Confessions of a Quilter Who Also Writes

by Pam Halter

I started quilting before I began writing. Both activities give me a creative outlet, but I have to admit, designing and sewing a quilt is much faster than writing a novel. I also write and have published picture books. They’re fairly fast to write, although can be tricky to revise.

I confess there are times when I enjoy quilting more than writing. Writing novels is hard work! Let’s break it down and compare:

TIME

Sure, there are folks who can hammer out a novel in a month, and maybe I could, too. Except then there’s the revisions, which can take the better part of a year. And rightly so. It takes time to know a real person when you first meet them, right? Same thing for your characters. Not so much with a quilt. The quilt I made that took the longest was the labyrinth quilt I made for a friend. I researched designs online, found one that was doable for a quilt, copied it on graph paper and started cutting squares. It ended up taking 10 yards of fabric, all in 3 inch squares. Then I had to sew them together! I sewed every day for about 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, for a solid 3 months! It ended up a king sized quilt, but it was fabulous! I also had researched labyrinths and their purpose. The center is called The Rose, so I put fabric with roses on it in the middle.

My fantasy novel, which will be coming out late next year, took me a good 10 years to write and revise, as I was learning about novel writing. I’m a picture book author! Writing novels is waaaay different. I’m sure the next novel will take less time.

PLOT

As you can tell from the labyrinth quilt, I like to plan and design most of my quilts, although it depends on what’s needed. And like the plot for a novel, things have to come together to make a pleasing design. One of my strengths in quilting is taking fabric that doesn’t seem like it goes together and finding a way to make it work. Plotting a novel is just like that – but it takes a lot longer. Still, it’s so satisfying when it happens! It comes down to what the quilt/story requires. Sometimes, a quilt requires a specific design and detail. Sometimes, it’s as simple as using a panel. And sometimes, it comes down to a delightful surprise. Like the Halloween quilts I make. I love quilting a spider web (free hand) over the quilt design. It shows up great on the black back of the quilt because I use white thread. So much fun! Stories need that, as well, but usually, it isn’t so easy to plan.

CHARACTERS

When I’m piecing a quilt together, it’s important for the fabric to be, at least, compatible. If I’m using fabric that has patterns or designs on it, they shouldn’t clash. If they do, and I’m determined to use them, I need to find fabric that joins them together in a pleasing way. And I’m even happier if it’s unexpected, but beautiful. Same thing when creating characters in a story. And just like a story has main characters, secondary characters, and cameos, I can do the same thing with fabric. Light, dark, designs, contrast. Squares, triangles, rectangles. Top stitching, appliqué, tie it off. Baby quilts, twin, double, queen, king. So much to choose from! My favorite size is what I call Back-of-the-Couch. It’s about 2 yards long and 45″ wide. Perfect for the back of your couch or recliner.

KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE

Just like knowing and understanding the readers we write for, I also need to know my “audience” when I’m quilting. Well, most of the time, anyway. I pray as I sew. Each quilt I make is prayed over. If I know the person I’m sewing for, I can pray more specifically. If it’s for a fundraiser or someone hires me to sew a gift, I still pray. I’ve been told people can tell when they’re under one of my quilts. They feel peaceful. Blessed. Comfortable. That makes me ridiculously happy. When one of my best friend’s husband was dying from cancer last year, she told me he could only rest peacefully when covered by the quilt I made him. Yeah. I cried.

 

All this to say, it typically takes less time to design and sew a quilt than to write a novel and I confess I sometimes wonder if I should stop writing. But I get joy and satisfaction from both. And I believe quilting only serves to help my writing and writing helps me create more interesting quilts. So, I’ll still do both.

Any other fellow quilters out there?

 

About the Author:

Pam Halter was a home-schooling mom for nine years and has been a children’s book author since 1995. Her latest picture book, Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch, released in March through Fruitbearer Publishing.

Pam is a freelance editor and the children’s book editor for Fruitbearer Kids. She was selected to attend the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop for Fantasy, May 2010, won Writer of the Year at the Philly conference in 2014, and Reader’s Choice for her short story at the Realm Makers conference, 2015. She’s in contract negotiations right now for a YA fantasy novel, and is waiting not so patiently to announce it to the world!

Pam lives in the farmlands of Southern New Jersey with her husband, special needs adult daughter, mother-in-law, and 2 crazy grandcats while her youngest daughter is traveling the country with the New Life Drama Company. She enjoys quilting, gardening, cooking, canning, crafting, playing the piano, theatre, Bible study, and looking for evidence of fairies.

www.pamhalter.com

Confessions from a Fictional (yes, you read that correctly) Author

by Serena Chase

 

My name is Serena Chase and I am not a real person.

I am an invention. A pen name. The secret identity of an author who, for reasons ranging from personal safety—due to a scary series of incidents—to shelf placement, chose not to associate her real name with her public career. But even though I’ve—no, she’s—ahem, we’ve coexisted for a long time now, it sometimes gets confusing. For both us.

More for her than me, probably.

Like now, when I realize I’m talking about the true me—the Social Security Number-bearing individual, the real me, the one responsible for the creation of “Serena Chase” and her associated products—in the third person.

Oh, boy.

When I (the real me) first made the decision to safeguard my work by writing under a pseudonym, I was revising my first two novels, The Ryn and The Remedy while blogging regularly for a popular Christian fiction blog . . . which soon led to becoming a regular freelance contributor to a USA Today blog. “Serena Chase” was gaining momentum, fast—not as an author of fiction, unfortunately, but as an influencer on behalf of other inspirational and YA fiction authors. (Ah, but that’s another “confessions” post.) The career wheels were turning, but it was becoming questionable as to whether I could keep both the pen name and my sanity. Every time I signed a blog post or an email with my pseudonym, I obsessively struggled with the idea that I was a BIG. FAT. LIAR.

Long had I bemoaned the absence of authenticity and vulnerability within the Christian community, but here I was, forming professional and personal relationships within the publishing world under an assumed name and, to some extent, personality. Through those early years, some of the authors I met became dear friends to whom I eventually stuttered through a pen name confession, but all the while, my natural leanings toward anxiety and depression screamed, “Liar!” like Miracle Max’s wife in The Princess Bride.

One moment I would be writing a draft of the apology post that would reveal my real name . . . and the next I would be deleting it, paralyzed with fear that the nasty people responsible for me actually considering a pen name in the first place would discover my secret and cause more damage.

I sought council from those who knew me by my “real name” and were aware of my situation. As a rule, the writers in that small circle saw the pseudonym as a career necessity, not a moral dilemma. My non-writing friends, however, while expressing understanding for why it felt necessary to me, either shrugged off or added to my fears and/or my feelings of being a liar. I was at a moral, philosophical, and business impasse.

Was my struggle, as one friend suggested, only a symptom of an overweening pride that wanted to claim the words I wrote under the name that was truly mine? Or, as another friend offered, was I a slave to fear, not trusting God with my family’s safety? Was I making a mountain out of a molehill? Was having a pen name a lie, and therefore sin? Or was it a solid business decision? Was it right? Wrong? A gray area?

It went on like that for a long time. I obsessed. I prayed. I cried. I hated myself for all of it. I hated “Serena Chase” for being cooler than me. I couldn’t sleep. When I could, I woke up in the middle of the night with panic attacks. I was a mess.

Sometime around the release of my third novel The Seahorse Legacy, however, there was a shift in my thinking. During a conversation with another author, we spoke about a newly released book, both us referring to it as an addition to “The (insert Famous Author Name) Brand.”

In the context of our conversation, we did not necessarily discuss the merits of the work produced. We spoke of a business model, a strategic campaign. Yes, it was Famous Author’s name—her real name, as far as I know—but we were not discussing it as a part of her human identity; we spoke of The Famous Author Name Brand as exactly that: a brand—a label attached to a specific collection of intellectual property and all connected marketing efforts.

It got me thinking . . .

As authors, we are told to “build your brand” and to “be brand-consistent across all platforms.” Could the “brand” concept justify the existence and proliferation of “Serena Chase” in the moral center of my mind? Instead of “Serena Chase” being the “big fat lie” I’d been losing sleep over, was she—er, it—, instead, a brand under which my creative intellectual property could safely reside?

Yes.  Yes, she—it—could.

It was a life-changing revelation.

Yes, it is still awkward sometimes, operating under one name in “real life” while using an entirely different identity when I need to be the human representation of “The Serena Chase Brand” online or at an event. Sometimes, I talk about myself in the third person and it weirds people out (including me, to be honest!) Sometimes, my worlds collide. Sometimes, it’s embarrassing. Sometimes, it’s scary. Sometimes, I just need more coffee so I can remember which name I’m using that day (*winks at Ronie Kendig.*)

But most of the time . . . I’m okay with it. I’m okay with building The Serena Chase Brand and representing it in the flesh when necessary.

Sure, sometimes I wish I could move far away from my hometown and legally change my name to “Serena Chase” because it would make life easier. I’ve realized I often feel more comfortable operating under my brand identity than the one I was born+married into.

Is that weird? Yeah, that’s probably pretty weird. Ah, well. Another confession for another day.

What do you think about the use of pen names?

 

Author Bio:

SERENA CHASE is the (pseudonymous) author of the critically-acclaimed Eyes of E’veria epic fantasy series and Intermission, a contemporary young adult romance. She believes readers expect a novel to be an immersive entertainment experience and seeks to provide that experience through her stories. When not writing, she can often be found assisting other authors with manuscript critique and marketing copy creation through her business, Reviewer’s Eye View, or teaching workshops on the art of crafting immersive, entertaining fiction. Connect with Serena on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and through her website and newsletter.

 

June 2017 Goals

Welcome to another bright, shiny month! Can you believe how fast May flew by? I still feel that the conference I went to the first weekend of May was last week.

May was pretty crazy for me. Fun, amazing–but crazy. I accomplished a lot, but none of what I set out to do. Odd how that happens sometimes. But that’s the thing about a new month–a chance to try again!

My Goals for June:

  1. Get into a routine where I can better balance work and homeschool. I already have my schedule laid out, so it’s a matter of getting everyone on board and sticking with it!
  2. I got my first round of edits for Aletheia back, so I need to get those done before vacation at the end of the month, if not sooner. I’ll continue getting up early in the morning to edit for a couple of hours.
  3. Do a shakedown and reorganization of my work layout. I’m going to be focusing more on social media and book marketing (instead of editing). So, there’s going to be a learning curve. Plus, I’ll be changing my daily focuses to reflect this change.
  4. Get my homeschool paperwork organized!
  5. The first step to getting my health under control is to plan better meals! My husband and I are working together to plan out menus and find meals that we all enjoy.

I’m going to print up these goals and hang them up by my desk. This way I can see them every day and remember where my focus should be.

What are YOUR goals for June, work or personal?

Confessions of a Kid’s Librarian

by TLC Nielsen

 

As I work on my first novel, I can’t imagine a more perfect job for an aspiring author than working in the public library. Even though I’ve been in the children’s department for almost 12 years now, my job is still as much fun as it is work. I help children and parents find the perfect books to read. So, shhh, don’t tell anyone what I’m about to reveal. Oops, there’s no more shushing in the 21st century library!

 

My Second Home

As a child growing up in rural Wisconsin, I remember our monthly trip to the library. I loved it so much my folks had to limit me to the number of books I could carry! So when my kids were young, I took them to the library, weekly. It was free admittance with music, books, movies and magazines to borrow. We’d spend hours at the library.

Nowadays, the trend in public libraries is to be a gathering place rather than a repository of books. In my kids’ department, our staff enjoys creating a place to stay and hangout, whether playing with puzzles, toys and games, doing craft projects or reading books as a family. I spend a lot of time during work grabbing all the books families have left behind after reading. Due to the tendency of families reading books in the library without checking them out, librarians now look past the circulation numbers of books and materials. We look at how many are handled on the premises. The library world runs on statistics, so I do a lot of tallying of interactions in the library – how many times I’ve helped patrons, how many games/puzzles were used, how many prizes given out, that kind of thing. I must confess, however, that I do wait for them to come and ask for assistance since they may think, like I did, that this is their home away from home.

Because of this second home concept, I don’t like enforcing the library’s “no eating” rule either. I carry around plastic baggies to save the suckers are so often stuck in the hands of our youngest visitors. With all the toys, games, puzzles and Duplo’s being played with in youth services, tidying up is a large aspect of my job, the work part. Good news, though: my library created a tiled area in the entryway with cafeteria-style tables and chairs so patrons can eat somewhere in the library. In essence, the community library is your other living room. Some libraries even sell food on the premises, but not mine. It’s BYO style.

 

Not Paid to Read

The one thing I do for my job that’s not paid is reading. I do all my reading outside of work, even though I run a monthly book club for 7-9 year olds.  I pick books in a series and challenge my students to “out read” me. We’re called “Novel Detectives” and we find good books no matter where they hide. Each month during the school year, we rate a book and then post it publicly so other students know about the good books we’ve read. I was fortunate enough to connect with a publisher who sent my detectives Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of soon-to-be-published books. By filling out surveys afterwards, my detectives were able to influence the final printed version of the book. I will confess that the detectives out read me too often, due to the fact that I accomplish most of my reading on the workout bike at the gym.  My favorite ARC so far is Star Thief, a 2017 release.

 

Paid to Have Fun

I am paid, however, to practice the ukulele at work.  Yup, you read that right. Part of my job involves the ukulele. Two years ago, I talked my boss into buying some ukuleles for work so I could do more with music programs. I originally wanted 6-12 ukes but ended up with two. I was happy to have any. I hear two more are on the way soon – Kala Waterman Ukuleles for the kids: waterproof and in fun, indestructible colors to boot.

The best part of my job as an assistant youth services librarian is the fun of designing interesting programs for kids and families to enjoy. With books heading towards an equal balance of printed and eBook format, the library now relies on programs to bring the community into the building. This is why I moved away from basic music programming to something with a bit more pizazz: the Family Ukulele Circle complete with drums and rhythm instruments. There’s some improv, basic music concepts learned and a lot of one, two and three chord songs. So yes, I am paid to have fun, but if I don’t have fun, how will they? Favorite songs by the ukulele circle families include Don’t Worry Be Happy, Down By the Bay, You are My Sunshine, and the little-known Humpty Dump, complete with nursery rhyme rapping.

I’ve done many popular programs but not all of them turn out quite so good. In my recent Junior Chef Training for students 7-9 years old, the Health Department got involved. Fortunately, I discovered I needed a Food Handler certificate to teach cooking so I did the training. Then I found out two more things: a) the library needed a permit to have food on the premises and, get this, b) the students couldn’t eat anything they made since our library didn’t have an adequate cleaning area. Our Jr. Chef training focused on sweet treats and healthy eats -the fine art of toppings, so the students took heavy cream and turned it into whip cream, turned organic yogurt into frozen bites and did two more recipes. Since the Jr. Chefs couldn’t eat what they made, the library bought individual servings of organic ice cream with canned organic whip cream and good topping choices (almonds, dried fruit…) Next time, we hire a professional.

 

To Judge or Not to Judge

One last perk of working in the public library world is the invitations staff members get to do interesting things: write articles for newsletters, present interesting program ideas at conferences, and judge book contests. Yes, invited to be a book judge – whether on a panel or individually. My state’s libraries did an Indie author contest for teen and adult books, so I signed up. It was great when I was able to pick which books I wanted to read in round one.  By round two, I was assigned a few semi-finalist books. Those assigned books were so intense that I dropped out of the final round. Although one of my first round picks made it to the finals, I discovered there’s a reason why I’m in youth services – content. I’ve judged other contests since then (usually in the teen category), but that first library judging taught me how NOT to write a novel.

 

Author Bio:

TLC Nielsen loves her job as an assistant youth services librarian at the local public library within walking distance from home.  She is editing her first novel, By Land or Sea, which makes her appreciate every single book she has ever read. TLC belongs to Word Weavers International, being a helpful VP for the On the Border chapter. A librarian by day, jazz musician by night and a writer in between, TLC continues playing trombone in several area big bands. She played trombone on Rich Rubietta’s Resting Place CD and contributed a story to Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk’s book, I Believe in Healing (p. 68).  In her spare time, TLC interviews ordinary folks with interesting adventures on her Extraordinary Ordinary monthly blog found here: https://lookandbe.blogpsot.com and travels with her college sweetheart and spouse.

 

Confessions of a Small Town Mountain Girl

by J.M. Hackman

People hear “author” and immediately conjure up a glamorous life, full of book signing-days and jet-setting nights. That’s not me. Or they imagine days filled with writing The Great American Novel in cute little bistros and cafés. That’s not me, either.

The reality is I’m a small–town girl (population 774 and counting). Always have been, and probably always will be. I live in the same small town where I grew up and have lived in for my forty-plus years (cue the John Mellencamp song Small Town). I got married here, had my kids here, and am expecting to die here (although I have no plans to do so anytime soon). I married a small-town boy from Vermont who lived on a dead-end dirt road, so rural living suits both of us.

We live in the mountains not far from Pennsylvania State University where I commuted to and graduated from after four years. (Go Lions!) As I was growing up, I was convinced this town would smother me. State College, the closest “city,” seemed much more cosmopolitan than my small town. I couldn’t wait to get out and start living my life. Live here? Why? There was nothing to do.

I spent a year at Messiah College, only eleven miles away from Harrisburg. After seeing a drug bust complete with SWAT vehicles in the state capitol one night, I was able to appreciate the quirks of my small town life a little more.

 

Everyone either knows everyone else or is related to everyone else. If they don’t know you, they’ll ask. I went to a private high school in a different school district so upon being introduced, I often reeived a perplexed look and a “Who’s your… are you Kenny’s?” (My dad will always be “Kenny” even though he’s in his sixties). This used to irritate me. I wasn’t anybody’s. I had my own name—why couldn’t they remember that? I do it myself now to people I meet here, realizing it’s a way people establish connections.

We don’t go “over the mountain” on a whim. The closest Walmart is twenty-five miles away. The closest Starbucks is fifteen miles away. (Yes, yes, I know—coffee addicts are gasping with horror. This is why I like tea.) Most of my doctor offices are twenty-five to thirty miles away, so every round-trip is at least an hour driving time. Therefore, I’m having two launch parties. As much as they love me, my church family and local community will not go “over the mountain” just to buy a book.

Winter storms don’t scare us. After living on the mountain for twenty years, my husband has learned we have our own weather system. When I call him to come home from work, it’s usually because we’re getting accumulating snow or freezing rain. His response? “Really? It’s raining here.”

We’ll take “the long way,” thanks. Many of us prefer the mountain road over the interstate. Before I-80 was constructed (finished in Pennsylvania in 1970), the mountain road was the only way to get to the towns east and south of us. It’s a two-lane road, with steep drop-offs, twists, and turns, and I could drive it with my eyes closed. All of the school buses still use it.

Instead of cul-de-sacs, we have gorgeous recreational land. Our community relies quite a bit on hunting and fishing. At the beginning of the fall hunting season, an influx of hunters move in from the city to stay in their cabins for a long weekend. Three- and four-wheelers are common. Instead of summer beach houses, some families have a hunting cabin they use for hunting season or for occasional summer weekends. A wooded area borders our backyard where we’ve seen deer, wild turkeys, and evidence of a local bear (claw marks on our white birch tree and teeth marks in our now-ruined inflatable pool).

 

So small-town life in the mountains doesn’t seem so “small town” anymore. My husband and I are content to raise our family close to nature, far from the glitz and glamour of busy city life. After all, there’s truth in the saying: “You can take the girl out of the mountain, but you can’t take the mountain out of the girl.”

 

Author Bio:

J.M. Hackman has held many positions: assistant librarian, office assistant, office manager, substitute teacher, writer, wife, and mother. She still holds the last three. And loves it. She received a degree in Elementary Education from Pennsylvania State University and now spends her days writing stories, consuming massive quantities of chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds. You can find her at www.jmhackman.com.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://jmhackman.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jmhackman/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jm_hackman

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15648309.J_M_Hackman

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jillmhackman/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/100069873149516870326

Amazon Author: https://www.amazon.com/J.-M.-Hackman/e/B01K9PJMPE

Purchase Link on L2L2 Website: http://bit.ly/2mf4Iwg

Spark is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBook, Kobo, and any other online retailer, and Spark can be requested at any bookstore or library.

Spark Back Cover Copy:

Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands. Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.

When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. Against her will. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil. Hold up. Can everything just slow down for a sec?

Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin (Um, hello, Hottie!) pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time? And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?

Celebrate my Blog-a-versary!

Today is the anniversary of my blog! I don’t recall exactly how long–3 years? Maybe. But what an exciting–and sometimes crazy–ride it’s been. From character interviews to writing/editing tips to today with the Confessions series and social media emphasis, blogging has been anything but boring.

I just wanted to say thank you to all you lovely people who’ve been with me on this journey. Followers from the old days and people who have just joined the journey. There’s nothing more encouraging than to know that other people care. You all are the best. *hugs all around*

Blogging has not been without its own set of issues. My website was hacked once, and I lost all my previous blog posts. All those fun character interviews–gone. I had some pretty crazy issues with my previous website host, which resulted in a downed website and ultimately me switching providers. Earlier this year, a buggy plugin made it impossible for me to even get into my WordPress dashboard to blog. But my new trusty website host fixed it for me.

But that’s all in the past.

So what do we have to look forward to in the next year?

I’m continuing with the “Confessions” series for now. It’s been quite popular, and I think many of you readers find a little bit of yourselves in a lot of the posts. I know I do. I’m going to try to mix it up a bit, though, invite some non-writer people to share a bit about them and their lives. The point is to show how we all SHINE Beyond our circumstances.

I have at least 2 books coming out in the next year. So, there will definitely be a few posts about those along the way.

New to the blog, I’ll be posting about book marketing and social media, each on a separate Friday of the month. For the non-writer followers, I still think you might get something out of the social media posts, and you might just enjoy hearing about the insides of my book marketing journey.

I’m bringing back Tea with Me! For those who don’t know, these posts are an opportunity for YOU to ask me questions–about anything. Questions can be about me, my writing, life, science … anything! If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to find it; if I can’t find it, I’ll make it up. It’s tons of fun. This is one of my favorites, and readers seem to enjoy READING the posts. But I’ll definitely need y’all to be sending me questions for this once-a-month post. I usually put out a call on Facebook for questions, so be sure to follow me there.

While I don’t send my blog posts out via email anymore, I do highlight popular articles in my monthly newsletter. Sign up below so you don’t miss a thing!

 

Bellanok Sale

In addition to this week being my blog-aversary, it’s also my birthday week. And to celebrate, my fantasy novel, Bellanok, is on sale for 99 cents. That’s right. A fantasy adventure, right at your finger tips, for only 99 cents. Who’s ready to party? You can find more about Bellanok in the My Books tab!

 

Do you celebrate your birthday with any traditions?

Book Marketing: And so it Begins

Book marketing is a fun subject for me. I love hearing what other authors have tried, things that have been successful, and tactics that have failed horribly. Book marketing is definitely not a science–more like an art influence by science.

As I begin my journey to release my 2nd novel, I thought many writers might like to know how I do things, learn with me. And many readers may find the process fascinating. I’ll be sharing details about marketing plans, tips and tricks I learn, and some differences between the launch of my 1st self-published novel and this 2nd traditionally published novel.

 

MY BACKGROUND

If you’re new to my blog, then you may not know about my self-publishing journey. About 18 months ago, I began to publish a whole novel broken down into 4 parts. I published the first 20,000 words in October 2015, released the parts sporadically, then combined them and released Bellanok as a whole book in October 2016.

Why did I do this? My agent and I decided that self-publishing a stand-alone novel would help to build a following, which might make me more appealing to traditional houses, which are always looking to see what kind of platform an author has, especially a debut author. (So, writers, start building your platform today!)

Ultimately, we decided to break the novel down into parts as a way to offer something new and gain more followers by continually putting my name in front of them. Did you know readers may have to see a novel from a new-to-them author up to 7 times before they’ll purchase their book? Yep.

 

A NEW NOVEL

In October 2016, along with celebrating the release of Bellanok, I also signed a contract with Elk Lake Publishing for a YA fantasy trilogy! I was so excited–you have no idea. Well if you’re a writer, you might. The trilogy is an allegorical tale based on the premise question, “What if the armor of God were real?” I won’t tell you much more than that, for now. Muahahaha …

Currently, I’m working on substantive edits. But it’s also time to get my book marketing plan started. Ideally, an author should have 3-6 months to plan and execute their marketing plan. Aletheia, the first novel in the trilogy, is due out in September, which gives me about 4 months.

 

INTERESTING FRUSTRATION

I ran into my first major issue with the book marketing plan a couple of weeks ago. Quite by accident, I discovered 2 other novels by the name of Aletheia releasing this year. A supernatural suspense released in March, and a futuristic sci-fi or dystopian releases in July.

What? Are you kidding me? How dare they steal my title? Just kidding. I thought Aletheia, which is Greek for truth, would be an unusual enough title to grab a fantasy-lovers attention but not be copied. Apparently, I was wrong. Now, my publisher, agent, and I are in talks about what the new name will be. Stay tuned …

THE BATTLE PLAN

Every good marketing strategy needs a good plan. Every good plan is based on knowledge and experience. I’ll use what I learned from the Bellanok launch and the studying I’m doing to put together a snazzy plan for success. Only time will tell how smart of a plan it ends up being.

So, with each post I’ll share the goals I have for the next month.

 

Study Book Marketing

This is a continual process. For me, both as an author and as a social media manager, keeping up on the latest research, trends, tactics, and experiences from other authors and marketers will help me make the best choices for my book launch and for my clients.

I have about 1,000 emails in the Promotional tab of my email Inbox related to some aspect of marketing. I’ll be slowly whittling those down as I learn and apply. Also, several marketing-related books found their way onto my Kindle. Yes, I can get obsessive and one-track minded when I’m learning something new. (I did the same thing when I decided to homeschool my kids.)

 

Determine Marketing Budget

One of the most important parts of developing a marketing plan is to determine the budget. Budget will help me divide out which strategies I can use and which are out of my price range. I can’t very well place an ad in a magazine when the cost is $1500 and my budget is only $500.

There are a lot of “free” options for book marketing, which I fully intend to take advantage of. But there are also some great opportunities out there that may cost a bit. For instance, I want to have a graphics person develop social media images for the cover reveal and launch. I’ll be investing in book marks and maybe some cool swag.

Since I am not self-publishing this time, I don’t have the up front costs of editing and book cover design. Instead, I can invest more in my marketing strategy.

 

Layout Marketing Schedule

Since it’s only 4 months until the release date, I need to write out when tasks need to be accomplished–and what those tasks are! I am using Google Calendar to layout the basic schedule, and ToDoist to keep track of my to-do lists.

I need to plan out street team tasks, ARC reader deadlines, cover reveal timing, blog tour schedule … and a bunch of other stuff. Not to mention actually getting the editing done for the novel. Yikes!

 

Put Together my Street Team

I’ll talk more about this in another post, but, for those who may not know, a street team is a group of 15-50 people (I’ve seen different numbers), who are passionate about an author and their novels, who work together to get word out about the author’s latest project. While I don’t plan to DO anything with the group until the cover reveal, I do want to get the group in place.

 

Research Blogs

One of the funnest parts of the Bellanok launch was the blog tour, which was about 3 weeks long. However, one thing I quickly realized is most of the blogs involved had very similar reader circles. This meant I really wasn’t reaching new readers.

This time, I plan to research different blogs that may want to host me or do a review during the tour. In addition to author blogs, I hope to find blogs based on different aspects of my novel, like

  • homeschool blogs because my novel is a YA with strong Christian themes
  • book review blogs with a stronger following
  • Christian blogs
  • Other blogs that center around themes and topics addressed in the novel, like embracing your calling, overcoming self-doubt, challenging yourself …

 

And so it begins. Book marketing, done well, is an intricate plan that is as individual and unique as the author and the book itself. The more knowledge an author has, the better they can plan. I’m glad you’re on this journey with me, and I’d love to have your input along the way.

Are you a writer? Or a reader? Both? 

Do you have questions you hope I’ll address as this series comes out?

 

If you’re a bookworm like me, be sure you’re signed up for my newsletter! I celebrate new releases (mine and other authors), share interesting tidbits about life and writing, and indulge in other booknerd fun! Plus. on Monday, I’ll be drawing a winner from my subscriber list to win a copy of The Progeny and Firstborn by Tosca Lee!

Confessions of an Insta-Mom (PLUS a Giveaway!)

by Tosca Lee

(Stay tuned at very end of post for information about how to win a copy of FIRSTBORN by Tosca Lee.)

 

Last year, in the space of “I do,” I married the man of my dreams, became a farmer’s wife and insta-mom of four.

And so this city girl who’d once sworn off marriage and had long given up the dream of children moved out to the farm and into my new family’s lives.

My confessions, to this end, are myriad:

 

  • I own three crockpots. I’m not afraid to use them all at once.
  • I now understand why my mom hid her Russell Stover candy under the chair in the living room.
  • I may or may not have several caches of goodies stashed around the house.
  • And there might be more hiding behind the vegetables.
  • I have never downed so many energy drinks in my life …
  • Or gone to bed before 9:30pm more than once in a single year—until now.
  • No one other than these kids has ever had the propensity to make me cry with a hug.
  • This blog was late because I was catching a neighbor’s visiting chicken.
  • I gained 15 pounds last year because of Totino’s pizza rolls.
  • I fantasize about clean refrigerators.
  • I’m still trying to beat my kids in Black Ops III.
  • I threw a sweet pass for a TD in last night’s football game.
  • They were right: I can’t tell the difference between deer meat and beef.
  • I keep a list of funny things the kids say to use in stories. Or for blackmail.
  • My kids are totally unimpressed with what I do for a living.
  • I had no idea that the treads on the bottom of boys’ sneakers were so diversified or important.
  • Who knew exploding targets could be so fun?
  • When one of my kids said he didn’t want to try brussel sprouts I said that’s fine and that I hoped he wouldn’t die from rickets. He now loves Brussels sprouts.
  • When you refuse to teach the kids your secret French toast recipe so you’ll always be needed.
  • When your life is suddenly made because the grocery store delivers to the farm.
  • The night I saw a tick crawling across my comforter I nearly burned the place down.
  • I’m ruined for store-bought eggs.
  • I still aspire to vegetarianism. In theory.
  • I live in a house of four boys and a dog that drinks out of the toilet. Every time I sit on a wet seat, I don’t know who to blame.
  • I’m the only mom I know who openly weeps when her son runs 50 at trapshooting meets.
  • I literally had a debate with my son one night about who should run into the possibly skunk-infested barn to grab the raccoon trap to catch a tom cat and who should cover the other with the pellet gun.
  • My son offered to video me going in in case I got sprayed. “Just think how many views you’d get,” he said.
  • I actually considered it.
  • I still have not received my motherhood manual from the Office of the Comptroller of Parenthood. I’m flying blind here.
  • I have now actually seen a piece of lunch meat come out of a kid’s nose.
  • A year later, I still have no idea what I’m doing.
  • I have never loved life so much.

The other day, one of my boys came up to me and handed me a dollar bill. “What’s this?” I said, figuring it was something he found in the wash.

“It’s a tip.”

Me: “A wha—?”

Him: “Because you’re doing a good job.”

Me: “I do my best, honey.”

Him, petting my hair: “You don’t need to try. You are.”

Oh man. (Also: do I need to report this as income?)

Last week, as my ninth novel released, I spent several hours writing guest blogs, many of which touched on all these life changes. I wrote about being a new farm wife, the grace my kids show me, and boo-hooed through it all.

Probably my biggest confession in this new parenting journey is how much these young faces have become as mirrors to me. By the time I start lecturing one on having patience, I’ve already lost mine. It’s convicting and challenging. And I worry that the one who lost his electronic privileges for the day is going to yell that I’m not his real mom and hate me the rest of his life, but when he emerges later from his room, he pets my hair.

“You’re a good mom, Tosca,” he says.

I’m not sure if that’s a gimme or not, but I’ll take it.

 

About the Author

Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of THE PROGENY, FIRSTBORN, ISCARIOT, THE LEGEND OF SHEBA, DEMON: A MEMOIR, HAVAH: THE STORY OF EVE, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker (FORBIDDEN, MORTAL, SOVEREIGN). A notorious night-owl, she loves watching TV, eating bacon, playing with her kids, and sending cheesy texts to her husband.

You can find Tosca at ToscaLee.com, on social media, or hanging around the snack table.

The sequel to THE PROGENY, FIRSTBORN, is in stores now.

 

GIVEAWAY OVER!!!

And speaking of PROGENY and FIRSTBORN, how’d you like a chance to win a copy? All you have to do is sign up for my newsletter. That’s it. In addition to being entered in the giveaway, you’ll get a copy of the first part of Bellanok (my own novel). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of an Optimist with Chronic Illness

It may sound dreamy to say that I’m literally typing this post while lying in bed, but here’s the reason: I slept very little last night and I woke up with pain all over my body.

Welcome to life with a chronic illness!

But I have one thing in my favor: God gave me a beautiful sense of optimism.

 

How Chronic Illness Works

Some days I am perfectly normal, with all the bounce and sparkle of my ENFP personality. I hike mountains, write books while chortling at my own mad genius, and try to see who I can bring a smile to.

Other days, I crawl into bed, shivering with unexplainable cold; crawling with pain; completely numb with exhaustion; sensitive to every light, smell, and sound; and overwhelmed by the idea of having to get up to go to the bathroom or get myself something to drink.

We’re still working on a full diagnosis, but right now the partial diagnosis includes babesia, a tickborne illness sometimes associated with Lyme Disease. With babesia, the nasty beasties hide out in muscles, blow up red blood cells, and wreak as much havoc as possible.

In 2012, when I first realized how sick I was, I struggled deeply with depression. Was this going to be my life? Would I ever have the energy to do things I loved? What if it interfered with my ability to have a family of my own someday?

Because of my chronic illness, I quit a job. I missed a chance to fly out for a visit with a friend. I cancelled on countless visits with friends. I lost a lot of opportunities because I knew I had no energy to commit to them.

The truth? I may never fully recover. My life is unpredictable, at the mercy of my body. My illness very well might affect my future family life.

But there’s more to the truth than just this grim reality.

 

How Optimism Works

God blessed me with a heart that sees possibility everywhere! And, though the partial truth is that chronic illness is hard, the whole truth is that it has brought me far more blessings than I could have imagined.

I’m optimistic about the future. Everybody has their own struggle. Mine happens to be chronic illness, so I’ve made it almost a game to find ways to live the most of every day God has given me.

So how does optimism bring joy to chronic illness?

  • Gratitude: Today, as I type in my bed, I am so grateful for my comfy bed. I am grateful I don’t have to work today. I’m grateful that my laptop is so conveniently portable. So many people around the world don’t have this level of comfort when they feel yucky. But I do! How’s that for cool?​
  • Focus: The things you give your energy to are the things you most care about. When you have limited energy, then you find out very quickly what those priorities are. For me, the priority is writing. Since 2012, I’ve published five science fiction and fantasy novellas and written several novels, all while riding the physical (and mental) rollercoaster. If I can do that, I can do anything!
  • Boundaries: I used to say yes to everything. Now I pick and choose my commitments. And you know what? It’s awesome. Every time I say “yes,” I can do so unreservedly and without resentment because I know I have thought through all the implications and know I can commit to it.
  • Pacing: In the proverbial tortoise and hare story, I’m naturally the hare. Zip! Zap! Then I take a break, and do it all over again. Now I am learning the benefits of being a tortoise. I used to write thousands of words a day. I don’t have the energy for that anymore, but hey! Doesn’t slow me down. I’ve actually gotten more serious writing done in the last few years because I’ve established a sustainable daily writing goal that I know I can stick to. Consistency really adds up over time! Who knew?
  • Resilience: This past summer, I had an episode in which I experienced two weeks of intense pain. My body gave me a few hours off every day to recover, and then I’d go right back to kneeling on the floor, rocking back and forth and sobbing in pain. That was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Why? Because I know just how powerful I am now (with the Lord’s help). I survived it! This gives me perspective when I experience other hard things.

I could moan about how the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but honestly, I’m too fascinated by the grass on my side of the fence. (Isn’t grass pretty? Have you ever stopped to think what the world would be without grass?) No matter what path your life takes, there are amazing things around the corner, if you keep your eyes open for them.

Yes, I’m chronically ill but so long as I stay chronically optimistic, I know I’ll be okay.

 

About the Author:

Yaasha Moriah believes that good fiction pulses with realism, honor, and invention, so that even fiction becomes true in some way to the reader. In 2015, Wings Beneath Water earned Silver Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest and is now available as a novella. Find her on Facebook and Twitter as Yaasha Moriah and visit her website at www.YaashaMoriah.com.

May 2017 Goals

I can’t believe it’s already May! The first 4 months of 2017 have flown by in such a blur, I can hardly remember anything that’s happened. Of course, a lot of that has to do with my medical issues. Ack! But enough about that.

May is a fun month for me because it’s my birthday month! I like to celebrate hobbit-style, so I have a bunch of giveaways, sales, and other fun coming up.

But first … let’s talk goals!

It’s been a few months since I had a goals post. That should tell you how disorganized I’ve felt. But, along with my health, I’m getting my life and work organized! I have a lot going on in my life between writing, editing, social media, homeschool, and regular life stuff. The more disorganized I am, the more stressed I get; the more stressed I get, the more apt to get sick I am; the more sick I am, the more disorganized I become. Vicious cycle!

I’m working with my doctor to get my health on track and working with my husband to get home life more organized. I will get on top of things!

In other news, I launched my first newsletter last Friday. My plan is to use this tool to keep everyone updated on all things fiction (mine and others) as well as adding in fun and encouragement. You know, typical Ralene. If you haven’t signed up yet, you should do so! I’ll be making an exciting announcement in the next issue!

My Goals for May:

  1. Get into a routine where I can better balance work and homeschool. I already have my schedule laid out, so it’s a matter of getting everyone on board and sticking with it!
  2. I got my first round of edits for Aletheia back, so I need to get those done before my birthday. That’s my goal. I’ll continue getting up early in the morning to edit for a couple of hours.
  3. Do a shakedown and reorganization of my work layout. I’m going to be focusing more on social media and book marketing (instead of editing). So, there’s going to be a learning curve. Plus, I’ll be changing my daily focuses to reflect this change.
  4. Get my homeschool paperwork organized!
  5. The first step to getting my health under control is to plan better meals! My husband and I are working together to plan out menus and find meals that we all enjoy.

So there are my goals for May. What about you?

 

What are your goals for May, work or personal?

 

Share your goals below so we can keep in touch. If you haven’t already, head over and like my Facebook page, which is where we’ll check in during the month.