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.

To Wish or Wash

Behind me, I can hear an owl hooting away. I just needed to mention that, here in the middle of the city, that an owl is busy making himself known.

“Wuh, wuh, wuh, wuh, wuh, hoo!” He is loud and proud.

Wishy Washy

A few days ago, I gave myself a pep talk. To sum it all up, it was essentially, “Girl, get some writing done! Pick a project, knuckle down, and get it done.”

And I dutifully picked a project that stands at nearly 38k word count – Book One of The Chronicles of Liv Rowan.

A day later I was discouraged and feeling snippy. The words on the page felt insufficient, juvenile, and contrived.

And then, as has happened time and again over the years, I found myself questioning what I was doing, how to make it better, and walked away in disgust.

I set the problem into the back of my brain and concentrated on other things. Don’t know an answer to a problem? Set it on the back burner and let it simmer. Meanwhile, I pulled out The Hired Gun today and was like, “Oh, hell yes, I need to do THIS!”

I feel like I’m being wishy washy. Like I can’t commit to a single course of action.

Work/Research

A couple of things did occur to me on how I can solve my Chronicles of Liv Rowan problem.

  1. Make it first person – It used to be a huge no-no to write in the first person, and I’m a product of my time because I still have hangups about it, but first person is being used more and more, especially in the genre that Chronicles is slated for – Young Adult. I suspect that changing from third person to first person might actually liberate me in some ways and help remove the awkwardness I’m feeling with the story.
  2. I need to talk to my characters – As the problem of how to make Chronicles better simmered on the back burner, I realized that I need to have a talk with my characters. Like a real, get to know you kind of talk. I’ve got a decent line on Liv, the main character, but what about Lord Glass, or some of the villagers? What about the guard that Liv gets sweet on? I need to understand them, their histories and their motivations. This could help me write about them with more eloquence and detail.

Spinning Plates

Each day has less hours than it does projects to fill them – even with my erstwhile offspring gallivanting about Europe.

Currently my thoughts/focus are darting between:

  • Practicing a keto diet, weight loss, glucose monitoring, and continuing my physical therapy exercises so that I remain pain-free
  • Working on running my neighbor’s Airbnb and getting our Airstream up and operational
  • Creating a closer connection with my foster daughter, especially after our most recent Family Support Team meeting. And also trying not to worry about my 12-year-old so far away in Germany right now.
  • Audiobook recording and marketing my already published books.
  • Getting one of my many book projects finished. Soon!

They bounce about, some pushing to the forefront of others, shifting, jostling about. Plates keep spinning and so do I.

Money/Marketing

My feet are firmly planted in reality. I look at every income source (from fostering to managing our neighbor’s Airbnb, to the state paying me to care for my dad) with the down-to-earth view of maximizing profit. I keep my expenses as low as possible without sacrificing quality of life and I make every dollar I earn bring dividends if possible. That means renovating the Airstream and renting it out as an Airbnb to pay for its improvements, or taking the couple of hundred dollars in extra income I get running my neighbor’s Airbnb and putting it directly into our Renovation Fund to accelerate the projects.

The income I make on my books is small – anywhere between $60 and $350 per month, but averaging around $175. Around 97% of that income is from one book – Get Organized, Stay Organized. Pretty good for being my first book!

But I have five other books out there that are barely selling. Why?

I’ve redone the covers. I’m working on getting more reviews for each of them, and that leaves my covers, blurbs on the back, and ad copy as possible fail points. I redid all of the covers, so I’m guessing this is means a failure in either the blurbs on the back covers or the ad copy. I’ll be working on these issues and attempting to get more book sales across the board.

Imagine if each of my books was earning me at least $175 in sales each month. That would be a nice chunk of change! This is doable, I just need to learn how to market better.

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.

 

Breaking it Down

Classic Avoidance Behavior

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

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

I drank my coffee and read this post from 365 Tao

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

I found this lovely bumblebee wreath…

And was quite startled to see a clear pattern.

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

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

But that’s not the point of this post.

Breaking it Down

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

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

Back to this in a moment.

Writing is a Journey

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

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

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

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

Those fucking bears, man.

Ask the Question, Then Answer It

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

I’m jealous as hell.

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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

Is this going to be a sex scene?

A later off-shoot between these two characters?

Or is this just a one off and done?

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

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

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

Thank goodness I have Scrivener.

Stream of consciousness…complete.

Until next time.

Join My Subscriber List – Read Exclusive Material for Free

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

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

Here is what my subscribers get in each monthly email:

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

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

Click here to sign up!

Kudos Go to The Creative Penn

I’ve been listening a lot to The Creative Penn podcast and it has made a serious difference in my outlook on many aspects of my writing business. It still feels strange to say that, writing business, when you consider how little income I will collect for all of 2017, but still. Keep in mind that I didn’t consider myself an author until after my second book.

In any case, if you are jonesing to make your writing pay, you really need to check out The Creative Penn website and start listening to her podcast. You can also follow her on Twitter. My only trouble now is in how to get all of the things I have learned in the past four weeks into some kind of action plan that doesn’t blow my circuits.

An example from the newly formatted Gliese 581: The Departure

New Interiors!

A recent blog post by Joanna Penn on formatting sent me on yet another mission to upgrade what I’ve already got out there. I realized, upon clicking on some of the links, that I could do a lot better with my interior formatting. The professional covers pull them in, but I want my readers to have an eyeful when they get inside of the book as well.

This led me to check out Book Design Templates, ooh and ahh over the look of them and decide to get my crap together and make my own version. If only because I’m dollars poor and time-rich.

A chapter from Schicksal Turnpike, which I placed as an excerpt at the end of Gliese: The Departure. Schicksal will hopefully be available in mid-March 2018

Another way to look at it was this. I spent TWO DECADES in offices – creating templates, and working closely with Word and other word-processing software. Sure I could pay $89 for a template, or I could spend a little bit of time to create my own.

I dabbled with finding the perfect “chapter art” as I am calling the designs within. Adding lines, breaking up the chapter number, the title, and even increasing the size (and changing the font) of the first letter of the text.

A chapter in Gliese 581: The Departure

I’m very excited about the new look!

The newly formatted War’s End: The Storm

Each book will have its own unique chapter art. I may even do some Zentangle mandala and use that.

Take a Step Back

I realized this morning that I’m burning the candle at both ends and need to focus on one thing at a time. So, first things first, get ALL of my books I have written whipped into shape, inside and out.

Then, and only then, will I resume my writing projects.

I just desperately need to get this housekeeping work of formatting and engineering the best look possible out of my books before I jump into any more projects.

I’ve also determined, based on sales data for nearly two months, that I need to branch out to other host sites for my non-fiction books, and possibly for Gliese 581: The Departure. Right now, I’ve committed myself to Amazon only by agreeing to the KDP program, which demands exclusivity. For War’s End: The Storm and War’s End: A Brave New World, this might make sense. But for my other books? I’m not selling ANY of my non-fiction books.

So Step 1 is get my formatting done. Step 2 is branch out to other ebook and print sellers. This also means another learning curve and days spent understanding the different online bookstore and even (hopefully) finally learning how to put together all of the different versions of epub, .mobi, kobo, nook, et cetera.

Build It and They Will Come

Back in 2005 when I started my housecleaning biz, I struggled with getting my name out there. With no budget for advertising, I had to somehow market my business without spending a ton of money.

And thank goodness for Craig’s List! The site was relatively new at that time, and I got a ton of business by just having a smart, and simple, ad in place. I stopped advertising on Craig’s List a couple of years ago. Honestly, all I need to do these days is to post occasionally on Facebook if I am in need of more clients. More often than not, they find me.

Today was one of the latter – a potential client who had met me while on a garden tour (Our garden The Deadly Nightshade was on the tour three years ago, folks!) and asked if I had any openings. I did, and I’ll meet with her next Saturday and probably start cleaning her house in January.

It was a reminder that, if I build it, if I keep working at this day in and day out, that the wave will continue to build and I will begin to see a steady income from my writing.

It might be slow-going, but it is already building and that’s an exciting thing to see.

Join My Subscriber List – Read Exclusive Material for Free

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

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

Here is what my subscribers get in each monthly email:

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

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

Click here to sign up!

Giveaways, Marketing and Mindful Eating

It’s just a whole hodgepodge of stuff, isn’t it?

Kindle Giveaway

My five-day free Kindle giveaway of Gliese 581: The Departure is over, but the regular price is only $2.99. Quite the bargain! And keep in mind that Gliese is part of the Kindle Unlimited program.

During the giveaway, at least 913 copies were downloaded. I kept posting links on the Facebook groups I belong to – all 350 of them (yeah, that was a lot of copying and pasting) – and I also paid a guy on Fiverr to promote to a group of subscribers he has, some 4800 in all.

Marketing and Making My Writing Pay

See, I have this dream. The dream isn’t particularly big, but right now it seems so impossible. My dream is to make enough money to not have to clean houses anymore.

Right now, I make around $1,500 per month, more or less, to clean houses. So a straight up “I need to make $1,500 per month on a regular basis writing” is the obvious goal.

Right now? I make less than five dollars per month on my writing.

So I have a way to go on this goal!

Part of it is marketing, and part of it is writing. Write more, have more to sell. Market more, actually get the word out there about my books, sell more copies.

And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, and again, and again – until my mind and my “what should I focus on today” mindset catches up.

Write.

Market.

Repeat.

Mindful Eating

I’ve written about my choice to go with direct primary care, also known as concierge care, instead of obtaining health insurance. I did this back in May and for a total $80 per month, both my daughter and I have access to a doctor we know and like.

And for those of you who, like us, have to choose between paying the bills and eating, and being able to afford crummy, overpriced health insurance – direct primary care has really made a difference.

And I don’t know about you, but having the option to call my doctor and ask, “Hey, the kiddo has an earache, do you have time tomorrow to look at her?” and be able to see a doctor, for no additional cost past my monthly fee, is fantastic.

If you are interested in direct primary care, contact Allison Edwards at KCDPC and tell her I sent you.

I received her monthly newsletter the other day and she mentioned she had a blog, so of course, I followed the link and found this great post on mindful eating. And it was quite timely. I just got on the scales today and achieved my 4th weight loss goal – “Get it below 205.” I hope to be below 200 by the end of the year, even with the holidays.

I will be taking one lesson from the post that I have NOT been doing – and that is trying to eat slower. It can be difficult, especially when my dad and I are clashing. All I want to do is eat and get out of there, so I gulp my food down. But if I can slow down, that could also help with my weight loss.

Don’t Box Yourself In

Today I drove the kiddo over to Missouri Town 1855. It’s an educational, living history type of place. They cobbled together buildings from all over, disassembling them and then re-assembling them in a park-like town where kids can go and learn about what it was like in the mid-1800s in Missouri.

As we walked, I discussed my latest book, Gliese 581: Departure with the mom of one of my friends.

“Mickie, are you going to read my sci-fi book?” I asked.

“Well, you know, I certainly have watched science fiction movies but I don’t really read science fiction.”

I told her that was completely okay, because sci-fi is really a misnomer.

“Basically, if it has space travel or spaceships, it’s considered sci-fi. But really, what is it past that?” I said as we walked down the gravel path, surrounded by kids. “It’s about people and conflict and love and the choices we make.”

And Mickie’s daughter, my friend Bethany, had written this review on Amazon today:

Gliese 581: The Departure is a wonderfully written book. It sucked me in quickly despite my not being someone who generally reads science fiction. The format creates anticipation from the beginning making it a page-turner. Although science-fiction, it is also a mystery, with clues deposited along the way. The world created by Mrs. Shuck is futuristic and surreal, but does not feel alien to the world we know, so I was able to slide into this future series of events easily, which is important for someone like myself who reads tons of historical fiction! I enjoyed the suspense built into nearly every chapter and the many varied characters that the reader learns to love, hate, feel sorry for, and be encouraged by. Read it!

And thinking about it further made me realize that this is exactly why I have no problem writing cross-genre.

If I write a book about the socioeconomic collapse of the United States and the Second American Civil War – you can call it dystopian if you like. The genre is irrelevant. The message, the story that I want to convey, that’s my focus. My War’s End books were written to convey a message of survival and hope, in the face of terrible odds.

When I complete my Twilight Zone ‘esqe novella and publish it – you might consider it drama, and it may be seen as a standalone book. It is…and it isn’t at the same time.

Schicksal Turnpike will be a standalone novella, that is tied intrinsically into the Kapalaran Universe. But the deeper message is about hope, love, and living the life you were meant to live, intentionally and with passion.

And my newest book Gliese 581: Departure is deemed science fiction, because it has space travel, a Mars colony and more. But it isn’t just that. Because our lives are more than just one thing or the other.

So my point would be this. If you enjoy my writing in one fiction genre, you will likely enjoy it in a completely different genre. It’s worth considering – don’t box yourself in.

Writing in a Vacuum

The last few months of writing have been incredible. This is mainly due to my eldest daughter’s influence.

Since she returned back to the family fold less than a year ago and moved in with us, we have settled in as a family, sharing cooking and cleaning chores, along with errands and a host of other benefits one gets with a third adult in the house.

And after the settling in and getting used to each other after nearly a decade of living apart, we both found ourselves circling about, inspired and creative.

Dee felt her creative muse renewed and started dabbling in writing and art projects that had been shelved for a while. I had been mucking my way through my fifth book and, as fall and winter approached, was determined to finish the project.

I felt as if I were slogging through knee-deep mud. This was the first science fiction piece I had ever attempted and was a fusion of two ideas, a dystopian tale of a virus that kills off the world’s population and a spaceship packed with colonists flying to a new world with a saboteur aboard.

This time, however, was also very different. For the first time, I had someone right here, in my home who I saw every day, who was a writer as well.

“Would you look it over for me?” I asked Dee, “You know, edit it?”

She gave me a long look.

We had been talking for a long time about writing, the process, and more. She had already knocked out a few pieces, including a 100k (or more) fan fiction sequel to The Labyrinth (yes, the movie with David Bowie). Her writing style had not just improved, it had blasted through the ceiling.

This was in no small part due to the writer’s group she had worked with for over five years in California. Comprised of talented (and in some cases already published) writers, she had honed her skills consistently as they met, discussed and examined each other’s work.

Finding the right fit in a group has always been hard for me for a number of reasons:

  • Group settings, especially when I’m just getting to know people, are stressful and intimidating for me. The idea of diving in and letting the equivalent of a stranger review my writing is absolutely incapacitating.
  • I’m not looking for writing assignments or group activities. The “challenge of the week” does nothing for me. Probably because I’m NOT a team player (I’m probably not supposed to admit that, but there you go).
  • When it is something I deem important or close to my heart, I far prefer one-on-one interactions.
  • In editing, I’m typically looking for a mentor/mentee relationship – see reasons above.

In any case, I was nervous and so was she. But we dove into it anyway. I finished my first draft, some 73,000 words and handed it off, waiting three agonizing weeks for her to review it and return it to me.

Reading through it, seeing all of her notes, I will admit, I panicked a bit. I went through the “what the hell am I doing” stage and came out on the other side determined to improve the manuscript.

I worked on it, added chapters, swore a lot, had several more mini-crises, and returned the second draft to her. It now stood at 86,000 words.

The second edit went faster, less than two weeks, and then it was back with MORE notes and edits.

I felt sorry for myself, wailed, gnashed my teeth, and swore a lot more. I resolved to ignore everything and then added three more chapters and nearly 20,000 words and took just about all of her edits and considered them seriously. What she said made sense.

The manuscript is now in for a third review. I imagine it will be at least a week before it returns to me and I have resolved to stay this course. It is feeling better and better each time.

Writing in a vacuum is hard. Without any frame of reference, you write what you write and hope for the best. In my head are all of these characters. I know them, understand them, and write about them forgetting that, while the details might be there in my head, I may not have conveyed them adequately on paper. Or I may lose a reader with too much exposition and not enough dialogue. And don’t get me started on my habit of telling and not showing.

These rounds of edits – I swear, it feels like my brain is growing. It is as if there are neural pathways being built, and now, as I read books on my Kindle, I find myself examining how they are worded. What tense did the author use? Did the story elements make sense? Was there anything unbelievable or questions at the end of the story that were unresolved?

I have learned so much from these edits, and the subsequent discussions, that my mind is reeling. I haven’t felt this good about the writing process since my teachers allowed me to swap out grammar for creative writing in high school!

The one thing that does not exist here is ego. I don’t have time for that nonsense. I fully admit that at 45 (nearly 46) I can learn from my 27-year-old daughter. So learn I will, although not without some measure of whining, swearing and feeling sorry for myself.

All of this is to say – I’m still learning, but I’m mostly enjoying the process.

p.s. And I’m considering re-writing War’s End and putting it in one volume.

Royals, Royals, ROYALS!




I promise this will be my last post about sports, folks. At least for a long while. I’m a nerdy word girl, after all. And while the two can interact and coincide, I’ll take words just about any day over sports.

That said…

Today, schools and businesses are shutting down and thousands of Kansas Citians will be flocking to the streets to see the Royals parade through town, World Series champions for the first time in 30 years.

Thirty years is a hell of a long time – I was fifteen the last time they won.

I wish I could see the parade, but instead I’m laid up in bed with a bulged disc. That’s what I get for lifting a 50-pound fern and then cleaning my baseboards by hand the next day.

What brings the Royals to mind this morning, besides the enormous “shut down the city, let’s party with the Royals” parade that will be mere blocks away, is the ideal behind their win this year. In many ways, the opposition makes it case and point with this…

amazing

Someone who used to be very much in my life used to tell me that I had no moral code. He said this in no small part because I refused to debate with him. He would say it with a meanness that no friend or family member should ever say.

I simply refused to debate because I knew that, whether I was right (if there even was a right answer) or not, if I made good points or not, this person would 1) run circles around me verbally, 2) say hurtful things just to get a reaction, and 3) ignore my points to the exclusion of winning the argument.

Any wonder I wouldn’t argue/debate a point?

One of my moral codes happens to be alive and kicking when it comes to playing games. It is essential to me that I, and whoever I am playing with, maintain a decent level of civility. In short, whether I win or lose, I want to do it with grace. Let’s face it, whether you win or lose, how you react to that win or loss can be just as important (if not more so) than the game itself.

Which brings me back to the picture of a New York newspaper. It perpetuates the opinion I have long held that the East Coast harbors a particularly brutal, unfeeling number of folks. I know that can’t be 100% true, but seeing that headline makes me feel damned sorry for the Mets. No one deserves to be kicked when they are down. The poster went on to write…

One year ago my team was on the losing end of a heartbreaker and our paper’s headline read “Royally Proud”. This is the headline today in NYC. I feel sorry forMets fans, we understand your pain today, but what we can’t understand is your city’s mentality toward your team today. KC may not have the glitz of Times Square or the fast pace of Wall Street, but what we do have is pride, passion and the belief in our team in all circumstances. On behalf of all Royals fans, I congratulate you on a great season and wish you the best of luck next year. I also offer you an open invitation to come join us here in the Heartland where winning and losing is done with grace and you will find a community of people who don’t kick each other when we’re down. We stay ‪#‎ForeverRoyal‬ !!!!

Several times in the past two weeks the Royals fight towards the World Series championship has spawned discussions with my youngest on what it means to be a good winner or good loser. I want her to know that she is on the right track in how she deals with others, and encourage her to make the right decisions on how to act when playing games.

It is a reminder that it is just more than ourselves – our emotions, our needs, or our priorities. We are in this together. It is yet another reason why I love living where I do. I hope we don’t lose this, that we continue to win (or lose) with grace.

Go Kansas City! Go Royals!

beauty




Thank You Elizabeth Gilbert

My mother sent me an email the other day and it was rather well-timed. She wrote,

“I have just found one of the best, most inspiring “interviews” ever!  You will both feel its relevance.  Enjoy, it is for every creative person.

YouTube Elizabeth Gilbert & Marie Forleo on Fear, Authenticity

Love, YOO”

Note: YOO, by the way is not a typo. It stands for Your One and Only. We typically sign our emails to each other this way – I am her only child and she is my only mother, thus…YOO.

I need to show my mom keyboard shortcuts so that she can learn how easy it is to click on the website address, hit Ctrl+C, then go over to an email and hit Ctrl+V. I’m kind of like Doug in the movie “Up” – every time I went to YouTube to attempt to find this I was distracted by people, emails, or just YouTube in general.

Squirrel!

In any case, my eldest was kind enough to find it, and then send me the link. Because that’s what thoughtful daughters do, and she certainly qualifies. Here is the video by the way.

Around 19 minutes in is when it gets really REAL…

And again at 33 1/2 minutes…

And again at 38 minutes…

And this quote…

“There is no better thing to spend your life doing than saying yes to that invitation.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

I have these intermittent crises of faith. They used to come far more often than they do now, but I still have them. Recently, I asked my husband to take a drive with me, that I wanted to talk about some things. And boy did we talk, about so many things, but one of them was my writing and my contribution to our monetary situation.

I don’t get to not work, that just isn’t in the cards. Recently however there have been some declines in income and I started to feel as if I wasn’t doing my part. It’s bad enough that I bring in only a part-time income, but with it sitting at just 1/4 of what my husband was bringing in, it didn’t feel like enough.

Dave cleared that up and made sure I knew how much he supports my writing. More on that in a moment…

What I found interesting is how honest Gilbert is. She doesn’t give any false promises about how if you spend the next 10,000 hours writing you will become the next Hemingway. She also points out that not everyone will write amazing, life changing stuff. Writing is not your baby, it isn’t the sum total of your life or unfailingly profound and epic and it will have mistakes.

And that is okay.

What it made me realize is this is absolutely the BEST time for me to dive into writing. After talking with my husband (may I add – my loving, sweet, and devoted husband who puts up with me and supports me SO MUCH) I realized that we could cut a few costs, and that having Danielle living with us meant MORE time for writing (because she cooks around five meals a week, I LOVE that) , so I really have absolutely no excuse.

It seems that, after years of floundering about, we have reached a sweet equilibrium of sorts, where I bring in some money, enough to make up the gap. Dave as the main wage-earner is bringing in good money. Enough that, if we cut back on money outlay (by canceling any major fix-it projects around the house) for a year or so – we will be a-okay and make ends meet while I write, and write, AND WRITE.

Where will this lead to?

Honestly, I have no idea. But I’m really excited about the next 15 months. REALLY excited.