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.
This is for all my writing friends out there. I am writing because I love you. Now, you better get your big girl (or big boy) pants on, because what I have have to say might sting.
Here's a little piece of my writing background. Once I had written my first novel, I began to send it to publishers and agents in hopes of finding someone to take on my project. After 19 rejections, I began to see that if I wanted to see this work in print, I might have to do it myself.
When I made the decision to self-publish, I knew my work needed to be looked over. You know. For the little things I may have missed like missing commas or forgotten capitals. Because nothing is more frustrating than reading a book and finding a typo, right?
After all, how bad could it be? In high school, I took AP English and passed the exam. I did so well on my college placement boards that I placed out of taking any composition classes at all. So, yes. That means it had been 20 years since I was a student of English. But the language hadn't changed any, so I was sure I was fine.
I had even been a teacher of English - as high as 6th grade, mind you. And all that stuff was still pretty familiar. Many people hate me for constantly reminding them of which "your" is needed.
So I formed a group of my friends to be "betas" and tasked them with finding my little typos. They hadn't gotten very far when, I am convinced, God sat upon His throne, shaking His head, saying, "Oh no. She's really going to do it. She is going to try to represent me with a book that looks like that."
Harsh, you say? I wish I could show you the compilation of edits made to the very first chapter of my "masterpiece." The work I had poured over. And over. And over again.
I wasn't going to catch my mistakes, because I didn't know what I was doing wrong.
So, God set the wheels in motion, stopping me from my adventure into self-publication and finding a publisher willing to work with me. Since I had been nervous diving into publishing my book with no knowledge of the publishing world whatsoever, I jumped at the chance to have a professional do it for me.
After all the contract signing, copyrighting, and other business about which I was clueless was finished, I leaped into the next phase of editing.
O. M. Gosh. I felt like a first grader, who just learned to read, being taught (patiently) all the rules of composition that I either never knew or was choosing to ignore for the sake of voice. (I learned later that voice didn't have to break rules and look ugly. There were better ways to achieve it.)
My editor taught me what felt like years' worth of proper grammar, syntax, style, and story-telling. I wish I could list it all! Actually, I have been compiling a list of my biggest mistakes. I use it as a check-off list as I proofread my other novels. It is an on-going list, because sadly, I know there is plenty more to learn.
The result was a book that I was not embarrassed to sell. I probably wouldn't have been embarrassed to sell it before the editing, but I should have been!
Okay, writers, what are you taking away from this? I'm not putting you down if you have selected the self-publishing route, especially if that was the way you wanted to go in the first place. However, if you are only self-publishing because your work has been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers and agents, I would suggest looking into finding a professional editor. A publisher might be too busy to tell you that his pet peeve is when someone starts a sentence off with the word, "But," but an editor will fix it so you can experience a valued look from the publisher.
I haven't made it as an author, if "making it" counts as selling more than 13 books. So, my opinion might not matter all that much. But as a reader, I will tell you that I do not want to waste my time on a book that is not well-written. Please give me your best.
Here is a muse. Or a whine. But let's try to stay positive. It's a thought.
Because sacrifice, though difficult, is always for the greater good.
This time last year, I had finished writing a few of my books, and I wasn't sure which direction I wanted to pursue next. I had sent out queries to many publishers, and they had almost all come back denied. (The ones that hadn't come back at all, I also assumed were denied. Though I was wrong about one of them...)
Was I going to continue to wait for someone who knew what they were doing to accept my work, or was I going to self-publish. I hadn't decided yet. So in the meantime, I found a diversion. Reading.
It might seem to you that an author doing some reading is as logical as a fish going for a swim. Those who really know me know that reading has never been my thing. I was always the slowest reader in my class. I will never forget timed reading tests in 8th grade when the teacher would ask, "Is everyone done now?" Of course everyone was, it had been an insanely long amount of time. Everyone was done, but me. And that put a bad taste in my mouth for reading. I just could never finish quickly enough!
Things changed as an adult. There were no more time limits. I sat at home, as a stay-at-home mom, in my comfy chair, with more time than I realized. So, I hauled my 4-year-old to the library, week after week, checking out movies for her to keep her entertained while I would take out three books at a time of my own choosing.
I found a favorite author - Richard Paul Evans - whose works were short, different, and very addicting. This time last year, I sat in my comfy chair by the big window in the living room, with cats on my lap, and read. Today, I can gleeful say my second novel is already in the works to come out soon.
But instead of sitting here, getting lost in someone else world, wondering if she will or if she won't accept the flowers from the strange man, or if Mom will find out the secret in the tent, I am in a different world. The world is one I have created. I know the answers. I know the end of the story. What I am trying to do now is tug at my brain to find the exact adjective that describes that smile. I am trying to explain how it feels to die, when I have never done it myself. (Neither have you though, so you'll never know how accurate I am!) I am trying to decide if I need to break for a new paragraph or a new chapter. And Lord help me, what do I NAME that chapter that will make you need to read it, give you an idea what is going to happen but not reveal too much.
In 75 characters or less.
I missing guessing. I miss being surprised. I miss hunting down another book. I miss crying in the shower. I miss driving in the car wondering how things continued for the character after it ended. Writers should be reading, and when I have time, I will delve into the many Kindle books I have waiting for me. But first things are first, and I need to take care of my audience.
Would I trade it? The writing for the reading? Not in a million years. These characters, settings, plots I have made are my babies. I created them. Another author (King, perhaps? I forget.) calls them darlings. And just like when you have children, you have to make a few sacrifices while they are growing. My characters and plots are still growing in my head. If I neglect to let them out onto the computer, they could die and never be found again (so thick is the sludge of information in my brain).
One day, they will be fully grown, and set free in my books. I will gladly kick them out, as they have spent too much time in my brain as it is. And they will be all yours to play with. Then, I will pick up someone else's book and nurture their characters for a little while.
I will admit now to you, my faceless audience, my “fondness” for the game Bejeweled Blitz. I cannot start writing until I have payed a few games. (The reason for this, I have decided, is because it is a way of organizing and uncluttering things. Who can writing an organized thought when her mind is all cluttered? And even though they are only vitual messes, once they are disposed of, I feel my mind is straightened out enough to unwind my story. But that is a different tale!)
Bejeweled is a timed game. But even more than that, there is now way to “undo” moves that have been done, like one can do in many other games. This frustrates me, but has worked a life lesson into me at the same time. If I sit and ruminate on the move I could have made (that would have been perfect and earned me so many points!), time will tick by regardless. Time spent thinking about that move counts against me will not earn points. I must move on to new moves.
Life is a timed game. There is not enough time to think about what could have been. Spend your time thinking about how to make the rest of your time count for the best score possible. Wait! Is there a score in life? Oh, that is a blog for another
Passion Under Grace,