Forecasting and The Hired Gun

Forecasting Writing Income OUT of the Budget

My love of Excel spreadsheets is well known in my family. My husband and child both roll their eyes when I say, “So I’ve been crunching some numbers.”

But it is reassuring to me to do it, for a couple of reasons.

  1. I’m a planner by nature. Not one of those who is so regimented that a deviation in schedule will throw me off, but one who wants to have an idea of where I will be next year, five years from now, and at retirement age.
  2. Seeing the plans, knowing the numbers, it helps me understand what we are capable of accomplishing and what I can do within those confines.

So I run “what if” scenarios. For example…

“What if I never make any serious money writing? And in combination with that, what if I decided that in December 2021, after both of the Cottages have been renovated, I decided not to clean houses any longer.

Rather specific, but there you go.

My goal was to remove the need or the expectation of writing income from the budget and follow down that path to see if we would still be okay.

With the addition of other future rental properties in our repertoire, along with the funds to purchase them and maintain them, the answer was most certainly yes.

And I listed out every possible expense, from property insurance, to income taxes, property taxes, vacancy rate, and a generous repair budget.

My numbers are always liberal on the expense side and conservative on the income side – extra padding if you will for life’s ups and downs.

And about this time you are wondering what in the hell this has to do with writing.

For me? It has everything to do with it. Here’s what happens to me when I don’t know if there is enough money or how we will afford something…

  1. Can we afford xyz? I’m not sure if we can! How can I write? I need to figure this out!
  2. Okay, we can afford xyz, but I really think I need to assign some kind of potential income in [six months/a year/whatever] to writing income. It’s time it pays for itself!
  3. Okay, writing income is now on the budget. [stares at budget] Oh god, how am I going to make that goal? I know, I know, I need to write more, write different stuff, raise my prices, change my bio, fix my descriptions, run an ad, learn copywriting, and, and…
  4. [stares at blank screen] There’s so much to do, I don’t know where to start. But I had better get on it because it will be [six months/a year/whatever] soon. And I’ve got a budget to meet.
  5. I’ve written nothing. I’ve sold nothing. I’m doing this all wrong. [walks away from computer without writing anything].

It circles and spirals and generally degrades from there.

If I take the potential profit out of it, I think it will allow me to focus on the craft, farm out the crap I can’t figure out, and eventually be successful. To know that I don’t need the writing to be profitable frees my heart like you would not believe.

The Hired Gun

I listen to several podcasts a week while I clean houses. One was covering common myths that many authors believe – never talk about your work because others will steal your ideas (that made me laugh), Indie authors aren’t real authors (tell that to Andy Weir and Hugh Howey), and one that made me think – never post your book chapters on your website.

That last one? That is exactly the opposite of what Andy Weir, author of The Martian (yeah, the one that got turned into a movie) did. Instead of being afraid to give away his work, he actually posted it chapter by chapter, turning finally to Amazon when his readers pushed him to put it in a form they could download – like Kindle.

And after the book took off, that is when a publisher approached him and waved a ridiculously fat check in his direction. But I digress.

I decided to put The Hired Gun on this site, chapter by chapter, and just entertain my readers. Later, once it is done, I’ll give it a good round of edits, convert it into a book, and publish it through Amazon and other ebook sites, as well as CreateSpace.

I hope you will read each of the installments and be sure to comment. I like feedback, positive or negative, as they help me become a better writer, one worth reading.

Here is the link to the first chapter.

If you are interested in receiving regular updates, I’ll send one out whenever a new chapter is up, sign up with this list here. This is my ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) list, which is different from the newsletter list. I restrict my emails to my newsletter list to once per month. The Advanced Reader Copy list, however, will send an email any time there is something new to read.

You Get What You Pay For

I just started listening to the Sell More Books Show podcast which is co-hosted by Bryan Cohen. I quickly learned that he also runs a business writing book blurbs and that I had just missed the sale (darn it!) of $40 off a book blurb description.

I checked out his website and backed away from the $197 purchase price, even though it included not just a book blurb but two social media ads (something else I suck at).

I went to Fiverr, found a guy who had over 100 positive comments and chose the least expensive package. He was a nice guy, don’t get me wrong, but I should have seen the writing on the wall when his bio said, “Why hire an expert when you can get an amateur for less?”

His first attempt was bad. I had spent all of $11 and replied to him that he was overusing words (he had used the word “which” three times in the space of two sentences, and that I was looking for less of a plot outline and more of a teaser that lassoed folks in and ensured they would press the “buy” button on Gliese 581: The Departure. I told him that I wasn’t going to demand a rewrite, but that I couldn’t see using the blurb as presented.

Like I said, he was a nice guy and he offered to give it another go. The second attempt was even worse. Nightmarishly so. I clicked “Accept Order” and left private feedback that only Fiverr could see letting them know he did not know his craft, not at all, and skipped leaving negative feedback publicly. I didn’t want to offend him, but damn his work really sucked.

And today I clicked the “Buy Now” button for Bryan Cohen’s Best Page Forward book blurb. It’s going to take four weeks. I’ll let you know if it is worth it.

Best Cover Possible?

Meanwhile, I’m considering yet another re-design of the cover for War’s End: The Storm and then it’s sequel, War’s End: A Brave New World.

When it comes to Kindle Unlimited, the War’s End series pulls in around 60% of my page read income. Yet the sales for these books in ebook (non-Kindle Unlimited readers) and paperback formats is flat.

The page reads totals indicate that pretty much everyone who reads War’s End: The Storm goes on to read the sequel, War’s End: A Brave New World. So it’s keeping the readers interest for the entirety of the two 200+ page books. But it isn’t selling anywhere else. I’m guessing that I need to fix the cover and probably the book blurb.

Born to Write, Not Dead Yet

A Mini-Autobiography

A Facebook friend who hosts a podcast regularly puts out questions on Facebook. One of his latest ones?

Write a six-word autobiography.

And thus my title: Born to Write, Not Dead Yet

This is especially true after this past week and Round #3 of illness for the year. I have two takeaways from all this illness.

#1 – I made up for not getting a cold or flu for three years

#2 – Next fall, needle-phobic or not, I’m getting a flu shot – because this blows

And look, I figured out how to make a meme!

New Schedule

When I first put my daughter in public school, I didn’t know what to do with myself. All of those hours at home without her, what in the world would I do with myself? My schedule of cleaning clients changed and changed again, and suddenly I was working five days a week on most weeks.

And then the kiddo said, “Mama, can we go back to homeschool next year?”

And of course, I said yes. Because I know now, after six months of public schooling, that even with the best teachers (and she has some awesome ones) that we were on the right track with homeschooling after all. She’s at the expected grade level (or well above) in all subjects, she has dipped her toes into the public school environment and gotten to see what it was like, and now she is ready to return to homeschooling.

Not having to wait to go pee, or be told to not talk in the halls or lunch, and no recess breaks – public school has its drawbacks. It also had a host of fabulous teachers, and we had a wonderful experience interacting with them.

So now I needed to be ready. I examined my schedule, realized that over half of my clients were set for 9 a.m. cleanings and began sending emails and making changes.

My most creative work happens in the morning – the last thing I want is to lose that to dusting and vacuuming.

There were a few exceptions, but for the most part, my housecleanings will be in the afternoons and my mornings will be filled with writing and then in the fall, also homeschooling.

I’ve instituted my new schedule and will be continuing to work towards it in the weeks and months to come. I wanted to start now because having the schedule in place before the shift will make a huge difference.

I have been frustrated as well that I haven’t seen as much writing progress as I might have hoped.

In the evening, before shutting down and going to bed, I close Outlook, Facebook, and pretty much everything that is distracting on my computer. First thing in the morning, instead of checking my emails, I go straight into Scrivener and look at my current writing projects. I write what I can, add to the stories in some way, and keep that focus as long as possible before moving on to the other distractions of the day.

Routine – it’s what’s for breakfast.


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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)
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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!

Storage, I Need More of It!

I use Dropbox for my writing files. Considering how often I am on the go, or switching between computers, it makes the most sense. Recently I realized I was over the limit and that I needed to increase my storage space beyond the 2GB of storage I had.

One of the ways to do that is to get others to sign up for Dropbox.

Anyone who signs up gets 2GB for free. Above that and you can pay a low monthly fee for it. Or do what I’m attempting to do and get more folks signed up! Dropbox will give me another 500MB for every person who follows this link and signs up!

Here are at least two great reasons to sign up for and use Dropbox:

  • Files are accessible through any computer with an internet connection at any time.
  • If your computer is stolen, you still have your files!

I switch back and forth between two laptops – one in my home office that doesn’t like to be moved and another laptop that I often travel with. Having Dropbox handling my files for me is absolutely essential to getting my work done wherever I am.

Help a writer out (and yourself) by clicking on this link and installing Dropbox on your computer today. Thank you!

While in Limbo

On Saturday I clicked Send and off flew my first draft of Schicksal Turnpike to my editor extraordinaire and eldest daughter, Dee.

If Schicksal follows my typical pattern, the current 51,000-word count will grow by at least 1/3 by the time the edits are complete and the book is ready for publishing.

Immediately, I looked at my list of writing projects, story starts, notes on my cookbook, and my SYO Housecleaning Biz book and was chomping at the bit to get started.

That first day, I did manage to write nearly 2,000 words in my erotic romance The Hired Gun. But after that?

Each time I would look at one of my projects, my attention would break into fragments, and I would find myself obsessively checking email, Facebook, book stats and the news.

This has happened before, and instead of fighting it this time, I’m going to shift my focus. I’ve got up to a week of waiting ahead of me – so instead of writing, I’m going to spend that time learning and marketing.

  • I have several non-fiction books on writing, publishing and marketing to read.
  • I also need to immerse myself in several Facebook writing groups.
  • I need to re-learn Microsoft Access. I used to be fabulous at it, but with all of the changes over the past 11 years, my Access skills are just above “older than dirt” level. I found some YouTube videos that I hope will do the trick.I use Access to track all of my characters, my master timeline, and the books that they all appear in. I’ve limped along with half of a database for years now, it’s time to beat it into shape.
  • I’ve also got to get a better handle on Scrivener as well. There’s still a lot to learn in that program!

And speaking of Scrivener, if you are a writer and have been considering Scrivener, I highly recommend it. I am enjoying learning the ins and outs of it, and I’ve also signed up to promote it. It doesn’t cost you any additional money, but I will earn a small referral fee if you click on the following link:

 Buy Scrivener for Windows (Regular Licence)

 Well…time to get to learning and marketing!

In Pursuit of Originality

Okay, wait, is originality a word? If it isn’t then it should be.

In any case, I’ve been thinking about the topic for a while now, mulling it about in my head. In some ways, everything we do is original. When I write a story it is the first time that I personally have written it in my own unique voice. And yet, after several millennia, is there anything truly unique to say? We share the same human fears, traumas, joys and anger and, like it or not, we have explored these emotions ad nauseum for years.

So everything is unique and not unique – at the same time.

That said, as a writer, I don’t like to get stuck in a rut. I have several favorite authors, but over time I noticed that the characters never varied, never changed, even across separate series of works. It was as if they had taken out the same brush, with the same color paint, and followed an endlessly repeating template to produce their books.

After a while, I realized, “They are all the same, there’s no difference between story lines other than changing the names and basic circumstances of the characters. One author (which I will not name) wrote entirely of characters who were highly intelligent, had biting dialogue, and were completely and totally dysfunctional individuals.

I am pretty much convinced that this was a reflection of the author’s own life and family models.

I mentioned recently on my erotic romance site that I prefer to write about strong women, I said:

  • I would not be writing about weak, simpering, foolish women
  • I would not be writing about women who had no clue what they wanted
  • I would not be writing about unequal relationships – where the big strong man rescues a timid, helpless girl of a woman

But I understand that that can be one-sided as well. There are strong women and there are weak women and everything in between. I have not ruled out writing about weak women, just don’t look for those chicks to show up in my erotic romance novels anytime soon!

Another thing that has been bopping in and out of my left and right hemispheres lately has been the urge to write poetry again. I haven’t written it in a long time but I kind of miss it. So I might be writing more soon. I doubt I will be posting it, I rarely post poetry, it tends to be a handwritten in the journal type of affair. Don’t know why, it just is.

When it comes to the pursuit of originality though, I rule nothing out. I might not choose to write a certain way right now, but that doesn’t mean I never will. All things in good time, right?

Rule #1 – You Will Be Given a Body

I love books. Small surprise, considering I’m a writer and an avid reader.

I even have books in the bathroom. Easy little reads – some humor, some history, fun little sayings, et cetera. One of those books is “If Life Is a Game, Here Are the Rules.”

I don’t think I’ve ever read the full book, but I’ve gotten at least halfway through.

Yesterday, though, I picked it up and started at the beginning.

Rule #1 – You Will Be Given a Body

As I re-read the chapter, I wondered if I had even been paying attention the first time I had read it.

To summarize the chapter so that you don’t have to go and read the book yourself, it said in essence…

“You get this body assigned to you. You are inextricably linked to it, and you get no other. Learn to live with it, learn to love it, take care of it, so that it, in turn, can do what you need done.”

And recently, a lot of aches and pains have been plaguing me. Seriously plaguing me. Hips, knees, back, neck, jaw, and more. It makes it hard to walk, hard to bend. I sleep badly, waking up often to try to re-adjust and remove tension from some odd part of my body.

My chiropractor/acupuncturist has noticed.Most likely it is due to my yowls of pain as she works on me, trying her best to return my body to a straighter state of being. “How often are you coming to see me? Every eight weeks? It needs to be more often.” I tell her I can’t afford more often, reversing my decision from that morning to stop coming to see her. Obviously I need it, so I make a new appointment for eight weeks from now. “Call me for an appointment in between if the money train rolls in,” she says and pats my shoulder as I leave.

So I’ve decided to do something about it.

After all, this is the only body I get this lifetime.

I’m starting out pretty simple. Here are my goals…

  • Eat better (maybe slightly smaller portions, but healthier mainly, more veggies, fruits, and whole grains)
  • Stretch/some yoga twice per day (nothing crazy, just a few minutes at the beginning and end of the day)

That’s it. I started eating better last week. And last night I started with the stretches and yoga. Let’s see how I do.

Making Me Think Here …

My second appointment of the day yesterday was with M.P. from Land Bank. Land Bank isn’t actually a BANK, that’s just the title of the entity that manages all of these abandoned/tax seized properties in Kansas City.

He had gamely accepted my request to interview him for the book I’m writing on buying a house (The Cottage that I go on and on about) from Land Bank for $25.

I’m still fussing over the title, which is problematic. In part, because it is specifically geared toward purchasing a house from Kansas City Land Bank, which is different from other land banks in the country and talks specifically about the programs available to Kansas City residents.

I could tell he is a little hesitant – and he visibly winced over the working title “I Bought a House for $25 (and so can you)” – because, as he pointed out, the situation is different for each property and each applicant.

My point was, if they never pick up the book, which will have some incredibly good resources, how will they learn some of the more important features about these programs that are available?

We talked for nearly two hours. I really like the guy, M.P. is funny, thoughtful, and smart. I left the meeting thinking really hard about how I can produce a book that is responsible, educational, and empowering.

Round and Round She Goes

I’ve been sitting in front of the computer for most of the day – creating Facebook pages, Twitter handles, and going round and round with Lulu, CreateSpace, and IngramSpark to try and find the perfect fit for my POD books.

So here are some fun links for you…

War’s End is now on Facebook and so is The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale.

I’ve also got Twitter feeds for both: War’s End and An Old Wives’ Tale

Edits are DONE, and…

AOWT cover

I finally finished the edits on “The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale.” It took up the remainder of my time at Barnes & Noble yesterday, but was well worth it. I’ve managed to upload and resubmit the file to Lulu – which handles the hard copy side of things – and now I’ll move on to Amazon and resubmit the ebook.

Once everything is live and working – I’ll turn my energies to promoting the book. I’ve already sent emails to a local radio station, KKFI, which has a radio program called the Jaws of Justice.

And then there is a local lawyer who does a radio show in Columbia Missouri called “Sex, Drugs and Civil Liberties” who has already said he would like to have me on his show.

I’m trying to figure out who to contact next.

I woke up this morning raring to go – to write, to publish, to market. With the exception of a short class at the local conservation center (which I might send the husband and child off on their own to) there is nothing on the schedule for this weekend except the usual housework.

Time to get to work!

(This was originally published on Bubblews at: