The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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Back and There Again (Happy 2022!)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Happy first Monday of the New Year, friends!

I wrote another version of this post last week. I deleted it because I was in an introspective and melancholy mood that day, and it showed. And also because I went into WAY too much detail recapping 2021, after which it occurred to me that I had already written posts about most of those things, and y’all can just scroll back and read if you actually care.

With all that said, despite everything happening *gestures vaguely* out there, on a personal level 2021 actually turned out to be a pretty good year. It got off to a rocky start, with a brief period of unemployment and the Ice Apocalypse killing our well pump and cancelling our plans to get both an Anatolian shepherd puppy and chicks, but by March everything started coming together. We ended up getting Dixie, work started to roll in from bigger and better clients, we got our garden bed built and actually had our first successful vegetable garden, and then come fall we finally got our chicks and built them a coop from scratch. We made big strides on the homesteading front, and as far as freelance income goes, I had my best year ever. All those setbacks at the start of the year turned out to be prepping us for things to come together and work out just as they were supposed to.

With all the stuff going on, I spent the first half of the year in a bit of an existential crisis that was carried over from 2020, questioning whether I wanted to continue writing fiction and trying to make headway as an author in any way, shape or form, or if I just wanted to scrap it all and become a farmer. After a lot of prayer and soul searching, I realized that yes, I still want to write and publish novels, AND I want to be a farmer. And thanks in large part to Becca Symes and her Quitcast, I figured out what I needed to do both to get motivated to write again and to fit it back into my life. Which resulted in finally finishing my Dominion of the Damned trilogy and getting pretty darn close to finishing the romance novel I’d started in 2020.

(In my original draft of this post it took me more than 1200 words to tell you all of that. Seriously, be glad I deleted it.)

So what did I learn in 2021? A lot, actually. Too much to list here. But here are some highlights:

  • I learned a lot more about the Bible and theology, particularly around the areas of eschatology (end-times prophecy studies) and things pertaining to the Nephilim, the Tower of Babel, Enoch and all of that fun stuff. It didn’t really alter my views, but it all helped to refine and solidify my understanding of the Big Picture.
  • I went through a whole journey regarding conspiracy theories and trutherism and came out the other side feeling that it’s best to keep an eye on things with a healthy balance of open-mindedness and skepticism, testing and verifying everything to the best of your ability, and that overall my time and energy are better spent studying scripture and keeping my eyes on Jesus.
  • I learned a lot about the Thing that Shall Not Be Named, and also learned that when you find out information that’s contrary to the allowable beliefs about said thing, the only people who want to hear about it are those who already have their doubts and suspicions, and everyone else is happy to believe and go along with the sanctioned narrative and won’t appreciate you trying to educate them with facts, even if said facts could save their lives and/or long-term health. People are just gonna believe what they want to believe and do what they want to do. I tried, man. I guess I should just be glad that the officially sanctioned narrative is shifting and some of these facts are starting to be officially acknowledged and publicized–too late to help thousands, if not millions, of people make better-informed choices that could have saved lives, but whatever.
  • Relatedly, I discovered my voice this year and learned how to use it to say what I really think and believe.
  • I learned a lot about how I’m wired as a writer and what I need in order to become and remain consistently productive. And that, for me, showing up consistently to write a little each day is more effective than trying to do marathon writing sessions or cram in high daily word counts.
  • Related to that, I learned that I really am hardwired to need a lot of downtime to just think and process, and that I have to be careful not to cram so much into my schedule that I don’t have time for that. I need to spend at least as much time taking in and processing ideas and information as I do producing stories and content. Fortunately, I can get a lot of thinking done while still being productive at things like household chores and gardening, so it’s not like I have to just sit on my hinder and do nothing. But I do need to remember sometimes not to listen to podcasts while doing those things so I can give myself time to think instead.
  • Speaking of podcasts, and of learning about Nephilim and the pre-flood world, I learned that Blurry Creatures is an amazing podcast.
  • Finally, I learned that I’ve got a good life. I’ve always been plagued with a slight disassociation, a feeling of being somewhat removed from my own life, not feeling at home in my own skin, and feeling like I’m just biding my time and waiting for my real life to begin. But for the last couple of years those feelings have been steadily fading and I’ve been feeling more solidly grounded in my current life, more at peace with myself and at home in my skin, and more present and fully engaged. This last year I feel like I really turned a corner, and really felt for the first time in my almost-49 years how it feels to be truly alive and aware in the moment. There were a lot of moments this year, most of which involved being outdoors, covered in sunshine and surrounded by nature, soaked in sweat and covered in dirt and/or sawdust and/or chicken poop, many of which also involved doing a project with my husband, and just being filled with gratitude and thinking that I really, really love my life.

But all of that was last year. So what about 2022?

I have a feeling things are about to get real interesting. That the last two years were just the tip of the iceberg. I would love to be wrong. I’m not going to make predictions, but with aliens and UFOs and CERN and small pox all making headlines lately, I’m thinking we’d all best buckle up. At any rate, I’ve got all those things on my 2022 bingo card.

But one of my intentions for the new year is to spend less time looking at and thinking about headlines and more time praying, studying the Word and living this pretty great life I’ve been blessed with.

My big goal for the year is to grow my publishing income to a point where it can replace my freelance writing income so I can retire from that. To that end, here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish this year:

  • Publish six new books. I’ve got a head start on this, with my romance novel nearly finished, two novellas I wrote in 2020 waiting in the queue to be edited, and another novella started and waiting to be finished. The first novella is a stand-alone horror story that I’m hoping to release in February. The other two are the start of an urban fantasy series that will live in Kindle Unlimited. And to those I want to add a follow-up to my first romance novel, and a third novella — either a romance novella for Christmas or the third installment of the urban fantasy series. If all goes well I may try to squeeze in both, but that might be getting into magical thinking. At any rate, as long as life remains stable enough to keep writing, I’m going to do my ever-lovin’ best to release a book every other month, starting in February.
  • Repackage existing books. This will include paperback versions of Dominion, and eventually a boxed set, as well as a boxed set and a paperback collection of my shorter works.
  • Substantially grow my mailing list(s), set up lengthy automated campaigns and get back to monthly newsletters for both of my pen names.
  • Learn what I need to learn to become effective at advertising on Facebook and Amazon.

I’m also playing around with my schedule to see if I can fit a second writing session into my mornings and increase my average daily word count from 500 to 1,000. If I can do that, I’ll finish my current WIP in a couple of weeks, and I’ll be able to write a novella in about a month. So far so good — this morning I was able to fit in another half-hour of writing after my morning chores and Bible study. The big question is whether I’ll be able to keep that up once freelance assignments start coming back in (the agencies I work for are still closed for the holidays), but hopefully by then it will be enough of a habit that it won’t be something I have to think about.

I spent a lot of time over the weekend examining my priorities as far as marketing efforts go, trying to determine what will get me the most results for the least amount of effort. Social media and blogging both fell pretty low on the ROI list, so those are going to get less attention this year. Not that I’m not going to do them, but they’re not something I’m going to stress myself out about fitting into my weekly schedule. I may also phase out these coffee talks. I enjoy them, but they haven’t gotten any engagement in a long time, so I may just stick to more thematic, evergreen content when I feel moved to write some, as well as book news updates. If you want to keep up with what’s doing around the ol’ homestead, you can follow my personal Instagram–at least until I get mad at Instagram/Facebook/Meta whatever and decide I’m taking my toys back to my own sandbox, or they cancel me for all my spicy opinions and sharing of unapproved facts.

(Another thing I learned is that my “Strategic” brain is always editing my plans on the fly. It’s not ADHD that makes me flip back and forth so much, it’s just my strategic thinker wiring trying to adapt to life’s twists and turns.)

Other than that, we don’t have any big plans for the year. We’re just going to maintain the status quo, try to keep our current animals alive and healthy, expand our garden and learn some new skills. I started a 30-day diet reset today, but that’s not really a NY resolution, just needing to get things back on track and recover my health after the holidays. It’s not anything major, just avoiding sugar, alcohol and processed junk for the next thirty days to get it all out of my system and lower my chronic inflammation. Today is actually my first day in a while without any sweets. I had a pretty intense chocolate craving earlier, but I got through it. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon are usually my most intense craving times, so I’ve just got one more to get through today. Usually when I do this sort of thing, by day three the cravings start to abate, so I’m pretty confident that I’ll make it.

How’s your 2022 shaping up? Do you have a word for the year? Resolutions? Goals? Intentions? Hopes? Plans? Tell meeeee!

101 in 1001

101 in 1001In lieu of traditional resolutions this year, I’ve decided to put together a list of 101 things to accomplish in 1001 days. This is not an official 101 in 1001, partly because I’m not strictly adhering to the official rules, and partly because I don’t plan to track them publicly through the community website (although I will post updates and progress reports here). If you’d like more info on the official 101 Things in 1001 Days Challenge, you can click here.

My version is mostly made up of things that need to get done that I keep putting off, although I didn’t completely neglect fun and personal growth. There are also a few goals that are about obtaining things rather than accomplishing tasks, but these are things that we need and/or will help accomplish some of the tasks on the list. Also, several things on the list won’t be doable unless/until our income picks back up, but with two and three-quarter years to get it done, I’m going to be optimistic.

So without further ado…

So Long, 2013. Don’t Let the Door Hit Ya.

So, 2013 kinda blew, and I can’t say I’m sad to see it in my rear-view mirror. I spent a lot of time doing the things I thought I was “supposed” to do–looking for a “real” job, doing low-paying and unsatisfying work to keep the lights on, marketing the heck out of a web design business that is becoming less and less viable as a business model (seriously, how does a small studio compete not only with the big design agencies, but also with all of the pre-made themes and cheap/free DIY solutions out there? The answer: not very well), and it didn’t get us anywhere. Well, the lights did stay on. And I did experience some personal growth, which you can read about here. But otherwise, 2013 was pretty useless.

Especially from a writing standpoint. I mean, it wasn’t entirely void of accomplishment; I did write some short stories, and experienced some much-needed growth in that area. But I didn’t write any of the novels I’d hoped to write this year. Heck, I didn’t even make good headway on one. It wasn’t just that I didn’t have the time, I simply didn’t have the energy. For a while there, it was like I forgot how to write. The story-telling part of my brain just ceased functioning, and when I did try, everything was crap.

With all of that in mind, for the New Year, my biggest goals are, one, to not allow myself to get distracted from the things that really matter. Instead of wearing myself out doing things that feel dutiful and responsible that aren’t really generating any income anyway, I’m going to try out this wacky theory that keeps getting put forward by successful people that if you focus on doing what you love, success will find you. And you’ll be a lot less cranky in the process.

The other big goal is simply to develop a daily writing routine and stick to it. Even if it’s only, like, 50 words a day. But it has to be fiction. Blogging and freelance writing don’t count.

I do have other goals. For one, I’m going to experiment with new ways to grow my fan-base (I’ll be doing a post in the next few days about how you can help with that) and increase book sales (because the more books I sell, the more time I can free up to write new ones).

This is also going to be a year filled with editing. You should see some new books coming out this year, but they’ll be books I wrote years ago and never finished (or started, in some cases) revising , as well as last year’s slew of short stories and flash fiction, starting with Shiny. I might also experiment with serializing one of those unpublished novels, but I’m still working out the details on that.

As for books in my “to be written” queue, that still includes the untitled Restless Spirits-adjacent-but-not-a-sequel paranormal romance, the other two to three books in the Damned series, the steampunk western Radium Town, and a Restless Spirits YA prequel that might become a series. If I can get just one of those drafted this year, I’ll be happy.

The keyword this year is “Focus.” And if y’all know me at all, you know what a huge challenge that is for me; but new years are all about challenging yourself, right?

Right. So what are your big goals for 2014?

Arranging My Plate

Note: If you’ve somehow landed here from the IWU New Year’s Blog Hop, please note that you’re here by mistake and I’m not participating in the current hop. But you are nonetheless welcome to hang out here and peruse my blog.

That’s right, dear readers, there is another Blog Hop going on this week, so if you didn’t win that Kindle Fire during the Holiday Hop, here’s your second chance.

I was originally planning to participate, but then the new year threw a whole bunch of work at me all at once and something had to give. So, no giveaways here on my blog this week, although I am planning something for after things settle down a bit, so don’t wander too far away for too long.

Speaking of being overwhelmed, this time management tip from the International Freelancers Academy arrived in my inbox the other day just when I needed it the most. I was feeling sick and overwhelmed and had actually just drafted a resignation letter for one of my contract jobs because I was so overextended. I haven’t sent that letter yet, but let me tell ya, this particular job not only pays the least of all of my current gigs, it’s also the most demanding and stressful. The only reason I’m hesitant to resign is fear that if I do, all of the other jobs will dry up all at once and then I’ll have nothing, a fear that is neither unfounded in the freelancing world, nor unprecedented in my freelancing career. So I’m going to give this piece of advice a whirl and see if I can continue fitting them in without losing my sanity or letting them push all of the higher-paying work, not to mention my writing priorities, off of my plate.

Basically, this tip suggests diagramming all of your projects as a jigsaw puzzle to help you visualize how to fit all of the pieces together in your work day. I tailored it a bit and diagrammed it as a plate instead of a jigsaw puzzle, because that just makes more sense to my brain, and because since I’m always talking about my plate being too full, I thought it might be useful to see just what that looks like.

Also, instead of listing every single project and trying to fit them into this chart (because that would just make me want to shoot myself), I divided them up into broad categories, and then charted each category on the plate, like so:

The plate itself represents an eight-hour work day (my days usually go longer, but that’s mainly because of interruptions and distractions; so I’m charting the actual time that should be spent working). I have five categories of stuff that I need to get done each day: Writing & Publishing, Marketing, Freelance Writing, Web Dev & Graphic Design, and e-mail and miscellaneous little stuff that always has to get done.

Writing & Publishing is pretty self-explanatory — this is my noveling time, and I try to make it the first hour of my day (because otherwise it won’t get done). This covers all of the various tasks from drafting a story to revisions to formatting and book design, depending on which stage I’m at with a particular story. If all my dreams come true, this category will someday take up about two-thirds of my plate, and Marketing will take up the remaining third. But for now all I get is one measly hour a day to just be a writer.

Marketing covers all of my various book marketing tasks, as well as blogging. It also covers marketing my freelance business and looking for new clients. It’s actually quite a lot of work to cram into one hour a day, but right now I’m just counting my blessings that I actually have other work and don’t need to spend all day hunting for work and trying to hawk my wares.

The biggest chunk of time is for Demand Studios and other freelance writing jobs. DS is actually paying pretty decent money right now and they would actually take up the rest of my day if I didn’t have other client obligations.

But I do, and so I’ve carved out two hours for client projects — mainly web development and graphic design stuff. This is where the object of that letter is going to have to fit in, and only after my other (better-paying) clients are taken care of. And when they learn that they’re relegated to two hours a day on days when I don’t have more important things to work on, that letter might just become moot; but that’s what they get for being both the lowest and most difficult rung on my income ladder.

Before I did this little exercise, I asked myself how useful it would really be, but now that I’ve done it, I think it has helped me feel less frazzled and more like my work is actually manageable. I know I have readers who are juggling multiple projects and feel like they’re spinning a lot of plates — hopefully, this exercise will help you guys figure out how everything fits on just one plate. And hopefully it will help ME attain my 2013 goal of budgeting my time better and finding more balance in my life.

Daring To Dream In Uncertain Times

Warning: Uncertain TimesHello there, fellow preppers! I’m back after an unexpected hiatus that was forced on me by my “day job.”

Part of the reason for my absence is that I’ve been working toward my survival goal of getting out of debt and acquiring some land by overhauling my freelance business–niching down my services, raising my prices, overhauling my web site, researching marketing strategies, that sort of thing.

Any time I start giving serious attention to the structure and operation of my business like that, I eventually find myself starting to dream big, and this time it’s no different. Suddenly I’m having visions not just of improved income, but of someday growing my little web design “studio” beyond just me and my laptop to something that includes partners and employees and posh office space.

And then I remember that our nation and its economy are on the verge of a meltdown, and I reel it back in.

Preparedness Goals for 2012

Happy new year, fellow preppers! At least, here’s hoping that it’s happy and all of our concern about the economy, et al, fails to pan out.

A new year is always a good time to take stock and set some goals, and Casa Prepper has plenty of goals for the coming year, not the least of which is simply to survive it. To that end, here are the things we’re working toward this year:

  • Getting in shape. While this goal makes the top of most people’s new year’s resolutions, for preppers it takes on a higher degree of importance, as being healthy and in good shape is a vital component of survival. After all, having a garage full of freeze-dried food and water won’t help you much if you’re unable to run for your life if need be, which I’m not sure I could do successfully at the moment. We also face the possibility of having to bug out on foot, hiking for miles over uncertain terrain while carrying many pounds of gear on our backs. And working on strength training so that I won’t be easily overpowered by “zombies” is also on my to do list.

Goal Post & Update

Wow, y’all. Work has been busy. I didn’t blog last week because there just wasn’t time. This is excellent news for our ability to pay our bills, although this pace is already threatening to burn me out. I haven’t been able to touch my novel, either, and any time off I’ve managed to grab has been spent trying to cram in all of the stuff that has to be done that I don’t get paid to do. I am, in a word, tired.

So now that I’ve got the productivity goal conquered, my goal for this and the upcoming weeks is to work on finding balance and pacing myself. I need to manage that extra eight hours better and give myself a little more time to do things I WANT to do and not just what has to get done. That way, hopefully, lies sanity, and avoidance of that mental energy wall I keep running into by Thursday afternoon.

To that end: it’s after 9 PM on Monday night, and instead of working till 11 like I have been, I’m going to go put my feet up and find something to watch on Netflix, and then I shall read until I get sleepy, and it shall be bliss.

What are YOU doing to stop the insanity, my fellow goalies?

ETA: I can’t believe I almost forgot! One of the projects that’s been keeping my nose so hard-pressed against the grindstone is finished (mostly — I still have to redo the blog template and revise the video on the home page) and officially launched last night. Check out my handiwork for FutureWave Consulting.

Now if I can just find time to update my portfolio (without burning out my brain)…

Goal Post: Week 5

Well, despite being crazy-busy all week, I didn’t finish anything, but that’s mostly because of waiting for other people to get back to me before I can continue. I did come within only $40 of my weekly quota, which I don’t believe will be too hard to make up. The main thing is that I’m getting more billable work done in the allotted time, and if I can get through a week without any major schedule interruptions, I should get all of my work in just fine.

Goal Post: Week 4

[Cross-posted]

I didn’t even have time for a goal update this week, and by the weekend I was too brain-fried to bother. The good news is that for the first time ever last week I earned too much to qualify for an unemployment check — which is really excellent timing, since my unemployment year expires at the end of this month. I didn’t make my “Need to make $X to make ends meet” quota, but I would have if I hadn’t spent most of Monday on unpaid hours trying to fix that broken WordPress blog.

Goal Post: Week 3

I’m running behind this week, thanks to an entire day lost to trying to figure out a problem in WordPress and making no progress.

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