Time to Get Serious

I’ve been listening to podcasts for over a year now. And I have found that I love them. They have interested, inspired, and informed me. Listening to them, in those moments when my hands were occupied, but my mind was not, has changed my life.

Last year, as I mourned the loss of a family member I had built so much of my life around, I enrolled my then almost eleven year old in school for the first time. I questioned everything, up to and including the meme above at times. It isn’t easy when relationships end. It isn’t simple, or clear cut, or easy to walk away.

I questioned it all.

Was I a good person?

Was I a good mother?

Was I a good teacher?

Was I a good writer?

I cleaned my client’s houses, I listened to the podcasts. I learned.

I changed my covers, fixed glaring errors and dove back into the self-publishing world. As I did this, my daughter’s school conducted placement testing and I learned that not only had I managed to educate her in a reasonably efficient manner, but that, at worst, she was grade-level in math, and at best she scored six grades ahead in science.

She excelled that year in school and I regained the footing I had lost in those months of agonized questioning and fear and doubt. Not just that, but all of sudden, I was selling books.

Not a “oh my god girl, you are a millionaire!” kind of way, but a bright, bright light at the end of the tunnel. A “this is possible, this can be done” kind of way. Every day, I listened to people whose incomes were growing, exponentially.

Joanna Penn – whose income is now in the mid six figures.

Mark Dawson – whose income in book sales alone is around 80k per month

And several others.

And as I listened to them, and implemented so many changes, some effective, some rather expensive – I realized a few things.

  • You can be creative AND make money
  • I want to write books but I also want some form of security (a.k.a. passive income in the form of rentals or Airbnb properties)
  • Whether or like it or not, I need to learn marketing.

And I have kept learning, and trying, and experimenting. And yes, at times I feel as if I’m banging my head against a wall.

I realized too that as the months wore on and I wrote little or nothing that it was a combination of issues that were stopping me…

  • My dad – his presence in my life has always caused me to question myself. He thrived on it, sort of like a vampire, and seemed to enjoy unsettling me. This continues, although I have managed to make it clear that he is the problem and not me. This toxic relationship is not one I prefer to continue, but there are economic and logistical issues that stand in the way of moving him into a nursing home. For now, he is an unwilling part of our lives.
  • Excuses – damned if I don’t have one for every mountain that appears in my path. But mountains can be climbed. And if I want this bad enough, I need to get the fuck over them.
  • Family, projects and more – as much as I want to cut back, I recognize certain parts of my life take at least a chunk of priority. One cute three-year-old who we hope to adopt, a 12-year-old who is back to homeschooling, a wonderful husband and our Airbnb projects.

As I listened to the story of Shayne Silvers, a fellow Missourian who wrote his first book in 2012, and then returned to writing in 2016 with stunning results, I knew it was time to get serious.

To write and be successful, you need:

  • A great story, well-written, that appeals to your target readers
  • An excellent, well-edited manuscript that isn’t full of errors
  • A book cover that reels in readers
  • A book blurb that peaks readers interests
  • A host of compelling ads that encourage folks to click the buy button
  • A subscriber list so you can engage in personal interaction as well as low-key marketing to the readers who are already interested in your writing
  • A book magnet – a freebie giveaway that gets folks interested in your series so that they want to read more.
  • Interaction/availability – to your fans who want to know more about you or your universe of characters (fiction) or your knowledge (non-fiction)

And while there are some areas that need improvement (editing, some book covers, a bigger subscriber list) I’m on the right track, but now it is time to seriously move forward.

The end of the year always spurs thoughts of how next year should go, and this December is no exception.

I know that I want to stop cleaning houses and that I need to move my dad into a nursing home. That want and that need clash with a very basic issue, that of money.

In order for those two things to happen, I must sell 3,200 books per month. That number was arrived at through some rather labyrinthine calculations, and include setting aside 20% for taxes and 30% for Amazon’s bite of the pie, and an advertising budget that does not exceed 50% of the income I receive from sales.

Like I said, labyrinthine.

As of last month, I sold 124 books. That means I’m at 3.8% of goal.

In total so far this year I’ve sold at least 491 books. That’s a huge difference from last year in which I sold a total of 32 books. That’s an improvement of 1,534% over last year! A big thanks to Stephanie Adams for helping me with that math problem. So, going along with that concept, I need to sell 38,400 books per year or increase my sales from this year by 7,821%.

Here is how I’m going to do it.

One…

bite…

at…

a…

time.

The way I figure it, every single stinkin’ day for the next 2-4 years I need to be:

  • Writing something
  • Learning something (marketing, writing ad copy, improving my writing)
  • Editing something
  • Marketing something
  • Interacting with somebody about writing

Every single day. Without fail.

I can do this.

I’ve been homeless.

I’ve been married to shitty human beings (and even shittier husbands).

I’ve gone through divorce, custody battles, raising one teenager, bankruptcy, and a host of other challenges.

I can do this.

Stay tuned.

 

When In Doubt…

Even after ten years of writing, I’m still learning new things. Being an Indie writer means being independent, self-sufficient, and creative at things that aren’t necessarily primary in my wheelhouse.

Creating book covers, uploading my books to different platforms, learning to write effective ad copy – this last year has been challenging.

When In Doubt, Ask for Help

On Monday, I was ready to tear my hair out. Joanna Penn, a rather well-known podcaster and author in the Indie world, has continued to talk about Ingram Spark as a good platform to place Indie books on.

Doing so, gives an Indie author even more exposure to bookstores and libraries.

Say no more, I was on it.

Except…the dreaded book cover.

And while I have created plenty of book covers, good ones, in Canva.com – they were not the full book cover. Instead of this:

I needed something that looked more like this:

And despite Ingram Spark’s oh so helpful customized template in pdf format, I had no idea how to do it.

After a couple of hours of banging my head on the keyboard (note to self: this does not induce deeper, tech thoughts only a nasty headache) I posted a rant on Facebook and a friend popped up and volunteered to help.

She got it together pretty quickly, unfortunately, one of the fonts I had on a print version through KDP sparked an error message from Ingram Spark. I’ve got a good idea of what to do, however, and will be able to fix it from my end in a few days.

I was reminded, yet again, that there are plenty of folks willing to help, for no other reason than kindness.

When in doubt, ask for help!

Most Money In…and Out

I’d been getting real excited about this month’s earnings in book sales. Most months this year have been averaging nearly $200 in sales per month and when I broke $200 by the 12th I was convinced it would be my best month ever.

Until I checked my advertising tab.

Sheesh.

As of the 20th of November, I had earned $301.92 in book sales, a total of 125 books (ebook and paperback).

And my advertising fees had accrued to a whopping total of $304.27 and counting.

Duh, duh, duh DUH.

AMS ads were eating up every bit of my profit, and then some.

In other words? I have a lot to learn about advertising.

Brick Walls Have Got Nothing on This Writer’s Block

I’m a planner and a dreamer. I can create a plan of action like nobody’s business and I’ve made plans among plans. When it comes to writing I have attacked it from several angles:

  • I won’t make it about money
  • I will make it about money
  • I need to write XX books this year
  • I need to just write something, anything

And so on, and so on.

In the end, every time I look at one of my bigger projects (Chronicles of Liv Rowan Book 1, The Hired Gun, Zarmina’s World, or a host of others), I tell myself, “Just write SOMETHING” and I sit down, stare at the screen, and my mind slips sideways.

I feel like I’m skidding on glass.

And it feeds on itself, making me question whether or not it will ever just be natural. After six books, it is easier, and yet there are times when I wonder “Is this it? Am I out of viable ideas?”

I know that I’m not, the world is full of ideas and I’ve had some doozies. But sometimes the implementation of those ideas seems strained and difficult. I’m going through that now, in no small part because of the marketing side of things, which really throws me off. I’ll figure it out, I always do.

Disaster…

Ugh. I was over 6 1/2 hours into recording Gliese 581: The Departure into audiobook form. I was sure I had saved the file, but this morning, at 4:30 a.m. in the chilly attic, I discovered I had not. The file is gone, over 6 1/2 hours of recording has vanished and to say that was frustrating does not begin to cover it.

I thought briefly about giving up, especially as I listened to the sounds of traffic and sirens in the distance. I couldn’t record in there even if I tried.

I think I need to move back down to the closet and instead of having the laptop in the closet, have just the external monitor and mouse inside (the microphone picks up the hum of the laptop).

When I begin recording again, I will record Get Organized first. I’ve read that non-fiction is hot in audiobooks, so I’ll start there.

And Now, A Request

As I work towards understanding what ads make me money, and what don’t, I’m doing my best to make money wherever I can. The combination of blogging and the Amazon Associates program is one of those ways, but it hasn’t been paying off so far and Amazon has sent me a notice telling me they will be terminating my Amazon Associates account unless I get some sales. So I’m going to ask a favor of you, my loyal readers.

If you shop at all on Amazon in the next few weeks, please consider shopping through this portal.

It doesn’t cost you a dime and it will keep me from losing this potential income generator. Even a few dollars of income here or there makes a difference.

 

 

The Road Ahead

A year ago, I was pretty much convinced that it didn’t matter what I wrote, or how well I wrote it, it was just blind, stupid luck that some authors made money and others didn’t.

Lightning strike and all that, right?

I made it into a joke. When I would meet someone new, I’d say, “I’m a writer, which means I run a cleaning business. The two are connected.”

Folks would usually laugh, sometimes they would even promise to look me up. I didn’t hold my breath.

Just two months before, I had enrolled my daughter in public school for a year, so instead of taking her with me everywhere I went and homeschooling while I worked, I was alone for hours on end. I began listening to podcasts, first about managing an Airbnb and then, on a lark, I found several writing podcasts.

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn didn’t click with me immediately. Compared to others she really seemed to go on and on in the introduction before the show. At first it was annoying, and then I started really listening to the intro and realizing it had some of the best information I could possibly get.

Her discussion of Canva and later of audiobooks were particularly helpful. I set about redesigning all of my covers. I then edited each of my books to include a book magnet (Schicksal Turnpike – which is still a free giveaway if you sign up for my newsletter), a request for readers to review the book they have just read, preview chapters for other books, and cleaner formatting.

And I have listened to each and every podcast she has done since, along with Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula and Dave Chesson’s podcast as well.

What I have learned from these podcasts has changed my belief system. I can write for money, without selling out. It takes:

  • A decent manuscript with compelling info or characters
  • A book cover that is attractive to that genre’s readers
  • A book blurb that pulls readers in and gives them a taste of what is to come
  • Book ads that are effective at catching potential readers attention
  • Time and patience as I figure out all of the components listed above

And every month since November 2017, I’ve made money. It still isn’t “quit your cleaning biz and write like a madwoman” life-changing income, but it is INCOME.

And talking about money, and wanting money for my art, isn’t selling out, it’s reality. You don’t go to work for free, do you? You don’t love your job so much that you don’t want to do anything else and would take a 100% pay cut, do you? I didn’t think so. And I love writing, but I also want to make money at it.

Audiobook in Progress

After a particularly challenging afternoon – one that included schoolbuses, sirens, kids yelling and some damned truck beeping as it backed up – I abandoned my ghetto-style recording studio in the attic in disgust.

For the past two mornings, I’ve woken up at 4:15 in the morning and recorded several chapters at a time of Gliese 581: The Departure. Except for a ten minute long break when there was something big going down out there in the world (per the festival of sirens I kept hearing) yesterday morning, I was able to get the eleventh chapter finished by 5:30 this morning.

My body isn’t the only thing that thinks being up at 4 a.m. is a bad idea. My voice isn’t very excited either. It takes some time to get into the swing of things. I’ll keep this up until I have the entire book read into audio form.

Then comes the dreaded task of trying to edit it. This is perhaps the most challenging thing I have done in a long time.

First Person in Progress

I remember the first time I ever wrote anything in first person – it remains a snippet of story, told from multiple views, of a band of teenage friends who are all sharing the same dream. I shared it with my dad and the only thing he said was, “Never write in first person, it’s a publishing no-no.”

And at the time, that was true. More than two decades later, it most certainly is not the case. First person, while still odd to read for some diehard readers and writers, is no longer an industry no-no.

And when it comes to the YA genre, it is rather widespread.

As I was reading the Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige series, I was also wrestling with Book One of The Chronicles of Liv Rowan, a 12-book series I have fleshed out. It felt awkward, contrived, and stilted at times. I had picked it up only to set it aside in frustration a few days later, unsure what needed to change, but convinced it needed something different.

And as I read the Dorothy book, which were written in the first person, it struck me that perhaps that was what I was struggling with. So I am now on the third chapter, moving through it, converting it from third person to first, and it feels better. As I read it in my head it also sounds better.

I’m hoping to make progress on it. The key moment will get when I hit the end of what I have written to date, in a couple more chapters, and whether the words will flow easier then.

The road ahead is fraught with marketing, learning more about effective ad copy, audiobooks and, yes, even some more writing!

‘Scuse Me While I Disappear

Yesterday was stressful. I woke up thinking of my kiddo, thousands of miles away in Europe and wondering how she is doing. By the time I opened my eyes, she had landed. And now, over 24 hours later, still no word.

We really miss her, my husband and I dance around the subject, but it is so hard to have her gone.

Just to throw a couple of monkey wrenches into everything, my husband’s plan to drive himself to work was crushed by a flat tire on his car. Later, as I was driving to my first cleaning, my van shut down, just went black for a moment, and then started back up. Not reassuring at all, but we will have it looked at soon.

My day was filled with a physical therapy appointment and then two big cleanings. At the first cleaning, I hit something and the vacuum just made this horrible noise and shut down. Luckily I was near the Oreck store and they cleared the jam and sent me on my way with no charge. I love those guys, they are awesome!

By the end of the day and no word from my child I was twitchy and stressed beyond measure.

I’ve been dealing with my dad’s antics as well, which has me stressed out. He has dementia but is convinced he can live on his own and manage his own financial and health care choices despite his doctor’s advice.

All of this led to a thundering headache that was helped, thank goodness, by the physical therapist. I had slipped on my front stairs on Monday and went flying down the icy steps, slamming my rear into each step and bruising my right wrist deeply when I fell on it trying to catch myself. The PT took a good look at my alignment and helped adjust me. My headache disappeared, and I took a deep breath in and sighed in relief.

As I cleaned the two houses, I was alone and so I gave myself a good pep talk. All the things running through my head…

Dad will die if he goes to live on his own. He’ll forget his meds, he’ll eat foods that are bad for him.

Where is my child? Why hasn’t she emailed, Facebook Messenger, or Skype’d me back?

What is wrong with my van? What if it’s something major?

My body hurts, how do I make it better?

And on and on…

All of it cycling through my head.

And suddenly, it all hit. Except for the last one, they were things I could not control.

“Focus on what I can control. I can control my cleanings and how I do at them. I can control my writing. I can continue to learn better marketing techniques, better blurb writing, et cetera. Focus on what I can control.”

Over and over I tell myself, “I’ll write a book soon.” And then shit rolls down the pike and it all falls apart. Because I’m more than just a writer. I’m a mom, a wife, a foster mom, a caretaker, a business owner, and more.

I take things on and let them stress me the hell out. But as long as I do that, the writing takes second, third, hell, last place. I don’t finish the books. I just stress out and get nothing done but marathons of tv shows that mean little and cannot change my life.

The writing can.

I can.

I can change my life.

So excuse me while I disappear. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back soon. Preferably with updates and progress. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

The Highs and the Lows

The last year has been full of some rather extreme highs and lows. For most of it, I feel a little helpless, caught on the ocean, rising and falling with the waves.

As I look at 2018, of which 1/12 of is already been gobbled up, I find myself still struggling to “figure it all out.”

 

Think Indie

Did you know Andy Weir, author of The Martian was an Indie author? So was Hugh Howey.

There are tons more and as I listen to podcasts while I clean my clients’ houses, I hear it over and over. People are getting into self-publishing not out of lack of ability or no other choice, but because of the ability to a) make more money, and b) exert more control over how their book is produced and marketed.

I hear it time and again and frankly, I agree with it. Every time I announced, “Okay, I’m going to submit this manuscript and try and get an agent, try to get this published traditionally” a hard lump formed in my chest.

It didn’t feel right, it felt wrong.

Why should I beg someone to be my agent and take a 20-30% cut of my creation?

Why should I deal with a publisher who is going to take 90% of my earnings before the agent takes out their share?

Why should I trust a publisher to market my book effectively for me when I know that only the top cut of authors get any marketing budget at all? Most get nothing.

A podcast I was listening to recently talked about one of Dan Brown’s books coming out on e-book recently, right before a new release. The publisher did a big promotion on the ebook in anticipation of the new book release, but didn’t bother to add a chapter from the new book as a teaser in the end or even provide a link to pre-order the new book. And Dan Brown is a very popular author! If they couldn’t get that basic marketing principle down for Dan Brown, how bad would they screw over a relative unknown?

So, thanks but no thanks, I’ll stick to working as an Indie author. I’ll continue to educate myself and improve not just my writing, but all aspects of the Indie author life – book cover design, formatting, editing, and marketing.

Imposter Syndrome

I have been listening to several podcasts that focus on marketing and more for Indie authors. One recently covered imposter syndrome, which I think that most people feel on a regular basis, no matter how experienced or talented they might be.

I struggle with it, just like anyone else. It has gotten better over the years – I can remember that shortly after I had written and published the second book I actually asked my friends on Facebook if I was officially an author. I had been one for two years at that point!

One thing that helps is getting reviews on my books. I check my Author Page on Amazon regularly and so I notice when new ones come in. This review just came in on my two War’s End books…

In case that is hard to read, the reviewer wrote:

“This is book one of a two book series filled with well-defined and well loved characters. Yes, it’s dystopian in nature and yet it could take place in any time or in any place. What designates this book as excellent is the author’s vision of her characters, their actions, and their stories. Her writing transcends the commonplace and rises to the level of prose. In fact, her choice of words, phrasing, and meaning sometimes brought me to tears of wonder.

The story, itself, is more than absorbing, having all the usual attributes of great literature, i.e., joy, sorrow, heartbreak, action and suspense. After finishing both books, I can clearly state that these volumes are not to be missed. You’ll find yourself heavily invested in the characters and their actions, trying to read quickly to see what happens and yet slowing down to catch the nuances of the author’s prose.

Don’t miss these books!”

Whenever I get to thinking that I don’t have anything original to say and that my writing is stilted and generally sucks, I think I’ll just need to look this review up and I will feel better.

bad grammar – I did NOT create this meme!

Figuring Out This Damned Thing Called Marketing

Have you ever thought that it would be fun to ride a bucking bronco? Yeah, me neither. I hear those bastards are rather wily. They will trick you into thinking they are going one way and it turns out to be the other.

Marketing is just as wily and volatile.

I’m climbing up a real tall mountain right now as I try and wrap my brain around it. I am learning to:

  • Write good ad copy (it’s harder than you might think)
  • Utilize correct ad placement and timing
  • Understand Impressions vs. Clicks vs. Purchases and what a good ratio mix is
  • Find a mix of free and paid marketing that works for me (it feels like shooting into the darkness)

I’m in the process of reading several books on the subject…

Some of these are very short, others not so much. In other words? I’ve just started on the mountain. I also decided to scale back and focus on one book at a time until I get the hang of this marketing thing. So I’m focusing on Gliese 581: The Departure for now.

I’m also considering placing the two War’s End books into a “boxed” set for the Kindle and marketing it for $6.99. The individual books are priced at $3.99. If I do that, it will probably be in March or later.

When the Hell Will I Get Back to Writing?

Oh, yeah, that.

Um…

So after I finish this post I need to write a ghost story with a family tree and a veterinarian for NYC Midnight. It’s a short story competition and it’s due on Friday.

….

….

Yeah, so I’m hoping to make a goal that now that I’ve run out of month (I designated January to be a “learn about marketing” month) I will dedicate February to writing something.

What are you going to write about, Christine?

….

…..

Is that a squirrel? Wait, that’s a bunny! See the bunny?

[runs away from the computer]

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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Broken Brain

I’m pretty sure my brain is broken.

Yep, yep, broken for sure.

I will explain…

Why Did I Think That?

Yesterday I mentioned that I had discovered Canva.com and was all revved up over re-designing my book covers. I started with the two War’s End novels and then tackled The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale.

I thought, “Okay, I’m done.”

And another side of my brain said, “But wait, there’s still Get Organized, Stay Organized. Why not re-do that cover too?”

And I swear to you, that first part of my brain answered, “Oh, that’s nearly ten years old, no one is interested in reading THAT.”

Why not?

Well, I don’t know, I mean…

Do people still need organizing help?

Umm, yes?

And did or did you not write an organizing book?

Um, yeah, I did.

So….?

And I have to wonder if it isn’t some messed up, here let me screw with my own head and belief in me yet AGAIN and turn my back on something that could actually make me money. I mean, heck, my fellow writer/homeschool mommy friend keeps putting out new editions of her book Make Money to Write About Your Kids. Now obviously, she is writing about a market that is constantly changing.

But things have changed for the organizing scene as well. And why not come out with a better, more professional edition? And why not try to get more reviews and more sales? Why spend all of that time on a book just to wipe my hands clean and move on a few months after it was published?

Time to get to work updating and editing!

Take the Wheel

Take the Wheel of Destiny and Make It Your Own

Spur of the moment decision yesterday – I decided I really needed to do a free Kindle ebook offering on Gliese 581: The Departure.

So I set it up to start today and first thing this morning I hit my Excel spreadsheet that lists right around 250 Facebook book promo sites – most of which I have taken the time to join but rarely use.

I divided my list by four for the number of days I wanted to promote it (less one). I figured it would be best to promote with a message that read “Free today through Sunday” and then list the book blurb, an image and the link to the book on Kindle. It looked like this…

I began the time-consuming job of posting in the endless Facebook pages I had access to – and over a couple of hours worked my way through one-quarter of the list.

When I started for the day, my book was listed at “#56,782 Free in Kindle Store, #2372 in the Dystopian, and #3415 in Post-Apocalyptic.

And by this evening? #782, #15, and #16 respectively.

Yowza!

So far, I’ve posted in around 65 Facebook pages dedicated to authors promoting their books. I’ve given away 250 ebooks in about 19 hours (125 of them in the past four hours).

So I won’t make a dime on these. And you know what? I’m good with that. Build the readers, build the audience, get a following, and the rest will follow.

I realized something as I was going through the boring, repetitive motions this morning of copying and pasting, waiting for Facebook to do its thing, then marking it in my Excel file and moving to the next one.

If I really want to be a writer AND EVER MAKE A LIVING AT IT, I am going to have to get on top of this marketing crap. The lyrics to a song by Incubus kept running through my head…

Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I’ll let the fear
Take the wheel and steer
It’s driven me before
And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal
But lately I am beginning to find
That I should be the one behind the wheel
Sitting around on my butt, writing the books is only HALF of the job. And that’s even WITH a literary agent, publisher, and publicist. I have got to learn to sell myself and my writing if I ever want this future I keep talking about.
So I’ve added “Marketing Madness” to the first day of each month into my calendar. It might take more than that, a lot more, but it is a start.
Cool People
So far today, I’ve “met” two folks online who responded to my marketing on the Facebook pages. One simply wrote and said she had downloaded it. I thanked her, told her I thought she would enjoy it and hoped that she would be kind enough to leave a review for me when she completed it. She responded back and said she would when she got around to reading it.
The second person I met just wrote me and said, “Sounds like it could happen to us” and posted a link to her blog where she has promoted the book and also Tweeted about it.
And honestly, I am just blown away by how NICE people can be! Here is a link to her blog.
Each Revolution Around the Sun
I spent a great deal of my life being uncertain, nervous, shy, and generally clueless about how to grasp life by the horns and fully live it. I have found that with each revolution around the sun, this grows a little easier, but I’m still learning.
Today was a good reminder that I self-published a great science fiction book that I want more people to read. And the only way I can get them to do that is by dangling it in front of them as often as possible.
No more languishing on the back shelves – this book needs to be read!

Introspection Leads to Discovery

I’ve mentioned here and in other places that I’ve been under no small amount of stress recently. Things have slowly been resolving themselves – to some extent.

Life is always challenging, isn’t it?

When I first returned in January with my dad, I was reeling. And the changes over the next few months, along with the realization that my eldest and I suddenly, after 18 months of peaceful living and years of peacemaking, appeared to be back at square one (or worse), was devastating.

She wrote a post, which you can read here. To say that our accounts differ, does not even begin to describe it. At one point, I sat down and went over each point or claim that she made and wrote down a response. On the advice of friends and family, I did not send it. My eldest has her version of history and I have mine. Nothing will be gained by arguing or pointing out obvious fallacies. It won’t repair the relationship and it won’t mend the bridges we had already built together.

But along the way, I did something that I always try to do. Before dismissing something outright, I take the time to step back and evaluate and question.

How did they arrive at this conclusion?

Is there any merit in the claims?

Can I do something different now? Alter my behavior, learn from this experience?

It isn’t always easy. When we sense we are being attacked, our first instinct is typical – fight back, or run the other direction.

But one claim, that of declaring I was mentally ill, was especially egregious. It was a ploy her dad used when fighting me in court (sorry Walt, the judge didn’t buy your b.s. and you really did look like an idiot, by the way). It was an armchair diagnosis doled out by a woman who was my father’s girlfriend, a physician’s assistant, and who had been fired for stealing prescription medicine from the clinic she worked at soon after.

She had called me a sociopath and it had haunted me for nearly two decades. Until I was talking with a therapist about twelve years ago and told him about it. The guy, straight-laced and rather boring, started to laugh. He told me that, just the fact that I was bothered by the idea of being a sociopath meant that I wasn’t one.

“A sociopath doesn’t care what people think. Not one bit.”

Okay. So, NOT a sociopath.

So back to the post my daughter wrote. In it, she decided I was suffering from either bi-polar disorder or manic-depressive disorder, which is, by the way, the SAME disorder. Bipolar is also known as manic-depressive. Later she added in NPD, Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Now that made me think.

After all, isn’t writing non-fiction, i.e. blogging, especially about life in general (how your life is going, what you made for breakfast, how you built a fence), isn’t that the epitomy of narcissism? And if so, my god, I HAD to be a narcissist. I have one, two, three, now FOUR blogs! And I post all the time on my interactions with my dad on Facebook.

So does that make me a narcissist? I’m talking about MY life, MY plans, and MY accomplishments.

I looked up both bipolar and NPD and read down the list of symptoms.

The hallmarks of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also concentrate on grandiose fantasies (e.g. their own success, beauty, brilliance) and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment.

  • Exaggerates own importance
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance
  • Believes he or she is special and can only be understood by other special people or institutions
  • Requires constant attention and admiration from others
  • Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
  • Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals
  • Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy
  • Is often envious of others or believes other people are envious of him or her
  • Shows arrogant behaviors and attitudes

I walked down the list and did my best to evaluate myself, which isn’t easy, let me tell you.

  • Exaggerates own importance – NOPE. That would include taking the credit for other people’s work, which I do not do. If Dave works his butt off, I point it out right alongside my own. I am not a special little snowflake. When I was teaching classes I would remind folks that they could do just what I did, it isn’t special, it isn’t hard.
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance – While I might be rather obsessed with laying the groundwork for our retirement right now so that we never have to depend on our children for help, that’s about it. Success is measured by the individual, I don’t need power (nope, not running for office anytime soon), I am NOT beautiful, I’m smart, but I’m not that smart (I know some smart ones), and romance? I’ll settle for someone who loves me and accepts me, round butt, graying hair and grumpy attitude.
  • Believes he or she is special and can only be understood by other special people or institutions – The opposite belief, that of NOT being special, is what turned me away from writing for years. Hadn’t everything worth saying already been said? I decided that, whether or not it was original, I would share it. I’m glad I took that chance.
  • Requires constant attention and admiration from others – Praise continues to make me uncomfortable. I have no small amount of self-hatred, bred by decades of family and ex-husbands reminding me of how lowly and shitty I was to find attention and admiration anything more than disconcerting at best.
  • Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment – Nope. And anyone who has been around me knows that. Sure, I’d love favorable treatment, but do I expect it? No.
  • Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals – Um. NO. There is only one instance I can think of, that of borrowing a truck from a neighbor. I felt bad that, when the tire needed to be fixed, we didn’t get to it in time. And I feel we borrowed it too long and possibly damaged our relationship with them, something I didn’t want to have happen. In the case of our contractor who up and left a job undone, I did the opposite. I fed her, DAILY. I didn’t do this to engender a sense of her owing me, I did it because I liked and valued her work and her friendship.
  • Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy – I do not lack empathy, but I often don’t notice when others are off. At least, not right away. It is something that, in retrospect, bothers me. It is important to share “air time” with others. Sometimes I get so busy telling stories and entertaining others, that I forget they have their own stories and that they too need to share them.
  • Is often envious of others, or believes other people are envious of me – No. NO to the triple no. I’ve worked hard for what I have and I’m proud of it. To be envious of someone who makes more money or has a bigger house is a waste of time. Better to put my nose to the grindstone and get what works for me, for what makes me happy. And if others are envious, they shouldn’t be. Walk a mile in my shoes, live the life I have led, and you wouldn’t be, not for a second.
  • Shows arrogant behaviors and attitudes – I have been fighting this behavior my entire life. Honestly, when I show arrogance and realize it, I feel ashamed. There are people in the world who have a hot mess of a life, who struggle every day. To behave as if they are less, or that I am better, is wrong. I see it in my dad and my mom and I’m determined to root it out. That’s not okay.

So that was all very long-winded. And at the end of it, I was still not quite comfortable. I felt I had eliminated both bipolar (you would have to have depression along with the manic and I just don’t have that) and NPD, but what the hell was it, because she had a point, something was wrong. Or something had been wrong, and I had evidenced behaviors that were not okay. Not with me, and not with my loved ones.

As I looked back over the years I thought about how, about twelve years ago, had begun tracking my periods. Eventually, I narrowed it down and realized that on Day 21 and Day 22 of my cycle things came to a head. And not in a small way.

I swear I googled “pms on steroids” and when I found PMDD, and read the symptoms, I felt like I had hit a not so fun jackpot.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

The symptoms of PMDD usually show up the week before you start your period and last until a few days after it begins. Most of the time they are severe and debilitating, and they can keep you from daily activities.

Symptoms of PMDD include:

  • Mood swings – YES
  • Depression or feelings of hopelessness – Sometimes
  • Intense anger and conflict with other people – YES
  • Tension, anxiety, and irritability – YES
  • Decreased interest in usual activities – My husband and younger daughter said YES emphatically to this
  • Difficulty concentrating – YES
  • Fatigue – Possibly?
  • Change in appetite – YES
  • Feeling out of control – YES
  • Sleep problems – Sometimes?
  • Cramps and bloating – NO
  • Breast tenderness – YES
  • Headaches – YES
  • Joint or muscle pain – Not that I remember
  • Hot flashes – Not then!

WebMD goes on to say:

Your doctor can diagnose you with PMDD if:

  • You have at least five of the symptoms listed above.
  • They start 7 to 10 days before you get your period.
  • They go away shortly after you start bleeding.

Well, hell, that’s a huge big YES.

Here is the irony, folks. I am now in menopause. The end of my reproductive cycle, and the beginning of menopause began last year. Now that it has been over a year since I’ve had a menstrual cycle, I’m officially considered to be post-menopausal. So none of the symptoms, except for the hot flashes, remain.

I wish I would have known about PMDD twenty years ago. How much could my life have been different if I had only known? There are treatments, medication that mitigates the effects of PMDD.

So consider this a public service announcement. When I told my youngest about it she jumped up and ran over to read over the symptoms with me saying, “I need to know these in case I get it when I get my period!”

Introspection leads to self-discovery, albeit after the fact. Thanks to low serotonin levels, never diagnosed, I was not the mother, wife, or person I wanted to be. Looking back, I realize there is nothing I can do about it now, after the fact. And honestly, we will never know “for sure” since this is an armchair diagnosis, but DAMN. I grieve for what could have been, if I had only known.

The Plan as it Stands

“How are those edits coming, Christine?”

I, well, I…that is.

Hm.

I had hoped to tackle three chapters a day. With 37 chapters in Schicksal Turnpike, I figured I would be done in two weeks. Lo and behold, it’s been two weeks and change and I’ve completed eight.

But you know what? That’s okay.

Even more so, as I finished reading the 8th chapter out loud last night to my husband, I made a decision.

Actually, technically, I made the decision today.

Just now.

Here it is…

I’ve gone back and forth on this many times. And this may only be the latest episode in a long line of back and forths, but nevertheless, here is my current stand on getting published versus not getting published.

I am fine with self-publishing and here is why:

  • I don’t need the money – In case any of you are laboring under the persistent illusion that writing pays (which it does, for a very small percentage of writers that don’t include me at present), let me clear this up. I spend money to self-publish. Not a lot, but up to a few hundred dollars. And while I have indulged my writing adventures, I have cleaned houses and set into place other income-generating activities. So I don’t NEED the writing to pay. It would be a nice bonus, but that’s it.
  • Rejection hurts – I have had enough rejection in my life from people who I thought loved me. Call me a wimp but I really don’t need it from perfect strangers. When I finally screw up the courage to send my manuscript, or an excerpt from it, off to be eyed by a jaded critic, it ends badly. Not for them, but for me. It stops me, dead in my tracks. I lose weeks, months, sometimes I have lost YEARS. As much as I wish I could make myself care less, I end up feeling rejected and butt-hurt. I get that enough from daily life, why go looking for more.
  • I just want to tell a story – And if the agent or publisher doesn’t want to read it – fine. I’m cool with that. In fact, I’m cool with just a handful of folks reading my stuff. Sure, I still have dreams of becoming a bestselling author – signing books and all that. It would be nice. It would be great. But while all writers, especially those who blog or write non-fiction have some level of narcissism, you can’t be a writer and not indulge in some small drip of it when writing memoir, I don’t need fame and fortune. I won’t die unfulfilled or wondering why no one recognized my literary wunderkind worthiness.

I’ve got a plan for how my retirement is going to unfold and it doesn’t include being a bestselling author.

I guess that is really where I’m at.

I plan to keep writing. But for now, what I will do is write a book, edit it myself, open it up to a small army of beta readers, correct it as needed, and then self-publish it for the lowest price possible with Amazon’s KDP Select program.

I’m not going to kill myself trying to discover that magical recipe of intrigue, chutzpah and marketing to a potential literary agent or a publisher. I’m just going to write and publish.

THE END.

p.s. And yes, I’m STILL editing Schicksal. I’ll report back soon. Want to be a beta reader? Let me know and I’ll add you to the list.

Building Those Marketing Skills…and Twitter Too

Building My Twitter Following

I have never been very impressed with Twitter.

Yeah, you heard me right. Go ahead twitterphites and just Unfollow me now.

But here’s the deal, unimpressed or not, I have been actively trying to build my Twitter following for the past three months. Because it doesn’t really matter what I think of Twitter, it matters more that others do like it and do use it.

See? I’m slow, but I’m getting there. Eventually I will become a marketing super-genius!

So each day, I go through at least a dozen emails from Twitter – I see who is Following me and usually Follow them back (except for a small select obnoxious few) and I go through Twitter’s suggestions and Follow folks in the hopes that they will follow me back. I’m averaging over nine new followers each day, and my total is quickly approaching 2,000 Followers.

I might not be sold on Twitter, but I have seen an uptick in book sales. Especially when a particular Tweet finds itself the right audience. The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale is a good example of this. Each time I Tweet “We are not an episode of weeds. I am not Nancy Botwin, but … (paperback) (kindle)” this actor from the series re-tweets my tweet. And I’ll get a book sale. How amazingly cool is that?!

So Twitter might not work for me, but it sure does for others.

Raising My Prices

I bent the ear of a marketing guy the other day and it turns out that I’ve been doing it all wrong.

See, I figured that I’d rather someone read my book, and I don’t want to frighten them off with an overly high figure, so I set my ebook and paperback book prices as low as possible. However, this may have the opposite effect. As the guy said, “It is the perception of quality. Price them cheap and your writing is cheap. Price them higher and obviously your writing is worth more.”

Huh.

So I’m going to give it a try. Right now, my ebooks range from 99 cents to just $2.99 each, depending on the book. And the paperbacks are anywhere from $9.02 to $9.98. Get them at that cheap price NOW, because the prices are going up.

I’ll be raising the paperbacks to $13.99 and the ebooks to a solid $4.99 each. And we will see how it all shakes out.

Pie in Face

Speaking of Twitter, this should give you a laugh. At least, it did me. The sign of mental health, I can laugh at myself. In fact, I do it quite regularly.

As I was building my Twitter following, and running through the email that listed my newest Twitter followers, a name (and website) jumped out at me. Cannabis.com, which has an online and in print magazine. And the inspiration struck, similar to a bolt of lightning but just a tad less damaging, WHY had I not thought of contacting the various cannabis/weed magazines and promoting The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale with them?

And while I was dreaming the dream another question occurred to me, Rolling Stone has been writing some weed-centric articles. Why not contact them as well? The worst they can say is “no.”

I swear to you, marketing is such a foreign concept to me. As if the fact that I have written a book (well, four of them) could somehow be magicked into the air, and people would just suddenly KNOW about it without me having to do a single thing!

So a bit of pie in face, if you will, that it has taken me close to two years to figure out that I might need to actually market the book I have written.

And yeah, I’m totally contacting Rolling Stone. What is the worst that could happen?

Don’t answer that. Just…don’t.