Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2,000 fan giveaway!

The Author Suzanna Lynn Facebook page has officially topped 2,000 fans!  As a way to celebrate, I am having a huge giveaway.  Who doesn't love free stuff right?

From September 29 through October 5, you can enter to win one of five amazing prizes provided by Author Suzanna Lynn, Belle's Beastly Book Blog and Funky Book Designs.  Additionally, you can come back daily to gain additional entries by tweeting about it!

The contest is open to everyone, worldwide. No need to do anything but enter, we will cover the shipping costs! *note* If an item needs to be shipped out of the US, we will pay shipping costs, but if customs requires additional costs, that is on the winner. We mark the item as a 'gift' and give an accurate value. *note*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Penned Con 2016 Highlights

St. Louis Arch
Each year, I try to pick events that would allow me to get out and meet readers, as well as other authors.  Last year I had attempted to go to Penned Con in St. Louis, Missouri. However the unexpected death of my mother-in-law made the trip impossible. But this year, I was determined to go and meet readers and authors in the area.

Even before the event started, I found myself extremely impressed with the hard work Rick and Amy Miles (along with their entourage of helpers) put into it. I actually booked my 2017 table before I had even taken part in this years event!

My kids petting stingrays
Penned Con promised to be a family friendly event (which is was) so I packed up my three kids and husband and we headed to St. Louis.  We checked into the hotel (I always arrive a day early so I can relax and beat the check-in rush) and then headed to the St. Louis Zoo. Nothing beats watching your kids pet stingrays and sharks; seriously nothing.

On a side note, St. Louis really impressed me. The zoo, science center, history museum and many other places are all free to visit. Yes, the string ray petting did cost $4 a person, and let me tell you it was worth it. If you are considering Penned Con or any event in St. Louis, it's a great way to mix business and pleasure because it's very family friendly.

Once Penned Con started, it was a whirlwind of signing books, talking to readers, taking pictures and more. The keynote speakers each morning were phenomenal and incredibly inspiring.

Speaking on the panel (I'm on the far
right of the table)
I was also asked to be on a panel. The room was full, something I hadn't expected at all. As I looked around at the authors who would also be speaking alongside me, I thought, what am I doing here? I mean I was sitting right next to Denise Grover Swank (she's seriously a goddess when it comes to getting newsletter subscribers by the way). But I answered my questions and even offer a handout (which I had only brought fifteen because I figured there wouldn't be that many needed).  If you didn't get a chance to see that panel, I have the information here on my blog.

Yes, that's my eldest (in the black and
grey striped hoodie) ducking for cover
As I said earlier, Penned Con tries to be incredibly family friendly. They even provided special gift bags for younger kids (like my two little ones) that were super hero themed. The kids went around and authors gave them candy, stickers, buttons, bracelets and more. It was like trick-or-treating!

After the signing ended the first day, a room was opened up for Nerf Gun Wars. I cannot tell you how much fun this was. I'm not sure who had more fun, the kids or the adults! Thousands of bullets were shot as authors and readers ducked behind barricades made of cardboard boxes.

Day two of the event was full of more surprises when I had several fans come to the event to see me personally! Nothing can feel better than that. I hope that feeling never goes away. I even had a wonderful fan bring me a card and a special necklace, which I will treasure forever. Those fans reminded me why I write. Even if only those few fans enjoy my work, I've succeeded.

I can't believe I was nominated
alongside these amazing authors!
By the end of day two, I was nearly out of books. This was a relief because the bag I used to carry the books in weighed so much, my husband had trouble carrying it!

Then came the awards ceremony. While my eldest babysat the two youngest in the hotel room, my husband and I dressed up in our Luau attire and enjoyed the festivities. I was super excited to be nominated for Best Book Cover of 2016. And though I didn't win, it truly was an honor to be nominated.

Once all was said and done, I had a serious Penned Con Hangover. I missed the friends I had made, but was happy to be home because the event left me more inspired than ever to write.

If you are an author or reader, I highly recommend you mark Penned Con 2017 on your calendar. The atmosphere is so amazing, you will not regret it one bit.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sneak Peak scene from "Red's Tangled Tale"

"Red's Tangled Tale" coming Nov 2016
Enjoy this sneak peak of a scene in the upcoming "Red's Tangled Tale."
*note* this is unedited, so some slight changes may be present in the final book version. 
The wind began to pick up, throwing the hood of my cape back from my face. A few strands of ebony hair came loose from my long braid, swirling in the breeze around my eyes. I reached for the dagger I kept in my boot, making sure it was still secure. I was best with a bow but always kept a knife at the ready.
A howl cut through the night – the wolf was much closer now. The answering chorus was far to the east. He would get no help tonight.

I pulled an arrow from my quiver, fingering the red feathers of the fletching while I held my breath in anticipation. My heart raced, pounding so fiercely I could feel it in my ears. I strained to listen against the wind, hoping for a warning to signal the wolf was close.
From behind me I heard a snap; so soft and subtle it could have been a pinecone falling from a tree – but it wasn’t. The wolf’s growl started low in its chest, rumbling through the cold night. It had circled around, most likely catching my scent when the wind picked up.
The wolves were getting smarter, making it much harder to sneak up unnoticed. With my back in the hollow of the tree, I did not have a good vantage point to aim at the beast. The circumstances were less than ideal.

He was just behind the tree. I was certain he didn’t know exactly where I was, otherwise I would be dead. His long snout sniffing the air in an effort to find me. I was suddenly thankful for the shelter of the large dead pine. I shifted slightly, bringing my feet under me in order to leap if the need arise. I drew back on the arrow; there would be no time to aim given the close proximity.

I sat bolt upright as the wolf let out a blood chilling howl – the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. His comrades answered, still far to the east, but this time there was an urgency in their reply, as though to say “We’re coming.”

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Do Facebook Ads Work?

I gave this speech/demonstration yesterday during Penned Con and wanted to share it with the entire author/blogger community. I feel the more we help each other, the more we all succeed.
The information shared here is merely my one experience and results are not considered typical.
The chart on the left shows three months’ sales on my book “Hook’s Little Mermaid.”  It is a clean teen/ya fairytale retelling book (which is a pretty hot genre at the moment). As you can see, Amazon is the biggest seller of this book, bringing in 95% of the sales during a three-month period. Createspace is the lowest seller, bringing in less than 1%.

To make this experiment worthwhile, lets average these three months.  With the graph on your right, you will see how this is broken down. This is relevant because our ‘test’ takes place during a three-week period. It’s hard to judge three weeks against three months.

 Our final graphs show the results of a three-week ad placed on Facebook. I spent $75 and chose to target my audience (instead of choosing ‘people who like your page and their friends’). I picked to target women ages 15-65 in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia (as I have found most of my sales come from these countries). Then, using keywords that are relevant to my book, I was able to reach readers who are necessarily looking for a book. In the case of “Hook’s Little Mermaid” I tagged fan bases like “Once Upon a Time” “Grimm” “Colin O'Donoghue” “Peter Pan” and “The Little Mermaid.” This is, in no way, being deceptive. You’re not forcing your book on them, you’re merely suggesting “Hey, since you like Once Upon a Time you might like to look into this.”

As you can see in the final graph (which is only a three-week period verse the one-month breakdown), sales on Amazon average higher. And while Smashwords stayed relatively the same, Createspace increased sales by seven times what it was doing.
Questions, answered.
Do Facebook Ads Work?
Absolutely! However, it’s not just a magic button to make you an insta-best seller. It requires research and patience to find the right algorithm to get your book in front of readers who are interested.
How do I choose who to target?
It depends entirely on your book and genre. If you have written a crime thriller, you could target both men and women. While a romance is going to lean toward women. Age is very subjective. It’s hard to guess what age would read a certain genre. This will require research and fine tuning over time. Additionally, if your book has adult content, you don’t want to target younger (under 18-years-old) readers.
How do I pick keywords?
Picking keywords like “romance novels” and “young adult books” is far too broad. Instead, pick keywords with similar fan bases to your story.
Is there a movie or television show that has the same type content? Maybe your book is fantasy set in a mythical world with elves, dwarves and dragons. Then you might look into fan bases interested in those things. For example, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Game of Thrones, etc. Have a super sexy romance with a lot of adult scenes? Then your keywords would be along the lines of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Choosing keywords like this isn’t riding on the coat tails of someone else’s success. You’re merely putting your ad in front of people who are interested in this type of work in the first place.
My ad has been on Facebook for a week and I’ve only had a couple sales. Am I doing it wrong?
No, not necessarily. A reader generally has to see an ad several times (I believe in the industry the magic number is seven) before they delve further into it. Maybe the first time it showed up in their feed they were on the way to work and didn’t have time to look. Maybe someone called them on the phone and they forgot. However, Facebook will continue to put that ad in their feed as long as they are a fan of the interests you listed as keywords.
How do I make an ad?
Making an ad is not always easy. For starters, never (AND I MEAN NEVER) use a photo you googled. Just don’t. Ever. Never ever. Go to a stock site if you must and purchase a photo. It is far less expensive than attorney and court costs in a copyright lawsuit.
Additionally, a genuine ad will create a relationship with your readers. For example, in my book “Hook’s Little Mermaid,” had I used a picture of Colin O'Donoghue for my ad, readers would not only be disappointed when they found out the book was not a ‘Once Upon a Time’ book, they would be less trusting of me as an author.
Your ad needs to have minimal wording but also be eye catching. Here is an example of my ad for “Hook’s Little Mermaid.” The tagline and pictures speak for the book.
I understand that not all people are good with programs like photoshop. Or maybe you would rather spend more time writing and less time making Facebook ads. This is where graphic design companies come in. There are many who will create an ad for you for a modest fee. I personally use “FunkyBook Designs” and their ads run $35-$50 depending on detail and the ad is yours to use however you chose. And a plus, they purchase the rights to the photos so you don’t have to worry about copyright infringement!
Well, I hope you found this information informative. If so, please share it, tweet it, pin it, reblog it; whatever it is you like to do. Remember, by sharing, we are all helping each other succeed!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Such a tease!

As most of you know, I am in St. Louis this weekend, attending Penned Con!  I will be at my table Friday and Saturday, in case you would like your books signed.

Additionally, all those who attend will get a special treat. I will have the cover to "Red's Tangled Tale" available for readers to see in advance! That's right! They get the first look!

For everyone else?  Well, this teaser will have to do until I hold my official cover reveal in October. Yep, it's a blurry teasers... because we don't want you seeing too much now do we?

I hope you enjoy!

If you haven't read book one, "Hook's Little Mermaid," then I suggest you grab a copy today!  You will get the learn to origin of Captain Hook and meet Red for the first time!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Witnessing a miracle
The motto of my church James River Church. No copyright
infringement intended. I simply just love this!
          Today I speak to you as a wife and mother, not an author, because y
esterday, I witnessed a true miracle. No, I didn’t see a lame person walk, nor a blind man see. Those are miracles I would expect to see the power of God do.

            No, the miracle I witnessed was my husband accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
            Now, you may not see this as much of a miracle. After all, taking the broken body of someone and making it work again sounds much more astonishing than working on the heart of a man. However, when the heart of that man was hardened and also hindered by social anxiety, it took God’s hand to move him.
            Let me give you a point of reference.
            I grew up in the church. At the ripe old age of five-years-old I gave my heart to God during a Vacation Bible School week. My parents went to church. My grandparents went to church. My aunts and uncles went to church. We were a church going family.
            As I grew older, I did backslide in my faith and leave the path that I knew I should be on. That’s the thing, I KNEW where I should be and that pulling of God at my heart had me coming toward Him.
            Then I met my, now, husband. He was not raised in church. His family didn’t not go to church. They actually had a cynical view of the church. He was a good man. He did good deeds. He helped people. But he didn’t not believe in Salvation. But I loved him. I loved him so much that I wanted to marry him in spite of the fact that we had different views on Christianity.
            Over the years, for holidays mostly, we would attend church. My husband was never hateful or angry about going. If I said “I feel we need to go to church this Sunday,” he would say “Okay, we can go.” Like I said, he has always been a good man and he wanted to make me happy.
            After ten years of marriage, loads of ups and downs, and feeling like I was at the end of my rope, I decided to attend James River’s “Sizzling Summer Series” sermon during July.
            It was Saturday night and I felt empty. I felt like my life was running short and my spirit was beaten. I spoke to my sister on the phone and told her I needed to get back to church but it was so hard because there was so much to do and my husband’s weekends were the only days to do them. Finally, I hung up the phone saying that I would ‘probably’ go to church the next morning.
            Before bed, snuggled up next to my husband, I murmured. “Let’s go to church tomorrow. I really need to feel God’s hands on my life again.” He responded simply. “Okay.”
            The next morning, I frantically struggled to get our three kids dressed, while dressing myself, and taking care of our small farm of cats, dogs and ducks (yes, that’s right, counting animals we are a family of fourteen). The kids were fighting, the ducks got out of the pen, and I was running around with half my makeup on in a dress trying to wrangle children and water fowl.
            The phone rang.
            “Hello?” I asked desperately.
            “Hey, it’s April,” my sister said. “Are you still going to church?”
            “You bet,” I chirped. “We’ll be there.”
            “Okay, I just wanted to make sure,” she said.
            “Okay,” I said. “Meeting you by the kid’s check-in?”
            “Yep,” she said. “Love you.”
            “Love you.”
            Then I commenced slapping on mascara while straightening my son’s collar and putting my youngest daughter’s hair up.
            Finally, after saying “Hurry it up. We have to go!” for what felt like the millionth time, we piled into the car.
            My heart was racing. I felt like I was suffering from the mother of all hot flashes. The kids were angry. My husband was snapping at them to stop fighting. And I was seriously thinking what a horrible idea going to church was.
            We pulled into the church parking lot and the enemy began his bombardment.
            “You don’t belong here.” “You’re fake.” “You’re only a pretender.” “These people know you’re not a good person.” “What’s the point?”
            These words had assaulted me for years as I tried to enter any church in a vain attempt to get myself on the right path with God.
            But I clutched my two youngest kids’ hands and walked through the doors of James River with my head held high.
            Like a wave washing over me, the voices stopped. I was greeted by the most overwhelming sense of peace I had ever felt. I literally felt the church tell me “You’re home.” The words of the enemy couldn’t even penetrate the walls of the church. I was safe. I was home.
            My husband held my hand through the service and I made a decision to rededicate my life to God; taking the path He had in store for me. We picked our children up from their classes, smiles spread across their faces.
            “Momma,” my son asked. “Can we go to church every Sunday?”
            “Yea,” my eldest sang. “I love this church!”
            “Absolutely,” I confirmed.
            That first day was the beginning for me. There was no question Saturday night whether we were going to church the next morning. We were going. Period.
            My husband attended with us every Sunday he was able. He was off most weekends, but once a month was forced to work a Sunday. On those days, I still had my sister and brother-in-law beside me for support.
            Each Sunday, at the end of service when the alter call was given, I would lean into my husband and ask “Would you like to go up?” He would kindly shake his head, or simply say “No.” He wasn’t mean, or rude, or upset. He just didn’t feel the need to.
            Though some days it was hard, I did not let his refusal discourage me. Instead, I would thank God for the seeds he was planting in my husband’s heart and ask that he continue to work in him.
            At one time, I would have never imagined my husband as a Godly man. A good man, absolutely, but Godly? No. I couldn’t see him raising his hands in praise or sitting down to pray with me. But the closer I got to God, the more I could imagine it because I knew all things were possible through Him.
            Then, last Sunday, my husband was unexpectedly asked to work. So I went to church with my children and sat with my sister and brother-in-law. Pastor John spoke on “Close to Jesus, far from Heaven.”
            In this message, he explained that our good deeds are nothing compared to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. That, good deeds alone cannot get us into Heaven. If you would like to listen to the message (which I highly recommend) be sure to check it out here.
            After the service, I happened to see the pastor in the hall (which never happens because the church is so big I only ever see him on stage during service). I felt a pull… not a pull, a push. God told me “Go to him. Speak to him about Rowdy.” (Rowdy is my husband by the way)
            Nervously, I went up to Pastor John and spoke to him of my husband. How I wished he could have been there for the message because it was so true and powerful, and that my husband was not born-again but I continued to pray for him. The Pastor asked to pray for us, right there in the hall. The moment he laid his hand on my shoulder, I felt a wave of the Holy Spirit fall over me and the tears fell (I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, God has his hands on my Pastor).
            Pastor John encouraged me to continue to pray and told me to ask my husband to listen to the recording of the message during the week. He also took down our information and said he would have the pastoral team pray for us that week.
            As the week went on, I was given many struggles. After church I ended up having a case of hives that covered me from head to toe for three solid days. I then encountered two days’ worth of nausea and vomiting. Needless to say, asking me husband to do anything other than “Hand me to the puke bucket” wasn’t high on my list.
            But Saturday night came and I felt the gentle nudge of God tell me “He needs to hear John’s sermon before tomorrow.” I was nervous. I wasn’t sure if he would do it. I think I was even more scared that he would but wouldn’t feel the same effect that he had on me.
            But I took my tablet to him, had the podcast loaded and asked, “Honey, it’s really important to me that you listen to this.” I asked him to turn off the television and put in his headphones so he wouldn’t be disturbed. To my surprise, he did it.
            That leads us up to yesterday morning. We got up like every Sunday and headed to church. We were running late (the ducks have started laying eggs now, so our morning farming takes a bit longer), but made it into service with two minutes to spare.
            The Spirit of God was there. I held my husband’s hand while I raised my other to God. I could feel He was alive and working in my life.
            At the end of service, while every eye was closed and every head bowed, they asked for anyone who wanted a relationship with God to raise their hand. The pastor asked again. And then again as more hands were apparently raised (I had my eyes closed, remember).
            Then one final time. “You know God is pulling on your heart. Don’t miss this chance. If you know you don’t have a relationship with God, now is your time.”
            I felt Rowdy shift in his seat. Instinctively, I shifted with him and my eyes fluttered open for just a moment. I saw his hand come down.
            ‘He raised his hand!’ I thought. ‘What do I do?!’
            So, remember that part where I told you every Sunday for the past three months I had asked “Do you want to go up?” Yea, well, I panicked.
            Here I was, in church, the alter call going on and he had actually raised his hand; yet I was suddenly terrified to ask him to go up. I’m not sure what I was scared of. Maybe that, after all that, he would still say no. I’m not sure.
            But then the pastor asked that, those who rose their hands, if they would take a step of faith and come forward, the pastoral team would like to pray with them.
            I leaned in. “Do you want to go up?” I clutched his hand, nervous and excited.
            “Yea, I guess I would.”
            My heart soared. Here stood a man that had not been raised in the church. Had no foundation other than that he did believe in God but that good deeds and being generally a good person was what got you to Heaven. He was telling me that he wanted to accept Christ as his Savior.
            I poked my sister in the ribs to signal that we were headed to the front. She burst into tears of joy (yea, she and my brother-in-law had been praying hard for my husband).
            We were the last to walk down to the front as the congregation erupted into applause. But it wasn’t me leading my husband to the front of the church, he was leading me. He was leading us.
And there, at the mouth of the isle, stood Pastor John. He saw us coming; the smile on his face mirroring the one on my own. There, in front of him, stood the answer to the prayer he had prayed with me in the halls of the church just one week prior.
He hugged Rowdy, praising God for the miracle of Rowdy’s Salvation.
They ushered us into a small, quiet room, and spoke with my husband further about what Salvation was and what is symbolized. And there, in that little room, surrounded by men and women of God, my husband gave his life to the Lord.
So I’m sure you’re asking, what makes this such a miracle? Well, for one, my husband suffers from social anxiety disorder. Painfully. The idea that he would ever step in front of the thousands of people in our congregation, the lights eliminating his every step, was something I could never see.
Even as he walked us to the front of the church, his body was flushed and it radiated heat. He was terrified. But God is stronger than that. Even as the enemy tried to use his condition against him, God gave Rowdy the strength to come forward.
God took a man, who had never watched his family or friends give their hearts to the Lord, and lit a fire in his own heart. That, my dear ones, is the power of God.
I’m aware that there are many who do not believe in God, or at the least believe as my husband did; that good deeds and being a good person will grant you access into Heaven. I tell you this… Not one on this planet is without sin. It is only through Christ’s sacrifice and death that our sins are washed clean.
My grandmother (a very Godly woman and a true believer in Christ) sums it up pretty well. “If I spend my whole life worshiping God, and accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior, just to find out in the end that he doesn’t exist – well, I won’t have lost a thing. But if I lived my life without him, only the find in the end that he does exist; I will have lost everything.”
So if you are reading this and you have never had a relationship with God – or maybe you have but you have strayed from the path – remember that you need only ask God to work on your heart and give you the strength to step into the light.