Things I’ve Learned and Earnings for 1st Quarter 2019

As always, I’ve learned plenty in the last couple of weeks and months. I want to share that with you along with my 1st Quarter earnings for 2019. Read on…

Be Flexible

In my newsletter, I promised I would write a short story called “Take the Shot” but despite all good intentions, each time I sit down to write it, my brain slides sideways. It tells me, “Nope, not going to happen right now.”

And as I tried to push it this morning, it rebelled and began to dig its heels in. Fine, I thought, a short story HAS to be written today. So if not Take the Shot, then what?

In Scrivener, I have a file called Kapalaran Universe (Kapalaran is the Filipino word for fate) in which I keep all of my short stories. Whether the short stories are associated with War’s End, G581, the Chronicles of Liv Rowan, or Hired Gun – they are all here under one roof. And as I scanned down the list, I found Secret to Survival – a short story set in G581’s universe.

As with most of my short stories, this adds to a storyline, giving details of a character or circumstance I mention in passing.

I’m working on it today, along with adding a couple of ideas to Smoke and Steel as I flesh out Book 2 of Benton Security Services. I will continue to flesh out and outline Book 2 as I work on Glass Forest, Book 1 of the Chronicles of Liv Rowan.

Back at It – Lessons Finished or Not

I’m learning to listen to my gut. When it tells me “stop” I stop. When it tells me “go” I try to go.

I still don’t feel like I have a handle on the whole marketing thing, but I’ve made some improvements. I’m currently compiling a new list of keywords to point my Amazon ads to for Hired Gun. I think they will pay off. I’ll continue to try to weave in some learning, but I could feel the need to write rising within me. It’s something I cannot ignore.

I think that, overall, the reviews I’ve received from the Hidden Gems ARC reviewers has really served to inspire me. I’m ready to dive back in and give them book 2, but that is firmly behind Glass Forest and then G581: Zarmina’s World.

Although, who knows, things change on a dime around here. My job is simply to flow with it, and get as much writing done as possible!

First Quarter 2019

I’m still learning, still struggling to keep advertising costs low and increase sales. I still have a long way to go. Here are the numbers. A whole mess of them!

January:

Income from eBook Sales: $     97.93
Income from Paperback Sales: $     238.85
KDP Pages Read Income: $      16.99
Total eBooks Sold34
Total paperbacks sold85
Avg Daily Income of: $       11.41
Total Gross Sales: $    353.77
Advertising Costs $    218.38
Net Profit: $    135.39
% of Profits Paid to Advertising:62%
% of $2k income goal:7%

February:

Income from eBook Sales: $     112.35
Income from Paperback Sales: $         84.28
KDP Pages Read Income: $         83.12
Total eBooks Sold37
Total paperbacks sold30
Avg Daily Income of: $          9.02
Total Gross Sales: $      279.75
Advertising Costs $      222.20
Net Profit: $        57.55
% of Profits Paid to Advertising:79%
% of $2k income goal:3%

March:

Income from eBook Sales: $        85.22
Income from Paperback Sales: $      114.63
KDP Pages Read Income: $       97.16
Total eBooks Sold24
Total paperbacks sold38
Avg Daily Income of: $         9.58
Total Gross Sales: $     297.01
Marketing Costs$ 145.08
Net Profit: $     151.93
% of Profits Paid to Advertising:49%
% of $2k income goal:8%

Net Income for 1st Quarter 2019: $344.87

Total # of ebooks sold: 95

Total # of paperbacks sold: 153

Percentage of sales by book:

  • Get Organized, Stay Organized: 87%
  • The Storm: 5%
  • A Brave New World: 3%
  • G581: The Departure: 2%
  • An Old Wives Tale: .03%
  • Hired Gun: 2% (pretty good when you consider it was only for sale on the last day of the quarter)
  • Schicksal Turnpike: 0%

In other words? Writing is not a get rich quick scheme.

Keep in mind these numbers do not reflect any costs for book covers, editing costs, narrator fees for turning five of my books into audiobooks, or ads or description (blurb) writing services.

Listing those would simply put me in a very deep hole income-wise.

I am not of the opinion that art is for art’s sake. Yes, writing is my passion. And I dearly love to hear from readers (seriously, email me, it will make my day). But I keep my eyes firmly on the prize. There will be a day when all of this pays off. I believe in it deeply. It can happen and I’m looking forward to that day and working hard to make it happen.

It will get better. I know it. And you will get the chance to see it from front-row seats. I hope you are enjoying watching the journey.

My Weekend With Van Gogh

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

Weekend Writing Goals…Nah, I Think Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Weekend With Van Gogh

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

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

Details, layering…

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

Further along…

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

Stopping for the day

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

What’s Next?

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

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

These choices are not easy!

Productivity Report

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

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

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

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

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

Or committable…je ne sais quoi…

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.