Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Get Lost In A Story

Today, I'm a guest on the Get Lost In A Story blog, run by my chapter mate, Angi Morgan.

Check me and the blog out!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Revenue Streams... and Why Am I Working On This Now...?

One of the keys to making money in publishing, as well as in life in general, is to have multiple revenue streams.

As an author/publisher, my revenue streams include, but are not limited to: e-book, trade paperback, hardcover, audio books, and foreign translations of all of the above. Right now, I have one. E-books. Eventually, I'll branch out to print and maybe audio, but we'll see what happens when I get there.

In general, I have my day job income, but I also have my little proofreading / website-updating / series-bible-creating side job. I have an ongoing website-updating client, but everything else is hit or miss. I had some proofing feelers, but everyone's gone dark for whatever reason. It's not like I don't have enough on my plate at the moment, so I'm not worrying about it overmuch.

On the other hand, I have enough on my plate to worry about at the moment, so why am I fussing around with cross stitch patterns to upload to my Etsy Shop?? Yes, that's another revenue stream I'd like to pump a little bit. I have one pattern up there at the moment--my BBC Sherlock sampler. I do have a pattern for my Harry Potter Spells sampler (which I apparently haven't posted about???), but it's not on Etsy as of yet.

And now I'm working on some small hockey related projects...

They're not very big, slightly larger than a coaster, but they are kinda tedious to stitch. I started #14 as a trial and discovered some flaws in my pattern, so I tweaked. Then I started #91 as the second trial run and ran into a few more issues needing resolution. So I tweaked the pattern a little more.

I also want to offer patterns for teams other than the Stars...but I sure as heck don't want to stitch one of everything, so I'm not sure how to resolve that just yet. to why now... Well, because I can't be writer & publisher all the time. I need time to do the other things I enjoy and to feed my creative side from a different angle. But to be honest, a) I started this project last year and b) I'm not spending excessive amounts of time on it. It's just nice to work on something different every now and then.

But, after a hockey-filled weekend, It's time to get back to the writing/publishing related things on my plate.

Hope you had a great weekend.

Friday, January 26, 2018

First World Author Problems

One thing that a lot of my author friends complain about is all the ideas they have that they may or may not ever get to turn into books.

I've never really had that problem. In fact, I'd worried that once I'd finished with the nine Ten Rigs Texas books, that I'd be S-O-L. But then a new series idea came to me. It was a relief because I'm thinking it'll be another nine-book series. Of course, I have to finish the last three Ten Rigs books, but it's good to know I have something new in the pipes.

I've created a file and I've been adding plot and character ideas as they occur to me. I'm not banking on my memory here. Scrivener, the writing program I use, is wonderful in this regard. I can import files and web pages too.

So that new series has been floating around in the back of my brain for a good seven months and it's comforting to have it there. It's not a ton of ideas like some people I know, but it's good for a few books at least, right?

But then...when I was working on my writing groups' contest the other day, I processed a Highlander book, and I thought to myself : "I want to write a Highlander series." Highlanders are always popular and I enjoy the heck out of them myself

So now I have two series ideas and, while it's still nowhere the number of ideas a lot of my writer colleagues have, I'm excited to have a second idea rolling around the old noggin.

Might have to start another Scrivener file...

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The importance of good dental care...

I went to the dentist on Monday for an abscess. Luckily it was in the gum and not in the tooth and the tooth was spared pulling. For now.

Unfortunately, most of my dental problems could have been avoided if I had just been more diligent about dental care way way way back in the day. But money was tight for a while and so I just didn't. And now, well, my mouth is not in great shape.

I might have to give up a couple of those Stars hockey games and re-route those funds into the dental bucket because I do not want to lose anymore teeth. (I had two pulled 3.5 years ago.) While there may come a time when the back molar I went to the dentist to have looked at, or other teeth, will need to be pulled, I want to keep what teeth I have in my mouth as long as possible.

So... time for diligence in brushing, flossing, water picking, and mouth-washing, as well as in dental visits.

My 50th birthday is coming up. I still have a good chunk of life left to live. I want my teeth to be and stay in the best shape I can get them in for as long as possible.

So PSA for the day, the week, the month--take care of your teeth!!

Monday, January 22, 2018


Lookie what I got this weekend! As I mentioned Friday, I had writers group on Saturday. After close to a dozen years, I'm finally a published author and, as per our little incentive program, I received a jumbo pencil with each book's info written on it. I took four home because those were birthed last year. Book 5's pencil stays in the boots until next December. It's sort of a visual as the year goes on to see how prolific the group is a whole. Here are my pencils!!

Okay so they're not that exciting to look at, but I finally have them.

In addition to pencils, I also received charms. In honor of our group's 35th anniversary, we've been doing a charm program. Whoever writes at least 25 pages or edits 50 pages each month earns the charm of the month. Since I finished a book somewhere in there last year, I was able to get an additional charm.

Here's my book charm, which I chose more for the series as a whole than for the specific book itself.

Yep, it's rainbow cake. :0)

Here are the other charms and my full bracelet...

...four of them because it's been a while since I was at a meeting to receive them.

Most importantly, I saw all my lovely dear writer friends and had a fantastic time not only at the meeting, but at the post-meeting meeting with my closest writer friends who are the most wonderful women in all the world.

Also, my beloved Stars kicked much Buffalo ass on Saturday. :0)

Great weekend all around. How was yours??

Friday, January 19, 2018

Jen Through the Looking Glass...

The process of publishing six (and more) books gets exponentially more task-riddled as the days go by. I now have a  FIVE-PAGE TO-DO list, because for most of what I have to do, I have to do for six books.

When I became an independently published author back in November of 2017, I did so by publishing directly with major retailers where I could and using two aggregators (virtual distributors for all intents and purposes) for the the ones I couldn't, as well as for the dozen or so smaller retailers.

I had one file for everybody--meaning that purchasing the next book was a two- or three-click process rather than a one-click endeavor. At the time, I just needed to get the books out into the world, and I did that. The rest had to wait for the new year.

Well, it's the new year and it's time to do the nitty gritty grunt work of creating unique files for each book for each retailer so that if you bought your book for the Kindle, the link at the end of the excerpt of the next book is going to take you directly to that book's purchase page in Amazon. Same for iBooks, Kobo, Nook... Well, you get the picture. Six books, six retailers, plus a generic link for miscellaneous use... You can see that it's quite a project.

Back in November, I used an aggregator to get my books into Barnes & Noble because the aggregator offers pre-sales and Barnes & Noble doesn't when publishing directly through them. Fast forward to January, and I want to publish the live books directly so that as much of the royalties go into my pocket as possible. Well, shoot-- I didn't even think that doing so was going to render the original purchase pages/links (through the aggregator) unavailable because Barnes & Noble was going to generate a its own new purchase pages/links. Add a new task to the list: updating all Barnes & Noble links.

I'll have to update links again when I'm able to upload to the Apple Store directly... *sigh*

Of course, once I get all of this figured out and done, it'll be one book at a time and much less daunting.

As I mentioned a post or two ago, I may be called upon to talk about aggregators vs. distributors to my writing group... I think I'll call it "To Aggregate or Not To Aggregate, That Is The Question..." Anyway, I think the specific issue of transitioning books and the hassle it causes needs to be a talking point for sure.

Maybe there's an easier way, maybe I'm making things way more complicated than they should be, but...

I didn't pay much attention to this stuff when it may or may not have been discussed in front of me. It's not fair now for me to constantly beleaguer my friends for information. So I'm plodding through the best I know how, learning as I go. But maybe that's better. I'll certainly remember how to get things done!

On a more exciting note, I get to attend my writers group meeting for the first time in four months. I'm so excited to see my chapter mates and especially my writer besties. I published all my books during that absence, so I get to return as a published author. I get these really cool jumbo pencils, one to celebrate each book. I get charms for writing min 25 pages each month, as well as a charm for completing a book. I can't wait. It's going to be so fun.

Hope your weekend will be as fun as mine--!!

See you Monday.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I wanted to sell directly through Google Play, WHY?

There's a definite learning curve to this retailer platform. But Google Play could be a lucrative platform and one I need to figure out. It doesn't appear that either of the major publishing aggregators (Smashwords or Draft2Digital) is able to feed books into the Google Play store at this point, although one of them claimed to. But even if they did, it behooves me to not to use aggregators when I don't have to because I get a bigger piece of the profit pie.

Figuring this platform out sooner rather than later would be better. But as I mentioned last week, January is a bit busy. It's gonna be a month or so until I have more time to get a handle on things. My writing group has started a new program and I might be on the schedule to present a program on where and how to self publish in terms of retailers vs. aggregators. I better know my stuff, huh? Luckily, I won't be called upon for a few more months yet.

Hope you're having a good week. :0)

Monday, January 15, 2018

My birthday came early!!

My beautiful DD and her friend went to a local Jamba Juice to meet former STARS player Marty Turco and current player Devin Shore. The Stars were giving out free stuff and the girls brought me home some goodies! LOOK!

A Youth Large Jamie Benn jersey!! And, yes, it fits. :0)

A Stars pennant!

And some smaller goods...

And then they saw THIS at Target...

I've been wanting the Stars faux-LEGO zamboni for a while and the girls bought this for me too.

I am blessed.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Hitting the ground running...why is this my life?

For the last five years, I've run one of my writing group's contests. Things ramp up in the middle of January.

For the last two years, I've been in some phase of getting books written or ready for publication.

At my day job, January is always hectic because it's the start of the new year and there are things that need to happen not only as a business, but as an employer.

And then there's fireworks season to wrap up.

Several times, I've been neck deep in proofreading jobs. Not this year, though, thank goodness. Although I do have a couple on the books...

I'm not keen on the beginning of my new year being quite so crazy, but what can I do?

I've tendered my resignation as contest coordinator, effective as soon as this year's contest is complete--sometime in June.

The writing/publishing thing is just a matter of timing. I'm the boss there, so I can decide if I'm taking an extra long holiday or not. But now that the first five books are out in the world, I don't think I'll have that level work going on at any given time anymore. That's kind of a mixed blessing though, yeah?

Unless I get fired or quit, there will always be the day job. And my tasks are generally spread throughout the month, so it's not really terrible.

I guess all I can do is roll with punches!

Hope your new year is starting off well.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New collection...?

No, not really.

During my whirlwind Christmas shopping trips this season, I saw two separate sets of salt and pepper shakers that tickled my fancy.

I bought the first one almost immediately because I couldn't stop thinking about them as I was walking through the store after I'd seen them.

I actually went back to the store (a different one from the first, however) to buy the second set because, well, why not? They were cute and aside from being salt and pepper shakers, are of things I actually do have a collection of.

So what are these shakers of which I speak?

I loved these little barn shakers from the moment I spied them.
They're complimentary to my Charles Wysocki collector plates. :0)

Dala Horse shakers! Are they not super cute??

I'm really not interested in starting a collection of shakers, but if see others that hit my buttons as much as these two sets do, I'll probably break down now that I've already gone there.

Anyone else collect shakers? Feel free to share any other collections you might have.

Monday, January 8, 2018

I hate conflict!

One of my story-telling goals this year is to make my writing better. I mean, a writer should always be striving to improve his or her writing, so yeah. There's a best-selling, 60+ novels-to-her-name author in my writers group who said in a conversation several months ago that she still works to improve her writing. She's been at this for close to twenty years. If she's still working at it, then I, sure-as-shootin', should be too.

So the questions become--a) improve in what area? and b) how?

I had a vague notion last year and I tried to work on it, but I didn't stick with it. Not that it's an excuse, really, but there was a lot going on and I let my efforts fall by the wayside. I think the issue is intrinsically intertwined with the struggles I've been having in getting the last couple of books written.

So that means I need to figure something out. And quickly.

First thing I figured out is what I need to work on: plotting and conflict. I hate conflict in real life.

I know, I know, who does? Most of you deal with conflict like adults and that's a thing I struggle with. I hate it. I avoid it. I'm better now, but it's still a chore to communicate with the people with whom I have an issue.

So putting my hunky heroes into conflict?? Ugh.

But readers want to read about those same hunky heroes overcoming whatever obstacles stand between them and true love, not just sappy sunshine-and-rainbows-filled treacle. I prefer those kinds of books too--so there you go.

The next thing I need to figure out is where to find/how to create conflict between my heroes. I understand that conflict stems from each character: what their goal is and what baggage they carry, but beyond that, how do I determine what wounds to poke at, what paths to go down, etc. What makes for the strongest and most compelling conflict. Or how do I support the conflict I want to write about?

My options for education are blog posts (usually free), books, (generally not free), classes (generally not free), and brainstorming with others (usually free), and one-on-one consulting sessions (usually expensive).

While I love the concept of brainstorming, I don't have much success with it because I haven't yet found that one person whose thought processes gel with mine. Not that I don't ask for help, because there are still ideas to be gleaned from the effort. And maybe communicating my needs better is a skill I need to learn. But sometimes, I hate imposing on other authors to spend their valuable time on me.

Blogs are good, but sometimes the explanations or concepts are too abstract for me. Straight reading is not my best learning style. Also the posts are higher-level in concept than execution level information. Still helpful though, because adding new concepts and insights is never a bad thing. And one never knows where one will find the the switch that sheds light on everything else.

I like classes because I get a lesson. Information as well as homework and, most importantly, someone to explain more if I don't grasp something. There's also someone to evaluate my efforts and give me feedback.

I took a class last year that I'd love to take again. So I've contacted the author and asked if she's offering it anywhere this year. *fingers crossed*

But coming at an issue (how to develop/build conflict in books) from various viewpoints is a good thing, so I'll keep my eyes open for additional class opportunities on how to write conflict better.

I'm not opposed to books either, but, like blogs, they can be a bit abstract. And they're not cheap, so it could take a lot of frogs, I mean books, until I find something that resonates and makes sense to me. That would get expensive very quickly.

I certainly can't afford a consultation with a professional author--yet. But my writing group is putting together some programs, so maybe I'll get lucky and win a session of some sort or another.

For now, I'll be Google-searching blog posts and using tools already in my toolbox to plot out books 7, 8, and 9.

Wish me luck!

The USS Cavalla and the USS Stewart

Most of you know, I'm a fan of history and of the military. The Navy has been a target of my interest first because of the TV show JAG that aired from 1995 to 2005 and second because Sonshine is currently serving.

Because our ship, the Liberty of the Seas, was late returning to port the day we were supposed to leave, DH and I found ourselves with some unexpected free time. Seawolf Park and the above named ships turned up with a quick search of "things to do in Galveston." So off we went.

The USS Cavalla is a Gato-class submarine that served admirably during WWII and beyond. She was decommissioned just a few days before my birth.

The USS Stewart is an Edsall class destroyer escort that served from November '42 to October '72. It's the only one of its class to be preserved.

We toured both ships during our extra few hours in Galveston and wow. The conditions our sailors lived and live under when at sea are cold and cramped and most of us would be crying for our mommas. Even if you don't believe in the mission of the military, blessings and respect are due to every single man or woman who chooses to serve and protect in pretty mean / lean conditions.

Without further ado, here are a few photos I took of both ships.

The USS Cavalla--view from the rear of the boat.

Look at those bunks -- in the forward torpedo room!

Me in the crew's common area.

Looking into a torpedo tube...

To see all the photos I took of the USS Cavalla, click here.

Crew toilets. Yikes!

The ship's store--basically the size of a closet with shelves on three sides and a chair in the center. There's a cash register just on the left.

Those big vats are still used by the military for cooking to this day!

To see all the pictures of the USS Stewart, click here.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, January 5, 2018

I'm feeling the pressure...

It's been almost two months since I pressed the "publish" button for the first time. It's been a bit chaotic since then because of the Thanksgiving holiday and my cruise and then Christmas and New Years so I pretty much just pushed the button and focused on other things.

Now that the holidays are over and the new year begun, it's time to take a look at everything, get a read on where I am, and decide what I'm doing, where I'm going, and how I plan to get there.

There is still a lot of noise in the romance writing realm about doing this or doing that and following certain rules and making sure that all the Ts are crossed and all the Is are dotted--whatever the Ts and Is might be. But then I hear a few voices going against the grain saying the things that really resonate with me.

I have to keep listening for those voices.

There's so much that can be done, and maybe should be done, but that doesn't mean I have to try to do them all at once. And that's the pressure. I keep having to stop and remind myself that I have a plan. Does it need to be tweaked? Yes. Does it need to be expanded? Yes. But being a published author is not brain surgery. No one is going to die if I wait a year to expand to print or setup audio or translate for foreign markets.

Maybe I don't make as much money up front, but I also don't want to miss out on life because I'm chained to a keyboard trying to learn stuff and then implementing what I've learned.

As just one little ol' me, I only have so much time and brain capacity. So I learn what I need to learn for this part of the journey and take a deep breath when the pressure starts squeezing at me.

Despite all of that, there's one key piece to the puzzle: keep writing. Without new books, the rest doesn't matter much.

Hope your year is starting off right!!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Goals for 2018

Last week, I reviewed my progress or lack thereof on last year's goals. I didn't do nearly as well as I thought I had, nor did I have as many goals as I thought I had. But it's spilled milk or water under the bridge and there's no use in beating myself up. I can't go back. I can only move forward and try to do better.

Several of last year's goals are being carried over. They're that important. Let's start with those.

1) Writing to my Grandma in Denmark. This is important. The woman is in her 90s. She's not going to be around much longer in the grand scheme of things. In order to make this easier to accomplish, I think I'll find some postcards depicting Texas and send these along monthly with a few notes and then go for a longer letter every couple of months. Honestly, there's not a lot going on in my life, but I know my Grandma doesn't care that much and would like to hear from me, her only granddaughter.

2) Calling my moms monthly. Again, not much going on in anyone's lives, but you never know what's going to happen and not just to someone who's older. I drive the streets every day. I could be the one who leaves this world far too soon. So yeah. Monthly phone calls to say "HI" and "I love you."

3) Walk the dog three times a week. I took Rayna into the vet a few months ago for some reason or another and mentioned a limp she gave into seemingly randomly. It turns out she tore something in one of her "knee" joints and has developed arthritis. One of the ways to help combat the pain and stiffness of that, not to mention the excess weight she's carrying, is to get her on an exercise regimen. Plus I could stand to be a little more active at the end of my day, so Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are the days I'll take Rayna for a walk. These are all days I'm at home--so instead of driving home from work, I'll walk the dog. Good for her, good for me. Now if the temperatures would warm up just a little.

4) Cook & eat better. Honestly, we're doing okay. Not great, but okay. We usually eat fish once a week and chicken every one to two weeks. It's the "scrounge" days that get us, so I guess that means planning another one or two healthier-ish meals on a weekly basis. Maybe incorporate chicken weekly. Maybe adding a pork-based meal weekly as well. With leftovers, at least six out of seven days ought to be covered, right?

And the last carryover goal is...

5) Re-institute the cleaning plan. All I have to do is dig out the box of index cards, re-sort them, and get started. There's just so many other more fun things to be doing than cleaning. :0) I guess until I can afford a cleaning lady, I'm it, eh?

As for new or similar/adjusted goals, let's see...

6) Work on my writing career--such as it is. I'm not looking to be a New York Times Bestseller or support DH and myself with my writing, but there are a lot of areas to improve upon and that need my attention. The sub-list is as follows:

a) publish books 5-8 this year. Books 5 and 6 are written. They just need final revisions and formatting. Books 7 has been started, but I'm not very far along. Book 8 has characters and a vague plot line.
b) spend some time on marketing the series and the books.
c) enter a contest or two to increase readership.
d) choose an aspect of my writing to work on and, you know, work on it.

*There are probably a few more things, but they're vague notions at the moment.

7)  Now that I've finally reached my weight goal and have maintained that weight for three months, it's time to work on a different aspect of my physical health.

As a side note, I officially started my journey in January of 2012. It took me just under five years. I knew it was going to take a while; I was in it for the long haul, and I never got really discouraged. YAY me. :0)

My new endeavor is to reduce fat--not weight--just fat. I have way too many jiggly spots and losing weight does not automatically mean you've lost fat. Just as gaining muscle does not mean you've lost fat. Fat doesn't turn into muscle. They are made up of two different things. I started the fat burning process once I reached the weight goal and made a bit of progress, but my cruise and holiday hiatus has reversed the process a little. Again, come January 2, it's back to work and back to a stricter diet for a time.

8) Now I can't reach this next goal without DH, but I'm putting it on here anyway because he mentioned wanting to while on the cruise. And that's take dance lessons... DH took ballroom dance lessons many moons ago before I'd met him and he enjoyed them a lot. I just think it'd be fun and then we can dance at family events or on next year's cruise or even just go out dancing.

9) Do more crafts! This was on this goal list a couple of years ago and I didn't do much better, but I always get nostalgic for my craftier days around the holidays. I've been cross stitching some small hockey related things, so I need to keep on going. I also have some other, larger projects rolling around in my brain. And maybe I can get a head start on next year's ornament and make something decent, not only for my kids but for my close circle of writer peeps who also get ornaments each year. Another friend of mine (shout-out to N!) does felt crafts and she's made me some lovely felt ornaments the last couple of years. That might be a fun new craft to try.

10) Take ballet and/or ice skating lessons. Part of this stems from the "be more active" mind set, but also from a get-more-flexible and build-up-stamina thought process in mind of staying healthy and active as long as possible as I face my 50th birthday this year. Also, they look fun, and the ice skating, of course, stems from my new-found love of hockey.

11) And my fluffy goal for the year--attend more STARS games. I'll say five more games between now and the end of the season in early April. Fingers crossed they make it to the playoffs and that I can afford a playoff ticket. :0) Then we'll say three games once the new season begins in October. So eight Stars games in 2018. And if I travel to a city that has a hockey team, chances are I'll buy tickets to a game if there's one being played while I'm there.

So there you have it. A decently ambitious list. How about you? Have you got a goal or two on the record for 2018? Do share.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!!

Hope 2018 brings blessings and prosperity to you and yours.