Where Am I Going (and how do I get there)?

First off, I apologize for being so quiet as of late. I would love to say I’ve been writing, but the reality is that I’ve been marketing, studying about marketing, and trying to narrow my focus for better efficiency. Here is the latest…

New Pricing

A couple of weeks ago, we went to a small party and I met some new folks. Having just come from my interview earlier that day, I was talking about Gliese, and that led to one guy looking my books up on Amazon. “Why do you price your books so cheap?” He asked me after thumbing through them.

I gave him a non-answer, but the truth is, I’ve been floundering. What is the best price point for sales? 99 cents? $1.99? $2.99? $3.99? Or more?

One camp will tell you – “the cheaper it is priced the more sales you will have” and another camp will tell you “if you price it too low, you are sending a message that your books aren’t worth reading.”

And I’m stuck between the two thinking, “Just damned well read them, okay?”

In any case, I found an interesting article by Publisher’s Weekly that discussed this very problem. And things seem to be changing, as things do, in that particular part of self-publishing

  • $1.99 to $3.99 is the sweet spot for most sales
  • Free books don’t work as much as they used to
  • Pre-orders are the new thing
  • Non-fiction garners higher prices
  • Series are great but only if each book is at over 50k words (not a problem for me!)
  • Readers prefer longer books (also not a problem!) of 100k or more words

In line with this, I’ve raised my ebook prices on my fiction from $2.99 to $3.99 for all fiction books except War’s End: A Brave New World (it won’t let me until the 99 cent promo is complete on 12/15 & 12/16). And I have raised my non-fiction from $2.99 to $5.99 each.

I’ve also reduced my offering of free book promos to just one book for one day every other month. I’ve come up with this schedule of promos:

And after that, I will evaluate how all of my books are selling and adjust accordingly.

Earnings for the Month

I’m on track for “exceeding $150” for the month. My first goal back in November had been to just make $1 per day on my writing. That has obviously been outstripped when you consider I closed out the month at nearly $115.

My goal for December was to earn $150 for the month, and that is also going extremely well. At just one-third of the month completed, I’m currently at just over $66 in earnings! If I keep going at this rate, I’ll come close to $200 in earnings by the end of the month.

This is quite exciting for me.

Where Is This Blog (and my others) Going?

And finally we get to the big question – where is this blog, and my other blogs, going?

I started each with a specific purpose, but they have evolved over time…

  • The Deadly Nightshade – I began as a way to chronicle my gardening and DIY adventures. That morphed into promoting my classes and educating others as I broadened my class offerings. However, I’m no longer teaching many classes (a handful of them in the year) and I’m embarrassed to admit that the past two years have been a bust on growing crops of any kind. I have a feeling that as the writing speeds up, the posts here will slow down – there is only so much I can focus on at one time, and that means cutting out areas that aren’t necessarily furthering my goals of writing full-time for a living.
  • The Learning Advocate – This began as a homeschool advocacy and parenting blog, but it has mainly focused on the kiddo, so it isn’t seeing a lot of traffic, or many posts now that she is in public school. I plan on updating soon, because there is a post I have in mind, but my prognosis for this blog is that the posts will be few and far between. This may change as we edge into 2018 and things change around here yet again (more on that at a later time, when our new reality actually hits) so I’m not ruling out writing more on the blog until I’ve had a chance to see how the next six months change our lives.
  • The Cottages – This started out, and remains, a website and blog dedicated to a business purpose – that of promoting our future Airbnb properties. The blog is only updated when there is progress. I’ve got one post to make, but nothing much to say or do on the site until spring or mid-summer at the earliest.
  • My author website – This blog itself. I have shared promotional info, but also my struggle to learn marketing, to deal with the ups and downs of self-publishing, and more.

I think that is where my biggest question presents itself, what future do I see for my author blog in particular? Do I use it only for peddling my writing? Do I use it to update like-minded writers? Do I use it to simply share a slice of me? The answer is, I’m not sure. So for now, I’ll keep writing weekly (or so) blog posts here in this blog, one or two blog posts per month in The Deadly Nightshade and The Learning Advocate, and as events occur in The Cottages.

Hopefully this will keep my focus on where it needs to be – generating more content and spreading the word of my existing content to others.

Subscribers Rewarded

I’ll say this clearly – I’m NOT SELLING YOU ANYTHING. I’m only asking you to let me give you something free to read.

What do I mean by that?

It’s simple. If you add yourself to my subscriber email list, you will ONE email per month. Inside of it will be my newsletter that will provide the following:

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

I promise to NEVER share or sell your email address and you can unsubscribe safely and easily at any time.

Dreams Deferred?

In amongst cleanings, my dad’s 71st birthday, and other busyness, here is the latest and greatest…

Notes and More Notes

Slowly, the plot, along with many details, are unpacking and taking up residence in my brain for Gliese 581: Zarmina’s World. It will take time, I’ve only managed to write 1,785 words so far in the manuscript.

I’m busy listening to science podcasts as I clean houses. I take notes along the way. Yesterday’s notes included:

  • Cassini’s descent doesn’t include images (a short story in the making)
  • Supply freighter to Mars or one of its moons (for additional supplies necessary to continue life there)
  • Radiation exposure in space and in the Habs (something I need to address in my story)
  • Need to exercise more (due to lower gravity, cardiovascular difficulties can increase if there isn’t more exercise) – *brainstorm – colonists watch movies and tv and “power” it (i.e. keep it going) with peddle power

After my day’s cleaning, I take the notes home and add them to my research file.

It will be a while, but I’ve at least begun on the sequel to Gliese 581: The Departure. Meanwhile, if you haven’t read it and want to, drop me an email, I’ll be happy to send you a free electronic copy in exchange for an honest review or you can always pick it up in the Kindle Store or purchase a paperback on Amazon.

Waiting to Hear

I’m waiting to hear from my beta readers on what they think of Schicksal Turnpike. Because it is a prequel, I’m wondering if NOW is the time to publish it. After all, prequels are often written long after a series has begun and serve to fill out a story, or its missing info and back story, after the fact.

One of my main questions to my beta readers is, “Does this make sense enough to stand on its own?”

If the consensus is that it does, then off to an editor it goes for further editing and then I’ll publish it on Amazon. If it does not, then I’ll shelve it until I’ve written a couple of books in The Chronicles of Liv Rowan.

Dreams Deferred?

My writing is intrinsically entwined with my projects and my life, so I can place this next bit of news here without a great deal of debate about whether it belongs in one of my other blogs or not.

For now, in the light of recent budget hits (refrigerators gone bad, real estate investments, and more), my original budget of $200 per month for a trip to Europe, and the plan to go on my 50th birthday in May 2020, has been deferred.

It is far more important to me that I set into place the basic foundation of our future. If my dad’s presence in our lives has taught me anything, it is to plan for your financial future and take care of your body, neither of which he has been very successful at.

I’m tackling both objectives head-on – I’m eating a diabetic diet and losing weight, and I’m investing in real estate with the goal of renting it out through Airbnb or straight long-term rentals.

Those two goals take precedence over a trip to Europe, even if I have been dreaming of going for most of my life. I know too that it might be incredibly difficult to go if Dad is still with us then. So for now, I’m putting it off, while still setting aside a fraction of my original planned amount. It will slowly grow in a savings account and be waiting for me to access when the time is right.

While I Wait – My New Project Is…

Instead of biting my nails and worrying over what my beta readers will say/think – I’m on to the next project.

I really wanted to start on The Chronicles of Liv Rowan, but after a couple of hours spent paging through the stack of notes, and weighing that between the cliffhanger I left with Gliese 581: The Departure last year, I decided on writing the rest of the story with Gliese.

I know my sci-fi readers will be happy to hear that.

I’ve just spent the last couple of hours moving over my list of characters.

Because my book series are all inter-linked, and I like to stick with several family lineages, I keep all of the characters in an Access database. It might sound like overkill, but when you have over 345 characters (and counting) to keep track of, it makes a lot of sense.

So I’ve moseyed through the lists, updating info in Access, and copying it over to the Scrivener file for the new manuscript. It’s easier to have it all at my fingertips. Next up will be a basic timeline, which I’ll add to as I go. Again, with multiple series and characters, it is important to keep track of dates. I can’t have a character die before they were born now, can I?

Gliese 581: Zarmina’s World is not officially underway, I’m still in the planning stages, but there is movement forward.

And movement forward is good news, right?!

Off to My Army of Beta Readers It Goes

Big sigh of relief and comedic happy dance in progress – but as of Saturday afternoon, I completed the 2nd rough draft read through and edit of Schicksal Turnpike.

Life really got in the way of getting these edits done. I’ve been talking about the 2nd edit for about two months now, maybe three.

Between family issues, the purchase of another decrepit house, some rather intense pain in my back, hips, knees, and feet and also an Airstream in dire need of fixing, things have been rather crazy around here.

I just kept reading a chapter or two at a time to my husband, and eventually worked through all 37 chapters. It is now at just over 90,000 words.

I have emailed copies and also printed copies – my printer labored on for a couple of hours as it spit out page after page – 377 in all!

And now I wait. For my beta readers to read and respond. Meanwhile, I’m looking at the Chronicles of Liv Rowan and digging into my book outlines. This project is huge – scary big and complex and I’m wondering if I’m ready to tackle it.

I may examine the possibility of writing the sequel to Gliese 581 first. I’m not sure. I’m a little nervous about tackling Chronicles – I have twelve separate stories outlined – and it is beyond intimidating. We will see. In the weeks to come, while waiting for my beta readers, I have time to figure it all out.

I hope to have Schicksal Turnpike back and then on to a content and line editor in the next month or so. I figure I’ll turn around twice and it will be Christmas – so here is hoping I can get it out on Amazon by November at the latest.

 

Time to Edit

A spot of joy in my crazy little world occurred last night when I realized I had written the last words in the last chapter that still “needed something.”

Schicksal Turnpike is now ready for editing!

I will accomplish this in several steps…

  1. A read-aloud edit. This will include my husband, which accomplishes the dual purpose of letting him hear it audiobook style (something he prefers over conventional reading) and the act of editing it on the fly. Saying it out loud really helps get any awkward word combinations out of there.
  2. Beta readers who will also edit. I’ve got three lined up, ready and willing. I’ll ask them to read through it, note anything that is misspelled or awkward sounding, any conflicting information, and also ask them to write a few descriptive sentences. What was it about? What did they like about it? What did they not like?
  3. After I’ve updated the manuscript with any fixes they have found, it will be ready for content and line editing.
  4. Then a cover letter and prep for packaging.

Yep, I’m going shopping for an agent. You hear that, Casie Blevins? I’m going shopping for an agent!

A couple of weeks of reading out loud and edits and it will be off to my army of beta readers.

Prepare yourselves!

And if you are interested in joining my army of beta readers extraordinaire, volunteer by commenting on this post or sending me a message through Facebook. You can find me here: Facebook Author Page

Like a Taxicab Ride in Panama

As I write this, I am sitting in a rented room in Bethania, a section of Panama City, Panama, listening to my dad snore peacefully behind me.

And if you had told me two weeks ago that this is where I would be today, I would have told you that you were batshit crazy.

For a summary of the complete story, you can read And…I’m in Panama at my other blog The Deadly Nightshade.

And as for my writing projects, let’s just say that they now resemble something similar to a taxicab ride in Panama.

If you have not been to Panama then I will describe it. The taxis, as well as the rest of the cars, weave in and out of traffic in incomprehensible ways. The drivers laugh when I squeak in terror. They find it amusing. However, most of the cars I’ve been in are in varying states of damage, including one that had a spiderwebbed front windshield from an impact on the passenger side. Not terribly reassuring. It is also isn’t reassuring that THEY have seatbelts but I usually don’t.

But I was talking about writing projects, wasn’t I?

Sometimes your goals get to take a major weave and shift from what you planned. From the moment I answered that phone call on December 19th, I’ve been weaving in and out of shifting priorities in all facets of life.

In the end, I’ve found myself keeping a log of all of my Facebook updates as well as starting an actual manuscript that details this “beautiful mess.” (Thank you Jes, for that apt description). The manuscript is titled When God Laughs and I hope that it will serve first as memoir, but also as inspiration and even a cautionary tale.

I have called it this because, less than five hours after announcing, “Today is a WRITING day!” I received the call that would change all of our lives and send me 2,000 miles to the south, to my father’s side in the hospital. And ever since the saying, “Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans,” has been repeating in my head.

What would you do when faced with a terrifying challenge? I found myself tasked with leaving the USA for the first time in my life, traveling to a foreign country, and learning to get by without speaking more than maybe 30 words in Spanish. I had to find my father’s hospital, assess the situation, and then work on getting him back out of the country with an expired visa.

It has been a wild ride, believe me.

I’ve also been very, very lucky. Dad has good and generous friends here who have helped out in a myriad of ways. They have been lifesavers.

I have a couple of days left here in Panama. We fly out first thing on Sunday morning. And my dad is not well. He is frail, malnourished, and faced with multiple medical issues.

When God Laughs will be a story that nearly all of us can relate to. At some point our bodies will break down – either through natural use or abuse. There will be a time when we might not be able to do the most simplest of actions – cook for ourselves, clean ourselves, or maintain a house.

And what do we do? How do we structure our lives in a way that allows for a smooth transition from independence to dependence? What are our expectations for that day?

When God Laughs will detail our own journey – mine, Dad’s and our immediate family – as we learn our way, find our footing, and learn to thrive within this new paradigm.

And I’ll keep working on Shicksal Turnpike too.

For as long as I am able, my father will always have a place with us. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Update and True Life Story

Update

If you were wondering this morning as you dressed and ate your breakfast, “Huh, I wonder how the edits on Book Six are going for Christine?” – then I have read your mind and I am here to give you an update.

Work is going slow but sure, and I’ve got my hands full and my mind working away on…The Cottage.

No, that isn’t a book title. Sorry. And no, I haven’t been editing. Three things are filling my days: work on The Cottage rehab, homeschooling Em, and preparing for the Homes Tour on October 15th.

Yes, you too can see the house I call home, along with five others, all for the low price of $15!

But I digress. Mainly I’m running around like some crazed chicken, missing that proverbial head, as I struggle to get everything done.

So the update is that there is no progress on the edits. I hope to give you better news soon. Give me three weeks and I’ll see if I can’t manage to work editing back into the mix.

Meanwhile, all of these police shootings brought to mind a parallel story, and a true one at that, which I will now share with you.

A True Life Story

I left home at the age of sixteen. To be more exact, I ran away.

I had screwed up in school, been caught cheating, and my dad was beside himself and pissed. He told me I would be going back to my mom’s in Arizona and repeating my senior year of high school there in public school.

That wasn’t what made me run away, it was the phone call that night, and his remarks directly after, that sent me fleeing.

My mother had called, reminding him that they had agreed to never change custody during times where it might provide an escape for me from a problem. He got off the phone and instead of telling me this (he was pissed and frustrated) he said, “Well your mom doesn’t want you. So I guess I’m going to have you declared incorrigible, made a ward of the court, and send you to a juvenile facility.”

Just writing this makes me want to laugh. How did I ever believe him when he said this?

Two reasons.

A “sort of” friend had had this happen to her. I didn’t know the circumstances of what she had done, but her mother did get her locked up in a juvenile facility. And her mother knew my father, of course, he knew the story even better. I reasoned that if it could happen to this girl, it could happen to me.

And the second reason was rather simplistic – to my knowledge, my dad had never lied to me. He had never told me that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or even God (my dad is an atheist) – was real. He had also stated on more than a number of occasions that he would always tell me the truth.

I believed him. As far as I was concerned, he was going to have me locked up just like my “sort of” friend had been locked up. And the next day, before he left work, he told me to start packing. I did. I grabbed what I could carry and I left home.

We lived in Pacifica at the time, and I headed for San Francisco, where a friend was living in some residence hotels. These places were rented out by the week or month, each floor had several shared bathrooms, and it was some rather simple, basic living. A hot plate, maybe a refrigerator if you were lucky, and maybe a sink in your room to do your dishes in. They also had a restriction, no one under the age of 18, but my friend was 21 and he was determined to help.

“Just meet me in the city, we will figure it out.” He promised.

There I sat on a bus, my bags clutched close beside me, heading through the Tenderloin. The area was riddled with crime, violence, shootings and drugs. Each time I rode through it I was tense and scared. It was a bad, bad area at the time.

The bus stopped near a corner store and passengers disembarked and others came in the front, paying the fare and moving deeper into the bus. I was in a single seat, some of the busses had them at the time, and the bus was relatively full. It was a bright sunny day in April 1987.

The bus closed its doors and inched forward to the crosswalk, but the light was red. At that moment, a convertible sports car screeched to a halt beside the bus, immediately to my left, and I saw the passenger jump out, a gun in his hand. He was white, dressed in a shirt and blue jeans. He made no attempt to hide it and I watched as he ran in front of the bus. The light had turned green and the bus had begun to move forward. It just as quickly lurched to a stop when the driver saw the man run in front.

What sent me into a panic was what happened next. The bus driver actually opened the front doors. I’m sure it was an automatic response, one that he quickly rectified as the man with the gun continued past the bus and towards a man standing near a pillar at the corner market. He reached the man, a black man, slammed him against the pillar and placed the gun against his head.

Here I was, not quite seventeen years old, running away from home, and convinced this was a drug deal gone bad and that once the guy with the gun finished off this poor s.o.b. he was going to come for any witnesses, i.e. all the people on the bus.

It turned out he was an undercover cop. As the bus pulled away I could see his partner racing over, the car still running and parked in the middle of the street, and silver handcuffs flashing in the sun.

 

So there you go. A real life story that you probably never heard me tell before. Got one for me?

I Found the Flow!

One of the biggest difficulties I encounter in writing is finding the flow.

It is a state of mind, perhaps a taste of higher consciousness, when the words just spill out and the words leap willingly onto the paper.

When it happens, it is bliss. Liquid gold, the best damn chocolate you’ve ever tasted, a moment of glory.

The words don’t stutter and stop, the ideas make sense, and I find writing to be the joyful experience I wish all work could be.

I’ve been struggling for weeks with only limited success. For now, however, I seem to have settled my intention on what promises to be a novella-size story – Schicksal Turnpike.

Set mostly in the 1950s, I’m currently at 5,500 words, so I have a way to go. A novella is considering anything between 17,500 and 40,000 words. I’ve finished two of the eighteen chapters so far. Some chapters have been started, others have only notes reviewing what the chapter is about.

Every time I think of doing something else, though, the story pulls me back in.

And believe me, I’m breathing a sigh of relief over that!

I wonder if I will ever stop doubting myself. If I will ever stop thinking, “That’s it, obviously [insert most recent book title her] was it. My swan song, if you will. I’m done, my creativity spent. I’m no writer.”

I hate feeling like that. I’ll do just about anything to avoid those thoughts – eat a pound of chocolate or suck down a quart of homemade coffee ice cream with chunks of Heath Bar and chopped pecans. I’ll clean my house from top to bottom, or begin weeding my (yet again) overgrown weed-filled garden.

If you come to see me out of the blue and my house is pristine and my garden perfect – know that this is a sign of literary ennui. It is a dangerous thing.

I’ll happily settle for a cluttered, dusty house with overgrown jungles in my yard if it means that my fingers are dancing across a keyboard, my mind filled with details, plots, and imaginary conversations. If you look at my desk and see random notes scattered here and there, with a sheer dozen internet tabs open to my various research, know it is a good thing.

And now back to work.

Time to Get Serious

Today I am nursing my second major headache in less than two days. Yesterday was a massive one that nearly had me yakking at my client’s house. No bueno, I had just finished cleaning that toilet! And I wasn’t functional until nearly 5 p.m. afterwards.

Today, waking up with yet another headache, I got up, headed toward my computer and started working on our budget. Before any major decision, I tend to hit the file in Excel – it allows me to fiddle with numbers, trim here, fix this other number over there, and keep us on an even keel. I made a copy of the current worksheet and started with a couple of premises, one that included me making no money on a monthly basis.

How I wish I could do that! But the fact is, we have more expenses than one job outside the home can handle. If we didn’t plan on paying off our mortgage until our late 60s, or having any kind of savings, or traveling or ever eating out – well maybe my not earning an income would work, but not otherwise.

I played with the budget until I found a plan that satisfied me, and that included some of these highlights:

  • Dave finding an excellent paying position (there’s one in the works, and I’m really hoping it pans out)
  • I will take over Dee’s cleanings once she is full-time employed (this seems quite likely to happen in the next couple of weeks) for the rest of the year.
  • I will finish the edits on Gliese 581: The Departure (go Like this page, will you?) and get it up for sale on Amazon
  • I will write Book #6, edit it, and get it up and published this year and begin work on Book #7. (It’s a numbers game, folks, write enough good stuff and the money will follow)
  • Reduce my cleaning clients down to a small handful by the end of the year (no more new clients).

By building up some savings during the rest of this year, we have something to fall back on at the beginning of 2017 when I reduce/eliminate my cleanings.

My body is telling me – enough is enough. I have to listen to it. It’s time to get serious.

4th Edit in Progress!

I’ve got to write a quick note here and then jump back into edits.

Last Saturday, my editor-in-chief (my eldest daughter) got the manuscript back to me. As silly as it might sound, especially considering this is my 5th book, I’m still getting the hang of the editing process. More specifically, when I receive an edited document in Word, I have to “Accept/Reject Changes” -something I hadn’t done in the last round of edits.

Oops.

No wonder she looked frustrated and said, “You haven’t taken any of my suggestions from my last edit, and the words are all smooshed together and weird!”

Lesson learned. I spent over two hours the other day just going through the basic little wording changes and clicking “Accept Changes.”

So now I’m diving into the more difficult parts. My worst sins?

  • Telling instead of showing
  • Omnipotent/narrator voice
  • Flipping back and forth with points of view

So I’ll be tackling those, and then doing an “oral edit” – reading the manuscript out loud to my husband. This will be the first time he has heard the story. And due to his dyslexia, he prefers audio to text any day of the week.

So when will Book 5 be on the metaphorical shelf?

That’s a great question.

As we move out of winter, I’ve got my hands full of classes to teach and a half acre lot to plant and sculpt. It could be a week, or it could be a month. Believe me, I want it done. But books are finished when you can no longer point to huge sections and say, “Oh damn, that needs fixing.” Until then, it’s not leaving my side.

I will be looking for reviewers. If you have a Kindle, I will be saving this file in .mobi format and possibly other formats (just have to learn how). This will be available to you for free, with the understanding that after you read it, if you could please post a review (good or bad, but geez, I hope it’s good) on Amazon and Goodreads.

Sound fair?

Contact me for more details or to put your name on the list.

And now, back to editing!