Lessons Learned From 2018 and Ten Years of Writing & Self-Publishing

4th Quarter Income Report

Whoo doggies, it has been a year of ups and downs!

I’m learning a lot, mainly about how to market my books, and I fully expect that trend to continue. Here is a review of the last quarter of 2018, however:

  • December 2018 Earnings – $270.92 from Amazon, $0.00 from other sources, less $134.56 in advertising = $136.36 net profit
  • November 2018 Earnings – $393.36 from Amazon, $0.00 from other sources, less $505.80 in advertising = -$112.44 net loss
  • October 2018 Earnings – $231.61 from Amazon, $3.57 from other sources, less $93.50 in advertising = $139.62 net profit

When it all shakes out, I sold $2,441.29 in books in 2018. Of that, I netted $741.10 after advertising costs.

This amount does not take into account what I spent on education (Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula as well as several books), book blurbs and ads (through Best Page Forward on four different books), or on book covers (both ones I designed and needed to purchase images for, or the cover for Hired Gun).

If I did figure those in, I’d probably be around $1,200 in the hole.

In other words? I have a ways to go.

Keep Writing, Don’t Stop

Looking back and realizing that I’ve written six books in ten years has really given me a kick in the ass. I need to stop second-guessing myself and get these stories done.

Life is too short and I have so much to say, share and entertain others with. It’s all in there, hidden in those folds of gray, waiting for me to put them out there.

If you think you have an idea of a good book – write it down, and begin writing your book. Don’t wait. Don’t marry poorly (it took three tries before I got this one right) or tell yourself you don’t have time because there are other more important things to do – get those words out. Every day. Get them out there and spread them on the ground for people to trip over and find.

My only regrets over the past ten years have been:

  • Questioning my own worth
  • Not getting serious about making money as a writer sooner
  • Coming up with excuses to not write more

Ads Are Necessary, Make Them Count

The first step in the journey was understanding that ads would make the difference between sales and no sales. That was a tough one. I really objected to having to pay money to get my words in front of people.

But I see the difference it has made and, when done right, it can be quite profitable.

Now I need to progress through the second part of it, making ads work for me. How do I:

  • write effective ad copy
  • put it in front of the right people (i.e. those who will press the Buy button)
  • keep my ad costs as low as possible?

That’s the learning curve I’ll be on in 2019.

500 Words or Bust

I mentioned it in previous posts, but I’m really embracing the idea of writing a minimum of 500 words per day, every day.

There is more to it, however. Isn’t there always?

Call them ground rules.

  1. 500 words per day, every day (except when I am sick, which is thankfully, rare)
  2. The 500 words must be in the assigned project (one project at at time, right now that is Hired Gun)
  3. Additional words are welcome (blogging, other projects, etc). The 500 words per day is simply a base amount.
  4. Additional words do not carry forward (so in other words, if I write 1,000 words, I can’t use them as an excuse to skip a day of writing) or backward. Each day is a new blank slate.

Stop Waiting for the Writing Ship to Sail In

If you want it, you had better stand up and take it. Grab that bitch by the anchor and start pulling.

I’ll admit it, I joke about making my writing pay. I play the world’s tiniest violin and occasionally dip into self-pitying indulgences or don’t write for days or weeks on end.

Steven Pressfield would say that is probably Resistance rearing its ugly head. I’m determined to beat down Resistance in any way I can.

I want the writing to pay. I want it to be my “go to” for income, but I know that I have a ways to go. I need to understand the business side of it better and to that end, I am determined to learn a little every day. And not just learn, but implement what I have learned.

2019 Aspirations and Dreams

In 2019, I hope to do the following:

  • Finish at least two manuscripts – Hired Gun and one other (which one I’m not sure of yet)
  • Put into place a triad of daily activity: (write in one book, edit a second book, and plan a 3rd book)
  • Attend a conference (and do this once a year from now on)
  • Grow my readership and multiply my subscriber list to 1,000

I was so excited to book tickets and lodging at the TRIBE conference for this September. I’m really looking forward to the trip!

And Remember, KEEP WRITING!

I have wanted this dream for so long. And I’m beginning to truly understand that I am the one who holds myself back from it. Every time I take on a new cleaning client, schedule another event to go to, avoid writing my 500 words per day, or come up with an excuse on why I need to reconcile a credit card statement right now instead of writing.

Whether you call it Resistance, or procrastination, or LIFE – the end result is the same. The words remain unwritten, the dream unrealized.

As I approach my 50th year on this planet, that is no longer an acceptable situation. I have so much to say, so many tales to tell.

Keep writing.

Keep writing.

KEEP WRITING.

500 Words Per Day

Atomic Habits

I just received it today and I’ve already cracked it open and read the Introduction. I can’t wait to dig in. Right now, I have three non-fiction books vying for my attention:

Indulge me for a moment. If you have read much here, you will have picked up on the fact that I like numbers. I’ll never be a statistician or mathematician, but I do enjoy marking progress through statistics and more.

As I was driving to a client cleaning the other day, I found myself mulling over the following question:

What If I Wrote 500 Words Per Day Every Day for Ten Years?

500 x 365 x 10 = 1,825,000 words total

After all, it had been ten years (and four months) since I published my first book. And five more had appeared alongside the first. But I had to wonder, what would 500 words a day look like?

Now, let’s say that none of those words were wasted or cut out and let’s also assume that each book I write is 100,000 words long (true of fiction, but non-fiction has been far shorter than that).

1,825,000/100,000 = 18.25

Eighteen books?

Eighteen?!

That’s an amazing number!

And what if what I am making now, on the six books I have for sale, was multiplied by three? I would be making at least $556 per month in sales. Not earth-shattering, not quit your job today, but still, more than what I am now. And realistically, if I had that many books out, I would also be better at marketing, book blurbs, book covers and more by now and that would translate into better sales.

All from just 500 words per day.

What About 1,000 Words a Day?!

And before you say, “Christine, seriously, that’s doubling your word count. How are you going to do that when we all know you aren’t even hitting the 500 mark every day (obviously, otherwise I would have far more books published!) I need to point out just how short of a time it takes me to type 500 words.

20 minutes.

When I knuckle down and concentrate, that’s how long it takes me to write 500 words.

So yeah, 1,000 words a day is totally possible.

Clarification

I would say that I write at least 500 words a day already – easy peasy, in my blogs, my journals, my Facebook updates. What I’m talking about here is novel writing.

So when I set a goal of 500 words or even 2,500 words in a day it is with the understanding that those will be written in service to finishing the book of the hour. Which in this case is The Hired Gun.

But Will It Actually Happen?

Damn, who knows? What if I did, though? What could I get accomplished in a year? In five? In another ten?

Today I was up at 4:45 in the morning, good to go. I sat here, and I slipped away on tangents, opened up internet rabbitholes, and found a dozen other things to do but what I had assigned myself.

I had set a goal of 1,500 words and at noon I had managed 576. I kept coming back to it, kept working on it in spits and spurts and finally at 5:45, I checked my totals and I had written precisely 1,650 words.

Mission accomplished. See you again tomorrow.

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.

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.

‘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?

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.

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.

Chores First, Marketing Second, and Then…

Chores First

They aren’t really chores. Writing isn’t a chore for me, but a freedom of expression.

Okay, all bullshit aside, sometimes it is a chore. But not in this case.

Pre-planning me, I need to feel like I have at least 6-12 months of short stories in the can and ready. So I’ve been working on those.

As you may recall, these short stories are for my email subscribers only. I am rolling out one of these short stories each month. So far I have written Forward Reach (January), 99 Problems (February), Reek of Bone (March), and I’m currently working on Incident in Philly (April).

All of these little stories provide back stories on the fiction books – from the War’s End series, Gliese, and the upcoming Chronicles of Liv Rowan series.

Marketing Second

I’ve seen my page reads flatline in the past week and that has me concerned. I wasn’t making a lot of money with Kindle Unlimited page reads, but it was at least some money.

As is my way, I went through the typical “What am I doing? This writing thing isn’t working, I’m a failure!” This happens with regularity. That said, it happens less often than it used to. I imagine that most people deal with a fear of failure and on a regular basis. Imagine if we didn’t. Imagine if we weren’t shackled by fear, insecurities, and even a healthy dose of self-loathing.

I’ve spent far too much time in that realm and I have no intention of returning.

I bought a book on Amazon – Mastering Amazon Ads, it arrived today and I’ve already read the first three chapters and created my initial ads which are currently pending review. I heard about it on The Creative Penn’s podcast and thought “I must have this book!” You can find the specific episode here.

Every time I think I’ve got it together and understand all of the ins and outs of being a creative entrepreneur, I’m smacked on the nose and reminded that I still have a way to go.

As for the Rest

As soon as I can possibly get through this learning curve, I want to return to writing. I’m battling a cold and a calendar full of appointments, but I hope that the dam breaks this weekend and I can refocus on writing.

I’ll wrap up  Incident in Philly and get ready for NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge to start on the 26th. There’s always plenty to do around here!

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