for the Bookworms

Stories of an author encountering readers

As an introvert, I was surprised to find one of my favorite things about being an author is in-person events. Because y’all are seriously so fun to meet and connect with. Here are just a few encounters I’ve had in my year of being published:


I don’t know what it is, but kids are always interested in my table. I need kids books.

A girl around 6 years old wanted my psychopathic murderer book. Her mom told her when she got older she’d be able to read a book that big. Skipped right over the whole scary murderous part, just said she needed to work her way up to bigger books. #parentinggoals, am I right?

I told the girl she could take a collectors card instead, and she picked up Cami’s BFF, a real safe choice.

She looked disappointed and said “I want something scary.” Sooooo, I grabbed Villains 1&2 instead for her, and her face lit up.

Like I said, I need kids book lol. Maybe with a little scary.


Another kid, this time a young teen, marched straight up to my booth and quickly spilled out: “I like writing stories and I wanna know what my options are, and my teachers say a journalist, but what are my options?”

It was so cool to tell him that yes, he can be an author if he wants. He can be a journalist if he wants. And besides that, every company in the world pretty much needs writers, for every website and social media post and brochure and email you see. If there’s a company you love, they’re probably in need of a writer.

Related: If you’re wondering what your options are for being a grownup professional writer – Lots!


This summer at an event, a lady was looking for someone to room with to save money. Probably not looking for a murder author, but it didn’t occur to me at the time. So, we coordinated plans and met there, and everything went well. Until…. she volunteered to work at the event’s bookstore…

Later that day, she confronted me: “You wrote a book from the perspective of a MURDERER?! I’m sharing a room with you, and you didn’t tell me?!” Haha, she was totally joking – or she played it off that way so she wouldn’t anger a suspected murderous author I suppose – and we had a grand time.

But now I know, I should probably disclose that info in every interaction. “Hi, my name is Amy, and I wrote a book from the perspective of a psychopathic murderer.” Feel safer now, don’t you? 😉


And finally, best quotes from encounters with readers:


I love murder… mystery! I should finish that sentence!

a person at my booth

We’re a family of murder.

a whole family checking out my book together
(I’m not sure what that means, but mostly, I’m not sure I wanna find out, for plausible deniability and all)

Hmm, this one’s Cami’s BFF. I don’t know, Cami sounds sketchy. I’m gonna keep my eye out for her.

A person picking up a collector’s card of Cami’s BFF from my book

Now I know who not to make mad. You know how to kill and get rid of the body.

A person walking past my booth, upon seeing my book title

How about you? Have you had any intriguing or humorous encounters with authors or with readers? Share below 🙂

And next year, it’s time for us to meet at an event, mmk?

Showcasing other Creatives

GUEST POST: Five minutes in the mind of a writer by Megan Fatheree

Sometimes you wake up with your mind completely blank. Other times, you wake up with a serial killer in your head.

Sometimes the love story turns out perfectly. Other times, some minor character suddenly thinks he’s the star and should get the girl.

Sometimes you cry with your characters and sometimes you smile as you wreak havoc in their lives.

Welcome to five minutes in the mind of a writer.

There is a story behind each and every one of these dilemmas. Some are ongoing. Some haven’t started yet. (If you’re wondering, it’s the serial killer that has yet to start. I’m trying to ignore him.) They all live in my head all together at any given time.

Sometimes even the writer can’t control what happens in her story. People think I’m crazy when I talk about my characters like they’re real people, but they are. To me. I watch their lives and write down what happens. It’s just as simple and as difficult as that.

I say all this to make the point that writing is hard work and far more detailed than most people think. It’s a job that requires passion for the art. It’s hard work that may or may not pan out in the end. It’s putting a piece of your most vulnerable self on paper and praying that people don’t rip that part of you apart bit by bit. It’s unpredictable.

Just like life.

I’m a writer partly because I want to help people escape reality into an epic adventure. However, we all have to deal with life and what it throws at us. Even I have to deal with life.

Let me make a confession: Hello. My name is Megan Fatheree, and I hate the unpredictable.

Long story short, I’ve had too many unpredictable things happen in my life, and change and I don’t often get along. I’m an introvert and – even though I’m better now – grew up painfully shy and bashful. Change forces me out of my comfort zone. I don’t like that. Do I have a choice?

No. Sadly.

I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but you don’t have a choice either. You do have a different choice though! You can be the person that sees “two steps forward, one step back” and thinks it’s a delay. Or you can be the person that sees it and thinks, “It’s like a cha-cha!”

It’s the unpredictable that makes living interesting, but it also makes life cruel. I deal with that all the time. Life throws the most odd curveballs at every one of us. No one is exempt. Not even writers. Not even characters.

I’m going to admit that in my latest book, A Time to Live (affiliate link), I had so many of these unpredictable moments I began to question my own sanity. As the third book in the trilogy, everything started coming together and crashing into a climax. Not, however, before everything went wrong and I had to reevaluate both my plot-line ideas and my existence on this planet.

However, even for these characters, I had to try to look on the positive side. I know it’s hard, y’all! Our little human selves want to complain about everything and see all the negative and eat a gallon of ice cream in one sitting. All of these are bad ideas! How are we ever going to learn to deal with the unpredictable if we aren’t a little bit positive about what’s coming down the road?

So… Is life unpredictable? Yes. Will this writer continue to shut out the serial killer character until he finally wins over due to persistence and sociopathy? Probably. Will you join me in embracing life’s unpredictable moments?

That’s up to you.


Hey all, Amy here! Here to tell you all about the wonder of Megan and her stories. Megan Fatheree is the co-founder of #writersslumberit, where we spent many a night discussing psychopathic villains. If you enjoy Christian romantic thrillers, Megan is your gal. I was proud to copyedit Dust to Dust (affiliate link), the first of the trilogy. A Time to Live, the final book in the series, launches today!

Check out the book:
Amazon (affiliate link)
Apple Books
Barnes and Noble Nook
Kobo

Check out the author:
Website
Instagram


Disclaimer: All of the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. I may receive a portion of sales. More importantly, you will gain a new favorite author with piles of romantic thrillers for you to binge-read.

Faith, Mental Health

A welcoming church for battling anxiety

I was reading the book Quiet by Susan Cain (affiliate link) and she talked about how church isn’t really designed for introverts. She brought up many good points, and as I read that section, I began to think of how many times church also isn’t built for people with anxiety.

You see, when my anxiety began to ramp up, I had to drastically change my life in order to keep living it. Only having so many spoons (so much energy) to give and all that. Which factors in to all the things I weigh when attending church (or really, just about any gathering of people. But for the purposes of this blogpost, church).

Disclaimer: This list is not intended to be representative of ALL people who battle anxiety, nor is it intended as a demand that all churches offer these items. That’s not realistic or beneficial. Every church offers different things, which is good because every individual has different needs. And most importantly: the answer is not one size fits all, but about digging into relationship to learn what helps and what hinders.

Instead, this is to show the myriad of seemingly small things that make a HUGE difference in serving the people around you. Perhaps this will open the discussion of how churches and gatherings can be more inviting for those who battle mental illness.

So without further ado….

Frivolous-seeming items that I consider at church, not for the spiritual aspect, but for my own mental health:

  1. Drinks being allowed in the sanctuary: Chai lattes are my liquid calm. I’ve written all about it before, but basically, a combination of the cozy warmth and the placebo effect makes it calming for anxiety-indiucing situations.
  2. Seating isn’t dictated: I need to sit near the back on an end seat ideally, for a quick escape, or at least so I don’t feel trapped. That “everyone come to the front” thing terrifies me. Worse, twice at church events I’ve had an usher ask me to move into the center of the row to make it easier for those who arrive late, which I can understand from their perspective, but I came early to have the seat that I need. (This ironically makes me think of the parable in Luke 14:7-11 of “taking the worst seat at the table so you can be honored and invited to a good seat”.) A church that doesn’t bring up seating is best for me – which usually means a church that is full enough to not be spread too thin, but not so full as to be packed in to every last seat.
  3. Chairs, not pews: With pews, people can crowd your space. With chairs, I can be a little more certain that my personal bubble remains in tact.
  4. No congregational parts that everyone “just knows” except me: Lots of churches you have to know to recite a certain thing at a certain time or stand or sit or whatever at a certain time. Ritual. It’s a beautiful thing. But, if it’s not a ritual I’m already familiar with, if I don’t already know those queues, I’m not ready to learn them. I need to stick to the structures I already know.
  5. Punctual/structured, know what to expect: In contradiction to the above, churches that switch it up every time or start really late or the “don’t have a plan” wing-it stuff… Panic! I’m a paradox, okay?
  6. Small groups stay small with consistent people, location, time, punctual: Related to the above, I need to know what to expect. Same people, same place, sticking to the times we’ve set. Deviations from the plan are gonna take up a spoon (my energy).
  7. More than one-stall bathrooms: Y’all, one-stall bathrooms are hard to go cry or have a panic attack in. Bathrooms are the safe place, until they’re not because there’s a line of people outside waiting for this one stall and they KNOW you’ve been in there for 10 minutes and either you or your bowels are in distress. Multiple stalls give the freedom to stick around if needed with people still cycling through the line to not figure out you’ve been in there forever trying to avoid panic.
  8. People arrive early for chat rather than chatting after service: I don’t have the spoons (energy) after service to stick around. That’s why I show up early, when I still have the energy to attempt socializing.
  9. No welcome/greet time midservice: Please do not ask me to welcome people around me during service. Both the introvert and the panic in me can’t handle it. There’s no time to connect with the person on a meaningful level, & I can only interact with so many strangers in a day before panic sets in, so this is a real bummer of a way to hit that quota. I heard of a church that takes a break midservice for people to refill their coffee – that naturally builds in casual conversation without putting pressure on anyone to awkwardly approach another and act like instant bffs. I think it’d be cool if more churches implemented that model.
  10. Loose dress code: I need comfy calming clothes for my bad days – if I have to be fancy or if I have to wear jeans/tshirt to fit in with the crowd, that’s not enough. (Note: sorry to break it to you, but jeans are not relaxing material.) Also, I try “stacking” my out-and-about anxiety-inducing activities to better utilize the small energy I have to give each day, so if I can show up in gym clothes with a tunic over them, even better.
  11. Lots going on during worship: I imagine this one especially doesn’t apply to everyone. For me, if there’s a strong bass or drumbeat, or if there’s a flag waving, or a dancer, or a loud harmony, or a painter or violin or something unique – all the better for me. I need something to hone in on that keeps me grounded, and somehow, those things do it.
  12. Open style of worship: Where people are welcome to sit, stand, cry, kneel, sing or not, whatever. I can’t always stand. I sometimes will cry. If I’m the only one sitting and crying, I won’t exactly feel like it’s an appropriate atmosphere for me.
  13. Kind theology on topics of healing and demonic oppression: If I’m going to bring up anxiety and be told I have demons or be told I don’t have enough faith, that’s gonna be rough. Note: The latter has come up in every church setting I’ve been in, but at the very least I try to avoid it when possible.
  14. Has Kleenexes, can handle expressions of emotion: Once again, sometimes I’m gonna be sobbing. This helps.
  15. Meetings don’t go past 7:30pm: You laugh now, but wait til you ask me to hang out in the evening. Then you’ll give me “the look” I’ve grown so familiar with. Sleep, super early sleep, helps me manage my anxiety that night and the next day. I know, I’m like a grandma, (my friends who know Japanese say “obaa-chan mitai” which literally means “like a grandma”). But if society wants to put up with me the next morn, it’s gotta be that way.
  16. Less about doing, more about being: I know, both are important. Absolutely. But if the church is constantly pushing socialization and volunteer opportunities, I can only spread myself so thin and interact with so many people before I give out. I want involvement, but in manageable chunks.
  17. People come and go through the service: If everyone sits/stands in their place the entire service, I’m gonna feel real uncomfortable with my leaving for the bathroom (for “regular” reasons or for panic, both happen frequently) or leaving the building early because my anxiety can’t take it that day. When other people take bathroom breaks, take their kids in and out, leave early for a lunch meeting, go grab coffee midservice – anything to normalize the coming and going during the service – I feel more free to do the same without being conspicuous or judged as a heathen or whatever.
  18. Honest lyrics, not just happy happy: Ya know that song “You’re never gonna let me down”? Ughhh, sorry ’bout it, but God is gonna let ya down at some point. Because His ways are higher and all that, we’re not always gonna see eye to eye with Him. And I’m all about the happy happy joy joy lyrics in moderation, but if our worship can also acknowledge the depths of suffering and grief and God’s presence through it, I’m gonna feel a whole lot more like I can relate to the content and worship and a whole lot more like I’m not an imposter Christian for not feeling happy all the time.
  19. Avoiding too much of the “it’s not about your comfort” lectures: It’s not. I know that, and I do need reminded of that sometimes. But I also spend countless hours of my life stretching outside my comfort zone to do seemingly small things because they’re good for me. And I think of the verses that talk about not being a barrier to those approaching God (Matthew 23:4, 13), the seemingly moral standards that actually have nothing to do with holiness and can hinder it instead. Those are the things I pay attention to for my own life, like this list here, and I hope to remove any barriers I put up for others as well.

Bonus idea that I’ve only seen once but I wish every church would adopt: Over the past year or two or something, my pastor has begun emailing congregants every week right before the weekend, just a super short email of who’s leading worship, what we’ll be talking about, and any special events that are going on that week (communion, potluck, outreach, etc.). Not some big professional marketing email or anything, but something quick and personable. And remember: I want to know what to expect, to mentally prepare myself or whatever. So this new thing he started, the bomb-diggety. 10/10 would recommend.

Disclaimer: This list is not intended to be representative of ALL people who battle anxiety, nor is it intended as a demand that all churches offer these items. Every church offers different things, which is good because every individual has different needs. Rather than a critique, I actually hope this mostly calls attention to ways that seemingly small things in the church are serving individuals in large ways. In the meantime, if this also opens a dialogue of how churches can serve their attendees in new ways, I am happy with that as well.

So, what about you? Are there seemingly small things that really serve you in a big way at church? Is there something you see a need for in your church that you can offer? Are you providing a safe space for individuals to discuss small changes you’ve never seen a need for? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

Exclusive Content, for the Writers

All the details on my author taxes process

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for the Creatives

4 steps to the creative process

  1. It starts with an idea. A spark. Inspiration. Like attending a creative arts conference or a lego art exhibit. That was my summer. 

  2. Then it’s about building in the routine. Not daily necessarily, just consistently. This year, I have a friend building her writing routine alongside me, you might remember her from the prior blogpost: Jenn. 

  3. And always, it’s about growth. Learning from those ahead of you. I want to use the gifts I’ve been given well – I don’t want to take the responsibility and the trust lightly. I always want to tell the best story I can and get it in front of those who will truly connect with it. 

    That’s why this year I’m investing in the Created to Thrive mentoring program of Matt Tommey’s. I’ll be studying and improving every week, and hopefully you’ll get to see it. 

And amidst all that, and amidst “regular life” stuff of chores and errands and dayjob and family and friends…there’s the 4th step: rest. When I really get going, that’s the piece that I can let go too easily. 

9 months. No, I don’t mean to birth a baby or a book. 9 months to recover from birthing a book. On October 23, “I Know You Like a Murder” will be 1 years old. A couple months of post-publication work, then the beginning of this year I was burnt out. I had no bookish goals for the year because I didn’t want to push myself again.

But I can now say it takes 9 months to bounce back and try to spend every waking moment working on writers life again. This time, I’m trying to build in rest better. Friends are helping me gauge when I’m slacking and when I’m resting. Next time I proceed more carefully, find rest throughout the process, and bounce back quicker.

What’s your best tip to building rest into your hectic life? Comment below and teach me your secrets. And which step of the creative process are you working on? 

Central IL, Showcasing other Creatives

Lego Art

There are probably a thousand ways I could take this post:

  • Think like a kid
  • Creativity outside the box – ahem, and inside the block 😉
  • Exposing yourself to new art mediums to jumpstart your own creativity
  • The importance of making art accessible to everyone

…just to name a few. But, some things speak better than my words can. I went to the lego art exhibit by Nathan Sawaya and took in his art and his words. Inspiration for anyone, but especially creatives. Take a look:

Nathan Sawaya often had captions next to each sculpture, about being an artist. Every artist should get a chance to read those, if nothing more to remind ourselves we’re not alone trying outrageous ideas to see what happens. Like this one:

If the exhibit comes to your area, go. If he speaks in your area, probably go, though unfortunately I missed his local presentation due to another obligation.

And if he doesn’t come to you, here’s another option: I was so mesmerized by his art as well as his words, that I immediately picked up his book Art of the Brick (affiliate link). If you want a book that fuels your creativity that’s a bit different from your other books that fuel your creativity, maybe check it out for amazing artwork of course, as well as great stories about his artistic career. Here is one of my favorite endearing snippets that made me laugh:

An inspiration to us all 🙂 Check out Nathan Sawaya in person or in book form if you’re interested. And either way, find some new and different art to fuel your own creations.

Central IL, Faith

Karitos 2019

Yes, I’m telling you about something that happened this summer, but #throwbackthursday mmkay? 🙂

For five years now, I’ve been attending the Karitos Christian creative arts conference in the greater Chicago area. This year it was in Streator IL, closer than ever to my house as it’s usually much further north.

(I’m pictured with author Olivia J. Bennett and flagger/author Kim Kouski. Check out Olivia’s book A Cactus in the Valley and Kim’s fantasy novel Hidden Secrets (those are affiliate links – I may receive a portion of sales).

I’ve written past posts about Karitos and what I’m learning there, but here’s overall what keeps bringing me back:

  • a gathering of creatives
  • creating together in all art forms
  • worshipping God and figuring out how their art fits into that

You can find that first one a number of places. The other 2 are harder to come by. If you can find a place that combines the things you love, go.

Photography by Kim Kouski on our way to the event

You can find a thousand writers conferences, but one that includes dancers and visual artists and actors and filmmakers and musicians and…. All those together feed off of each other into an amazing creative experience.

And, while I don’t write within the Christian genre, it’s beautiful to find a place where my giftings can contribute to my faith community and my worship.

And now, a couple exciting milestones of mine with this year’s event:

A couple amazing things happened for me personally this year.

The past 3 years I’ve been assisting with the Literary Arts department, and as of last year, I’m the department head for Literary Arts. This was my first Karitos that I was responsible for making Literary Arts workshops happen, and it was a delight to see it all turn out. To be able to step into ministry in a way that uses my passion and giftings is such a privilege.

And the other thing: Last year’s Karitos, I took Angel’s selfpublishing workshop. This year, my book was in the Karitos bookstore alongside hers. We got a photo to document our excitement…

Check out Angel’s devotional, Love’s Great Design (affiliate link).

So that was my experience at this year’s Karitos. And we’re already on to planning the next! Maybe Karitos 2020 will have you in it? 😉

for the Creatives

Find your own Jenn

Creators and Dreamers: 
Get you a friend as committed as you are. I say that lightly, but sincerely I know that’s not an easy thing to come by. But let me tell you: If you do, you become catalysts for each other.

Meet Jenn. I mean, she’s not here, but she’s usually in my living room about once a month as we frantically type away the day, mostly only stopping for a chitchat at lunch.

And now, she’s waking up early to get an hour of writing in before work every. single. workday. Y’all, she one-upped me!

But that’s okay, because I need someone to one-up me right now. I need that reminder of the hunger. Not that I lost it, just that it’s been laying low for a bit.

This month, I’m going to join Jenn some mornings, and we are gonna get things done. By the end of this month, I’ll have a routine more solidified and probably a selfie to share with you, so brace yourself. But until then…

Find your own Jenn. Someone with a similar goal and a similar drive. Whatever commitment level you’re at, get someone right there with you, and keep each other going. It’s powerful. 

It’s not easy to find a Jenn, so if you have one, treasure that! And, maybe tell me about your Jenn in the comments 🙂

for the Bookworms

5 things to add to your bookmarketing toolkit

  1. Enthusiasm: being passionate about your work sells. If you’re not excited about it, why should anyone else be? And if others are excited about your work – readers, friends, or even your family – even better. Because if others are excited about your work, that builds credibility as they share their enthusiasm through posts, reviews, social media interactions, and in person discussions.
  2. A catchy title: You need to get their attention before they can even consider making a purchase.
  3. A quality cover: People want to buy something that they feel good about having in their home and becoming part of the image they present to the world. Your book can be the best story in the world, but there’s more than that. “Do I want to be known as the type of person that purchases this item?” each reader will have to subconsciously answer, and the cover is more a factor for that decision than the content inside the book. Let your cover make that answer a resounding “yes”.
  4. Delight: What’s one thing that will make the purchase more than just a purchase? What will bring the reader delight?
  5. A unique experience: What sets your sale apart from buying any other book or item out there?

Overall, remember that every reader is purchasing identity and delight. If you find how your product is offering that, you’ll be 5 steps ahead in your marketing plans.

for the Creatives

On taking creative risks

The end of last year I heard 3 sermons in a row, and from different speakers, about God rewarding risk (referencing the parable of the talents). It seemed like apt timing with me taking a risk and publishing a quirky meta short story. Niche in every sense. And nearly a year later, I regret nothing. I might have chosen different marketing avenues, but that’s about it.

More recently I’ve heard a teaching about God rewarding risk, from Alex Marestaing referencing when Jonathan said “Let’s go to the camp of those foreigners. Maybe the Lord will use us to defeat them” (1 Samuel 14:6, ESV). Key word “maybe.” Jonathan didn’t know. He took a risk.

One artist trope is that we have to quit our dayjob to build a successful artist career. That’s the only way we have adequate time to get our business off the ground…right? A few weeks ago I was reading “Originals” (affiliate link) about how nonconformists move the world, and studies actually show that businesses tend to be more successful when the entrepreneur kept their dayjob for awhile. (Read the book for exact details and figures and such.) Because the pressure was off, they could take the time to build something solid. Adam Grant, author of Originals, talked about how instead of taking a risk in every area of life, taking one great risk (like launching an artistic career) while playing it extra cautious in other areas to balance it all out. One great calculated risk.

Back to Alex Marestaing’s teaching. (I know, I’m all over the place, you love it 😛 ). I don’t remember the words he used, but he talked about how Jonathan didn’t know the outcome, but he knew God’s character, so it was a calculated risk.

Calculated risk. I like that. Because taking a risk sounds brave and daring and adventurous, but this little homebody wants to think through all the minute details and move ahead with caution. I like hearing that I can have both. But it still comes back to taking a risk. Artists still gotta jump at some point – or, more like at multiple points – in building their creative life.

This whole “risk” message coming back into my life right now, I’ll be honest, I don’t have a big booklaunch or a big anything in my plans. So what does the “big risk” messaging mean this time? I don’t know. But I’m making myself ready for when it shows itself.

Tell me: Are you more on the calculated side, or more of the risk taker? Which do you tend toward and which do you need to grow in today? Stepping out in risk, or taking a moment to calculate?