The Road Ahead

A year ago, I was pretty much convinced that it didn’t matter what I wrote, or how well I wrote it, it was just blind, stupid luck that some authors made money and others didn’t.

Lightning strike and all that, right?

I made it into a joke. When I would meet someone new, I’d say, “I’m a writer, which means I run a cleaning business. The two are connected.”

Folks would usually laugh, sometimes they would even promise to look me up. I didn’t hold my breath.

Just two months before, I had enrolled my daughter in public school for a year, so instead of taking her with me everywhere I went and homeschooling while I worked, I was alone for hours on end. I began listening to podcasts, first about managing an Airbnb and then, on a lark, I found several writing podcasts.

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn didn’t click with me immediately. Compared to others she really seemed to go on and on in the introduction before the show. At first it was annoying, and then I started really listening to the intro and realizing it had some of the best information I could possibly get.

Her discussion of Canva and later of audiobooks were particularly helpful. I set about redesigning all of my covers. I then edited each of my books to include a book magnet (Schicksal Turnpike – which is still a free giveaway if you sign up for my newsletter), a request for readers to review the book they have just read, preview chapters for other books, and cleaner formatting.

And I have listened to each and every podcast she has done since, along with Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula and Dave Chesson’s podcast as well.

What I have learned from these podcasts has changed my belief system. I can write for money, without selling out. It takes:

  • A decent manuscript with compelling info or characters
  • A book cover that is attractive to that genre’s readers
  • A book blurb that pulls readers in and gives them a taste of what is to come
  • Book ads that are effective at catching potential readers attention
  • Time and patience as I figure out all of the components listed above

And every month since November 2017, I’ve made money. It still isn’t “quit your cleaning biz and write like a madwoman” life-changing income, but it is INCOME.

And talking about money, and wanting money for my art, isn’t selling out, it’s reality. You don’t go to work for free, do you? You don’t love your job so much that you don’t want to do anything else and would take a 100% pay cut, do you? I didn’t think so. And I love writing, but I also want to make money at it.

Audiobook in Progress

After a particularly challenging afternoon – one that included schoolbuses, sirens, kids yelling and some damned truck beeping as it backed up – I abandoned my ghetto-style recording studio in the attic in disgust.

For the past two mornings, I’ve woken up at 4:15 in the morning and recorded several chapters at a time of Gliese 581: The Departure. Except for a ten minute long break when there was something big going down out there in the world (per the festival of sirens I kept hearing) yesterday morning, I was able to get the eleventh chapter finished by 5:30 this morning.

My body isn’t the only thing that thinks being up at 4 a.m. is a bad idea. My voice isn’t very excited either. It takes some time to get into the swing of things. I’ll keep this up until I have the entire book read into audio form.

Then comes the dreaded task of trying to edit it. This is perhaps the most challenging thing I have done in a long time.

First Person in Progress

I remember the first time I ever wrote anything in first person – it remains a snippet of story, told from multiple views, of a band of teenage friends who are all sharing the same dream. I shared it with my dad and the only thing he said was, “Never write in first person, it’s a publishing no-no.”

And at the time, that was true. More than two decades later, it most certainly is not the case. First person, while still odd to read for some diehard readers and writers, is no longer an industry no-no.

And when it comes to the YA genre, it is rather widespread.

As I was reading the Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige series, I was also wrestling with Book One of The Chronicles of Liv Rowan, a 12-book series I have fleshed out. It felt awkward, contrived, and stilted at times. I had picked it up only to set it aside in frustration a few days later, unsure what needed to change, but convinced it needed something different.

And as I read the Dorothy book, which were written in the first person, it struck me that perhaps that was what I was struggling with. So I am now on the third chapter, moving through it, converting it from third person to first, and it feels better. As I read it in my head it also sounds better.

I’m hoping to make progress on it. The key moment will get when I hit the end of what I have written to date, in a couple more chapters, and whether the words will flow easier then.

The road ahead is fraught with marketing, learning more about effective ad copy, audiobooks and, yes, even some more writing!

Laugh or Cry? You Decide

Oh Amazon, what am I going to do with you?

In reality, it really isn’t Amazon that I have to contend with, but the luck of the draw. Which rep receives and reviews my ads is what really matters. Specifically, I’m encountering difficulties with my ads for The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale being approved.

Amazon seems to deny at least half of the ads I send to them for approval, so much so that I just gave up a few months ago, but now I’m thinking it is time to change that attitude.

I’ll explain.

Amazon does serve as the morality police. They have many rules, which you can find listed here, that state what you can and cannot have in an ad on their website.

And that’s fine, it’s their website and so, consequently, it is their rules. But the rules are inconsistent. Last week, I submitted this ad:

A unique look at how the War on Drugs is a war on people. Learn about the history of marijuana prohibition, private prisons, drug courts and more!

It was approved and is currently being displayed on Amazon to a targeted audience.

But with some ads, while I’ve gotten plenty of clicks, I haven’t seen the viewers turn into buyers, so I wrote a different ad:

The War on Drugs is a war on people driven by a lust for money and control. Learn how marijuana became illegal and what drug courts are really like.

And this one was rejected. I wrote them an email pointing out that the book does not endorse illegal activity, it does not explain how to grow marijuana, and is not a treatise on how to be a stoner. I received an email stating that a manager would review it and I would hear back by Tuesday.

And here is their response:

Hello,

 

This is a follow up email with regards ads.

 

I’ve checked with the technical team and they have informed me that they have reviewed your ad they determined that your ad, or the book being advertised, is related to illicit drugs. We do not allow ads related to books that are centrally themed around an illicit drug irrespective of the content of the book.

Also, the cover of your book contains the image of a marijuana plant which is not appropriate for all audiences. As per our policies, we don’t advertise books that have images of illicit drugs on its cover.

Le sigh. Sooo annoying! And I wasn’t about to reply and point out that there already was an ad out there for this very book that had been approved.

I’m not giving up. I submitted this ad this morning:

The war on drugs is still raging. Learn how marijuana prohibition began and what drug courts are really like in a unique, personal account.

I see the writing on the wall. It is a hit or miss proposition and I’ll be taking the low, quiet road from here. I could fight it, point out their inconsistencies (and potentially get some good, enlightened soul in trouble), and try to trump them intellectually.

However, my experiences in the corporate world have taught me how pointless and impossible that is. Instead, I’ll just test out a different theory. I’ll submit an ad and make note of when I sent it. If it is approved, I’ll repeat my submissions in that particular time frame and hope I keep getting the ads reviewed by the more enlightened folks.

I’ll keep it quiet and operate under the radar…some day our country will come to realize that marijuana isn’t the problem and things will change. And after all, that is what my book is about.

This is a joke, folks. A JOKE!

To Wish or Wash

Behind me, I can hear an owl hooting away. I just needed to mention that, here in the middle of the city, that an owl is busy making himself known.

“Wuh, wuh, wuh, wuh, wuh, hoo!” He is loud and proud.

Wishy Washy

A few days ago, I gave myself a pep talk. To sum it all up, it was essentially, “Girl, get some writing done! Pick a project, knuckle down, and get it done.”

And I dutifully picked a project that stands at nearly 38k word count – Book One of The Chronicles of Liv Rowan.

A day later I was discouraged and feeling snippy. The words on the page felt insufficient, juvenile, and contrived.

And then, as has happened time and again over the years, I found myself questioning what I was doing, how to make it better, and walked away in disgust.

I set the problem into the back of my brain and concentrated on other things. Don’t know an answer to a problem? Set it on the back burner and let it simmer. Meanwhile, I pulled out The Hired Gun today and was like, “Oh, hell yes, I need to do THIS!”

I feel like I’m being wishy washy. Like I can’t commit to a single course of action.

Work/Research

A couple of things did occur to me on how I can solve my Chronicles of Liv Rowan problem.

  1. Make it first person – It used to be a huge no-no to write in the first person, and I’m a product of my time because I still have hangups about it, but first person is being used more and more, especially in the genre that Chronicles is slated for – Young Adult. I suspect that changing from third person to first person might actually liberate me in some ways and help remove the awkwardness I’m feeling with the story.
  2. I need to talk to my characters – As the problem of how to make Chronicles better simmered on the back burner, I realized that I need to have a talk with my characters. Like a real, get to know you kind of talk. I’ve got a decent line on Liv, the main character, but what about Lord Glass, or some of the villagers? What about the guard that Liv gets sweet on? I need to understand them, their histories and their motivations. This could help me write about them with more eloquence and detail.

Spinning Plates

Each day has less hours than it does projects to fill them – even with my erstwhile offspring gallivanting about Europe.

Currently my thoughts/focus are darting between:

  • Practicing a keto diet, weight loss, glucose monitoring, and continuing my physical therapy exercises so that I remain pain-free
  • Working on running my neighbor’s Airbnb and getting our Airstream up and operational
  • Creating a closer connection with my foster daughter, especially after our most recent Family Support Team meeting. And also trying not to worry about my 12-year-old so far away in Germany right now.
  • Audiobook recording and marketing my already published books.
  • Getting one of my many book projects finished. Soon!

They bounce about, some pushing to the forefront of others, shifting, jostling about. Plates keep spinning and so do I.

Money/Marketing

My feet are firmly planted in reality. I look at every income source (from fostering to managing our neighbor’s Airbnb, to the state paying me to care for my dad) with the down-to-earth view of maximizing profit. I keep my expenses as low as possible without sacrificing quality of life and I make every dollar I earn bring dividends if possible. That means renovating the Airstream and renting it out as an Airbnb to pay for its improvements, or taking the couple of hundred dollars in extra income I get running my neighbor’s Airbnb and putting it directly into our Renovation Fund to accelerate the projects.

The income I make on my books is small – anywhere between $60 and $350 per month, but averaging around $175. Around 97% of that income is from one book – Get Organized, Stay Organized. Pretty good for being my first book!

But I have five other books out there that are barely selling. Why?

I’ve redone the covers. I’m working on getting more reviews for each of them, and that leaves my covers, blurbs on the back, and ad copy as possible fail points. I redid all of the covers, so I’m guessing this is means a failure in either the blurbs on the back covers or the ad copy. I’ll be working on these issues and attempting to get more book sales across the board.

Imagine if each of my books was earning me at least $175 in sales each month. That would be a nice chunk of change! This is doable, I just need to learn how to market better.

‘Scuse Me While I Disappear

Yesterday was stressful. I woke up thinking of my kiddo, thousands of miles away in Europe and wondering how she is doing. By the time I opened my eyes, she had landed. And now, over 24 hours later, still no word.

We really miss her, my husband and I dance around the subject, but it is so hard to have her gone.

Just to throw a couple of monkey wrenches into everything, my husband’s plan to drive himself to work was crushed by a flat tire on his car. Later, as I was driving to my first cleaning, my van shut down, just went black for a moment, and then started back up. Not reassuring at all, but we will have it looked at soon.

My day was filled with a physical therapy appointment and then two big cleanings. At the first cleaning, I hit something and the vacuum just made this horrible noise and shut down. Luckily I was near the Oreck store and they cleared the jam and sent me on my way with no charge. I love those guys, they are awesome!

By the end of the day and no word from my child I was twitchy and stressed beyond measure.

I’ve been dealing with my dad’s antics as well, which has me stressed out. He has dementia but is convinced he can live on his own and manage his own financial and health care choices despite his doctor’s advice.

All of this led to a thundering headache that was helped, thank goodness, by the physical therapist. I had slipped on my front stairs on Monday and went flying down the icy steps, slamming my rear into each step and bruising my right wrist deeply when I fell on it trying to catch myself. The PT took a good look at my alignment and helped adjust me. My headache disappeared, and I took a deep breath in and sighed in relief.

As I cleaned the two houses, I was alone and so I gave myself a good pep talk. All the things running through my head…

Dad will die if he goes to live on his own. He’ll forget his meds, he’ll eat foods that are bad for him.

Where is my child? Why hasn’t she emailed, Facebook Messenger, or Skype’d me back?

What is wrong with my van? What if it’s something major?

My body hurts, how do I make it better?

And on and on…

All of it cycling through my head.

And suddenly, it all hit. Except for the last one, they were things I could not control.

“Focus on what I can control. I can control my cleanings and how I do at them. I can control my writing. I can continue to learn better marketing techniques, better blurb writing, et cetera. Focus on what I can control.”

Over and over I tell myself, “I’ll write a book soon.” And then shit rolls down the pike and it all falls apart. Because I’m more than just a writer. I’m a mom, a wife, a foster mom, a caretaker, a business owner, and more.

I take things on and let them stress me the hell out. But as long as I do that, the writing takes second, third, hell, last place. I don’t finish the books. I just stress out and get nothing done but marathons of tv shows that mean little and cannot change my life.

The writing can.

I can.

I can change my life.

So excuse me while I disappear. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back soon. Preferably with updates and progress. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Waiting for the Tide to Rise

Waiting for the Tide to Rise

The urge to write, it comes in waves, a lot like a rising tide. I can feel it, slowly rising inside of me, impatient for me to take the words, images and dreams out of my head and into some form of physical being.

There is little point in ordering it to appear, or even wishing for the tide to rise. It rises when the moment is right.

I wait for it, and when I feel the rise and swell, I pull out a pen or my computer and I get to work.

Sure, I could force it. I’ve done that at times – pushing, shoving, taxing my gray matter to provide me with something, anything, and to make progress.

But there are other battles to fight – a house to paint, children to raise, and so much more.

I’ll wait. The tide will rise again. Hell, it could start to rise tonight for all I can tell.

I Need a Bigger Space

As I wedged myself into the tiny closet, which really barely qualifies as a closet, I realized just how small it was. I gave it a try, I really did, but it is stifling in there. I really just need to create a recording studio in the attic and use it during temperate times (like right now).

I hope to start on this project next weekend by re-organizing our attic, asking our bat resident as politely as possible to get the hell out, and then create a recording box I can comfortably sit in.

The sooner I can get this done, the sooner I can get the books recorded and available for sale.

The more and more I think about it, and listen to Joanna Penn’s podcast, the more certain I am that audiobook versions of my books could really make a difference in my future earning potential. After all, my husband is an auditory learner, he loves audiobooks! And the number of audiobook “readers” continues to grow each year.

Studying Away

As I continue to run my housecleaning business, I listen to my top 3 podcasts that include writing, publishing and marketing advice. Here they are if you want to check them out yourself:

Between these three I’m learning a great deal about a variety of subjects. Recently I listened to an interview with a sweet romance author and how she is making five figures a month. Yowza!

And while, for now, I’m not pumping out four books a year (or more) like some of these folks, I am listening to their ideas and learning from their experiences.

I hope to be able to attend a writer’s conference in either 2019 or 2020 at the latest. I’m looking especially at the Indie writer’s conferences – 20 Books to 50K is having a conference this November and is already sold out. I’m marking my calendar for next year and I hope I can make it then.

A New Business Opportunity

When our neighbor asked me if I would be interested in managing his Airbnb, I immediately said “yes.”

After all, that is what I’m moving towards with our two houses – Cottage East and Cottage West – in two and four years from now, they should be ready to rent out. And having the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the business now is invaluable.

Soon it might be several Airbnb’s, not just one, that I would be managing. And if I can get a handle on the process, I could possibly sell the idea of being an Airbnb manager to the owners of the two apartment buildings across from me as well.

The way I see it – the additional income will go straight into renovating the Cottages and we will have them done even quicker.

3rd Quarter 2018 Income Report (and more!)

It’s official, we are in the last quarter of the year!

Honestly, it has been a great year. Especially when I think of how my attitude towards writing and publishing has changed. It’s gone from…

“I make no money, I’ll never make any money.”

To…

“Holy crap, I’m making money at this.”

To…

“How much do I need to write to make a living at this?”

To…

“Do I want to chase the almighty dollar bills, or do I want/need to write less (with better quality) and be the mom and wife I need to be?”

Lots of changes, but with it has come some amount of clarity. I’ll explain…

Earnings for This Quarter

July Payout: $14.76 from CreateSpace (paperback sales) and $119.41 from Amazon (ebook sales and page reads)

August Payout: $31.20 from CreateSpace (paperback) and $307.06 from Amazon (ebook sales and page reads)

September Payout: $204.05 from Amazon (ebook sales and page reads) and $2.95 from Draft2Digital (ebook sales)

Total income from 3rd Quarter 2018 (Book sales that occurred from May 2018 through July 2018 and were paid out from July through September): $679.46

This is an increase from 2nd Quarter 2018 (book sales that from February 2018 through April 2018 and were paid out April through June) where I was paid a total of: $237.72

And an increase from 1st Quarter (book sales that from November through January 2018 and were paid out January through March) where I was paid a total of: $414.01

My average income across the year so far has been about $5.58 per day every day of the year. Obviously, I have a ways to go.

Going Wide

I made the decision to give up exclusivity with Amazon and go wide. I did this knowing that I would no longer be able to reap the benefits of the Kindle Unlimited page reads, but I am hoping that I will gain a following on other ebook platforms.

Limiting myself to just Amazon did not seem to be in my best interest.

This Is Where I Need to Be…in Two Years

I’m the financial planner of the family and I have budgets lined up for years in the future, taking into account conservative estimates on my husband’s pay raises, on our potential income as landlords of one (and soon to be three) rental properties, and more.

In my August 2020 budget (yes, I really do plan ahead!), I have scheduled myself to stop cleaning houses and also to begin tapping the writing income I’m currently accumulating. Just $200 per month is what I have listed, and I’m pretty close to being at where I need to be in two years. My average monthly income so far this year is $147.22, but the last two months have been over, or right at $200 per month. That’s with a majority of my sales being generated from Get Organized, Stay Organized.

I plan to roll out a 2020 update on Get Organized, Stay Organized with more bonus content based on my monthly newsletter advice as well.

So, all in all, things are looking good.

Lessons Learned

A little less than a year ago, I decided to up my game. I was determined to get more subscribers, write a ton of content, and sell a zillion books.

And less than a year later, I have learned a couple of things about myself.

#1 – My creativity does not perform well under pressure.

Honestly it has felt stilted and contrived, a place no writer wants to be.

#2 – My desire to spend time with my daughter and craft a well-rounded life in our home insists on less writing not more.

I can’t go back in time, and staring at tomorrow instead of today does little to raise my daughter, whose formative years mean so much to me. I know that, after the next six years, I’ll have more than enough time to write and fill my days with words. But for now, I’ve got a tween to raise and homeschool.

#3 – I need to set the foundation in place in order to unleash the creative focus.

I’ve talked about it before, but the way I plan on managing this is through our rental properties. My husband likes that saying “Hang on to land, they aren’t making more of it,” and he is definitely on target. I’m a woman with a mission – but my plan for the two properties on either side of us means setting into place a foundation that provides evergreen income for the rest of our lives. Once I’ve done that, my days will be open to more writing.

Writing Is My Secret Weapon

I’ve also said this before, but really, when you think about it, writing is my not-so-secret weapon. It is the unknown that could change everything. Did Andy Weir realize he had a bestseller on his hand when he was writing The Martian? If so, putting it on his website for people to read for free was an odd choice. No, he just wanted his story read, and if getting it read meant putting it on Amazon so folks could download it easily, that worked for him.

He turned around twice and had a publisher on his doorstep and sales out the wazzoo.

And even if that never happens for me, it’s okay. No really, it is okay.

I’ll admit it, I read about Mark Dawson’s $80k months and really, really wanted just a fraction of that. What could I do with $10k a month in sales?!

Don’t get me started, it’s like dreaming of winning the lottery.

But so much hinges on the whimsies of fate, that perfect combination of phenomenal writing, timing, and the interests of just the right readers and reviewers. It feels like I’ve been tasked with capturing lightning in a bottle.

I’d rather be content. I remember a coaching client once telling me that she shared that dream, one of contentment, with her father and he replied, rather scathingly, “What, you want to be a cow? Cows are content, they chew their cud and stare at the world vacantly!”

She said it with a great deal of hurt. Decades later, his words still had the power to wound her. But here, midway through my life, I understand the sentiment. The drive to change the world has faded. I just want to live peaceably, comfortably, and let the winds of fate blow someone else around.

That said, if anything is going to drastically change my plans in the next few decades, it will be in the writing arena. And if it comes, I will welcome it, I’m just not betting my future on it.

Brain Pain, Carpets and Airstreams

I’ve been down for the count, and I’m still not feeling hot, but I’ve got a plan.

And plans are important, folks.

Brain Pain

It started a week ago, crazy mid-back pain that crept up my spine, lodged in my neck and reached around the front of my noggin and tightened down.

It was right after my mom sent me an email detailing her travel plans to Europe. She’s taking my kiddo and it didn’t take long for me to figure out that the pain had a lot to do with that, along with some other issues.

I have had plenty of time to think – contorted in bed, lying flat on a yoga mat, and generally miserable. And this isn’t just “my kid who I adore is leaving for a month” – it reaches far more than that.

In my office, well, more specifically on my office ceiling is a quote by Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden Pond. And while his real story isn’t as lofty as his words, the ideas he wrote about continue to resonate with me.

Especially this one…”I went into the woods to live deliberately. To front the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what they had to teach. And not, when I came to die, discover I had never lived.”

I have tried to live by those words more and more each day – but let’s face it, occasionally we get side-tracked.

The Question

As I cleaned a client’s house this morning, my head and neck pain at bay thanks to some strong pain meds I don’t particularly like to take, I found myself asking the same question that I’ve been asking for most of the past week.

“What is it that I want?”

The answers were weird, but hey, that’s okay. I’m a weird kind of woman, so my brain generates weird answers.

Carpets

I want to tear up that gross-assed fucking stained carpet out of my office and the library.

That was answer #1.

I’ve hated this carpet since the day I moved into this house. I hate carpet in general. Give me hardwood floors and a nice area rug and I’m a happy girl. Ever since we pulled up the wall to wall carpet in our house in Belton, and I saw the nastiness that was underneath, I’ve been a huge fan of hardwood, laminate and tile. Anything but carpet, seriously, anything. The only thing that has stopped me has been my husband’s disapproval. He doesn’t want it done because he knows the wood underneath will need work and, like most men I know, he’s got some severe allergies towards more work.

And despite the fact that my neck is aching and my head feels like it is being twisted in a vise, guess what I plan to do this next week? The way I see it, it will be just in time for the bulky item pickup on October 3rd that I scheduled a couple of months ago with the city. My plan was to empty out more crap out of Cottage East. A couple of extra rolls of carpet won’t be a problem at all.

Airstream Dreams

I want to use the Airstream NOW, not 5-7 years from now.

Em is turning twelve in another week. Our time with her is limited and I dream of getting on the road and driving our little 1956 Flying Cloud Airstream down the road to campgrounds galore.

But it needs work. Plenty of work. We need to fix windows, replace the flooring, figure out a heating and cooling system, fix the old refrigerator, install a water heater, fix the gas stove, and generally make it livable.

And in the long list of things to do, it was rolling in last, directly after Cottage East and Cottage West renovations – putting it at around 4-5 years out before it could be used.

Fuck that.

I’ve got about six years left with my kiddo, and I plan on enjoying every minute of it. I want to hit the road with her in tow and visit states I have never seen, and go on adventures.

The other problem? We don’t have a truck. How do we tow an Airstream around without a truck? Hm…

So I looked up what the weight was for the Airstream. It’s older, which means its actually lighter than the newer ones. At 22 feet, it’s just under 3,000 pounds. Then I looked up the towing capacity for my Honda Odyssey van. It can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

I called our mechanic. “Hey Rick, if I bought a Class IV tow hitch, could you install it on our van?”

“Not a problem, darlin!”

I ordered the tow hitch and it will be arriving in a week or less.

This evening I walked a box out to the Airstream. It had a 3-in-1 breakfast station inside that I had purchased on a whim a few months ago. I took some time to look around in the Airstream as the light faded into long evening shadows.

The floors need to be addressed. The original flooring is worn. The original fridge, if it can’t be fixed, could serve as a pantry. We need a water heater if we plan on taking showers, but then again, many travel trailer parks have shower facilities. The solar panels could wait, as could a/c and heat if the heater doesn’t work. We would need to reconstruct the twin bed (currently a foldaway table and built-in seats) for Em. And we need to fix some windows and hang curtains, re-install hardware, and make sure we have a working toilet.

In other words? It’s doable.

Once we have the hitch in place, I plan on buying new tires and hauling it over to our mechanic if he is willing and have him take a look at the undercarriage.

Letting Go of the “Have To’s” and Re-Focusing My Priorities

I’ve spent a lot of my life prefacing actions with the words “Well I have to [fill in the blank].” At as I ease closer to my 50s I am questioning more and more whether I “have” to do anything.

I don’t have to agree with my eldest child or listen to her bullshit.

I don’t have to slave away at a job with zero hope of ever finding better.

I don’t have to wait until my child is grown and gone to have fun now because “planning for retirement comes first.”

I can move and rearrange my life, our possessions, and our plans in a way that brings us joy now as well as later.

And this relates to writing as well. I had been focused most of this year on creating content for my readers, feeling the “have to’s” crowding in my brain until the words refuse to come out and everything is stilted and contrived.

As the pain in my body has continued to build, as I lay on my yoga mat and try to imagine a life without pain (emotional and physical), I have realized that I need to listen more and talk less.

Asking the question, “What do I want?” yielded three answers today. Two of which I will be acting upon. The third was me wanting exposed brick walls inside of this lovely house of mine. Remove the plaster, expose the brick and cover it with a clear glaze. I think it will look lovely, but I am also realistic. I will have a tough enough time removing the carpet from the two rooms upstairs. Once I’ve dealt with that (and the ramifications of an unhappy husband) then I can consider the next step in my “I want” plan.

Besides, I have a travel trailer to work on.

Next step…getting power to the Airstream before our Halloween party!

Recording Audiobooks on a Budget

I’m Heading INTO the Closet

There have been a couple of running jokes here in our house. The first is that I’m going INTO the closet not coming out. My tween thinks that is very funny.

The other is that this tiny 17″ deep space is not a closet, it’s my recording studio.

The tween loves to rub it in, “So I’ll be sure to be really quiet when you go into your clos…er, recording studio.”

My husband’s only comment? “Well, you had better record in small batches because otherwise you will run out of air.”

Well, there is that.

So, it’s small and my elbows jab into the walls and I fight for space for my mouse to work and strain to see the screen, but I did a test run and I think it will work.

All I need to do now is decide which book I will start with.

Because Audiobooks are EXPENSIVE to Hire Out

Do YOU have $1,500 – $4,000 to spend per book? Because I don’t. Not even close.

I was rather shocked when I researched the cost of audiobooks. It ends up being around 12-20 hours of recorded audio and at a cost of $150-$300 per hour to record, edit, and send the author the full MP3 file.

And don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of work, but as with anything else I weigh what my time is worth versus how much disposable income I have. The answer was simple, I’ll be doing this myself!

A Voice Folks Have Commented On

It might be hard to imagine, but I worked in offices for over 20 years – secretarial work, Admin Assistant, Office Manager, call centers, et cetera.

Heck, it’s hard to imagine I lasted that long. Looking back I realize how much I hated it.

There were some benefits to it. I certainly learned a lot about business – how it can be run, how I prefer to run a business, bookkeeping, and more. One of the many benefits I developed during my time in the corporate world was a well-cultivated phone voice. It was smooth, professional, and warm.

I received many compliments over the years from callers. And my daughter says she loves hearing me read out loud.

And it struck me that I have something other authors might not, a good voice for storytelling. I need to practice reading at a steady pace and learn how to handle mistakes, but other than that, I’m good.

Which is kind of perfect because readers often prefer hearing the books in the author’s voice.

Multiple Formats, Spread Wide

I recently moved from KDP Select, which is an exclusive contract with Amazon, to wide. I now have all of my ebooks available on Draft2Digital, which distributes them to Barnes&Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Scribd, Tolino, 24 Symbols, Playster, Overdrive and Biblioteca. And of course I still have them on Amazon as well.

I have all of my books in multiple formats as well – ebook, paperback, large print paperback, and soon…audio. I will go wide on the audiobooks as well – AuthorRepublic, the equivalent of Draft2Digital, will probably be my choice of host for those.

I’m also working on getting my books available, in ebook (.mobi, .epub, .pdf) and audiobook (MP3) formats that can be uploaded directly from this website. Buy directly from me and I end up getting most of the cut, minus a small amount for a payment processing fee instead of losing 30% or more by going through Amazon and the others.

The Plan

The plan at present is to knuckle down and…

  • Work on the monthly free stories (I need to write at least four more ASAP) and continue to work on my existing book projects
  • Expand to offering the different formats of ebook (.mobi, .epub, and .pdf) for sale directly on my website. This means finding the right payment processing tools (possibly Paypal? hmmm).
  • Record five of my six books into audiobooks
  • Offer the audiobooks for sale on Authors Republic and my website
  • Continue to educate myself on marketing, work on better book blurbs for all of my books, and continue to improve my ads on AMS and Facebook
  • Finish a book – what book, I don’t yet know!

Rinse and repeat.

Re-Assess and Re-Evaluate

As a professional organizer I can tell you that spring and fall are the perfect times for organizing. As the changing of the seasons occur, there are also great changes happening within our homes (children or not). I’m having one of those as I struggle to add homeschooling to my daily regimen. Months of notice notwithstanding, I’m still struggling. It’s hard, and sometimes it feels as if my writing comes last.

I feel as if I’m constantly starting, stopping, and re-assessing. I’d stop to wonder why, but I’m too damned busy doing a half-dozen other things.

That last sentence was a joke, by the way.

The reality is, I’m not sure where I need to proceed or which project needs finishing. So, you get to come along for the ride. Here are my current projects and their status/problems that I need to overcome:

The Hired Gun 

Status: 33,650 words written, 14 out of 29 chapters completed.

Problem: I know where this story is going, I’m just on the fence as to whether to make it an erotic thriller or tone it down to a romantic thriller. (in other words, do I write full sex scenes or just the lead up to them?). Also, this is the first book in The Hired Gun series, so what I decide must hold for the following books. I’m finding myself more on the side of romantic thriller than I am on erotic thriller. This is also uncharted territory for me – so I’m feeling uncertain about each word I put on the page. I’m unwilling to walk away from it, however, because I think it (and the series) could be really good.

Plan for NowFigure it out, move forward, I’ve got a ton more to write.

The Chronicles of Liv Rowan

Status: 37,685 words written, approximately 40% complete.

Problem: There are several. 1) This is the first book in a twelve book series, so I’m concerned about not writing myself into a corner or creating a rule that I can’t live with later on, 2) It feels immature. This is probably due to when I began writing it (around 20 years ago now) and it lacks the full breadth of wording that fantasy books require. 3) I have most of the story mapped out, after all it is the first of twelve, but I need to make sure the plot twists make sense AND that the main plot is well laid out.

Plan for NowRe-visit this story regularly when I’m at an impasse with other projects. Keep working on it!

When God Laughs 

Status: 96,994 words written.

Problem: Most of those words are Facebook posts, which I have diligently copied into the chapter Facebook Posts. Also, I’m unsure where I’m going with this, or whether it has anything to really offer.

Plan for Now: Keep taking notes, this isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

The Kapalaran Chronicles 

Status: 36,035 words written, with 6 1/2 short stories completed so far.

Problem: These stories are first published on my website for my email subscribers only. That means they are limited to one per month. I plan to wait until I have 24 short stories before removing them from the website, editing and then publishing them in a short story anthology.

Plan for Now: Continue to write them. This only helps to flesh out the Kapalaran Universe and will be helpful later for those interested in my fiction works.

Start Your Own Housecleaning Biz

Status: 14,509 words written, about 20% complete

Problem: This is just at the beginning. I’m still trying to flesh out details on this manuscript because I want it to be a little different than the typical books out there. I want the reader to feel supported in those first few days, weeks and months when they start their business and avoid some of the learning pains I experienced.

Plan for Now: Continue to take notes and write when I can in this. Maybe take on a chapter or two per month?

Quit Your Job, Change Your Life

Status: 56,790 words written, around 2/3 completed.

Problem: I still struggle with Imposter Syndrome. I’m questioning who I am to write this book, and why folks should listen to me. I’m also challenged by writing more of an intro, a steady move from “something is wrong” to “let’s do something about it.” I think if I could just knuckle down, I could finish this in a month or so and have it ready for editing.

Plan for NowI really need to knuckle down and GET THIS DONE. I would love to have it done, edited, and available for sale by December 1st. It would be well-timed for New Year’s Resolutions.

Gliese 581: Zarmina’s World

Status: 11,638 words written, story not fleshed out yet, and it is just in the beginning stages.

Problem: I have vague ideas, but not a solid plan for this. A friend was surprised over this admission a few months ago. “I figured you had it all planned out!” Nope. But I have plenty of ideas on what I want to see happen, and the general flow of it.

Plan for NowFind time to focus on this. It’s sitting there, untold, and that’s not helping anyone.

I Wrote a Book, Now What?!

Status: 903 words, just the barest of a plan sketched out

Problem: There is no real hurry on this, mainly because I plan to take notes as I go and write details as I think of them. This is a long-term project.

Plan for NowContinue to take notes and write occasionally on the subject. Mainly, this book is meant for me. You would not believe the number of details that go into self-publishing! I try to write them down as they occur. Hopefully this will help others, but first I hope it will help ME!

There are at least two dozen more ideas/projects, but these are the more fully formed ones.

Where to Focus???

Then there are the other issues and challenges. Like my lack of progress on learning how to write ad copy, market my books, et cetera.

To make money on my books, I must spend money, and choosing where to spend the money seems to be the most difficult decision to make. I dabbled in Facebook ads and lost my shirt, AMS ads yield a tiny trickle of sales and I spend less than I make, so I continue with those. Recently, I made the decision to go wide instead of limiting my book offerings to Amazon – this means I will eventually see the KENP page reads go away, since those all come from KDP Select. I’m hoping to return to Facebook ads once I understand better how it all works, but that means actually taking the training I paid for, which means time away from other things.

Sometimes it all feels like a big round robin. If I didn’t have a foster child, if I didn’t have a homeschooled child, and if I didn’t have an elderly parent to care for – I could be focusing on these tasks better.

But I do have these things. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way, not even my dad, pain in the rear that he is. So somehow I need to make it work.

I’ve added Rescue Time to my laptop in order to see where I am spending my time. I highly suspect social media is to blame. The reality is this, if I want to get my books out, I need to write them. Nothing more, nothing less.

Accountability.

Work.

Rinse and repeat.

Say Hello to Dragon

After listening to Joanna Penn’s podcast the other day, in which she discussed dictation techniques and her use of Dragon, I took the plunge.

In fact, this entire post has been written, well dictated, through Dragon.

I am sitting in front of my computer with my headphones on. Not the crappy headphones that the program came with. Unfortunately, those didn’t seem to work. However, my husband was kind enough to rustle up his Skype headphones for me.

I’m still learning the software, it’s difficult to speak out loud the words in my head. I found that surprising, and I know I’ll get used to it with time. One of the interesting parts about using Dragon, is that you have to tell it punctuation. Well I suppose you don’t have to but it makes the finished product look better and require less editing.

So, why dictation?

While listening to Joanna’s podcast I had this sudden daydream of working in my yard, pulling weeds, whatever, and dictating the Great American Novel.

Side note: My daughter just came in, I looked at her, and immediately said the magic words to turn off the microphone. I can’t say the exact words, because then it would turn off and my dictation would end!

I doubt that will happen, dictating the Great American Novel while gardening, but you never know!

It is rather amazing what the software can do. The fact that it can decipher my words, understand the difference between grammar commands and words, and even go back and capitalize certain words, is amazing.

The technology available to us these days is staggering. Think of those people who suffer from Parkinson’s or severe arthritis, hack even those without hands, who could with this technology be able to write.

It isn’t just for writing in blogs, or  manuscripts, you can even use it to send emails or surf the web. How cool is that?!

In any case, this is both practice and evidence for me that it works. I certainly need the practice, it will take some time for it to be fruitful.

Another benefit to this software, is my typical open-door policy in my office. I don’t like to have the door closed but my family tends to just waltz in at any old time and begin talking to me. If I’m in the middle of a thought, or a detailed passage, or even just organizing facts about the story I’m working on, it sends me all a-kilter and I often lose my train of thought. Hopefully, everyone except Little Miss, who is 2 1/2 and doesn’t have the sense to be quiet, will see me talking and enter quietly. It just might give me the buffer that I so desperately need.

I’m going to play went around with this new technology through this weekend. I’ve already dictated several paragraphs in my manuscript When God Laughs. I hope to get a good part of the next chapter in The Hired Gun done as well. I have a new chapter due a week from Monday.

Which reminds me, if you haven’t been reading the chapters posted here on my website, please do. You can find the chapters under  The Hired Gun tab.

I’m going to wrap this up now and continue to experiment using this voice recognition app. I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

p.s. The links take you to the best price on Amazon!