Little Goals, Big Goals – LIVING Goals

Two years ago, after my crazy, stressful flight to Panama and back, I realized that I have spent most of my life just getting by. 

Pay the bills, work my ass off, and try and be a good mom, wife, and human being. Rinse and repeat.

They aren’t bad goals, and they aren’t without moments of joy. I have a great life, I really do. But the older I get, the more I want to see the rest of the world, explore foreign cities, stand in a castle centuries older than me, and dip my toes into strange and distant shores.

I have also wanted to go to a writer’s conference for at least the past six years, possibly longer. I want to rub shoulders with other writers, listen to what works for them, and take a few days to just be in my writing world, all by myself, without family commitments.

So after hemming and hawing back and forth, I made the dual decisions. 

  1. I’m going to a writer’s conference in 2019
  2. I’m really REALLY going to go to Europe for my 50th birthday.

Here is how I think it will all shake out.

20 Books to 50k

November 2019 is the 20 Books to 50k Las Vegas conference. I’ve already booked a room and I plan to buy tickets to the conference when they go on sale in a month or two.

I’m going by myself, as in, alone. The thought of it gives me some level of giddiness. No kiddos, no husband, just me and my writing dreams for a few days in a strange city. I’m so excited at the thought!

Naples, Italy

For years I have dreamed of visiting Pompeii. I also desperately want to visit a range of destinations – from my family’s ancestral home, Schloss Sandfort in Germany, to the beautiful shores of Ireland and more destinations than I have time to detail.

But one thing at a time.

For now, I’ve settled on a trip to Naples, Italy in 2020. On May 17th, 2020, I will step off the plane and spend two weeks bopping about Naples. I would love to climb Mount Vesuvius, explore some catacombs, take an authentic Italian cooking class, explore Santa Lucia, and yes, of course, see Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Two weeks will barely scratch the surface of what Italy has to offer, but I know I will love it. And I hope too, that we will then be able to repeat our trips to Europe, every other year, and slowly tick off the wonderful and amazing destinations I have longed to explore since I was my daughter’s age.

I will be learning Italian through DuoLingo. I love the app, we have been using it to learn Spanish as part of my 12-year-old’s homeschool, but I really want to learn Italian so I’m less of the “ugly American.”

Em says she wants to learn it as well, so it looks like we will be adding it to our homeschool curriculum in January. Beginning January 1st, I’m committing to taking two lessons every day.

I found a great article: 15 Best Things to Do in Naples for when we are there. Most of them sound like “must see” destinations to me!

And Last, But Certainly Not Least

My writing goals for this year are as follows:

  • Finish The Hired Gun and get it edited and published. I hope to see this happen by March 2019. This also means completing Better Choices, a novella that will be a giveaway for readers of Benton Security Services series (of which The Hired Gun is book one).
  • Make progress on Zarmina’s World, the sequel to Gliese 581: The Departure
  • Write Winter’s Child – I have the outline, I know where I’m going, I just need to write it, edit, and publish it. That’s all…just, you know, the whole burrito. No problem!
  • Make progress on The Chronicles of Liv Rowan

That’s a lot of writing, folks. We will see if I am up to the task.

One General Malcontent, Reporting In

It’s Friday, so I figured it was time to report in and update on my progress. Small and measurable, but still, progress.

Books sold: 14 this week, 57 (this month) and total for year: 532

Words written this week: 3,500 (approximatation)

This includes several blog posts, two synopses, several character developments, and around two chapters of actual, you know, words, that folks will someday get to read.

I finished reading Tim Grahl’s book Running Down a Dream. And while at parts I found myself wondering when he was going to really get on with it, in the end I appreciated his candor. The journey to becoming a writer can be full of pitfalls and self-hatred, I know, I’ve found myself there multiple times. He gave me some great ideas at the end of the book on how to move forward, inexorably, from here.

Last night I wrote down in my work journal a list of tips from the back of the book. Here are a couple of them to get you started, but I highly recommend the book for the full list (along with Tim’s own story).

  • What is the most direct path to my goal? (to write at least 500 words every day)
  • Stop doing everything (I’m working on it. Right now the hubs is cooking dinner)
  • No seriously, STOP doing everything and really focus on what you should be doing (go granular, figure out your daily “to do’s”, figure out what is essential, and remove the non-essential.)
  • Create systems for the essential tasks

There’s more, lots more, but I will be focusing on these for now. I’ve already been reducing the things I do, but there is definitely room for improvement. More on this in another post. I’ve also recently added Jeff Goin’s podcast, The Portfolio Life, to my “must listen to” podcasts.He has some good ones on the writing craft as well as profiling interesting writers and other creatives.

P.S. Sorry, Not Sorry If I Offended You

So this is just the weirdest fucking thing and I have to share so that someone will please tell me exactly how this post was offensive, because I’m boondoggled if I understand it. And as a lifelong auto-didact (it means self-learner folks, it isn’t some pervy thing) I really do WANT to understand weird shit like this.

Here is what happened:

This morning, thinking about my husband’s birthday in January, I thought about how I want to take him to somewhere really special for his birthday. He wants sushi, so I thought Why not go somewhere we have never been before?

And at about that same time, someone on the Kansas City Eats Facebook page posted about a restaurant and I thought I’ll ask them! So I wrote:

“Your favorite sushi restaurant…Go!

p.s. I’m trying to find a really good one to take my husband to in January for his 50th birthday. He loves sushi.”

And then I went out and about – work, errands, homeschool, and finally picked up a friend of Em’s who is spending the night. I come back to a huge list of recommendations and this:

Is GO a trigger word? I even searched the internet to try and figure out if I had somehow offended someone. Or are we seriously just getting in a kerfluffle over the word go?

By the time I was home and could check my email, some admin had even turned off the commenting feature on the post, so I couldn’t even ask what the hell was wrong with the word “go.”

And then I realized that I really don’t give a shit. Life is too short to wonder about the weird and freakish eccentricities of others. I mean, I didn’t scream “cockroach!” or “All hail Trump” or anything else incendiary. Just that awful, terrible, ridiculous word…GO.

Well here it is again. Take your offense at the word “GO” and shove it straight up your…

[deep breath]

Hey now, I might swear on my blog. Occasionally. Okay, sometimes more than occasionally. In any case, I decided I didn’t really want to know what grave offense I had committed, offend the group hive mind’s delicate sensibilities, and I exited the group.

Life is just way too short for that kind of silliness.

Back to writing I go. I think I can wring another 500+ words out of today. Maybe one of them will include the word…GO.

Better Habits

Weekends Are for Marketing & Blogging

The world of self-publishing is really opening up to new authors, and even established authors no longer satisfied with the status quo. Each week I tune in and listen to several excellent podcasts. They give me great ideas I can implement, and continue to buoy my spirits. 

Each week I make it a point to listen to:

  • The Creative Penn – Joanna Penn is in line with the cutting edge of new developments in the publishing world
  • The Book Marketing Show – Dave Chesson, creator of KDP Rocket (an essential tool for keyword searches for ads and more)
  • The Self-Publishing Show – Mark Dawson is living proof that you can make it as an Indie author. I’ve signed up for (and need to continue learning from) his Ads for Authors course
  • The Portfolio Life – Jeff Goins has some great insight as well into the processes of writing
  • Don’t Keep Your Day Job – Cathy Heller is inspiring. This podcast is for all creatives.

Sometimes, however, the amount of knowledge that is flowing in is rather overwhelming and I noticed a rather extreme dip in my writing output over the past year as I learned more and more about how to be successful in publishing.

And not just that, but it’s kind of addicting to watch my stats on the KDP dashboard. It faithfully records sales and I find myself checking it multiple times in a day, which distracts me from my other tasks.

And of course, there are plenty of family and home obligations. Every day is full!

Tons of Info + too many distractions + family obligations = not enough writing

I’m hoping to break it up a little, though. Weekends are busy times for us, but I can usually scratch out a little time to go through my AMS ads, figure out what is working and what isn’t and adjust my ads accordingly. It’s also a good time to go through and create a blog update, like this one!

When it comes to the more creative side, that still needs to be woven into the spaces between cleaning houses, homeschool and family life.

I can’t do much about eliminating those time sucks. After all, I want them in my life, or else I wouldn’t have had children and become a foster mom! And the cleaning houses is necessary for at least the next 18 months.

Adoption Gone Wrong?

As foster parents who hope to adopt, we are required to take additional classes to prepare us for adopting a child in the future. We are eight months into fostering a little girl, and the case goal is still reunification, but 2019 is promising to be a year full of activities, and so I figured we needed to get all the training done now instead of when our lives are even more busy than they currently are.

As we sat in class and the instructor was busy telling us that there would be no “take backsies,” I was suddenly struck with a story about an adoption gone wrong, and a dangerous violent, evil entity trapped within an innocent child’s body – and it only comes out in winter.

I was listening to Jeff Goins talk the other day about how writing a great book is typically about taking an idea that is 80% someone else’s and 20% your own unique spin. Said another way, readers look for stories that remind them of other stories they have read.  As Goins put it, “Like Lord of the Rings, only everyone is trying to kill each other” (a.k.a. Game of Thrones).

I’ve begun taking notes on it. It’s working title is “Winter’s Child.”

Keep Moving, Don’t Stop

I think the biggest thing I try to remember is to keep moving, don’t stop, and above all, stay positive and don’t lose hope. Nothing truly worth doing is going to be a 100% walk in the park. It’s hard, it’s frustrating at times, but I keep on going.

Full steam ahead!

Creative Process and Audiobooks

I’m reading, marketing, blogging, writing, and otherwise doing what I need to do to move forward on my goals this week. I’m feeling good, I just need to hold on and keep the momentum going!

It goes something like this…

EVERY Day

Each morning this week I have opened this book (yes, it’s my work journal) and detailed my goals and accomplishments.

My goal each day has been: Sell 105 books today

And yes, I still have a way to go to reach that goal…

Each day, the goal resets to 105. Basically, it is my magic number.

My “freedom” number, if you will.

I looked at the two things I would prefer to stop doing – cleaning houses and caretaking – added up my income and threw in 20% taxes, marketing costs for each book sale, as well as Amazon’s take (30-40% of all sales), rounded up and arrived at the magic number of 3,200 book sales per month necessary in order to stop cleaning houses and be able to put my dad in an assisted living facility.

If my sales increase to say 1,600 book sales per month than I will most likely stop cleaning houses but continue caretaking until I reach the 3,200 book sales per month goal.

Yes, it is a huge goal, expecting to move from a handful of sales per day to a total of 105 or more every day of the stinking year. I’m aware of just how big it is. And anytime I start to lose faith, I remind myself of where I’ve been.

Last year I sold a total of 32 books, 31 of which were in November and December.

This year I’ve sold 504 books.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Over 500 books, that’s huge! And the reason for it? Well, as labyrinthine and odd as it might be, the thanks for it can be laid directly at my eldest’s feet. In a sense, it is like a sad version of “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake” – but one thing definitely led to the next:

  • The schism with my eldest last year led to me questioning everything – especially my parenting and even homeschooling abilities
  • This questioning led to a crisis of confidence and me deciding to enroll my tween in 5th grade at the local public school
  • Without her presence during the day, and my days filled with my housecleaning biz, I quickly grew bored with listening to music and started listening to podcasts
  • The podcasts, first Airbnb-related, quickly turned to writing-related and I began learning (and implementing) ideas into my writing business, thus increasing sales.

I would never have turned to podcasts if I hadn’t have had hours of free time with no one to talk to. And without those podcasts, I might have never learned the techniques I have learned (and am still learning) that continue to make a difference in my writing career.

A year later and we are back at homeschooling BUT I do not take my daughter with me to most cleanings – those are my prime podcast listening times!

And so, as strange as it might sound, I am quite thankful to my eldest. She might have broken my heart, but her departure from my day-to-day life also helped me to move past the point where I was stuck for years, waiting for a writing ship to sail in instead of hunting down that damned ship and grabbing it by the anchor.

p.s. Ships are very heavy, this might take a while.

My Creative Process

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Most of everyone I know is a little of both. We know to some extent where a story is going, but it isn’t totally mapped out.

For me, the creative process means that I usually have a scene or a series of scenes visualized in my head, but the characters walk into the picture where I’m least expecting them. They pop up, barely introduce themselves, and then just start doing whatever the heck they want to in the scene, without so much as a by your leave.

I found my character Shane looking out for this poor junkie down the hall from him in his apartment building. Where Kenny the Junkie came from, I have no idea, but damned if he wasn’t insistent on me writing him in.

Audiobook Dilemma

I have this great speaking voice. No seriously, I really do. Years of work on phones, in call centers, secretarial work and more have cemented that fact. My daughter loves for me to read to her, she says I act out the voices and make the stories interesting.

So between that and the fact that paying someone to transform your book into audiobook form was incredibly expensive, I just figured I’d muddle my way through it and record my own.

And since I’ve solidified on my goals for 2019 in the past week, the idea of needing to record my books was stressing me out. How was I going to fit that in among all the other stuff?

And it wasn’t just the recording time, but the editing time, which most folks will tell you is about five hours for every finished hour of recording.

Talk about a steep learning curve! I needed to:

  • Learn how to record my voice in a way that would sound professional (i.e. without the sounds of sirens, heaters, children, and barking dogs)
  • Learn how to edit the files
  • Spend approximately 60 hours editing the files once I had recorded them

OR…

Go to a company, enter into a deal where I split the profits on any sales 50/50 for seven years.

OR…

Pony up around $2,500-$4,000 per book to be recorded that I could then sell royalty free.

Option 1 – too much time, not enough experience or comfort doing it myself

Option 3 – no money, honey

So Option 2 it will be. I’ll be working on getting Get Organized, Stay Organized recorded after I do a complete re-edit of the manuscript. After that, an edit of Gliese 581 and then I’ll have that recorded as well. The others will wait until I see how the sales for these two go. Who knows, they might give me the $$ I need to pay for Option 3 for the rest of my books.

Forward Motion – One Day at a Time

I wake up every day with the following assignments:

  • Write something
  • Learn something
  • Edit something
  • Market something
  • Interact with someone about writing

One day at a time. Every day. I’ll make it work. Just…you…watch.

Time to Get Serious

I’ve been listening to podcasts for over a year now. And I have found that I love them. They have interested, inspired, and informed me. Listening to them, in those moments when my hands were occupied, but my mind was not, has changed my life.

Last year, as I mourned the loss of a family member I had built so much of my life around, I enrolled my then almost eleven year old in school for the first time. I questioned everything, up to and including the meme above at times. It isn’t easy when relationships end. It isn’t simple, or clear cut, or easy to walk away.

I questioned it all.

Was I a good person?

Was I a good mother?

Was I a good teacher?

Was I a good writer?

I cleaned my client’s houses, I listened to the podcasts. I learned.

I changed my covers, fixed glaring errors and dove back into the self-publishing world. As I did this, my daughter’s school conducted placement testing and I learned that not only had I managed to educate her in a reasonably efficient manner, but that, at worst, she was grade-level in math, and at best she scored six grades ahead in science.

She excelled that year in school and I regained the footing I had lost in those months of agonized questioning and fear and doubt. Not just that, but all of sudden, I was selling books.

Not a “oh my god girl, you are a millionaire!” kind of way, but a bright, bright light at the end of the tunnel. A “this is possible, this can be done” kind of way. Every day, I listened to people whose incomes were growing, exponentially.

Joanna Penn – whose income is now in the mid six figures.

Mark Dawson – whose income in book sales alone is around 80k per month

And several others.

And as I listened to them, and implemented so many changes, some effective, some rather expensive – I realized a few things.

  • You can be creative AND make money
  • I want to write books but I also want some form of security (a.k.a. passive income in the form of rentals or Airbnb properties)
  • Whether or like it or not, I need to learn marketing.

And I have kept learning, and trying, and experimenting. And yes, at times I feel as if I’m banging my head against a wall.

I realized too that as the months wore on and I wrote little or nothing that it was a combination of issues that were stopping me…

  • My dad – his presence in my life has always caused me to question myself. He thrived on it, sort of like a vampire, and seemed to enjoy unsettling me. This continues, although I have managed to make it clear that he is the problem and not me. This toxic relationship is not one I prefer to continue, but there are economic and logistical issues that stand in the way of moving him into a nursing home. For now, he is an unwilling part of our lives.
  • Excuses – damned if I don’t have one for every mountain that appears in my path. But mountains can be climbed. And if I want this bad enough, I need to get the fuck over them.
  • Family, projects and more – as much as I want to cut back, I recognize certain parts of my life take at least a chunk of priority. One cute three-year-old who we hope to adopt, a 12-year-old who is back to homeschooling, a wonderful husband and our Airbnb projects.

As I listened to the story of Shayne Silvers, a fellow Missourian who wrote his first book in 2012, and then returned to writing in 2016 with stunning results, I knew it was time to get serious.

To write and be successful, you need:

  • A great story, well-written, that appeals to your target readers
  • An excellent, well-edited manuscript that isn’t full of errors
  • A book cover that reels in readers
  • A book blurb that peaks readers interests
  • A host of compelling ads that encourage folks to click the buy button
  • A subscriber list so you can engage in personal interaction as well as low-key marketing to the readers who are already interested in your writing
  • A book magnet – a freebie giveaway that gets folks interested in your series so that they want to read more.
  • Interaction/availability – to your fans who want to know more about you or your universe of characters (fiction) or your knowledge (non-fiction)

And while there are some areas that need improvement (editing, some book covers, a bigger subscriber list) I’m on the right track, but now it is time to seriously move forward.

The end of the year always spurs thoughts of how next year should go, and this December is no exception.

I know that I want to stop cleaning houses and that I need to move my dad into a nursing home. That want and that need clash with a very basic issue, that of money.

In order for those two things to happen, I must sell 3,200 books per month. That number was arrived at through some rather labyrinthine calculations, and include setting aside 20% for taxes and 30% for Amazon’s bite of the pie, and an advertising budget that does not exceed 50% of the income I receive from sales.

Like I said, labyrinthine.

As of last month, I sold 124 books. That means I’m at 3.8% of goal.

In total so far this year I’ve sold at least 491 books. That’s a huge difference from last year in which I sold a total of 32 books. That’s an improvement of 1,534% over last year! A big thanks to Stephanie Adams for helping me with that math problem. So, going along with that concept, I need to sell 38,400 books per year or increase my sales from this year by 7,821%.

Here is how I’m going to do it.

One…

bite…

at…

a…

time.

The way I figure it, every single stinkin’ day for the next 2-4 years I need to be:

  • Writing something
  • Learning something (marketing, writing ad copy, improving my writing)
  • Editing something
  • Marketing something
  • Interacting with somebody about writing

Every single day. Without fail.

I can do this.

I’ve been homeless.

I’ve been married to shitty human beings (and even shittier husbands).

I’ve gone through divorce, custody battles, raising one teenager, bankruptcy, and a host of other challenges.

I can do this.

Stay tuned.

 

When In Doubt…

Even after ten years of writing, I’m still learning new things. Being an Indie writer means being independent, self-sufficient, and creative at things that aren’t necessarily primary in my wheelhouse.

Creating book covers, uploading my books to different platforms, learning to write effective ad copy – this last year has been challenging.

When In Doubt, Ask for Help

On Monday, I was ready to tear my hair out. Joanna Penn, a rather well-known podcaster and author in the Indie world, has continued to talk about Ingram Spark as a good platform to place Indie books on.

Doing so, gives an Indie author even more exposure to bookstores and libraries.

Say no more, I was on it.

Except…the dreaded book cover.

And while I have created plenty of book covers, good ones, in Canva.com – they were not the full book cover. Instead of this:

I needed something that looked more like this:

And despite Ingram Spark’s oh so helpful customized template in pdf format, I had no idea how to do it.

After a couple of hours of banging my head on the keyboard (note to self: this does not induce deeper, tech thoughts only a nasty headache) I posted a rant on Facebook and a friend popped up and volunteered to help.

She got it together pretty quickly, unfortunately, one of the fonts I had on a print version through KDP sparked an error message from Ingram Spark. I’ve got a good idea of what to do, however, and will be able to fix it from my end in a few days.

I was reminded, yet again, that there are plenty of folks willing to help, for no other reason than kindness.

When in doubt, ask for help!

Most Money In…and Out

I’d been getting real excited about this month’s earnings in book sales. Most months this year have been averaging nearly $200 in sales per month and when I broke $200 by the 12th I was convinced it would be my best month ever.

Until I checked my advertising tab.

Sheesh.

As of the 20th of November, I had earned $301.92 in book sales, a total of 125 books (ebook and paperback).

And my advertising fees had accrued to a whopping total of $304.27 and counting.

Duh, duh, duh DUH.

AMS ads were eating up every bit of my profit, and then some.

In other words? I have a lot to learn about advertising.

Brick Walls Have Got Nothing on This Writer’s Block

I’m a planner and a dreamer. I can create a plan of action like nobody’s business and I’ve made plans among plans. When it comes to writing I have attacked it from several angles:

  • I won’t make it about money
  • I will make it about money
  • I need to write XX books this year
  • I need to just write something, anything

And so on, and so on.

In the end, every time I look at one of my bigger projects (Chronicles of Liv Rowan Book 1, The Hired Gun, Zarmina’s World, or a host of others), I tell myself, “Just write SOMETHING” and I sit down, stare at the screen, and my mind slips sideways.

I feel like I’m skidding on glass.

And it feeds on itself, making me question whether or not it will ever just be natural. After six books, it is easier, and yet there are times when I wonder “Is this it? Am I out of viable ideas?”

I know that I’m not, the world is full of ideas and I’ve had some doozies. But sometimes the implementation of those ideas seems strained and difficult. I’m going through that now, in no small part because of the marketing side of things, which really throws me off. I’ll figure it out, I always do.

Disaster…

Ugh. I was over 6 1/2 hours into recording Gliese 581: The Departure into audiobook form. I was sure I had saved the file, but this morning, at 4:30 a.m. in the chilly attic, I discovered I had not. The file is gone, over 6 1/2 hours of recording has vanished and to say that was frustrating does not begin to cover it.

I thought briefly about giving up, especially as I listened to the sounds of traffic and sirens in the distance. I couldn’t record in there even if I tried.

I think I need to move back down to the closet and instead of having the laptop in the closet, have just the external monitor and mouse inside (the microphone picks up the hum of the laptop).

When I begin recording again, I will record Get Organized first. I’ve read that non-fiction is hot in audiobooks, so I’ll start there.

And Now, A Request

As I work towards understanding what ads make me money, and what don’t, I’m doing my best to make money wherever I can. The combination of blogging and the Amazon Associates program is one of those ways, but it hasn’t been paying off so far and Amazon has sent me a notice telling me they will be terminating my Amazon Associates account unless I get some sales. So I’m going to ask a favor of you, my loyal readers.

If you shop at all on Amazon in the next few weeks, please consider shopping through this portal.

It doesn’t cost you a dime and it will keep me from losing this potential income generator. Even a few dollars of income here or there makes a difference.

 

 

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?