Say Hello to Something New, Say Goodbye to Something Old

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." -C.S. LewisI’m back in the saddle with a day job that has me excited about new things to learn and new people to meet. At my new company, the norm is to start the work day at the latest by nine in the morning, which is a significant shift from my recent employers, and certainly the night owl tendencies I lived during the course of my sabbatical. It’s like being in a different time zone, and I felt jet lagged most of the week.

There was, however, another drain on my energies. As of August 1st, our tenants moved out of our Milwaukee house. The disaster zone they left behind has meant that hubs and I have had to hire junk haulers, gardeners, and a handyman to deal with the mess.

For the record, JDog did an amazing job, if anyone in Milwaukee needs to deal with the detritus of evident hoarders. Apparently our former renters left behind clothes, exercise equipment, furniture… and even food in the fridge and freezer. And were kind enough to have the power turned off before they left to make sure things got stinky in the meantime.

For another thumbs up: Cantoral Maintenance ripped out years’ worth of weeds, trimmed back overgrowth, and re-mulched everything to live up to their Angie’s List top rating. From the outside, things are looking much better already.

Apparently, too, the renters changed one of the locks on the garage, and only saw fit to return one of the four sets of keys we gave them. They also felt free to scream at us and our various helpers claiming that all of these things are actually our fault.

There’s a certain level of heartbreak to knowing that a structure that sheltered you and provided a secure home base for you was so disrespected that the tenants felt free to destroy all the screens and blinds and did something inexplicable with plastic on the walls and windows that is causing our handyman headaches.

The good news in the mayhem is that no major repairs are necessary and we should be able to get the house on the market in the next week or so.

I can promise spamming the world with links to the listing once the realtor has it finalized, because the house deserves to be loved as a home once more–and hubs and I won’t be returning to Milwaukee to make that a reality.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading about things to do if you’re going through adversity. So far, we’re doing pretty well following that advice. Similarly, Tiny Buddha had a post I found recently that listed four ways to live life to the fullest. Being authentic and doing things we love are high on our daily task lists, which is why I suspect we have the emotional resilience to come through even the fiasco of our renters’ aftermath.

A former colleague forwarded a Forbes article about creating rockstar employee engagement that actually didn’t sound that far off from the personal advice in the previous two articles.

And then I found a futurist’s take on what the world could look like in 2050, and how to prepare today’s children to face that reality. It was a stark accounting of the pace of change and how little anyone is served by merely shoveling more data into their brains. It’s a long read in Wired‘s UK edition, and scary for anyone who’s looking for a sense of comfort at settling into middle age. The underlying point is that the world is changing so quickly, we all need to be equipped to know ourselves well enough to surf each transition and still land on our feet.

For myself, change seems to be a feature rather than a bug in my life in the same way the author of that article outlines. While reading about uncertainties writ large can sound scary, I’m the same kind of optimist as C.S. Lewis in today’s quote. So far it seems that even the worst-appearing changes put me into positions of growth, and allow me to remain true to myself.

My creative mission has lately been on the back burner as I adjust to the changes in my life, but the nature of my new schedule indicates I’ll be back to having an hour or two every evening to work on Team Alpha. I’ve adjusted my editorial deadline with the ever-patient Liana, so I’m hopeful that this book will be out in October or November.

On the health front, last week my phone says I averaged 4,744 steps (2 miles) walking, but only 6 hours and 16 minutes of sleep.

Even amidst an openness to change, it will be good to find a better sleep routine.

This thus marks my return to my weekly blogging schedule as I hold myself accountable for balancing my work life, my writing life, and my home life in such a way that I remain healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally. In the meantime, I recommend following the other ROW80ers as they pursue their goals.

DISTANT WORLDS – Science Fiction & Fantasy Giveaway

I’m participating in an SFF promotion this month from August 1 – 21.

Enter for Your Chance to Win!

Love science fiction, fantasy, and romantic F/SF? How would you like to win an ebook prize pack where YOU choose the books YOU want to win and read from Amazon? Enter and you could take home one of four ebook prize packs, a Kindle Fire 7, or Amazon gift card.

(Sponsored by the 36 authors listed below)

Anne Kane • Anne McClane • Aurora Springer • Calinda B • Candace Sams • Cara Bristol • Carol Van Natta • Christine Myers • Crystal Dawn • Cynthia Sax • Debra Jess • Edward Hoornaert • EG Manetti • Emmy Chandler • Eva Caye • Genevieve St-Yves • Jessie Kwak • Jon Del Arroz • Karina Kantas • Kayelle Allen • Kristine Smith • Lea Kirk • Lexi Post • Linda Mooney • Livia Quinn • Monica Enderle Pierce • Pauline Baird Jones • Regine Abel • Sarah Marsh • Shona Husk • Stephanie West • Susan A. Royal • Tiffany Roberts • Tonya Cannariato • Vicki Stiefel • Wesley Britton

And while you’re there, check out our Distant Worlds Book Fair for best-selling and highly reviewed ebooks on sale, FREE exclusive downloads, and a $15 Amazon bonus giveaway!


Attitude and Effort

"The two things in life you are in total control over are your attitude and your effort." -Billy CoxI’ve enjoyed my sabbatical, but it now officially has an end date. I return to day job land on July 30 as an IT Project Manager, Lead. The opportunity is intriguing because it has a built-in path for career growth for me, and one of my new colleagues described their current trajectory as potentially being a “catastrophic success”. So I’ll be working hard to make sure that first adjective falls off the table.

I’m also picking up my duties on the board of advisors to InfoWarCon starting this week. It’s an invitational congress for cyber training, so if anyone is interested in sponsoring it or speaking at it, give a holler.

For anyone else who remains in the job market, there was an interesting article at Fast Company this week with seven tips to avoid skeevy employers.

All of which to say that my remaining free time is dedicated to finishing Team Alpha before my return to my other career. My intrepid editor, Liana, has me penciled in for her piece of the work starting July 29. In the meantime, I’ve been reading about why Bahasa Indonesia is not spoken outside of school to help me get into one of my character’s heads. Then there was recent reporting on a new paper speculating about why we haven’t yet found aliens. Because of that, another character gets to comment on the Drake equation, while yet another worries about the impact of humans on a new planet. Obviously, this is something humans currently on Earth haven’t worried enough about, given a new study’s findings that humanity has killed 83% of all wild mammals and half of all plants.

Another point of pride for Americans, then? The US made the top ten of countries most dangerous for women in 2018 according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation Annual Poll.

After all those downers, some tips from Lifehacker on getting your head in a better space.

As for my goals? My phone says I averaged 3,969 steps a day last week, or 1.6 miles. That’s down quite a bit from the week before (mainly because the humidity was regularly reaching 90% and none of us could take being out in that), but still above goal. My phone also says I averaged 8 hours and 16 minutes of sleep last week. Plus I added over 5,500 words to my WIP.

I figure if I can average 2,000 words/day through the 28th, I’ll be in good shape to meet my deadline. Of course, today, we have other plans. For our date night, we’re going to see Ant Man and the Wasp. We have high expectations. And this is my birthday week, so we have additional plans. All of which means… unless I double my output on multiple days, the deadline is in jeopardy. So I’ll be putting my blog posting on hiatus for the next couple weeks again to focus all my efforts appropriately. In the meantime, I recommend checking out how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals.


"LIfe can change in an instant; don't be so worried about the future that you forget to celebrate what you have right now." -Jodi PicoultAfter a few quiet weeks, this week was a hectic harbinger of change. It hinged on Wednesday, when hubs started battling a toothache, and I had an interview. By Friday, hubs had to have oral surgery to remove a tooth that had become infected at the very bottom tip of the root. Less than a year after having gone through the pain and expense of replacing the crown on that tooth. And I got a job offer. This one looks like it could be an exciting new opportunity, but we’re still hammering out details, so that’s all I’ll say about it for now.

In the meantime, we’ve been celebrating the fact that we’ve had a couple months of uninterrupted time together. We’ve gotten to watch almost all of the rest of the third season of The Expanse. We got to watch The Incredibles II in the theater a couple days after digging out an old copy of The Incredibles and re-watching it so we could remember all the details. (Since the second in the series begins literal minutes after the story ending of the first, we were really glad to have refreshed ourselves on the plot. And both stories were incredibly well-told.)

And I’ve been chewing through the remaining novels in the Walker Papers series. The books get stronger with each new installment, and I’ve somehow managed to stall myself a the second pinch point of book 9 (it truly is a bleak circumstance. Part of the reason I can put it down is because it’s SO GRIM! I can’t actually imagine her surviving…) just to be able to consider the journey so far.

I also can’t say enough about my local library. They make checking out and returning books impossibly easy. And my checking account appreciates that I’m not spending every last dime on new books. I completed my Goodreads challenge last week already, and fifteen of the final sixteen books were from the library. I doubt I’ll update my challenge goal before I return to day job land, since it’s hard to anticipate what the new work schedule will be, and how much time it will allow me for reading.

The interesting thing about considering work and the state of the world… I wrote no new words this week. Chuck Wendig, naturally, had an NSFW rant about writing in this bleep bleep age of rot and resistance a few weeks back that could pertain. There was also the research released by Harvard Business Review last week that “Women Ask for Raises as Often as Men, but are Less Likely to Get Them.” Finally, a former colleague forwarded me an article outlining the eight steps of building a healthy, wealthy, and wise life. The intersection of the three articles has me in a mindset that small moves of persistence are likely the most effective. As is doing everything I can to remind myself of the limits of my scope of impact and figure out how to be okay with letting go of things I truly can’t shape.

Since it’s the start of another new ROW80 round, it’s also time to list my goals for the next 80 days.

  1. Find and start a new day job. This is one of several that’s carried over from last Round. The repeats all fall under the category of–these are essential for a balanced life.
  2. Finish writing Team Alpha.
  3. Submit Team Alpha to my editor.
  4. Return to my weekly blog schedule with my ROW80 updates.
  5. Walk at least a mile a day.
  6. Sleep at least 7 hours a night.
  7. Continue decluttering efforts, finishing all the closets.
  8. Keep the sanctity of my weekly date night with hubs.

As for meeting these goals? My phone says last week I averaged 4,866 steps, or 2.1 miles. It also tells me I averaged 7 hours and 56 minutes of sleep. As previously noted, the real trick will be to maintain these habits in the face of new schedule constraints. On the decluttering front, I finally weeded through all the piles of papers that have been building up on my desk. Hubs also unearthed the details on an electronics recycling business my brother had mentioned months back. We will finally be able to clear out old modems and broken printers and random other electronics that have taken up space in our house, as they linger like the albatrosses they are.

Until next week, then, may you make progress on your goals, and be inspired by others who are working on theirs.

Business Plan

"All things are possible. Who you are is limited by who you think you are." Egyptian Book of the DeadThe Memorial Day holiday two weeks ago tomorrow kicked off the unofficial beginning to the summer season in the US. So it hasn’t been terribly surprising to me that responses to job applications have been slow to come. But making contingency plans for an extended period of day job-less-ness has had me thinking about my other job. I’ve started writing my sixth novel, my eleventh title. Dean Wesley Smith kicked off this month with a duo of posts about writers quitting, positing that that’s the only way we derail our writing careers. And the New York Times had a thoughtful piece about how quitting (in a day job context) is sometimes the only way to get ahead.

Today, then, I ran across an author who described the process she went through to develop a business plan for her book-writing endeavor.

I’ve written business plans for hubs’ acupuncture practice, for business ideas we’ve had, and for my MBA. I haven’t done one for my writing. I’m not sure exactly why, though they are a pain to develop properly, and take time I’d prefer to dedicate to “real” writing. Yet I’ve treated my writing as a business from the very beginning, following the accounting templates Gayla had originally developed, being careful to note real costs versus actual income, and balancing promo opportunities against costs already incurred.

Since I’ve been dipping my toes into promotion much more this year than I have in the past–and I’ve been seeing an uptick in my sales in recent months–I might have to replicate Denise Grover Swank’s process for myself. In broad strokes, my goal has always been to release 2-3 titles per year… indefinitely. My assumption, based on other authors’ experience, is that at about the 20-title catalog mark, I should be seeing sustainable monthly income. My goal, given life’s vicissitudes, is to have a variety of income streams so that if algorithms change, or the economy changes, I have fallback options. Ensuring that my stories are available in audio, print, and ebook formats is one way to guard against risk.

Doing marketing, even for old titles, is another. There are a wide variety of highly respected book promotion options: Booksprout, The Book Promoter, and Hidden Gems Books are three I discovered this week. I’ve had good luck with Booktastik, Itsy Bitsy Book Bits, and Totally Talented Promotions. I’ll be working on putting together an actual plan to see if I can find the mix that works for my writing business.

Part of thinking about the business side of creative writing also means being specific and intentional about your audience. So an article in The Guardian asking why we don’t see middle-aged women on our book covers hit me between the eyes. This is my demographic. And my target demographic. My characters are intentionally middle aged. While I occasionally (rarely) still dip my reading toes in YA stories, I’ve lived beyond enjoying them as much any more. I want to read characters who’ve LIVED. Who’ve accumulated experience and perspective and worked hard to develop skills. So that’s what I’ve been writing. In researching some of the demographic details for characters in my newest book, I discovered Nigerian immigrants to the US are currently the most successful ethnic group here. And I learned about asexuality. The self-awareness it takes to put either of those character facets into context takes years of living, of being challenged by people who don’t understand you, of accepting who you are. That’s more interesting to me than children who are still largely unformed on the far side of that curve.

In any case, all online business options have the uncertainty of the Net Neutrality repeal going into effect tomorrow hanging over their proverbial necks like Damocles’ sword. Lucky are those who live in New York, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, where the politicians aren’t quite as craven as those at the national level, and have created local laws ensuring undifferentiated web speed tiers survive in at least a few outposts.

Apart from all this, I’ve been helping a friend whose relationship was derailed after 18 years. We’re choosing to channel that change into a cascade of changes that will culminate in a new animal rescue option for her town, so expect to see me promoting that fundraiser in the not-too-distant future.

Hubs and I have been keeping up with our daily walks, to the tune of 4,479 steps/day average last week, combined with an average of 8 hours and 27 minutes of sleep per night. There is definitely something to be said for being on hiatus/taking a sabbatical. I feel more relaxed and happy now than I have in quite a while, and will have to work to make sure these adjustments “stick” once I return to the working world.

On the other hand, we haven’t been keeping up with our shows that well–though we did binge the first three episodes of Season 3 of The Expanse. We’re thrilled Amazon has decided to pick up the show for a fourth season, too. Now that the Capitals have won the Stanley Cup, I’m sure we’ll get back to our more accustomed patterns.

In the meantime, this Round comes to an end in 11 days. I’ve reduced my blogging cadence to every two weeks to focus on research for word herding and job hunting, so my next check-in is most likely to be for setting goals for the next Round–pending any other unexpected announcements. In the meantime, look at everything my cohorts have accomplished.

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