Friday, September 30, 2016

Update Day: Hitting the Reset Button

Hey everyone! Today is the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for another Update Day!



I thought I'd do things a bit differently, which means...

Tada!

Vlog post.



To sum up for those of you who haven't the time to watch the vid:

This month, I decided to stop moping around and approach my writing career as if it's already my full-time job. My thinking is that I'm a business person anyway, so I might as well turn this writing thing into a business.

Making this work meant I had to rethink the way I'm going about this.

So...

TL:DR:


I'm hitting reset on my goal. 

My five-year goal is still $7500 a month, but now it can be from any writing related activity, whether it's me actually writing, or me using my writing expertise in some way.

I'm starting over. 

This is actually year three, but the change is so major and the mind-shift so big that I decided to start again. So September 2016 is month one of Year One. I basically did this, because I want to track my growth. And since my income basically flatlined for the past three months, I thought it would be a good thing to start since this major change got brought in.

I've been keeping track since 6th (which was when I decided to kick things up a notch), so that's enough for me to actually get some stats in.

Speaking of stats...

I'm also going to change the way I report on my progress. 

I might get back to the to-do list eventually, but I can't help feeling that people really don't care about those all that much.

A lot of people have been asking me how I'm actually doing with my five year goal, so I will be reporting on my money coming in and going out, since this full-time-writer-with-almost-no-money-to-start-with thing is probably something that might interest a lot of people.

Which means that I'll be posting monthly stats for the year. Two, in fact, but I'll explain more in a minute.

So how did I do? 


Basically, this full-time thing has two components: Me selling stories and services I already have, and me creating more stories. For ease of reference, I will call these Marketing and Writing. 

Marketing


Since my marketing results can only be measured in terms of income, I'm keeping track of that instead of the hours I'm putting in. 

My income basically gets divided into three groups: Income from previous months (since there's up to a 3 month delay on royalties etc), income earned within the month and income generated for the future (so I'm keeping track of books I sold today so I know how much I'll get in three months.) 

I set my goal for Total Income Generated. Which means that if I say $100 is my goal, I'll see that goal as achieved even if $100 came in only from previous months sales etc. 

Since I'm also concerned about my income's growth, I'll be keeping track of how much income I generate within a month and for future months, separately. So there will be a separate graph, where the goal line is calculated by subtracting my Income Generated Goal from the amount that came in from previous months. 

Okay? 

Okay. 

So first, let me look at income generated in past months vs income generated within this month and for future months.



Basically, the income accrued in previous months is money from Patreon (which is currently around $10). 

As you can see, most of my money generated this month was for current or future earnings. Let's see how those look. 



So since starting this whole exercise, I've critiqued one short-story on Fiverr, and actually sold some books on Amazon (which is definitely an uptick, because my book sales have basically been dead lately.) The Patreon income is basically the $10 from patrons who'd signed up before and $1 from a new sign-up. It will show up again next month as income accrued from previous months, since every month's subscriptions only actually hit my account in the following month.


Goal for October: 

It's such a nice, round number, so for now, I'm keeping to $100 as my goal. Fingers crossed that I actually hit the line next time. 


Writing


This month I basically set writing goals as I went along, which is why my goal line keeps jumping up as I hit my targets. 

I basically only started writing on 11 September, and then only sporadically. Then, on 24 September, I started timing my writing and trying to write every day. The effect on my daily word counts are quite staggering....


Let me put that into words real quick. I wrote over 16k words this month. 10k of those were written last week.

Goals for October: 

I have three big ones: 

1) I want to finish this draft of Book 3 of The War of Six Crowns before the end of the year, which means I'll basically be chasing NaNo targets every month for three months. Thanks to timing myself, I know I can type 2k words in 80 minutes. 
2) I want to write the story I have in mind for the Insecure Writers' Support Group competition. 
3) I want to re-format and update my currently published books, specifically The War of Six Crowns to prepare for the new covers I made for them. 

There are, of course, more goals (we're talking about me, here), but these are my priorities. 

How did your goals go? What do you think of this new format for my Update Day posts? Are you interested in the outcome of this experiment of mine? 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Before and After: The Vanished Knight Cover

Hey everyone! Since a lot of you guys were really interested in seeing more of these before and after posts, I thought I'd do a few more of them.

Today, I thought I'd share what went into one of my covers.

Before: 

At the time (and depressingly, much like now), I didn't have a ton of money to spend on publishing, so I decided to see if I could publish a without spending money. The answer was that I could publish two ebook without spending a dime. 

How? Well... Photoshop has a month-long free trial and Flickr makes it possible for me to find images with a creative commons license. 

The image I picked was Albion_Sovereign_Medieval_Sword_11 by Søren Niedziella. The license has a CC BY 2.0 license attached, which means that it's free to adapt and to put to commercial use, as long as I give proper credit and don't imply that the licensor endorses my work in any way. (New kids in the image copyright game: This paragraph can be very important if you want to make a cover from a free image.) 



After: 

This was literally the first time I tried to make a cover, so I kept the image manipulation to things I knew: changing exposure, the composure of an image and cropping. 

By composure, I mean, placing the image so that the viewer's eye gets drawn in. First was the placement of the sword itself and next came the titles. 

I also had the added issue of the maker's mark on the blade. Little things like that can really make a viewer's eye go to the wrong place. Luckily, though, the best placement of the blade was in a way that happened to put the mark out of the frame. 

The result? 




Pretty good, don't you think? Oh, but that's nothing compared to the new cover I'm about to put on the books. 

Yep. I already have the e-book covers done. Only need to do the paper-back covers before I update both The Vanished Knight and The Heir's Choice. 

Who knows, maybe one day, the books with the old covers on them will be collectors' items. ;-) 

If you'd like to check out The Vanished Knight, you can find it at the following e-tailers: 


The paperback is also available at places like Walmart's e-store, Book Depository etc. 


And there you have it? Let me know your thoughts. Also, would you guys like a crash-course on image copyrights as learnt by me? Looking forward to more before and after posts? 



Monday, September 26, 2016

Changing Things...

As you ladies and gents might or might not have picked up, I've been struggling to write. With my life as it is, I just found it difficult to almost impossible to sit down and focus on what should be going into my stories.

I have to say that I'm relieved to say that this is changing. Not my life. That's pretty much stuck in hurry-up-and-wait mode until next month at least. However, changing my perspective into being more proactive about my writing career has made a huge difference to my ability to write.

More than that, it's changing the way I look at a lot of things. Yes, my priorities still largely focus on getting the next book finished. But at the same time, I'm having to do things right now that will bring in enough money for me to publish in the future.

Which means I'm doing a lot of different things. Trying new things. This includes, you know, being more active on social networks. And setting up a Wordpress version of this blog. Right now, I don't think I'll leave Blogger entirely to go over to Wordpress, but a lot of my Wordpress blogging friends kept saying that blogger swallows their comments and I just can't have that.

It means changing the way I've been approaching my writing sessions. Usually, I basically sit down and write until a scene is finished. The problems to this method have been twofold.

First: I haven't been in the right headspace to sit down for two to three hours on end. So I've been waiting for that to right itself because I wanted to sit for two or three hours to churn out a chapter.

Second: My scenes have become longer than anticipated. See, with The Vanished Knight and The Heir's Choice I had a lot of 2k long scenes that I ended up combining in order to create longer chapters. I think my longest chapter is 7k long, but the average is about 4k. Book 3 is different. Maybe it's because my point-of-view characters are simply closer together so I don't have to jump between them as much, but at the moment, the average chapter is about 5k long. So now it's not a matter of writing for two hours and having a finished scene. Actually having a finished planned section would probably take me an entire working day.

Which I don't have available. Oh, you thought "being a full-time writer" meant having more time to write? Nope. Not yet, anyway.

So lately, I've decided to follow Cherie Reich's example and setting a time goal for my writing. Instead of setting a word count goal, she decides how much time she wants to devote to writing and then she sets a timer, which she races to write as much as she can.

I've adapted her method a little. She did away with her word-count goals. I can't. I want to finish Book 3 this year. Which means I have to write between 1 and 2 thousand words every day. I have found, though, that timing myself means that I take about 90 minutes to write 1800 words. (So far, I break my writing into 5 and 10 minute sessions which I add up later.)

In other words, timing myself is speeding me up, which is good, because I don't have enough hours in a day.

How are you doing? Have you tried timing your writing sessions? 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Marna Reed Talks Chocolate

Hey everyone! Today I have a special guest and co-crazy-goal-setter (TOTALLY a word) Marna Reed here with me as part of her blog tour. First, let me share a bit of something about the book.


Finally back home... 

When Ren Lang set out to do a good neighborly deed, he didn't prepare to be digging out more than a car. Seeing Kristal Overwood once more reminds him how hard it was losing her the first time. It doesn’t take Ren long to see Kristal staying in Waterseed, their small Vermont hometown, might crack open up his closed, hard heart. It’s not a risk he’s willing to take again.

But for how long? 

Since she has no plans to linger in Waterseed, Kristal doesn't want to build any lasting emotional ties. Of course fate has Ren helping her re-build her childhood home. Seeing her foster brother is stirring up more than the past...it's digging up that long-ago buried attachment to him. And despite her resolve, she's falling for more than his charming family this time.

Now will it take a cup of spiced cocoa to have that chat they should have had all those years ago?

Find Home Sweet Cocoa here.

Take it away, Marna!

Hi, everyone! Marna here.

First I’d like to thank Misha for allowing me to take over a bit on her blog to let you all in on my debut Christmas-themed novella, Home Sweet Cocoa, a sweet contemporary romance.

So, let’s talk hot chocolate.

I’ve been trying out some new recipes. Since it’s starting to feel like fall is finally replacing summer here, I’m putting away the ice cream and busting out my hot chocolate. Usually I’m a simple Nestlé kind of girl, but lately I’ve been fiddling around with making cocoa from scratch. From there I branched out to try different hot chocolate blends.

Here are a couple variants of orange spiced cocoa, which is really just like regular hot chocolate with a kick of citrus:

RECIPE ONE – ORANGE-SPICE COCOA

I grabbed this recipe from the Food Network. It’s a little more straightforward and simple than the second recipe, so let’s start here.

Ingredient List
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
½ cup cocoa powder
6 cups milk
½ tsp of orange zest
1 cup whipped cream

Preparation Steps:
Sift 1 cup confectioner’s sugar into a bowl with ¼ tsp ground cardamom, ½ cup cocoa powder. Stir until mixed well. Bring milk to a simmer over medium heat (don’t let it boil, unless you have a strainer handy). Whisk in the cocoa mixture until smooth. Top the chocolatey drink off with whipped cream and a bit of orange zest for garnish. J

I sum it up below with pictures from my first attempt with this recipe!

 




RECIPE TWO – WHITE HOT ORANGE-Y CHOCOLATE

Recipe Two is from a cute little blog called WillCook For Friends, and this one has added the twist of white chocolate. Fun!

Ingredient List
4 oz. (by weight) good quality white chocolate, roughly chopped (or about 3/4 cup)
2 cups milk (I used whole milk, but I’m sure you could use whatever % you like)
3-4 green cardamom pods, crushed
1 two-inch strip of orange zest
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
fresh whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Preparation Steps:
If your chocolate is in a block or a bar, chop it roughly and place it in a large bowl. If it is in chip form, just add it to the bowl as-is. Place a small pot on the stove over medium-low heat, and add the milk, crushed cardamom, and orange zest. Heat until the milk begins to steam, and small bubbles appear around the edges of the pot, stirring frequently to keep the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pot. As soon as bubbles appear at the edges, remove from the heat — do not let it boil! Place a strainer over the bowl with the chocolate, and pour the milk through to remove the cardamom and orange. Add the vanilla extract, and let sit for 20-30 seconds to allow the chocolate to begin melting. Whisk until smooth. Garnish with a dash of cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg. Serve as is, or top with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Check out the pictorial breakdown for this recipe below…

 


Yum!

If you’re curious about more hot chocolate recipes, search the internet for the many lists of all the kinds you could try out if you’re adventurous enough.

I’m also giving away one (1) e-copy of Home Sweet Cocoa. All you have to do to be entered is answer this question: What’s your favorite hot drink to blast away the chill of autumn and winter?


Leave a comment with your answer and your email address and I’ll get back to the winner. I’m looking forward to reading the responses! Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Before and After: Chaos. Hope. Love. teaser graphic.

Some of you might not be aware of this, but I do the graphic design stuff for my own books. And actually, I really enjoy it.

One of my favorite parts of this is to take a picture, play with it, and make something from it that's completely and utterly me. My style. My aesthetic. 

So... Because I enjoy it and to encourage myself to do more of this sort of thing, I thought I'd share some before and afters of the pictures I used to make some image or another. Just so you know, the quality of the pictures and the graphics won't be the same as what I used/the original result, because I've actually paid for some of the images and wouldn't want people to infringe on copyright on my behalf. 

Today, though, I have a free image (I.E. one with a CC0 license) from Pixabay

Before:


Fashion, Beauty, Model, Portrait, Girl

I was looking for a picture that suits the story of Eris (Greek goddess of chaos) in modern times (and who kinda sorta fit the mental picture I had of her in my head.) 

Part of the story Chaos. Hope. Love. is the fact that part of Eris's talents as a goddess (and the reason why she could be everywhere and nowhere at once) is the fact that she can dissolve herself into thin air, so I wanted my picture to represent that. 

A bit of adaption, a few words and...

After: 


Tada! For those of you who missed the previous million times I mentioned it, you can find the first part of Chaos. Hope. Love. here. ;-) 

Let me know what you think! Like the teaser graphic? Find the before and after idea interesting? Should I do more of these kinds of posts? 

Also! Just a heads-up to my friends on Wordpress. I keep hearing that people using Wordpress are struggling to visit Blogger blogs for one reason or another (or about a thousand of them.) 

SO. I'm experimenting with cross-posting to a Wordpress blog. Exact same content, just on a different platform. So if you'd rather go there, all you have to do is click this link.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Thing with Being a Writing Entrepreneur...

Now that I've decided to make a dead serious go of making a living, I'm having to completely rethink the way in which I'm spending my time.

And the thing is that I'm currently spending more time sorting out my social networking stuff than anything else. And there's so many things that depend on other things that depend on still other things, that I'm finding it really difficult to decide where to begin on a given day.

So, to help myself, I decided to create a nifty, colorful mind-map to simplify things visually.

This is the result...


*Headdesk* 

How are things going on your end?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Some More Perspective on the Full-Time Writing Thing

So lately, I decided to approach my writing like a business. And I'm calling myself a full-time writer, which has a few of you guys confused and worried.

Worried... might be somewhat accurate, although you guys are worrying for the wrong reasons. My other business(es) that I started to recover from the last SNAFU have entered the dreaded hurry-up-and-wait stage. Which is... Yeah. That bit worries me, and you're welcome to worry/pray with me. (Although I find that, upon praying, I worry a little less.)

The thing is that, while this hurry-up-and-wait phase is ongoing, I have hours and hours worth of time that I can use more constructively. And I decided to use those hours to be a full-time writer, because I'm basically working 40 day weeks at this writing thing (even, by the way, while I'm doing the day-job too.)

So really, this foray into full-time-writerness isn't new. At least, the time I can spend on it isn't. The major difference is that I've decided to set myself up better. Instead of saying I'll wait for quiet time and then waiting for an hour or two in case day-job work comes in, I'm asking if there's anything I have to do that can be done right now.

If there isn't, I'm immediately going into full-time-writer mode until such a time that something does come up at the office. (This happened on Wednesday, which I was super grateful for. But now offers have been made and we're waiting for clients to come back to us.)

In other words: No. I'm not refusing to do anything else that could bring me a more stable income just so I can write. 

It's just the case that, since I have to wait for my income anyway, I might as well spend it furthering my writing career instead of sitting around and doing nothing, waiting for the hours to pass.

Admittedly (as mentioned on Monday), pushing my writing career on a shoe-string budget is a pain in the ass.

That said, I'm not sure that it's a bad thing. 

Yes, I'm stressing about money. Yes, I have to literally turn every cent I get over twice in order to make this thing work. Yes, I'm currently having to do 90% of EVERYTHING myself and there are never enough hours in a day.

But.

Turning cents over twice is good business practice. Even when I do have money to splash around on my writing venture.

It's making me so sad to think how much money I wasted being inefficient with my time and money just because I assumed there would be another salary next month.

So yeah. EVEN if -- ahem -- WHEN my clients come back and my other job brings in some money, I'm only going to put back the royalties I've earned and used to other purposes. And IF I need more money for something, I will do so on a strict loan basis and keeping track of everything.

Because I want this thing to work. And it's not going to work if I'm lackadaisical about my writing business.

Business is a serious thing.

And I think, in retrospect, that saying "oh I'll make a career of writing someday when I have money" is bad business. (Sorry not sorry.)

So I'm putting my foot down right now.

I'm saying: Writing is my career now, regardless of my other jobs/obligations/present circumstances

I will approach it with the same seriousness with which I approach all of my other business activities.

Writing will support my writing.

And I will support my writing by writing even more.

Which is to say:

I am building an empire, even if I have to do it with my bare hands.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Spotlight on Mission to New Earth



Author: Diane Burton
Genre: science fiction romance
Release date: August 31, 2016
Length: 88 pages (25k words)


Blurb:


Would you go on a one-way trip to explore a new planet? Would you do it to save humankind?

Earth’s overpopulation and dwindling resources force the United Earth Space Agency to expedite exploration of new planets for a possible new home. When new crises ensue—a giant tsunami and the threat of nuclear winter—the timeline changes. Eight years of training crammed into four. Sara Grenard and her team prepare for launch, but are they ready for the one-way trip? Will the Goldilocks planet prove just right for Earth’s inhabitants? Before time runs out.


Excerpt:


“We screwed up again,” Marsh announced as soon as the five of us joined him. His voice echoed off the hard surfaces of the lav. “In RT, it could kill us.”
“You and your damn RT,” Tom spat out. “Why can’t you just say real time like a normal person?”
Marsh shot him a look, one I’d hate directed at me.
Military background evident, he stood in the middle of the area near the showers, his feet wide apart, hands clasped behind his back. The others were more casual. Bill held up a white-tiled wall across from the showers. Ana and Gloria sat on a fake wood bench. Meanwhile, I crossed my arms and leaned against a sink. I tried to look casual even though my nerves were strung tight. We had to be ready for the launch. Earth was dependent on us.
All of my team, except Tom and Marsh, wore hang-dog expressions. At forty, Tom was the oldest on the team and a damn fine pilot. His red face and mutinous expression as he confronted Marsh belied his usually even-keeled manner.
“You’re exaggerating, Rayburn.” That was more than angry. Tom was defiant. “You always exaggerate. Worst case scenario? Is that all you think about?”
I’d never seen Tom so worked up. Gloria walked over to him and rubbed his shoulder. Usually in stressful times, her gentle caress calmed him down. Not now.
When he shrugged off her hand, I caught the hurt in her eyes.
“C’mon, Bill. Back me up on this.”
Bill held out his hands in a don’t-get-me-involved gesture. He was our engineer, both formal and practical. He could fix anything from wonky engines to food replicators.
Tom turned to me. “Sara?”
I knew that was coming. I tried to let my team work things out by themselves. Soon we’d be living in close confines, not just on the ship but on our Goldilocks planet. If we couldn’t live in harmony during training, we would be in deep trouble once we reached our final destination. We’d be in even worse trouble if we couldn’t work out our differences here. Marsh was right to pick the only place that wasn’t monitored. We absolutely didn’t want the directors to think we weren’t a well-functioning team.
They could pull us and put in the Shadow Team. Our replacements.
“Okay, guys, what did I miss?” With a forced grin, I raised my right hand. “I swear I wasn’t dreaming about a day at the beach during the sim.”


GIVEAWAY:


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About the Author:


Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. She is also a contributor to two anthologies: Portals, Volume 2 and How I Met My Husband. Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and three grandchildren.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website

Goodreads: DianeBurton Author  

Sign up for Diane’s newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bdHtYf

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Timeless by Crystal Collier

TIMELESS (#3 Maiden of Time) by Crystal Collier #CoverReveal



Book Title: TIMELESS (Maiden of Time #3)
Author: Crystal Collier
Genre: YA Paranormal Historical
Release Date: November 1, 2016



TIME IS THE ENEMY

In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her Blog, FacebookGoodreads, or follow her on Twitter.

Want the first chapter free? Sign up HERE.


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