The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

Tag: New Year

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!

Happy New Year?

Well, here we are. It’s the first Monday of 2021, and time to get back to work. I hope this post finds you rested up and that you at least had a peaceful holiday season, even if it wasn’t quite what you hoped it would be.

Normally, I would use my first post of a new year to reflect on the previous year, but I think we’re all in agreement that the sooner we move on from 2020, the better. Still, it wasn’t all bad, at least in our little pocket of the rural South, where folks go about their lives and business in a manner that would let you forget there’s a pandemic if you didn’t turn on the TV, look at the internet, or drive to town and try to enter Walmart without a mask. You know it’s not a good year when you measure your success by how much you didn’t lose rather than how much you gained, but while we lost some work, we still had enough coming in to get us by, which is more than a lot of people can say, and while we were heartbroken to lose our beloved Chihuahua, Pete, we didn’t lose any human loved ones, which is also more than too many people can say. We’re among the fortunate, and though the year was hard, it’s important to acknowledge that.

Apart from our dog’s drawn-out illness and passing, and apart from watching the devolution of our society and liberty and battling the cognitive dissonance of witnessing plots of horror movies I grew up watching play out in real life, the most frustrating thing about last year was that not a single one of my professional plans or goals panned out. The year started out great — I had my best ever month in terms of writing and freelancing income in March, right before the lockdowns started to impact the freelancing world, but then it was all downhill from there. I didn’t finish a single big writing project and had to settle for publishing half a novel just so I could say I published something that year. My one comfort is that I’m not alone. You would think that being stuck at home for long periods would be a writer’s dream come true, but a lot of writers complained that they struggled to get anything written last year.

But like I said, it wasn’t all bad. In 2020 I learned a lot, and grew a lot, and I’ll be sharing more about that in coming weeks. For now, I’m entering into 2021 with cautious optimism, at least on the professional front, and I’m doing things a little different this year. After setting big goals last year and overloading myself with projects only to burn out early, this year I’m not making any big plans or setting any big goals, but taking a more measured and streamlined approach. Rather than focusing on completion, I’m focusing on consistency, on getting back into the habit of simply showing up. Rather than saying, “I’m going to finish this book, gosh durnit!” I’m just doing my best to write a little bit on it each day.

One thing I started last year that was going well was that I started streamlining my online presence and workspace, and that’s something I want to continue working on in the new year. I’ve already discontinued posting on Instagram thanks to their new, abhorrent TOS (I’m not rushing to delete my accounts, but taking a wait-and-see approach to see what happens with the antitrust lawsuit and whether Facebook ends up having to sell off Instagram and if that will improve things there) and, other than the occasional automated post and the most basically necessary professional usage, I no longer use Twitter. I’m still dithering about Facebook — I really hate having anything to do with that platform, but it’s too useful to give up entirely. I launched a separate blog for my new clean romance pen name, but then never updated it, so I’m going to merge that here and just have a section on this website for that brand, and I’ll be moving my Broke Author stuff here, too. I think. Maybe. Anyway, I still have my separate mailing lists for each pen name, but I’m thinking about doing one big monthly newsletter to keep all of my subscribers in the loop. I’m still figuring this out, but I think this website is going to get revamped (again) and focus more on me as a professional person with many interests and irons in the fire and less on HERE ARE MY URBAN FANTASY BOOKS PLEASE BUY THEM THANK YOU.

But after spending the last week evaluating what’s been getting in my way, a few things are clear. One is that I need to stay away from places and platforms that suck me into endlessly scrolling and not actually doing things, and also from places and platforms that make me feel like I or my life is not enough (coincidentally, those happen to be the same platforms). I need to cut out the things that aren’t going anywhere or bearing any good fruit. And I need to seriously limit my exposure to the news. Not completely, because I think that would be foolish, but enough that it’s not stealing my peace or keeping me distracted from living my life.

At any rate, with all of that in mind, what I’m really hoping for is to be able to build my own community around this blog and my aforementioned newsletter. To that end, for the rest of this month I’m challenging myself to blog every week day, in order to get back into a consistent blogging habit (I haven’t chosen a word for this year, but if I did, it would probably be “consistency”). Mostly that will be here, but a few of those posts might end up on my pet blog, which is the one thing I’m still going to keep separate.

I’ve got other hopes for this year, and they mostly have to do with things like chickens and gardening and travel and learning useful life skills and surviving the End of Days. I’m sure I’ll talk about some of that in the coming weeks and months, but for now, these are the things I’m working on in the professional arena, in case you were wondering.

How are you approaching this new year? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

It’s 2019, but I’m Blogging Like it’s 2003

My goal for the new year: become as relaxed and chill as this good boy.

Happy new year, folks! I hope you’ve managed to get off the post-holiday struggle bus and start getting back into the swing of things. As rarin’ to go as I thought I was for 2019 to get started, as far as actually getting off my butt, my new year didn’t really get started until this week. But so far, it’s going pretty well.

2018 really kicked my hinder. I talked some in my last post about how stressful and chaotic it was, but I don’t think I fully realized the toll it had taken on me, or just how burned out I was, until I had an opportunity to really slow down and rest during the last half of December. I was a complete emotional mess in the days leading up to Christmas. I spent a lot of my break just being lazy as h*ck and refusing to feel guilty about it. I did a lot of journaling, but other than that and the necessary stuff around the house, I allowed myself to do ZERO work–not even to think about it–until after New Year’s, and then I spent the first few days of January just thinking about what I want and hope for for 2019.

My word for the year is “Health.” I have some chronic health problems I need to address, and I need to get better at taking care of myself. Part of that means eating healthier. I’m not doing anything drastic like Whole 30 or anything crazy like that (if you’re doing Whole 30, more power to you, and I wish you success. I did it once, and once was enough), but simply trying to be more mindful about what I put in my body and making healthier choices on a day-by-day, meal-by-meal basis. One positive thing I got out of Whole 30 was the idea of stopping whenever I’m tempted to consider the impact what I eat will have on my health and on how I feel, and to ask myself if it’s worth it. Sometimes the answer is yes (with pizza and homemade baked goods the answer is always yes), but surprisingly often, the answer is no.

It also means moving more. I’m not going crazy with that, either, but I definitely feel better and tend to be in a happier mood when I fit some movement into my day. Currently that looks like doing yoga most mornings and occasionally before bedtime. I started doing yoga on my break, mainly because it seemed like a good way to settle my mind and my overwhelming emotions, and I kind of fell in love with it. By now I’ve been at it long enough that it’s starting to be a habit, and my day doesn’t feel complete without it. I’m also becoming bendier and less prone to carrying tension around in my muscles, which is helping a lot of my aches and pains.

It also means resting more. I thought I had a pretty good handle on slowing down and resting when I needed to, but I took this rest assessment and discovered that I actually suck at resting. Apparently just getting to bed on time (most nights) and letting myself be lazy on Saturdays isn’t as adequate as I thought. So I’m trying to fit more types of rest into my life. Yoga is part of that. I also got out my guitar and started practicing again, and I dug out my coloring books and pencils and started a new embroidery project, because it’s easier for me to be still and quiet and not let my thoughts spin out of control and wear me down if I can keep my hands busy and have something visual to concentrate on. And I’m trying to take advantage of this freakishly warm winter to get outside and into the woods more often. Oh, and I’m trying to spend less time on my phone, except for when I’m using it to read or listen to books or podcasts.

As far as my working life goes, this looks like being more gentle with myself and moving at a more relaxed pace. Last year, I let myself get sucked into this hustle mindset of trying to do all the things and get them done as quickly as possible, and I blame that for the burnout I was feeling by the end of the year. I’m just not made for hustle. I’m wired to be slow, thoughtful and methodical, and when I forget that, or try to force myself to be different, it’s always a recipe for pain and suffering. I also let myself get pushed into believing I had to be a lot more ambitious than I’m actually wired to be, to come up with a vision for my life that, when I snapped out of whatever spell I was under and really examined it, was sheer insanity and not the kind of life I want for myself AT ALL.

Side note: one thing I discovered about myself last year is that I’m an Enneagram 9 (head to the Lazy Genius’s Instagram and click on her Enneagram story highlight for a quick primer on the Enneagram, if you don’t know what that is), and 9’s have a tendency to “merge” with people we spend a lot of time around, meaning we tend to internalize their goals and ideals as our own. I realized I was spending a lot of time following influencers whose ideals and goals are great for them, but terrible for me. So I had to spend some time culling my feeds and eliminating all of the voices that were leading me down an unhealthy path, and I also had to spend some time just staying off of social media altogether and getting really quiet while I figured out what I actually want and what is actually best for me and my life. And going forward, I now know I need to be really careful about the voices and influences I allow into my life. But on the flip side, I can use this tendency for good by surrounding myself with people who are positive influences and will help steer me in the direction I want to go.

So I’m trying something new this year. I’m not setting any concrete goals for myself, I’m not going after any big dreams. I’m not actively investing in personal growth or trying to change myself in any big way. Instead, I’m just going to let myself relax this year and really get to know myself, and get used to being comfortable in my own skin. And I’m going to just enjoy my right-now life without trying so hard to change it. Because while it’s not perfect, it’s actually pretty good. I’ve already accomplished a lot of things and I’m living out the result of several dreams having already come true, but you wouldn’t know it, because instead of letting myself slow down and enjoy any of it I’m always looking ahead and chasing after the next big thing. But I have this theory that if I just relax and enjoy my life and just keep doing my work at a steady pace, it’s all going to work out the way it’s supposed to. So for now, I’m just going to allow my life and career to unfold one day at a time without trying to force anything to happen, and to be led by my own intuition and instincts instead of by the proclamations of gurus and experts.

What does that mean for my writing? It means I’m going to take a more relaxed approach, for one thing. This is the first time in three years that I don’t have any official deadlines or contractual obligations to fulfill, so I’m going to enjoy that freedom and follow the muse where it leads me. I’m going to allow myself to have multiple projects going at once, bouncing back and forth as inspiration leads me, instead of forcing myself to focus on one story from beginning to end. I’m going to work at a comfortable pace and not worry about a production schedule or setting arbitrary deadlines for myself. Stories will get done when they get done. Books will come out when they come out. And hopefully, I’ll rediscover the joy of creating for creation’s sake instead of focusing on what the end product will look like and how well it will sell.

Currently, I’m working on two novellas. One is a stand-alone. The other is the beginning of an experiment in serialization–I’m planning to release this story as a series of shorter novellas, and eventually bundle them together into one larger volume (or volumes, depending on how long it ends up being; I’m thinking this could turn into an ongoing series) a la what Hugh Howey did with Wool.

I started this new series this week on a whim, although it’s been percolating in the back of my mind for quite a while now. If you’re a longtime subscriber to my newsletter, then last year you got the chance to read a short story called “Night Driving,” which I’m getting ready to release in e-book form alongside another short I wrote last year. This new series will center around the main character of that story and pick up about six months after those events. I’ve got a couple of scenes in the can and I’m really in love with these characters and this story, which popped up more or less fully formed in my head over the weekend. I’m also really excited about the possibilities of where I can go with it. It’s a supernatural thriller, and it’s going to allow me to explore some themes and questions relating to my Christian worldview in ways that won’t be too explicit or preachy. So anyway, since that’s what I’m excited about, that’s what I’m focusing on right now.

The other novella–which might be more of a novelette–is a horror story inspired partly by my own experiences with sleep paralysis, and partly by all the murder documentary shows I watched last summer when we had free satellite and no streaming memberships and the only decent channel was Investigation Discovery. I’m not as excited about that one, but I’m having fun writing it.

I’m also still working on outlining and world building for the YA Southern Gothic I got inspired to write last year. And don’t worry, Dominion of the Damned Damned fans, that hasn’t fallen off my radar. Getting both the new version of Dominion and the sequel, Deliverance, published this year is still high on my priority list. I’m still awaiting the final six chapters of Dominion from my editor-slash-husband, but he also needed a break, and currently he’s distracted by trying to figure out what to do about some raccoons that have apparently invaded our walls and ceiling and keep waking him up in the middle of the night with their antics.

But I’m hoping to get Dominion back out there soon, and then I’ll turn my attention to revising Deliverance. As for writing the third book of the trilogy this year, though, I’ve decided to put that off until next year. For one thing, Deliverance is pretty harrowing and ends on kind of a bleak note, and my emotions need a break from that universe. For another, I truly have no idea how to get these characters out of the bind I left them in. I know the answer will come to me eventually, but it won’t do any good to try to force a solution. But knowing my tendency to think about stories other than the one I’m working on, there’s a really good chance that the answer will come to me while I’m writing something completely unrelated.

One thing I won’t be doing a lot of this year is marketing. Last year, I made book marketing a big goal and spent a lot of time and energy (and a little bit of money) trying a number of different tactics. And it made not one single whit of difference to my book sales. In fact, if anything, my overall sales went down. According to smart people who are a lot farther along in this journey than I am, active marketing is pretty useless unless you’ve already got a large back catalog of books, and at this stage of my career I’m better off putting all of that time and energy into writing and producing more books. So that’s what I’m going to do, which takes a whole slew of marketing-related projects and activities off my plate (as far as fiction goes, at any rate. I’ve got a nonfiction book coming out soon, and marketing tends to be more effective for nonfiction books, so I’m not entirely off the marketing hook, alas. But nonfiction marketing also tends to be way easier, so it should balance out).

One thing I’m still undecided about is my newsletter. Last fall, I had both decided and announced that I was going to move from a monthly to a quarterly newsletter. But I don’t think I really like waiting that long between issues, and also, that’s when I was viewing my newsletter as a marketing tool. But now I’m starting to look at it as a way to connect with my readers in a more personal way, and a way to share bits of my life and cool stuff I’ve discovered, rather than a way to say “Hey, here’s a new thing I wrote, please read it.” But (again) I’m also wondering whether it would be better to do that via newsletter or here on the blog. Right now, I’m considering moving to an every-other-month schedule and sending out a curated newsletter filled with stuff I think you’ll like. What do you think? Would you like that? Or do you already get enough of that sort of thing in your inbox?

Which finally brings me to this here blog. I know this sort of post is really old fashioned. This post is more Livejournal circa 2003 than 2019. This post assumes you’ve got a long attention span and, even more audaciously, that you actually might care about what’s going on with my life, and that you care to know not just what I’m working on, but why those projects. This is what blogging used to be, and why I got into it in the first place, and I miss it. From other grumblings I’ve been hearing, I know I’m not the only one. As people grow more and more weary and disconnected from social media, I have a feeling that this type of blogging might come back into vogue. I know that I certainly plan to do more of it in this space. Not real often, because, let’s not kid ourselves, this post is really long, and I’ll honestly be surprised if anyone is still reading by this point, and also because it’s taken me all morning to write. But once in a while, maybe, when I’m full of things I want to say.

What do you think? Do you miss this lengthier, more personal style of blogging? Would you like to see more of it from me? Or do you want me to stick to short, fluffy entertainment articles and announcements? I’d love to hear your thoughts about what you’d like to see here, and also in the newsletter. And I’d also love to hear how your new year is shaping up so far. So leave a comment below!

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.

Writing & Publishing Plans for 2013 And Beyond

2013 looks like it’s going to be an interesting year for my writing and publishing agenda. I fear that it’s not going to be a very productive or eventful year; not because I don’t have any projects in the works, but because work is threatening to keep me too busy to market my books or write and publish new ones. Needless to say, this is frustrating, and also somewhat ironic. Out of all of the things I know how to do, writing fiction is the only one that I actually want to have as a lifelong career, and yet it’s the one I’m able to devote the least time to, because as of yet it brings in the least amount of income. It’s hard to justify setting aside something that does pay the bills to make time for something that doesn’t, you know?

Heavy sigh.

I do, however, have writing and publishing goals. I don’t know if I can call them 2013 goals, because it’s doubtful that I’ll be able to get to all, if any, of them this year. I have no fewer than four fully-formed novels in my head currently, all of them vying to be my next project. These include the aforementioned Radium Town, my Weird West Steampunk horror adventure; a romantic paranormal thriller that’s sort of a follow-up, but not really a sequel, to Restless Spirits, although it might have some cross-over; and the next two sequels to Dominion of the Damned, which, surprise, is actually a trilogy.

I keep going back and forth on which one to focus on next. Both common and business sense seem to dictate that I should stick with the Damned series until it’s done, while that world is still fresh in my mind, and also to appeal to all of the genre series fans, of whom there are many. And part of me wants to keep going, but part of me also really wants to take a break from that world. There are legitimate reasons for focusing on each of the others, too. I’m considering just powering through the rough drafts for each of them and then going back and editing them in turn, but that will pretty much guarantee that I spend all of 2014 editing and revising, and probably won’t have a new book come out until late next year at the earliest. Although I suppose I could always work on short stories if I need to write something fresh and new.

At any rate, I am hoping to pull my Faeries in Hollywood novel, The Hero Factor, out of the trunk and dust it off and polish it up for release later this year. And I’ll also be finishing and polishing Eucha Falls for e-book release in the next month or so. So it’s not like 2013 will be entirely void of new releases.

And in light of the fact that self-publishing is a lot of work (really, if you’re still on the fence about self-publishing, I’m tempted to advise you not to do it if you don’t have a budget for hiring people to edit, design your cover and layout, help out with marketing, etc. because it cannot be overstated how much work goes into this stuff if you DIY it), I’m also considering alternative routes to getting my books out there. I’m not ready to jump back on the traditional-publishing wagon yet, but I am thinking of maybe submitting to some small press indie publishers, just so someone else can do all of that other work and I can focus mainly on the writing.

I’m also thinking about entering Dominion into a couple of contests. There’s the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, which seems basically to be American Idol for indie writers; and the IndieReader Discovery Awards, which doesn’t guarantee a publishing contract for the winner, but looks like great exposure regardless of whether I won. The latter contest has an entry fee large enough to be potentially prohibitive, though, and the former looks like a lot of time and work just to prepare my entry, and as things currently stand I don’t know if I’ll be able to make the time to prepare an effective pitch. So we’ll have to see.

At any rate, that’s more or less what I’ll be working on for probably at least the next two years. Do you have an opinion on which book I should write next? Feel free to share it in the comments.

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