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