I wanted to sell Tastefully Simple products.
It seemed so easy - get your friends together for a party and eat snacks. They buy products, happily, and I come away having made (from what I hear) in the neighborhood of $200 or so.
For having a party with my friends, calling it work, and putting in about 4 hours worth of work. (If you call that work.)*
For a time, I was a substitute teacher in my kids' elementary school. You want to talk about a great job? My kids go to a great school, and I know many of their friends. They were young when I did this, too, so I was more of a celebrity than an embarrassment when I stepped foot into the classroom. Kids were eager to help me through the day and enjoyed a break from normal routine. I made no plans, did no grading, and was still treated like a professional. Plus, I walked away with about a hundred dollars for a day's visit.
I didn't keep with subbing. Instead, I chose to lock myself away from people, put in hours upon hours daily for up to about 8 months, to write, edit, beg a publisher to contract me, and try to market my product.
My last quarterly royalty check for that effort was $5.63. (If you take away marketing costs I put in, we are way down in the red.)
So, let's sum up the efforts possible, shall we?
1. Sell food products - earn an average of $200 for a day.
2. Substitute teach - earn about $100 in a day
3. Write a book - earn what comes out to $0.01 per day
So why do I do it?
It isn't a job. I write for several reasons.
1. To improve
Writing is a skill. And yes, the inner geek in me can never stop learning. When my editor gave me back my first set of edits, my jaw almost hit the floor. How could a former English teacher write so poorly? By the end of the second book, though, I was thrilled with how much better she had made me.
Just like a runner who sets goals to eventually run a marathon, I want to also give my craft the best I've got.
2. Because I can't not write
(See how far I have to go in improving my writing?)
Do you ever get so inspired by a book or a movie that you think, "Wow, I want to come up with something like that!" Or maybe you've been so mad at the ending of a book or movie, that you re-wrote it in your head. Writers do that too. We even do it with everyday life. "He shouldn't have said that to me. He was supposed to say this..."
It's how you know you were meant to write.
3. Because I have a message
Some people just write to write, but most of us have something to say. For me, it's the desire to show an example of God's love through fiction. Since I feel so strongly about young adults and teens (my target audience) learning about how much He cares, I've made my message my mission.
If you believe in what I write, or if you would like to support me (the same way you would support your friends who sell Tastefully Simple, Scentsy, Thirty-One, or any of those other fun party products), here's what you can do:
1. Check out my books
Right now, only the first 2 books in my series are out, but if you're patient, you will eventually see 8 of them. You can find out more about them here, on my website. Look up at the menu bar and check out the "Books" section or the "About the Angelmen Series" under "The Angelmen Series." If you still have questions, go ahead and contact me with them! I'll tell you anything you want to know - even how you might be able to read my books for free if you need to "test the waters."
2. Recommend them to whom you might know who would like them
You know how the other product-sellers are reminding you that their products make good gifts? Well, teachers like books too. And so do moms, sisters, birthday people, nurses, bus drivers, and so on.
Maybe you took a look at my book section and realized this isn't the kind of book you like to read. But you know you know someone (we ALL know someone) who reads everything they can get their hands on.
My books came about especially because I saw lots of kids reading books with themes that were a little too, ahem, mature for them. I really wanted to provide a safe, CLEAN, alternative that was still interesting and exciting. Sometimes the characters might find themselves in worldly situations, but they will show integrity though it. If you know kids who need something like that, guide them here.
3. Review the books on Amazon and/or Goodreads, if you have read them.
What's this? You've read my books, but still want to help? Well, some Tastefully Simple consultants (especially those who know my friends) can make their living by going around the same circle of party people. But for those of us who sell products that are less consumable, we need to rely on new customers. And we only have so many friends, so we have to get word spread all around.
Amazon is a tricky little species. They love to recommend related products to their customers to get more revenue themselves. How do they know what to recommend? They see what's popular. They only know what's popular by people TELLING them they like it. If you rate my books or even just write a sentence or two about what you thought about it, Amazon will turn their head and pay attention. They will then give other people a chance to see what they think. It makes sense to me. I only want to read books that someone else has said they thought were good.
OK, here's your chance. (The full-out shameless promotion.) Since I have your attention now, I'm going to lead you to the Amazon links for my books, where I invite you to do any of the above. I'll just tell you now how much I appreciate even the fact that you have read through this whole long post. Everything you do beyond that is greatly appreciated as well.
Amity of the Angelmen
Asher of the Angelmen
Who knows? Maybe someday you can tell your friends that you helped this author go from making a penny a day to a dollar a day.
"... and she has me to thank."
*By the way, I mean absolutely no disrespect to those who sell products. It DOES sound fun, even though I know there's a lot more to it than just partying.
I am a Christian. What does that mean to me?
Christianity is not my religion, it is my way of life. It integrates itself into everything I do. From the time I first discovered Jesus, God, the Bible, and church - when I was seven years old - until now, there has been one thought always in the corner of my mind:
"Is God pleased with the life I am living for Him?"
Here's the main point of what I believe - I have sinned, it's in my nature. Even though I couldn't help it, I still deserve to be punished for my wrong. Why? Because when I die there are only two possible outcomes: being with God forever (in heaven) or not being with God forever (eventually in hell).
Because God is perfect and sinless, He cannot have any imperfection or sin in His presence. (That would make His presence imperfect.) Since all people have sinned, there would be no one in heaven.
But God did create us. And He does love us. He wanted to make a solution to the problem, and so He did. In order to erase all sin, it needed to be placed on a blameless, perfect sacrifice. There was only one way this could be done. God, himself, had to cast away His perfect Son, Jesus as the sacrifice for man's sins.
It worked, and even better, Jesus rose from the dead to prove that He was God. Now man kind has the option of accepting that sacrifice as our own and spending eternity in heaven.
My theology in a nutshell. I believe a lot of other details, but that's the crux of it.
Back to the original question: What does that have to do with my life? Now I can live as a person redeemed. Instead of fearing death, I can give glory to the One who gave me eternal life. And tell people about it, so they can too!
God has put more in my life than just worshipping Him in church, however. While my regular job is in my church, I also have kids and talk to their friends' parents. I play softball. I dawdle on Facebook and Goodreads. I have an extended family. All the while, trying to make sure I am giving the best Christian example I can.
I am also a writer. How do I incorporate the above into my writing?
Well, the Bible has already been written. And we are encouraged in the good book not to add one iota to it for dire consequences. So what's left to write?
Writing about people.
Here's the problem. Remember how I said that all people have sinned? That actually works pretty well to make for interesting books. But wouldn't God frown on reveling that sin?
As a Christian, shouldn't I be writing about how to do it right? What being a Christian looks like?
The truth would be more honest, wouldn't it?
For example, there is a situation in my first novel, Amity of the Angelmen, where a young priest (Father Mackenzie Abel) falls in love - and perhaps takes it a step too far - with a 17-year-old girl. Especially in light of all the bad press the Catholic church has received recently about abuse among priests, I was extremely nervous about putting this in.
Here's the deal. Mackenzie is not perfect, even though he is a priest. He makes mistakes. When you read the book, you will probably like the character. (The most frequent question I receive about the book is, "What happens to Mackenzie?") So, if I have done my job as an author correctly, you will feel his pain in knowing he did what he shouldn't have done. Some of you will think, "Good for him!" Others of you will think, "What are you doing?" But you will all know that he knows he has sinned.
I'm not condoning it. I'm simply saying it happens.
A book I have slated to come out possibly next year gets even darker with the life of the suicidal child of an alcoholic. I really struggled writing it, because I have no experience with a life like that. But I know it's out there. And this is a story of how God can use even someone with no self-worth to become the commander of His army.
My books aren't about perfect people. (Amity is afraid to do as she's told. Asher is prideful and uses his popularity in using girls to fill his loneliness, Malachi is an angry delinquent with plenty of blood on his hands, and Caedmon could be responsible for the death of his parents.) None of that is new to God. There is hope for these four. When the Israelites needed to to get through Jericho, they used the help of a prostitute. That prostitute wound up being in the blood line of Jesus Christ.
So, I am a Christian writer. What does that mean?
I tell it like it is, and God gets the glory for any good that comes of it. So read on, and be comforted that you are not alone.
I don't think I even heard the end of my child's question. Perhaps I cut her off. I had to explain to her that she wasn't facing reality, and it was time to learn why I do what I do.
First I had to let her understand why her thinking was askew. She knew it was a big deal for me to be published. She didn't know that, for me, it only affirmed that what I wrote had merit.
The authors she had envisioned were the ones she heard about on the news, who were indeed millionaires, J.K. Rowling, Stephan King, etc. How many other authors wrote books in the library who were not the famous people on the news?
Too many to count.
And they are not my co-workers, they are my competition. I tried to explain it this way. My daughter plays soccer. She loves it, but is on the "C-level" team. Chances of her becoming a famous soccer player aren't great. (I don't say that to be mean. By all means, she can work hard and get better.) Even if she were an A-level player, the next step would be beating out all the other girls for a spot on the school team. Then, she would have to beat all the school teammates for a college scholarship. From the college picks, she would have to stand out to a pro scout. (I don't even know if there is a professional level woman's soccer league, but just saying.) And then, she would have to stand out among her teammates there to be recognized by the public as one of the great ones. Many steps to soccer fame.
And I explained that even if she never made it to the next level, she would probably keep on playing soccer because she loved to play.
Then I explained to her how "rich" we could be this year. Due to the percent of royalties I earn, if I sold 200 books (guessing that I could include the second book in this lot) this quarter, after taxes and tithes, I would net about $30.
That was absolutely shocking to all my kids. We know people who are not rich who make that much in an hour. The kids could pick out video games they want that cost more than that.
And they know I have put in wayyyyy more than an hour's worth of work on my books. The next question was obvious.
"So then, Mom? Why are you writing these books?"
The answer was hard to put into words. While I was thinking, my son started for me, "Because she likes it. Duh!"
Yes, that is part of it. It is an awesome feeling to have complete control over the lives of people and even worlds I have created. I like making up characters. I like putting them in trouble and then trying to figure a way out of it. I like having a way to be dramatic. My personal life has no real life-or-death situations, but I face them everyday in my books. My children don't always listen to me, but my characters have no choice.
But if that were the only reason I wrote my books, I would never have started the painful task of trying to find a publisher.
My books have a message. I didn't want to start writing without a purpose, and there is only one purpose I feel is worth sharing - spreading the Gospel. I was a youth group leader in my recent past, and a youth group member in my more distant past. I know that young people listen best to what is interesting. So I asked God to help me find a way to talk to them that was interesting.
I starting writing the Angelmen series because I wanted a new parable. I wanted another way to show kids what God's love could look like. So, I created a new race of people and showed a parallel plight. (OK, I didn't create them. God created them, and they really did exist. But since I believe they were wiped out long ago, it is completely fictional to have such characters today.) And each book brings Truth from the Bible into hands of my readers.
Would I love to see my books turn into movies? Heck yeah! Because it would make me rich? No, for the people it could reach. Would I love to stand up in front of an auditorium full of listening young people? Yes. (I am strangely blessed to not mind talking in front of large groups of people.) Why? So I could tell them the message.
You don't write unless you have something to say. If you do, it is best to just keep it to yourself.
Passion Under Grace,