Riding the Changing Tides

The one constant in life is change.

It’s a saying just odd enough to be true, and it is. The only thing we can rely on happening in our lives, no matter our age, our wealth or lack thereof, where we live or how we live, it won’t stay the same. Oh, elements of it might; the big things might not shift today, or maybe they will. Or the small details might remain static for a time. But trust me, the time will come when change will come to you, whether from an outside force or from deep within your being.

I was going to say that 2017 has been a year of change for our family, and it has been. But then again, so was 2014, and to some extent, 2015. The difference was that those were smaller, less-perceptible shifts. This year, we had two types of change: one that took us by surprise (mostly) and required adjustment after the fact. The other type we could see from a distance and prepare for its arrival.

Sort of.

My husband’s parting from the church wasn’t a shock, but it was a surprise, and what happened in the aftermath put all of us through an emotional wringer. The departure of our youngest daughter, Cate, for college in Maine was neither a shock nor a surprise. We’d known since she began her career at Seminole State College that she’d be transferring somewhere for her last two years of school. There was a possibility that it might have been in-state, at University of Florida, but once she won the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, that choice dropped down the list. Her number one pick was Unity College in Maine, and that is where she’s going.

If you haven’t looked at a map in a while, Maine is just about as far as you can get from Florida and still stay on the Eastern seaboard. It’s a 21+ hour drive. Cate won’t be popping home for quick weekend visits. I won’t be driving up there to have lunch with her mid-week when she’s struggling with a class or a situation. Once we drive away next Sunday–a week from tomorrow–I probably won’t see her until Thanksgiving.

Now, this isn’t the first time she’s gone away. After graduating from homeschool a year early, she took a gap year and spent it with a family in Gettysburg, where she worked and learned and grew. She was gone from February through August that year. But somehow, that was different. That year, I saw her in March and in May and in July. I can get to Gettysburg in a one-day drive; I’ve done it. Plus, she was living with the Youngs, who quickly became her second family, in an area that was familiar, only about two hours from our South Jersey family.  That was different than sending her to a place where she knows not a soul, will be living in a dorm situation for the first time ever and will be mostly on her own.

Cate is the youngest girl in our family, so this isn’t the first time we’ve experienced change. Our oldest daughter has been married six years, and that was an adjustment, but she and her husband live about 30 minutes away, and we are blessed that we see them about every week. Our other two are still at home, and we are very cognizant how lucky we are to still have them here. We won’t be empty-nesters for a while.

Last night, we went down to Disney World to see the fireworks and meet with the some friends so Cate could say good-bye to them. I stood there at the Polynesian, watching the display of lights, and I thought back ten years, to the summer we moved to Florida. I’ve written about that time before. My parents had both just died, within a year of each other. In the two weeks following my mother’s passing, our oldest daughter graduated from high school, we moved both our home and my mother’s to our new house in Florida. We said good-bye to the place that my husband and I had both called home from childhood, and where we’d lived for thirteen years.

Talk about change!

I used to say that the first year after we’d move was all about healing, and it was. But looking back now, I think actually the past ten years have been about healing . . . and growing. Ten years ago, I hadn’t written a book. I’d never been anything but a stay-at-home homeschooling mom and a wife. Ten years ago, Clint worked for a paint company and dreamed of going to seminary. Ten years ago, our kids were 18, 15, 11 and 6.

In many ways, an outsider might assume that our lives won’t be changed too much by Cate leaving for college. All of the bedrooms in our small house will still be occupied. We’ll still have four around the dinner table. We’ll probably stick to a similar routine and lifestyle.

But it’s in the small, precious parts of life that her absence will be most keenly felt. Often, Cate and I are the first two awake, and we’ve had deep, heart-wrenching, laughter-provoking, tear-laden, hysterical conversations around the breakfast table, over coffee. I know the house will be quieter, because Cate sings all the time, and never at a low volume. I know I’ll miss her quick drive-by hugs, her “I love you, Mama”s dropped into my lap at unexpected moments. I’ll miss her insights into what she’s reading, something she heard, something she learned . . . I’ll even miss her yelling at the cats.

In many ways, Cate is the daughter I’ve had the most combat with–when she was sixteen, she struggled with friend issues, with the need for freedom and with finding herself. She had the hardest adjustment when we moved from New Jersey to Florida. But those times of frustration for both of us somehow only made us closer. She’s the daughter who cries with me when I miss my parents. She’s the one who calls me on it when I’m being unreasonable or outright wrong. Cate speaks the truth to the best of her ability, and while it isn’t always what I want to hear, it always makes me think.

I’m so freaking proud of her. I know she is going to completely rock the rest of her college career. I know she is going adjust to life in Maine and love it. Her passion and drive may very well change the world. I want to encourage her with everything I have, and I will.

But I won’t say I won’t be sad. I won’t say the change won’t take some adjusting. Watching the fireworks last night, thinking over the last ten years and looking ahead to the next, I wondered what they might bring: weddings? Grandchildren? More farewells, both expected and otherwise? Probably yes, to all of the above.

I think the best way to cope with change that I’ve found is with gratitude. I can’t control what happens, but I can be appreciative of my blessings. I am so glad Cate was home these past two years for the start of her college career. It was wonderful to be part of that time. I’m grateful that my children not only love each other but truly like each other, and that they are all dreading this time of parting. If they didn’t mind it, it would be even sadder. I’m grateful that I made the decision to slow down at the start of the summer. The time I had with all of the family is something I’d never want to miss. I’m grateful for our week at the beach, for the laughter, the walks on the beach, the swimming, the movies, the food . . . I’m grateful that even when our lives and futures feel tenuous, we can rely on each other.

I have to go back to Supernatural for a quotation that says it best:

Other things may change us. But we start and end with family. 

The glamorous life of an author . . .

I’ve begun to write this about five times, and each time, I’ve quit. It didn’t feel right. But today, an odd juxtaposition of events made me think that maybe it’s time.

This is brutal honesty here, folks. This isn’t woe-is-me angst, nor is it a complaint or whining or begging for sales. It’s simply a state of the union post–the union between author and readers, and the union between all of us in this world.

I’m an author. I’ve been published for five and a half years. I have over fifty books in my backlist. I work hard. This is my only paid job, and I take it seriously.

I release between 6-8 books each year, sometimes more, sometimes less. This year, I’ve released eleven already, with at least three more new material-books planned as well as several additional box sets.

I love my readers. Oh, you have no idea! I adore them. They make me laugh, make me cry with happiness; they boost me up when I’m at the end of my rope, and they come see me when I travel. I couldn’t do this without them.

Like many other authors, I’ve been experiencing a trouble drop in sales over the past seven or eight months. Now, don’t get me wrong. I never was among the top-list six-figures-a-year earners, but I used to do all right. More recently, the harder I work, the less I earn.

It’s okay, because I love what I do. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone . . . but I’d do it for free.

I just don’t think I should have to do it for free.

Out there in the larger world, there are apparently a few misconceptions about how much most authors earn and the so-called glamour of our lifestyle. Over the last few weeks, I realized just how widespread that misunderstanding is.

A few weeks ago, I received a flurry of emails from people who had signed up for my newsletter. I have in place an automation system, as do many authors; readers who subscribe are offered four of my first-in-series books free, as a thank you. Now of course, I hope they will want to read the rest of the books in those series! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

The emails I received, though, were from readers who were unhappy with this situation. Several told me that they were displeased with the provider I use for the freebies. Others wanted the other books free. A couple told me they’d already read one of the freebies and demanded that they receive another book in its place.

When I responded to one, explaining that there wasn’t much I could do if the freebie provider didn’t work for her, the answer floored me. She said berated me for being a selfish author, saying, “It’s just an ebook. It didn’t cost you anything to write it. With what you’re charging, you can afford to give these away.”

Huh.

Of course, there’s a lot wrong with what she said. It did cost me something to write that book. It took me many hours of my own time. Factor in proofreading, formatting and cover art, and an ebook isn’t exactly free. Consider things like promotion and publicity.  Now, I’m fortunate that I can swap for some of those services and that my formatter is amazing and kind, but still . . . the effort that goes into any book isn’t free.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time that I’ve received messages or emails like this. But this time, I got a bunch, and then . . .

All of that was on my mind when something else happened. In fact, it happened more than once in a relatively short span of time. My husband is in ministry, and just now, he is without paid employment after the church where he’d been a priest eliminated his position in January of this year. (That’s a longer story, and if you want to know about it, check out the faith blog I’m part of, A Pen and A Prayer.)

We’ve been tremendously blessed by so many during this difficult time. I am filled with gratitude. But within the last few weeks, I realized that some people had a misconception about how we’re doing. Those who are close to us know the score, but some a little farther removed reacted with surprise when my husband confessed that we’re struggling financially. Apparently, they assumed that as an author, I was raking in the big bucks. They figured that with my job, it was okay that Father Clint wasn’t earning anything. Maybe they’ve read about the big advances authors used to receive, or maybe they have no idea what it means to be an indie author. Maybe they figured all authors are millionaires.

Um . . . no.

I’ve spoken about this situation with friends in other professions. Clearly it is not a misconception limited to the arts–and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it, too.

Not all doctors are rolling in the dough.

Not all attorneys are filthy rich.

Not all athletes are pulling in seven figures.

And not all authors are leading the glamorous life. <cue Sheila E.>

So what’s the point of this rambling post?  I guess it’s multi-pointed.

First, please don’t de-value any artists’ work by asking that it be given to you free. If it is offered that way, great! Take it with thanks. I love to share books with the loyal readers who support me and enjoy my work. I have no problem doing that. But never assume that an artist can afford to give it away, and please don’t belittle us for expecting some kind of compensation for our chosen profession.

Second, never assume that you know anyone’s situation. The author signing books at your favorite event may be eating ramen noodles for a month to afford the table at that signing. The family next door whom you assume is just fine might be barely scraping by in reality. More people than we know are a missed paycheck away from serious problems. Maybe you’re one of us, too. That doesn’t give either of us the right to make assumptions about others. Let’s agree we won’t do that.

Instead, let’s go around each day, relating to each other while holding onto to the premise that no one’s life is perfect, that we’re all dealing with crap on one level or another, and that by offering understanding instead of judgement, we just might make this world a nicer place.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Announcing the #MeetCute Books!

 

Boy meets girl. It’s the way romances usually begin . . . and while we all love a happy ending, it’s the #MeetCute that wins our hearts.
How did you two meet?
The #MeetCute Books each have a unique answer to that query. Some might make you swoon, others might make you giggle . . . and some may make you blush.
Twelve authors. Twelve stand-alone contemporary romance novels. Twelve stories that will make your heart beat a little faster.
Because it’s all about the #MeetCute.
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We are excited to announce the #MeetCute Books!
Starting on June 27th, we’ll release one #MeetCute Book a month for a year. The release months and featured authors (and titles if available) are below. Please visit all the authors and get to know them, if you’re not already a fan–this is a treasure trove of romance talent right here!
July: Rene Folsom BY CHOICE (A Playing Games Spin-Off Novel)
September: K.S. Thomas
November: Sylvie Fox WITH OR WITHOUT YOU
December: Lyssa Layne DEUCE OF HEARTS
January: Anne Conley KISS OF FORTUNE
February: Lisa Hughey
May: JK Rivers  IT HAPPENED ON A TUESDAY
Visit our website to find out about the latest releases, cover reveals and more! Like our Facebook page to keep up.  And sign up for our #MeetCute Books Breaking News  so that you never miss a release or update–or a special prize!
The first release under the #MeetCute Books logo is FIFTY FROGS by Tawdra Kandle. More information about this book will be on our website and newsletter on May 2nd . . . and the awesome cover will be revealed on May 16th.
(But psssst . . . it’s already up for preorder on iBooks. You can read the blurb there!)
Until then . . . keep it #cute!

Amazon, Authors, and Why I’m Wide

Where can I buy your books?

Paper cut of heart on old bookI’m so glad you asked.

In this day and age, you have so many options when it comes to choosing where to buy your books. I’m happy to say that you can find my books at most of your favorite vendors!

I am not, and never will be, an Amazon-only author.

I remember back in the early 1990’s, Amy Grant released a Christmas album that was exclusive to Target stores. That was a cool promotion, because she recorded a special song, and they did some cute ads together. But she didn’t pull all of her other music from other stores and only sell through Target. Target didn’t say, “Well, in order to promote you, you must agree to sell only at our stores.” That would be silly, right?

And yet, that’s what Amazon is doing to authors.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am fully cognizant of the enormous good Amazon did for indie authors. I know that if they hadn’t opened the door for us, the publishing world might not be where it is today. I appreciate that. I’m grateful. I’m perfectly okay with selling my books on Amazon and playing by their rules for the books they carry.

But the playing field there is far from level.

In introducing programs like Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon offered certain advantages to authors who were willing to commit to things, like exclusivity. That’s their prerogative. It’s fair. But when they changed algorithms and standards so that KU and Amazon imprint books received more visibility and promotion as well as ranking advantages, that wasn’t cool. It wasn’t fair to authors OR to readers.

Essentially, Amazon offers me lower visibility and fewer advantages because I choose to publish wide. My books are on iBooks, Nook, Kobo and Google Play, among others. While the company might say that’s just their policy, it’s pretty crazy, when you stop and think about it.

If I chose to only publish with Amazon, my books wouldn’t be available in many countries around the world. They could only be read on a limited number of devices. And most troubling to me, Amazon would be in charge of my publishing destiny.

No, thank you.

And there’s more . . .

On Amazon, we as authors cannot set our books to free for a limited time, as we sometimes like to do when promoting a release. And because Amazon insists on being the lowest price on everything, if another vendor lowers the price one of our books, Amazon will price-match it, sometimes without our knowledge, or can even kick our book off its site. Amazon also can suppress reviews if it suspects a reviewer ‘knows’ the author.

I don’t trust the farmer.

Someone asked me recently why I didn’t like KU, why none of my books are in the program. I responded that I didn’t like the idea of putting all my eggs into one basket when I didn’t trust the farmer. And that’s the bottom line: I don’t trust them.

Any time you give a person or a company too much control over your product, your pricing and your promotion, you’re surrendering a big piece of your future to them.

I would never rule out a day when I might put ONE book into KU. Because I live by the motto Nothing ventured, nothing gained, refusing to take advantage of that program, if a time and book came along where it would fit, I might try it. But I will not put ALL my books into KU.

That’s why in 2017, you’ll see me working with other vendors even more. I’ll talk about that later, but it’s coming.

And you as a reader . . . think about where you’re reading. I have a Kindle, and it’s great. I also have an iPhone, and I read on that, too, both iBooks and on the Kindle and Nook apps.

Consider your options.

Meanwhile . . . did you know that you can buy my paperbacks in a ton of stores you might not expect? You can find my books at:

Walmart

Target

Books A Million

Barnes and Noble 

So keep reading. I’ll keep writing.

Can we chat?

14183769_10154105636729145_3475893206531129845_nSo this is how it works.

I finish writing a book. I have about two minutes of absolute euphoria, and then reality hits.

This wonderful story, the one I’ve just dedicated my life to writing, the one that has wrung every emotion from my heart, now must be shared with the world, which means I need to work on the dreaded P word: promotion.

If you ever become exasperated, feeling you’ve seen the same post over and over or perhaps different posts about the same book . . . trust me, we authors feel the same way about promoting. It’s not our favorite part of being an author.

In my perfect world, I’d finish writing my book and then sit down with a group of my favor readers to chat with them about it. We’d get lost in characters and plot lines and so on . . . and at the end of our lovely tea, they’d go out and tell their friends about the book, who would in turn tell their friends . . . well, you get the gist.

Meanwhile, I’d sit back and work on the next book.

Now, though, my chatting takes place on social media. When I post a picture or a link, it’s my only way of telling people when to expect the next book. Live events are lovely and give me a chance to talk to readers in person, but there’s a limit to how many of them I can do. And so the internet it is.

Of course, I’m very lucky that I have my dear Temptresses with whom to speak. They let me go on and on about characters and stories, and I’m grateful. (If you enjoy my books and want to join us on the Temptress group, go here.) If only we could mystically meet up each time I finish a book and talk it out in person! They’re also awesome about sharing and twisting friends’ arms to get them to read my books . . . I adore their enthusiasm. It’s what keeps me writing.

Regardless of the opportunities offered on the web, nothing beats word of mouth when it comes to books. You telling a friend about a story that captivate you is more effective than fifty Facebook ads. Sharing your favorite reads is so important!

Well . . . since it seems no one is going to come bring me tea and chat about Days of You and Me just now, I guess you’ll keep seeing the pictures, the promos and the posts. If you feel spunky, shares are always appreciated, as are posts and tweets and emails . . . whatever does the trick.

That’s part of this author’s life.

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