Murphy’s Law

Who the Hell Was Murphy, Anyway?

That guy Murphy, was a real futurist. He could see it coming like no one else could.

I sort of hate him.

And every time I make plans, he’s there, just waiting to trip me up.

So Goeth Editing

When I assigned a week to edit 37 chapters by reading them aloud to my husband, I thought I was being conservative. But I forgot that we have children (how does one forget that???) and that he is also the president of our local neighborhood association (which means meetings upon meetings).

In any case, the editing has been going slowly. I have 14 chapters left to read out loud. I’m going to try my best to get seven done today and seven more tomorrow.

Writing…or Not

Writing seems to be problematic right along with editing. I need to finish Better Choices the short story I want to release along with Hired Gun and I’ve not been grabbing those opportunities to write as much as I should.

Today is Wednesday and typically a great day for writing since it is homeschool co-op and I’m normally in the Quiet Room typing away. However, today is my day to volunteer for door duty down at the entrance. Folks keep coming in and the door has to be opened by hand each time. I thought I would just have half an hour of work and then I would be scot-free the rest of the day.

Um…no.

Damn you, Murphy!

Somehow, some way, I need to finish Better Choices by the end of tomorrow because on Friday I must begin work on Glass Forest!

Audiobook Extravaganza and Teenagers

This week has unfolded into the following focal points:

  • Creating audiobooks
  • Dealing with hormonal teenagers
  • Beginning the official countdown
  • Juggling Airbnb renovations
  • House to-do’s?!

I will explain…

Audiobook Extravaganza

I’ve been bumbling about for years. This is well-known if you have read my blog posts for any time at all. But after years of slinging pasta at the wall, I know what I want. I want to write (and hopefully sell) lots of books. And after spending the past 18+ months listening to podcasts by Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Dave Chesson, and others, I know how important audiobooks can be for getting your books out there to all readers (and listeners) of books.

I logged onto Findaway Voices and honestly, the prices for narrators made me nearly pass out. So, not sure if I would do any better, I went to ACX.com to see if their prices were any better.

They have different income brackets you can choose: $0-$50 per finished hour, $50-$100 per finished hour, and up.

I chose the $50-$100 per finished hour, put five of my books up (Get Organized, the War’s End series, G581: The Departure, and Hired Gun) and opened them up for auditions.

I’ve made offers to three different narrators for four of the books at this point. Two have accepted, and I’m waiting on one other to respond. I offered them $75 per finished hour, which is mid-level, but means I’ll pay anywhere from around $450 for my organizing book to right around $1,000 or more for each of the longer fiction books.

It’s a huge investment, but I’m beginning to see it this way:

Book production costs include:

  • My time working out the basic details/storyline of the book (10 hrs @ $50/hr = $500)
  • My time writing the book (100 hrs @ $50/hr = $5000
  • Book cover creation ($400)
  • Editing/proofreading services ($500)
  • Reading aloud/final edit by me (10 hrs @ $50/hr = $500)
  • My time or a professional’s creating the back blurb and ad copy ($200)
  • Audiobook creation ($1,000)

Total cost: $8,100 (obviously this is estimated)

It’s the same as expecting to pay for a computer, for internet, or for word processing software. These things don’t come for free. And I refused to continue to half-ass it any longer.

Half-assing things means that you continue to have problems. I know this homeowner who cuts corners on EVERYTHING and as a result, has problems with EVERYTHING. Nothing works like it is supposed to, everything is a hassle, and all of the cheap repairs are costing them money every day that the property doesn’t work right.

My work will no longer be half-assed. I will take the time to do it right, to invest in the best book it can possibly be, and NOT accept a “well, it’s okay for now, I’ll fix it later.”

Miss Grumpypants studying math on Khan Academy

There’s a Lot of ‘Teening Going On Around Here

This morning. Whew. I’ll tell you, that 12-year-old of mine is really showing her hormonal side. We ended up having a long talk about how hormones affect not just our bodies, turning girls into women capable of bearing life, but also how those same hormones affect our emotions, or thought processes, and more.

I had to tell her that right now, her body and brain were dealing with a flood of hormones and that it would make her half-crazy, convinced everyone was either deliberately trying to drive her insane or else they were terminally stupid. Having dealt with it for 34 years until blissfully experiencing menopause at age 46, I had the wealth of my experiences behind me, aware of just how awful puberty and PMS in general can be.

“We pay a price for being able to bring life into the world,” I told her, “No one told me these things, no one helped me understand what was happening to my mind and body. I had to figure it all out on my own and it took decades before I figured it out.”

And it’s true. It wasn’t until my late 30s that I thought to chart my periods and figured out that Days 18-22 of my cycle were the worst emotionally. I wish I could go back and see if I ended up quitting jobs during those times, or lashing out at others. I also suspect that I had PMDD, a very extreme form of PMS. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure that one out until I had gone through menopause.

By the time we talked, and I described many of the emotions and thought processes I experienced in the throes of PMS or PMDD, Em nodded, understanding me better, as well as herself. She smiled then, relieved to have a better understanding of it.

Understanding it means she has better tools for recognizing it and handling it better next time.

This was yesterday…

It’s Official – 514 Days to Go

I finally pulled up a day/date calculator and input the following date: July 31st, 2020

That’s the day I want to stop cleaning houses and focus solely on writing and running our Airbnb properties.

I make approximately $2,000 per month cleaning houses right now. So I need to replace that income with book sales and page reads and audiobook sales to the tune of:

$111 per day in sales ($111 x 30 days x 60% (40% of income goes to advertising) = $1,998)

Currently I’m earning $15 per day in sales (so far this month), so I need to increase it by a multiple of at least 10, possibly 11. And I have 514 days left to do it in.

Otherwise, I’ll be 50 years old and still cleaning houses. And there’s nothing wrong with cleaning houses. Hell, I find aspects of it quite enjoyable and the work is rewarding, but I’d rather focus on other things. It’s time for a change.

Juggling Airbnb Renovations

We have a contractor working on Cottage West right now. He’s focusing on the gas right now, with the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC to follow. After that, we have an insulation guy and we are currently taking bids on drywall. The rest of it, painting, the bathroom floor, refinishing the bathtub and installing fixtures into the bathroom and kitchen will be on us.

We should be seeing drywall go in by late April and I’m hoping that we can be open for business by mid-June.

Meanwhile, at Cottage East, we should see new windows and the siding installed by late March, early April. After that, we will have the electric box put in by Mid-April, allowing us to install an alarm inside to ensure there are no break-ins until we have the funds to work on the project again next year. Although, if we can swing it, I think I would like to see the demo of the interior walls happen this year as well. It will depend on how we feel after we build a fence along the entire front of the property!

All the Rest

I have Hired Gun back from my proofreader and I’m reading it out loud to my husband and making corrections as I go. There’s nothing quite like reading the book out loud to catch those odd, not-so-obvious errors.

I’m also hoping to have Better Choices finished soon. That will be the freebie that only those who read Hired Gun and sign up for my newsletter will get to read.

And with all that…back to writing I go!

Making It Real

Back to Reality

It’s good to have friends. It’s even better to have ones that tell you how it is, without worrying about your ego or offending you.

I was writing a scene for “Loved and Lost” a short story written especially for my subscribers, and I had a scene where the main character hears gunfire in the distance, realizes his woman is in danger, and drops everything to run to her.

Five miles.

On foot.

Towards gunfire.

It’s a majestic scene, full of emotion, anticipation, danger.

One virile, ex-military hunka hunka running to save his love from the baddies. He’s got his rifle in his right hand and his K-Bar (a military knife popularized by movies and tv) in his left hand, moving through the brush, sexy and lethal.

Whew, wow, well that did it for me.

Hold everything.

Enter friend, stage left. Guy has been overseas, seen combat, and he writes…

“No one just runs around with a K-Bar other than fools who watch too much tv.”

Cue the scratch of the needle across the vinyl record.

Suddenly I see what my friend sees. The virile, ex-military guy tripping, the knife flying from his grasp only for him to impale himself upon it or shoot himself in the head with the rifle he’s got his finger on the trigger of.

Literary Love

And then I heard back from my editor/proofreader friend. She had been kind enough to turn around an 80k word proofing gig in less than five days and sent it back to me full of praise.

I told her she was awesome and she wrote:

Oh honey I don’t think you understand. I have missed proofing for you!
It’s always my pleasure and your smut is excellent. A perfect mixture of romance and naughty.

I do proofread a fair amount of this kind of thing and yours is excellent! I am going to laugh so hard when this makes more money than all your other stuff b/c I remember us talking about you doing this!

So that all made me incredibly happy. I’ve gone through the edits, and now I’m giving the book one more serious read-through, out loud, before sending it off to Amazon for publication.

Hired Gun – Available on March 31st!

With those last edits in place in just a few days, I will be looking for ARC readers. Are you interested? An ARC reader reads the early copy of the manuscript, and…

  • Might find errors, typos, or inconsistencies that the author and editor missed
  • Provides personal feedback to the author
  • Is highly encouraged to leave an honest review of the book on Amazon

If you are interested, please contact me at: shuckchristine(at)gmail.com and I’ll be happy to send you a copy in pdf, rtf, epub, or kindle formats.

First Draft of Hired Gun…DONE!

Whew! [wipes non-existent sweat off brow] The first draft is done!

There have been some trials and tribulations ’round here that knocked me off of my groove, but I think it’s finally back. More on those tribulations below, along with my newly revised plans.

Now begin the edits. I will read the story out loud and also engage a proofreader. I hope to have it done before the end of the month. After that, I’ll be looking for beta readers/early reviewers. If you are interested in receiving a free copy of Hired Gun, let me know and I will be happy to send it your way once the edits are complete. The book is available for purchase beginning March 31st, and I am looking for any readers who could read it and post a review before the release date.

Trials and Tribulations

A week ago, I was sitting in an ER waiting for them to x-ray my dad’s arm. This week, his room has been returned to front parlor status and our main level has been reclaimed.

It’s been two years, two months since I received the fateful call that set me on a plane to Panama (yes, the country, not the city) to rescue my dad from a hospital just days before Christmas. When we returned, he was hooked up to a catheter and could not urinate, was recovering from a head wound from falling a second time, weighed all of 120 pounds, and his A1C (indicator for diabetes) was 14.

I tried. Hell, my husband and daughter tried too. We got his weight up to 154, his A1C to a normal reading of 5.7, and he underwent several procedures to allow him to pee again and increase blood flow to one of his legs.

But even after repeated warnings about the ice, Dad just wouldn’t listen. He insisted on going to the senior center each weekday, until last Tuesday morning when he slipped on his way to the shuttle bus, falling and breaking the ball end of his humerus in three places.

We tried to make it work. But after two more falls, and having to call the paramedics for help getting him up off of the floor, and Dad unwilling/unable to get out of bed to pee and demanding I get a urinal for him to use (and me to empty), we knew it was time.

I had been trying my best to hold back the tide. He can’t live on his own, his dementia prevents basic reasoning skills (like eating a diabetic-friendly diet or taking medication regularly) and having him live in an apartment on his own would be a recipe for disaster.

We found a temporary nursing home for him last week and the permanent one is waiting on medical records before they will transfer him. He is getting the care he needs, and the diabetic diet he requires (we fed him diabetic diet, but he would cheat at the senior center), and we are reclaiming our home after 26 months of compromising and stress.

I had no idea how much of a relief it would be until it happened. The joy I see in my tween is palpable, and yet another indicator of how impossible the situation was. Still, it was a lesson worth living and learning from. It hasn’t put me off from caretaking entirely, but I am equally certain that he will not be returning to my home ever again. I feel like I did my best in a bad situation, that I did my duty as much as I possibly could.

The additional income was nice, and it moved us forward on our renovations and projects, but money isn’t everything, and my nuclear family needed a change back to a less multi-generational home.

This does, however, mean that…

My Writing Goals Have Changed Yet Again

I was earning approximately $2,400 extra per month before expenses (food, Dad’s personal needs, and meds). Now that the extra income is gone, my writing priorities have changed. More than ever, I need my writing to pay off.

I figure I have 18 months to take my current $100-$300 in net income to something closer to $2,000 or more if I still plan on quitting cleaning houses in August 2020. And believe me, I’m more than ready to quit sooner if things start paying off!

My old goal was 500 words per day, 365 days a year. My new goal is:

  • 1,000 words per day, Monday through Friday
  • 500 words per day on Saturdays and Sundays

That equals out to 312,000 words per year – or at least three books per year (more than that in the first year because I have several half-finished projects). In other words, totally doable!

I’m off to start edits, and write a little in Better Choices, my freebie that will accompany Hired Gun. Have a fabulous week, everyone!

Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do

I have a “work” journal with that title on the front. When I’m thinking about my money-making plans, the Airbnb’s that we plan to open, or my writing, I turn to that book. Some day I want to look back and remember how it was in the here and now and the journal will serve as an account of the moments I spent dreaming of the future.

Besides, the words ring true, so it’s great to have them in front of me: dreams don’t work unless you do. It’s a reminder to focus on my/our goals and to move towards them each and every day.

Juggling – Time to Add a Ball (or two)

My vision of writing (and a writing career) goes something like this. Every day, I must:

  • Write at least 500 words
  • Edit something I have written
  • Learn something about writing or marketing my writing

For the past month plus, I’ve focused mainly on the writing at least 500 words a day. And in the past 45 days, I’ve written over 42,000 words. So, even though I haven’t written every day, I’m definitely calling it a success. But now it is time to take it a step (or two) beyond that.

Beginning with today, I hope to add the “learn something about writing and marketing my writing” to every day. It’s been pretty regular, but not a daily expectation, so I hope to change that into a daily “must do.”

And tomorrow should be the first day of edits on Hired Gun. I have less than two chapters to write today to finish this story off and then the editing begins.

Two Days of Bliss

When the second wave of cold and ice hit, worse than the much-anticipated polar vortex of the week before, I spent Wednesday slipping and sliding as I cleaned a house close to home. On Thursday morning, after waking to hear the icy rain hitting the windows in the middle of the night, my mind was made up.

“I’m not leaving the house, not at all, for the next two days.” I canceled the one cleaning I had on the schedule and settled in to write.

It was blissful. A full day of writing yielded 3,368 words and put me to the edge of completion on Hired Gun.

It felt…amazing. To realize that this is what it could be like, to write full-time, to spend my days immersed in words. To write, edit, learn, and market the tales I have spun to readers interested in reading them.

I’m looking forward to today being the same. Except for a delivery from 4:00 – 6:00 of our new washer and dryer, or the 2 p.m. appointment with a masonry contractor to look at our brickwork on The Cottages, my day is free.

I can imagine what it will be like, once The Cottages are up and running and earning money, and my days are filled with writing, editing and learning. I’m lucky to have this chance, this future opportunity. I also am working hard to make it a reality. Every day, forward movement, eyes on the prize, to the goal of stopping housecleaning and working full-time as a writer.

New Covers = Better Sales?

A friend asked me, “Why are you changing the covers? Didn’t you already change the covers?”

And while G581 had not had a cover change, The Storm has had at least two iterations, first a sketch drawing done by my eldest daughter and then a cover I had created on Canva.

The reason for the cover change was simple – no one was buying or reading either book.

What is the purpose of writing a book no one ever reads? I spent hundreds of hours dreaming, writing and editing these books. I didn’t write them just so I could be able to hold a book in the air and say, “Look! I wrote a book!” I wrote them because I wanted to share that dream (as dark as it might be) with others. I want to entertain others. I want for reality to slip away and the world I have created to take over, pulling people away into another realm for the time that it takes them to read the story and possibly haunt their dreams for a while longer.

It’s less about making a buck as it is about sharing a dream.

And, let’s be honest here, if I sit there and wonder if I’ll ever get my money back on my investment, I’d probably never pull the trigger and write another book. Instead, I focus on the following:

  • Write the best book I can
  • Edit the book and try to ensure there are no glaring errors
  • Create a compelling cover, description and ads that will interest readers
  • Write the next best book I can
  • Rinse and repeat

It took me a while to get with the program. I kept trying to create a cover that was more budget-friendly. In the end, I realized that it was absolutely a necessary expense. No more cutting corners, best foot forward, and keep going.

I think the covers look amazing. I ran contests on 99Designs for both of them and I’ve contracted with the winning designer of The Storm to design Brave New World, the sequel to The Storm . I’m looking forward to seeing what he creates.

While You Are Waiting…

And if you are reading all of this and wondering, “Great, wonderful, but when will I get to read something new, Christine?”

  • Make sure you have signed up for my monthly newsletter (it provides links and subscriber-only passwords to my short stories
  • Try out this recipe for Cioppino. It’s perfect for a cold winter evening!

Big Spender

It’s official. I’ve caved.

And honestly? It’s probably going to be the best decision I’ve ever made.

Last weekend, after trying many iterations of ads on my sci-fi book, Gliese 581: The Departure, I realized something had to give.

Gliese is the strongest book I had written to date. It’s the one I’m most proud of. It had a decent cover and I had taken the plunge and paid for a professional book description and ads and nothing seemed to be working. No sales to speak of – maybe one or two in the entire month.

Meanwhile, my first book, Get Organized, Stay Organized is flying off of the shelves, selling over 118 copies in January. Something had to give.

So I emailed the service that had handled creating the ads and asked if they could look at the book description and ads one more time to see if there was any way they could be improved.

On Monday, I heard back from them. Their suggestion? To change my book cover.

Option 9

Now this could be misdirection on their part. Perhaps. I was pretty proud of the cover – after all, I had designed it and I didn’t do a bad job at it. That said, it wasn’t selling and from the reviews I had gotten, the writing wasn’t the problem, so that left three possible variables:

  • The title (Gliese is confusing and hard to pronounce)
  • The cover
  • The book description and/or ads

So I decided to take the plunge and change the cover AND the title.

Option 8

Recently, when talking to a local writer I mentioned that I had heard some advice recently, “Make sure folks can easily read your title, don’t use unfamiliar words.” She astutely pointed out that I had the same problem with two of my books – Gliese and Schicksal.

Option 7

Yikes. She had a point!

So I decided to change the title at the same time as I changed the cover. Instead of Gliese 581: The Departure, I decided it would be simpler to call it G581: The Departure.

Option 6

I first googled “What is the average cost for a good book cover design?” The answer was sobering.


Book cover design varies. For covers that look like Penguin, Harper Collins, Random House, and Pearson quality, you should expect to pay $500 to $1200. For something more affordable you can pay anywhere from $100-400.

Yikes.

Option 5

I thought about it for a few minutes. I calculated how long it had taken me to write the book, agonized a little over the fact that I had been very proud of my book cover, and decided it was time I got serious and put my best foot forward. “Fine, I’ll swallow the pill and pay up.” 

Option 4

I did a few searches on good book designers and found myself at 99Designs, which had this fascinating approach – create a contest for $399 and get as many as 30 or more book designs submitted for me to review.

Option 3

Frankly, I was a little nervous about it, but I decided that if I am willing to spend hundreds and thousands of hours creating a book, I should be willing to spend a few hundred dollars ensuring that the cover was attractive enough for people to want to read it.

An unread book seems rather pointless, after all.

Option 2

The response to the G581 contest was rather intimidating. Here I was thinking, “Thirty designs would be so cool!” I received over 100 designs, folks! Going through that many was rather overwhelming, especially since I had thought, “Heck, I’ll start another contest on my first War’s End book and see if I can get that into shape as well!”

I’ve been bombarded!

Option 1

I would love your opinions on these last nine options. Frankly, I could all the help I can get in determining which one to choose.

The designs for The Storm aren’t as cool as G581, and I’ve had to deal with some really shitty designs and occasionally a grouchy designer who objected to me not handholding him and explaining WHY I didn’t like the design. Note for next time Waldo Furry, don’t be an ass, take the licks and get on with things, I had over 145 designs to go through and I have a very busy life – otherwise I would learn how to design book covers and do it my own damn self.

Cutting Out the Time Sucks

I’m on a mission to create as many quality, immersive, “Oh my god I love this author” reactions from my now and future readers. This also means making a living at my writing and it means cutting out the things that aren’t paying off.

To this end, I have decided to cut down my blogging to one main blog – this one – and to only maintain The Cottages blog as things develop.

This is mainly my writing blog. That said, you might occasionally find gardening posts (when spring and summer arrive) and the odd cooking post. I’m human, folks, and I live a life full of more than just writing.

My hope is that, by focusing on my book projects and not blogging as much, I will take my book production schedule from one book every other year to 3-4 books every year.

Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

Closer and Closer

I have two full chapters to write and a third that is 1/3 of the way complete. I’m close, folks, real close, to officially beginning my first round of edits on Hired Gun! I’m very excited.

Once I begin edits on it, my assigned daily writing will focus on Better Choices, the perma-free back story of Shane Ellis. It shouldn’t take me long to finish it, I had made good progress on it prior to focusing on finishing Hired Gun. I hope to release a perma-free back story for each of the Hired Gun sequels.

At this time, I’m still shooting for a March 1st release date, but I may move that to April 1st. I’m coming close to pushing that out. My reasoning is this, I want to give my ARC team a chance to read it first and give me feedback.

Are you interested in being on my Advanced Reader Copy team? Sign up here!

Note: This adds you to my subscriber list where I send out a newsletter on a monthly basis only. I never share this list, spam it, and you can unsubscribe at anytime.

The Biggest Myth

I think that one of the biggest myths we tell ourselves each day is that everyone else has got their shit together.

And after 48, nearly 49 years on this earth, I’m here to tell you, 99.99% of us DON’T.

It’s something I have to remind myself of on a daily basis.

We cultivate that brave, capable look. Go on, tell me you don’t, I’d love to meet someone who is completely 100% comfortable in their own skin. We plaster on a confident smile, remind ourselves to relax and look carefree, and we step into the unknown and try not to lose our shit.

I felt that way going to a doctor’s appointment the other day. I had to deal with a new doctor because my old new doctor is on maternity leave. I got to see her twice and then she’s gone for three months (it should be longer, don’t get me started on maternity leave here in America and how shamefully short it is). And I’m sitting there trying to keep my face from betraying my embarrassment/shame/discomfort as this new new doctor lectures me on my eating habits when he’s known me for all of two full minutes.

By the way, the key to healthy living is eating less. Just in case you were wondering. Don’t bother to ask what I’ve eaten, assume it’s too much and begin your standard lecture.

I felt that way a couple of days later just spending fifteen minutes in a friend’s house before dropping my husband off for Boys Beer Night. I smile, I play with the dog, try to think up scintillating conversation, hell, just smile. Afterwards I was glad I had gone inside, but still, it’s hard. Harder than it looks, harder than I want to admit.

But here’s the thing I have figured out along the way. We don’t have to have our shit together. It doesn’t make us less, it doesn’t make us incapable of making a difference or unworthy of being listened to. It just makes us…human.

A couple of years ago, at a deeply trying time in my life, I had a family member break my heart. It was hard, really hard, and I spent months questioning who I was as a person. Was I a good person? Was I a monster? Lots more questions, and not many answers. Just a lot of grief and betrayal and hurt.

And one of my coping mechanisms was to try to replace this family member. Only, you really can’t replace someone, can you? So about nine months ago, after much trial and tribulation, arguments, uncertainty, and emotion – we found ourselves face to face with a beautiful, frightened, confused, and often recalcitrant toddler. She didn’t know why she was in our home, my husband wasn’t sure he wanted her there, my tween quickly barricaded herself in her room so that said toddler wouldn’t invade and touch her stuff, and I found myself consumed with guilt.

Each time she misbehaved/cried/screamed/wouldn’t sleep, I felt like it was my fault she was there and it was up to me to deal with. I guess the words of my dad over two decades ago still rung true. When, in my early 20s I had said to him, “I’m unhappy in my marriage,” he had responded with a shrug and said, “You made your bed, now you need to lie in it.”

Over the past nine months, I became the enforcer. If I heard my husband getting frustrated with our foster daughter I would run in and try and deal with it. And because I was the one handing out all of the punishments and rules, the balance of power was off-kilter as well. Little Miss wouldn’t come to me for comfort, she’d head for my husband. And she wouldn’t listen to my husband’s rules or boundaries, she would wait for me to come along and enforce them.

Until just the other day when I said it out loud, those words I had been thinking every day for the past nine months.

“When there is a problem, when there is a misbehavior, I step up. Because I feel guilty for bringing her here in the first place, for pushing for this thing that you did not initially want.”

And my husband stared at me. “Oh my God, what? That’s seriously how you feel?”

I nodded and I could see the understanding dawn in his eyes. “And I guess I figured that if she likes you and Em, but not me because I’m the enforcer, well, I kind of deserved it, because I pushed for this.”

Sometimes, the saying of something out loud, the verbal uttering of it, gives it a life of its own. In this case, it brought clarity, and suddenly all of my behaviors over the past nine months made sense to my husband.

“But that’s not your burden to take on,” he said. “Yes, I was against it at first, but I love that little girl, and I want more than anything to adopt her and for her to be part of our family forever.”

And with that, my burden was lifted. Suddenly the onus of responsibility, of enforcing boundaries and having to jump up and swoop in was no longer this clanging imperative inside of my head. He wasn’t just “making me happy” – he was an equal partner in it, and had been all along.

I looked at my husband this morning as he sat across from me in our library, a mug of tea in his hand. I looked at him and I smiled, because I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Step By Step

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Step One

It only took me ten years of self-publishing to figure Step One out, but it is a doozy.

Step One – Making Writing a Minimum of 500 Words Per Day Every Day a Habit

Sure, I’ve told myself to write every day. But somehow, figuring out that I could have written 18+ books in ten years instead of the six books I actually wrote and published, that really slammed it home with me.

And 500 words per day takes me as little as twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes.

That’s it!

Day 20 – Still Going Strong?

I started logging my progress on Christmas Day. At that point, I still had some rather high expectations, so high that I quickly tossed them out of the window and embraced the “500 words per day” edict I should have had all along.

When I’m in the swing of things, 500 words is just the start of what I can do. Many days I have written far more than the minimum, so much so that to date I’ve written 15,723 words, an average of over 827 words per day.

No Regular Schedule…Yet

I am a wife, a mother of two (my 12 year old daughter and my 3 year old foster daughter) still at home, I homeschool the 12 year old, my elderly father has dementia and lives with us, I run a cleaning business, and we are working on getting the two cottages on each side of our house renovated and open for Airbnb clients.

My schedule is different every doggone day!

So sometimes I am writing at 5:30 in the morning, other times it’s sandwiched in between fixing breakfast for my elderly father before he goes off to grandpa daycare and a day filled with cleaning other people’s houses. Occasionally, I come limping in with my 500 words in the early evening after the sun has sunk behind the horizon.

It matters not. What matters is that I put the words out there. Every day.

Rules and Regulations

It can’t be writing 500 words in just anything. It has to be on the chosen project of the moment. At this point it is Hired Gun, my first (but most assuredly not last) erotic thriller.

If I want to write more, great, but it doesn’t count towards the next day. Each day starts over at zero.

Step Two – Learn How to Dictate

I have Dragon Naturally Speaking but I have felt self-conscious trying to use it. I recently heard yet another podcast guest who has had great success with it and it made me realize that I could take that 500 words and, with a small learning curve, I could turn that into 2,000 words a day. For literally the same time that I spend writing 500 words, I could quintuple my output!

Cross-Genre and Completely Unapologetic

As I write in Hired Gun, I take notes in my sci-fi sequel to Gliese 581: The Departure and also write the occasional note in So I Wrote a Book, Now What?! and I continue to think about revisiting Quit Your Job, Change Your Life: 40 Life Changing Strategies for the Disaffected and of course, the Chronicles of Liv Rowan (a 12-book young adult fantasy series). Winter’s Child, a suspense/possible horror novel is also banging about in my head.

Yes, I’m all over the place.

I will never be a one-trick pony.

At some point, I might need to separate author names to avoid confusion. Joanna Penn does this. She writes under Joanna Penn for her non-fiction and JF Penn for her paranormal thrillers. I will certainly do this when writing the Chronicles of Liv Rowan because the last thing I need is to have erotic thrillers and young adult fiction in the same place!

I went back and forth on this for a while. “What if I confuse my readers?  What if I lose readers?”

In the end, I write what interests me. And once I am done writing what interests me, it is my job to cover it and blurb it in a way that will interest readers who will want to read a story in that particular genre as well. That’s it. I’m not going to make everyone happy. I’m not going to appeal to everyone in every situation. And that is perfectly okay.

The Purpose/Focus of This Blog

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. What is the purpose of this blog? Is it to gain readers? To educate/inspire others? To just provide regular updates on my writing?

I find myself going back and forth. I want to share knowledge, I want to share inspiration, updates and more. In the end, like my writing, it doesn’t seem to be genre-specific. Perhaps, like me, it is far too idiosyncratic to be set in any particular label.

C’est la vie!

A New Year’s Tradition

As I sit here, ridiculously sick and miserable with a cold – one that began to show itself on Sunday and ramped up on New Year’s Eve, I’m chomping at the bit to do something, anything.

But my nose is plugged, and when it isn’t thumping, my head is fuzzy with pain from the enormous sinus headache. Worse, I’m one-eyed. The virus has invaded my left eyeball, which gives me some moments of sight, intermingled with burning, itching and even weeping large tears in protest when I try to use it.

I cannot read, I cannot focus much on writing, and my Type A personality is screaming for something to do besides sit here and be miserable.

Enter Neil Gaiman.

Each year, he posts a lovely New Year’s post and more importantly, a New Year’s wish.

They are beautiful, magic-making, thought-burbling pieces of love and compassion that he sends out into the universe and they always make me smile, cry, and be inspired.

I don’t read his blog on a regular basis, which is good because he is far too busy to maintain it and write in it more than a few times a year. I don’t worry about missing too many drops of wisdom as a result.

Inevitably though, on New Year’s Day or soon after, I remember to check out his blog and see what he says for New Year’s. And this year, while threatening to NOT write one, he did actually have one for the world:


Be kind to yourself in the year ahead. 

Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It’s too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them. 

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.

Thank you, Neil. These words especially ring so true:

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

After I read his New Year’s post, I read the previous one, which he wrote about Harlan Ellison, his friend for 33 years, dying. I remember hearing about his passing and being quite sad. While I have not read his work, I enjoyed the documentary about him – Dreams With Sharp Teeth – very much.

Neil also wrote that Harlan taught him that:

anything more than twelve minutes of personal pain was self-indulgence

Which, if you take cues from the universe as I often do, was something I needed to hear right then.

Time rolls on. And you can tear yourself apart wishing you were loved in the way you have always wanted to be loved, or you can take what you have and make it work.

There are times when I sit here and feel pretty damned sorry for myself – I wonder why my parents or my eldest daughter don’t love or accept me in a way I have always hoped that they would. I fear the future, growing old, losing the husband that I love and who makes my life better each and every day. I fear the intransigence of life that promises no happy endings, only an end in death, which will come to us all.

The reality is, and this is true for all of us, that we can’t go backwards and change the past. That past has helped to shape the people that we are today. It is also up to us to change the future, one moment at a time.

I can wish all day that those people who I love could understand me better, ask questions instead of make assumptions, or accept that I am only in control of this moment on forward – but that isn’t going to change reality.

I’m not in control of them. I’m in control of ME.

Neil’s words are better than any New Year’s wish I could visualize much less write. So I will take these words to heart:


Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them. 

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.

And I hope you will as well.

Happy New Year’s, everyone. May this year be everything (and more) that you have dreamed it would be.

One General Malcontent, Reporting In

It’s Friday, so I figured it was time to report in and update on my progress. Small and measurable, but still, progress.

Books sold: 14 this week, 57 (this month) and total for year: 532

Words written this week: 3,500 (approximatation)

This includes several blog posts, two synopses, several character developments, and around two chapters of actual, you know, words, that folks will someday get to read.

I finished reading Tim Grahl’s book Running Down a Dream. And while at parts I found myself wondering when he was going to really get on with it, in the end I appreciated his candor. The journey to becoming a writer can be full of pitfalls and self-hatred, I know, I’ve found myself there multiple times. He gave me some great ideas at the end of the book on how to move forward, inexorably, from here.

Last night I wrote down in my work journal a list of tips from the back of the book. Here are a couple of them to get you started, but I highly recommend the book for the full list (along with Tim’s own story).

  • What is the most direct path to my goal? (to write at least 500 words every day)
  • Stop doing everything (I’m working on it. Right now the hubs is cooking dinner)
  • No seriously, STOP doing everything and really focus on what you should be doing (go granular, figure out your daily “to do’s”, figure out what is essential, and remove the non-essential.)
  • Create systems for the essential tasks

There’s more, lots more, but I will be focusing on these for now. I’ve already been reducing the things I do, but there is definitely room for improvement. More on this in another post. I’ve also recently added Jeff Goin’s podcast, The Portfolio Life, to my “must listen to” podcasts.He has some good ones on the writing craft as well as profiling interesting writers and other creatives.

P.S. Sorry, Not Sorry If I Offended You

So this is just the weirdest fucking thing and I have to share so that someone will please tell me exactly how this post was offensive, because I’m boondoggled if I understand it. And as a lifelong auto-didact (it means self-learner folks, it isn’t some pervy thing) I really do WANT to understand weird shit like this.

Here is what happened:

This morning, thinking about my husband’s birthday in January, I thought about how I want to take him to somewhere really special for his birthday. He wants sushi, so I thought Why not go somewhere we have never been before?

And at about that same time, someone on the Kansas City Eats Facebook page posted about a restaurant and I thought I’ll ask them! So I wrote:

“Your favorite sushi restaurant…Go!

p.s. I’m trying to find a really good one to take my husband to in January for his 50th birthday. He loves sushi.”

And then I went out and about – work, errands, homeschool, and finally picked up a friend of Em’s who is spending the night. I come back to a huge list of recommendations and this:

Is GO a trigger word? I even searched the internet to try and figure out if I had somehow offended someone. Or are we seriously just getting in a kerfluffle over the word go?

By the time I was home and could check my email, some admin had even turned off the commenting feature on the post, so I couldn’t even ask what the hell was wrong with the word “go.”

And then I realized that I really don’t give a shit. Life is too short to wonder about the weird and freakish eccentricities of others. I mean, I didn’t scream “cockroach!” or “All hail Trump” or anything else incendiary. Just that awful, terrible, ridiculous word…GO.

Well here it is again. Take your offense at the word “GO” and shove it straight up your…

[deep breath]

Hey now, I might swear on my blog. Occasionally. Okay, sometimes more than occasionally. In any case, I decided I didn’t really want to know what grave offense I had committed, offend the group hive mind’s delicate sensibilities, and I exited the group.

Life is just way too short for that kind of silliness.

Back to writing I go. I think I can wring another 500+ words out of today. Maybe one of them will include the word…GO.