Goodreads yanks giveaways from small-time authors, and I’m mad

GoodreadsWhen I first became an author, one of the most vital resources I found to get my books out there and connect with readers was Goodreads. I loved that you could join or create groups to connect with other readers who liked the same kinds of books, find new books through friend suggestions, review books, and so on. I found this platform awesome for book lovers, and I made a lot of friends there.

One of my favorite features on Goodreads was the giveaway section. As a reader, I could enter giveaways with hopes to win (haven’t yet), or just discover new reads. I’ve even bought several of the books I’ve entered to win.

But this section was even more valuable to me as an author. It was my most valuable asset to get my book in front of other people who may not have known about it. I used it to encourage people to put it on their “To Read” list, to test out new descriptions, to gauge how well my books do compared to each other (when I did simultaneous giveaways), and so on. Plus, it just feels good to give your book away to someone who wants it. It was a fabulous marketing tool, and I utilized it with every book launch. Plus, those people who shelved my books (which are in the thousands for some of my titles) are notified whenever I publish a new book. The Goodreads Giveaway was the perfect way to spread the word about my books.

That all changed this year. In January, Goodreads did away with free giveaways and now charges a minimum of $119 for each giveaway. As a small-time author, I was already feeling the pinch giving my books away, plus paying shipping and handling. Each free book runs me around $15, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but each book adds up when you’re still struggling to turn a profit. So to add $119 onto this feels like a slap in the face, and a clear message to those of us who aren’t making thousands off our books – we’re not wanted.

I get it. Goodreads is a business, and an Amazon-owned business, at that. The service they provided for authors with these giveaways was incredibly valuable, and it was quite generous that we could do it for free for as long as we’d been allowed. However, to go from $0 to $119 is a bit high, especially since I don’t believe the outcome will be profitable. I mean, I’ve been disappointed before by giving my money to Goodreads ads. Just look at their poor excuse for advertising. Spend all you want on those little tiny self-serve ads; if you’re not shelling out major bucks for banner ads, you might as well give Goodreads your wallet for nothing and call it a day.

So it looks like my Goodreads giveaway days are over. However, I am due for another giveaway, and would love your suggestions. If you’re an author, what have been some of your favorite ways to give your books away to readers? If you’re a reader, what kind of contest would you like to see? Your answer could result in a new contest, and you’ll get a mention!

P.S. J. L. Greger guest-blogged about this topic on Thonie Hevron’s blog, “Just the Facts, Ma’am,” and offered a few alternative contest ideas. Check it out here.

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Book number ten is in the bag

DEMO underwater girlWell, hello there! It’s been five days since Hope for the Broken Girl published, so I naturally did a bit of a disappearing act. Being my 10th book, I’m finally accepting that about myself. I put all my soul and energy into a book, and then want to hide under a rock once it’s out (see this post for reference), simultaneously hoping everyone reads it and no one reads it.

This book was a bit different, though. I’m not shy about this book, at least for the most part. I’m reluctant to suggest this book to anyone who is a sensitive reader or gets offended by hard language or tough situations. This book is gritty, and I didn’t mince words in the story. I couldn’t, to do so would hurt the story. However, I think most readers would appreciate that about this book. I hope it reaches plenty of people, as the story is so important. It addresses domestic violence in an in-your-face kind of way, and how something like that can even happen. Why does a girl stay when her boyfriend hits her? I hope this story helps people reach the answer.

Note: Hope for the Broken Girl is the 3rd book in the Hope series, and is available here. If you haven’t started the Hope series yet, here’s the link to all three books. The first book, The Road to Hope, is free for Kindle for the rest of today, so no excuses!

coffee
Behind that coffee cup is the forest view at my mother-in-law’s magical home, where I lived for two weeks before moving her into our home.

Still, the disappearing act did happen, sort of, but for different reasons. Things have been different on the home front. As most of you know, my day job is in the newsroom at my local newspaper. However, I haven’t stepped foot in the newsroom for several weeks, and won’t for several more. I’m taking some time off to care for my mother-in-law as she regains use of her hands and feet after spinal surgery. The experience has been both rewarding and frustrating. The wonderful part is that I’ve come to know her in a whole new way, forming a friendship with her. This is a miracle in itself as I have never felt close to her, and we didn’t really know each other all that well. The frustrating part, however, is just spending time with one person day in and day out with little reprieve. I admit I’m getting a bit stir crazy, and long for the time when our family has our house back (she’s temporarily living with us) and all of our routines are back to normal (though the time away from my more-than-stressful job is incredible). I know my MIL is also wishing for her regular routine, and can’t wait to have her independence.

In the meantime, we’re hanging out daily. She sits in one corner of the living room binge watching shows in between therapy sessions, and I sit on the other with my homework all around me. I got her into “This is Us” (oh my God, that Super Bowl episode!!!), so it’s been fun re-watching the 1st season with her. And she’s becoming more independent so that I can step out of the house for an hour or so without worrying she’ll fall.

That’s what’s going on with me! What’s going on with you?

Writing exercise: Using all 5 senses

I’m reading “Make Your Words Work,” by Gary Provost, an essential book for every writer. This is a book I wish I’d read before ever attempting to write a novel. I’ve barely scratched the surface, and already I’ve learned so much.

One of the exercises in the book was to write a paragraph using all five senses. I did, and came up with the following scene.

Btw, try this exercise yourself! I’d love to read yours in the comments.

The Coffee Shop

I opened the glass door of the Java Hut with a jingle of the bells, which made way for the low murmur of conversation, along with the occasional clink of China. The rushing sound of the espresso machine served as background noise, a sweet symphony of sound as I took my place in line. I’d skipped my morning coffee when I woke up, and my mouth salivated in anticipation of the earthy brew.

I reached the front of the line, taking in the cashier’s colorful dreads, a rainbow of pink, purple, and turquoise, paired with blue eyes lined with kohl and a black painted mouth. If it weren’t for her smile, I’d have assumed she was unfriendly.

“What can I get you?”

I ordered my usual – two cups of drip, one with extra cream, and one black. She took my crinkled dollars and replaced them with a couple cold coins, which clinked in her tip jar as I dropped them.

With coffees in hand, I took a seat by the window, placing the pale coffee on the opposite side of the table, and holding the heated ceramic of my own dark brew. I breathed in, inhaling the roasted air mingled with the scent of bacon from my neighboring table. Then I raised my cup toward the empty seat in front of me.

“Ten years is a long time,” I murmured. “Think you’ll ever give up the charade?”

I clinked the cup of milky coffee, then brought my brew to my lips, sipping the scalding liquid. When I lowered my cup, the other was already empty. I picked it up and looked inside, reading the words in the bottom of the cup.

“Not yet.”

Book-release hangover is real

Book-release hangover is real. Or maybe I should say vulnerability hangover. I go through it every single time I write or release a book. Writing it, editing it, tweaking it, gathering excitement about it, feeling so proud of it, releasing it to the world.

And then, the hangover.

I released Hope at the Crossroads on Oct. 24. It was a quiet release because my town was on fire. It didn’t feel right to tout something as trivial as a book when so many people lost their homes. So I quietly hit publish, and put it out there to anyone following me on social media. The next day, it was business as usual. I was too busy, too preoccupied, too everything else to worry about what happens next after releasing something I’d poured myself into for the better part of a year.

November came, and NaNoWriMo came with it. In the midst of midterms and prepping for finals, I wrote a book. The book took everything out of me, and now that it’s done, I’ve set it down and plan to forget about it until January.

But now that it’s over, I’ve got the hangover.

Here’s what that looks like. People have bought my book. Oh my God, they’re reading my book. Holy hell, they’re reading it! Do they like it? Does anyone like it? Why haven’t they left a review??? (Refresh.) They still haven’t left a review. Only 20 people bought it. 20. I know more than 20 people. Why did only 20 people buy it? Why aren’t 20 people leaving a review? Have they even read it? Oh God, they didn’t read it. They just bought it to be nice. They don’t even like to read. No one likes to read. Why am I writing if no one likes to read? Why am I even writing? I don’t know how to write. I think I lost the muse. I think I lost my talent. Did I ever have any talent? What is wrong with me???

Here’s how else that looks. I feel spun at all times, and even the smallest thing can send me over the edge. At the same time, I’m restless, and waiting for something to change. I want to do all things. I want to do NONE of the things. I’m having a hard time reading books right now because ALL OF THEM are better than mine. The comparison monster is alive and well, and it’s pouring jealousy all over me. I want to hide in my bed until the holidays are over. I’m frustrated that my books are ignored. I’m glad my books are ignored. I want to take back everything I’ve ever written. I question what I do, what I say, how I look, what I’ve done with my life, where I’m going, that I’m even admitting my crazy instead of being uber positive so you’ll buy my books. I’ve stopped caring. I care way too much.

Does that paint a clear enough picture? I swear, there needs to be a therapist who only deals with artists.

In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson writes, “The ego is like a gravitational force field, built up over eons of fearful thinking, which draws us away from the love in our hearts. The ego is our mental power turned against ourselves.” And oh man, is this true.

I’m battling these feelings of ego and fear, something that happens with every book release, and every time I write a book. Now I’m battling the aftermath of both, and gearing up for another book release, while trying to keep my sanity as I try to get through finals. The book-hangover is real, and I’m gonna need some tomato juice and two aspirin.

Or maybe it’s a hair of the dog thing, and I just need to write another book.

PNSD: Post NaNoWriMo Stress Disorder

For this year’s NaNoWriMo, I broke all my own rules. I let the inner critic sit on my shoulder the whole time I wrote the story. I only plotted the first part of the story, leaving me fumbling as I tried to pants my way through the rest. I kept my social media running in the background, and turned to it whenever writing felt hard (read: every 5 minutes). I looked back on the story, and almost got stuck as I worried about what I’d written. I compared my rough draft to the final draft of my favorite novels.

This year’s NaNoWriMo was a mess. Still, I managed to finish. On Saturday, I had 3,500 words left to go, and I stalled the majority of the day as I did everything but write the story. But around 3 p.m., I finally sat down and began typing, taking a break only for dinner. At 9 p.m., I verified my word count and crossed the finish line with 51,622 words.

I’ve been lucky the past several years of NaNo-ing. Two years ago, I had a blast writing Loving the Wind, a book I hadn’t planned to publish. It was just supposed to be for fun, and I even live-wrote it by sharing my rough draft chapters with readers through Wattpad. That book practically wrote itself. Last year, I wrote Hope at the Crossroads, the sequel to The Road to Hope. I was so inspired by the story, that I immediately wrote the next book of the series in December.

NaNoWriMo has always been my jam, the thing I push on other aspiring novelists as a way to get their book written. I’ve done and won NaNoWriMo for 8 years now, including this one, and it’s what taught me to write fast.

But this year was just hard. I chose to write a book I’d been stalling on writing for years, the sequel to Come Here, Cupcake. My usual genre is Contemporary Fiction. This one is a magical realism novel, but can also be considered a Rom-Com (romantic comedy). I’m more into tear-jerking scenes, this one is a much more lighthearted read. For some reason, it’s easier for me to write about heavier topics than ones just for fun. I can’t tell you how many times I had to scrap what I was writing because the tone was getting too heavy, and this was supposed to be fun.

This was supposed to be fun.

This was anything but fun.

Can I even admit that as an author? Can I tell you this and still hope you’ll read this book when I’m done editing it? Writing was HELL this past month, pure hell. This book was hell. I dreaded writing every day, and I hate that I dreaded it. Aren’t I supposed to come to my writing desk every day, full of inspiration? Aren’t I supposed to be whimsical and filled with light every day I get to write? Let me tell you, I was anything but whimsical. When I didn’t have to leave the house, I wore leggings and a holey tank top, covered with an old, frayed granny robe, my teeth unbrushed and my hair in a messy topknot. I looked as good as my novel, and felt as good, too.

This was the month just after my hometown burned in devastating fires. It was the month after I released Hope at the Crossroads to a lukewarm crowd, my heart not even into it because I was so devastated by the fires. This was the month I’d hoped to knock out my reservations about even writing this book by just ripping off the Band-Aid and going on a 30-day word sprint. It was supposed to be a month of courage and creativity. Instead, it was a month of torture and bad prose.

But now, it’s done. The whole middle section needs to be reworked, contradicting details need to be edited, scenes need to be fleshed out, and at this point, there’s no reason to love the love interest. But I’m not editing until January, maybe later. For now, this novel and I are going to our own separate corners until we can learn to speak nicely to each other. Right now, everything feels too raw.

Right now, I think I’ll sleep for a month.

Truth telling: Fear of success as an author

Last week at work, I was yelled at by a business I’d included in a newspaper article assignment. The woman on the other line called me out for not contacting them for proper information, which was true. Her voice continued to raise as she pointed her finger at everything I did wrong, and I didn’t fight her because everything she said was true. I’d written an entertaining article that ended up going gangbusters, much to my surprise, and this business was left to clean up the PR nightmare I’d unintentionally created for them by not verifying information. I felt genuinely bad, and I tried to apologize, promising a retraction. But then she hit me where it hurt.

“I see you’re a writer,” she told me. “I see you write things about how to be a writer. It would take nothing to put your name out there as someone who spreads bad information.” She let me know that if their company suffered from this article in any way, I was going down with them.

I was officially triggered. Every single fear I’ve ever had came crashing down on me, things I’ve felt all along, but now were staring me in the face. I’m not good enough. I don’t know what I’m doing. Who do I think I am? How dare I even believe I can keep playing this make-believe game of being a writer, both at work and in my personal life? I’m not educated enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m a total and complete hack.

This triggered barrage of fears at work has seeped into my work as an author. I’m not supposed to talk about this. Who says? I don’t know. I just know that most authors keep things light and friendly, presenting their books in these neat little packages as if they didn’t spend months or years before that bleeding at their keyboard and contemplating ending it all out of self-doubt. My favorite indie authors who are making a killing at this game are funny, personable, and confident. Not me, though. I’m a complete disaster. I’m a mess. I doubt myself constantly. The worst time of my life is always book launch time, because I’ve already predicted its failure before the book is even released.

But truthfully, it’s also a relief when the book doesn’t sell. It means there’s less of a chance for someone to discover the flaws I’ve included between the pages. I’m afraid any research I’ve done hasn’t been enough. Readers will discover I don’t know how to sail a boat, grow a garden, live on a pot farm, or watch a good friend die. I’ll get something wrong, and a reader will call me on it, and the book will be destroyed.

Making it in this writing game is all I want, and it scares me the most. It would be amazing to reach the point where I can live off the proceeds from my books. But what happens if someone smears my name, either by something I’ve done, or something I haven’t done? You’ve all seen the internet mobs that come flying with their pitchforks over someone who’s done something terrible. It would take nothing for a false rumor to be spread that way and ruin someone’s life. If I had a platform, it would be too easy for someone I’d rubbed raw to smear my name and ruin my career. This woman that called me on the article could potentially ruin me by letting everyone know that I have no idea what I’m talking about, that I love to spread fake news.

This woman isn’t even my biggest fear. It’s the readers. When I’m writing a book, I am free, for the most part, of any doubts I have. It’s just me and the characters, and we’re having a great time during the weeks I write their story. But as soon as the book is ready to publish, all my fears take over. The door opens, and I invite people in to read all the things that have been private for months. I’m left vulnerable as people I don’t know pick up my story and witness what I’ve created. Worse, people I know pick up the story. I feel judged, exposed, emotional, afraid. The days after a book release, I usually hide, unable to muster a social media post or say anything about the book because I’m so spent and nursing a nasty book launch hangover.

Then there’s the marketing part. I tell people I know how to write, but I don’t know how to market. That’s a partial lie. I know things I can do that will help drum up interest, but I don’t do them because of my fear of rejection. If I tell people about the book, they will ask what it’s about, and as I tell them, I can hear a little voice telling me they’re not interested, they’re just being polite, no one reads anymore, and so on. I worry more that I will gather their interest, and then, once they read the book, they’ll be left disappointed because I failed to live up to my hype.

And, of course, there’s that one fear I spoke of a few paragraphs ago—if I gather a lot of interest, there’s more potential for someone to realize I’m a hack. I’ve published 9 books so far. I should be so much better at this game. Instead, I’m worse—and my self-doubt is my biggest reason why.

I was listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast with India.Arie, who spoke about leaving the music industry for a time because she felt like she was losing herself to the commercial side and not keeping true to her own beliefs. Her obstacle was her feeling of inadequacy. When she was nominated for 7 Grammys, she was so overwhelmed she couldn’t handle it. When she didn’t win a single one, she was caught somewhere between feelings of failure and a sense of relief. I totally get her on this one. Then she told Oprah a realization she’d had just a few weeks earlier in a moment of self-doubt.

“What if Oprah decided she was too fat for TV?”

Whoa. Let’s chew on that for a second. Oprah wasn’t always OPRAH. She was once a radio station newscaster who found her calling in the talk show arena because she knew how to tell a story. But what if she had decided she couldn’t be seen in the public eye because she wasn’t thin enough, smart enough, or likable enough?

What if Steph Curry decided he wasn’t good enough at basketball?

What if Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (my obsession) felt like his life was too messy to create music?

What if Stephen King had successfully thrown away his manuscript for Carrie?

What if Jesus, Gandhi, Muhammad, Confucius, Buddha, or the Dalai Lama decided they didn’t know what they were talking about, and kept quiet because they were afraid someone would strongly disagree with them?

Earlier this year, I tattooed my favorite Bible verse on my arm: Be not afraid or discouraged. The Lord your God is with you. Joshua 1:9. Fear has been my driving force for so many years. It’s been my God. My focus this year has been on faith, and part of that journey is to let go of fear. Here we are in November, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. In many ways, I feel more afraid than ever. I wish for thick skin, and it’s ridiculously thin. I pretend I have callouses because I work at a newspaper and deal with ridicule on a daily basis. But I don’t have callouses, I have scars that keep reopening.

Not one person in this world is flawless. I’m just me, trying to figure out the world and where I fit in the story. I don’t have all the answers; I can’t even pretend that I do. But I do know that I can only own the things I can control. I can’t control how many people read my book, though I can do things to push it in their direction. I can’t control what people think about my book. But I can control what I write, and stay true to my beliefs as I write it. For that, I need to be clear on those beliefs. What’s my ultimate message? Each story incorporates something I’m grappling with in the time that I’m writing it. What have I learned from the story? What do I hope the reader will learn?

Finally, what’s my definition of success? I thought success was selling enough books so that I can be a full-time writer. However, this definition doesn’t make me happy. It feels shallow, and its broad definition makes the goal out of reach. But you know what makes me feel like I’ve fulfilled my purpose? When someone reaches out to me to say they found themselves in my story, that they felt less alone when they read it, that it reached a deep emotion inside they hadn’t even known was there. My definition of success is when a reader connects with the story I’ve told them, and I’ve changed them because of it.

That’s a definition I can live for.

There will always be critics in this world. I’m not done fearing them, but I’m trying to move away from that. The best I can do, the best any of us can do, is to remember we are all souls having a human experience. We are all connected in one way or another, even with our worst critics. What can we take from each experience? What should we leave behind. Most important, which voices in this world build us up and encourage us to be the best we can be? Those are the voices to focus on.

Writing process: How to write a novel fast

Crissi vineyardAs I gear up for the release of Hope at the Crossroads (Oct. 24!), I thought I’d take a moment to share about my writing process. I always love reading how other authors crank out their novels, don’t you?

First, I fully admit that I’m not writing any books at the moment. My focus is on college and the Hope series book #2 release, so my main writing is journaling and class essays. However, writing is definitely on the horizon. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner (see more info at the end of this post), and I’m getting ready to start outlining my book project for that month.

In the meantime, here’s a look at what my writing process is like:

Before I’ve even started writing the novel, I have an outline to the story already in front of me, something that lays out every single chapter in as much detail as I can dream up. This outline can change, if the story requires it. But generally, it stays pretty similar. I’ve written books off the cuff, and it can be a truly organic experience. It can also take so much time to do, because there’s plenty of room for writer’s block. I’ve also done it with short outlines. But since I started mapping out each scene and chapter with details, my writing speed has increased a ton. I don’t think it impedes that organic creative flow, as it’s there while I’m writing the outline. Having it all mapped out, I know where I’m going and what it is going to take for me to get there. Then I let my characters fill in the blanks.

Now for my actual schedule. I wake up at 5 a.m. and start the water for a cup of coffee. While it’s heating, I let the dog out to pee, and I do my devotionals. This is my time with God, through both reading and praying. Once I have my coffee and the dog is settled, I finish my devotionals, and then spend about 30 minutes pre-writing. Usually this is just journaling an extension of my prayers or an issue I’m struggling with, or even a character study or scene that I’ll never use in the final draft. Pre-writing is important because it warms up that writing muscle so that when I get to actual novel writing, the first words aren’t those crappy ones we end up deleting anyway.

Then it’s on to the novel. I’ve made it a habit to NEVER GO BACK when I’m writing a book. I do not re-read anything until I’m totally done writing the story, as it will only trip me up. The first draft has a lot of mess to it, and focusing on any of that mess won’t help the forward motion. I do, however, write a paragraph at the end of each writing session to clue me in on where I’m headed. This way, there’s no guesswork. Plus, I have my outline to keep me on track.

My first writing session is about 2 hours, and then I’m off to work for the day. Generally that’s enough time for me to get about 1,500-2,000 words, my goal for the day. I’ll write a little more on my lunch break as well. After work, I often don’t write because I’m busy with family stuff. Plus, my brain stops working in the evening.

When I’m in the middle of a book project, the story is with me constantly, even when I’m not writing. The characters are with me, the scenes, everything. I could drive down the freeway, and I’m stuck in the middle of my world and my character’s world. It’s completely consuming, and I love it. But I can’t stay in that mode forever, because I tend to tune everyone else out. This is why I use seasons for book writing. I devote myself completely to the project, and then detach once it’s done (following the inevitable mourning period after typing The End, of course). I set it down for a month or so, catch up on some sleep, and then pick it back up to re-read and start editing.

And that’s it!

Want to write a novel? Here’s your recipe for success:

  1. Write a details outline of the story, start to finish, laid out scene-by-scene (you may even want to include character studies and scenery. Bonus, some of this can end up in the story!)..
  2. Pick the same time every day to sit down and write. This will strengthen your writing habit, and help your brain settle into writing mode since it’s an expected time to write..
  3. Start with pre-writing. This can be a few paragraphs of what you want to happen next in the story, a character study, or journaling. This is your warmup before you get to the actual story..
  4. WRITE..
  5. Don’t re-read anything, unless it’s just the last few paragraphs to get you reacquainted with the story..
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 every day.

Last year I released Reclaim Your Creative Soul, a book that shares tips and secrets for being the most creative you can be, even when living a full-time life. I included many of my writing tips for writing fast, and ways I’ve used organization to make my writing time the most effective. Trust me, I’m not the most organized person in general. However, I’ve developed a few habits around my writing career that have allowed me to keep writing books, even when I’m also going to college, working full-time, and raising a family.

If you’d like to learn how to find more time in your busy life for writing, you can find it on Amazon here, or visit crissilangwell.com/creative-soul for other retailers.

By the way, right now is the perfect time to start planning your novel. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming up in November. That’s only 1 1/2 months away, which is enough time for you to start working on your story outline. Find out more about NaNoWriMo here.

Take a tour of my new writing studio!

desk

A few weeks ago, my daughter moved out. And I should be sad, but I’m not. I mean, Summer’s not sad, so why should I be sad? It helps that she only lives down the street. She’s renting a room at a family friend’s house, and she still comes over now and then. It also helps that before she left, I hardly saw her anyway, as she works almost full-time and is going to college. With her moved out, I think I still see her just as much as I saw her when she lived her.

But the other reason I’m not sad: I now have my own writing studio!

I haven’t really had a dedicated writing space since becoming an author. For a little while, I used a desk in my bedroom, and even wrote about it in my book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul. In that book, I really stressed how important it was for artists to have a space they could use to unleash their creative flow. And yet, my own writing space was not ideal (hear more about it in the video below).

So now, I have a room where I can wake up early and not bother anyone. As I’m writing this, I have an oil diffuser filling the room with a lovely scent of peppermint and lavender, my dog snoring on his pillow right next to me, some soft spa music playing in the background, and ZERO distractions.

Here’s a video tour of my writing studio:

The temptation to give up

Today, an author I’m friends with wrote a post about giving up. “It turns out the world does not need my novels,” she wrote. “I have spent thousands and thousands of hours writing and reading about writing, and for what?”

I hate that she wrote this. And I get why she wrote this. And I totally understand why she is ready to call it quits on writing.

I have these arguments with myself almost every day.

In fact, I was just talking myself down today as I drove home from work . It had been an especially hectic day at my day job, and I’d left my desk knowing that if I lingered for even a minute more, thirty more minutes of work would land in my lap. So I raced out of there. And the whole drive home, I questioned what I was doing. Why was I working so damn hard at a job that sometimes feels suffocating, and it’s not what I want to be doing? Why hasn’t my dream of being a full-time author been realized when I’ve worked so damn hard at this for the past 5 years of publishing, and 3 decades of writing? How long can I sustain writing novels, working full time, going to school, taking care of my family, and every other part of my life, all at the same time?

What if….what if I wasn’t meant to be an author?

I’m always stunned into silence when this thought crosses my mind.

I love words. I love the shape of them, the taste of them, and the feel of them. I love the way they look on a page, how they smell in a book, and how they sound in other people’s mouths. I want to spend the rest of my life playing with words, and my dream is that this will always involve storytelling: playing with words, creating words, writing words, and then using them to create books that people love to read.

But what if the people never come?

Today I saw another frustrated post from a different author who had written 20 novels, and she still hadn’t seen any kind of success. Her books don’t suck, either! Meanwhile, I’m sitting over here with 8 books, believing my time should have come. Apparently there’s no number to these things.

It is really, really hard when you want something so bad, and it just isn’t coming to you. In The Alchemist (my favorite book), Paulo Coelho writes, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

But why does the universe have to take so damn long???

Coelho also writes, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

And this, my friends, is the meaning of life.

We all have dreams we wish to fulfill. And when that dream is realized, a new one must be sought after. After all, life would lose meaning if you had nothing to work toward.

Do I want to be chasing success this hard all my life as an author? Absolutely not. But I never want it to get old. It’s always going to be hard, and I’m always going to be striving to make it happen, as this is what I know I’m supposed to be doing.

Now, that’s not to say that my dream won’t one day change or evolve, or that my friend is wrong for “giving up.” Sometimes things just aren’t in the cards, as much as that hurts to write. However, no dream is a wasted dream. I truly believe this. An unrealized dream may just be the bridge you need to set you on the path toward the dream that’s meant to be.

Or, sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break so we can rediscover what we loved about our original dream in the first place.

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SHAMELESS PLUG: My book, The Road to Hope, is still FREE! But only until Sunday. Don’t miss this chance to read the first book in my 3-book Hope series for free!

Hope at the Crossroads, and writing my heart

Crossroads FINALThe countdown is on for the release of Hope at the Crossroads, the 2nd book in the Hope series. The book is set to release on Sept. 5, which is only 7 short weeks away. Right now, beta readers are finishing with the book, and then it goes to the editor before it’s finally released to all of you.

This series is one that’s extremely close to my heart. This morning I was thinking about what the entire 3-book series is about, and what it means for me. When I first wrote The Road to Hope, it was only meant to be a stand-alone book. I wrote about Jill’s loss of her son so that I could write about my feelings of losing my own son to stillbirth. I wrote about Maddie’s journey as a teen mom and becoming homeless so that I could write about my own journey as a young mom who struggled through poverty. I wrote about the Wilsons, who took Hope in and gave her a home, because they were like my own parents who nursed me back to health after I left an abusive marriage.

When I ended that first book, I felt like I’d said everything I needed to say. But then I realized, I really hadn’t, particularly through Maddie. That first book, I spoke about loss, about falling down and then getting back up. What I didn’t write about was what happens next. What happens after you’ve turned your life around? I’ll tell you what—your mind plays tricks on you. Your life might look different, but inside, you’re still that same person you were, ready for the deck to fall in your fragile house of cards. When things are great, you question if you’re worth all this goodness. You are prone to turning back to your old lifestyle. You feel inadequate. You may even sabotage everything you’ve gained in your new life.

In Hope at the Crossroads, Maddie is now living at the Winstons’ house with Hope. She’s just graduated, and her future is promising. She’s learning about the winery business with Mr. Winston, and her life on the streets is far behind. Except, it really isn’t. In her mind, she feels out of place. She will always be that rejected teen, the one her parents threw away, and then her boyfriend. She’ll always be that homeless pregnant teen, the one people avoided looking at while they walked by. She battles feelings of unworthiness while trying to move forward—and this affects every single aspect of her life, and threatens her relationships with the people who love her most.

While the 1st book was about falling back down and getting back up again, book 2 is about the inner battle of identity. It’s about life after a dramatic change, when life has changed but the mind hasn’t. It’s about worthiness, overcoming old narratives, and about how we tend to sabotage ourselves because we feel we’re not worthy.

I wrote this series to get out my most personal story of loss, identity, and redemption. But I also wrote it because I’m not alone. I wrote this to offer HOPE to others who have experienced loss, who struggle with overcoming lies about our identity, and about letting love lead us out of the trenches.

Of everything I’ve ever written, this series is the one that’s my heart.