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)
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  • 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.

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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.




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…


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!


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.


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.




Making a List…Checking It Twice…

After a fabulous party yesterday at our house (a birthday party for my eldest), I woke up this morning from the most wonderful dream…

I was part of some small group of people living and working in a large, mostly empty warehouse. The surroundings were sparse, but all of the people there were busy at work, creating art, cooking food, talking and laughing. In the dream, I was cocooned in blankets, in a little cubbyhole of sorts. I was warm, bundled up from the cold bite of air in the building and listening to my friends laugh and talk. There were clumps of worn out furniture near tall, opaque warehouse windows and I remember thinking that while my life was not full of luxuries, it still felt full and complete. I was surrounded by people who cared for me and I felt connected and at peace.

I think that the dream was an extension of the happiness I feel when we host these parties. So many wonderful, diverse people come to see us. One of my friends, Andy, who is gay said to me last night, “I’ve never been in such a diverse group of people, from all different backgrounds, who are so accepting and kind.”

And really that is exactly the environment we try to cultivate at the parties. It is especially wonderful when I see folks connecting outside of the parties, and know that they met at one of our parties.

In any case, it is a quiet house right now. A few minutes ago, the dogs and cats were making their needs known, but now that the dogs are outside, the cats are in, and everyone has been fed, life is once again quiet. The little one is off at a two night sleepover, the eldest and my hubby are both still asleep, and I figured this was a great time to get some writing done.

I have been amassing a list to ask a medical examiner when I reach out this next week. I have the basic idea of how an autopsy is conducted, and now I am taking specific notes that I figure only someone ‘in the know’ could answer best for me…

Questions to ask coroner:

  • If a person were to die from a ruptured stomach, which cavity would that appear in? And at what part of the stomach would the rupture most likely appear?
  • What would the overall appearance of the rupture look like? What verbage would you use to describe it?
  • What would an appendectomy scar look like (length) and where would it be located?
  • Would you take vitreous samples from both eyes or just one? What kind of findings can this give you?
  • If pseudorabies were to make the jump from pig to human, where would evidence of the virus be found (what part of the body)?
  • If death was caused by a virus, how would this be determined?
  • Where would an appendectomy scar be located and how would you describe it when listing any external scars?
  • What would be the listed cause of death? How would the death certificate be filled out?

That’s what I have so far. I will try and contact someone to answer those questions and any more I think of in the week to come.

Meanwhile, I think there are a couple of chapters I can write while I’m waiting. I’m off to do that…right after I get some yoga and stretches in…

Social Media is the Bomb

I have to say…social media…specifically Facebook, has really paid off for me lately.

As I have been slogging my way through this sci-fi behemoth I’ve asked any number of odd questions of my friends and connections on Facebook.


  • trying to understand warp speed travel (someone kindly directed me to the Alcubierre warp drive)
  • finding an ACTUAL VIRUS that could make the leap from pig to human, have a really long incubation rate, and cause excessive hunger (big thanks to a high school teacher of mine for directing me to her brother, who happens to be a virologist)
  • needing medical terminology for a trauma situation (thank you Nicole!) so that the written conversation didn’t sound completely stupid to someone versed in medical knowledge
  • getting a lead on a medical examiner that I could contact and ask questions about autopsies from (again, thank you Nicole!)

And the other day, when wondering what the common flooring in most houses built in the late 1800s was, I headed back to Facebook and posted on a site dedicated to folks living in my specific area of town – Real Northeast.

As an introvert, it is not my first “go to” thought to ask someone else. So I often flounder about, wondering how in the world one learns about such things before epiphany strikes (or maybe that’s just plain old logic) and I realize I don’t have to know the answer myself, I just need someone who can give me a succinct answer.



It’s rather an awesome experience if I do say so myself.

My Guru

One of my dear friends recently gave an interview to Beyond Your Blog on a subject she is quite experienced at…writing for regional parenting magazines.

Kerrie is my guru. She has brought me out of that low funk of “I’m never going to make money writing” to “Damn, I can do this!”

Her book, Make Money to Write About Your Kids is an excellent resource that can be used by all kinds of writers, not just those writing for regional parenting magazines (although I do wish she would make my life easy and publish a book on regional home improvement/gardening mags too!).


Here is where you can find the podcast…Beyond Your Blog

I think that what strikes me as the most beneficial is (beyond all of the amazing lists of potential client magazines) her laidback, no-nonsense attitude and advice. She makes it easy…because it is easy…to break into these markets!

Kerrie is my guru. I love how she presents this info and cannot recommend this book enough!



What We Do and Finding Time to Breathe

What We Do

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

Hi Junior,

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



D a d

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Time to Breathe

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

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

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

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