Something Different

Over time, writers develop instincts about what they have written. They can tell you whether or not the story is going anywhere. Sometimes, they know as they write the scene that it’s wrong, but they aren’t sure how to fix it. Sometimes, they write a scene just for fun, and will take it out later. Every now and then, a writer starts a story that they know isn’t going to be anything more than research.

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If you have reached this point and you feel the scene, the story, or the whole concept is not worth your time, just keep writing. Trust your instincts and bring whatever it is to a close. Don’t judge it now. You might be writing something just to get the creative juices flowing. You might be exploring a concept that will be dealt with in a different story. You might have a better idea about how to do that scene later on. Don’t delete it unless you know for certain that it is not needed within your story.

I was convinced as I was penning my first story that it was a future bestseller. Of course, I was 18 at the time, and I’m sure that had something to do with it. As time went on and I revisited that first book, I was appalled by how much was wrong with it – both technically and plot-wise. It’s been quite a long time since I finished the story, and I’m still working out all the kinks. I was stumped on how I was going to publish it if it still wasn’t presentable to the public.

Then I started penning Jasmine’s story. It took a few chapters for me to realize that this was my first book, not the one I’d been fixing. I knew as I wrote it that there was something different about the book. It carried the same messages as my other stories, but there was something else as well, something that I still haven’t quite put my finger on. There was a depth in this plot that wasn’t present in my previous attempts. There were possibilities with the story, and a potential for sequels – something I didn’t know when I was writing it.

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Perhaps it was God urging me in the proper direction. Maybe it was my writer’s instinct. Perhaps it was both of those things. Regardless, Jasmine’s first story became my debut novel. I’m glad I listened to that little nudge to pursue this line of stories.

Don’t be afraid to listen to your writer’s instinct. Take the story where it wants to go. Trust that you will know how to get your character out of whatever pickle they find themselves in. As writers, we have excellent instincts about our stories. Trust that feeling as you write and polish. A lot of times, you find out that you were right.

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The Conundrum of Happily Ever After

Happily ever after – the classic fairy tale ending. While it’s not terribly realistic, we as a society crave them. It’s as if we all want reassurance that things can turn out fine.

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I’ve read many books over the years, and I’ve been disappointed more than once by the ending. When things don’t get better, I get upset. My mother still tells me about the book she read, waiting for it to get better. The main character died on the next to last page!

I’ve made a point in my stories to have happy endings. I let my characters sweat, but in the end, it’s worth it. There is a reason for the struggle. That’s what God does with our trials – they are there for an ultimate purpose.

Why am I talking about “happily ever after” endings today? Because I’ve reached a crossroads with the next chapter of my stories, and I feel like the answer may change my identity as a writer. I may be forced to cut the next book in half just due to the sheer volume of events and pages – well over 100 chapters. If I decide upon breaking up the story, I will be forced to end one book before things get better. Yes, cliffhangers are good. But my characters won’t be in very good places at the end. How can I be okay with that as an author, since I’m not okay with it as a reader?

Even if the next book is released within quick succession, part of me feels as if it is unfair to the reader to string them along and then end without a real resolution. I can offer hope of a happy ending at my current stopping point, but that’s about it.

Readers, authors – anyone – feel free to offer feedback. What do you think I should do?

**PS, searching for beta readers for my next book. If you’ve enjoyed the first few stories and can offer honest feedback, let me know if you’re interested! Send me an email! *points to right hand sidebar for email address.***

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Lessons of a Free Promo

I finally decided to sign up for KDP Select. Included in the perks is up to five days where your book will be free. It’s super easy to do. Took me less than five minutes.

But the key to your freebie days will be promotion. You have to tell everyone, and get them to tell everyone. I drafted a friend to whip up a virtual flyer for me with the essential info, then I waited.

Jen cover FreeOnAmazon

Two days before the promotion began, I shared it on Facebook and Twitter. I told my freebie promoters about it. And I waited.

I used the following places to promote my book – Reader’s Gazette, eBook Bump, and My Book Cave – all free! Reader’s Gazette takes three weeks to join, but they are awesome and promote your books once you’re an author. They also tell about your bargains. They’re my favorite of the three.

Then came the day of the promotion. I stalked my sales report and my book rankings. In between all that, I mostly stayed on Twitter.

Authors are your friends. If you’re anything like me, you have a lot of authors on your Twitter feed. Use this to your advantage. Pin your promo flyer to your profile page, then stalk your followers pages. Your assignment is easy – retweet like crazy. If you like it, retweet it. If you don’t want to share it with your audience, don’t. But search for things you can share with your audience.

Why are you spending valuable time promoting what other people are talking about? Simple. 90% of them will see they’ve been retweeted, go to your page, and share your promotion.

Take screenshots.

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Sadly, your awesome stats will not stay in the upper tiers for very long, so take advantage of the moment. Take screen shots. On the first page of your category? Take a screen shot. Circle it in paint. Share on Facebook.
Stalking your rankings is addicting. The numbers keep going up, and it’s AWESOME. You’ll want to know every hour if it’s improved. Plan to be on your computer or phone a lot. It will happen whether or not you think it will.

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Weekends are awesome. I started my promotion on a Friday, ending it on a Saturday. My numbers on Saturday beat out my Friday numbers, but just barely. Weekends are when most people have the time to read, or are searching for their next book. Take advantage of that.

Don’t use your five days all at once. Please spread it out. Use two or three together. Your momentum will build from day to day. You’ll be thankful that you can do it again.

See if more free places will promote you. I found My Book Cave during my first free promotion. I sent them a submission, and they emailed me just after my promotion ended. Since I was flexible on the days that I had available, and the rest of my book fit their criteria for a feature, I was able to get a slot. But that does lead me to my next point.

Spread out your freebies. I ended up being selected for the feature on My Book Cave the next weekend after my first one had ended. I almost wrote them back and asked for a different day. I didn’t. The result, sadly, was rather lackluster. My free copies did move, but in much lower numbers and at slower speeds.

Don’t freak out if you get bad reviews. It’s part of the game. It’s no fun, trust me, but some people will download your book and then get upset that it was exactly what you wrote. It’s okay. You are not a horrible writer, I promise! Everyone has room for improvement. Some things only come with practice.

Offer Discounts. The Book Cave people suggested having my other books on a discount during the length of my promotion. My second book is fairly new, so I wasn’t sure about that. I looked up the Kindle Countdown, and I was eligible for that to begin just after my free promotion started on my first book (for the second time). This was also super easy to set up (but make sure you go to the next page and click the I Agree button – I didn’t, and did not notice anything until the day the promotion was set to begin. I about freaked out when the price didn’t change! I clicked the button and waited. Three hours later, my updates had published and the promotion was live).
While my second book did not sell amazingly well on the days that my book was free and it was super cheap, I did get multiple sales in a single day – something that usually doesn’t happen for me just yet.

Enjoy the moment. This one’s pretty easy. Enjoy your book being popular. People will buy free books. Cross your fingers and hope for good reviews. Until then, smile! People are buying your book!

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#542!!!

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My Miracle

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I am talking about my husband today. Before everyone who’s single rolls their eyes and skips the rest of this post, let me stop and say that this post is written especially for you.

In one week, Bobby and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary. We are both still madly in love with the other, even on days that we annoy the snot out of each other. He is mine, and I am his. Yes, we are that couple that tells everyone how awesome their spouse is, how much we love them, and how we couldn’t imagine life without them.

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Rewind three years. I was half-heartedly dating someone because I was officially 30 and desperate. That relationship wouldn’t last another month, so I don’t really count it. I was not only single – I was depressingly single. No real love interest, no one who I cared about looking my way, and nothing in my field of vision suggested it was going to change any time soon. I’d been single for about 10 years. TEN YEARS. A few blips on the love radar every now and then, but nothing ever panned out for long.

Now, add in the fact that I’m a faithful member a church, and you have the sad picture in a nutshell. My youth group had more girls than boys. Everyone paired up in their teens, but some were left out, just due to numbers. I was watching relationships on the sidelines when I was 15. That didn’t change when I got older.

Sure, I met people. I was constantly doing things in the church world, some of which were done with the hopes of meeting someone. NOTHING. I prayed and prayed and prayed. Nothing happened.

Members of my former youth group got married. I attended the weddings. I smiled, content in the knowledge that my time was coming. The youth group after me started getting married. I looked at their pictures on Facebook and got upset. Really, God? THEY’RE getting married before me? What am I doing wrong?

I had to reach a point where I was okay with being single. I had to be happy for everyone else finding their love interest. I had to be happy for everyone else having babies. Since marriage and a baby were out of the picture for me at the time, I focused all my efforts on my passions – drama and writing.

In the middle of my singleness period, I penned The Test of True Love. Ironic, right? A single person writing a love story. Yes, I know. I had a conversation with God on that subject right after I realized I was supposed to write it. Really, God? Me? You know I’m single, right?

I penned the book, and I started writing the stories that followed it. I kept on doing what I was supposed to be doing – readying myself for an eventual partner in life. I kept waiting. It was hard, sad, and lonely.

Then one day, I received a Facebook message and a friend request from a complete stranger. He was the younger brother of a former coworker of mine. His pastor was online friends with my mom. I was the pastor’s Facebook friend, too. I had met the pastor in person once. The sister messaged me a few days later, saying her brother was interested in meeting me.

Bobby and I met face-to-face in late May of 2013. Almost three years ago. The rest is history.

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Bobby is my miracle. I’m sharing this story with you, my single friends. I gave up hope of it happening to me, but it did. My miracle came in its own good time. And yours will, too.

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I will not be writing next week, since I’ll be celebrating my anniversary. Thanks to everyone who downloaded my book over the weekend! You’re awesome!!

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FREE!

My book will be free for two days later this week!

Jen cover FreeOnAmazon

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The Day I Met Algebra

I work with children. Helping out with homework is part of the job description. I’m fine with most of it…until I hit math. Something about 4th and 5th grade math makes me uneasy. I’m constantly unsure of myself. We’re supposed to check behind the children and make sure the problems are done correctly.

It’s not the kids’ fault that I’m uneasy in math. It’s algebra’s fault.

Once upon a time, I was great in math. I was home schooled for the majority of my grade school years. I went to a private school for part of second and third grade, then returned to North Carolina and went back to our previous curriculum. We discovered that I was a grade ahead in math, since our curriculum took an entire grade to teach the times tables. This lasted me until I reached long division, and that slowed me back down to my actual grade. But I eventually understood the concept, and I was good with math.

Then I met algebra. 9th grade math began with introducing me to the letter X and its evil little cousins, Y and Z. Though the curriculum didn’t change, they just presented the information in a way that I DID NOT get. As we did with everything we did not understand, I turned to my teacher to help me through the difficult part – my dad. Daddy did his best. But he’s a guy, and did not really get how to teach me as a girl to understand what was not clicking. He tried. But it didn’t work. Over and over and over again, we went through the lessons. Over and over and over again, I tried my best. Over and over and over again, it did not click.

Had I been in public schools, I would have failed. The class would have moved ahead, grasping the general concepts and learning to do more complicated problems. Having missed a few of the most basic principles, I would have been hopelessly, utterly, lost.

But I was not in public schools. I was home schooled, and working on the ACE curriculum. Though I have issues with how they present certain things to their students, the way their lessons are set up are literally the only way that I ever learned how to do algebra. In the ACE world, any grade below an 80 is a failing grade. Any checkup (mini-test) or test that does not get this score means you have to take it over until you pass.

I was 16 before I learned that 80 was actually a decent grade. I did a lot of slacking off when I realized that.

But without that 80% threshold, I would have never understood algebra. I was forced to redo several checkups, but, thankfully, never had to retake an entire PACE again (a unit).

It did, eventually, click. I did learn to at least like algebra more than geometry. But I still don’t like algebra.

Sometimes you have to repeat things over and over until you get it. Don’t give up, since writing is constantly a struggle to get it right. The more you do with the concept, the closer you come to at least understanding it. Try not to develop a hatred over whatever it is you’re stumbling over. It will be there to greet you in the next story. Don’t let there be an algebra moment in your writing. Trust me, you’ll never forget it.

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A Tale of Two Kitties

So, our household now has two cats, Shadow and Mario. My husband had agreed that after we had been married a few months, we could get a cat. We ended up with sweet little Shadow.

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Two weeks into our journey as new kitty parents, we both woke up to a plaintive meow nearby. I was startled, thinking Shadow was caught somewhere and hurt. I relaxed when I realized Shadow was sound asleep on my shoulder. I was about to go back to sleep when my husband woke up, asking me about Shadow. With both of us wide awake, we quickly decided the meow was coming from outside. We got up and investigated. We soon found Mario, sitting underneath our bedroom window, frightened and starving.

Though we did search for his family, none of our neighbors claimed him. We believe he was abandoned, since we live beside a road. We eventually took him in, too. We called him Mercy until we found out he was a boy. We changed the name to Mario.

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Shadow is a sweet kitty who generally comes when you call, will sit on you and purr, and generally naps any place up high. When you call her, she will first go to the other human in the room, then on to you. To acknowledge both of us, I guess. She runs around the house with Mario, but gets bored before he does. When they were younger, they used to tackle each other. Shadow was bigger than Mario, and enjoyed the game tremendously. Then Mario grew bigger than her and could start pinning her. Shadow seemed to realize the folly of teaching him that game. Shadow is also fond of the kitchen counter, a place that she is expressly forbidden to climb. We’re still working on breaking her of that habit.

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Mario is full of boundless energy, and only sleeps when he is exhausted. He climbs into anything, and keeps trying to squeeze himself into the top of the closed closet door, because he wants to. Because he just doesn’t get it. Though Shadow likes to nap up high, Mario is the one who generally perches higher than her. He regularly jumps on top of our medicine cabinet and above our kitchen cabinets. Mario has also jumped behind the fridge twice (thankfully, he’s seemed to have outgrown that). He also wants to hop into our dresser drawers and has tried more than once to jump into the shower while it’s in use. Mario, as you can tell, isn’t always very bright.

Try to do anything productive in this house, and you will soon find yourself lovingly being joined by one or both of our kitties. It’s like they sense when we’re about to do something.

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Both cats are wonderful, and we enjoy having them in our house (most of the time). However, when you are intent on working, they can be annoying.

The cats reminded me today of the two sides of writing – boundless energy, infinite curiosity, with a penchant for winding up in places you don’t belong. Then there’s the quiet demure side that generally does what you’re supposed to, but stays longer in the places where you are not supposed to go.

Do you need both sides to writing? Absolutely! You can’t go on an adventure without energy, curiosity, and a bit of fearlessness. But you also need the quiet side of yourself to balance out the wild energy with no though of your destination. You need both kitties to make your writing work.

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Though Shadow hasn’t quite figured out I can’t work like this…

So, when you get annoyed with one side of your writing self, just take a break and hope that either the other side comes soon, or that your wild side will back down. And pray you don’t get stuck behind a fridge – those things are hard to move!

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