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.

Change

"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.

Cover Reveal: Team Alpha

Team Alpha (Planet Seekers book 1), by Tonya CannariatoExciting news this week: I have a new cover to reveal. Kelley York once again provided something SHINY for me to chase. And Liana is helping me with a pre-write consult to make sure I don’t jump directly into a plot hole.

😀

The premise for this one: WWIII happened in 2020. By 2120, humans are finally figuring out a way to get off-planet to escape the nuclear destruction, led by India and China, who were spectators to the world war. Taoruti 3 might be the savior for the remnants of the Earth’s population. It’s up to a select team to clear the new planet for terraforming and colonization, but nobody has ever done this before—and the team carries within it the toxic politics that led to WWIII a hundred years previously.

Mostly… I’m hoping I’m not predicting something dire for the next few years.

Today, Gayla sent me the rough outline of another Katarr story, too, so I have more than one story percolating–even though I swore I wouldn’t do that to myself again.

Actually, in the process of cleaning up my bookmarks this week, I rediscovered the online service where I had kept story ideas in the past. There are quite a few stories in there that have not-insignificant beginnings to them. I’m getting to the point of most authors I know: More ideas than I know what to do with, or time to write them all down.

Which is an interesting irony given the ongoing saga of #cockygate. And even more interesting given one of my new favorite reads author, C.E. Murphy. I stumbled across her Walker Papers series in my library’s eBook listings and spent a couple days reading the first couple in it. It struck me forcibly that here’s another half-Native female mechanic protagonist, which, on the surface description makes you think the author’s totally going to rip off Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson work, but the characters are so unique it doesn’t even matter that they’re both realized in a PNR/UF genre. It made me unreasonably happy that both versions exist, and as far as I can tell, there’s no animus between the two authors for having had similar ideas at similar times. Strangely to me, Murphy’s story was actually published first, even.

In any case, I’m glad to see authors out there who are, truly, just focused on producing their next book.

The interesting reflection on that was an article I ran across urging readers to quiet their egos. In some ways, that also tied to the old articles I re-read recently, one on how to do emotional labor, and the other on practical steps men can take to support feminism. The article I can claim for research for my new novel, though, talks about “eyeball planets” and what it would mean practically to try to live on a tidally locked planet.

On the promotion side of my author work, I have sent my Red Slaves books out on an Itsy Bitsy Book Bits book spotlight tour for the next two months as well as reduced the price for book 1 through the end of this month. I’ve definitely noticed that having more books out means an increase in income and sales overall, though I’m still incredibly small potatoes (only three of my titles have sold more than 100 copies), but it’s motivating me to keep going. And to invest a little in some of the promotional stuff I’d always previously eschewed.

And I’m in talks with a company about the possibility of selling them some of the rights to some of my stories. Once the final agreements have been inked, you can be sure I’ll let you know the relevant details. {{smile}}

Apart from all that, I’ve been diligently applying for jobs, and hubs and I have been walking the doggies enough that my phone says I averaged 3,941 steps a day last week. And 7 hours and 44 minutes of sleep per night. With all the binge reading my new library card has afforded me, I’m already 85% done with my Goodreads reading challenge for the year, but that also means I haven’t kept the date night with hubs. Given he’s wrapped up in the Capitals’ unlikely run at the Stanley Cup, I guess that’s maybe also my own self-defense.

😀

Meantime, Round 2 for this year is about two-thirds done. I’ve actually done pretty well with my goals this time around, but I’d like to see if I can get more into the writing groove this week. While I work on that, I encourage you to see how the other ROW80ers are doing.

Balancing Act

Life is often a balancing act between worry and fear and not giving a shipootie about anything...So you know all that research about how stress compromises your immune system? I lived that the past couple weeks. Evidently our visiting friends brought some kind of toxic stew of germs because both hubs and I were down for the count for a good week, and we’ve been slow to recover from whatever upper respiratory bug we were dealing with. Not that that kept me from worrying any, but at least we caught up on some of our sleep.

Making sure a new release coincided with a review roundup seems to have helped ensure the word got out about having a new book out. Not my best release statistics, but also not bad considering how poorly book 2 had done on the sales front.

Which means I’ve been pondering what I want to write next. I’ve had the good luck to have gotten to talk to Gayla more now that my schedule is a little less constrained, and we’ve been kicking around ideas on another After the Fall story.

But what finally started sinking its teeth into me yesterday was a story about a sentient planet, and Planet Seekers from Earth in about 100 years who are looking for a new home for humanity. For once, I’m starting with an actual list of antagonists and am tentatively outlining the conflicts in the story before I start. It got me excited enough last night that I couldn’t sleep.

It’s been a long time since one of my own story possibilities kept me awake all night.

As frustrating as it was, it was also exciting to let my imagination play. And not just with imaginings about what my dogs might be seeing that I can’t see. Or how the new voice-driven AIs cross the line into creepy-ville. Or even the newest speculation about where crystals might have been mined from.

The big news in the writing world was an author who trademarked the word “cocky”. And then started sending cease and desist letters to people who had that word in titles that had come out before the trademark was issued–and before even that author’s work had been published. I particularly liked Jami Gold’s response regarding the absolute need for a community of authors, so nobody else gets sucked into that vortex of shortsightedness.

Of course that meant that I found Book and Main Bites, and had to set up a profile there. (Though I haven’t yet created any bites of my books…) This, on top of the profile I have at AuthorsDB and the one at Goodreads and the one at Amazon and Wattpad and the one at IAN the one I’m considering setting up at Indie Authors Support Network. I’m pretty sure there’s one I’m forgetting, but haven’t dug through my bookmarks yet to rediscover. At a certain point, while I know it’s SEO best practice to cross-link as much as possible and it’s important to do everything you can to increase your discoverability, there is just a lot of time that needs to be invested in keeping each of those up to date.

I still need to finish the print layouts for books 1 & 2 so the formatting matches across the redesign of all four books in the Red Slaves series.

Hubs and I also got to see Infinity War. In fact, we went twice, because it was so big and overwhelming and well-done, it deserved the repeat. We also averaged 3,678 steps daily the past two weeks. And I averaged 8.5 hours of sleep a night the past two weeks. So I’m doing pretty well on a lot of the self-care bits that had been getting short shrift. I still don’t have anything definitive on the day job front, though. So my days are largely focused on trawling all the various job sites I know of and reminding all of my friends and former colleagues of my credentials and availability. I hope I haven’t crossed into the realm of being annoying, but the new day job requirement deadline is coming up fast, so I’m leaving no stone unturned. Until next week, then, check out what the other ROW80ers are up to.

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