Posted in Writing

Should authors self-publish or seek a traditional publisher?

It is said that everyone has a book inside them just waiting to get out, and thanks to advances in self-publishing, getting that book out is easier now than ever. Authors who have previously experienced slammed doors from the gatekeepers (agents, editors, publishers, etc.) are skirting around these middlemen by going indie. By doing this, they are experiencing a multitude of benefits. Authors who self-publish can:

– write about whatever they want instead of what a publisher deems marketable.
– own complete control over the book process from start to finish.
– keep up to 70% of their royalties instead of paying the majority of the book’s profits to the gatekeepers.
– can publish as fast or as slow as they want.
– aren’t under contract.

Of course there are plenty of downfalls to being a self-published author, as well. An author who goes indie is in charge of making sure their book is formatted properly, has an enticing cover and title, is professionally edited, and so on. As you can imagine, this process can be quite costly. Producing just one book can cost more than $1,000. On top of that, the majority of self-published authors, especially those just starting out, won’t make back that amount…often not even close.  (Check out northcoaststories.com for an example of services for self-published authors.)

Then there’s the purpose of those gatekeepers — there are many self-published books that should be edited and rewritten several times, but are still being published. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many self-published books that are wonderful reads. But there are also many that are, well, NOT. These books are the ones with the bad covers, the odd titles, contain spelling and grammar mistakes, and could probably use a few cuts.

Plus, self-published authors must do all of their own marketing, which is something that’s completely unnatural for writers. Often this can look like “Buy my book!” in a series of Tweets.

Finally, there are those who just believe self-publishing is an insult to the written word, as author Laurie Gough wrote on The Huffington Post in a controversial article that has since been shared thousands of times by irate self-published authors.

So what if you go traditional? The reasons to find a publisher are solid. With the backing of these book professionals, you get the golden stamp of approval that your book is quality. While a few lemons still squeeze by, in general terms, a traditionally published book has a good storyline, is free (or mostly free) of errors, and is an enjoyable read for those in its demographic. A traditionally published author doesn’t have to deal with much more than writing the book, as a team of professionals will edit it, format it, and give it a gorgeous cover. These authors have a straight shot to book stores and libraries, and they also land some pretty awesome speaking gigs, depending on the awesomeness of their agent. They have a team of professionals who want their book to succeed, as they all have a vested interest in this book.

However, traditional authors are not free of some of the harder aspects of the book business — namely, marketing. Both traditional and self-published authors must market their own books, and it’s in their best interest to have a solid platform (mailing list, social media followers, etc.). For traditionally published authors, this is even more important. I’ve heard some publishers refusing to even talk to an author unless they have at least 50,000 fans on Facebook. That’s a hard number just to get in the door, especially for an author who is just trying to get discovered.

A traditionally published author may find they have less control over their books than they want. They may be on contract to write a certain number of books, or to slow down their publishing process. They may be told they can’t write a certain book because it’s in direct competition with one of the publisher’s other authors. They may be told the story needs to lean in a different direction to match the market, even if the author disagrees. They may not even be able to write what they want at all, just to be able to continue working with that publisher.

Finally, there’s the money thing. Sure, there might be an advance, but it’s usually small. Plus, selling enough books to make up that advance is no easy feat. Once the gatekeepers have been paid, there really isn’t much left over for the author.

So which is better? As a self-published author myself, I still lean in that direction. Sure, I’ve yet to hit the big time. However, I love the control I have over my own books, and I can still see the possibilities. If I go traditional, I might make more money. But I just can’t fathom giving up that control.

But maybe I’m wrong. Whether you publish indie or traditional, share your triumphs and gripes in the comments below.

Note: This post is also published at books.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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If you’re looking for help with formatting, editing, proofreading, or other indie author services, I can help. Visit northcoaststories.com/about for more information. 

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Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

4 things I’m going to do when I find my iPhone

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My iPhone and me in happier times

Yesterday, I lost my iPhone. It was just before I started my Astronomy class, and I know exactly how it happened. I was about 30 minutes early for class, and I was headed to the bathroom. I asked another student for directions, and she was looking for directions to her next class. We figured out that we were in the same class, and I pulled out my phone so I could bring up the map. She then waited for me while I continued on to the bathroom. Once in there, I set the phone down on the TP dispenser, and did my duty. Then I left the stall, washed my hands, and we continued on to class. Twenty minutes later, I thought I’d check my phone for messages before class started only to realize I didn’t have it on me. I went back to where I left it, and, of course, it was gone. No biggie, I used my new friend’s phone to call my phone. It went straight to voicemail. Then I called my husband so he could locate it using Find My iPhone. But the phone was offline. I figured that maybe the person who had it was in class, and it just wasn’t getting reception. But here we are a day later, and the phone is still offline. I’ve called the school’s Lost & Found and I called campus police twice, and nothing has come up.

My phone is gone.

Here’s the good news. iPhone is awesome in these situations because you can put it in Lost Mode with a finder message on it. If the person who found it is honest, they’ll turn on my phone and find my husband’s cellphone number on it, and can then call us so we can meet up. Lost Mode also turns off Apple Pay, so I’m sure no one can use my credit cards from my phone.

Here’s the bad news. I used my phone for everything. And I mean, EVERYTHING. My checkbook was on there, ensuring that I always had an ironclad budget and knew my money to the penny. My passwords to everything are on there (passcode protected, fortunately), and now I am locked out of so many things until I can reset the passwords. I already blocked myself out of one of my accounts this morning. And then there’s the convenient apps I had that made life enjoyable: my Starbucks app for an occasional coffee treat, email at my fingertips, my calendar, my maps, all of my music including Spotify and Pandora, my Kindle app for reading on the go, and so on. Not to mention I’m completely unreachable unless I’m behind a computer.

I’ve already gone through several stages of grief. It started out with shock that this had actually happened. After all, I’m attached to my phone! Then came the denial as I searched and re-searched my bag for the phone I knew wasn’t there. During this stage, I also kept calm, sure that some Good Samaritan had found my phone and we’d be reunited before the night was over. Throughout the night, I began thinking of ways I could entice the person to want to give it back to me. I wanted to punch everything in sight. I submitted to a full on ugly cry. The one I’m still teetering on is acceptance, but I am clinging to hope – hope that an honest person is in possession of my phone, or that their conscience will get the better of them!

Here’s what hasn’t helped. “It’s just a phone” or “We got along fine before we had phones”. I know both of these statements are true. But my iPhone has become my personal assistant, my credit card, my entertainment, my map to the world, my music, my flashlight, my EVERYTHING. In the years that I’ve been an iPhone owner, I have slowly transferred my whole life to my phone. It has so many photos, videos, and so on that are all missing with my phone. Now that I’m without it, I am literally lost. I find myself reaching for it, and then becoming sad all over again when I rediscover it’s not there. I feel phantom vibrations, and wonder how many messages I’m missing. What if my kid needs me from school?

One way or another, I will have a phone in my hand again. If this phone doesn’t show up, I’ll be forced to bite the bullet and purchase a new one. However, once I am an iPhone user again, here are some things I vow to do (and you should, too):

1. BACKUP MY PHONE!!! Currently, my lost phone has so much stuff on it, I haven’t been able to back it up. I kept telling myself that I would clear it eventually so I could back it up properly, but I never did. So stupid! I promise to always have a current iPhone backup so that I’m never in this situation again.

2. Invest in a password manager. This I need to research more, but there are apps out there that will store my passwords in one place with some rock solid security, and I’ll have the ability to access it from my phone, my computer, etc.

3. Invest in a checkbook ledger that can be accessed on a computer. I was using iReconcile, which I loved. But the developer hasn’t updated it in years, so I just recently switched over to one that doesn’t have that capability. That meant I had some hefty balancing to do just to get things right. And now I’m back in the market for a new checkbook app.

4. Take a digital detox. It’s telling how often I am still wanting to reach for my phone, and how I don’t know what to do with myself when I feel stressed, or bored, or really any feeling at all. My phone became my crutch, the thing that muted all those unpleasant feelings so that I could move through them easier. If I felt lonely, I could scroll through Facebook. If my computer wasn’t loading, I could check my email. If I wanted to be entertained, I could watch videos. If I wanted to tune out the world, I could listen to music. But without it, I can feel emotions. I can see things around me. I can be present. I may even be able to smooth out those unsightly creases on my neck from too much bent over screentime.

In the meantime, I’m still hoping, praying, and crossing fingers that I’ll find my phone. Please think good thoughts for me!

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Posted in Blog

Be not afraid…

I am currently in the middle of writing a scene that is hard to write. In this, Maddie (from The Road to Hope) is enduring the wrathful abuse of someone she loves and trusts. And as I write, I am recalling moments when I experienced the same thing.

It’s been 12 years since he laid his hands on me, and a bit less since he intimidated me. Still, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever he calls me (which isn’t often). I feel overly nervous, as if he can reach through the phone and continue what was unfinished over a decade ago.

This is what abuse does. You never fully heal. In the years I was with him, I learned to not look people in the eye, to not tell too much about myself, and to not let people get too close to me. I learned to let fear rule, because it was better to be ready than to be caught off guard. I was told the most horrible things – that my family would be killed if I left him, that I would never amount to anything without him, that I wasn’t to be trusted. He accused me of cheating on him so much that I had to watch my every move to ensure that it wouldn’t appear I was stepping out of line. There were times I questioned if I actually was sinning against him, as I was accused of so much.

We’re “good” now. When we talk, we’re respectful to each other. Our only connection is the kids, and we leave it at that. The kids are at an age where we don’t even need to speak at all anymore. It’s better this way. Still, the few times we do talk, we keep it simple and pleasant. It’s almost as if nothing ever happened.

Except, it did.

When my son was a baby (he’s 15 now), my ex and I got into a huge fight. It was in front of his brother, which seemed to make it worse. He didn’t lay hands on me this time, but he did call me horrible names and threaten me. I couldn’t believe we had a witness there, and he was doing this in front of him. I finally had enough, and I grabbed my infant son and took off.

I didn’t know where I was going, but I just needed to be gone. I ended up driving out to the ocean. As I drove, I cried out to God, wondering if he was even there. How could he just stand by and let someone treat me this way? What was the point in this?

“Are you even there?” I screamed at Him. In all my life, I’ve never doubted God was there. But in this moment, I was starting to think that maybe God really wasn’t there. In my head, I told God that if he was there, show me something red. That was it. No sooner had I thought it, I made a hairpin turn on the coastline. On my right was a cliff with hundreds of white flowers. And right in the center was ONE RED FLOWER.

I can’t even explain it, but I knew this was from God. I have never seen a red flower in that spot since, and I’ve driven past it several dozen times since. But in that moment, I needed to know that God was there. It was a desperate need. I needed to know that all this meant something, and I was getting out of this okay.

Since that day, so much has happened. I got pregnant again, and we lost the baby at 32 weeks. I lived through poverty. I suffered more abuse. I left him. I learned how to be alone. I cried. I felt alone. I experienced a depression so deep, I wished I could die every day.

And, I survived. In all this, I KNEW God was with me. I learned that he had reasons I couldn’t understand. I just had to be patient.

Today, I am married to a man who shows me real love every day. I have a good job that affords me things I once thought of as luxuries out of my reach. I live in a town where I feel at home. I have sincere friendships. I am close to my parents. My kids are the best things that have ever happened to me. I’m safe. I’m loved.

Fear is still a big part of my life, though. Because of the abuse, my life is forever changed. I still have a hard time looking people in the eye. I still let fear rule. I still keep people at arm’s length for far too long, or worry about what others think of me.

But the one think I’ve learned in all of this – I’m not alone.

In writing Maddie’s story, I’m sharing pieces of my own as well. One day I may have the courage to write a memoir. For now, Maddie is sharing some of the pain I endured – the pan that many women have endured – and the courage it takes to get away from the abuse.

This year, I’m determined for a change.

I spent the beginning of this year in a fast. During that time, I spent it talking with God and just hearing what he had planned for me. In that time, I heard him tell me to trust him more and to stop worrying so much. This is the simple answer to what I heard, and I might go more in depth on this at a later date.

Today, I tattooed this promise on my arm with my favorite verse in the bible, Joshua 1:9.

tattoo

This promise is a reminder whenever I feel timid or meek, or just too afraid or discouraged to keep going. It’s a reminder that I’m not alone when I believe I’m in a dark moment. It’s a reminder to have faith and keep going. It’s a reminder that I’m not actually in danger, that God is working the miracle, and my job is to just keep moving forward.

Also, I really, really, really love this new tattoo. 🙂

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

How to change the world in 2017

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Kīlauea Lighthouse in Kauai, which we visited in October.

2016 was a hard year, and like many, I felt rocked by everything that happened in the news, politics, violence across the nation and world, and the loss of so many icons. In 2017, my prayer is that we will stop being so divided.

If we look at the world as a whole, things feel pretty bleak. But when we look closer at our community, at the small things being done – the volunteers, the random acts of kindness, those bringing people up – it’s suddenly clear we live in a beautiful world, and it becomes apparent that the change starts with us.

So choose to use kind words, listen more than speaking, aim to understand a differing view instead of trying to change it, respect everyone you come across, see how you can help when necessary, do more for others than you do for yourself, pray/meditate often, put down social media as much as possible, enjoy nature, read every day, call your parents/grandparents often, learn about that thing your kids are so interested in, stop doing those tasks that make you unnecessarily busy, practice saying yes, practice saying no, practice good health, forgive yourself, spread love, and change the world.

I love you all. ❤️

Posted in Blog, News & Events, The Road to Hope

Meet me and other Sonoma County authors with the Redwood Writers Fiction program

In the New Year, resolve to read more! Redwood Writers and Copperfield’s Books is making it easy to get the inside scoop on the books of Sonoma County authors through their Redwood Writers Fiction program. Each month, read a new novel by a Sonoma County author, and then attend a Q&A program with the author at Copperfield’s Books in Montgomery Village. This is your chance to learn why each author wrote certain things, what inspired them, learn about their writing process, and anything else you ever wanted to know. How fun would it be to read a novel, and then chat with the person who wrote it?

I will be the featured author on April 25th, 2017 with my novel, The Road to Hope. Learn more about where you can purchase The Road to Hope by clicking HERE.

To learn more about this program, visit redwoodwriters.org.

I hope to see you on April 25th at Copperfield’s Books, and at each of the other books events, as well. Happy reading!

rw-fiction-book-club

Posted in Blog, Writing

Pregnant with a story

For the past few weeks, I’ve been struggling a little with this next book I’m writing in the Road to Hope series. As you recall, I wrote the second book during November (for NaNoWriMo), and realized there was so much more to the story I was telling. I ended the second book with a brilliant idea for the third, and I couldn’t wait to get started to write.

Once Dec. 1 came, I eagerly sat down to start writing the third book. In my mind, the beginning and the ending of the story were incredibly clear. The middle was a bit fuzzy, but the themes I wanted to convey were there. All I had to do was write them out and the rest would figure itself out.

Um, wrong.

The first part of the story, the part that was clear, I had no issue writing at all. I got it all down, re-read it a few times, and was pleased with how it turned out. I moved into the next part of the story, ready to keep going. Only thing is, I didn’t know where I was going. Correction. I knew the destination, but I didn’t know how I was getting there.

Here is where fear began to creep in. I’ve done this before. There have been times when I’ve been struck by a book idea that’s so strong it takes my breath away. I’ll feel this tug at my soul until I sit down and start writing it out. But when I do sit down, the story just falls apart. While the theme of the story is calling out to me, the pieces of the story are hidden in places I can’t find. I’ll end up losing momentum, and the novel inside me will just evaporate into thin air.

I did not want this to happen with this story! And yet, a week passed and I hadn’t written a word. Then the second week passed. I tried to be gentle with myself. I just finished writing the first novel! It’s okay to take a small break before diving in again. However, I was also panicked that this next novel, the one with themes I HAVE to write, would evaporate with the rest of them, and I’d be left with only part of the story told.

Here’s the thing about writing a novel—you can’t bank a whole book on just an idea. You have to have a plan. I knew I needed to sit down with this story idea and figure out where it was going. And so I did. And when I did, it became clear that I was not just stalling because the story was hard, I was stalling because the themes I was introducing are an uncomfortable part of me. This next book is diving into some truths I’m telling through fiction. This is scary to me! I’m excited to write these parts and get them outside of me. But I’m also terrified of writing these because it means I’ll have to revisit a few horrible moments from my personal past to get them down. This book will be as revealing as it can be without making it a memoir.

bookjournal
This little blue journal holds my whole story’s world in it!

The past few days I’ve worked out the storyline. In this, the journey my characters are on have become etched in my mind. I can now see their journey in a three-dimensional way. The characters are real, with real faces and personalities. Where they are is a real place. The bones of the story are there, now my job is to give it flesh.

In the meantime, the story and all its characters are consuming me. This is my favorite part of being a novelist. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, the story is exploding inside of me. I can see it as I’m driving to work, when I’m hanging out with friend, and before I go to sleep at night. When I wake up, the characters are right there with me, ready for me to tell my story.

I heard Marianne Williamson recently describe this feeling as being pregnant with a book. You guys, I’m at that cute baby belly stage of book pregnancy. I can feel it kicking, and I have so many plans for it.

Winter break just started with school (one last final on Tuesday). I have 30 days until I start my next class. It’s the perfect time to start and finish the third installment of the Road to Hope series. I can’t even describe how elated I am about writing this story.

Stay tuned!

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

Gray hair, birthdays, and growing older with grace

happy-birthday-to-me9This week, I celebrated another year around the sun. For those of you who have been reading along for a while, you may recall how much I struggle with birthdays every year. It started on the day I turned 31, and my reaction to that day took me by surprise. Before I turned 31, I welcomed every birthday. I had no problem getting older. Even when I left my twenties to turn the big 3-0, I didn’t have an issue. But for some reason, turning 31 was a bigger deal. Part of it may have been because I was no officially IN my thirties, and not just 30. But I think the bigger issue was that I chose to celebrate my birthday in Disneyland. There I was on my 31st birthday, surrounded by all these young, adorable 20-something kids and I was just some washed up hag who was hiding wrinkles with makeup and gray hair with dye.

Ever since that year, I would dread each birthday as it came closer, and couldn’t get over the fact that I was aging.

For so many years, I took pride in being the younger person in the crowd. Having had my kids young, I’m often the youngest parent in the room at every school function. At my work, I was one of the youngest people in the newsroom. At my kids’ camp, I’ve been the youngest chaperone. And because my husband is 14 years older than I am, I’ve always been the youngest when we hang out with other couples. I placed a lot of pride on my youth. So when the tides started to turn, things began to get uncomfortable. As my kids got older, I stopped feeling like the young and fresh mom, and started feeling old and out of touch. My work started hiring all these young and brilliant millennials who are way quicker at learning new technology and social media skills. Younger chaperones signed on at camp, and have way more energy than my old body can handle. And so on.

Aging just became uncomfortable, because I had placed so much of my worth on my youth.

This year was different. I turned 39 on Dec. 7, and I didn’t have my annual freak out in the days leading up to my birthday. I think it’s because I’ve embraced the process of growing older. This is mostly apparent in the fact that I stopped dying my hair over a year ago. I am now sporting a brilliant streak of white in my hair.

crissigray2The decision to stop dying my hair was huge. I found my very first gray hair at 19 years old, the same week I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. I do believe the two go hand in hand. When plucking these pesky grays became too big of a job, I resorted to coloring my hair. At first, I went with all-natural dyes to ensure I wouldn’t harm my hair. But soon, I was grabbing any chemicals I could get my hands on to ensure my youth would be preserved.

Last year, I’d had enough. I knew I had a section of my hair that was all white, and it was apparent whenever I was between colorings. I realized that I didn’t want to be one of those “old ladies” who continued hiding their true color even when the jig was up. I wanted to go gray while my face still held some of its youthfulness. So last year, I decided to see what would happen if I just stopped dying it.

At first, the process was awkward. It looked silly. I wanted to hide my head in a scarf until I no longer had three-toned hair. But gradually, I began to look at my hair differently. The white section created this new and interesting feature to my hair. I’d play it up with different hairstyles, and starting receiving comments on how cool it looked. But most important, I actually stopped caring (for the most part) about how anyone saw it at all because I liked it. I thought it was beautiful.

Because my hair is long, it will be a while before the gray is completely grown out. I have about 5 inches of white, followed by another 7 or so inches of dye. But my hair has never worked as well as it does now. It feels better, it isn’t weighed down by dye, and it’s fun to play with.

crissigray1My hair is only one aspect that’s allowed me grace in growing older. My perspective, in general, has changed. Each year, I learn something new about myself and the world I live in. I learn what I can tolerate, and what I need to stop wasting so much energy on. I’ve learned to depend less on what other people think of me, and depend more on how I view myself. I’m learning to focus my attention more on my accomplishments and to stop putting so much weight on all I still have to do (this is a work in process, but I’m getting better).

Here are a few cool things that I’ve made happen this year:

  • I published two books I’m incredibly proud to have written: Reclaim Your Creative Soul and Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan
  • I enrolled in college and am finally taking the necessary steps in taking control of my career path
  • I wrote another book, even while taking college courses, by implementing the skills I preach in Reclaim Your Creative Soul
  • My husband and I went on a gorgeous Hawaii vacation that we paid for out of pocket

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I’ve also lost my fear of being older. I still place importance on my age, but it’s in a different way. I’m now proud of being one of the older people in the room. In my college classes, the younger students turn to me to help them understand what the teacher is saying. I’m one of the more experienced people at work. I can relate with the crowd I hang out with. And at camp, I let the young and fun chaperones burn themselves out while I rest my tired bones.

I have grace about growing older. Each new year means new opportunities. Each gray hair serves as a badge of my experiences and time on this earth. Each wrinkle is proof that I’ve spent a lot of time smiling and laughing. Each birthday is a celebration that I’m still here, and I still get time to fulfill my goals.

Growing older is not a curse. It’s a blessing. And I’m 39 years blessed, and still going.