Scrrritttchh!

Imagine the sound of a needle on vinyl. I know this might be hard for anyone under forty, but hopefully you’ll get the drift.

I’ve been doing it again. And the stress has been building as a result. I realized it yesterday as I thought, “How can I feel so overwhelmed when I’m doing LESS than before?”

Different Kinds of LESS

It’s true, I’m doing less. I no longer teach community education classes, my elderly father is gone so I don’t have him as a responsibility any longer. I’m unschooling the tween, which means she usually tells me what she will be studying for the day, and until recently, it had been winter, so no outside gardening duties.

I’m doing less, so why does it feel overwhelming?

Not Learning, Not Writing Side Projects

Over six months ago, I signed up for Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors. And because I didn’t have the $700 up front, I agreed to $75 payments over the course of twelve months. It’s a series of video courses, designed to be watched and implemented over the period of a few months. So far, the course has restarted at least twice since I signed up. I have watched only a few videos.

What do these videos teach me? Well, hopefully how to truly understand what the hell I’m doing with Amazon ads, Facebook ads, and more. And considering that my advertising on AMS has been averaging anywhere from 27% (that was really good) to 129% (yup, that means I’m operating in the negative) of my sales income, I really need to be doing better.

I Want it Right Now

I realized that I’m creating a nasty little trap for myself. I want to quit cleanings so bad that I’ve found myself in the “write more, more, MORE” loop.

It needs to be the “write smart” loop.

Write smart, work smart, and what I have in print RIGHT NOW could very possibly make all the difference in the world. And even if it doesn’t, with the education I will have the foundation I need to make the next book, or the next one after that, the success I need it to be to get what I want.

I found myself saying the same thing, “If I just write enough books…”

In the Indie world, there is certainly the mass production model. Crank out enough books over a short amount of time and you might very well make the dollars you need to succeed. There is also the learned model – one based on understanding ads, how they work, and using them and other devices (subscriber lists, online presence, book funnels, and more) to bring in readers and fans.

And I realized that I’ve tried to have a foot in each pool, without the learning that goes with it.

So…Scrrritttchh!

This is a record player (for all of you millennials who may have seen the arcane construction and wondered why the hell us old folks have it around still)

Priorities in order:

  • Finish Better Choices
  • Write enough short fiction to last me through the end of this year (8 stories, doled out on a one story a month basis)
  • Go through Mark Dawson’s course from beginning to end
  • Finish Dave Chesson’s course (that I started 8 months ago – that one was a freebie)
  • Read “Joy of Writing Sex”, “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy”, and at least two of the other four books on writing that I recently bought and have not read.
  • Go through the four courses I purchased on Udemy and have never taken and if they still apply, take them.
  • Return to my book writing

As I outlined my plan of action to my husband this morning, he had this to say:

This is what you do. You work like a madwoman on one task and are consumed with guilt over not doing the other thing, whatever that might be, while doing task one. It makes for a high level of dissatisfaction on a regular basis.

Well, yikes. When you say it like that…

Time Limit

I’m going to give it a month. The world will not fall apart if I stop for one month and get some learning done. Then, if it still feels appropriate, I’ll return to the production model – hopefully with a decent amount of knowledge under my belt.

Meanwhile…

I’m starting to receive the chapters of my books turned into audiobooks. It is a rather heady experience to hear someone else read something you have written. I can’t wait to share them with you!

Murphy’s Law

Who the Hell Was Murphy, Anyway?

That guy Murphy, was a real futurist. He could see it coming like no one else could.

I sort of hate him.

And every time I make plans, he’s there, just waiting to trip me up.

So Goeth Editing

When I assigned a week to edit 37 chapters by reading them aloud to my husband, I thought I was being conservative. But I forgot that we have children (how does one forget that???) and that he is also the president of our local neighborhood association (which means meetings upon meetings).

In any case, the editing has been going slowly. I have 14 chapters left to read out loud. I’m going to try my best to get seven done today and seven more tomorrow.

Writing…or Not

Writing seems to be problematic right along with editing. I need to finish Better Choices the short story I want to release along with Hired Gun and I’ve not been grabbing those opportunities to write as much as I should.

Today is Wednesday and typically a great day for writing since it is homeschool co-op and I’m normally in the Quiet Room typing away. However, today is my day to volunteer for door duty down at the entrance. Folks keep coming in and the door has to be opened by hand each time. I thought I would just have half an hour of work and then I would be scot-free the rest of the day.

Um…no.

Damn you, Murphy!

Somehow, some way, I need to finish Better Choices by the end of tomorrow because on Friday I must begin work on Glass Forest!

Audiobook Extravaganza and Teenagers

This week has unfolded into the following focal points:

  • Creating audiobooks
  • Dealing with hormonal teenagers
  • Beginning the official countdown
  • Juggling Airbnb renovations
  • House to-do’s?!

I will explain…

Audiobook Extravaganza

I’ve been bumbling about for years. This is well-known if you have read my blog posts for any time at all. But after years of slinging pasta at the wall, I know what I want. I want to write (and hopefully sell) lots of books. And after spending the past 18+ months listening to podcasts by Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Dave Chesson, and others, I know how important audiobooks can be for getting your books out there to all readers (and listeners) of books.

I logged onto Findaway Voices and honestly, the prices for narrators made me nearly pass out. So, not sure if I would do any better, I went to ACX.com to see if their prices were any better.

They have different income brackets you can choose: $0-$50 per finished hour, $50-$100 per finished hour, and up.

I chose the $50-$100 per finished hour, put five of my books up (Get Organized, the War’s End series, G581: The Departure, and Hired Gun) and opened them up for auditions.

I’ve made offers to three different narrators for four of the books at this point. Two have accepted, and I’m waiting on one other to respond. I offered them $75 per finished hour, which is mid-level, but means I’ll pay anywhere from around $450 for my organizing book to right around $1,000 or more for each of the longer fiction books.

It’s a huge investment, but I’m beginning to see it this way:

Book production costs include:

  • My time working out the basic details/storyline of the book (10 hrs @ $50/hr = $500)
  • My time writing the book (100 hrs @ $50/hr = $5000
  • Book cover creation ($400)
  • Editing/proofreading services ($500)
  • Reading aloud/final edit by me (10 hrs @ $50/hr = $500)
  • My time or a professional’s creating the back blurb and ad copy ($200)
  • Audiobook creation ($1,000)

Total cost: $8,100 (obviously this is estimated)

It’s the same as expecting to pay for a computer, for internet, or for word processing software. These things don’t come for free. And I refused to continue to half-ass it any longer.

Half-assing things means that you continue to have problems. I know this homeowner who cuts corners on EVERYTHING and as a result, has problems with EVERYTHING. Nothing works like it is supposed to, everything is a hassle, and all of the cheap repairs are costing them money every day that the property doesn’t work right.

My work will no longer be half-assed. I will take the time to do it right, to invest in the best book it can possibly be, and NOT accept a “well, it’s okay for now, I’ll fix it later.”

Miss Grumpypants studying math on Khan Academy

There’s a Lot of ‘Teening Going On Around Here

This morning. Whew. I’ll tell you, that 12-year-old of mine is really showing her hormonal side. We ended up having a long talk about how hormones affect not just our bodies, turning girls into women capable of bearing life, but also how those same hormones affect our emotions, or thought processes, and more.

I had to tell her that right now, her body and brain were dealing with a flood of hormones and that it would make her half-crazy, convinced everyone was either deliberately trying to drive her insane or else they were terminally stupid. Having dealt with it for 34 years until blissfully experiencing menopause at age 46, I had the wealth of my experiences behind me, aware of just how awful puberty and PMS in general can be.

“We pay a price for being able to bring life into the world,” I told her, “No one told me these things, no one helped me understand what was happening to my mind and body. I had to figure it all out on my own and it took decades before I figured it out.”

And it’s true. It wasn’t until my late 30s that I thought to chart my periods and figured out that Days 18-22 of my cycle were the worst emotionally. I wish I could go back and see if I ended up quitting jobs during those times, or lashing out at others. I also suspect that I had PMDD, a very extreme form of PMS. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure that one out until I had gone through menopause.

By the time we talked, and I described many of the emotions and thought processes I experienced in the throes of PMS or PMDD, Em nodded, understanding me better, as well as herself. She smiled then, relieved to have a better understanding of it.

Understanding it means she has better tools for recognizing it and handling it better next time.

This was yesterday…

It’s Official – 514 Days to Go

I finally pulled up a day/date calculator and input the following date: July 31st, 2020

That’s the day I want to stop cleaning houses and focus solely on writing and running our Airbnb properties.

I make approximately $2,000 per month cleaning houses right now. So I need to replace that income with book sales and page reads and audiobook sales to the tune of:

$111 per day in sales ($111 x 30 days x 60% (40% of income goes to advertising) = $1,998)

Currently I’m earning $15 per day in sales (so far this month), so I need to increase it by a multiple of at least 10, possibly 11. And I have 514 days left to do it in.

Otherwise, I’ll be 50 years old and still cleaning houses. And there’s nothing wrong with cleaning houses. Hell, I find aspects of it quite enjoyable and the work is rewarding, but I’d rather focus on other things. It’s time for a change.

Juggling Airbnb Renovations

We have a contractor working on Cottage West right now. He’s focusing on the gas right now, with the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC to follow. After that, we have an insulation guy and we are currently taking bids on drywall. The rest of it, painting, the bathroom floor, refinishing the bathtub and installing fixtures into the bathroom and kitchen will be on us.

We should be seeing drywall go in by late April and I’m hoping that we can be open for business by mid-June.

Meanwhile, at Cottage East, we should see new windows and the siding installed by late March, early April. After that, we will have the electric box put in by Mid-April, allowing us to install an alarm inside to ensure there are no break-ins until we have the funds to work on the project again next year. Although, if we can swing it, I think I would like to see the demo of the interior walls happen this year as well. It will depend on how we feel after we build a fence along the entire front of the property!

All the Rest

I have Hired Gun back from my proofreader and I’m reading it out loud to my husband and making corrections as I go. There’s nothing quite like reading the book out loud to catch those odd, not-so-obvious errors.

I’m also hoping to have Better Choices finished soon. That will be the freebie that only those who read Hired Gun and sign up for my newsletter will get to read.

And with all that…back to writing I go!

Making It Real

Back to Reality

It’s good to have friends. It’s even better to have ones that tell you how it is, without worrying about your ego or offending you.

I was writing a scene for “Loved and Lost” a short story written especially for my subscribers, and I had a scene where the main character hears gunfire in the distance, realizes his woman is in danger, and drops everything to run to her.

Five miles.

On foot.

Towards gunfire.

It’s a majestic scene, full of emotion, anticipation, danger.

One virile, ex-military hunka hunka running to save his love from the baddies. He’s got his rifle in his right hand and his K-Bar (a military knife popularized by movies and tv) in his left hand, moving through the brush, sexy and lethal.

Whew, wow, well that did it for me.

Hold everything.

Enter friend, stage left. Guy has been overseas, seen combat, and he writes…

“No one just runs around with a K-Bar other than fools who watch too much tv.”

Cue the scratch of the needle across the vinyl record.

Suddenly I see what my friend sees. The virile, ex-military guy tripping, the knife flying from his grasp only for him to impale himself upon it or shoot himself in the head with the rifle he’s got his finger on the trigger of.

Literary Love

And then I heard back from my editor/proofreader friend. She had been kind enough to turn around an 80k word proofing gig in less than five days and sent it back to me full of praise.

I told her she was awesome and she wrote:

Oh honey I don’t think you understand. I have missed proofing for you!
It’s always my pleasure and your smut is excellent. A perfect mixture of romance and naughty.

I do proofread a fair amount of this kind of thing and yours is excellent! I am going to laugh so hard when this makes more money than all your other stuff b/c I remember us talking about you doing this!

So that all made me incredibly happy. I’ve gone through the edits, and now I’m giving the book one more serious read-through, out loud, before sending it off to Amazon for publication.

Hired Gun – Available on March 31st!

With those last edits in place in just a few days, I will be looking for ARC readers. Are you interested? An ARC reader reads the early copy of the manuscript, and…

  • Might find errors, typos, or inconsistencies that the author and editor missed
  • Provides personal feedback to the author
  • Is highly encouraged to leave an honest review of the book on Amazon

If you are interested, please contact me at: shuckchristine(at)gmail.com and I’ll be happy to send you a copy in pdf, rtf, epub, or kindle formats.

Pessimist, Realist, or Optimist?

Choosing How I Respond to Adversity

How do you look at the world? Do you see it as a good place, a bad one, or something with both elements? How do you react to adversity?


pessimist – a person who tends to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. Because it matters, a lot, and I’ve also seen how it affects my writing and the message I am sending behind the stories I produce.

optimist – a person who tends to be hopeful and confident about the future or the success of something.

I find that I tend to avoid pessimists. It is really, and I do mean really hard for me to be around them. I usually call them Eeyore, after that perpetually mournful donkey in Winnie the Pooh.

realist – a person who accepts a situation as it is and is prepared to deal with it accordingly

Perhaps it is my Taurean, down-to-Earth birth sign, but I find myself hovering between optimist and realist. When life is good, and the sun is shining, I am an optimist. When the proverbial poop hits the fan, I slip into realist mode.

Sure, just like anyone else, there are moments when I cannot find the wherewithal to smile and be happy. Life happens, awful, depressing things hit and you can’t help but feel surrounded by it. Thankfully, I find those moments fade faster and faster as I have matured. When I was young and insecure, it often felt like life was out to get me, but now?

Life doesn’t particularly care. It is neither good nor bad, it simply IS. That means that it is up to me to decide how I wish to respond. I have found that choosing a more positive outlook helps me immensely. It helps not just with how I view the world, but also gives me a strong drive to continue to improve and become better. A better writer, a better human being, and a better wife and mother with each day that passes.

The Writing, the Writing!

I just want to share my joy with you. You don’t mind, do you?

Since I began assigning myself basic goals – from 500 words a day to my current 1,200 word count weekdays – I’ve met or exceeded expectations. And since the huge kerfluffle of my dad falling and breaking his arm and getting moved to a nursing home, much of my focus has turned towards establishing a regular pattern of production.

With that regular pattern has come a level of depth, of description, that has surprised and excited me. I love words, the images that they conjure in my mind, and the way they have flowed, (not always easily, but it is getting better) onto the page.

Today, watching my total word count inch up from 700 to 1,500, to nearly 3,400, I’ve found myself practically giddy. It is, in a sense, becoming easier. I still am distracted and distractable – I still have to get stern with myself and remind myself that surfing Facebook isn’t going to get me where I want to go – but slowly the tide is turning.

When I sit down and concentrate, the words flow. And that is a beautiful thing.

Pantser or Plotter?

In the writing biz, you’ll hear that term a lot. Are you a pantser or a plotter? And while I have a basic idea of where a story is going, I definitely consider myself a pantser – writing the stories and images in my brain as I go, developing twists as it makes sense to in the moment, i.e. writing by the seat of my pants.

It’s a joy as well. My characters talk to me. They are opinionated, full of foibles, dreams, and fuck-ups. I love them. I want to sit down and talk with them, argue, try to fix them and eventually just learn to tolerate their shortcomings along with those who have qualities I wish I had.

In other words? This writer is a happy one. For now, until things get crazy or under pressure or spring comes and I have to add gardening into the mix. And painting, and decorating and getting the Airbnb ready for action. The push and pull of a life fully lived. And thank goodness for that. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My Weekend With Van Gogh

I’ve learned to be far more flexible with my plans, my goals, and how my days actually begin and end. Take this weekend for example, and it has been a glorious weekend!

Weekend Writing Goals…Nah, I Think Not

Earlier in the week, I made a new goal of 1,000 words per day on weekdays and 500 words per day on each weekend day, for a total goal of 6,000 words.

It was a nice goal, and I managed just over 5,000 words from Monday through Friday, but hoping for words to be written on a weekend is a crapshoot. And an unrealistic one at that.

I have a tween, a 3-year-old, and a house with a ton of projects. Saturday was a flurry of activity as we washed laundry, cleaned the house, went grocery shopping and prepared for my husband’s turn to host the monthly Boys Beer Night.

And sure, I didn’t HAVE to clean the house, and it isn’t as if I’m worried my status as a housecleaner will be somehow poorly affected by a little bit of dust, I actually enjoy the look of a clean house. The day passed quickly and we had fun experimenting with a couple of keto snack recipes for the guys. Bacon wrapped dill pickle spears (weird, and not terribly good, but hey, we tried) and fried prosciutto wrapped cream cheese “ravioli” which were a hit.

My take away was a revamping of expectations and goals – for this next week I’ll be shooting for 1,200 words a day, Monday through Friday. If I get any writing done on the weekend, that’s gravy.

Inspiration – this was on the ceiling of a cafe in Europe

My Weekend With Van Gogh

For years I’ve been dreaming of it, and I’m finally making it happen. Van Gogh’s Starry Night, well, my version of it sans the buildings, is being realized on my ceiling of my main level bathroom.

I am not a professional artist, not even close. My tween is currently showing herself to be more advanced than I am, my eldest showed me up years ago (and kudos to her for that), about the only one I’m more advanced than is our preschooler who is still in the scribbling stage. I give her a couple of years and then she’ll zoom past me.

Details, layering…

But that’s okay. Because, as with most things, standing on the shoulders of giants simply means learning to deconstruct something, work it backwards, and put your own unique spin on it.

Further along…

I am no Van Gogh, but I’m excited to put my interpretation of Starry Night on my ceiling. Perhaps it is what I love most about home ownership. I can do what I want and paint the walls black, or in this case, a midnight blue.

Stopping for the day

I’m not done, not by a long shot, but I’ve spent a solid six hours or so on the project, and probably have another 1-2 to go. It will be done in time for our March party and I look forward to hearing visitor’s feedback on it.

What’s Next?

Now that I have wrapped up Hired Gun and I’m in the process of finishing Better Choices, the freebie novella that will accompany the book, I’m debating on what to begin next.

The jury is still out, but I’m flitting between finishing Book One of the Chronicles of Liv Rowan which is currently at around 40% completion, G581: Zarmina’s World (the sequel to G581: The Departure) which has just a few chapters written, and my suspense/horror book Winter’s Child which is outlined but not begun.

These choices are not easy!

Productivity Report

This past week has been far more productive in terms of writing. While I do spend far too much time on Facebook, I was pleased to see Scrivener, which I use for my writing projects, has pulled ahead of Facebook by nearly two hours and my productivity had increased by 46.5%!

I love RescueTime. It’s a nice little reminder each Sunday of where I have been spending my time and how I have progressed from the week before.

I continue to work on avoiding down-time or mindless time (such as scrolling through my feed on Facebook). Some of it is all fine and good, but as the minutes zoom past, I have taken to asking myself, out loud no less, “Does this move me forward? Does this get me closer to my goals?”

If it doesn’t, then I try and stop and re-direct my energy to things that WILL move me forward. I have a lofty goal of publishing three books this year. At least, it is lofty in the sense that I haven’t managed to publish more than one book in a two-year span at this point, but not lofty if I stick to my writing goals.

I can do this. I can write 1,200 words a day and see three books in print each year. But only if I keep my eyes on the prize. And that’s where I am now. Eyes on the prize. Committed.

Or committable…je ne sais quoi…

First Draft of Hired Gun…DONE!

Whew! [wipes non-existent sweat off brow] The first draft is done!

There have been some trials and tribulations ’round here that knocked me off of my groove, but I think it’s finally back. More on those tribulations below, along with my newly revised plans.

Now begin the edits. I will read the story out loud and also engage a proofreader. I hope to have it done before the end of the month. After that, I’ll be looking for beta readers/early reviewers. If you are interested in receiving a free copy of Hired Gun, let me know and I will be happy to send it your way once the edits are complete. The book is available for purchase beginning March 31st, and I am looking for any readers who could read it and post a review before the release date.

Trials and Tribulations

A week ago, I was sitting in an ER waiting for them to x-ray my dad’s arm. This week, his room has been returned to front parlor status and our main level has been reclaimed.

It’s been two years, two months since I received the fateful call that set me on a plane to Panama (yes, the country, not the city) to rescue my dad from a hospital just days before Christmas. When we returned, he was hooked up to a catheter and could not urinate, was recovering from a head wound from falling a second time, weighed all of 120 pounds, and his A1C (indicator for diabetes) was 14.

I tried. Hell, my husband and daughter tried too. We got his weight up to 154, his A1C to a normal reading of 5.7, and he underwent several procedures to allow him to pee again and increase blood flow to one of his legs.

But even after repeated warnings about the ice, Dad just wouldn’t listen. He insisted on going to the senior center each weekday, until last Tuesday morning when he slipped on his way to the shuttle bus, falling and breaking the ball end of his humerus in three places.

We tried to make it work. But after two more falls, and having to call the paramedics for help getting him up off of the floor, and Dad unwilling/unable to get out of bed to pee and demanding I get a urinal for him to use (and me to empty), we knew it was time.

I had been trying my best to hold back the tide. He can’t live on his own, his dementia prevents basic reasoning skills (like eating a diabetic-friendly diet or taking medication regularly) and having him live in an apartment on his own would be a recipe for disaster.

We found a temporary nursing home for him last week and the permanent one is waiting on medical records before they will transfer him. He is getting the care he needs, and the diabetic diet he requires (we fed him diabetic diet, but he would cheat at the senior center), and we are reclaiming our home after 26 months of compromising and stress.

I had no idea how much of a relief it would be until it happened. The joy I see in my tween is palpable, and yet another indicator of how impossible the situation was. Still, it was a lesson worth living and learning from. It hasn’t put me off from caretaking entirely, but I am equally certain that he will not be returning to my home ever again. I feel like I did my best in a bad situation, that I did my duty as much as I possibly could.

The additional income was nice, and it moved us forward on our renovations and projects, but money isn’t everything, and my nuclear family needed a change back to a less multi-generational home.

This does, however, mean that…

My Writing Goals Have Changed Yet Again

I was earning approximately $2,400 extra per month before expenses (food, Dad’s personal needs, and meds). Now that the extra income is gone, my writing priorities have changed. More than ever, I need my writing to pay off.

I figure I have 18 months to take my current $100-$300 in net income to something closer to $2,000 or more if I still plan on quitting cleaning houses in August 2020. And believe me, I’m more than ready to quit sooner if things start paying off!

My old goal was 500 words per day, 365 days a year. My new goal is:

  • 1,000 words per day, Monday through Friday
  • 500 words per day on Saturdays and Sundays

That equals out to 312,000 words per year – or at least three books per year (more than that in the first year because I have several half-finished projects). In other words, totally doable!

I’m off to start edits, and write a little in Better Choices, my freebie that will accompany Hired Gun. Have a fabulous week, everyone!

Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do

I have a “work” journal with that title on the front. When I’m thinking about my money-making plans, the Airbnb’s that we plan to open, or my writing, I turn to that book. Some day I want to look back and remember how it was in the here and now and the journal will serve as an account of the moments I spent dreaming of the future.

Besides, the words ring true, so it’s great to have them in front of me: dreams don’t work unless you do. It’s a reminder to focus on my/our goals and to move towards them each and every day.

Juggling – Time to Add a Ball (or two)

My vision of writing (and a writing career) goes something like this. Every day, I must:

  • Write at least 500 words
  • Edit something I have written
  • Learn something about writing or marketing my writing

For the past month plus, I’ve focused mainly on the writing at least 500 words a day. And in the past 45 days, I’ve written over 42,000 words. So, even though I haven’t written every day, I’m definitely calling it a success. But now it is time to take it a step (or two) beyond that.

Beginning with today, I hope to add the “learn something about writing and marketing my writing” to every day. It’s been pretty regular, but not a daily expectation, so I hope to change that into a daily “must do.”

And tomorrow should be the first day of edits on Hired Gun. I have less than two chapters to write today to finish this story off and then the editing begins.

Two Days of Bliss

When the second wave of cold and ice hit, worse than the much-anticipated polar vortex of the week before, I spent Wednesday slipping and sliding as I cleaned a house close to home. On Thursday morning, after waking to hear the icy rain hitting the windows in the middle of the night, my mind was made up.

“I’m not leaving the house, not at all, for the next two days.” I canceled the one cleaning I had on the schedule and settled in to write.

It was blissful. A full day of writing yielded 3,368 words and put me to the edge of completion on Hired Gun.

It felt…amazing. To realize that this is what it could be like, to write full-time, to spend my days immersed in words. To write, edit, learn, and market the tales I have spun to readers interested in reading them.

I’m looking forward to today being the same. Except for a delivery from 4:00 – 6:00 of our new washer and dryer, or the 2 p.m. appointment with a masonry contractor to look at our brickwork on The Cottages, my day is free.

I can imagine what it will be like, once The Cottages are up and running and earning money, and my days are filled with writing, editing and learning. I’m lucky to have this chance, this future opportunity. I also am working hard to make it a reality. Every day, forward movement, eyes on the prize, to the goal of stopping housecleaning and working full-time as a writer.

New Covers = Better Sales?

A friend asked me, “Why are you changing the covers? Didn’t you already change the covers?”

And while G581 had not had a cover change, The Storm has had at least two iterations, first a sketch drawing done by my eldest daughter and then a cover I had created on Canva.

The reason for the cover change was simple – no one was buying or reading either book.

What is the purpose of writing a book no one ever reads? I spent hundreds of hours dreaming, writing and editing these books. I didn’t write them just so I could be able to hold a book in the air and say, “Look! I wrote a book!” I wrote them because I wanted to share that dream (as dark as it might be) with others. I want to entertain others. I want for reality to slip away and the world I have created to take over, pulling people away into another realm for the time that it takes them to read the story and possibly haunt their dreams for a while longer.

It’s less about making a buck as it is about sharing a dream.

And, let’s be honest here, if I sit there and wonder if I’ll ever get my money back on my investment, I’d probably never pull the trigger and write another book. Instead, I focus on the following:

  • Write the best book I can
  • Edit the book and try to ensure there are no glaring errors
  • Create a compelling cover, description and ads that will interest readers
  • Write the next best book I can
  • Rinse and repeat

It took me a while to get with the program. I kept trying to create a cover that was more budget-friendly. In the end, I realized that it was absolutely a necessary expense. No more cutting corners, best foot forward, and keep going.

I think the covers look amazing. I ran contests on 99Designs for both of them and I’ve contracted with the winning designer of The Storm to design Brave New World, the sequel to The Storm . I’m looking forward to seeing what he creates.

While You Are Waiting…

And if you are reading all of this and wondering, “Great, wonderful, but when will I get to read something new, Christine?”

  • Make sure you have signed up for my monthly newsletter (it provides links and subscriber-only passwords to my short stories
  • Try out this recipe for Cioppino. It’s perfect for a cold winter evening!

Big Spender

It’s official. I’ve caved.

And honestly? It’s probably going to be the best decision I’ve ever made.

Last weekend, after trying many iterations of ads on my sci-fi book, Gliese 581: The Departure, I realized something had to give.

Gliese is the strongest book I had written to date. It’s the one I’m most proud of. It had a decent cover and I had taken the plunge and paid for a professional book description and ads and nothing seemed to be working. No sales to speak of – maybe one or two in the entire month.

Meanwhile, my first book, Get Organized, Stay Organized is flying off of the shelves, selling over 118 copies in January. Something had to give.

So I emailed the service that had handled creating the ads and asked if they could look at the book description and ads one more time to see if there was any way they could be improved.

On Monday, I heard back from them. Their suggestion? To change my book cover.

Option 9

Now this could be misdirection on their part. Perhaps. I was pretty proud of the cover – after all, I had designed it and I didn’t do a bad job at it. That said, it wasn’t selling and from the reviews I had gotten, the writing wasn’t the problem, so that left three possible variables:

  • The title (Gliese is confusing and hard to pronounce)
  • The cover
  • The book description and/or ads

So I decided to take the plunge and change the cover AND the title.

Option 8

Recently, when talking to a local writer I mentioned that I had heard some advice recently, “Make sure folks can easily read your title, don’t use unfamiliar words.” She astutely pointed out that I had the same problem with two of my books – Gliese and Schicksal.

Option 7

Yikes. She had a point!

So I decided to change the title at the same time as I changed the cover. Instead of Gliese 581: The Departure, I decided it would be simpler to call it G581: The Departure.

Option 6

I first googled “What is the average cost for a good book cover design?” The answer was sobering.


Book cover design varies. For covers that look like Penguin, Harper Collins, Random House, and Pearson quality, you should expect to pay $500 to $1200. For something more affordable you can pay anywhere from $100-400.

Yikes.

Option 5

I thought about it for a few minutes. I calculated how long it had taken me to write the book, agonized a little over the fact that I had been very proud of my book cover, and decided it was time I got serious and put my best foot forward. “Fine, I’ll swallow the pill and pay up.” 

Option 4

I did a few searches on good book designers and found myself at 99Designs, which had this fascinating approach – create a contest for $399 and get as many as 30 or more book designs submitted for me to review.

Option 3

Frankly, I was a little nervous about it, but I decided that if I am willing to spend hundreds and thousands of hours creating a book, I should be willing to spend a few hundred dollars ensuring that the cover was attractive enough for people to want to read it.

An unread book seems rather pointless, after all.

Option 2

The response to the G581 contest was rather intimidating. Here I was thinking, “Thirty designs would be so cool!” I received over 100 designs, folks! Going through that many was rather overwhelming, especially since I had thought, “Heck, I’ll start another contest on my first War’s End book and see if I can get that into shape as well!”

I’ve been bombarded!

Option 1

I would love your opinions on these last nine options. Frankly, I could all the help I can get in determining which one to choose.

The designs for The Storm aren’t as cool as G581, and I’ve had to deal with some really shitty designs and occasionally a grouchy designer who objected to me not handholding him and explaining WHY I didn’t like the design. Note for next time Waldo Furry, don’t be an ass, take the licks and get on with things, I had over 145 designs to go through and I have a very busy life – otherwise I would learn how to design book covers and do it my own damn self.

Cutting Out the Time Sucks

I’m on a mission to create as many quality, immersive, “Oh my god I love this author” reactions from my now and future readers. This also means making a living at my writing and it means cutting out the things that aren’t paying off.

To this end, I have decided to cut down my blogging to one main blog – this one – and to only maintain The Cottages blog as things develop.

This is mainly my writing blog. That said, you might occasionally find gardening posts (when spring and summer arrive) and the odd cooking post. I’m human, folks, and I live a life full of more than just writing.

My hope is that, by focusing on my book projects and not blogging as much, I will take my book production schedule from one book every other year to 3-4 books every year.

Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

Closer and Closer

I have two full chapters to write and a third that is 1/3 of the way complete. I’m close, folks, real close, to officially beginning my first round of edits on Hired Gun! I’m very excited.

Once I begin edits on it, my assigned daily writing will focus on Better Choices, the perma-free back story of Shane Ellis. It shouldn’t take me long to finish it, I had made good progress on it prior to focusing on finishing Hired Gun. I hope to release a perma-free back story for each of the Hired Gun sequels.

At this time, I’m still shooting for a March 1st release date, but I may move that to April 1st. I’m coming close to pushing that out. My reasoning is this, I want to give my ARC team a chance to read it first and give me feedback.

Are you interested in being on my Advanced Reader Copy team? Sign up here!

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The Biggest Myth

I think that one of the biggest myths we tell ourselves each day is that everyone else has got their shit together.

And after 48, nearly 49 years on this earth, I’m here to tell you, 99.99% of us DON’T.

It’s something I have to remind myself of on a daily basis.

We cultivate that brave, capable look. Go on, tell me you don’t, I’d love to meet someone who is completely 100% comfortable in their own skin. We plaster on a confident smile, remind ourselves to relax and look carefree, and we step into the unknown and try not to lose our shit.

I felt that way going to a doctor’s appointment the other day. I had to deal with a new doctor because my old new doctor is on maternity leave. I got to see her twice and then she’s gone for three months (it should be longer, don’t get me started on maternity leave here in America and how shamefully short it is). And I’m sitting there trying to keep my face from betraying my embarrassment/shame/discomfort as this new new doctor lectures me on my eating habits when he’s known me for all of two full minutes.

By the way, the key to healthy living is eating less. Just in case you were wondering. Don’t bother to ask what I’ve eaten, assume it’s too much and begin your standard lecture.

I felt that way a couple of days later just spending fifteen minutes in a friend’s house before dropping my husband off for Boys Beer Night. I smile, I play with the dog, try to think up scintillating conversation, hell, just smile. Afterwards I was glad I had gone inside, but still, it’s hard. Harder than it looks, harder than I want to admit.

But here’s the thing I have figured out along the way. We don’t have to have our shit together. It doesn’t make us less, it doesn’t make us incapable of making a difference or unworthy of being listened to. It just makes us…human.

A couple of years ago, at a deeply trying time in my life, I had a family member break my heart. It was hard, really hard, and I spent months questioning who I was as a person. Was I a good person? Was I a monster? Lots more questions, and not many answers. Just a lot of grief and betrayal and hurt.

And one of my coping mechanisms was to try to replace this family member. Only, you really can’t replace someone, can you? So about nine months ago, after much trial and tribulation, arguments, uncertainty, and emotion – we found ourselves face to face with a beautiful, frightened, confused, and often recalcitrant toddler. She didn’t know why she was in our home, my husband wasn’t sure he wanted her there, my tween quickly barricaded herself in her room so that said toddler wouldn’t invade and touch her stuff, and I found myself consumed with guilt.

Each time she misbehaved/cried/screamed/wouldn’t sleep, I felt like it was my fault she was there and it was up to me to deal with. I guess the words of my dad over two decades ago still rung true. When, in my early 20s I had said to him, “I’m unhappy in my marriage,” he had responded with a shrug and said, “You made your bed, now you need to lie in it.”

Over the past nine months, I became the enforcer. If I heard my husband getting frustrated with our foster daughter I would run in and try and deal with it. And because I was the one handing out all of the punishments and rules, the balance of power was off-kilter as well. Little Miss wouldn’t come to me for comfort, she’d head for my husband. And she wouldn’t listen to my husband’s rules or boundaries, she would wait for me to come along and enforce them.

Until just the other day when I said it out loud, those words I had been thinking every day for the past nine months.

“When there is a problem, when there is a misbehavior, I step up. Because I feel guilty for bringing her here in the first place, for pushing for this thing that you did not initially want.”

And my husband stared at me. “Oh my God, what? That’s seriously how you feel?”

I nodded and I could see the understanding dawn in his eyes. “And I guess I figured that if she likes you and Em, but not me because I’m the enforcer, well, I kind of deserved it, because I pushed for this.”

Sometimes, the saying of something out loud, the verbal uttering of it, gives it a life of its own. In this case, it brought clarity, and suddenly all of my behaviors over the past nine months made sense to my husband.

“But that’s not your burden to take on,” he said. “Yes, I was against it at first, but I love that little girl, and I want more than anything to adopt her and for her to be part of our family forever.”

And with that, my burden was lifted. Suddenly the onus of responsibility, of enforcing boundaries and having to jump up and swoop in was no longer this clanging imperative inside of my head. He wasn’t just “making me happy” – he was an equal partner in it, and had been all along.

I looked at my husband this morning as he sat across from me in our library, a mug of tea in his hand. I looked at him and I smiled, because I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else. I’m one of the lucky ones.