A 3,000 Word Day?!

Some Days I ROCK At This Writing Gig

Hooray!

This morning as I relaxed in the bathtub for a few minutes before starting my day, I felt my anxiety begin to increase.

Yesterday was a rather anxious day. I didn’t enjoy having a social worker in my face telling me that the SIX BLANKETS ON MY FATHER’S BED were not enough.

Seriously, how does it turn from “I want to make sure that you are allocating the SSI funds in appropriate manner” to accusatory looks and claims that he’s freezing to death when he hasn’t said anything about being cold?

It set me all off-kilter yesterday and I got zero writing done.

My dad now has eleven, yes, eleven blankets on his bed. I asked him this morning if they had helped and he said that they had.

In any case, today, as I lay there in the bathtub and felt my anxiety over my frustrations of the day before begin to affect today I told myself quite firmly…

I cannot control what the social worker thinks. I cannot control whether my dad stays with me or if he goes to live (and die) on his own. So what can I control? What can I do, right now, today, that is completely and totally within my power? I can write. I can write like I was supposed to write yesterday. I can move closer to finishing this book.

And with that, my anxiety went away. After I fixed my dad breakfast and saw him off on the shuttle to the senior center, I sat down at my desk and got to work. By the time I needed to leave to go to a doctor’s visit, I had written 1,200 words. And after I returned and had some lunch, I jumped back in until I was surprised to realize I not only had written over 3,000 words but also written a full chapter from beginning to end.

3,097 words in total. An excellent day’s work when you consider the daily goal of 500 words. It felt awesome to realize I had written the equivalent of six days worth in just a few hours.

Consolidating/Reducing My Blogs?

Recently I’ve been looking at my blogs and wondering if it is time to reduce and consolidate.

I started The Learning Advocate (originally the Homeschool Advocate) when my now 12-year-old was just four. I added and backdated several entries from when I had homeschooled my eldest, now 30, and I’ve been pretty regular with the updates over the past eight years.

My reasoning for starting the blog was the hope that I would re-kindle the parenting classes I had taught/facilitated through the YWCA in San Jose back in the early 90s. I loved those classes. They weren’t parenting classes as much as they were communication classes – giving amazing tips and tricks on how to interact positively with all ages, including kids. I remember telling folks that they could use these approaches on their spouses, their bosses and even their parents.

I had hoped to see these classes spread here, in Kansas City, but they never did and my homeschool blog remained just that, a journal of my (and my young daughter’s) adventures in homeschooling. No life-changing lessons, just an account of what/how we set about accomplishing our learning goals.

Around the same time, maybe a year before that, maybe a year later, I don’t really remember, I started The Deadly Nightshade blog. A place where I could write about frugality, green living, DIY, gardening, and post recipes – it has garnered the most views and responses over the years.

Out of it, grew over fifty different classes on everything from gardening, to diy, crafts, and cooking. I taught these classes at the Mid-Continent Public Libraries, Powell Gardens, NKC School District, UMKC’s Communiversity, and North Kansas City library.

I had an amazing garden, even after moving from Belton to Historic Northeast Kansas City. I was teaching classes, participating in farm and home tours, and more. And then in late 2016, my life changed and I found myself outside of the United States for the first time in my life, only not on a leisure trip. Instead, I was bringing my dad home to live with us.

Two years later, he’s still here and I no longer teach classes.

Life changes. And we adapt.

I’ve had so many interests – art, gardening, DIY, crafts, teaching, homeschooling – so many different pulls at my time and attention.

But for now, I’m focused on a small handful of things:

  • Writing every day
  • Getting the two houses on either side of us renovated and earning money as Airbnb’s or rentals
  • Homeschooling my daughter
  • Taking care of house and home and family

And I’m finding that, as much as I would like to do these other things, these are enough. More than enough.

And so, over the past month or two, I’ve been looking at my blogs and wondering, What should I cut?

In the end, it will probably be that I keep blogging here and in The Cottages and stop adding to The Learning Advocate or The Deadly Nightshade . I’ll probably keep the domain names for a while, at least a year or two, until I’m really, really super sure I want to no longer have them.

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!

What Stands In The Way?

What stands in the way of me getting my writing done?

Simply put – ME.

I’ve been struggling with getting my writing done in some kind of orderly fashion for a while now, and as I read further into Tim Grahl’s book Running Down a Dream I’m reading some powerful truths.

Here is one of them…

“The problem [is], a decision doesn’t actually fix anything. Only our actions do.” – Tim Grahl

And right after that, he shared a great lesson – that of cutting out the nonessentials.

It made me think about what I do repetitively, obsessively even, on a day-to-day basis.

  • Check my FB feed and see who has Liked or Commented on my posts or comment on others
  • Check my sales stats (I’m trying desperately to limit it to twice, even once per day) multiple times in a day
  • Check the news
  • Review my massive (and incredibly detailed) budget in Excel that includes details like debt reduction, funds for the renovations we are planning, and savings projections. Dude, I have different budgets stretching 20+ years into the future. I’ve spent hours anticipating major life events!
  • Check for emails
  • Open the mail, reconcile whatever statement or bill has come in, pay it, and then spend more time obsessing over that Excel spreadsheet.
  • Look up info on the pergola I plan on building next to the Airstream (in the next two years or so)
  • Stare at the story I need to write and then fall down an internet rabbit hole (by the way, there are a ton of them)
  • Check my email for the tenth time today…or the 20th…

I’m committing to some changes right now that are doable and will bring me immediate benefit…

  1. I’m creating an Incoming Mailbox in my office and will be addressing all financials ONCE per week. I double-checked my Quicken balances against the bank balances online and there is absolutely no reason for me to even look at Quicken (or my bank balances online) until Sunday. This will free up at least two hours from my week.
  2. I’m going to check my sales ONCE per day – at the end of the day before I go to sleep. That’s enough, checking it more than that is nothing more than wasted time.
  3. I’m sending my dad to senior daycare. Betcha didn’t see that one coming, did you?! The fact is that having him in the house watching those disgusting shows like Jerry Spring and Paternity Court has me beyond frustrated and bitter and no one needs that. I’d ask him to wear wireless headphones, but he’d have to be wearing them 15 hours a day and I doubt I could convince him. I need my sanctuary back, at least for a few hours a day, along with peace and quiet for me and my favorite tween to go down to the homeschool room and create art and learn.
  4. I will be checking my email a maximum of three times a day. It’s too much of a time suck and if I can get it down to once per day, that might be even better. I might curate the list – instead of reading each email I’ll do a quick perusal of what’s come in first thing in the morning and only read what I absolutely have to.

I’m sure there will be more changes, but those will be a great start. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Schicksal Delayed

I had really hoped to get Schicksal Turnpike finished and published by the beginning of this month. Obviously, that has not happened. The reasons for this are two-fold:

  • Edits are taking longer than I had hoped
  • I need a very specific cover photo for the book – which means waiting until spring

As far as the edits go, I’ve been looking at the timeline of the chapters and realizing I was rushing through some areas. I need to add more detail and slow things down a bit, explain parts better. And when you combine this with my ridiculous daily schedule that is filled with:

  • Homeschooling the kiddo
  • Keeping house (making all meals etc)
  • Running my housecleaning biz (b/c writing still doesn’t pay the bills)
  • Identifying/preparing/teaching new classes (b/c writing still doesn’t pay the bills)
  • Renovating The Cottage (mainly on the weekends, but still)

It doesn’t leave much of a window for writing. At the moment, I’m limited to around one hour per day, although I’m looking at ways to increase that to at least two hours per day.

I’m one of those weird birds who wakes up early in the morning. Lately it has been at the late hour of six a.m. because of menopause-induced night sweats, but I’m hoping to get on a more even keel soon. Five a.m. is often some of the best writing time for me. Weird but true!

As for the photo of the book – I need it to be Cliff Drive, at night, in the rain, in the springtime. And no, I’ve seen zero photos that fill that requirement. So guess who will be up at Cliff Drive with camera in hand, some future rainy spring evening? My heart is set on it and nothing else will do.

But that’s fine. I will finish the edits on Schicksal, which include writing at least two more chapters and editing the other half of the book. I will probably send it through a couple of beta-readers after that, allowing for any errors my proofreaders and myself missed, and when spring comes, shoot the perfect picture and publish the book on Amazon.

I hope to follow it with the first book from the Chronicles of Liv Rowan shortly after that, possibly by August at the latest.

The plans of mice and men…

Which reminds me of the quote, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

Here’s to a very literary year in 2017!

An Update on Gliese 581: Departure

I’m starting to get my daily schedule back under control. Let me tell you, there have been some changes around here!

My eldest is back after nine years of living in California and Nevada and we are all getting used to the change. My schedule then became a running challenge of teaching a large number of classes, getting ready for the Urban Grown Tour, and spending some quality time with my eldest.

So today I had a clear schedule. Well, a relatively clear schedule.

The kiddo needed supervising with her homeschool studies, and today is our 9th wedding anniversary, but I really, really wanted to get some writing done on Gliese 581: Departure.

There were a lot of distractions, but I have managed about 1,200 words today. That brings my total word count to 38,400 and I finished a chapter (as well as worked on others). I’ve got a couple of books on order to fill in the medical and space knowledge gaps. I’m not shooting for 100% accuracy, but still, I want it believable!

I’m not ruling out writing two books this year, but it will be a stretch if I do. Stay tuned!

What We Do and Finding Time to Breathe

What We Do

My dad recently sent me an email with “what we do” in the subject line. He wrote…

Hi Junior,

A friend pointed out this article to me. Basically, it explains the power the storyteller has for causing real physical, mental and emotional changes in others. It is very thought provoking and credible look into the effect stories have on listeners and readers:

http://aeon.co/magazine/psychology/once-upon-a-time-how-stories-change-hearts-and-brains/?utm_source=Aeon+newsletter&utm_campaign=96c8c57d9f-Daily_newsletter_January_12_20151_12_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-96c8c57d9f-68662081

Love,

D a d

I read the article and immediately thought of Horton Hatches The Egg by Dr. Seuss. It was my favorite story as a small child. I cannot imagine how many hundreds of times we read it. And the message that I have carried with me in my life came from that book, “do what you say you are going to do, be faithful, be dependable, be responsible.”

If you have not read the story, I recommend that you do. No matter your age. There is a lesson here in perseverance, loyalty, love and more.

I will not lie and say that I have always been this. Horton is my hero, someone I aspire to be every day. But I fall short, like anyone else, I’m human after all.

But I have to go back to this article and say, that yes, as a storyteller I am trying to change the world in my own small way.

I want people to read the two War’s End books and feel the fear and pain, but also revel in the healing that can come from the love of family and friends. I want people to read it and walk away with the understanding that no matter our family unit, when we find and create love, when we commit to and rely on others, that is when we can choose to truly live our lives and make the most of the situations we find ourselves in.

Finding Time to Breathe

Sometimes, all of the priorities that are warring for my time and attention are just way too much. Lately, it seems that everywhere I turn, there is a mess. Or something I must do, have to do, besides writing. The dining room table is covered with stuff, the kitchen is a mess, there is laundry to wash, fold and put away. I don’t even want to think about the catastrophe that is our homeschool room or my front bedroom (spare room/sewing room and the closet door which houses all of our medicines).

So as usual, I’ve got the familiar refrain of “I’ve got so much to do around here I can’t even think about writing!”

It just seems like there is this unending list of crap that needs to be done…now.

I’m going to take a day or two to try and get on top of the pile before tackling my writing projects again. Homeschool room, here i come!

Juggling Those Priorities – Finishing Book Projects

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I’m feeling good these days, although when I really get into the swing of things I feel like a world-class juggler.
So after some serious down time over the holidays – and fighting off depression – I emerged with some specific goals for the New Year.

I’m going to take them one post at a time…

FINISHING BOOK PROJECTS

I’ve got a large number of book projects. I’ll list the main, well-fleshed out projects here…

War’s End Book 2 – The first book was published in 2011 and this sequel will finish the series. Think post-apocalyptic/survivalist/people story. I started writing War’s End far too long ago to admit and am finally at the spot where I have about six chapters left to write (out of a total of 35 chapters in Book 2).

Gliese 581/The Plague Tales – These are two inter-related series – best described as science fiction – world-wide plague, a spaceship plagued by an unknown saboteur, and a brand-new world to be explored. My notes are pretty extensive for Gliese 581. I’ve written several chapters of the book so far and I have also written a short story set in the Plague Tale side of thing on Earth in the early part of next century. This series needs a lot of work.

Quit Your Job, Change Your Life – non-fiction obviously. This project is about 45% complete, with the rest clearly marked out and good to go. I haven’t touched it in well over a year, possibly two. Really need to get to that.

Chronicles of Liv Rowan – This series is so big, so detailed and in depth it simply robs me of the ability to full form words. I’ve identified TWELVE books in this series, all centering around one central character. If I ever get it together enough to take the 40+ pages of notes, the several chapters written, and fuse all of that planning and info into a series of books, it will be absolutely phenomenal.

I’m still struggling to figure out just HOW I’m going to incorporate these book projects into my day to day life. I WANT to do it, but I’m trying desperately to figure out how to make about $300 per month more right now because we NEED it, desperately.

That need for money is really interfering with my ability to write.

Perhaps if I can take all of my energy and focus and use the Wednesday homeschool LEARN classes and the 1-3 hours I will have each Friday in between cleanings and P.E. being in Waldorf classes and use those exclusively for fiction writing, I might get some chunks of it knocked out.

Missed a post on Juggling Priorities? Here is the list of previous posts…

Homeschool – www.bubblews.com/news/2067735-juggling-those-priorities-homeschool
Writing on Bubblews – www.bubblews.com/news/2075944-juggling-those-priorities-writing-on-bubblews

(This post was originally published on Bubblews at: http://www.bubblews.com/news/2093116-juggling-those-priorities-finishing-book-projects)

Focus On…What?

Every few months or so, I get completely and totally stressed out. All of a sudden, all that I am doing seems to overwhelm me and I lose the ability to even talk about it, much less do anything about it.

It hit on Monday, then escalated to a peak frenzy on Tuesday. So yesterday, I wrote it all down on my new blackboard wall…

I literally had to break out Home and Lawn & Garden into two sections because there is so much there.

What’s particularly bugging me is my duties to E as her “learning facilitator” (I don’t think of myself as her teacher, honestly) in the Homeschool section and my need to write – something I have been doing far too little of, yet again.

I can’t see a way out of working – we need my income – and it would be the same if we still lived in the house in Belton. So it isn’t the act of moving into an old Victorian that necessitates this income, our costs have actually gone down a small amount.

I really struggle with a schedule – for my writing and Emily’s education in particular – and that is really pushing things into a realm I cannot seem to control. How do I juggle it all?

Yesterday, Dave stayed home, absolutely miserable until mid-afternoon from some sawdust he managed to get in his eye. His presence, which he likens to the dog and cheetah, IS calming to me. Although considering he is a cat person and I am a dog person, being told I’m a cheetah doesn’t seem to sit completely right!

We were able to knock off “Finish Planting” from the list of priorities. And we worked some more on the fence that evening. Two important steps towards projects that have been needling at my subconscious.

I guess my biggest problem is this – I don’t see anything on the list of priorities that I can dismiss, or hand off. I have to do them. I have to find time, and I have to do them, because they are all important.

So I guess my goal for each day is to focus on at least one aspect of my list (or a small handful) and stop sweating the rest of them. Easier said than done…but I’ll just keep working on them.

Tomorrow I’ll be 43 years old. Part of me is completely boondoggled at that number. I guess I’m surprised – I’ve done a lot of living in those 43 years, but it is still completely unreal to me. How different my life has been at different stages, how much I have changed (mostly for the good), and how much living I still have left to do.

I’m Already Over It

The BS…the crap…the noses held high in the air…the whole damned enchilada.

If I never make a dime.

If I never get picked up by a publisher.

Fine.

I’ll be true to myself and not abase myself or cower and tremble before anyone who claims to be an editor, writer, agent, publisher or lit-er-ary whozit.

I say this because it is a conundrum to me that agents or publishers have made themselves so unapproachable. A guy in the newspaper world that my dad knows agreed to look at my book “War’s End.” I immediately sent him two copies. He wrote back saying he didn’t know if the book was publishable, asked if I had an editor to “tighten things up” and gave me the name of an agent, all the while explaining to me how to NOT say the author he knew had sent me through the agent because that could be trouble.

Huh?

So the agent might get annoyed with the author who this guy knew, if she thought I had been sent by her. In other words, I’m either a horrible writer, or agents now occupy some lofty little writer’s perch in the heavens, far above little peons such as me.

I thanked him for his time and got this back in reply:

“I’m happy to help in whatever way. I’m still looking but it is difficult to find agents who are approachable cold.”

And then, just yesterday I ran across a blog post from the author of Flat Out Love – she had written and published five books before she decided to become a self-published author (mainly because no one would take her book on, despite liking it a lot).

 

The author, Jessica Park wrote in her blog post:

It turns out that I was entirely wrong. I was missing what I really wanted. One of the major reasons that I write is to connect with readers, not publishers. The truth is that I couldn’t care less whether New York editors and publishers like me. I don’t want to write for them. I want to write for you. The other undeniable truth is that readers could care less that my books aren’t put out by a big publisher. They read for the content, not the publishing house emblem.

And I realized that I think of agents, publishers – practically all of the “literary corporates” – in just about the same way as I do bankruptcy lawyers, teachers, or real estate agents. They are all…extraneous.

How they will strive to make you think otherwise, though! After all, don’t you need to have someone tell you how to stage your house for sale? That takes lots of training you know…or simple common sense. But you have to have a teacher to teach you how to think and learn – its a fucking miracle we learned to talk on our own! And bankruptcy lawyers? “Hand me $4,000 to fill out a bunch of paperwork on your behalf. After all, the system is a very complicated one.” No, no it isn’t. It cost me less than $200 in filing fees to wipe out $75,000 worth of debt. I didn’t need a lawyer at any point in that journey, not at all.

Would I like to see my books on bookshelves in bookstores around the country? Hell yes, I would!

Will I settle for ebooks on Amazon, Lulu, and others? Absolutely.

You don’t become a writer by dreaming of wealth and power. You become a writer because words captivate you. They suck you in, turn you around, and you lose yourself in the rhythm of them. You write because it is that or explode with the thoughts, like music, that run loose inside your head.

It is an argument you can’t help but make, a scene you can’t help but share, and a story that is imperative for you to tell.

So why would there be so many obstacles in a writer’s path?

I’m not hearing how I can be a better writer – I’m hearing how the agents and publishers are simply unapproachable, taking no new clients, and guarding their entrances as if the barbarians are at their gates.

So I’ve got a solution. Screw ’em. I’ll write, I’ll self-publish, and I’ll dedicate myself to writing better books with each installment. I’ve never liked games, never been good at playing them, and simply do not see the point in engaging in pissing matches or abasing myself before a stranger just so I can at some point call myself an author.

I am an author.

I am a writer.

Something that will be quite obvious once you read what I’ve written.

So…get to it, folks.

Well Darn…no Mega Millions for Us

At about 2:30 a.m., the puppy decided that sleeping at our feet on the bed was just not enough. She crept up between us and pressed her overly warm little puppy body against me. When I woke up, she bathed me in adorable doggy kisses and by the time she had settled down, I was thinking of Mega Millions and couldn’t sleep.

No worries, after an hour of tossing and turning, I gave up and went into my office to my computer. Since I don’t live in Maryland I can pretty much rest assured that my life will not change in any drastic way from its current existence. And honestly, I wish the winner well, they are in an unenviable position.

If I had that much money, I would definitely not be cleaning houses anymore, or teaching classes, but I certainly would continue writing. Perhaps I would create my own publishing company and then put my books into mainstream stores, without the hassle of agents and more. Go straight to my root audience and see if I didn’t get people reading what I’d written then, damnitall.

And then there is the permaculture/sustainable living institute that Dave and I have dreamed of…

Oh well, back to reality, right?

I fell off the writing wagon this week. One of the problems with having as many interests and priorities as I do is that I get distracted and things get backed up, or my brain is overtaxed with other stuff. Like having to spend THREE HOURS re-creating my financials for the past three months for our main checking account. What can I say? It was easier taking the old file we had recovered and then adding in every transaction that has occurred since.

Despite falling off of the writing wagon, I’m now up to 48,598 words in Book 2. Still on the chapter “Young Love” and hoping I can wrap it up soon. That will leave me with just 14 chapters to write, plus editing/finishing six more.

If I get my poop in a pile, I could get this finished by the end of April, edit it for one month, and then publish through Lulu by end of May, beginning of June!

And that would then free me up to begin writing on Gliese 581 OR Chronicles of Liv Rowan.

Hooray!

It is now 4 a.m. and I might as well get started…