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.


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!

New Changes

Happy Holidays to YOU!

Happy Merry ChrismaHannuKwanzakuh to you.

I received a brand spanking new Kindle Paperwhite which I love and also feel quite conflicted about.


  • I’ve gotten several books from the library instantly for free
  • It lights up in a dark room so I don’t need to have a light on
  • The text enlarges so that my aging eyes don’t require reading glasses to see the print
  • I can switch between books with just a couple of flicks of the finger and it remembers my place in each one


  • It doesn’t smell like a book
  • It doesn’t feel like a book
  • It doesn’t look like a book

I feel vaguely guilty for using it. But I really like not having to find reading glasses, perch them on my nose at just the right angle and wonder if I’ll ever get used to the feeling of these metal and glass things.

5,000 Words

I’m reading a new book, 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox which promises to put my writing up to a new level – that of an efficient writer.

Apparently it starts with five-minute sprints. I’ve downloaded a timer to my ‘puter and have been avoiding trying it out for the first time for about two hours now. Avoidance should be my middle name. I’ve started dozens of projects in order to avoid my writing goals, I’m an expert at avoidance!

Speaking of Projects

So I mentioned over on The Deadly Nightshade that I would be writing less in my blogs and that is because, like my eldest, I’m going to try something a little different and give writing books if not all of my attention, a heck of a lot more of it than I have been.

I’ve been using my blogging as an excuse. I’ve been telling myself, “I need to write more, finish my book projects, but first I’ll just go over here and blog.”

And the book projects aren’t getting done.

I set myself a goal of finishing two books in 2015 and getting at least one of them published by the end of the year. I finished ONE book project, at least the first draft of it, but it needs some significant edits and will not be up and live by the end of the year.

So I’ve got some different goals now:

  • Blog posts come second to book writing
  • My “weekly” newsletter is now going to be a “monthly” newsletter
  • I’m going to work my way up to writing 5,000 words per day minimum, possibly, possibly working my way up to 10k per day
  • I want to write, edit and publish a total of seven books this year

Okay, yeah, that last one is crazy and very possibly unrealistic.

But here is the deal. I dream, and I stare off into space, and I imagine what it would be like to just write. Not have to teach, not have to clean toilets, just…write. And some part of me has to wonder, am I just in love with the dream of it? Could I really have that?

I don’t know.

But I think it is time that I found out.

Don’t you?

P. S. You Need Music

I’ve got a fantastic set of tunes to listen to when writing all of this. My former stepson (the best son I’ve ever been lucky enough to have) is a talented musician. I was there when he first picked up a guitar and taught himself how to play as a teen. He has been keeping me happily typing away with his recent albums on YouTube. You can check them out here.

Neil Gaiman is Right

I’ve written nothing for well over a week, possibly two. Instead, I’ve created more house projects (or worked on the dozens already begun), scheduled a holidays party for the 19th, and watched an egregious amount of television (Continuum and Hemlock Grove, to be specific) and felt the beginnings of full-blown panic over my writing, or lack thereof.

And as I was further practicing avoidance this morning, surfing Facebook and checking emails, I ran across this article from the Huffington Post with Neil Gaiman which addressed whether writer’s block is real or not.

“I don’t really believe in writer’s block, but I absolutely believe in getting stuck,” Gaiman told HuffPost Live on Monday. “The difference is one is imposed on you by the gods, and one is your own damn fault.”

Yup. I’m right there with him.

“If you turn around and go, ‘I am blocked,’ this is just something writers say because we’re really clever. It sounds like it has nothing to do with you: ‘I would love to write today, but I am blocked. The gods have done it to me,'” he said. “And it’s not true. Cellists don’t have cellist block. Gardeners don’t have gardener’s block. TV hosts do not have have TV host block. But writers have claimed all the blocks, and we think it’s a real thing.”

So completely and totally agree.

The kicker was when he shared his strategy for getting past a stuck spot:

“I always like to have another story, another introduction, another work, and I’ll just go and work on that, while somewhere in the back of my mind I’m churning over why I’m stuck and what went wrong and figuring out how to go forward,” he said.

This was a vindication of sorts. I have so many friggin’ projects going at one time it isn’t funny, but it is a coping mechanism. If I feel stuck on one, I move to the next. And the next. And the next.

Sometimes however, it just feels like too much. As if all of the “I don’t know how to proceed with this” catch up to me and I can’t stand to look at another one. That’s been these past two weeks.

Hello Wall…I Hate You

I mentioned that I was having a little problem with forward momentum on G5D (Gliese 581: The Departure) the other day, which I attempted to solve by printing what I had of the manuscript out, placing it in date order, and going through each chapter to ferret out exactly what needed to be added/deleted/changed.

Ariel Gore described it well in her book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment so I’m not quoting verbatim, but basically she said that you get to a point where you are writing your book and you are just sick and tired of looking at it. You want it done, out, finished. The relationship is over and you are ready to move on.

I think that there is also another stage that occurs…that one that stops most writers in their tracks, often creating and endless cycle of rewrites or perhaps an abandoned project. It is that moment when all you can do is stare at the manuscript and think…“It’s shit. I’ve written shit. No one will want to read it, I’m tired of reading it. It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t grab my interest. Yep, I’ve just spent days/weeks/months writing shit.”

And that is where I sit at the moment. I may keep talk, talk, talking about G5D, but right now, I’ve just hit a wall. All forward momentum has stopped.

I’ve kind of got my hands full peeling my face off of said wall and trying to figure out my next step.

I’m not entirely sure how to proceed. Do I give the manuscript as it stands to my eldest and beg her to read it and give me some “atta girls?” This while secretly (or not so secretly since she reads my blogs) nursing the fear that she will say in her nicest tone…”It’s a good start,” before petering off in the face of this monumental failure to produce a solid product.

Yes, I have fears like that. Heck, I’m practically riddled with them.

I’m not giving up. But I am stepping back for a little while. Perhaps inspiration will hit and the wall will crumble. Who knows?

The Bodies Must Be Piling Up

I think that the coroner’s office is a pretty busy place. I tried calling them on Tuesday and the woman who answered the phone told me she would have to take a message because the phone was ringing off the hook. I tried to follow up by sending an email today. By the end of the day, still no love.

The bodies must be piling up!

Meanwhile, since I’m at a standstill on Gliese 581…I could still work on it, but I really want to get that specific chapter finished and it’s undone state is putting me off from wanting to work on it at all…I picked up my Start Your Own Housecleaning Biz book and got to work.

Cleaning a house today with my eldest made me think of it. I had plotted out an outline for it a while back (read that, YEARS back) and just hadn’t gotten around to writing anything out yet.

I could write this book in my sleep I know the material I am writing about so well!

I typed up the Introduction and moved into Getting Started. That garnered me over 3,000 words in short order. Then I went ahead and popped in the contents of a handout I have on making your own non-toxic cleaning products and that popped it up to over 4,600 words for today.

I don’t hold myself to the same word count requirements that I do for fiction. Whereas my personal preference is to write at least 80,000 in a fiction book, when it comes to non-fiction I write whatever is necessary to convey the basics. I think my first book Get Organized, Stay Organized was probably around 40,000 words. The War on Drugs: An Old Wives’ Tale was probably around 60,000 words.

I guess with non-fiction it becomes more of a “just the facts” and with fiction I want something for my readers to chew on for a while.

Now wouldn’t it be a hoot if I actually DID manage to get both books written and published this year?!

Why I Write Cross-Genres

Most authors tend to be single genre. If you write horror, then you are known for horror and that is what you write. Sci-Fi? Fiction? Fantasy? TEOTWAWKI (The end of the world as we know it)?

Stick to your genre.

I do not do that.

That might cause problems for me in the future. But for the life of me, I simply cannot summon up a single damn to give over the thought of folks being reticent to read cross-genre. And here is why…

Life Isn’t Just One Genre

Our lives are filled with humor, horror, drama, and the obscure and unexpected. We have moments/experiences we simply cannot explain (supernatural), flashes of what a world would be without structure or society or rule of law (apocalyptic), love (romance), horror, and more.

We all need moments of assistance or advice (self help) or to lose ourselves in someone else’s story (biography, memoir).

Restricting one’s reading habits (or one’s writing habits) to just one genre seems rather…limited.

And I don’t do limited.

One Unifying Factor

In the end, just about anything you read has one unifying factor to it.

Our humanity.

Even if we talk about aliens, we give them human emotions and attributes – folly, greed, love, hate, fear.

To write, or to read, is to explore or try to understand better, our humanity. Your humanity. My humanity.

It helps us understand others.

We are born egotistical and self-centered. The world revolves around us. As we grow, we learn more and more about our world, society, the emotions of others. And in most cases, when we learn to read, we are reading stories about other people. It helps us understand each other, empathize, and more.

And that, my dear reader, is cross-genre.

It is also all a blatant attempt to entice you to read cross-genre. Preferably my cross-genre stuff.


So, uh, get to it. And report back on what you learned.

That is all.

p.s. I wrote 1, 799 words Monday in Gliese 581. Now that’s progress!

Progress Is…GOOD


A week ago I decided to get cracking on the writing (and the marketing of said writing) side of things. And I have to say it has been going pretty well.

Probably the biggest take aways I have for this week are that, writing takes…writing.

Just like organizing, or working at a job, or driving a car, it takes time and energy and constant exercising of those writing muscles.

So in case I hadn’t mentioned it, my goals for my writing were to:

  • Write six blog posts per week in my three blogs/websites (The Deadly Nightshade, Homeschool Advocate and here)
  • Write daily in one of my personal journals (I have over 20 and I just randomly write in them, crazy but true).
  • Write 500-1000 words on Gliese 581 every day

Have I met all three goals every day of the week?


Most of the time I have not. Other times, I’ve exceeded them.

Take Wednesday, for example. I set myself the goal of 1,000 words and ended up writing around 1,750. And the next day? Around 1,000 again before I packed it in for the night..

I need to keep this pace going. If I do, I’ll be done with the first draft of Gliese 581: Departure in about two weeks. Prior to this week I had been hovering at just under 41,000 words. Last night? 45,400. Hooray!

Hand Slaps

And I am definitely smarting from a sharp hand slap from Mail Chimp. Not that I didn’t have it coming, but still.

It all unfolded kind of like this…

Reading Tim Grahl’s Your First 1,000 Copies I latched onto the first goal, get a subscriber mail list.

And I cheated, I’ll admit it. While Grahl was reminding me to ask permission, and start with getting subscribers the good old-fashioned way, I decided to jumpstart the list by importing my Gmail contacts, which apparently included every person I had ever emailed for pretty much anything. That meant that I was looking at a list of about 875 subscribers, which I then whittled down to around 490 subscribers. Unwilling, willing, whatever.

I sent out the first newsletter on Sunday, 8/16. By the end of the day I had an email warning from Mail Chimp over the number of unsubscribes I had received. It threatened that if my unsubscribe rate rose, my list might be in jeopardy and my account would be suspended.

There was pretty much nothing I could do except wait it out. And last night, I received another email from Mail Chimp. At that point, they suspended the entire list, which included the 30+ folks who had voluntarily signed up on their own in the past week. [sigh]

I was allowed to send out an email through Mail Chimp requesting all folks double-opt in again. At that point, late last night, my email subscriber list had been reduced to a total of THREE subscribers by Mail Chimp.


So if you have gotten the email, and DO NOT want these weekly emails, then do nothing. However, if you DO want to be on the weekly list (which has giveaways to my books and other benefits) then you will need to either respond to that email or fill in the form below to subscribe…


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An Update on Gliese 581: Departure

I’m starting to get my daily schedule back under control. Let me tell you, there have been some changes around here!

My eldest is back after nine years of living in California and Nevada and we are all getting used to the change. My schedule then became a running challenge of teaching a large number of classes, getting ready for the Urban Grown Tour, and spending some quality time with my eldest.

So today I had a clear schedule. Well, a relatively clear schedule.

The kiddo needed supervising with her homeschool studies, and today is our 9th wedding anniversary, but I really, really wanted to get some writing done on Gliese 581: Departure.

There were a lot of distractions, but I have managed about 1,200 words today. That brings my total word count to 38,400 and I finished a chapter (as well as worked on others). I’ve got a couple of books on order to fill in the medical and space knowledge gaps. I’m not shooting for 100% accuracy, but still, I want it believable!

I’m not ruling out writing two books this year, but it will be a stretch if I do. Stay tuned!

Each Blow Pushes Me Closer

I’ve never been a one-trick pony. I’ve never had just one love, to the exclusion of all others.

So it isn’t surprising that I’ve spent the past ten years (or more) spinning plates…

  • Plate 1 – cleaning houses
  • Plate 2 – home and family
  • Plate 3 – arts and crafts
  • Plate 4 – reading and learning…voracious and unending
  • Plate 5 – writing
  • Plate 6 – teaching
  • Plate 7 – gardening

I’m sure there are more.

But when it comes to pulling my weight, and earning money, I’ve also done whatever I could. Especially in the past ten years where, with the small exception of a part-time job in a woman’s home office, I have not stepped foot into the corporate/”working” world.

I haven’t missed it…the bickering, the manipulation, the high school days revisited in dozens of unhappy desk jockeys who hate their lives.

Now I’m not saying that everyone hates their jobs or lives…just all of the ones I encountered!

I tried building the cleaning business…and was met with monumental ups and downs. So much so that, when I would acquire a new cleaning client I would mentally review all of the clients I currently had and try to figure out who would be next to lose a job, move, retire, or otherwise upset the apple cart of income I was receiving. With every ‘up’ in income, I would see a corresponding ‘down.’

And let’s face it, cleaning toilets is no one’s dream job. I derived a sense of satisfaction from it – making something clean out of a dusty mess – and I wasn’t having to punch a time clock or deal with women who acted as if they were still in high school cliques, but it wasn’t my lifelong dream and desire.

So in 2007 I began teaching classes. This grew, and grew, and GREW.

Except when it didn’t.

Last year it was last minute RFID implementation in one of my main host sites. They canceled classes willy nilly, not rescheduling, just canceling. This would happen a few weeks or a month before the class – far too late to fill with anything else that could make me money.

This past January, when I received a request for 34 classes, I was over the moon. It meant doubling my average monthly income from last year. Something I desperately needed because I had finally given up on my cleaning biz. I have three dedicated clients, and for as long as they need services, I’m up for it. But I’m not looking for new ones, not even accepting new ones, and I had already made the decision to focus on classes and writing.

Then last week dealt me another huge blow. My biggest client decided to remove 21 classes from the roster. Not because I had done anything wrong, or because there were any problems with my performance in any way. It was simply a change in policy on the types of classes they would host. Even in light of offering them a long list of other possible classes, they chose to cancel instead of substitute. This cost me nearly $2,800 in income.

And then yesterday, another blow came. I had scheduled five classes with a site I use off and on. It meant, according to my figures, the possibility of about $1000 in additional income. Last night I received an email that, due to the director of programs leaving after 30+ years, they were canceling their summer classes and would resume in the fall.

Again it seems that for every step forward, I end up taking two steps back.

I won’t get into the HOURS I spent scheduling all of these classes on the Google Calendar, creating invoices and even preparing future posts in TDN that would automatically post five days before a class to remind folks. In fact, I scheduled so many that I broke my database. It refuses to let me in to delete them now! (This means I get to check TDN every day for the next four months and delete the post as soon as possible. Fun, fun, fun!)

I have always shied away from the abstract. And to me, writing is nothing but abstract when it comes to income. I love it, but will it pay? I love to write stories, and those who have read them have had good things to say, but that doesn’t pay the bills folks. Not at all.

Yet, with each blow I receive, I find myself inching closer and closer to just dropping it all and saying, “Screw it, I’m going to write. I’m going to write, write, WRITE and just see what happens.”

Last night, with the TDN database not working, locking me out, giving me errors, along with a recalcitrant child who doesn’t want to do her chores, less and less money earned each month, et cetera…I just broke down and cried. I’m angry, frustrated, and so much more. I feel as if I have done everything right, been professional, given good quality classes, and yet, here I stand.

So I took the night to work it out and here is what I decided…

  • I’m raising my prices – I’m not leaving my house for less than $200 (a few exceptions apply on this…women’s groups, some charitable organizations)
  • I’m adding in a cancellation clause with my class hosts – cancel with less than one month’s notice and pay 75% of the class fee, two month’s is 50%, three months is 25% (this won’t apply to classes that are not happening due to lack of sign-ups)
  • I’m restricting our homeschool outings to less than three or less per week – I feel like I’m never at home anymore!
  • I’m reducing my teaching availability to no more than eight classes per month
  • I’m damned well FINISHING my book projects I have planned
  • I’m going to venture back into the world of writing for gardening, parenting, homeschooling magazines

So, that’s the story, folks. I’m pissed, frustrated, sad and stressed. But I’ve got some ideas in place and now I’m going to put them all together and see where we end up. Change isn’t easy…but each experience has been leading me to this place, this moment, where I stand now.