The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

Tag: state of the blog

Things I’ve been talking to God about lately (state and direction of the book biz, Q2 2022)

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

This first quarter of the new year, I did things my way. I set blogging aside, I finished my romance novel (and started a second), I published the horror novella I wrote in pre-pandemic 2020, I gave a lot of books away to grow my mailing list, and I experimented with paid advertising to promote my Dominion trilogy.

And it was pretty much all fail. Fail, fail, fail.

The advertising showed some promise for a while–my Facebook campaigns gained some steam and were actually turning a profit and increasing my Amazon sales rankings and Kindle Unlimited page reads–but then, on expert advice, we switched to BookBub, which was intended to fine tune my “also boughts” on Amazon and increase my visibility there with the right kind of readers, and ended up spending a lot of money with no results, eating up all the Facebook ad profits. So we went back to Facebook, but then just couldn’t gain the same amount of traction. In the end, we pretty much broke even.

And my novella release was a definite whimper and not at all a bang.

Needless to say, I’ve been feeling discouraged, and I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to God about it. And as I’ve struggled to understand why all I ever seem to do is spin my wheels and never gain traction when it comes to trying to build my fiction and publishing career, Psalm 127:1 kept being brought to my attention:

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

Boy howdy, have I been laboring in vain. Not just this first quarter of 2022, but all these past eleven years since I started trying to build this thing. And I realize now that I haven’t been allowing God to build it, or even checking to see if He wanted to. Even after the long break I took from writing, during which I question whether I was even supposed to be doing this or if I even wanted to, even after a lot of soul searching and heartfelt prayers led to my desire and drive to write being reignited, even then I pretty much just took off and did my own thing without consulting God. Instead of checking to see what he wanted me to write, how he wanted me to be spending these talents he’s invested with me, I just did what I wanted, what felt right at the time, or what the experts said I should be doing, and then was like, “Please bless it, Lord.” And then spending a lot of time being bewildered and disappointed when he didn’t.

So we’ve been talking a lot about this lately, the Lord and I. I’ve been doing a lot of repenting and surrendering and letting go of my plans and my vision, and a lot of just being still and listening and waiting for clarity and direction. And I’ve been feeling some things shift. Shifting focus, shifting priorities, shifting desires.

One thing I heard very clearly, as I asked the question, “Do you even want to build this house, Lord?” was this: “Why should I build you something new when you don’t care for or appreciate what I’ve already given you?”

Oof. Talk about a convicting gut punch. It’s true, though. Despite last year ending on such a high note, such a place of contentment and gratitude, something shifted during the winter months, and we both became depressed, anxious and discontent. I did more than my fair share of complaining and forgetting to be thankful, coveting stuff I don’t have yet and fixating on our lack, slacking off on responsibilities and letting established priorities slide. And a lot of the latter was so I could move writing and publishing and book marketing tasks higher up on my priority list, in the process neglecting, as well as resenting, clearly established priorities that should have taken precedence.

So as we head into spring, I’m tossing out all those grand plans I had at the start of the year and letting the Lord lead me. For now, here’s where I’m feeling led:

  • Focus on gratitude. Get back to being thankful and content with what we have, with where we are, with our current life, remembering that even some of the hard and annoying parts are the result of things I prayed for.
  • Slow down. Stop being so ambitious by trying to force a publishing schedule that forces me to neglect things that are much higher on God’s priority list. Focus instead on carrying out my clearly established responsibilities, and trust in God’s timing and provision.
  • Start blogging again. Part of why I stopped in the first place was that I felt the Lord pulling me back and nudging me to just be quiet for a while, to refrain from writing about some of the things I wanted to write about. And it’s good that I did, because I needed more time to process some of those things, and my perspective on some of it has changed. But now I’m feeling like it’s time to start speaking up again, and there are some topics that I’m feeling led to write about in this space. I’m not sure how that’s going to fit into everything, but if he wants to build this blog, he’ll provide the time for me to do the work.
  • Shift the focus from my romance series to my urban fantasy series–which is really more like an urban reality series dressed up as fantasy–based on a Biblical perspective on spiritual warfare. I’m still going to finish editing my sweet romance and will still be publishing that in another month or two, but where I had been planning to get the next book in that series under wraps before going back to this other series, I’m really feeling led to make this spiritual warfare series my priority for the time being.

And I’m going to start by sending out the unedited first volume, which is already written, in serial format to my mailing list for free, so be sure you’re signed up to that if you’d like to get the rough cut in your inbox (note: being subscribed to my blog is not the same as being on my mailing list–you have to sign up to that separately).

So that’s what I’m going to be doing until I receive further instruction. We’ll see where the Lord decides to take it from here.

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!

Nanowri-NOPE!

A few things…

  • Nanowrimo’s not happening for me. There’s just too much on my plate right now for me to be able to make it a priority.
  • Relatedly, I think I need to take a semi-hiatus from this blog until things settle down and I figure out exactly what I want to be doing with it. I’ll still post if there’s news, but for the time being I won’t be posting just for the sake of putting content out there.
  • Since my freelance writing resume page imploded, I FINALLY made time to reconstruct it. Except instead of a page on this blog I set up a whole website for it. If you happen to know anyone who could use a freelance writer or content development coach, you can point them to my credentials here: Jean Marie Bauhaus – Writer for Hire

  • I am really, really glad it’s Friday.

Kerplooie

That’s the sound I imagine my blog making on Friday when it imploded and all of the content disappeared. Although I suppose “kerplooie’ is more of an explosion than an implosion. At any rate, that happened.

The best part is that the site went down RIGHT after I sent out several freelance job applications with links to the freelance writing CV I’d spent two hours putting together on Thursday. For several hours after that, this blog, and every other WordPress site on our account, including our business blog and both of Matt’s websites, became completely inaccessible. When they finally came back up, all the other sites were fine, but this here blog?

Kerplooie.

No, wait: the ACTUAL best part was when I asked my web host’s tech support for help restoring the content, and they waited until the next day to respond, and their response was to tell me, basically, to buy their backup and restore tool and fix it myself. Funnily enough, after openly ranting at them about it on Twitter, suddenly they were able to get it restored post-haste. Never underestimate the power of airing your customer service grievances on Twitter. The name of my web host, by the by, is iPage, who offers dirt-cheap hosting, and let this be a lesson to all that with web hosting it’s especially true that you get what you pay for.

Okay, no, hold up. The really, REALLY best part is that, after all of that, the page with the freelance writing CV — you know, the one I’d spent two hours putting together the night before, the link to which I sent out to several job prospects on Friday right before the crash, and also the one of which I foolishly failed to make a backup copy — was not included in the site restore. So I’m going to have to track down all of those writing sample links and compile the whole thing all over again.

At any rate, I’m just grateful the site is finally back up and that I don’t have to restore everything myself. I’m also grateful that that would have been a possibility, and the one silver lining I kept clinging to was that if one of our sites had to get wiped, at least it was mine, since I mirror all of the posts to my Livejournal. Would restoring all of the content from LJ have been a pain? Yes. But at least it would have been doable, which is more than I could say for any of our other sites.

Oh, and here’s another lesson we can all learn from this: back up your websites and your WordPress databases regularly, folks. Don’t leave it up to your web host.

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