking. Which makes feeding my family on a regular basis (why, oh why, do they need to eat three meals every single day?!) a difficult task. Throw in one very particular munchkin who always asks me, “What’s for dinner?” and then makes his best Aw, man face when he hears my answer, and you’ve got one frustrated, fed-up non-chef. But thank God for my other munchkin who will eat practically anything I serve her as long as there’s rice and meat in it. 🙂

But thanks to my recent stint as a chef for my in-laws and some serious soul-searching (haha), I’ve had some breakthroughs with cooking. Here are some things I’ve learned that I hope will help you if you’re a non-chef like me or you live with one.

  1. See cooking as a privilege. Okay, maybe privilege is taking it a bit far, but I have come to realize that there’s a lot of responsibility involved with feeding a family. I have the power to shape my kids’ eating habits, demonstrate healthy attitudes toward food, and provide the fuel they need to survive. I get to introduce them to different foods, flavors, and styles of cooking. What I feed them today is essentially paving the way for how they will eat and what they will eat for the rest of their lives. How amazing is that? And cooking in a first world country is seriously a luxury. There’s so much fresh, good food to choose from at the supermarket. Reminding myself of these things helps me not to take cooking for granted.
  2. Find ways to enjoy the process. Let me tell you a secret—I love looking at recipes more than I like cooking. 😉 At with the internet these days, recipes are everywhere. You can search for recipes with specific ingredients or cooking methods or styles (ie. gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, whatever-free) and find a gazillion choices to choose from. And the best part are the before and after pictures. I especially love when there’s a series of photos from the “ingredients picture” to the “mixing picture” and all the way to the beautiful “posed food picture”. (Cooking videos are pretty cool, too, except you need to realize that there’s no fast-forward button in real life and a dish may take more than 30 seconds to make.) 😛 So, to make cooking fun, I take time to look for recipes that I know I’ll enjoy following (aka. easy, simple and fast). Having the right recipe makes for a more enjoyable cooking process.
  3. Make it easy for yourself. I used to wonder why stores sell already-washed and pre-cut veggies or fruit. And why there are sooo many online businesses popping up that deliver meals or ingredients for a meal to your door. It’s because there are other people out there who also don’t enjoy cooking or don’t have the time/energy for it. (Whew, it’s not just me!) I am so, so thankful for anything that makes cooking easier. If you ever see my grocery cart at Trader Joe’s, you’ll find a lot of frozen veggies and some pre-washed ones. If you find me at Safeway or Costco, you can bet I’ll have a rotisserie chicken with me. Finding these “shortcuts” can literally chop the cooking time in half and allow me more time, energy, and sanity to help the kids with homework, work on book stuff, or keep the laundry basket empty for ten minutes.

These are just a few tips I’ve found to make my life as a non-chef doable and enjoyable. And here are some recipes I’ve found that are my go-to meals:

  1. Chicken noodle soup (à la Mamaho): Dump a carton or two of chicken broth, frozen or fresh veggies, and one cut-up rotisserie chicken into a pot and let simmer for an hour or more. Before serving, add some pasta and cook until done.
  2. Asian-style pork chops (à la Martha Stewart): http://www.marthastewart.com/339846/asian-style-pork-chops
  3. Roasted veggies (à la Mamaho): Take some chopped up veggies (ie. zucchini, carrots, potatoes, yams, mushrooms) and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil, add salt and pepper, and bake at 350-400 degrees F for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness and size of the veggies.
  4. Korean beef bowl (à la Damn Delicious): http://damndelicious.net/2013/07/07/korean-beef-bowl/
  5. Salmon fried rice (à la Just One Cookbook): http://www.justonecookbook.com/salmon-fried-rice-recipe/ (I also add chopped pineapples when I make this.)

I’d love to have more recipes to choose from, so my family’s not eating the same meals over and over. 😉 Please share yours with me!

Interview with Coloring Book Author Annie Douglass Lima!

Of the many indie authors I have met online, Annie Douglass Lima is certainly someone I’m thankful to call a friend. I interviewed her back in May about her speculative fiction book, The Collar & The Cavvarach, and today I have the privilege of sharing her newest release, a coloring book, with you!

I had the chance to watch this book come to life, so to speak because Annie and I are in the same Facebook writer’s group where we throw around ideas about story lines, blurbs, book covers—you name it!—and get feedback from each other. When she announced she’d finish her coloring book, I didn’t hesitate to buy a copy. Here’s one page that I colored with the munchkins. It was fun and cool, too, because we got to talking about what it means to be born again (short answer = becoming a child of God!).

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I had some questions I wanted to ask Annie about the process behind creating this coloring book, so here goes!

Thanks, Annie, for joining us today! Tell us, what was your inspiration for this coloring book?

A few months ago, one of my colleagues was leading us teachers in staff devotions before work (as a Christian school, we do that twice a week). As a part of her message, she handed out markers, colored pencils, and little slips of paper on which she had printed the Bible verse she was talking about. It was written in several different fun “outline fonts”, and she turned on some music and suggested we spend the last few minutes meditating on the words as we colored them in. It was so much fun, and as she mentioned, coloring the words really made them stand out in my mind. The activity wasn’t even over before I thought, Someone should make a whole coloring book like this! People would love it, and it’s such a good way to really think about each word and phrase! And so I decided to be the one to do it.

How did you come to know of the organization you’re donating the proceeds to, and is there a particular people group that you hope your donation will be able to help?

It isn’t so much that I came to know of the organization, but that I came to know the specific missionaries involved. They’re a family who work in a “closed” country not far from here. After I got to know them, the more I heard about their ministry, the more I wanted to get involved. And yes, there is one specific people group whose Bible translation the proceeds will go toward, but for security reasons, I can’t say much more than that.

Are there any other fun or interesting facts that you’d like to share about the behind the scenes process of making this book?

It was quite a process! I had no idea when I started that there would be so many steps involved. After doing some initial research, I chose the verses I would include, searched online for free fonts, and downloaded and installed them (which involved a bit of a learning curve for me). Then came the process of choosing which fonts I wanted to use for which words and phrases of each verse in order to try to emphasize the meaning effectively. I prayed a lot over every verse as I worked on it, asking God to give me wisdom in those little details, so as to make the messages in His word stand out as clearly as possible to those who would later color the pages.

Somewhere along the way, I looked up copyright information for the version of Scripture I was using (NIV) and discovered that I could not legally create a book whose only text was Bible verses. That was when I decided to include the word puzzles too. I researched a number of different websites and apps until I found two that would allow me to create the kinds of word puzzles I wanted in a format where I could download both the puzzles and their answer keys to include in the book – and of course that would permit me to use them for commercial purposes.

I was nearly finished with the whole project when I made the alarming discovery that not all my new fonts were actually free for commercial use; some were legal only for personal use. So I had to look up each one individually (there were hundreds!) just to make sure. In the end I had to uninstall almost half of them, find new ones to replace them with, and then redo parts of almost all the verses. That was really discouraging! But I kept reminding myself Who I was doing this for, and in the end it all worked out.

I owe a debt of thanks to the “beta colorists” who printed and colored the different pages when I thought they were perfect and gave me feedback to let me know what really wasn’t. The book went through lots of changes in the process, but the final product is one that I’m satisfied with. More importantly, I hope that the Lord is, and I pray that He’ll use it to bring His Word to life in people’s hearts in a new way.

Wow! Knowing all the time, work, and heart that Annie put into making this book makes me so happy and relieved that the finished product is now available for you! If you’d like to try out a few pages, scroll down for the link to where you can download and print them out. Thank you, Annie, for this wonderful coloring book! Go and get yours today! 🙂


More than just a coloring book, this inspirational activity book will help you relax, unwind, and enjoy some creative fun while hiding God’s Word in your heart. 
The 35 separate verses and passages are printed in colorable word art with decorative borders, blank on the back to make them easier to remove and frame or display, if desired. Each one is accompanied by two different activities or puzzles featuring the verse or key words from it. 

Hide it in Your Heart is an ideal Scripture memorization aid for Christian schools, homeschool programs, Sunday schools, or your own personal use. Children and adults will enjoy learning, practicing, and meditating on these artistically presented verses from the New International Version Bible. 
 
Proceeds from the sale of Hide it In Your Heart will be donated to www.Christar.org to help provide a translation of God’s Word for a particular people group in East Asia who do not yet have the Bible in their own language.
 
Here are a few sample coloring and activity pages from Hide it In Your Heart. If you’d like to color them or complete the word puzzles, click here to access a PDF that you can download and print.
Hide it In Your Heart is available in paperback on Amazon. Click here to order your copy for $8.99. 
HOWEVER, you can get it for 15% off if you order it here on CreateSpace with coupon code JZBVVBH8The code can be used an unlimited number of times and will not expire, so feel free to order as many copies as you like for family and friends. Hide it In Your Heart makes a great gift for anyone who enjoys word puzzles, coloring, or God’s word! 
You’re welcome to share the code with others, too.

Happy coloring!

About the Author:

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in
Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and
her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at
Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since
her childhood, and to date has published thirteen books (two YA action and
adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, five anthologies of her
students’ poetry, and a Scripture coloring and activity book). Besides writing,
her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction),
scrapbooking, and international travel.
 
Connect with Annie Douglass Lima online:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sign up for author updates and receive a free ebook of “interviews” with characters from her fantasy series: http://bit.ly/LimaUpdates