Back to Reality – and Second Quarter Report

Good news and bad news often go hand in hand – and so it goes.

I ended the month with approximately $300 worth of ebook sales and Kindle page views.

Snap back to reality,

Oh there goes gravity

Having my writing income shoot up to that dizzying height was exciting and rather distracting.

Oh, so distracting.

I know it is small potatoes, and worse, it is not regular or reliable yet. This is how I felt when I first started my cleaning biz. I remember being over the moon excited when I cleared $300 in a month. Nowadays I make more than seven times that amount and am quite content with working part-time at it so I can do other things like write!

In late March, I posted the following figures:

January 2018 (sales from November 2017) gross income: $123.30

February 2018 (sales from December 2017) gross income: $203.91

March 2018 (sales from January 2018) gross income: $127.41

Total for 1st Quarter 2018: $454.62

And now I have the numbers for the second quarter of 2018, which is payments for sales in February through April of 2018…

  • April 2018 (sales from February 2018) gross income: $107.54
  • May 2018 (sales from March 2018) gross income: $67.56
  • June 2018 (sales from April 2018) gross income: $88.58

Total for 2nd Quarter 2018: $263.68

Wow, well, a decline from the first quarter 2018. And that means that 3rd quarter 2018 will most likely be my best quarter yet, since the sales from June will be paid out then, along with May’s sales which were approximately $130.

I’ve taken the plunge and invested in Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course. I plan on diving into the videos this month and I’ll see if I can’t learn how Facebook ads work.

Mark Dawson is making serious money with his fiction, to the tune of $80k per month in book sales and page reads alone. Now Mark also has more books than I do, at least twenty, possibly more. But even with my six, I should be seeing more sales.

So I’m hoping the course will help. After all, if I can get my writing income up, it means the renovations on our two future rental houses can go quicker, which means I can stop cleaning sooner than my target of 3 1/2 years from now.

One more week of scattered time with kiddo, holiday and more and then I hope to make some real progress on my book projects. I’ll have a full four weeks to work in writing around cleanings before homeschool starts in the fall!

I Sold That Many?!

It’s been a weird week and a weird month.

So let’s start with the bad news: I’ve written nothing. Neither of my assignments have been finished. Hell, I’ve barely even thought of my assignments.

Now for the good news. I have been toying with AMS ads (Amazon Marketing Services) for a few months now and in this month, my sales of Get Organized, Stay Organized have skyrocketed.

For others, it might be peanuts, barely a blip on the bigger scale. For some, it might be the taste of failure, not success. But for me? All I know is that I went from selling 16 ebooks in a good month and that number has nearly tripled in the past 22 days.

So far, I’ve sold 47 books (four today) and I fully expect to blast through 50, maybe even 55 books by the end of the month.

And just watching the numbers climb…how do I describe it?…it’s got me excited beyond measure, fearful that it won’t continue, and determined to understand this mysterious land of marketing I find myself slogging through.

I’ve gone from averaging $3-$4 per day in earnings to an average of over $10.20 per day.

I keep promising myself that once this holds steady, once I see sales continuing to build, and then hold steady at a solid $3,000 per month, I’ll stop cleaning houses and focus on writing, marketing and all the rest that I do.

I estimate that if my sales continue as they have, I should see around $300 for the month.

Three hundred dollars…or ten percent of where I need to be to consider quitting cleaning houses.

What this month has taught me is that I CAN do this. I just need to keep learning marketing and get back to writing. Those two actions will change my life for the better (and life’s pretty sweet already).

p.s. And another really cool reason for not getting my writing done? This young lady right here. We’ve been spending some time together in June because July is chock-full of summer day camp.

I can’t think of a person I would rather spend my days with, she is the best kid in the world. Seriously, the BEST kid.

Em climbing over a gully on our nature hike yesterday.

We went to Legoland today and she is getting to see Incredibles 2 tonight with her dad. Swimming next week.

Writing can wait. This girl, she’s what’s important right now.

Reporting In…

That New Schedule, Yeah…

So on the 11th, I announced I was going to try a new schedule. Basically an Assignment of the Week (AotW). One chapter from The Hired Gun or one short story in the Kapalaran Universe, starting Monday and hopefully finished before the end of Sunday.

Yeah…

Well. I did it, sort of.

The good news is that I managed to integrate one-on-one time with my darling girl, newly back from a trip to see her grandparents in San Francisco. We went to a local park with some of her friends, then swimming and also saw the Avengers: Infinity War.

I also had five cleanings as well as yard work (check out my post on that here), and I managed to write (in between all of this darting about) over 5,000 words on Not Quite Human – a short story for my email subscribers that will eventually be put into the Kapalaran Universe Anthology.

And as I closed in on 5,700 words, I realized I wasn’t done with this story, not even close, and I had run out of time.

My blog, my rules, right? So I’m posting it for July’s short story, but it is now  Not Quite Human – Part One.

And I dust my hands off and declare my first weekly assignment complete!

I’m looking at the rest of the summer and thinking, “I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.”

But you know WHY? Because I spend far too much time on Facebook, checking my stats on Amazon KDP, and obsessing over how to best spend the money we are setting aside for renovations to the future rental houses.

In other words, until I stop doing that crap, I’ll fall behind in my writing.

So next week? If you hear from me and I’ve got a ton of excuses? You’ll know why. It’ll be because someone is not taking her job seriously enough.

Earnings for the Month

But here is what I do know. I’ve been muddling about, trying to learn about AMS ads (Amazon Marketing Services) and how to write ad copy, book excerpts, and generally understand what makes my potential readers click that Buy button.

And while I’m far from understanding it, I have been absolutely delighted to watch my KDP report recently. This month is shaping up to be an amazing month. I’m currently at the third highest amount I have had since beginning to actively market my books back in November. And I’m only halfway through the month!

It’s a drop in the bucket compared to other authors and what they are doing, but check this out:

  • Books sold so far this month: 28
  • Highest ranking on Amazon: 13,734 (that’s out of MILLIONS of books) for Get Organized, Stay Organized
  • Income to date: approximately $135 (page reads fluctuate in worth, and some of the books sold are not showing up in my earnings yet)

I’m excited. Things are moving forward, moving up, and that means I really need to write more, learn more, and market more. I’m getting there, slowly but surely!

 

A New Schedule?

A New Schedule? Really?

Alas, yet again.

I fall into projects – home projects, people, crafts – and something, usually writing – ends up suffering. This happens to me endlessly, a by-product of not being a one-trick pony.

Instead, I’m more like Doug in the movie Up! and I’m going along happily, working away when suddenly a squirrel (or stained glass project, or foster child, or brick pathways) snatches my attention away.

Sometimes I wish I was interested in less things. It would make focusing on the ones that were left far easier. I wish it for a moment and then let it go. It isn’t who I am, after all, and honestly, when I think on it long enough, it isn’t the person I want to be.

So it means a ton of swiftly changing priorities and new attempts to stay on track. The latest?

A weekly assignment – set on my Google calendar. After all, I live and die by my Google calendar. Without it, there is no way I could keep track of my housecleaning biz, my kiddo’s busy schedule, as well as neighborhood events and other obligations.

I looked over my projects in progress and focused on two of them – the short story of the month that I am publishing on this site for my email distribution list readers and a weekly chapter from The Hired Gun that all visitors can read, comment on, and follow.

Both of these projects will be turned into books –

  • The Kapalaran Universe Anthology – 24 unique short stories set in the War’s End, Gliese 581, and other upcoming series. When I finish all 24 (two years worth), I will do a deep edit, any needed revisions, and then publish them on Amazon as companions to my stand-alone novels.
  • The Hired Gun – Similar to how Andy Weir originally wrote and released The Martian, I am allowing readers to read this book in advanced, incrementally.

And then I created a Writing Assignment of the Week (WAotW) in my Google Calendar…

Now, it is summer and for the month of June, starting today when she returns from San Francisco, I’m going to be focusing on spending some quality time with my kiddo. But when her multitude of summer camps starts up in July, I figure I can double up on some of my assignments and get ahead.

After all, I should be completing my short story of the month for the next month at least four weeks in advance, not two.

THG = The Hired Gun

Doubling up on assignments the weeks of July 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th should put me back in line with where I need to be – at least four weeks ahead on my short story of the month AND my chapter of the week for The Hired Gun.

I hope to do more than this, but certainly not less. If I can stay on track, The Hired Gun will be ready for its first major edit in mid-October.

Raking It In…Well, Sort Of…

I’ve been tinkering with Amazon Marketing Services ads for a while now and I think they are slowly beginning to work. I’ve seen a steady uptick in sales on Get Organized, Stay Organized and my page views on War’s End: The Storm are as high as ever and I’m also seeing sales of the ebook.

I’m averaging about $7 per day so far this month, which certainly isn’t enough to quit my day job over, but hey, I’m making progress and continuing to learn more about how to write book blurbs and ad copy.

I’ll be posting my quarterly sales report at some point in late July. Little by little, momentum is building.

I really need to understand AMS before moving on to Facebook Ads, but I’ll get there eventually.

Creating a Foundation of Alternative Income

I might dream of being a bestselling author, but the reality is, I’ve got a lot of competition, and also a lot of non-literary interests that pull at me, distracting me and slowing my progress in writing.

One of them is very important, however. I am hard at work creating a foundation of alternative income that will, if we position ourselves right, not just create an excellent monthly income, but also help build our savings and ensure that our retirement years will be more than comfortable.

have to share my daily focus with that goal – because I absolutely know it will make a huge difference in our financial future. You can learn more about it by reading a recent post I wrote here.

My focus might be rather scattered at times, but I’m moving forward on all fronts: writing, alternative income, and home and family. As a wise woman once said to me, “All we have is time.”

Broken Brain and a Hard Left

Congratulations, You’re Certified

Maybe that should read certifiable. Yeah, that would be more appropriate.

Seven months ago I decided I wasn’t done. Wasn’t done with what, Christine?

Wasn’t done having/raising kids. I had felt that way for a while, but it really hit hard last year.

In truth, I’m just past the halfway mark with Em. At eleven, nearly twelve, she is itching to dive into the angst of her teen years. And I’m also post-menopausal at the early age of 47 (okay, okay, I’m almost 48), so I am pretty sure I will not be giving birth to any more kiddos.

That said, I wasn’t ready to be done with child-rearing and we set off on the adventure of becoming foster parents. Lots of paperwork, rectal exams (kidding, but only sort of) more paperwork, background checks, more paperwork, in-depth interviews, training where the instructor told us they would pee in our shoes, destroy everything we loved, kill our beloved dogs, and set fire to the house, and finally MORE paperwork.

I’m NOT kidding.

The process started in early October and ended with us signing on the dotted line with the state at the end of the first week of April. And exactly one week later, Little Miss entered our lives.

It’s been three weeks now and, whooee, what a ride it has been!

Baby Brain – It’s REAL

I have…

  • Lost sleep
  • Lost weight
  • Gained weight
  • Lost it again
  • Run over a traffic cone and dragged it two blocks before it thankfully came out from under my van
  • Forgotten how many breakables I had in my house (and still have, only now they are teetering precariously feet above toddler-sized hands)
  • Forgotten how many drawers, plants, and water features can be screwed with in my house
  • Installed latches on insides and outsides of most of our doors
  • Discovered that Little Miss is disproportionate – wearing 12-month size bottoms and 2T tops
  • Remembered how awful tantrums can be
  • Discovered that loose eyeshadow does not vacuum out of the mattress but damn, it looks great on cocoa colored skin – she glowed!
  • Been befuddled by WHY a child would not want a poopy diaper changed (she is getting better about this, though)

We have finally, FINALLY settled into a reasonable pattern of sleeping, eating and existing. However, just looking at the little tyke can be exhausting. She moves so fast!

Back on Track

Week 1 was upheaval, pure and simple. Week 2 was filled with cleanings I had no time for in the three days I struggled to get her to the required doctor’s and WIC appointments. Week 3 saw a wash over of several appointments I still didn’t have time for and now, I’m finally looking at a reasonable schedule again.

Five glorious mornings to devote to writing!

Next week is almost as good and my goals are to work on The Hired Gun and get it done. I hope to have it done by the end of summer, fingers crossed!

Chapter 2 of The Hired Gun

In case you didn’t sign up for notifications (click here it’s painless) or see it on Facebook. Chapter 2 of The Hired Gun is up and ready for your reading pleasure. I’m going to (hopefully) be posting a chapter a week and getting this sucker DONE.

At the end of it, I’m going to ask you, my loyal readers, to consider leaving a review of the book on Amazon. Tell others what you thought of it!

Close One Door, Open the Other

I’m taking the advice of friends and family and closing the door on a person who has been in my life for nearly 30 years. I have finally recognized that truth is not something she is interested in or seems capable of. Instead, she spreads her paranoid version of reality and intentionally inflicts pain. The love that I have felt for her is not returned. That is toxic – and not just to me.

No one needs that. I see no need to ever open that door again. I mourn the grandchildren I may never see but know also from reading her rhetoric that they would be poisoned from the first time she spoke of me. I have fought enough uphill battles in my day. Let them believe her or not, it is not my place nor my duty mission to fix it.

We are in agreement, none of us wants anything to do with the other. And like my ex-husband, I am profoundly relieved at the thought of never, ever having to interact with her again for any reason.

When there is nothing but pain – on either side – then that is a dead-end relationship.

But, as the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens.

In the midst of a migraine and back pain and just misery over the situation, I realized something important…

I have a beautiful life.

I was reminded of it yesterday evening as I lay down on a yoga mat outside on my back porch. Zoe Keating’s “Into the Trees” played on my laptop.

In the five years that I have lived here, I’ve never done that. I’ve rarely gone onto the back porch, but it felt so nice, so peaceful.

The sun had slipped below the horizon, the temperature was perfect, the air was fresh and cool on my skin. I could hear the sounds of the city, the steady hum of the highway, and voices of others enjoying the beautiful weather. My husband came out and ran through a martial arts form as I stretched and breathed, the trees danced in the slight breeze and the bats flew overhead searching for insects.

I realized how lucky I am. I have a devoted, loving husband, I have a daughter who makes me proud every day, and who is truly loved by friends and family. Two amazing people who love me as much as I love them. I have an adorable human being in my life, a little foster daughter who will turn 2 1/2 years old on my birthday. She has the most beautiful shade of chocolate skin and a bright happy smile. Her middle name is my first name and she is left-handed, just like me!

How long we will have her, we do not know, but I have opened my arms and heart to her and have been rewarded by her smiles and sweet baby kisses and hugs. She and Emily remind me every day how fascinating the learning process in children can be.

I look forward to returning to homeschooling, but I also look forward to keeping in touch with a small army of her teachers who have truly made this year of public school so enjoyable.

I don’t have a perfect life. I challenge you to find one who does. But I have one that brings me happiness hand in hand with sorrow. I try to let go of the sorrow and focus on the beauty – it is what makes life worth living.

 

Forecasting and The Hired Gun

Forecasting Writing Income OUT of the Budget

My love of Excel spreadsheets is well known in my family. My husband and child both roll their eyes when I say, “So I’ve been crunching some numbers.”

But it is reassuring to me to do it, for a couple of reasons.

  1. I’m a planner by nature. Not one of those who is so regimented that a deviation in schedule will throw me off, but one who wants to have an idea of where I will be next year, five years from now, and at retirement age.
  2. Seeing the plans, knowing the numbers, it helps me understand what we are capable of accomplishing and what I can do within those confines.

So I run “what if” scenarios. For example…

“What if I never make any serious money writing? And in combination with that, what if I decided that in December 2021, after both of the Cottages have been renovated, I decided not to clean houses any longer.

Rather specific, but there you go.

My goal was to remove the need or the expectation of writing income from the budget and follow down that path to see if we would still be okay.

With the addition of other future rental properties in our repertoire, along with the funds to purchase them and maintain them, the answer was most certainly yes.

And I listed out every possible expense, from property insurance, to income taxes, property taxes, vacancy rate, and a generous repair budget.

My numbers are always liberal on the expense side and conservative on the income side – extra padding if you will for life’s ups and downs.

And about this time you are wondering what in the hell this has to do with writing.

For me? It has everything to do with it. Here’s what happens to me when I don’t know if there is enough money or how we will afford something…

  1. Can we afford xyz? I’m not sure if we can! How can I write? I need to figure this out!
  2. Okay, we can afford xyz, but I really think I need to assign some kind of potential income in [six months/a year/whatever] to writing income. It’s time it pays for itself!
  3. Okay, writing income is now on the budget. [stares at budget] Oh god, how am I going to make that goal? I know, I know, I need to write more, write different stuff, raise my prices, change my bio, fix my descriptions, run an ad, learn copywriting, and, and…
  4. [stares at blank screen] There’s so much to do, I don’t know where to start. But I had better get on it because it will be [six months/a year/whatever] soon. And I’ve got a budget to meet.
  5. I’ve written nothing. I’ve sold nothing. I’m doing this all wrong. [walks away from computer without writing anything].

It circles and spirals and generally degrades from there.

If I take the potential profit out of it, I think it will allow me to focus on the craft, farm out the crap I can’t figure out, and eventually be successful. To know that I don’t need the writing to be profitable frees my heart like you would not believe.

The Hired Gun

I listen to several podcasts a week while I clean houses. One was covering common myths that many authors believe – never talk about your work because others will steal your ideas (that made me laugh), Indie authors aren’t real authors (tell that to Andy Weir and Hugh Howey), and one that made me think – never post your book chapters on your website.

That last one? That is exactly the opposite of what Andy Weir, author of The Martian (yeah, the one that got turned into a movie) did. Instead of being afraid to give away his work, he actually posted it chapter by chapter, turning finally to Amazon when his readers pushed him to put it in a form they could download – like Kindle.

And after the book took off, that is when a publisher approached him and waved a ridiculously fat check in his direction. But I digress.

I decided to put The Hired Gun on this site, chapter by chapter, and just entertain my readers. Later, once it is done, I’ll give it a good round of edits, convert it into a book, and publish it through Amazon and other ebook sites, as well as CreateSpace.

I hope you will read each of the installments and be sure to comment. I like feedback, positive or negative, as they help me become a better writer, one worth reading.

Here is the link to the first chapter.

If you are interested in receiving regular updates, I’ll send one out whenever a new chapter is up, sign up with this list here. This is my ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) list, which is different from the newsletter list. I restrict my emails to my newsletter list to once per month. The Advanced Reader Copy list, however, will send an email any time there is something new to read.

You Get What You Pay For

I just started listening to the Sell More Books Show podcast which is co-hosted by Bryan Cohen. I quickly learned that he also runs a business writing book blurbs and that I had just missed the sale (darn it!) of $40 off a book blurb description.

I checked out his website and backed away from the $197 purchase price, even though it included not just a book blurb but two social media ads (something else I suck at).

I went to Fiverr, found a guy who had over 100 positive comments and chose the least expensive package. He was a nice guy, don’t get me wrong, but I should have seen the writing on the wall when his bio said, “Why hire an expert when you can get an amateur for less?”

His first attempt was bad. I had spent all of $11 and replied to him that he was overusing words (he had used the word “which” three times in the space of two sentences, and that I was looking for less of a plot outline and more of a teaser that lassoed folks in and ensured they would press the “buy” button on Gliese 581: The Departure. I told him that I wasn’t going to demand a rewrite, but that I couldn’t see using the blurb as presented.

Like I said, he was a nice guy and he offered to give it another go. The second attempt was even worse. Nightmarishly so. I clicked “Accept Order” and left private feedback that only Fiverr could see letting them know he did not know his craft, not at all, and skipped leaving negative feedback publicly. I didn’t want to offend him, but damn his work really sucked.

And today I clicked the “Buy Now” button for Bryan Cohen’s Best Page Forward book blurb. It’s going to take four weeks. I’ll let you know if it is worth it.

Best Cover Possible?

Meanwhile, I’m considering yet another re-design of the cover for War’s End: The Storm and then it’s sequel, War’s End: A Brave New World.

When it comes to Kindle Unlimited, the War’s End series pulls in around 60% of my page read income. Yet the sales for these books in ebook (non-Kindle Unlimited readers) and paperback formats is flat.

The page reads totals indicate that pretty much everyone who reads War’s End: The Storm goes on to read the sequel, War’s End: A Brave New World. So it’s keeping the readers interest for the entirety of the two 200+ page books. But it isn’t selling anywhere else. I’m guessing that I need to fix the cover and probably the book blurb.

Income Report – 1st Quarter 2018

You are going to read these numbers and probably…

  • feel sorry for me
  • cluck your tongue and say, “Wow, that’s, um, that’s all?”
  • ask me why I bother
  • firmly commit to never quitting your day job in order to write books
  • ask why haven’t tried my luck with a publisher

The answer would be long, tedious, and possibly short-tempered on my part – for now, I’ll simply say this…

Someday, I’m going to look back at these numbers, smile, and pat myself on the back for my persistence. I’ll remind myself that, despite the frustration and despair I felt at times, and occasionally admitted to publicly, I have surpassed all of my own expectations.

It will happen.

So below is my income report for the first three months of this year. As a reminder, Amazon pays out nearly three full months after the sales. So these totals are for November and December 2017 and January 2018. They were paid out in January through March 2018.

January 2018 (sales from November 2017) gross income: $123.30

February 2018 (sales from December 2017) gross income: $203.91

March 2018 (sales from January 2018) gross income: $127.41

Total for 1st Quarter 2018: $454.62

At this point, I’m only tracking gross income. Why? Because what I’m spending on cover design, marketing, and ads campaigns is probably eradicating my profit margin and taking it down to almost zero.

I’m still learning the marketing side of things and hope to fine-tune it over this coming year.

Writing My Future Fund

At the end of January, I started a new bank account with Goldman Sachs. It’s online and highly convenient. I just add up all of the various payments from Amazon (they send one from each country and a separate one for my paperbacks POD in CreateSpace – typically I have four in total) and then transfer that amount into my savings account. It’s also earning 1.5% interest, better than any local bank.

When my income grows to at least $3,000 per month and it holds there for at least three months OR I have $6,000 in my Write My Future savings account, then I can quit cleanings and start writing full-time. Basically, I need to have a net income of $2,000 per month to stop running my cleaning biz on the side.

I’m following my dreams – but I’m doing it in a responsible (and realistic) manner.

So when you add the total for the quarter with interest earned on the savings account, it comes out to a total of $455.19. Divide that number by $6,000 and I’m 7 1/2% of the way towards my goal.

I’m hoping that will snowball soon as my sales slowly rise.

Writing is My Secret Weapon

The other day, as I cleaned two big cleanings, back-to-back, my mind kept replaying these words…

Writing is my secret weapon.

Well, maybe it isn’t a weapon. Nor is it secret, but, well, you get my drift. Or maybe you don’t, so I will explain better.

Writing is kind of like the last frontier of exploration.

  • My husband makes the most money he can make with the education he currently has
  • I clean as many houses as my body can possibly handle right now
  • I make a little more on the side by caring for my elderly father and occasionally teaching classes
  • We can’t make money on our rental houses until they are ready to be rented (another $50-60k in renovations – or approximately 2 1/2 years and 4 1/2 years respectively to completion)

In other words, if I want more money – I need to figure out how to make my writing pay.

My writing is my secret weapon. It’s been primed, well-oiled, and assembled. Now I just need to get it out there.

Word Count and Making Words Count

I promised monthly short stories beginning in January. And I have delivered. The last one I have finished is due to go out in a day or two in the April newsletter. But then I’m out of new material. The advance planner in me is panicked. I only have a month until the next short story is due!

So I’ll probably be stopping on the manuscripts long enough to write 3-4 stories, thus calming my obsessive over-wrought “I must deliver on time!” mind.

Meanwhile, I’ve been making progress in plotting out the story arc of Gliese 581: Zarmina’s World (the sequel to Gliese 581: The Departure).

My main emphasis for the past two weeks is The Hired Gun, book one of The Hired Gun series. And I’ve identified 29 chapters, have written ten, and I’m currently at 30k words. So the book is approximately 1/3 done.

Food for Thought

I have this book in the bathroom, The Little Zen Companion by David Schiller. It’s short and sweet, which is good because I’m not looking for an opus while sitting on the throne.

I read this quote this morning and thought of writing:

“Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.”

-Leonard Cohen-

Something to think about.

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Breaking it Down

Classic Avoidance Behavior

It’s been over an hour since I woke up – my most productive writing time – and here I am, writing a post to you.

It isn’t because I like you, well, I do, but that isn’t why I’m here. It’s classic avoidance behavior, with a lesson along the way.

I drank my coffee and read this post from 365 Tao

Stretching-both literally and metaphorically – is a necessary part of life.

 

Physically, a good program of stretching emphasizes all parts of the body. You loosen the joints and tendons first, so that subsequent movements will not hurt. Then methodically stretch the body, beginning with the larger muscle groups such as the legs and back and proceed to finer and smaller parts like the fingers. Coordinate stretching with breathing; use long and gental stretches rather than bouncing one. When you stretch in one direction, always be sure to stretch in the opposite direction as well. If you follow this procedure, your flexibility will undoubtedly increase.

 

Metaphorical stretching leads to expansion and flexibility in personal growth. A young plant is tender and pliant. An older one is stiff, woody, and vulnerable to breaking. Softness is thus equated with life, hardness with death. The more flexible you are, the greater your mental and physical health.

Which sent me to the yoga mat to stretch for 15 minutes. Believe me, I need to do that each day, I really do!

Then I sat down and, instead of working on The Hired Gun manuscript, clicked over to Pinterest. Yes, that rabbit hole of ideas from which I am unlikely to escape without creating something.

I found this lovely bumblebee wreath…

And was quite startled to see a clear pattern.

Have you ever worked your way through the learn-to-draw books? They break down a complex picture into a series of steps that begin with the most basic of vague shapes. Slowly, as you follow the steps, the odd circles or round-edged rectangles resolve into a shape, details are added, and before long you have something like this…

I know, my sketching skills are quite rough. I’m nowhere near as accomplished as my eldest. For that matter, the youngest is on the edge of surpassing me. Another year or two and I’ll be outclassed on all sides.

But that’s not the point of this post.

Breaking it Down

I was excited because the body of the creature was quite obviously made up of a few key shapes. I quickly sketched them and then added the details. Given enough time (and a few more tools, like a pencil to soften and blur) I could improve.

But the pieces are there, obvious to me now where they were not before.

Back to this in a moment.

Writing is a Journey

One of the hardest parts of being a writer was hitting that Publish button. It was a moment, at the end of a long trek, when I said, “Enough, publish it already.”

Not because it couldn’t be improved or tweaked, it will always be able to be improved and tweaked, but because at some point, it is far healthier to publish it and move on.

It isn’t perfect, that first work that you do. It can’t be. It was written by you, me, whoever – and we are fallible creatures by nature. Even the perfectionists.

Each book, however, improves. With time, dedication, persistence, and learning along the way. Writing is a journey – a road full of bumps, delays, stops to gaze at the waterfall and bears hiding in trees.

Those fucking bears, man.

Ask the Question, Then Answer It

Karen Marie Moning, a fantasy author I have truly enjoyed reading, wrote that her Fever series (of which there are now more books I must check out) arrived fully formed into her mind.

I’m jealous as hell.

The reality is, I’ve been stopped by questions, and then I’ve allowed myself to panic over it.

I can’t write. I can’t even answer the damned question! What comes next? The fuck if I know!

When I wrote Gliese 581: The Departure, as I finished the book, I found myself writing those fateful words, “Nathaniel Zradce opened his eyes,” and I knew what I was doing – but only in a very basic sense. Yes, I knew I was writing a cliffhanger, and no, I had no idea what came next.

The muse, such as it is, is a flighty, manipulative and cunning bitch. She withheld my answers on Morning, the snippet I wrote over 20 years ago for nearly ten years – before releasing it. It would later find its place in Book 2 of my War’s End series.

She cockblocked me for nearly that long on the answers to who Liv was and why she was in her great-aunt’s basement and driving her aunt’s 1971 Nova to work – and I still haven’t forgiven her for placing that snippet in Book 4 of the Chronicles of Liv Rowan series that I still haven’t finished Book 1 for. How insane is that?

But I digress.

The answers to the questions, they come faster as you continue to practice your craft. I have several questions currently rotating…

How is the tech guy distracted from doing his job and wiping the computer in question?

Is this going to be a sex scene?

A later off-shoot between these two characters?

Or is this just a one off and done?

And lurking about in the backety back of my mind are plot points for Gliese 581: Zarmina’s World. I write them down dutifully, the plots between Earth, Mars, and Gliese slowly building into a cohesive structure.

The answers come at weird times. These spinning gears in my brain, they spit out answers at random, unexpected moments. Usually while driving and oh, so inopportune. Don’t crash the car writing the note down, that would be highly counter-productive.

Answer the question. Write it down. Keep the notes together in one place.

Thank goodness I have Scrivener.

Stream of consciousness…complete.

Until next time.

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One email per month, plus subscriber-only access to short stories that fill in the details of the vast Kapalaran Universe that exists in my mind. The Gliese, War’s End and upcoming Chronicles of Liv Rowan series are intrinsically connected to one another and you will get to see them firsthand.

Here is what my subscribers get in each monthly email:

  • The link and password to the FREE short story of the month (companion pieces to my books in the Kapalaran Universe)
  • Updates on any upcoming free book promotion and discounted ebook deals
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  • An organizing “tip of the month” (remember, I wrote this GREAT organizing book)
  • Updates on any upcoming classes I’m teaching
  • Updates on book projects

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Can I…

I’m digging into my erotic thriller The Hired Gun today.

Years ago, I read an interesting series – The Deathlands – that was labeled Men’s Adventure. It was a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic future filled with mutants, a co-lead central character with psychic hair (I kid you not) and a gun-slinging man’s man as the protagonist. There were plenty of sex scenes in it as well, as I recall.

I loved it.

And while this series is most definitely not sci-fi, not post-apocalyptic (or even dystopian), I can’t help but want to include readers of both genders in it.

One part of me says, “You can’t write it to please everyone.” The other is busy pointing out that men like to read about sex too.

And in any case, that is far from the emphasis – it’s simply the gravy on top of the story.

I wrote this blurb when I was just thinking of it as an erotic thriller…

Shane Ellis is a hired gun, determined to do his job, and keep his clients alive, no matter who is trying to kill them. Shane lives by and enforces The Code, a strict set of rules that have given his clients the highest survival rate – despite the dangers they have faced. Follow The Code and you stay alive. But Shane isn’t prepared for Lila, sexy, stubborn, and determined to ignore his rules. And Lila isn’t prepared for what he will do when she breaks each and every one of them.

But the story is more than that. It has corruption, money-laundering, and a shadowy organization that we are just going to skim the surface of in the first book.

So while I’m busy writing the chapters and focusing on the plot, I really need to consider re-writing the blurb to something that might encourage guys to pick this up.

Maybe.

Or maybe I should just stick with the ladies.

Hmm.

Do guys like to read about sex?

Born to Write, Not Dead Yet

A Mini-Autobiography

A Facebook friend who hosts a podcast regularly puts out questions on Facebook. One of his latest ones?

Write a six-word autobiography.

And thus my title: Born to Write, Not Dead Yet

This is especially true after this past week and Round #3 of illness for the year. I have two takeaways from all this illness.

#1 – I made up for not getting a cold or flu for three years

#2 – Next fall, needle-phobic or not, I’m getting a flu shot – because this blows

And look, I figured out how to make a meme!

New Schedule

When I first put my daughter in public school, I didn’t know what to do with myself. All of those hours at home without her, what in the world would I do with myself? My schedule of cleaning clients changed and changed again, and suddenly I was working five days a week on most weeks.

And then the kiddo said, “Mama, can we go back to homeschool next year?”

And of course, I said yes. Because I know now, after six months of public schooling, that even with the best teachers (and she has some awesome ones) that we were on the right track with homeschooling after all. She’s at the expected grade level (or well above) in all subjects, she has dipped her toes into the public school environment and gotten to see what it was like, and now she is ready to return to homeschooling.

Not having to wait to go pee, or be told to not talk in the halls or lunch, and no recess breaks – public school has its drawbacks. It also had a host of fabulous teachers, and we had a wonderful experience interacting with them.

So now I needed to be ready. I examined my schedule, realized that over half of my clients were set for 9 a.m. cleanings and began sending emails and making changes.

My most creative work happens in the morning – the last thing I want is to lose that to dusting and vacuuming.

There were a few exceptions, but for the most part, my housecleanings will be in the afternoons and my mornings will be filled with writing and then in the fall, also homeschooling.

I’ve instituted my new schedule and will be continuing to work towards it in the weeks and months to come. I wanted to start now because having the schedule in place before the shift will make a huge difference.

I have been frustrated as well that I haven’t seen as much writing progress as I might have hoped.

In the evening, before shutting down and going to bed, I close Outlook, Facebook, and pretty much everything that is distracting on my computer. First thing in the morning, instead of checking my emails, I go straight into Scrivener and look at my current writing projects. I write what I can, add to the stories in some way, and keep that focus as long as possible before moving on to the other distractions of the day.

Routine – it’s what’s for breakfast.

 

Join My Subscriber List – Read Exclusive Material for Free

If you haven’t signed up for my free monthly newsletter, do it now!

One email per month, plus subscriber-only access to short stories that fill in the details of the vast Kapalaran Universe that exists in my mind. The Gliese, War’s End and upcoming Chronicles of Liv Rowan series are intrinsically connected to one another and you will get to see them firsthand.

Here is what my subscribers get in each monthly email:

  • The link and password to the FREE short story of the month (companion pieces to my already existing fictional works)
  • Updates on any upcoming free book promotion and discounted ebook deals
  • A summary of all of my blog posts (I post in four different blogs on a variety of cool subjects) for the month
  • An organizing “tip of the month” (remember, I wrote this GREAT organizing book)
  • Updates on any upcoming classes I’m teaching
  • Updates on book projects

I will never sell/share your email address, there is no cost or upsell, and you can safely unsubscribe at any time.

Click here to sign up!