Hello, Peeta

Two blog posts ago, I shared the tragic loss of Bruce/Betsy (my husband’s white Mazda Ford pick up). For those of you who didn’t read that particular post, a red-light runner hit the truck on the driver’s side. My husband only sustained sever whiplash, thankfully, and the other driver was unharmed. But Bruce was totalled.

Anyway, it took three weeks for the policeman who was on the scene to file his report (which included testimonies from witnesses clearly stating that it was the other driver’s fault). It took four or five weeks for us to get an estimate of how much the truck was worth and how much the other driver’s insurance was willing to reimburse us for that rental car we had for two weeks. Even after we were sure we were going to get a certain amount for my husband’s truck, we still had to figure out what car we were going to by and from what kind of seller. This being our first big purchase (and by big I mean more than one thousand dollars), we knew we would need a loan and that the loan would come with a high insurance rate. My husband agonized over what to do for several days before he decided to play it safe and go with a dealership, Sanderson Ford to be exact. I have an uncle who works there, someone we were confident would get us the best possible deal, someone we knew we could trust.

(Not to say all car salesmen are tricksters; we just had a really bad experience with one two years ago when we almost bought a car from a Chevy dealership. That’s why we were so hesitant to go with a dealership this time.)

So my husband found a truck he liked that was reasonably priced, a used 2014 F150 with a crew cab and four wheel drive. He did a test drive with my uncle and loved it. My uncle said he could hold onto the truck for us for a little while, but we still didn’t know when those checks from insurance would come. As we drove home later that day, I said something like, “Should we check the mail? I know we just checked it yesterday and there’s probably nothing in there but…” My husband said it was worth a shot so we stopped by our mailbox. Out loud, as a joke, I prayed, “Jesus, it would be great if there was a check in that mailbox. If there isn’t, I’m sure we’ll be fine but it would still be REALLY great if there was.” And, praise God, both checks were in there! We turned the car around and went straight to the bank to deposit them. We went to Sanderson Ford the next morning. Two hours later, my husband drove his new truck home.

I know it looks red in the picture but its technically “sunset metallic” orange. I’m calling this new vehicular addition to our family Peeta, after Peeta Mellark. This mind-blowing blessing comes with a new payment every month and a spike in the amount we pay toward car insurance. But we’re still on cloud nine. We’ve been praying for this day since the accident happened back in October. God answered in a BIG way. We’re still humbled and in awe of His provision and His timing.

This year, as I’m looking back at everything my husband and I have been through individually and together, I’m calling 2018 the Year of Trust. We needed a new car, a dependable family car. We tried saving for it. Things happened that caused our car fund to slowly be depleted. Then the accident happened. I wouldn’t have thought to provide anyone with a car this way. But God did. Somehow, He knew this was the only way it could happen. Same with how our child came to be. Same with pretty much every aspect of our lives. Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I wonder why things happened the way that they did, why God couldn’t have made it a little easier. But that’s not for me to know, is it?

As I writer, I’ve put my characters through some pretty rough situations. They’ve experienced loss, heart-break, disappointment, injury, danger, and depression. But they always learn something in the end, maybe even become better people as a result. I’d like to think my husband and I are a little bit stronger now that this year is coming to an end, not only as a couple but as individuals. It wasn’t always fun, but I’m glad it happened.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year, readers. See you in 2019!

The Plan

In March of 2017, my husband dropped a bombshell on me. He said, “Whenever you’re ready to have kids, I’m ready.”

Up until that moment, we’d been focused on “the plan.” My husband was going to get into the police academy. We were going to raise enough money to replace one of our cars with a reliable family car. And then we would start our family. It seemed to me to be the smartest, most logical thing to do, the best way to guarantee a secure future for our children. But the more I thought and prayed about it, the more I realized that I was putting God in a corner. I was so focused on getting all of my ducks in a row that there was no room for God to work. So in April, I stopped taking birth control. I said, “Whenever You think we should have a baby, God, I will be ready.”

Toward the end of May, we found out I was pregnant. But then in July, an ultrasound revealed that our baby had no heartbeat. There was no obvious cause. I was healthy. There hadn’t been any complications that the doctor could see. He just assumed that something had gone wrong during the child’s development, which he said was common.

The doctor gave me two options: I could either wait to miscarry naturally, which could happen anywhere and at any time, or he could prescribe some medication to jump-start the miscarriage. I chose the medication and planned to miscarry over the weekend. But the process lasted much longer than that, approximately three months. And even then my body’s cycle was off. I saw the doctor again in February of 2018. He put me back on birth control to get my cycle regulated. He said it could take anywhere from four to six months before I would be physically ready to try again.

This was not something I ever expected. I knew a few of my coworkers had experienced miscarriages before giving birth to their children, but in my naivety, I believed it wouldn’t happen to me. I thought I’d conceive and give birth just as seamlessly as my mother and my sister-in-law had. Instead, this had happened. I felt hurt, confused, depressed, betrayed. I’d taken a chance. I’d gotten rid of my plan and put my trust in God. This wasn’t how things were supposed to turn out. Growing up in church, I’d always heard that “God is good all the time.” It was something I’d known as a fact for as long as I could remember, but it didn’t feel very true to me during those trying months.

In the midst of all this inner turmoil, I could almost hear my own words echoing back to me. “Whenever You think we should have a baby, God, I’ll be ready.” That’s what I’d said. But what I actually meant was, “I’m ready now.” That was my mistake; I thought I was giving up my control and surrendering to God’s will when, in reality, I was just coming up with a new plan. And, once again, shoving God into a corner.

I was reminded of Peter then. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples on the beach. Peter was the first to approach Him but not the first to speak. He’d denied his Lord three times and was probably feeling lower than dirt. While they were all sitting together, Jesus asked, “Peter, do you love me?” Only in my case, I felt like God was asking, “Becca, do you trust me? Do you trust that I know what’s best for you, I want what’s best for you, and I know exactly when to give it to you? Do you trust that I love you, despite what circumstances I put you through? Do you trust in my provision alone or are you still trying to be self-sufficient?”

I was. I am. Daily I struggle to surrender my illusion of control to the only one who is actually in control. My husband and I could have the best paying jobs this world has to offer, but circumstances can still snatch our money away in creative and unexpected ways. (We only have to look at my previous blog post to see proof of that.) Our security is not found in our bank account; our true and lasting security is found in Christ alone. He could’ve given us a baby at any time, whether I was on birth control or not. And He would’ve provided for that child whether my husband had a better paying job or not, whether we had a better family car or not. It only took losing my first baby for me to realize that.

When the time came to stop taking birth control and try again, I was still scared. I still dreaded the thought of another loss, another disappointment, another six months of recovery time. But I had a new confidence in my God’s goodness and in His perfect will. Whether we had a baby or not, I knew my husband and I would be just fine.

Last week, it was with humble and joyful hearts that we told our families that we’re expecting. Our baby is due to be born on June 11, 2019. And we look forward to whatever comes next.

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It seems this story is going to have a happy ending, but I know now more than ever that nothing is guaranteed. The end of this month will mark the end of my first trimester; the chances of miscarrying are lessened but it could still happen. Or the baby could come early and with complications. Or I could give birth to a stillborn child. There are so many hard possibilities, painful realities, things that have happened to countless mothers all around the world. My miscarriage experience was terrible but also wonderful because I feel like my eyes have been opened.

Losing a child is more common than I ever realized. The women and men who have gone through it suffer in silence because it’s painful to talk about, because they have family or friends who maybe haven’t been as supportive as they should’ve been, because they don’t want to burden other people with their problems. Or for a hundred other reasons. All I can say is: I see you, mother of angels. I know that feeling of helplessness, father of angels. I’ve felt that physical pain, that unbearable heartache.

I’m so sorry.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers for you, just a virtual hug and, hopefully, some encouragement. There is hope, joy, and comfort to be found in the arms of our Heavenly Father. No matter what your experience has been with people who claim to follow Christ or with church or with religion in general, I hope you find Him one day and come to realize how much He loves you, even when life seems to scream otherwise.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14 NIV

“But I will sing of Your strength; in the morning I will sing of Your love, for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:16 NIV

“Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that He will lift you up in His own good time. Leave all your worries with Him, because He cares for you…But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share His eternal glory in union with Christ, will Himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation.” 1 Peter 5:8&10 GNT

Goodbye, Bruce

On October 24, I woke up to a phone call from my husband. He very calmly explained that he needed me to pick him up and take him to urgent care because he’d been in a car accident on his way to work…at 4:30AM. He’d been trying to reach me ever since then but, since my phone goes on Do Not Disturb mode from 7PM to 6AM, I’d missed his first thirty-eight calls. He assured me that he wasn’t severely injured, just had bad whiplash and wanted to have his shoulder and neck examined.

So I drove out to pick him up at the Whataburger across the street where the accident had occurred. The driver who had hit him ran the red light, smashing into his truck at the driver’s side tire. My husband was fairly certain his truck, a Mazda with over three hundred thousand miles on it, was totaled. As I drove him to urgent care, we fell silent. That truck had been given to him as a gift from his aunt right around the same time we started dating. There were a lot of memories associated with it (I called it Bruce, he called it Betsy). Of course, we were thankful he and the other driver were okay, but it was sad and kind of surreal to realize that we’d never drive that truck again.

The PA at urgent care took an x-ray of my husband’s shoulder and said everything looked normal. She suggested rest and Ibuprofen to help with the inflammation. We spent the rest of the day processing everything that had happened, trying to plan our next steps. My husband was sure he’d be able to borrow a work truck until we could find a replacement vehicle. Once the officer who was present filed his report, which had witness accounts stating the other driver was at fault, we would be receiving a call from their insurance and hopefully a check.

Or so we assumed.

Well, the other driver called their insurance and said my husband was at fault. Which prompted a call from our insurance. My husband hadn’t thought to get the names and phone numbers of the witnesses since it had all been included in the police report, but now he was being asked to contact those witnesses and have them call our insurance so they could corroborate his story. The officer’s report, my husband found out, hadn’t been filed yet and probably wouldn’t be for another week or two. As you can probably imagine, we were feeling really discouraged at this point. After venting a little to my mother-in-law about the situation, she suggested we contact an accident attorney or personal injury lawyer. So we did.

Updated 11/16: Two and a half weeks later, agents from both insurance companies have assessed the damage done to Bruce/Betsy and confirmed it as totaled. The police report has been filed. Now, we’re just waiting for the other driver’s insurance to accept liability and contact us with a) Bruce/Betsy’s estimated worth and b) a check to cover “pain and suffering.” My husband’s work needed their truck back so he’s driving a rental, the cost of which falls under “pain and suffering” as well as the physical therapy he’s been doing for his neck (a problem with his alignment was discovered upon a second visit to the doctor).

My husband’s been on the look out for a new truck but it’s dangerous to get our hearts set on anything when we don’t have a price range, or even a guarantee that we’ll get enough for a down payment. (We have some money saved up but not nearly enough.) At the beginning of this adventure, I started off with an almost zen-like peace, confident that God knew our plight and was actively working for our good. I still believe He’s working, but I’m struggling to hang onto that peace, especially because all we can do right now is wait.

It’s kind of funny. Around this time last year, we were dealing with my husband’s torn meniscus. I’ll be wary next year when fall rolls around. (Just kidding, but not really.) Oh, life is challenging, isn’t it? Challenging and unpredictable and wonderful all at once. This being the month of thanks, I’m trying to focus on all the good things we have. Like a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food in our fridge, jobs, relatively good health, and one working car. That’s more than a lot of people can say. I have to remember that.

We’re really looking forward to Thanksgiving, when we get to see both my husband’s extended family and mine. My parents and siblings will be staying at my house for the whole weekend. It’ll be a tight squeeze and there will be a mess to clean up once Monday rolls around, but I know it’ll be a lot of fun. Things always seem a little brighter when family comes to visit.

If I don’t post anything else this month, happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Bachelor’s or no

I’ve started my summer reading class, the last requirement before I can get my Academic Certificate in Creative Writing from Phoenix College. This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s been a long time coming.

I started going to college after I’d been living on my own for a few months, and a whole year after I’d started working my first full time job. Getting the necessary hours to pay bills while balancing nine credits a semester was difficult, but doable. Getting my associates took longer than I care to admit. Like any other college student, I changed my mind about my major a few times while getting my associates. First I wanted to be a translator, become proficient in as many languages as I could. It turned out becoming a linguist was going to take several years. So I narrowed my focus to one of the languages I was curious about; American Sign Language. Phoenix College was the only college in the area that offered an extensive ASL program so, after completing four courses at Glendale Community College, I transferred over to PC.

It wasn’t until I’d already transferred that I realized what a challenge this ASL program was going to be. They offered the required classes in the morning and at night. Once I chose a schedule, I couldn’t change it mid semester. It was either all morning or all night classes. I couldn’t take the morning courses because I worked from 8AM to 5PM, and I couldn’t take the night courses because it would mean sacrificing the few precious hours I could spend with my husband. (He has to be up at 5AM every morning and goes to sleep early as a result. So he would’ve been going to work before I woke up and I would be coming back from my night classes long after he fell asleep.) Finding a new job with mid-afternoon to early evening hours that paid me what my current job was paying proved to be impossible. Any online jobs I found needed experience that I didn’t have. So I had a choice to make: get certified as a Sign Language Interpreter or see my husband on a daily basis.

But then it wasn’t really a choice.

With the ASL program off my options list, I finally allowed myself to consider my dream. See, my dad always encouraged me to chase my dreams but to also consider other, more practical career paths that would help me support myself and eventually my family. In attempting to heed his advice, I’d chosen career paths that I’d been interested in but that were also practical and in high demand where I lived. But I felt that God orchestrated this path for me, the one where life kept “intervening” and changing my plans. Because, with no practical career to follow, I finally started considering a degree in creative writing.

And Phoenix College just so happened to have a Creative Writing Program.

It’s only a certificate but with it I can transfer to a university and eventually earn a Bachelor’s in English with Concentration in Creative Writing or just a BA in Creative Writing. It was while I was taking these courses that I saw the most growth in my writing. It was during this Creative Writing Program that I got my publishing deals. Everything seemed to be falling into place. I’d never felt more sure about my career path, more confident in my schooling choices. For the first time in a long time, I believed I could make it as an author.

I still believe I can make a living off of my writing, but it’s going to take time. During that time, I’d like to keep learning and growing. I’d like to have options if/when I “retire” from authoring. Furthering my education could potentially get me a job at a literary agency or publishing company. Hearing my dad’s voice at the back of my mind, I realize getting a bachelor’s would be the practical thing to. I did some research and, so long as the writing classes from PC transfer to the university I have in mind, I would only need eleven classes in order to get my Bachelor’s in English with Concentration in Creative Writing. Even with the payment program they offer, I could only afford to take two classes a semester. But if I take a class in one of the summer semesters, it would only take me two years and one summer to complete my degree.

If I’m totally honest with myself, the only thing stopping me is my own specific interests. Looking at the restricted electives list for this degree, it’s obvious I’m going to have to read and dissect Shakespeare.  I’m also going to have to “analyze” other “classic literary works” from the 1800s. (Raise your hand if Shakespeare confuses you, frustrates you, and sometimes puts you to sleep. Raise your hand if the only classic literature books you’ve been able to enjoy are Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Raise your hand if you feel physically sick when you hear the words literary analysis. You can’t see me, but I’m raising both hands right now. And hopping up and down because I don’t have an third hand to raise.)

I like modern fiction. You know, books that were written in my life time. Now, I’m a good student. I can put in the effort and skate by with a B if I absolutely have to. And the reading class I took last summer proved that there are teachers in this world that can assign an interesting book from the 1800s. But I don’t want to grow to hate reading or writing. That’s my biggest fear.

The other thing that’s holding me back is the fact that 12 credit hours are required to be taken on campus. Which is thirty minutes away. I’m sure I could space out those credit hours so that I don’t have to spend too much time driving per semester, but I’d still be sacrificing time in the evenings with my husband. So that’s something to consider…

Fortunately, I have until the end of January to make up my mind. The university I’m looking at begins accepting portfolios from Creative Writing students in February. If they decide I’m worthy to enter into their bachelor’s program, then I’ll move forward. If not, then I guess my decision has been made for me. And, of course, I have to consult my husband. We were both pretty psyched about not having to pay for school anymore. (This summer class I’m taking now has already been paid for.) We’re still saving up to replace his truck; having a school payment for the next two years will definitely slow that process down. Also, kids might come in the next two years and I don’t want to be in school while I’m raising kids. My mom did that. I could see how hard it was for her to balance it all. I don’t want to have to make the choice between homework and spending time with my babies.

I’m praying God will show me the way, make it absolutely clear whether this is the right thing for me to do or not. He’s done it in the past. For now, I’ll keep waiting and thinking and doing research.

Life updates

I realized it’s been a while since I’ve given a general life update so here it goes:

  • Recently I stopped posting as much book promotion stuff on Facebook promo pages or my personal Twitter account. I’ve tried to be more relaxed, be more myself and less of a saleswoman. I’ve tried to focus my energies on creating cool Facebook Ads and growing my following through Instagram because I’ve read a few articles that have talked about the wonders of these two. Still not sure I’ve gotten the hang of Facebook Ads. I’ve created three so far and, while they’ve generated some good traffic for my author page, they haven’t been doing much for book sales. Same goes for Instagram. I’ve been visiting the booklovers, bookworms, and amreading “pages” and making some new friends but I haven’t seen a huge leap in followers. Yet again, I’ve only been working at both of these for a little over two weeks so it’s probably too soon to tell. More on that later.

 

  • After finishing the first draft of my first ever science fiction novel, I sent it off to two beta readers and asked for their honest opinions. I also asked each of them to look for specific things to give me feedback on. For example, for my dude friend, I asked him to tell me if there were any parts in the story that didn’t sound manly enough. My main character is a guy but I’m still working on perfecting my “man voice” so I needed him to tell me if my MC was starting to sound like a girl at any point in time. And since the character in the book is very similar to my friend, I wanted to know how close I came to pegging down his personality. Lastly, I asked him if any of the science fictiony parts were too unbelievable. I got his notes today, which was exciting and also nerve-wracking. Turned out, I worried for nothing because he liked the book. He also had some great insights to share! So I got to work on the second…third?…round of edits for The Andromeda’s Ghost. I’m still waiting on the notes from beta reader number two and then I’ll probably be doing a little more editing. Then I’ll read through the whole thing one more time and it should be ready for querying.

 

  • While I’ve been waiting for my beta readers’ notes, I’ve been working on the sequel to this sci-fi book. This is only the second time in my young life that I’ve ever written a story with its sequels already in mind. (The Sentinel’s Trilogy was the first, of course. Sorry, my faerie friends. I will get back to you eventually! I promise!) So this is exciting for me! I’m doing research on the medical field since one of the new characters in the sequel is going to be a doctor. This character’s back story is going to be complicated; I’m mapping it all out before I introduce her to the main character. I’m also going to try modeling her after another friend of mine, just because I don’t want the same personality types to appear in my stories. I’m on the look out for fresh perspectives. I want to continue to challenge myself, to put myself in the mindset of someone who doesn’t think like me. It’s what I did for The Andromeda’s Ghost and it turned out to be a lot of fun. We’ll see how this goes!

 

  • On a more personal note, I saw Infinity War with my husband and our friends last weekend….I’m still recovering.

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Very much looking forward to the next Marvel Avengers movie. Hopefully there’ll be more answers. Until then, I mourn.

 

  • Next weekend is my birthday. Woot woot! I’ve looked pretty much the same since I was fourteen years old but I’m only now feeling like I look my actual age. So I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ll be turning twenty-four. Praying I’ll stay on this plateau and not start looking any older until I’m sixty. Anywho, I’ll be in Wisconsin visiting my mother-in-law that weekend and attending my first ever writers conference! There won’t be a blog post for that Thursday or Friday, but I’ll include pictures and details of the conference two weeks from today.

 

  • May 29th is my third wedding anniversary. Another woot woot for that one! Since the 29th falls on a Tuesday this year, my husband’s got something planned for the weekend before. That’ll be another Thursday/Friday with no blog post. After that, things are going to be calm and boring again so the schedule will return to normal.

 

As always, thanks for reading, guys! See you next time.

 

 

Something I’ve learned about book marketing

I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life.

Waiting until I was old enough to drive. Waiting until I was old enough to date. Waiting until I was old enough to go somewhere on my own and not have to take my sister or my brother with me. Waiting until I was old enough to live on my own. Waiting until I was done with school. Waiting until I could get a job and earn my own money. Waiting until I could buy my own car. Waiting until I could get married. Waiting to hear back from agents. Waiting to get that publishing deal. Waiting for children. Waiting to be able to make a living as an author.

You’d think I’d be an expert at waiting right about now. But I’m not. Whenever I have to wait for anything, I fill the time with whatever I can in the hopes of distracting myself. I wrack my brains for things that I can do to speed the process along (whatever the ‘process’ might be). But most of the time, there isn’t much to do. And so I pace and growl and sometimes cry and pace some more.

My husband teases me all the time because I made the mistake of telling him that I once asked God to give me patience. “Are you really so surprised that He’s making you wait for everything? You asked for patience. This is the way to get it.”

I was fourteen when I prayed that prayer. I had hoped God would just grant me patience. You know, sprinkle some dust over my head, flood me with peace so that I wouldn’t feel so antsy and helpless. And sometimes He does do that for me. (Not so much the dust sprinkling, but the peace flooding part.) Sometimes I’m honestly okay with waiting. But once I’ve waited for a certain amount of time, I think, “I should’ve gotten what I was waiting for by now.” Aaaaaaand cue the pacing and growling and crying.

This has been especially true concerning my book sales.

You guys who visit my blog, who like my author Facebook page, who agree to read ARCs for me, who sign up for my newsletter, who follow me on Twitter or Instagram: thank you! You make my day every day. Seriously. I’m over the moon that anyone reads my books and likes them.

But considering the time and energy I’ve been pouring into book marketing, I was expecting to see a significant rise in sales. When I wasn’t seeing it, I tried to be patient. After all, it’s a big world and the internet is even bigger. I know it takes time for people to find things, no matter how much I post on social media. So I pressed onward, continuing what I was doing in the hopes that I would see results eventually.

Months went by and still no giant leaps in book sales. Before I could start pacing and growling and crying, I decided to try a different approach. I read more articles and watched YouTube videos and asked the advice of more seasoned authors, all so that I could get some insight on what I was doing wrong. And it turns out, my whole book selling mentality was wrong. I kept hearing that authors aren’t just selling their books; they’re selling themselves. But I was so determined that people wouldn’t want to know more about me. Let’s be honest. I’m boring. My books are much more interesting. I was putting the spotlight on them instead of me, so sure that once people started reading, they’d come to love these stories as much as I did. And then tell their friends about them. That worked but only to a certain extent.

One particular interview with a book marketing specialist had me realizing that people will take a chance on pretty much anything an author writes so long as they like the author. Building a relationship, securing a foundation, creating an expectation in the reader; these create life-long fans and friends. This was eye-opening to learn but also discouraging. If you’ve read even one of my previous blog posts, you know that I struggle with making friends. But I determined to try.

For the past week and a half, instead of mass-posting on Facebook book promotion sites, I’ve just posted random stuff on my author and personal pages. I created a Facebook video ad for the first time. That was fun! I have been ignoring Instagram this whole time (which was a HUGE mistake apparently) so I started being more active on that. I posted a few book marketing pics but I mostly just liked other people’s stuff and followed more bookworms and authors. Concerning Twitter, I shifted the focus from my books to the books of other authors. And you know what? I’m a lot happier. Because I don’t feel like I’m selling anything anymore. I’m just another person online, sharing little pieces of me with a like here, a comment there, and a random post all the way over there.

I’ve stopped obsessing about numbers and it’s so freeing! Plus, I realized something; I’ve only been a published author for six and a half months. It takes a lot longer for people to discover a new book to love than just six and a half months. My books aren’t best sellers yet. Let’s be honest. The best sellers get most of the attention. And maybe I’m not ready to get that much attention. Maybe this time of being a semi-known author will prepare me for the day when I’m well-known.

So to all of my fellow authors who are struggling with book sales; take a breather. Give yourself a big heap of grace and a little more time. I’m not saying you should give up on book marketing completely. That won’t do anything for your sales obviously. But try not to stress about it too much. Pick two platforms that work the best for you and stick with them. In the meantime, learn everything you possibly can about book marketing and focus your energies on becoming the best writer and friend you possibly can be. I think you and your readers will appreciate it in the end.

My third novel

The time has come! Cue Rocky’s training montage music.

My third novel, Asta and the Barbarians, is available for 99 cents on Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo (it will also be on Apple and Nook but it’s going to be a little while before the book is added to those websites.) The book will be officially published on April 25 but this preorder price will last up until April 29.

This book is set in world comparable to England in the 1800s, but that’s where the similarities between Asta’s world and ours end. Asta is the twenty year old daughter of the mayor of a small coastal town. She heard about King Torvald’s crusade and watched her people fortify the town’s defenses, but she never imagined foreign invaders would come to her peaceful shores. Then they do. On one terrible night, these seemingly unbeatable barbarians with glowing copper eyes destroy everything Asta holds most dear. She thinks she’s going to die too but then her own eyes start to glow. Seeing this as a sign from their warrior god, the invaders take Asta to their commanding officer, General Halvar. He sees not a miracle but a tool he can use to further his own cause. So Asta is taken across the sea to the island of Holger, where more trouble and barbarians await.

I got the idea for this book from a dream I had once. Well, it was more of a nightmare because I was Asta, witnessing the raid and destruction of my town. But instead of waking up with a sense of dread and fear, I was intrigued. I wanted to know how the story ended. So I sat down at my computer and started to write.

Don’t tell my other books but this is by far my favorite. Because it’s set in an older time period, I challenged myself to shift my writing voice to match it. I also did research on women’s and men’s clothing from the 1800s, architecture from that same time period, and royal families to give the book an even greater sense of authenticity. This book also has my favorite friend trio, Asta, Viggo, and Bryn. I can’t count the times I chuckled to myself as I typed out the conversations between those three. They make the book for me. There are quite a few more characters in this book than there have been in my other books, so I included a list at the end that I hope will help you guys remember who is who.

I have eARCs available in PDF, MOBI, and EPUB files. If anyone is interested in reading and leaving an honest review, please leave a comment on this post with an email address where I might be able to send the book. Book marketing is the hardest part about being an author. I don’t think people realize how much work it is. I’m posting original promotional tweets, Facebook posts, and Pinterest pins multiple times a week; signing up for author interviews and reviews through other blogs; sending out newsletters with interesting and pertinent information to readers; updating this blog every time reviews come in; and doing my best to help other authors promote their work by liking, commenting, repinning, and reposting their material as well. Reviews are a great help to me as they encourage others to read the book and share in the adventure. Plus, people are always more convinced that a book is worth reading when they hear it from someone who didn’t, you know, actually write it. So thanks in advance for helping this introvert out!

More news to come!

Lost

Trapped in cyberspace, where ideas are plentiful

More numerous than the fish in the sea

Each has a voice, a platform, a goal

All of them much louder than me

In many ways the world inside a computer

Is larger than the one outside

Though I work hard and persistently harder

I find myself falling by the wayside

So many people have more interesting things to say

Where do I fit in? How can I compete?

This was never a game I wanted to play

But to unplug now would be admitting defeat

“Follow others” “Be yourself” “Write what you know”

I do this week after week after week

Is there another secret? Everyone says, “No!

Do that and be patient; you’ll have what you seek.”

So I write and post and read and comment

All the while watching the number of views

Smiling despite the inner voice, crying out in lament

How long can I keep this up before I lose

Hope of ever making my mark?

Lost in the cacophony, am I alone?

 

Family and work

Finding myself with nothing specific to blog about, I decided to just recap on my week thus far.

Last weekend I got to spend time with my family. We all pitched in to rent a cabin in Munds Park, Arizona, where we could spend the weekend together. Before this, it had been a year since we’d all been together. It was a special time of food, games, puzzles, and a watered down version of Dungeons and Dragons which included every geeky thing imaginable (from sonic screwdrivers, to Lord of the Rings riddles, to Star Wars quotes, to Indiana Jokes traps). Ezra did a great job as Dungeon Master.

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From left to right: My big brother (Ezra), his wife (Ceceilia), and their two boys (Micah age 3, and Thomas age 1). My “little” brother (Joe). My big sister (Anna) and her boyfriend (Ivan). Me and my husband. My parents (Becky and Isidro) are the ones sitting down, of course.

My sister got to give me her notes on my latest WIP in person. That’s always fun. I always get thrown back in time, to when we’d sit in our room (me in the swivel chair by the desk, her on the bed), discussing ideas for our stories. We were just girls with dreams back then. Now she’s got a Bachelor’s in English Literature and I’m a published author. Who would’ve thought?

My sister-in-law was amazing, doing all of the cooking while defusing any little tantrums her sons had (which were few but still!).

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I also got to play and get lots of cuddles from my nephews. Yes, they’re adorable and they love their Auntie Becca. Be jealous.

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And then we came right back home to begin another week of work. Back to sitting duty for my husband, and receptionist work and book promotion for me.

In the Dark was published yesterday, by the way. Hooray!

I’ve been looking forward to this since the day I signed the contract for it but was super disappointed when I found out how many people pre-ordered it.

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I guess because my first book did so well, I assumed that the second one would be just as popular. I’m doing all the same things for In the Dark as I did for I Dare You to Love Me, the one difference being the book reviews. I Dare You to Love Me had reviews up on Amazon the day it was released, thus boosting its popularity. I was only able to acquire one review for In the Dark‘s release date. Others are coming, though. I can only hope that they’ll be positive and spark the interest of more readers.

In the mean time, I’m utilizing reader and author groups on Facebook and Twitter, posting quotes, snippets of reviews, and links to purchase. Three times a week. Of course, I’m using this blog too. I’ve heard conflicting opinions on whether hosting contests and giveaways are still popular ways to inspire interest. My publisher recommended talking about the book and any other books I’m working on, but I’m not sure how to do that without giving too much away…

Night Owl Reviews is putting together packages of bookmarks, thin coasters, business cards, and short excerpts to mail to their readers. They’re currently looking for romance authors to provide some of these promo items for them to mail and I’d love to get all over that. I’m just waiting for the next paycheck. Because it costs some money to sign up. That’s the hardest thing, I’ve found. A lot of promotional services cost money these days and I’m living on a budget.

Anyone have any suggestions on free, effective ways to promote? I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have on the subject. What are some things that have worked for you, authors? What are some things that have spurred your interest in a book, readers?

A much kneeded break

Back in September I wrote a blog post about my husband tearing his meniscus. It just occurred to me last week that I never followed up. After the official diagnosis, my husband went through approximately seven weeks of physical therapy while we waited for his work insurance to approve corrective surgery. During that whole time, he was limping along on crutches and on “sitting duty only” at work.

The week of Thanksgiving, we finally got the approval we needed. The surgery was scheduled for Cyber Monday. I drove him to the surgical center at five in the morning. My grandparents very graciously offered to sit with me while he was in surgery. Because neither my car nor my husband’s truck could fit him with his new, rigid knee brace, they drove him back to our house in their car. And ever since then, I’ve taken on his responsibilities on top of mine.

It was easy at first. He was in pain and physically incapable of doing even little things on his own. I could see how miserable and frustrated he was. I was willing to do anything it took to make him comfortable. I happily served his food and jumped up to get his drinks or his medicine. I did all the chores around the house. I even scooped the cat litter, something my husband has done without complaint since we got married, something I abhor doing because of what it does to my sinuses. I changed out the five-gallon water bottle and brought in the groceries all by myself. I often forgot to put the trashcans on the curb on Thursday mornings but I got better at remembering.

My husband was so appreciative, apologizing repeatedly for not being able to help.

But, the more time has passed, the harder it has been to do everything with a good attitude. Because it’s exhausting. I feel like a kernel of corn popping around in a corn popper, rushing around to get things done, finally sitting down to rest, only to realize I forgot to do something or get something for him. And up I get again. He is still appreciative and he still apologizes, but (if I’m honest) those words are starting to lose their impact. Him being appreciative or apologetic doesn’t change anything. I still have to do everything.

Traveling to Wisconsin was what pushed me over the limit, I think. I’ve come to love traveling with my husband because he’s so calm and collected at the airport. Plus, he packs lightly and efficiently, which helps. But this time around, I had to do the packing for both of us. All of his winter wear is in boxes, scattered in various closets around the house, so I had to do a lot of scurrying and searching. Once everything was assembled, I was the one dashing from window to window to door, checking locks. I was the one hauling our dog and her kennel to a friend’s house. I was the one pulling our enormous rolling suitcase around while carrying the large backpack carry-on plus my purse and my heavy jacket. I was in charge of our tickets, checking in our bag, and getting all of our things through security. I was stressed out. He got to ride a wheelchair.

Then we got to my mother-in-law’s house. We had a blast with our family, but I took an hour long nap every day we were there. At the time, I was confused as to why I was so tired. Looking back now, it’s obvious. I was in the kitchen with my mother-in-law half the time, whipping up eggs and waffles and french toast and bacon and cookies and pie. When I wasn’t in the kitchen, I was rushing around the house, getting things for my husband. I had two evenings where I got to sit and enjoy a card game or a movie. Then we flew back home and went right back to work. I didn’t get much rest while on my vacation. Still, I comforted myself with the thought that I had the Friday before New Years off, which meant a long weekend of resting.

But it wasn’t really. I spent that time cleaning and cooking some more and helping my husband. Another week is almost over and I’m still as tired as I was before. I need another vacation, one where I don’t. Do. Anything.

Anyway, the good news is that my husband is healing. He’s not in pain anymore, which is good. He can comfortably bend his knee to ninety degrees and even put some weight on it. We have another doctor’s appointment this upcoming Tuesday. We’re both hoping the doctor will give the “okay” for him to ditch the crutches and start physical therapy. Then life will slowly start going back to normal. I think.

I’d like to say that this experience has grown me as an individual and has strengthened our marriage, but I don’t think I can. Not yet. What I can say is this: I have a new found respect for women whose husbands have a disability. I mean, I always admired them but now that I’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like…they’re definitely on a pedestal. At least in my case, there’s an end in sight. I can’t imagine doing what I’ve been doing every single day for the rest of my life and keeping a good attitude throughout. That takes a kind of patience and endurance that I clearly haven’t developed yet.

And maybe that’s the lesson to be learned here; I still have some growing up to do.