Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When I Get Discouraged

I published Choices back in 2007. On the day it was released I was in a hospital bed with a staph infection in my bloodstream, but even though I was deathly ill I still remember wondering about my Amazon sales, hoping somebody bought a book. That first year months went by without a book sale and, even though sales have picked up, today there are still boxes of books stored in a closet in my husband's office (well, I guess I should call it our office now, since I kinda took over most of the space and placed books by other authors of YA fiction on the desk shelves). I have to say that I am disappointed. I imagined every book sold way before this time; not so I could feel like I was somebody important but to know the story was in many hands would help me to feel like I was doing something worthwhile with my life. My sons are older now, so they don't need me the way they used to. When I actually take the time to sit down at the computer and write - having scenes just seem to come from nowhere, writing dialogue, laughing at things a character says or does, getting frustrated with certain characters and situations, resolving issues - there's fullfillment. Choices is an emotional read, though, so writing certain parts drained me. And the whole domestic abuse thing, oh my goodness, I remember being so angry that I had to step away from the story for a while. I'm glad all of that drama is over with. But then again, as long as fiesty Angel is around there will always be drama. And in the next book LaKeeta will give birth. Now, if you've read Choices you know that I can write in a way that can make a reader feel a character's pain, so if you plan to read the next book be prepared.

Okay, so I admit that I didn't promote Choices at all before publication. This was all new to me and I didn't realize the importance of marketing. There were certain reviewers I knew about - reviewers readers seem to listen to - but they don't accept self-published works. So, anyway, after I got out of the hospital and began to feel more like myself again, I did what I could afford - and some things I couldn't really afford - to do to market my debut novel. I also attended a couple of events, which meant paying for a table and buying promotional items and needing money for travel and a hotel stay and gas to and from, etc... but, obviously, it wasn't enough. I didn't have the money mainstream publishers have for my efforts to ever be enough. My plan was to put profit back into the business and use it to publish the next novel in the planned trilogy, but with Amazon getting 55% of book sales (only a few have ordered direct from Kapri Books) I guess I'm just gonna have to be patient. I do thank everyone who has been supportive, but it would be nice if more readers would give Choices a chance. It would also be nice if there weren't people who trash self-published works without even reading a word. I supported self-published novels before Choices. Some stories I liked and some I didn't, which is no different from books I've read that weren't self-published.

I realize other publishers are in this same position; having books that could be selling better. But the difference between them and Kapri Books is that they have more than one book out there so if one doesn't do too well, maybe another will. I only have one book to focus on, so I am still doing what I can do to get it into the hands of readers, reaching out to one person at a time these days.

I entered the Writer's Digest 16th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards. I didn't win but when I get discouraged about this whole book thing, I remember the positive feedback from Judge #5: Author Katrina L. Burchett writes with a warm, confident voice. Her dialogue is realistic and her scenes jump off the page. She knows how to write vivid scenes and chapter endings that make you want to read on. This book is not only entertaining to read but tackles a very important issue and will serve as an educational tool for young people around the world. This was one of the best books in a highly competitive category. This judge looks forward to Author Burchett's future novels... This judge is concerned that the young people who do not yet have a strong connection with God may not be able to relate to some of the characters devotion and belief. However, what makes the story work is that the characters are so openly struggling with all life's questions, including belief in God. The struggles make her story accessible. Great work!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Problem With Some Christian Novels

Christian fiction is my genre of choice, next to young adult novels, which I’ll read if the story is Christian fiction or not. I do have to start being more careful about my reading choices, though, because, in my eagerness to support authors of young adult fiction, I have bought quite a few books lately where characters are taking the Lord’s name in vain all left and right. To see or hear the sweet name of Jesus Christ - a name higher than any other name - being used as an expression or a curse word irks me straight to my spirit. Now, I don’t claim to know the Bible from cover to cover and I am certainly no theologian, but I do listen to teachings by men and women of God such as Dr. Charles Stanley and Joyce Meyer and Pastor Fred Price, Jr. and Dr. David Jeremiah who know how to interpret the Word of God and know how to break it down so anyone listening will be able to understand. I don’t take the time to open my Bible every single day (I’m working on that) but I never went an entire week without reading God’s Word and I use a study Bible so it’s not like I don’t know anything. There is quite a bit I do understand. So okay, to the point... There is quite a bit of Christian fiction that is not what it should be. Why? There are parts of the story that don’t line up with the Word of God. Christian fiction should always agree with what God says in His Word. Yes, the stories are made up but Christianity is real, God is real, Jesus is real and the Holy Spirit is real. So any part of a Christian novel that refers to any Person of the Trinity or anything that has to do with the Bible must be accurate or readers are being misled. This is a tragic mistake I have found quite often in Christian fiction and I am so disappointed each and every time it happens. When I read content in a Christian novel that doesn’t line up with the Word of God to me it’s like a man or woman of God standing at the podium and feeding the congregation wrong information. (This is something that does happen at times, which is why God tells His children to test the Spirits – Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the Spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world – 1 John 4:1)

Christian novels aren’t written just to entertain - or they shouldn’t be, in my opinion. Yes, it is great for Christians to read enjoyable stories that should reinforce life in Christ but I believe these books are also witnessing tools for people of other faiths or especially those who don’t seem to believe anything at all when it comes to spiritual matters. God is using the writing talents of His children to reach those who need to be reached, to send life-changing messages that need to be sent and to teach valuable lessons that need to be learned. That’s not to say secular novels can’t send positive, encouraging, uplifting messages but with Christianity Jesus is the key. People can make hundreds of positive changes in their lives that probably help them to feel better each day about themselves and circumstances and life but if they don’t have the Holy Spirit (God’s Spirit) dwelling on the inside - something that can only happen when Jesus Christ is received as Lord and Savior – all the happiness in the world really doesn’t mean a whole lot in the end. And that’s the same with Christian fiction. The book can have a beautiful cover or an established author’s name attached to it or an endorsement by a well-known author to draw readers , but what’s going on inside?

I realize Christians are all at different places in their spiritual walk: some are still babes in Christ, some are way more spiritually mature than others and some may even be stagnant in their spiritual growth. So my thinking is: authors of Christian fiction should always pass their manuscripts on to brothers or sisters in Christ who are further along in their Christian walk than they are. Actually, let more than one other true Christian read the story. Get as much feedback as possible. Also, Christian publishing companies should make sure there is an editor and proofreader on their staff who really knows the Word of God or won’t mind researching what they don’t know to make sure quality Christian fiction gets into the readers’ hands. Typos happen but perfection is crucial when it comes to the gospel truth portions of the story.

Okay, so I'm reading a Christian novel and a sentence or a paragraph or maybe even the whole page jumps out at me because I know God's Word says something totally different. When that happens I really feel like readers are being cheated. Christian publishing companies should care about what they put out there but I know from what I've read that there are some that don't. Christianity is not a game; it is serious business. Spiritual warfare is a reality and authors of Christian fiction should always keep in mind the unseen forces of Satan. If he can make his way into the stories and confuse readers, he will. One way God speaks to people is through His Word (the Bible) and for those who have no idea what His Word says, but they are reading Christian fiction, how can they know when the wrong message is being sent? There is no way they can know, so I mention these contradictions when I write reviews so readers will know. I am not against any author but I am most definitely against Satan. And, more importantly, I am for God and I am for the reader.

I won’t mention every contradiction I’ve found in Christian fiction, but I’ll end by listing two:

1. I have read more than one story where a Christian character seemed to be okay with karma and all I could do was shake my head with disappointment. Karma isn’t just about getting back what you put out or reaping what you sow, as God puts it; it also has to do with reincarnation. I do not believe in reincarnation and no true Christian should. When Christians leave this world our bodies will die and our spirits will go to heaven (For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it-Ecclesiastes 12:7 -New Living Translation) If you’re not a Christian and you’re thinking right now, well, I don’t believe that, then what you are doing is rejecting the truth of God’s Word and that’s your choice. But it would be really great if you would choose life. Please, please think about accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

2.This is something I have heard so many people say, and I have read a Christian novel or two where a Christian character spoke these words to someone who wasn’t saved: We are all God’s children. This is not the truth. (But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan; this rebirth comes from God – John 1:12-13 – New Living Translation) Every human being was created by God but every person in this world is not a child of God. To become a child of God you must be born into God’s eternal family or born again, which means your spirit is reborn. How do you do this? You confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins and you accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior. If you haven’t already made that choice, I pray that you consider it. Heaven is a real place and so is Hell. Please believe that.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's More About the Lyrics Than The Music

I am a Christian who really needs to open her Bible more often. I'll read from God's Word every week, but not every single day. What I will do most days, especially first thing in the morning, is listen to Christian music. Well, it's not really about the music, but the lyrics. Meditating on the lyrics helps me to keep my mind stayed on Jesus or lifts me up when I'm down or brings me peace when I'm angry or reminds me that God has not forgotten about me or helps me to love others when I just don't feel like it, or helps me to feel even better when I've already tapped into the joy of the Lord within... Okay, I could go on and on but I'll stop there.

God speaks to us through His Word, and He also speaks to us in many other ways like through gifted artists like Mandisa. I was blessed to get her "Freedom" album for only $5.00 at Family Christian Stores on Monday (God knows me well; I love a good bargain). I love all of the songs Mandisa sings, however, He Is With You is my favorite. I found a video on YouTube. Bowmangirl22 is so creative!! Listen closely to the lyrics and be blessed :)

I'm Not A Book Blogger, But I Do Write Reviews

I've been thinking a lot lately about starting a book blog, but I'm going to have to think about it a little more. Book blogging looks like a lot of work and if I start one I want to keep up with it but right now I'm not sure I have the energy. I do post reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and Shelfari, though, and I'd like to share my latest:

Three Novellas

Showers of Blessings by Angela Benson

Assistant Pastor Andrew Gooden has a gambling problem and his wife, Sandra is so tired of dealing with it. They have creditors calling, the house is about to go into foreclosure, bank accounts are overdrawn… they are about to lose everything. Pastor Gooden is in denial about his lust for gambling and he and his wife have been keeping it a secret. Then they win the lottery and start their own church, Showers of Blessings, and things get better for a while but when trouble comes again, Sandra no longer believes the words her husband has spoken so many times before, “I can fix this.” What is it going to take for Pastor Gooden to stop making excuses and deal with the addiction that could cause him to lose everything, including his wife and children?

I kind of felt for Pastor Gooden but I really felt for his wife, who knew deep in her heart he needed help in order to change but accepted his excuses anyway. Pastor Gooden didn’t know any of his blood relatives; he was brought up in foster care. I’m thinking that must have left a huge empty space in his life and maybe he was trying to fill that void with money and possessions and to have a prominent position in the church must have been something he also needed to feel like he mattered.

Doing God’s will and caring more about helping others means more than having material things is a lesson this story teaches. It was a thought-provoking read.

Second Chance Blessings by Marilynn Griffith

Craig Richards was a pro football player who had everything; a beautiful wife, a mansion and a career on the rise. After a knee injury he was cut from the team and his marriage ended in divorce. With little money, he left Atlanta to return to Tampa, Florida where he reconnected with family and old friends. He surrendered his life to Jesus and then became a public speaker to share his testimony. Would he continue to grow in Christ and live for Him or would he return to football, seeking fame and fortune once again?

This was a good story. Craig realized that people who really mattered wanted him around because they genuinely cared about ‘him’, not because of what he could give them. And Craig’s ex-wife Brianna learns a few lessons herself. Her transformation was nice to read about. And I liked TreShard, a sharp-minded teen who wasn’t afraid to voice his opinions. He could have been a little more respectful when he was talking to Craig, though. I was glad when this young man’s actions reminded Craig of what really mattered.

A Knight in Pink Armor by Tia McCollors

Dara is the daughter of a preacher. She likes to start her mornings spending time with God and she also has a heart for people. She takes part in street evangelism ministering to the spiritually dead while her parents, Hunter and Thelma Knight, tend to the physically dead. They want her to take over the mortuary business one day, but Dara has her own dreams; with a heart to serve others she earned a degree in Restaurant, Hotel and Institution Management. Dara wins the lottery and this young woman with a giving heart is able to reach out in a much bigger way. But when trouble comes, will she give up on caring about the needs of others?

The gang situation in this story wasn’t as violent as something I’d see on television or what is really going on in some people’s neighborhoods, but it was disheartening. It’s a sad thing when people are stuck someplace they don’t want to be because they can’t afford to move. And it’s even sadder when someone comes along to destroy the good someone else is trying to do.
After I read these stories I wondered why someone wanted to publish a book with novellas about Christians winning the lottery. Question: “Does God say gambling is a sin?”

In the fictional world: The first and last stories have Pastors who believe it is a sin to play the lottery and it doesn’t make it any less of a sin if the winner uses the money in good ways (The end does not justify the means). These stories also have the lottery winners keeping the money they won a secret because they were afraid of what others would think (Sounds like these Christians were being convicted by the Holy Spirit). In the second story I don’t remember Craig keeping his winnings a secret and it didn’t bother Pastor Green one bit to accept lottery winnings. He just ‘cleaned that money right on up’ and used it to help his church.

Biblically speaking: I’m not clear if the word ‘gambling’ is anywhere in the Bible but… A greedy person tries to ‘get rich quick’, but it only leads to poverty (Proverbs 28:22, New Living Translation) I take this verse to mean God doesn’t want His own (Christians) to take part in any ‘get rich quick’ schemes. What are people doing when they play the lottery? Trying to ‘get rich quick’.

Back to A Million Blessings: Showers of Blessings and Second Chance Blessings made me smile here and there. A Knight in Pink Armor made me laugh (I loved the relationship Dara had with her cousin and best friend India). I recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for entertaining stories, no matter what your beliefs are about playing the lottery.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Growth Is A Good Thing

I think back to the past every now and then. Well, actually sometimes more than I should because there were a lot of things in my past that don't make me feel good to remember. But today I thought about a conversation I had with my youngest sister. I was visiting her and she was listening to music and I remember asking, "You listen to that?" It was a white artist. Her response, "I listen to all kinds of music." I got to thinking about my narrow-minded self after that and today I also listen to all kinds of music no matter the race of the artist just like I'll read a book, giving no thought to the race of the author. With music and books there are some genres I'm not into but I no longer feel I should just listen to music by black artists. I don't know why I felt that way back then; maybe because that was all I knew. Anyway, I changed my thinking before I got into reading, so I never had a problem with reading books that weren't written by black authors. Feel free to check out my Amazon profile to read my reviews of books written by authors of different races and I also reviewed some movies. I have plenty of books saved in my Amazon cart that I'll get around to buying. Lots of good books out there I would have missed out on if I didn't care enough to check myself. Growth is a good thing!

So now I'd like to share a video I have on my iPod. I love this song and I really love how Brandon Heath sings the word Yeah. Enjoy :)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

This Book Thing Is Not Easy

I never believed this whole book thing was going to be easy but it is even more difficult than I thought it was going to be. Even though sales have picked up a bit, it is taking a long time to build a readership. I've done what I can afford to do to let people know my book is available. I have a website. I paid for flyers and promotional pens and business cards and cute little promotional flashlight keychains (Shauntice has one, so that's why I bought these) and handed them out. I've advertised online (wish I could get the money back from the one's that weren't really worth it) and I've attended two events. I haven't done any book signings, but from what I heard about those I'm not sure how much that really matters; for an unknown author, anyway. I did try to schedule one (yep, I was proud of myself for speaking up), but it didn't happen even after I pointed out to the manager that the local authors section, which had quite a few self-published works, could use a teen novel. It seemed I really had to prove myself to this man. Now, I don't know if that was a "black author" thing or a "self-published author" thing, but I do know that weeks later a white male author was having a signing and I didn't see one person approach his table. When I walked into the bookstore he wasn't faced forward to greet people; his body was turned slightly in the chair with one arm hanging across the back of it and he had a look on his face that asked the question, "Why did I even bother?" I guess he wasn't expected to contact all kinds of people or have lots of people call into the bookstore to say they'd show up like I was asked to do. I would have done what I could if a signing had been scheduled; advertised some kind of way - on my website, facebook, whatever. But, anyway, moving on.... The things I have done to get my book attention has helped, but not nearly as much as I expected.

Let me tell you, book events aren't easy for me. I mean, I have to actually put myself out there in front of people. I've never been good at that; I've always been a behind-the-scenes kinda person. It seems some people expect writers to also be good public speakers. If I believe in my story, and I do, I guess I should be eager to get out there and talk about it. Well, I'm workin' on it but I really believe it's going to take a while. I write. That's it. That's what I do. I have always been able to express myself better with the written word and that's why I wrote a novel instead of deciding on speaking engagements to talk to young people. I'm starting to believe, though, that I need to be more 'hands on', but, like I said before, I'm working on it.

In the meantime, thank God for blogs! And because you're taking the time to read this, I thank God so very much for you. What I really wanted to say today is that even though the decision to publish my novel has left me feeling discouraged at times - and I mean discouraged to the point of not wanting to finish the second book or write the third - there have been good days; especially when I receive emails like these:

April 13, 2010

Hello this is Eriyana,
A couple of weeks ago you blessed me with your book at the hair salon. I am keeping my word and emailing you about my thoughts. Your book was excellent. I enjoyed every minute of it. The different characters were perfect examples of real life things that occur. My friends saw me reading the book, and there is now a little list of people who want to read it. Thank you for being a blessing, and i am positive your book will have a positive effect on teenagers everywhere. I look forward to your future books.

April 18, 2010

I have read your book and I must say that I enjoyed it. My friend Eriyana, shared her copy of the book with me and I am glad she did because that was the best book I have ever read. I Love the way you write about real life situations and I can relate to the characters in your book. Do you know when you will make another book? I can’t wait if you do. Once again I enjoyed your book.


I wrote Choices because I was hoping to make a difference in the lives of young people; especially teenage girls. I forget the 'purpose' for this book and the ones to follow when I get caught up in the whole 'doing my best to sell books' thing, but these emails reminded me at a time when I really needed to be reminded. Thanks so much, Eriyana and Caila, for taking the time to write.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mattresses and Self-Published Novels

Family visited for Christmas and they stayed a few days. Before my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew came I had to make sure everyone would have a place to sleep. I had been putting off buying another bed for my oldest son’s old room, but now I had to do something. I had been thinking about a daybed for a while, because I thought that would really look good, but the room is small and I didn’t want to spend much, so I decided on a twin mattress set and bed frame (it all looks nice without a headboard or footboard).
While the salesman – a very courteous man, by the way – was getting together the information needed for the sale, we had a discussion about mattresses. I bought the store brand mattress and he was saying how some people only want brand names. His comment got me to thinking about books and how some people won’t spend their money on a self-published novel while others are more than happy to give these books a chance.
I am here to say, “Self-published does not mean less than.” Now, granted, some self-published novels aren’t that great. I have one among the many books I purchased last year that I am not at all happy with. I read the description and the story sounded interesting and I liked the cover, but when the book arrived I opened it and saw what looks like miniature manuscript pages that were single spaced and no thought was given to alignment (justify equally aligns text on both left and right sides; the best look for any book). I was so very disappointed I spent my money on this book, but then I thought, “Oh well, the presentation is lacking but the story may be good.” So, I will read this book one day and I’m hoping it’s a story I’d give at least 4 stars on Amazon, because when I write my review I will mention the interior (people need to know what they’re thinking about spending their money on) which has already brought down the rating by one star at least. If writers who put their own books out there really care about their stories, then they should do their best to provide prospective readers with a quality product. Have the story edited by someone who isn’t just going to correct spellings or add a comma where it’s needed but will correct errors in sentence structure, make changes in wording or phrasing, point out contradictions, etc. Hire a skilled book designer (unless you’re familiar with QuarkXPress – I mean, you really know what you’re doing- or other software book designers use) and use acid-free natural or cream paper, not white. I guess some use white paper because it’s more cost- efficient, but, in my opinion, white paper looks like the copy and print paper I use for my printer and, for me, this type of paper takes away from the book. Also, the paper I prefer is easier on the eye than pure white. I say this as someone who has published a novel, but mostly as someone who loves to buy books. (I really need to get around to reading those bad boys). Doing the things I suggested will show respect for your work and your prospective customers. And, oh yeah, to be recognized as a publishing company buy a block of ISBN numbers (identifies the title) directly from R.R. Bowker. The person who purchases the ISBN holds the publishing rights. And don't forget the barcode.
Yes, there are a couple of typos in Choices (nothing that takes away from the story and I'm not sure if readers have noticed them). I felt really bad when I noticed the mistakes after the books were printed, and all I can say now is that I'll do much better next time. But this doesn't only happen with self-published novels. I have read quite a few books by mainstream publishers that didn't have just a few, but “numerous” typos and even one or two that looked like there was no time to put the manuscript into the hands of an editor. So, you see, no book publisher is perfect.
My son slept on the mattress I bought and he had no complaints. Just like a store brand mattress can be just as good as a well-known brand name mattress, a novel published by the author can be just as good as a novel produced by an established, well-known book publisher. So, if you don’t want to buy Choices because you don't care for YA fiction or you’re not into reading books with domestic violence or date rape (felt really bad about writing that, but I wanted to make a point) or the Christian element or whatever content it contains that doesn’t interest you, that’s cool; I understand. We all have our tastes in books. But if you don’t want to purchase a copy just because it was published by Kapri Books instead of Simon & Schuster or Hyperion or Knopf or Scholastic (I’m thinking of their PUSH imprint); just to name a few big book publishers out there (I own many of these publishers books, so please don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying anything against any of them), please reconsider and give my story a chance. I’d truly appreciate your support.