Amazon Marketing 101

When I was trying to think of what to blog tonight, I realized I never posted about the marketing tips I learned from Quinn Loftis, Ella James, and Eva Pohler at the UtopYA2014 conference in June. My notes are somewhat scattered (just like their owner!), but hopefully this info will help someone!

How to hit the Top Rated Lists without much effort and minimal sales:

Do a soft launch of 48 hrs- have a team of people buy it to start ranking & post reviews but the big Facebook & Twitter party is 2 days later-also helpful to make sure the manuscript looks right if you’re self publishing. Hint: Every time you have to reload your book on Amazon, you loose rankings. Refreshing also hurts ranking- use rank obsession.com- updated more frequently than other sites- & will send you new reviews. Tip: Don’t release on weekends & Tuesdays because Tues is when big houses publish & can’t compete with that & people are busy on the weekends.

 How to use tags and categories properly:

Amazon keywords: put them in your blurb- i.e. YA Romance, YA Trilogy. Google key words to find most searched keywords. If it’s already in your author bio, pick something else because it’s already metadated. Some things like paranormal romance will have way too many books to get noticed so be more specific. “Google ad words.” Optimize website with key words, too.

The importance of pricing:

Indie prices typically do best between 99 cents & $3.99- trainings readers to take a chance on you. Indies, you can make book free on Kindle if you make it free somewhere else like B&N & then they’ll price match. Once the last book in your trilogy or series is published, it’s a good idea to make your first book free through a bookbub ad. Keep your finger on the pulse by looking at the top 100 books in your categories.

Free advertising:

The best kind of free marketing is not advertising at all but just being present on social media sites with authentic interactions.

Have Calls to Action- 90% chance of people responding. Ex: Laura Howard’s Q of the Day on Facebook.

On Facebook- don’t just post blog automatically to your page- insert image and then write 1-3 lines of text with link at the end, because FB drives more traffic to you if you post like that. Also 30 second videos rank higher than anything else. Post natively to Twitter as well- will see a difference with your blog. Don’t pay to booster posts because then FB knows they can get you to pay instead of having them booster it for you.

Google Hangout for book club discussions and school visits around the country, etc: in it’s simplest form it’s a live YouTube. Under your Google Plus account, look at the button for it. Use Twitter hashtag for questions during the hangout – it can also be embedded to watch later. Under your Google pic in the box put your Twitter name & hashtag you’re using. It’s kind of like doing the author FB party but one step up. Do a theme for the hangout: like wearing your pj’s, Star Wars, or anything fandom your fans would get excited about. You should be a fan of what your readers are fans of & interact with those hashtags on Twitter. For example, you can tweet during the favorite TV shows but remember time differences and don’t give away spoilers.

Facebook, Tumblr, & Twitter are the big social media forums right now. If you’re new to Tumblr (like me, follow me here), look at YA authors Cassandra Clare & John Green- rock stars at Tumblr!! All YA authors should be on it. Be creative and have fun! Example idea: Costume ideas for your book characters. Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest are also great sites for interacting. Just remember that social media is to congratulate, celebrate, & “Wow look at this!” Not for “Now hear this!” Stay away from religion and politics when you’re in author mode.

Love it or hate it, Amazon is the world’s largest bookstore. What do you do to market your book?

By the way, thank you for all the tweets last week while 18 Things had it’s 2-day 99 cent sale! When my publisher ran a 99 cent sale six months ago, it got down to #114 overall on all of Amazon and was #1 in 3 categories! Not quite as good this time around, but #169 overall & #1 in 2 categories isn’t too shabby (and still holding there since Thursday)! And it’s given a boost in sales to 18 Truths as well! Muchos gracias, for my early birthday present, amigos <3

1 best seller in YA Paranormal

Too Much Excitement for One Week!

School starting, my first mother/daughter column, a national magazine book review, a 99 cent sale for 18 Things , and my birthday . . . everything is coming up roses this week :-) Let me tell you that there were many times I was severely depressed during my growing up years. My 14yo daughter started high school this week (at my old stomping ground where I met hubs when I was 14!), and as he reminisced about those years with her, I realized I hardly remembered any of my own experiences. I think my subconscious just decided to shelter me by forgetting. But I do remember HOW I felt in my darkest hours, like each day would bring more troubles than I could deal with. So this week I’m incredible happy and thankful because as I’m turning thirty-five (which I view as the midway point in life . . . the Bible only promises us seventy years, eighty with a little trouble, so obey your parents!), it dawned on me that my life is way more than I ever dreamed possible. I have two jobs I LOVE (teaching middle school writing & being an author), a husband who has stayed married to me for 16 years and counting even though I’m sure I got the better end of the deal, and two wonderful daughters. Speaking of which . . .

My teenage daughter has lowered her standards and agreed to do a weekly column with me on my publisher’s website. We’ll review movies, books, music, and fashion. You get both of our perspectives, the Jedi and the Padawan. Check out our first post here, a review for the Ninja Turtles movie.

turtles

Also, 18 Things was reviewed in the Sept/Oct issue of Stone Soup magazine, written by my daughter! If you have a child 13yo or younger who loves to read, they may want to subscribe and/or submit to this magazine. As a book reviewer, they pay the child $40 and send them two free copies of the magazine.

magazine

And in other 18 Things news, the Kindle ecopy will go on sale for only 99 cents tomorrow and Friday (regular price $4.99). I do hope you’ll download it if you haven’t done so already. And if you have, would you mind posting a tweet or Facebook status to help me spread the word? Last time it went on sale in February, it almost broke into the top 100 on all of Amazon (#114–sooo close!!!!). It’s on my bucket list to make it to the top 100, and it’d be about as sweet as it can get if I’m able to cross this one off during my birthday week!

Will I have the Sweetest Birthday Ever?!

Will you help me have the Sweetest Birthday Ever?!

Here’s a sample tweet or FB post:

For a  novel packed with love & adventure grab 18 Things  while it’s only   Aug 21-22

What about you? Has joy greeted you this week? If not, I pray faith would make you whole again and that you could grab hold of each happy moment this life gives. <3

 

 

Performance Task Writing . . . What It Means For Kids

This past week as summer vacation ended, I had to switch my mind from writing mode to teaching mode. Although I do teach writing to middle school students, it’s a lot different than the type of writing I do for my books, 18 Things and 18 Truths. I realized that many of you probably have children and may not know the new College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing that our nation adopted, so I thought I’d list them here. Of course, the devil is in the details and what these standards mean exactly differs for each grade level, but it’s still good to familiarize yourself.

Text Types and Purposes:

1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or typing a new approach.

6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single setting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

What does all of this mean???

It means the days of having cold writing prompts are over. No more writing a story about a strange green light you saw when you took out the trash or why Florida is a nice place to visit. Instead, students will read a complex text such as a poem, an excerpt from a memoir or a nonfiction article, and they’ll have to respond to that piece with a specific task.

For example, students read “O Captain! My Captain!” and analyze how Walt Whitman used allusion, analogies, and word choice to write an elegy for Abraham Lincoln.

This way, we’re not expecting students to bring a whole lot of background knowledge to the table with a ‘cold’ essay prompt, because background can vary greatly from kid to kid. It also means we’re connecting reading and writing in a more meaningful way since they are already so intricately connected. The new standards are definitely steering students more towards college writing, where you write research papers for almost every class as if your life depended on it . . . and it’s always connected to your reading for the course.

The sad part for me is it takes away a lot of the creativity in writing. Granted most of these students aren’t going to grow up and become published fiction authors. I get that. And the new series my district adopted is fabulous, sooo many great resources! But it also feels like teaching for dummies. There are anchor texts that I must teach from. In previous years, we didn’t have a textbook for Language Arts. We had academic plans that told us what skills to cover each week, but the way we taught those skills were up to us! I brought in novels from the best modern day authors and let classes vote on which one they wanted to use that quarter and our writing took off from there. I read a different novel for each class period all quarter long (so I read a total of seven novels at once between my 150 students). With the  new curriculum, I doubt I’ll even get to read a novel with my classes because this new stuff in their textbook is so complex. If I do read a novel, I have to pick from a list of ones written by really old dead white dudes that probably won’t interest my students.

I thought I’d have a break from this with a Creative Writing elective, which would be great because those aspiring authors could take my class and we could delve into more creative writing in there. But like a lot of electives, it got cut from the schedule in favor of me teaching more core classes.

But I’m still super excited about the new school year because I know I can make this work. Why? Because I bring the awesome. You can laugh, but I know I’m a great teacher! The fact is, the problems we have in education will NEVER be solved by paying millions of dollars to adopt the latest series aligned to the newest standards. Those teachers who failed to succeed at teaching the old series will probably fail at this one. Programs don’t determine a student’s success, teachers do. Programs aren’t the be-all and end-all of education. Teachers are the problem, and teachers are the solution. I guarantee you that even with this wonderful new series, the same teachers who sucked before will still suck.

What we need in education are more teachers like these . . .

 

I’d like to add that I work at the top performing middle school in our county, and what makes our school great are the teachers! I feel so lucky to collaborate with them on a daily basis :-)

What about you? Do you think a new program could ‘fix’ the worst teacher you’ve even known? If you have children, are you happy with the writing curriculum at their school?

 

“I Was a Beginning Writer”

This past week, my fourteen-year-old daughter and I traveled to Orlando for LeakyCon, a fandom con birthed out of the Harry Potter book series, but has since branched out to include all things geek. We loved this con because they have a separate lit focus. I even got to moderate/present a Live Plot Twist panel with some of my fellow authors from Curiosity Quills (who has a newly launched website, so take a look)!  I also got to hear from YA bestselling authors like these . . .

Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss

Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss

 

 

 

Gayle Foreman, author of If I Stay

Gayle Foreman, author of If I Stay

 

 

 

John Green, author of TFIOS

John Green, author of TFIOS

 

 

Some of the authors participated in a panel titled, “I Was a Teenage Writer.” We got to see and hear these top YA writers reading from some of their early–very early–works. Here’s a clip of John Green reading aloud from  his sample. I couldn’t film much because as you’ll hear, I was the Bozo laughing too hard and couldn’t hold her phone very still.

 

The panel made me want to look at the first novel I wrote back in 2009, Sarah’s Crossroads, the one I thought was so perfect, I didn’t even need to edit it when finished! I submitted it to twenty agents and dreamed at night about receiving acceptance letters from all of them and wondering how I would choose to rep the million dollar deal I was sure to get!! Bahahaha! So, for your reading pleasure today, I present to you my prologue, with some bonus cliffnotes.  The bolded comments are my thoughts while reading it today. And hey, don’t judge. We’ve all got to start somewhere :-) Hopefully it’ll encourage you. If I once started out with this piece of crap and landed a publishing deal for my 18 Things trilogy three years later, you can too!

Sarah’s Crossroads Prologue:

In the summer after I graduated high school I accidentally wrote the novel you’re now holding in your hands. (Accidentally? What the hell?!) I blame it on my college application to the University of Florida.  Along with the application I had to write an essay. The assignment for the paper was this: Describe a setback that you faced.  How did you resolve it?  How did the outcome affect you?  If something similar happened in the future, how would you react?

It was hard to narrow it down and focus on one setback because I had already faced so many.  I could’ve talked about being abused by my uncle, my parents divorce and moving away from Michigan to the southern most state in the U.S., losing my house and everything I owned in a tornado, or mine and Ethan’s story. (Wow, can’t believe how obvious I was! Should’ve just titled this Jamie’s Crossroads)  Ethan and I are soul mates.  We were that way for as long as I can remember.  Our parents have been best friends since middle school.  By now our combined families have so many individuals that it’s like a Shakespeare drama where a variety of cast members are endlessly entering and exiting the stage.  Mom got married at seventeen years old and by the time she was twenty-six had six kids, including me.  It can be quite confusing to explain who everyone is and they only play a minimal role in this story, so I’ll wait to delve into that later. (If they play such a minimal role, why am I even mentioning this on the first page of my novel?)

I’m a mature full-fledged grownup telling you these things now; ok so a fairly new one at 18 years of age. (Yeah, full-fledged! I’m just going to tell you these things so I don’t have to show you through my actions. And why am I speaking to the reader? Nobody likes that! And why didn’t I spell out the age?!)  Like I said before, this all started with my essay.  I ended up writing about the move I took when I was 8, away from mom and my sisters and Ethan.  But I realized after that assignment I wanted to tell more.  I’ve been a writer all my life.  I was the annoying girl you come across in every Language Arts class, the one whose papers always got picked to be read aloud by the teacher as an example to everyone else.  My senior high school English teacher even went as far to say on my last day of school in front of the whole class that she was sure I’d be a famous writer some day. (Coughs *Jamie Ayres* Again, why am I telling you everything up front? So the reader won’t be surprised later?)

Well, I graduated two weeks ago and have a lot of time to kill (you’ll find out why soon enough if you’re patient). (Oh yes, you’ll be rewarded soon enough, lol) So I decided to write this novel that I’ve come to think of as a simple narrative.   I implore you to set this down right now if you’re looking for a tell-all scandalous story.  Though it may seem like just that to my parents if they ever read it.  But really it’s like a scrapbook of my life, mostly the lovely parts with Ethan, but also the secrets that you’d never mention at our family reunion. (But I’ll record it all in a book I hope gets published and sits on book store shelves across America!) In fact, at times it paints a kind of picture you’d want to burn in a bonfire at a church healing ceremony (that may sound strange to you, but they do that kind of thing at my charismatic house of praise).

I guess it’s like a diary, a written chronicle as a keepsake to pass onto my future children. (This does sound like an assignment I’d give my middle school students . . . perhaps I was still in teacher mode when I wrote this?)  I want to write it down now, before I’m too old to remember the stories I’d like them to learn from.  I’ll openly admit at the start of this thing that I’m not an indifferent commentator and as I am just 18, haven’t yet had the luxury to be healed by time, but I’d also argue that what I’ve suffered through can’t be healed by the ticking of a clock.  It’s difficult to forgive, let alone forget.  And really, I don’t want to forget, not anymore.  It’s what made me who I am today and if it hadn’t, I would’ve wasted my pain.  Like they say, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (I want to go back in time and kill this story before I waste two months writing it!) But to explain what I mean by all of this requires me to back up a little bit and tell you how it all began.  It begins where many good stories begin (but not this one, because this story isn’t even close to being good). . . in a small town where girl meets boy.

This has been a post for Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where we provide a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Join us the first Wednesday of every month!

And one more picture before I leave . . . daughter and I got to visit the Harry Potter expansion at Universal Studios on our LeakyCon trip. I wish I had a pensieve so I could relive that memory of walking into Diagon Alley and taking the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade for the first time. So A*M*A*Z*I*N*G!!!

HP Park

Time to Rise Up!!

On Friday, I got an infected cyst about the size of a golf ball removed from my lower spine. I wish I could post a picture here because it really did look like an alien, but I’m afraid most of you would immediately puke. It was so big, the doctor had to remove it in the OR instead of his office, and it required a five inch incision. I’ll spare you the pic of my stitches as well. When he took out E.T., it was even more HUGE! I asked if I could take a pic (I have a thing for pictures now that I’ve joined Tumblr and Instagram last week), but apparently it’s illegal to take pictures in the OR (learn something new every day).

I’m a COMPLETE BABY when it comes to doctor stuff, which is why the cyst got so big in the first place (and I’m a workaholic & didn’t want to miss teaching or meeting my 18 Things trilogy deadlines). Of course, they’re testing it for cancer, but nine times out of ten the cyst is benign. But someone in our writing community is not so lucky and is suffering with cancer now. Please read about how you can help below. And please, for the love of all chocolate and coffee, make sure you take care of any medical issues straight away. If you need encouragement to do so, just ask me to send you those pictures.

 

“We all know how fragile life is, especially when faced with a life threatening illness.” ~Nic, Flirty and Dirty Book Blog.

 

Fiction introduced us. Reality binds us together.

 

Stephanie Thomas—co-founder of The Indie Bookshelf—has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. Stephanie isn’t only a blogger; she’s a loving wife, and mother to three young boys.

 

In the independent author community, we have an extraordinary network of fellow authors, and readers. A special group of people who bridge this gap—helping authors connect with readers—is book bloggers. These men and women dedicate hours upon hours to reading and reviewing our works, and spreading the word to help us reach new readers.

 

Now, one of these women needs our help.

 

100% of the proceeds of the Rise Up anthology (volumes one and two) will go directly to Stephanie and her family to help them on this unexpected leg of their journey together.

 

Inside the pages of this collection, you’ll find amazing works of fiction. But please remember the reality, and help support Stephanie and her family.

 

Included in Volume Two of this collection are the following novels:

Rise Up Vol 2

Rise Up Vol 2

 

* 1. Always There – Carol Ann Albright-Eastman

* 2. Republic – Charles Sheehan-Miles

* 3. Seeds of Hate – Melissa Perea

* 4. In The Fields – Willow Aster

* 5. Bar Crawl – Andrea Randall

* 6. Totaled – Stacey Grice

* 7. Running from Forever – Ashley Wilcox

* 8. Crossing Paths – Melanie Stinnet

* 9. Going Home – Rhonda Dennis

* 10. Never Goodbye –  Kerri Williams

* 11. Without Boundaries – CJ Azevedo

* 12. Binds – Rebecca Espinoza

* 13. The Forgotten Ones – Laura Howard

Buy it now on Amazon

Buy it now on Kobo

And if you’d like to give these wonderful authors a ‘like’ on Facebook for being so awesome, here are their links:

 

https://www.facebook.com/CarolAnnAlbrightEastman

 

https://www.facebook.com/CharlesSheehanMiles

 

https://www.facebook.com/authormelissaperea

 

https://www.facebook.com/willowasterauthor

 

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAndreaRandall

 

https://www.facebook.com/staceygriceauthor

 

http://www.ashleywilcoxauthor.com

 

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMelanieStinnett

 

https://www.facebook.com/authorrhondadennis?fref=ts

 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kerri-Williams-Author/347733968580393

 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/CJ-Azevedo-Author/348248455274917

 

https://www.facebook.com/rebeccanespinoza

 

https://www.facebook.com/LauraHoward78

I hope you support this cause . . .it’s wonderful to see our own coming together, as they always do. I’ll try to be about as much as I can this week, but I’m visiting my dad in West Michigan & he lives in the woods, so WiFi is a bit tricky. If you happen to be near Grand Haven on July 26th, I’ll be doing a reading & book signing at The Bookman (you’ll remember the book store plays a prominent part in my books if you’ve read them!) at 11am. Fingers crossed that some people show up!

Are Two Better Than One?

Four years ago, I got the chance to attend RWA Nationals after the venue moved from Nashville to Orlando due to unfortunate flooding. To save money, I planned on staying with a friend who lived forty minutes away from the Disney Swan & Dolphin Hotel, where the conference was held. Then I discovered Marisa Cleveland, a buddy who I’d met three months earlier at my local RWA chapter meeting, had a room in the hotel all to herself. Being the Reigning Queen of Awkward Situations, I crashed her room & took the couch. Little did I know Marisa was a natural introvert & too terrified of me to say no.

Risa & me at RWA Nationals

Risa & me at RWA Nationals

That’s how a beautiful friendship was born :-) Now that I’m done with writing my 18 Things trilogy, I’m forcing her into another situation that seems just as counterintuitive to sharing your hotel room with a stranger. Cowriting a novel! Authors are known for being control-freak Jedi masters of our fictional universes. That’s why when I attended utopYA2014, I made sure I attended the panel with Melissa Pearl & the mom and son author duo C.A. Kunz. Here are some of my notes in case, like me, you think cowriting could be a fun, refreshing process that yields a unique story.

TIPS:

Pick someone who is at similar points in terms of both their craft and career & treat each other as equals.

Be honest if there’s something you don’t like. We take criticism personally, but that has to take a back burner in the interest of writing the best story possible.

Make sure you know the other person’s writing style well so the reader doesn’t feel pulled out of the story with two very different tones-different than having two distinct voices, which can work very well because that can be attributed to the characters.

CHALLENGES:

If one person is waiting to hear back for next chapter, but their co-author is too busy and is left waiting when they are ready to move on with the story, it can cause friction. Make sure to set up a writing schedule & stick to it!  Equal commitment & a compatible writing pace is a must. Also helpful are similar tastes. For instance, do you bond over the same books, movies, music, and celebrities (like drool swoon-worthy Theo James)? That’s a good start.

 

Seriously, Jamie? This is getting ridiculous. I will let you touch my bicep if you leave me alone.

Seriously, Jamie? This is getting ridiculous. I will let you touch my bicep if you leave me alone.

Good idea to pick a person who has a final say in different areas, like grammar, fine-tuning of the plot, and research details. It’s like a choose your own adventure story! If you get stuck, have a bowl with worst case scenarios and pull one out & have that happen to your character.

If you are discussing something serious with the book, do it in person or Skype so your partner doesn’t misread what you’re saying. Email, text, or phone call at least once a day to ensure continuity and the development of a solid story arc, especially as you work toward the finale.

Have you ever thought about working with a partner? What do you think the pros and cons would be?

P.S. Speaking on Cons, I didn’t get the coveted tickets for the “Open At the Close” event at LeakyCon in Orlando on July 30th since they sold out in 5 minutes. If you dress up as a creepy/scary clown in your spare time, or know someone who does, please message me. I’m looking to hire one to chase a ticket holder around until they fork over their pass. Thanks for your help in this matter.

scary clown

 

Tidbits From UtopYA Con 2014

IWSGHEADER

They say knowledge is power. I learned so much at UtopYA Con that every Wednesday this month I’ll be posting about it. Today, I’ll recap a few things our keynote speakers said.

First up is Sylvia Day with “What I Wish I’d Known Then.” She said writers make bad business decisions because they are afraid, seeking validation, or because they haven’t done their due diligence. Um, yes, yes, and yessss!!! Don’t be afraid to be a publishing whore & try everything! Also, don’t let deadlines dictate the quality of your books. Readers will wait for a good book, but they will drop you like a hot potato for a bad book. And read everything- things you don’t even think you’ll like. Finally, Dream Big & Plan Smart!

On Saturday, we heard from Gennifer Albin, who spoke on Empowering Female Writers & Readers. Her message revolved around a blog post she did on Hope (which you should read. WARNING: grab a box of tissues). Some thoughts that stuck for me during her speech:

Dreams don’t always fit in convenient boxes during life allotted stages. Art isn’t always meant to be created in quiet moments alone. There will always be naysayers- often these are the ones who should be offering us support. But use your words when you feel crippled.

I’ve been holding onto her words about hope. Sales for my sequel, 18 Truths, have been way down. I crunched some numbers & discovered I sold 1,582 ebooks of 18 Things the first year it was out. Since 18 Truths came out in January, I’ve sold 210 ecopies :-( At this point, I’m wondering why do I even publish the last novel in the trilogy, 18 Thoughts, if nobody is going to read the darn book?

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Sign up if you’re looking to offer some encouragement or need to be encouraged.

Some peeps at UtopYA-recognize anyone you know?

Some peeps at UtopYA-recognize anyone you know?

 

Love, Honor, and Hope

Hi, guys! Sorry I missed my weekly post last Wednesday, but the fam and I took a road trip on our way to UtopYA Con in Nashville. I have so much exciting news to share with you about the 18 Things trilogy, but more on that later . . . today I want to share about the Love, Honor, and Hope blog blitz. Please read below for the dets and help support our veterans as July 4th approaches next week.

LHH_blitz_banner

 

Love, Honor, & Hope – A Benefit for the United States War Veteran’s PTSD Foundation

Eight authors are joining forces to support one fantastic cause. Beginning June 24, 2014, Love, Honor, & Hope, an anthology of eight full-length novels, will be available for 30 days at the low price of $0.99. That’s right, just 99 pennies. The best part is that 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the United States War Veteran’s PTSD Foundation.

LHH_OOBAteaser

PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, affects approximately 19% of the military men and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq—and that’s just those who have been diagnosed. The percentage is expected to grow as more of our military members seek treatment. It’s a heartbreaking trend for the men and women who sacrifice so much for our freedoms, especially with benefits being cut and promotions being threatened.

LHH_SMteaser

The United States War Veteran’s PTSD Foundation is a non-profit charity that focuses on providing FREE care to combat military members, both active and veterans. They can’t do it alone, which is why we’ve made the decision to step up and do something. All eight of the authors have their personal reasons for supporting this cause.
Cherime MacFarlane, author of Heart of the Hunter said, “For me, it’s the way a very quiet man, my uncle, receded into the background whenever a family function took place. I did understand he came back from WWII that way. A young man, easy going and quick to laugh became a recluse. My father also served in WWI, as did a second uncle who returned far from the mischievous young man he was before the war claimed his youth. I was a young mother during the Vietnam era. I had friends who did not come back from Vietnam. I had other friends who did come home but were permanently damaged by the things they saw. For me, this is an opportunity to give back something to the men who served their country when the call came. My uncles and father are gone now, but I do hope, in some small way, to pay it forward for them. This is a tiny step, but as the man once said, every journey begins with that first step.”

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It’s easy to sit back and talk about helping our veterans and active military members. To step up and help is something all together different. We are answering the call for help.
Will you answer? All it takes is for you to log on to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and spend 99 cents, and then hopefully share the great news on our labor of love. Not only will you receive eight full-length novels for your enjoyment, you will also tell our men and women who suffer from this terrible and debilitating illness that we’ve got their backs.

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Love, Honor, & Hope is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble from June 24 to July 23. It includes the following full-length novels:

Out of the Box Awakening – Jennifer Theriot

Early One Morning – Aubree Lane

Lost and Found – Jennifer Yarbrough

Scary Modsters – Diane Rinella

Tropical Dreams – Kelly Cozzone

Sisters of the Night – Linda Lee Williams

Heart of the Hunter – Cherime MacFarlane

Piece of Heaven – Sammie J

Get it here at B&N.

Get it here at Amazon.

TFIOS Feels, ReadOn, Audible, and UtopYA Con

Let me first start off by saying that The Fault In Our Stars movie, based on the bestselling Coming of Age love story about two teens who just happen to have cancer by John Green, was AMAZING!!!

I took my 13yo daughter and her bestie to a special “Night Before Our Stars” event that was held at 600 theatres around the country the night before the official release. We each got a commemorative bracelet and autographed poster and afterward, you could tweet questions to the author, director, producer, and the three main characters of the cast. They did the live simulcast from a movie theatre in Atlanta (more on that later). There were sooo many feels while watching this film. I LOVED the book, but I don’t remember laughing and crying so hard (and simultaneously) when reading the novel. Something about seeing it brought to life on the big screen made it much more emotional for me. It’s not a movie I could watch over and over again because it’s so heartbreaking, but I do think it’s trying to send the same message I try to send with my 18 Things trilogy. Love is stronger than death in the end. It’s hard to tell someone that when they’ve just lost the most important person in their life (and I wouldn’t recommend it), but after time, I do think most come around to that realization. Anyway, I think the movie and the two main actors, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, deserve Oscar nominations. Doubt that will happen, but I’m sure they get the reward in the hearts of young adults (and wannabe YA like me) everywhere!

TFIOS Swag

TFIOS Swag

 

Other things I’ve been up to this week . . . I did my first live web appearance ON CAMERA for Jessica Porter, a book reviewer I’d met at a B&N event back in March. Check out the ReadOn with me (I’m up first), Leila Howland, Lindsay Cummings, and Amy Christine Parker (LOVE HER!).

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Then yesterday, Audible set me up with a local studio to record special features for my audio books of 18 Things and 18 Truths. I walked in and was met by a familiar face . . . I’d actually graduated high school with the owner! So thankful I knew him a little because I was really nervous and he immediately put me at ease. It took about 2 hours to record the Author’s Note, dedication, beginning chapter quotes, acknowledgements, and Literature Circle Questions for both books. He said I was a natural . . . I think I probably sounded like a dork. We’ll let you decide when it’s all finished! If you’re in the Southwest Florida area and need a studio, check out Paul L. Marshall Productions.

Jamie Recording

Other than that, I’ve been planning for my trip next week! I’m off to Nashville for the UtopYA Con (the Con for Women Writers of YA & the fans who love them). Super excited to meet up with my publishers sisters, Sharron Riddle Houdek and Krystal Wade, there (as well as blogger buddy Pk Hrezo). If you’re going, stop by Area 51, table 24! My daughter is coming with (who will turn 14 that weekend, sniff sniff) and she’s an aspiring author, so I’m psyched to have her come along and be inspired. On the way, we’re stopping in Atlanta because for some reason, we’ve never been! Lots of fun planned there too, including hunting down Theo James so I can touch his bicep (it’s on my bucket list). He’s filming Insurgent there along with Shailene and Ansel. How cool would it be to actually stumble upon them?! Keep your fingers crossed and if you’re in the Atlanta area, let me know if you spot any “Mineral” signs (code name).

"Now, now Jamie, you could get arrested for this." *lunges at Theo*

“Now, now Jamie, you could get arrested for this.” *lunges at Theo*

What have you been up to this week?!

To Publish or Not To Publish?

That is the question.

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I’m a firm believer that if we don’t have a big dream we’re striving toward, then we’re just kind of drifting through life. That’s why I made a bucket list back in 2008 when my cousin’s son was diagnosed with cancer. That’s why I put publishing a novel at the top of that list. And that’s why I started working toward that goal in the summer of 2009. Five years later, I have two novels published by Curiosity Quills, a small press, with the last installment of my 18 Things trilogy due in January 2015.

I thought waiting for it to happen would be the hardest part. If I could’ve put my dream in a microwave and made it happen in 30 seconds, I would have. But that’s not how most dreams work. Like most writers, I endured lots of discouragement while agents, editors, and even friends and family members told me it wasn’t going to happen. They weren’t mean about it. They all thought they knew best. But it wasn’t their opinion that mattered to me the most. I’m the one who has to live with my decisions when I lay my head on the pillow at night. If I gave up, what kind of example would that be to my kids and the students I teach every day, who I tell every day, DON’T GIVE UP! THAT VICTORY YOU NEED IS JUST RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER! *shakes pom poms* Sure, I had my doubts from time to time,  but I learned to tune out the haters. I knew the path to publishing wasn’t paved with rainbows, unicorns, and puppies. I also knew God would make it happen when the time was right. And he did!

But then I discovered I was wrong (happens occasionally–hahaha). The hardest part wasn’t the 3 years I waited to get a publishing contract, the hardest part has been trying to juggle my teaching job, my writing career, being a wife to three needy children (yes, I counted my hubs as a child, lol–LOVE him though), volunteering at church, bible study and book club, cleaning and cooking (oh, who am I kidding?).

Here’s another thing I firmly believe: EVERYTHING you have is a gift from God, including your talents and abilities. And why would God give us these things if he didn’t want us to use them for his glory?

The thing is though, I NEVER EVER EVER want my own family to think my writing is more important than them, and when I’m in my writing cave (AKA dining room) chained to my laptop every summer, spring, and winter break, typing out what the voices in my head tell me to, I know that’s how they feel sometimes. So I told them after I publish my last book under my contract, I’d give up publishing for a while. My hubs and 10yo cheered (my almost 14yo said I should do what I want-she won’t have much time for me when starting high school in the fall anyway, which of course, made me crawl up like a baby and cry in the corner for an hour while shoving donuts in my mouth). My editor laughed. “Just keep telling yourself you’ll be able to do that.”

Anyone a fan of American Ninja Warrior? Last summer and this summer, there’s been one girl to make it past the qualifying rounds. Both were gymnasts, the one from last year was a trapeze artist. That’s what my struggle reminds me of, a trapeze artist. It’s an analogy I came across in my daily devotional one day:

There’s a moment of truth where she swings out to catch the bar that’s swinging toward her. But in order to reach the bar, she has to let go of the one she is swinging on. If she doesn’t let go, she just swings back to where she started. But if she lets go, there’s a split second in time where she’s hanging in mid-air, thirty feet above the ground, and holding onto absolutely nothing.

That’s what faith looks like. Is giving up my dreams of being a professional author a lack of faith, or an act of obedience as I commit more time to my family? What’s more important? Faith or obedience?

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja Warrior, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Join us the first Wednesday of every month as we release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic *shoots hand in the air*