Category Archives: Inside the Mind of a Writer

What Could Possibly Be More Important to a New Author Than Marketing?

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Life is an emotional journey. If you’ve read my bio, you already know I believe this. But what exactly does that mean?

To me, it means we need to embrace life, feel each moment as we live it.

Some of those emotions are wonderful. Some are painful. But we need to experience the bad times in order to appreciate the good. Right? Otherwise, how would we know the difference?

As an author, I imagine how my characters would feel in each scene—how I would feel in their place. When I write, I hope to bring those emotions to life so the reader can experience the moment along with my characters. Feel the moment.

The emotions I write are real, but the stories are made up. Fiction. In reality, I’m a private person and rarely share details from my personal life.

This week I’m making an exception, because some emotions are too strong to be contained to one aspect of my life. And in this particular case, my personal life has had a major impact on my journey as an author.

Last month I celebrated the release of my debut novel. Things were going as expected. I was getting great reviews, setting up spotlights, trying to make sense of all that crazy marketing stuff, and beginning to set up a team to help promote me and my book.

And, of course, I was back in the writing cave playing with my imaginary friends. (A.K.A. my characters)

Things were going good . . . and then I suddenly disappeared from public view. Why?

I’m sure there are people who thought I couldn’t find my way, couldn’t figure things out and gave up . . . faded into the abyss. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

So what happened? What could possibly be important enough to make me put all my hard work aside?

Real life . . . Family . . . An emotional avalanche.

See, putting one of my characters through fictional hell is pretty easy. Just pick a tragedy, draw on the vast supply of memories I’ve collected over the years to find something similar, then let the pain flow to the page.

Actually living through those rough times in real life? Not so easy.

It’s been almost a month since my brother went into the hospital for a scheduled surgical procedure with the expectation he’d be back home three days later. Things didn’t go as planned. Post-operative complications led to a mistake that has left him fighting for his life, a battle he has yet to win.

His pain is physical. Mine is emotional. But we share the same fear—the realistic possibility that this story may not have a happy ending.

Despite that, I need to stay strong. I am the one my brother leans on. The one comforting him and hoping my words of encouragement are somehow getting through. I am his advocate—the one fighting for his rights and pushing his medical team for solutions. I am the one responsible for decisions about his care and treatment.

By the time I leave the hospital each night, there’s nothing left inside to give to my characters. Spreading the word about my fictional book seems insignificant under the weight of my real-life drama. Thoughts of interacting on social media are unwanted and easily pushed aside.

Back at home, I crawl into bed for another night of prayers and restless sleep.

I hate the situation we’re in—it shouldn’t have happened—but I don’t regret the role I’ve accepted or the sacrifices I’ve made. We all have priorities, and this is mine.

There is one core value I’ve always taken pride in upholding, the one I’ve worked so hard to instill in my sons.

Family first. Nothing is more important.

Whatever the outcome, this will all be stored away in my collection of memories; and one day it will surely fuel a powerful scene or even become the premise of a fictional story. But for now, it is an all-consuming agony. A harsh reality.

A test of my strength and determination.

I may have fallen—or been knocked down—but I’ll get back up. I am a writer, and my (emotional) journey continues. ~CJ

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Two Hearts: Beyond Control Get your copy of Two Hearts: Beyond Control today at Amazon.com(USA) – Amazon.com(Canada) – Amazon.com(UK) 

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Why Indie? The Answer Might Surprise You…

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I’m proud to say I’m an indie author.

What does that mean, you ask? Quite simply, it means that I am responsible for every aspect of writing, publishing, and marketing my work.

This is the point where most people tend to look at me with an odd expression and ask, “Why would you want to do that?” or “Don’t you need to get a publisher?”

See, there is a common misconception that people who don’t go the traditional route of sending out queries, getting an agent, and signing a contract with one of the large publishing houses aren’t real authors—they aren’t any good.

Sure there are some writers who choose to push the Publish button just because they can. They send their book out into the world without any thought, preparation, or consideration for the readers who will be spending their valuable time reading that book. Their characters aren’t developed. Their story line has holes and inconsistencies. Their book is riddled with errors because they’ve made the careless mistake of skipping the editing process.

These folks have given serious indie authors a bad name.

There are a lot of authors who are happy or content to go the traditional route, and that’s perfectly fine . . . for them.

And some authors only choose the indie path after the traditional publishing route doesn’t work out. But don’t get me wrong—that does’t necessarily mean their books aren’t worthy of publishing. In fact I’ve read some great books by very talented and successful authors that fall into this category.

For me, and for many other authors I’ve met, indie was the first choice—a conscious decision.

Which brings us back to, “Why?” Although the question really doesn’t make much sense to me.

You wouldn’t ask a doctor why she set up her own practice or a carpenter why he set up his own shop. People open up hair salons, boutiques, and pizzerias without questions. The world is filled with countless businesses of all types and sizes, owned and operated by people just like you and me—people who want to be in control of their own lives and futures.

THAT is why I chose to go the indie route.

I’ve admitted before that I am a bit of a control freak. I’ve spent years creating story ideas and characters, breathing life into them by putting them on the page and giving them each a unique voice. I want to be the one responsible for making the decisions that affect my work and choose the people I believe can help make it better.

Being indie is more than just being an author. We are business owners and entrepreneurs. We are our own bosses. We are driven and educated individuals, pushing ourselves to be successful and always looking to grow . . . just like entrepreneurs in any other field.

Indie author-entrepreneurs need to know and understand every step in the life of a book, from capturing the first spark of a story idea to putting a quality finished book in the hands of eager readers. And we need to be willing to hire experts to handle some of those processes.

In the past two years, I’ve had many chances to interact with fellow indies—some of whom have become friends. In the beginning I was amazed by how freely others offered help and guidance, but I soon learned that this is “the indie way.” I am thrilled and lucky to be a part of this amazing community.

In keeping with that spirit, I am working on a way to add my contribution and help out other writers who are just beginning their journey . . . more on that coming soon.

I have faced numerous challenges on my journey as an author, and there are plenty more in front of me. But I can honestly say that I have never loved any job more or felt more pride in each accomplishment. This is what I was meant to do. I believe that in the very depths of my soul.The road to Success

Succeed or fail, it all lies on my shoulders. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why indie? Why not? For me it is the perfect choice! ~CJ

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Two Hearts: Beyond Control Get your copy of Two Hearts: Beyond Control today at Amazon.com(USA) – Amazon.com(Canada) – Amazon.com(UK) 

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My First Book Shout Out -Two Hearts Beyond Control by C.J. Andrews

How cool is this! Many thanks to Sally Cronin for featuring me and Two Hearts: Beyond Control on her “New Book Shout Out!” Click the link below and pop on over to Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life to check it out. ~CJ

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Today a romance that takes a lonely and unfulfilled housewife on an unplanned adventure. Two Hearts Beyond Control by C.J. Andrews published on October 16th. About the book Danielle DeLaney will do…

Source: My First Book Shout Out -Two Hearts Beyond Control by C.J. Andrews

Who Says Dreams Don’t Come True?

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Shhh . . . and don’t you dare pinch me. I’m not ready to wake up. I am having the most amazing dream . . . so much better than the one I’ve been having for years.

You remember that one? I’m sure I’ve told you about it before—the one where I become a published author and share my fictional stories with the world.

Coming back to you?

Well, this time I dreamed that it actually came true, can you imagine. I went online to shop for a new book, and—what do you mean it’s not a dream? Are you sure?

Ouch! Hey, I told you NOT to pinch me . . . and that was a kinda hard, by the way. But wow . . . look at that.

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You’re right. This isn’t a dream. I’m a published author! I did it!

And I’m still sane . . . for the most part.

Sure, my family and friends will probably tell you I’m not . . . or that I made them crazy along the way with my obsession for perfection and my self-imposed deadlines. But you’re not gonna believe them.

You’re not . . . are you?

Okay. Just checking.  Phew . . .

Anyway, this has been such an exciting journey filled with many opportunities to grow—both as a writer and an individual—and I’m glad you’ve allowed me share the experience with you. Both the highs and the painful lows.

But I’ve weathered those storms, pushed through the times I felt defeated, and finally made it to the port of Published Author. And I’m just getting started.

What’s next, you ask?

My journey continues, of course! I’m entering a new phase of the publishing industry as an indie author-entrepreneur and learning so much more that I did as an aspiring author.

There’s a lot of work to be done. No time now to sit and chat—we need to keep moving! And I already have a few great stories and lessons to tell you about along the way.

Next stop . . . best-selling author.

The Journey Begins Here

I’m sure the road will be bumpy with lots of steep hills, but I’m determined to get there! Fasten your seatbelt and come along with me as I share the challenges, frustrations, and excitement of being an indie author-entrepreneur. 

See you soon!~CJ

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Get your copy of Two Hearts: Beyond Control today at Amazon.com(USA) – Amazon.com(Canada) – Amazon.com(UK)

newsletter Want to get updates, previews, and special offers for CJ’s upcoming books sent right to your inbox? Sign up NOW!

Who’s Afraid of the Big Blank Page

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We’ve all been there before. Whether writing a novel, a report, a blog post, or a menu for the week when you don’t feel like cooking. You find yourself staring at the dreaded blank page. The one that’s supposed to capture your brilliant thoughts and ideas as they flow from your fingertips.

The curser sits there, waiting impatiently . . . blinking  . . . blinking . . . still freakin’ blinking. You’re sure it’s laughing at you. Mocking you.

~ Okay, maybe that’s just me. ~

My point is, sometimes the words don’t come. At all. And you begin to wonder if you’ll ever finish your project. Reach your goal.

When that happens, you have two options:

1-You can give up and tell yourself you just don’t have what it takes—which can be a very tempting option at times.

2-Or, you can dig deep and push through, doing whatever it takes to make it to the end.

If you’re wondering which path I chose, you need to get to know me better . . . and I look forward to that.

Failure is my greatest fear, and it’s never an acceptable option. So I’m fortunate to have people around me who won’t let me settle for being less than I can be. Won’t let me give up on my dreams.

I’ve been quiet for a while—too long—but that’s what it took for me to focus solely on my goal and accomplish what I set out to do when I began this crazy journey as a writer. With the amazing support and encouragement of my family, I’ve been able to chase down my dream and turn it into a reality.

Which means, I have exciting news to share! 

I am very thrilled and proud to announce that my debut novel, Two Hearts: Beyond Control, is (finally) with my editor and is planned for release in October.

So what’s next? Plenty of hard work!

While my editor performs her magic, helping me put the last coat of polish on my manuscript, I’m tackling two very important aspects of my book—the cover and the blurb. Sounds easy enough, right?

*sigh* Wrong.

After a week of wrestling with these two beasts, I’ve decided that writing my book may have been the easy part. At least it’s all fun, no matter how big the challenge, because I’m doing what I LOVE to do!

I have a lot to learn about publishing and marketing. And I’ll continue to share my adventure with you right here, so stick around. Our journey together isn’t over yet!

And, of course, I’m still writing and have several exciting projects under way!

  • The second book in my trilogy, Two Hearts: One True Love, is coming along nicely with an anticipated release in Spring of 2017.
  • I’m in the early stages of writing and developing a novella series that will debut next year.
  • And I’m working on a web-based series that will run on this website … watch for that in the very near future.

So far this has been an amazing journey for me, and I’m so happy to have you along for the ride! Hold on tight . . . We’re just getting started!  ~CJ

 

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© CJ Andrews, Daydreamer Press, 2016. All rights reserved.

Still in the Race . . . A Brief Update for All You Inquiring Minds

FullSizeRender 11I know I’ve been quiet for a few weeks, but I’m still here.

Recently, I’ve heard a lot of authors, some wildly successful, say that the hardest part of writing a book is actually finishing the story. Following their advice, last month I changed my normal writing process and set out to finish writing my story without “tidying it up as I go” . . . just dumping the words on the page to get to the end.

In order to eliminate distractions and focus on writing my book, I put myself in a “timeout.” That meant no blogging, no chatting with friends and fellow authors, and no playing on social media.

It’s been lonely, but the results are proof that the sacrifice was well worth it.

Did I meet my goal and finish my first draft by the end of January?

No.

Did I finish it by the middle of February?

Still, no.

Am I discouraged about not finishing my book? Definitely not! I managed to write more in five weeks than I wrote in the previous eight months.

I have two scenes left to write—two stubborn scenes that I can’t seem to figure out. But I’m not worried. I know what needs to happen, and I know the right words will come to me . . . eventually.

Giving up now would be like running a marathon and lying down two feet before the finish line. I can’t imagine any runner would work so hard, only to give up and do something so foolish; and neither will I.

I’m almost there . . . so incredibly close.

But, you know what? As excited as I am about the progress of my book, the most important thing I’ve accomplished the past six weeks is remembering why I wanted to write in the first place. And that’s because I love it.

I write every day. 

Not because it’s a habit. Not because it’s what I’m expected to do.

I stopped putting unnecessary stress on myself with unrealistic expectations and self-imposed deadlines that took the fun out of writing. Because that’s what writing is to me. Fun. Creative. Making up people and stories, writing them down, then reshaping them until I create something I’m proud of and want to share with the world.

I write, because it’s what I want to do. It makes me happy.

So, while my last two scenes get into shape, I’m working on my favorite part of the creative process—revising the chapters I wrote so far this year. The last chapters of my debut novel.

I’m still here. I’m still in the race, and I have no doubts that I’ll cross the finish line. Very soon. —CJ

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© CJ Andrews, 2016. All rights reserved.

A New Year, New Goals, and a New Plan of Attack

IMG_1423Happy New Year! . . . and good riddance to 2015. Yeah, I know I’m a week late. I have a really good excuse though!

I’ve been busy writing.

I never make New Year resolutions—those things most people toss around casually with no real intention of following through on.

Anyone can throw out a general statement: This year I’m going to eat healthier. This year I’m going to exercise more. This year I’m going to . . . well, you get the idea. They’re great ideas—great resolutions, but they don’t have a plan to support them. As a result, they’re often a distant memory by noon on January 1.

Instead, I prefer to set goals and make plans.

If I say,  “I want to eat healthier, so I’m going to cut out processed foods and have one vegetarian day each week.” Now I have a goal and a plan, so I’m more likely to follow through. Right?

The same principles apply to writing. Last year, my goal was to finish my book. Period. Did it happen? Um, that would be a big, fat NOPE! Instead chaos, disorder, and distractions reined.

NOT this year. I have a list of solid goals for 2016, and plans on how to achieve them. First up is my goal to finish the first draft of my novel by January 31. IMG_1425

That’s right, you’re not seeing things . . . I’ve attached a date for finally finishing.

The last few chapters will still need polishing before I run them through my critique group, and then there’s the whole revisions and editing phase; but those things will all fall into place once I have a finished story to work with.

This is a huge goal for me, a personal challenge. I need to nail this one to prove to myself that I really am a writer.

I know what needs to happen yet in my story and how many chapters are left to write. I can estimate about how many words it will take to write each of those scenes. Breaking it down, I know how many words I need to get on the page each day in order to reach my goal . . . and it’s a lot more than I’m used to writing.

That means I need to make a few changes in my life. The biggest change: writing my story is now a top priority in my day . . . EVERY day. To make sure that happens, I began getting up early to write first thing in the morning.

Keep in mind that I am not a morning person. The sight of me dragging myself out of bed at four am . . . well, let’s just say it’s not pretty. It’s a price I’m willing to pay though, and the results have been good so far—I am on target to meet my goal.

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January is off to an exciting start, and I’m racing toward the finish line. I can see “The End” in sight. —CJ

2015: The Year of Lessons Learned…and the End of the Foolish Dreamer

 

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I started my blog about six months ago. Since then, I’ve written several posts that talk about my dream of becoming an author. I even wrote a post solely devoted to the idea. (Chasing A Dream) But here’s the thing I’ve come to realize about dreams: most times they’re unrealistic fantasies, things we wish for that will never come true.

Today, that all stops . . . the dreaming, that is. Imagining myself as a writer—seeing myself doing all the things I know a writer needs to be doing—is never going to get me anywhere.

Now, that’s not to say I’ve been foolish enough to think I could sit back all this time, just waiting to watch a miracle happen. I’m saying that I need a different mindset, a better approach, in order to avoid becoming a life-long dreamer.

Looking back on 2015, I’m not at all satisfied with what I accomplished. I’ll even go so far as to say I’m disappointed in myself. The book that I dreamed would be flying off the shelves by the end of the year? . . . well, I’m still not finished writing it.

You can’t win the race before you even leave the starting block.

It’s so easy to get swept up in the excitement of talking to other authors and learning all that they’re willing to share … which is far more than I’d ever expected when I first entered the indie community.

It’s also easy to let all of that become a distraction. With too much energy focused on new opportunities or on preparing for the future, you can forget to focus on the present—for a newbie author, that means getting down the words for my story.

This is where I failed.

At least I managed to learn a lot of valuable lessons this year that will help me reach my new goals:

  • I leaned I can’t do EVERYTHING I want to do, because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. More importantly, I learned to accept that and to prioritize so I can focus on the big pieces of the puzzle.
  • I learned to say no. This is huge, because saying yes to everything other people want or expect me to do for them—or things they think I should be doing for myself—means there isn’t enough time to do the one thing I need to do, which is finish writing my book.
  • I learned that words may sting, but they can only hurt me or kill my spirit if I give them permission to. Having a thick skin is an absolute MUST for authors. While we’re all entitled to our own opinions, people may not always voice their’s in the kindest of manners. I realize this is something I’m bound to run into more as my audience expands, especially after the release of my book. Being able to search for any value in their messages and letting the rest fall away is vital.
  • I learned to believe in myself. I had plenty of refresher courses in trust, honesty, and dependability this year. Some were painful lessons, but they made me a stronger person. They taught me to be confident enough to trust my own judgment and stand up for my ideas and opinions. They taught me to fight for what I want. I won’t be foolish enough to make the same mistakes again.

I can’t change the past, but the future is mine to command. Dreams don’t come true . . . I need to plan and work hard to make them become a reality.

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With the start of the new year closing in, my dream of being an author no longer exists. Instead, I’m eager to move into 2016 with a new set of values and a list of goals, and plans on how to achieve them. —CJ

Cracking The Mystery Of “Goodreads For Authors,” Part Two: READERS

This week I’m excited to share a guest post I wrote for Dan Alatorre’s popular blog. (Thanks, Dan!) Follow the link below to pop on over and check it out. –CJ

A Timely guest blog post by my friend, critique partner and fellow author CJ Andrews – Dan. Sunday afternoon Dan and I were chatting about his post on how authors can use Goodreads. As I rambled on about my thoughts on the topic, we (okay, Dan) realized that a lot of authors may struggle with this […]

http://danalatorre.com/2015/12/14/cracking-the-mystery-of-goodreads-for-authors-part-2-readers/

You Need to Build an Author Platform

 

social-media-961769_640Every writer has heard this phrase. We know it’s a crucial part of our career, whether we choose the indie or traditional publishing route. But what does it really mean?

I could tell you to go ask my good friend, Google. He knows everything and can point you to tons of books, blogs, videos, webinars, and so on that are dedicated to the subject. But . . .

Well, that would leave me with a really short blog post. Instead, I’ll share what I’ve learned over the past year and a half. More importantly, what I’ve learned over the past few weeks.

The first time I heard about building a platform, I was reading a book on successful e-book publishing . . . long before I even started chapter one of my debut novel. At the time, my mind tried to conjure up the image of a physical structure, and it looked like some rickety old wooden tower—something that would easily collapse in a mild breeze.

Looking back, that fragile structure was a pretty accurate representation of my writing venture in the early days. I didn’t have any contacts or friends in the field to lean on for support. No critique partners to make me a stronger writer and storyteller. No mentor to guide me and shove me back on course when I strayed.

There was no internet presence, which should make up the largest portion of an author’s platform. No one even knew I wrote, so there weren’t any readers. And honestly, the idea of someone reading my thoughts back then terrified me, so I didn’t mind.

That’s no longer the case.

Now, a year and a half later, I have a pretty good idea what an author’s platform should look like. From here, it’s just a matter of acquiring all the necessary tools and continually working to build it bigger, better, and stronger every single day.

So, what is this platform stuff all about?

Simply put, it means developing your author brand and image. It means you need to make yourself visible as an author. It’s about networking and making connections—the same key principals that apply to every other business in the world.

That’s right . . .  we need to communicate with other authors, editors, bloggers, artists, readers—

Hold on . . . I need to talk to people? Like . . . strangers? I’m, um . . . I’m pretty sure my parents warned me against that . . .

A lot of writers tend to be introverts, and I’m no exception. We usually have enough characters roaming around in our heads to have long, detailed conversations without needing to bring another actual person into the mix. We’re content to sit quietly on the sidelines of life and listen in, always filing away the information we gather for use in a future story.

Some people, the non-writer types, insist on calling that eavesdropping, but we all know it’s just research. Honest!

Okay, so I finally know what a platform is and what I need to do. That’s progress.

So why haven’t I been doing it? That’s a great question!

I wish I had a good answer. Maybe I was feeling a little insecure, maybe something shook my confidence, maybe the dog ate my homework.

The reason doesn’t really matter. Everyone falls. Everyone screws up. What matters is what we do after the fact—how we learn from our mistakes and use that knowledge to move forward.

I’ve been down the rabbit hole. It’s dark. It’s lonely. And hiding down there is no way for an author to build a successful career. I’d taken the right first steps and set up social media accounts in multiple outlets, but I neglected to actively participate and missed out on so many opportunities to connect with members of the amazing indie community and a plethora of avid readers searching for a new book or a new favorite author.

Big, big mistake! Huge!

But it’s never to late to do things right, so now it’s time for all of that to change!

My journey is back on track. I’m writing every day. I’m focused, and I’m feeling confident and strong. I have a book to finish writing, and I need to build a strong platform that will support it and carry me on to a successful writing career.

The experts all say that a website and blog are the most important building blocks for any platform. You can use the buttons on the sidebar to follow my blog and to connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

See ya ’round the internet. —CJ