7.05.2017

#IWSG JULY: There will be ups and there will be downs.


It’s another IWSG posting day when we share our insecurities and encourage each other. For today’s hop, Captain Alex’s trusty helpers are Tamara Narayan, Pat Hatt, Patricia Lynne, Juneta Key, and Doreen McGettigan.


What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

There will be ups and there will be downs, but all along the way, there will be people to help you up, to tug you along, to help you see past--and hurdle--the upcoming challenges and frustrations.

Writers are encouragers, and we need one another to talk us through giving up, to talk us out of packing up and going home.

Even John Green, an author who reached enormous success, had a down period. I know this, because he's like many of us--he shared it. He was honest and open and he admitted to feeling scared, to hitting a low point in writing. He'd had so much success that he ended up with writer's block, afraid to fail. He felt he would be measured against his previous novels, and then couldn't bring himself to write-- because of the possibility of writing poorly and failing.

But, I heard recently he has another book coming out! So, he faced his fears and is willing to face his readers again with something new.

We need to do the same.

We need to face our fears and look failure in the face. It's the only way to find success again.

Now, each of us will have a different measure of success and failure. We all have goals, and, while our end goals may be the same, our daily, benchmark goals are probably different. My current goal: I want to have consistent sales. For many that may be 25 sales per day. For me? I'm happy if I sell 1-3 books per day. My goal right now is consistency, and I'm not meeting it. My sales fluctuate, and consequently, my Amazon sales rank continues to fluctuate also (between 19,000 and 300,000).

Do I look at authors who sell consistently and have sales rank I envy? Yes. Do I imagine they don't have days of failure? Yes. But I'm assuming that can't be true. I'm sure they see another goal in the distance and, therefore, while working to meet it, they must also have days where they feel like they are failing. Or, at least, they may feel they haven't found the success they are working toward--yet.

When our goals are not being met, when we are in a down period, we may need to make changes.

The ups and downs may mean being reactive. Making changes. Researching. Learning. Being malleable. Knowing we'll never know everything--no, accepting we'll never know everything. Allowing ourselves to learn little by little. Listening to others. Taking chances. Growing and evolving. Celebrating small successes and looking forward to larger ones, even when in a valley of doubt, insecurity, and failure. Taking those failures and turning them into successes, because we've gained knowledge from them and allowed them to help us move another direction. Or, to keep someone else from falling in that same pit.

Watch, listen, and learn from other authors.

Other authors can serve as our role models. Many are open with what they've tried. What's worked. What hasn't. Pay attention, and give their suggestions and advice a try.

While my success (1-3 sales per day and 1,000 page reads per day) may be seen as failure to an author who's found greater success than that, it's my current place on my journey. It's not my starting point, I'm a couple months past that, and each week has brought new challenges and new successes and my goals continue to evolve.

An author whose advice I follow is Derek Murphy. One of the things that draws me to his advice is that he's humble and willing to admit when he's messed up. That is what has given me confidence to try new things, because he's hugely successful and yet, his road hasn't been perfect. Sometimes he's impulsive. Sometimes he tries something new and it doesn't work. But much of what he does DOES work, and he's open and willing to share it with other authors.

Be patient, but know when to move on. Know when something is or isn't working.

Marketing has been my biggest challenge, and learning to be patient, as well as making changes, is what I'm working on right now. Sometimes I'm too impulsive and I make too many changes too quickly.

Sometimes I don't know what the problem is.

Right now I'm changing direction, changing gears, and trying something unknown and scary, but what I was doing wasn't moving me in a new, more successful direction, so it's time to make a change and see what happens next.

Get organized.

I also need to better organize my spending and income. My husband told me that unless I am keeping detailed track, writing is still my hobby and not my business.

I have my excel spreadsheets now, but I still need to work on consistently updating it.

Be smart. Be strategic. Have foresight.

I've been working on making sure my books match the genre they fit into and recently changed my e-book covers.

I took my first book out of the Kindle Unlimited program this week, which is a scary, scary change for me. I was finally reaching 1,000 page reads per day and now I've eliminated that income for this month, BUT I know I need to find my readers. And so, I'm including it in Book Funnel giveaways with the hopes that readers will find me and my books, and though I'm losing income this month, finding readers will help my business down the road when I continue to release book after book in this series.

I hope.

Share the knowledge.

I'm pretty low on the pole of author-know-how and I'm pretty fresh at publishing and marketing, but I've learned since I started out, and that means I have info and strategies and resources to share. I'm a first grade teacher, so sharing and teaching is who I am, but I also feel like I'm failing when I'm not sharing. I wrote a So You Want To Be An Indie Author (part one) post MONTHS ago, and every week I plan to write the part two and part three, and at this point, part four. But I haven't yet. So, a goal for this month is to get those posts out there.

I couldn't be more grateful for the other writers and authors who are transparent with their journey, so I need to be open and honest with you all out there too. Just in case there's someone out there in need of a hand or a word of encouragement. Because my know-how posts will NOT tell you how I've done everything perfect and right or how I became a best-selling author overnight. No, my posts will tell you what I've done, what a new indie author might expect to do or sell or experience. What NOT to do, what to try, what has worked and what has not worked for me. I will share the questions I've had and the resources where I found the answers.  I will share how even though I'm NOT, nor anywhere near, making my same income as teaching, how I still plan to--someday.  And I'll make a plan to learn how to get there. With your help. Because you're someone who makes a difference and helps me get through the constant ups and downs of writing and publishing.

So, thanks. For being here. Or for being there for someone on their journey.

And whether you are currently at an up or down point on your journey, keep going, and never give up.

#IWSG rocks.

~Christy










6.07.2017

#IWSG June: Just Keep Writing, Just Keep Writing... but not marketing.






I can't say that I ever wanted to quit writing.

I know I wanted to quit querying and doing twitter contests and this week I may have considered quitting publishing, but never the writing itself.  Of course, without all the other things, I'm not sure what I'd be writing FOR. I'm not one who is writing stories purely for my own enjoyment anymore. I want others to read them.

So I need to keep writing and publishing and writing and publishing.  Because that's the route I've chosen for my current paranormal angel series. (I never queried it, because every time I looked at MSWL for my contemporary realistic books, I saw most agents had NO angels and demons on their lists... so that was that!)

I'M NOT GOING TO QUIT

My eleven year old (who has been expressing lately that he's sick of me writing, because I just released a second book and the last two weeks were less than pleasant as I wrapped up a school year and formatted the paperback (w/o vellum!)) asked me yesterday, "Mom, what happens if you just don't write the third book in your series?" I said, "I wouldn't do that. I have a business with a product to deliver, and I will deliver it." He said, "But has that ever happened? Has anyone said they were going to have a series, but then quit in the middle and not publish the rest?" I said, "I'm sure that's happened." I'm not sure that it has, but I could understand if it has! I mean, I'm exhausted right now, and if I had to put the next book out this month, I wouldn't be able to do it! But I'm going to take a week or two to recharge, read books I've been waiting to read for months, write something different to give my brain a break, and THEN I'll get the third book out to readers.

Just keep writing and publishing.  This is the business route I've chosen, and though tired at the moment, I'm loving it. 

The marketing, however, is another story.

I'M GIVING IT A YEAR (and five books)

I'm having the darndest time finding my readers. Teens who read clean angel fantasy. That's who I need. I'm a teacher, so the middle schoolers have been devouring my books. I sold about 70 paperbacks (in person, through Amazon, and through one bookstore that's carrying my book) and maybe around 400 (off the top of my head, I haven't checked recently to double check this number) e-books between sales, page reads, and free days (this is for book one that's been on sale since January).  Lately, though, even with a new release... crickets.  I had 31 pre-orders for book 2 and about 6 e-book sales since and 10 paperbacks so far.  (Book two released May 31.)

WHERE ARE MY READERS?

I'm doing a book blitz via blogs and social media... Zero sales have come from it, though MAYBE the readers who are adding it to their TBR really will decide to read it in the next weeks/months and not forget about my book once the $15 Amazon gift card prize is over and done with...

I NEED HELP :)

I clearly don't understand how to best utilize the 7 keywords on Amazon, though I've read countless posts on why this is important and how to zero in my niche.  Nope, unless someone tells me the magic keywords for my books, I guess it's not going to happen! Though I did add paranormal angel romance to my title yesterday to help reach my niche readers...

I have a newsletter with about 500 subscribers (1000 more to be added this month through a Ripley Patton giveaway), but I'm not sure THEY even read what I write.  I had a survey and about 15 responded and they prefer paranormal to realistic fiction (good there) and free/cheap books, mostly paperbacks, though... so they're library readers.  One, I repeat ONE subscriber wanted to join my street team and THREE joined my ARC team. One of those readers reviewed book one for me.  Not the hundreds Derek Murphy recommends.

I have my book up for reviews on the same site running my blitz... so far nothing coming from that either.

The first book in  my series is free today, so I'll see if that gets readers for book two, but I put it for free last month on the first day book two was up for pre-order and those 200 readers haven't reviewed or moved onto book 2 (Well, except for the 31 that may have been the ones pre-ordering.)

I'M TAKING A BREAK

So, for this month, in addition to reading and blogging about the books I'm reading, I'm going to try to be more transparent about my self-publishing journey, blog more on my author blog, work on a free book in my series (book 1.5) to give away to my subscribers and try to reach out to readers more about books in general and less about my series specifically.

I'm done doing giveaways and tours and plopping sale images up on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

Do you have any other suggestions for me?

Anyone else struggle with finding, and keeping, your readers?

So, I'll keep writing and publishing, but not "marketing". I'm going to reach out to readers by reading and sharing the books I'm reading and reaching out to other authors who are taking the same path I've decided to take, to share what I've learned along the way, to share the resources I've saved up.  My time will be better spent and the outcome more fulfilling.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Christy

What is the Insecure Writer's Support Group?

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Remember, the question is optional!

June 7 Question: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

The awesome co-hosts for the June 7 posting of the IWSG will be JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!








5.31.2017

Happy Release Day to YA Author Cecelia Earl!


When Smoke Rains Down is available in paperback and e-book TODAY!

In the aftermath of an explosion and Homecoming battle, Julia tries to form some semblance of a routine: work, study, visit her brother. Unable to confide in anyone about her double life of being both human and angel, and fearful she'll bring death and destruction to those she loves, she pulls away from her family and best friend.

When demons once again start to show up at every turn, seemingly bringing about her brother's deepening depression, she demands her sword from Nicholas. Ever the stern Guardian Angel, he forbids her from using it. Isolated, she takes protecting her brother into her own hands.

Thrust into a dark world of conspiring demons, Julia is in more danger than she ever imagined possible. To stop evil from spreading and overtaking those she loves, she’ll have to seek out the one person she mistrusts most.

Enter a complex world where humans, demons, and angels collide, all battling to rule the Earth. For readers who enjoy young adult paranormal romance and dark fantasy. Fans of City of Bones, Hush Hush, Unearthly, Halo, and Hidden Wings will be captivated by this unique take on angels and demons.

When Smoke Rains Down is Book Two in the Kingdom Come series. Book Three, the final installment, will be out Summer 2017.

“An AMAZING sequel that leaves me DYING for the next one!” ~ early reader of When Smoke Rains Down



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cecelia Earl graduated with a degree in education and has been teaching ever since. She’s a wife, a mom of three boys, and an owner of a magical laundry pile that never stops growing. She lives near enough to Green Bay, WI that her refrigerator is always stocked with cheese, and the first colors her children learned were green and gold. She’s a teacher by day, a mom always, and a writer in her sleep, but that’s okay because being an author is a dream come true. She writes angel books for young and youngish adults. If you feel young, she writes for you—whether or not you feel particularly angelic.

Receive forthcoming book updates, access to giveaways, and exclusive bonus content if you're on Cecelia's email newsletter list. Sign up HERE!


When Smoke Rains Down Excerpt

Chapter One

The smoke clears. A quick scan of the room proves no customers are disturbed, and this disturbs me even more than having to douse flames already this morning. Apparently, they're all so accustomed to Travis's daily mishaps it no longer fazes anyone. It's like everything's the same… except the part about me being part-angel.

"Unplug the toaster, Travis," I tell him. "We don't need the place to burn down a second time."

His eyes fly up to meet mine, and his face reddens. "Oh, yup, got it." He yanks the toaster cord from the wall. He dares to handle the no-longer-inflamed pieces of bread with two fingers, tossing one after another into a trashcan.

I sigh, hand him a pair of tongs, and clap him on the shoulder. "Save us from paying for your employee medical bills for burnt fingers, please."

I hoist a tray up on my shoulder, steadying the mugs and plates, and notice the empty mugs in front of the customers at the counter. I pivot to grab a jug of regular coffee and pour, filling one mug after another.

"Julia, let me do that. You're going to drop your tray."

As if. "I've got it, Trav."

"Really, that's a heavy load on your shoulder."

"Nope. Thanks, though."

And that's when two customers walk in wearing masks. I realize it's Halloween, but at their entrance, my wings threaten to emerge and my nerves go on high alert. I'm pretty sure they're not here for the coffee.

Then, between their smiles distorting into fang-filled grins, and trying to keep my wings from flying out and knocking down every dish and appliance nearby, I jolt, and the tray and pot of coffee all go crashing down. I've still not figured out the trying-to-stay-a-transparent-human-angel thing, and I don't trust Nicholas's promise that it'll just happen on its own, but now I've disturbed the customers.
Customers seated comfortably at our newly remodeled granite counter top upon newly purchased metal-backed swivel chairs jump up, shrieking. Probably burnt by scalding coffee.

The entire place is in disarray.

And the demonic-clad Halloween duo have disappeared. They weren't wearing masks; they were real demons. To the other non-angel customers, they appeared to be just two men like any other that came in for coffee or a meal. If only humans knew the invisible danger that lurks around them.

"Julia, I told you I'd help." Travis is now shaking his head at me disapprovingly. At me. And not the other way around.

Mom comes rushing in from the kitchen in the back, faster than I'd like to see her move only weeks after her release from the hospital. "What happened? Travis, what did you do?"

He throws his hands up innocently. "Nothing. It wasn't me. It was her." He points at me. "She was trying to handle a full tray and pour coffee at the same time."

"Julia, you're not an island. It's okay to accept help." She looks around at the counter and floor, now covered in coffee and shattered glass. "In fact, you have to start accepting help. Don't try to do everything yourself all the time. It'll only end in disaster. Clearly."

I sigh. There's no use explaining I would've handled everything fine had demons not come in to taunt and threaten me.

For weeks, there'd been no sign of any angel or demon drama, but little by little in the past couple of days, I've started getting glimpses of that other world again. And my back pain has been acting up.
It's like it's all starting to happen again.

And Nicholas won't let me have access to my sword.

"Go back and finish making the food, Mom." I grab rags and start mopping up the mess, starting with the customers. "I've got this."

"Let Travis help you, for crying out loud." She tightens her lips, but heads back to her stove.

"Is everyone okay?" I check over the customers waiting to return to their soon-to-be-dry chairs. "Steve? Monica?"

"We're fine. Just got spooked," Monica says. She's in her thirties and recently moved into town with her kids after being hired by none other than Mr. Luca Star. He's started up some new business and now employs half the town. And that's in addition to the business in which he offered me a job.
And when I turned him down, he showed up at my high school dance looking less like a businessman and more like… the devil.

While I mop up the coffee, Travis collects the glass pieces. It doesn't take long to get the place back in order. Perfectly toasted bread is served and coffee is poured into unbroken mugs.

"On the house, everyone. I'm really sorry about the disturbance."

All is right with the world again, but I can't stop looking over my shoulder for warped faces and tar-dripping fangs every chance I get.

I know trouble can't be far away, not with my wings twinging and the stone in my necklace blazing with heat.

It's only a matter of time before everything goes awry again.

Only this time, I will be ready.

And nobody but the demons will be hurt.




5.30.2017

When Smoke Rains Down– An Excerpt From My Favorite Chapter

excerpt2


Book Two in my Kingdom Come trilogy will be released TOMORROW! I'm nervous and excited to have it out in the world. I'd never written a sequel before, and the writing process had all sorts of scary factors. Namely, I didn't want to disappoint readers. I worried I'd forget about something they might want to read more about from Book One, or that I'd take the story in a direction they wouldn't like, or do something with a character they wouldn't approve of. But, it's done now... so nothing left to do, but wait and find out.

Here's an excerpt from When Smoke Rains Down.

My Favorite Chapter

Nicholas is doing pull-ups from a low-hanging tree branch and doesn't acknowledge my arrival, so I follow suit. I squat and leap up to grab a branch. I'm getting stronger. He used to have to hoist me up to reach. I've also doubled the amount I can do before taking a break to do lunges and squats.
"Sprints," he calls out when I've finished all the sets of arm and leg workouts.

I race back and forth between two of the tallest tree trunks while he times me. It's apparent why I've been eating so much and obvious how much strength I've gained. Yet the stony expression on his face remains. This workout will make me ache for days.

When finally I'm dripping with sweat and fatigued, he walks over to me.

"Time for your lesson." Then he walks to the center of the clearing without waiting for a response.
I allow myself two seconds to close my eyes and take a deep breath.

"Now, Angel."

I push out my wings and push up off the ground and glide over to him, lowering myself gently behind him. He turns and narrows his eyes. I put my wings away, proud of myself even if he's not. Flying had been rocky at best the first few times I'd tried it. I'd had no control and crashed into more than a few branches—and one bird. Poor thing.

"Summon the bow and arrow we worked with last time," he orders.

Bow, I think. Nothing happens. I reach my hand out into the air. Bow. A spear materializes in my closed fist. I growl. "It's all I ever get!"

"Calm down. Try again."

I let go of the spear and it disintegrates. "Bow," I yell. The spear is back in my fist.

He sighs. "The spear is the lowest of the weapons. You have to work your way up."

"I know this," I say through gritted teeth. "Spear, bow, rope, chains…" I don't bother to mention my sword. I've stopped asking for it.

I try to calm down. Spear, I think. I get the spear I've pictured. One that's longer and narrower than the one I'd been conjuring up. I let it go and take a deep breath through my nose. Bow. The same short, thick spear materializes.

Nicholas reaches into the air and pulls a bow and arrow from it with ease. He hands them to me. "Show me how to set the arrow and aim for the target."

Nicholas had explained the reason the demons had overrun the hospital was most likely because of Noah, either because they're after him, or after something he has. He wants me to be ready the next time I'm faced with a hoard of demons on my own. He wants me to be able to get rid of demons from a distance by sending an arrow across a space, and though I can't summon the bow and arrow, my aim is pretty good.

"Bullseye," I say after striking the center of the target three times in a row.

"Pride will get you nowhere," he says, retrieving the arrows and returning them to me.

Rather than aim the arrow at the target, I aim it at a knot in a tree and strike its center.

"Julia, focus," he shouts, his voice stern and reprimanding. I can't stand the annoyance that flares to life in his eyes when I don't just do as he tells me. He's so bossy and controlling. More than once, I've nearly rammed him alongside his head with a metal object. After half an hour more, he relaxes. "Better. Now…"

He doesn't get a chance to finish his command, because Michael has entered the clearing. Twice before he's come to oversee either my progress or Nicholas's training technique. I'm not sure which. Nicholas is that much tenser when he's around, like he's trying to prove himself or something.
And sure enough, he straightens and his shoulders go rigid. I guess he's been loosening up around me, because the difference in his personality is laughable. His face is all hard angles and his hands move at lightning speed. He won't look me in the eyes.

I summon a spear and defend myself as Nicholas comes at me. We continue lunging at one another and defending jabs until Michael leaves with a nod and a "Good work."

Nicholas gets up off the ground where he pinned me and brushes off his clothes.

"Wouldn't it serve you better to cool it when he's here? Let me win and pin you or something?"

He looks up from buttoning his overshirt. "No."

"Well, I mean if you want to look like this almighty trainer, then wouldn't it benefit you to make it look like I'm able to fight well?"

He strolls over to me where I'm still standing holding my weapon. "No. If you want to overpower me, then you have to earn it. Do it authentically. I don't play games to win. Or lose."

I nod, chewing on my cheek, and then he adds, surprising me, "You are able to fight well."

I'm almost touched by the compliment, so touched that I lunge forward, kick Nicholas's feet out from under him, and land on top of him. I push the long metal rod across his throat and pin him to the ground.

"Thanks," I say.

He looks at me and whips me around, pinning me with the edge of a blade to my throat. "You made that too easy. Stay on the offensive and pay attention."

He lays the dagger down in the dirt and holds himself above me with his palms on the ground, looking at me. His breath is on my face, and suddenly it's a gazillion times hotter and harder to breathe. He's so beautiful to look at when he's not scolding me and bossing me around. I realize how very much I needed to hear that compliment come from him, how very much I wanted to make him proud of me. He runs his tongue over his bottom lip. I take in a sharp breath. His eyes are on mine a moment longer before he pushes up off the ground and jumps to his feet.

"We're done for today."

Once again, he strides off, leaving me to show myself out.

"Sword," I demand of the air around me. A bow and arrow appear in my fists. "Gah!" I shout at the trees.

I let the weapons drop into the shimmering dirt and stomp off through the trees.