“2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued – except as a stimulus for further moves.”

-Notes to myself on beginning a painting, by Richard Diebenkorn

Good morning compadres, it’s the second day of the year.

Yesterday was somewhat sedentary but we did still manage to vacuum the house, put away the Christmas tree, and pack away 99% of her 18 month and younger clothes. I relied heavily on premade stuff for meals (nuggets, gyoza, pizza and salad) but what is a vacation without unhealthy meals?

I also ordered Good Eggs everything for Carter’s birthday–a Moroccan chicken and couscous meal kit, chocolate strawberry organic cake, and some spicy giardiniera (plus some pre-cooked frozen chicken halves) for myself. Once upon a time I would have embraced a birthday as an opportunity to express my love by making everything from scratch and fiddling with plating and hand-picking flowers but I spent a good ten minutes patting myself on the back last night for figuring out his birthday arrangements in advance and having it all delivered to our doorstep and my general wifely excellence. No fuss, no muss.

Now, the big thing: Side Venture. I’ve been avoiding this a bit because I haven’t been as productive as I wanted to be over the break due to the sinus bug, perioding, and toddler-wrangling. But, I’ve run out of excuses now (having updated my expenses spreadsheet and all that jazz) and must begin again. It’s a quirk of human nature that we avoid painful things by making it more painful by ignoring it…but some sprints today will cure that little issue.

Summing up financially: $4835 made, $4045 spent.

Not all of this is SF; some of it is romance (esp. w/r/t profit). Much of the spending, especially towards the end of the year, has to do with prep for 2018’s books. I went on a wee bit of a spending spree on covers and ads-booking in order to avoid having to pay quarterly taxes in the new year, moreover. Nonetheless, I am in the black.

I was close, *so close* to the $5k goal I set at the beginning of the year. I suppose if I was being generous to myself and rounded it off, I hit the goal, but I also did not publish/write as much as I planned to and I think it’s worth being forthright with myself about that. 2017 was not a total failure, and not a total success–a definite mixed bag.

As cliched as it may sound, I *did* learn a lot through success and failure, and attracted a small group of dedicated readers for which I feel very grateful. I get itchy now if I go too many days without writing. I feel more confident about my technique and strategies. I embraced the sprint, and the outline.

2018 soft goals and objectives
1. Improve ads knowledge, especially of Facebook ads and AMS
2. Boost writing speed, wordcount production

2018 hard goals
1. Earn $10k total
2. Grow mailing list to 2500 people
3. Attempt rapid release schedule in summer with anthology project

2018’s tentative schedule:
Jan: publish book 3, write book 1 in anthology project
Feb: finish book 1, get it edited; start book 2
Mar: finish book 2, get it edited
Apr: start book 3
May: finish book 3, get it edited
June: book 1 published in anthology; write book 4 in old series
July: book 2 publish; finish book 4 in old series *or* standalone novel [depending on response to anthology project]
July-Aug: book 3 publish
Sept: finish book 4/standalone, have it edited, publish it
Oct: book 1 publish; start Kindle Scout campaign for standalone (30 days)
Nov: publish standalone (assuming I don’t get picked, which is the most likely scenario)
Dec: take a goddamn break.

4 novels is not *that* much more than 2 in the Indie world, so in an ideal world I’ll make time to write one more and do both the standalone and book 4, but that’s going to be a reach goal thanks to the wee one. I can count on the anthology project to force me to produce on schedule since I’m accountable to 7 other authors. I might really need a big break after 4, though. I’m only human, and there may be a pregnancy in the offing sometime this year (who knows when and how that affects the schedule?).

$10k seems really unlikely but it feels like the right hard goal at the same time.

Well, onwards.


“1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later.”

“1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.” -Notes to myself on beginning a painting, by Richard Diebenkorn

Today I’m taking a vacation day for purely arbitrary reasons. As I was eating my eggs and zucchini this morning I thought about how glorious this time of day is, when the rest of the day is just spread before me like a vast banquet. As I start eating, though, dishes start disappearing, and as I get full the less I can take in. If I eat the roast lamb there’s no room for the peking duck, and so on. By the end of the day I’m struggling to get through the rice pudding. I like food metaphors.

So, sometimes I feel a little loath to start the day because it means that I can’t have every dish on the banquet table. Especially sunny, chilly, quiet autumn days like today. But whether I eat or not, the dishes will fade away. In fact some of them have already started to disappear. Better start eating.

By the numbers, for both pen names:
Royalties earned to date: $4500 (approx)

Well, it’s not looking like I’ll hit my $5k goal for 2017. I’m guessing as to what kind of income I can rake in during November and December and I’ll most likely be a few hundred bucks short. I feel okay about it. My productivity was not where it should have been for a few months this year, but ya know…full time job, baby, husband, shockingly needy dog.

That said, this year is winding down in a positive way right now. I wrote 30,000 words in October, and most of it during the second half; I have been doing writing sprints and they’ve been giving my productivity a real shot in the arm. I plan to write 40,000 in November and be on track for publication come the new year. I’ve already booked the editor so I must stay on track. Deadlines, accountability, profit, YES.

2018’s tentative schedule:
Dec-Jan: publish book 3; finish writing book 1 in the Charlie trilogy by end of Jan
Feb-Mar: write Charlie book 2, have Charlie book 1 edited
Apr-May: write Charlie book 3, have Charlie book 2 edited
June: Charlie book 1 published in anthology
July: Charlie book 2 publish
July-Aug: Charlie book 3 publish; write book 4 to finish current SF series
Sept: finish book 4, have it edited, publish it
Oct: Charlie book 1 publish; start Kindle Scout campaign for standalone (30 days)
Nov: publish standalone (assuming I don’t get picked, which is most likely)
Dec: take a goddamn break. Maybe learn about ads, somewhere during the year?

That’s 6 releases. I’ve haven’t had a release schedule like that since…gosh, my romance days, and that was for novellas of 20k words max, not full length 70k word novels.

However, I’ve been averaging over 2k words a day on weekdays, which means about 44k words a month. As long as I don’t hit any major roadblocks, I should do fine. My sprints are really doing wonders and I am a better writer now than I was a year ago.

Also, I might be writing a few romance shorts for the ole dependable romance pen name. Just for fun, and to keep that income stream alive.

Sorry that this blog has just turned into my business planning blog. But I gotta do it somewhere.

“Whatever you are, try to be a good one.”

“Whatever you are, try to be a good one.” – attr. William Makepeace Thackeray

Today is the first day I feel okayish after battling an ass-blasting case of food poisoning or some sort of stomach bug since Tuesday. I think I still need to take it slow today, but I can see the (non-poopy) future looming on the horizon.

Dave and I went to tour a house this past week. It was a strange experience. I shuffled through it, worried that I’d set off my sensitive gut. It was advertised as a fixer, and that was an understatement. It was thickly curtained and crowded with furniture and piles of old family photos. In the kitchen there was a wooden “Bless this Mess” sign and a picture of the Obamas taped on the wall. The back of the house was a bizarre warren of paths up and down to the shoddy addition, and an empty dog’s kennel.

What got me was the signs of life here. The house’s inhabitant was clearly old. He had died recently, and his heirs wanted to be quickly rid of the property–so much so that they wanted to get rid of the house as-is, with all the furniture and photos and dishes. There were broken eggshells in a little cup on the counter. The fridge was still humming, and there was food inside. An open bag of dog treats and a bottle of wine sat on the dining table. But–it was quiet, and no one lived here anymore.

After we left I told Dave that if I died first, he should hie over to a nursing home and sleep with as many women as he could. The odds are quite favorable for male seniors. Anyway, it was sad to think of a widower (I figured, based on the artifacts left scattered around the place) shuffling around the house and missing his wife. Her presence was everywhere, although as far as I could tell she’d died at least 3 years ago.

It’s been haunting me at night even before this but I think a lot these days about the kind of legacy I’ll leave. What kind of family we’ll raise, and what matters to me and us. I want to raise happy, whole people. Who will hold hands with me for a little while. Who will make me see things differently.

I want to write stories that will bring people satisfaction and happiness. A bit of escapism in the day–a pair of borrowed wings. I’ll glue the feathers to the frame.

By the numbers, for both pen names:
Royalties earned to date: $3395 (approx, including those owed)
Sales: 803 for sci-fi pen name only (I’ve stopped tracking romance)
Kindle Unlimited page reads: 186,880

I’ve broken even and a bit more! Now, if I can hit $5k by the end of the year, I’ll be chuffed. I’ve been accepted to a short-story anthology that involves some good number of well-known sci-fi Indies; and I’ve committed to writing a prequel with some other ranked sci-fi authors. I’m hopeful that this will be good exposure and link my books to bigger names. Substantial profit is not really in the cards for a year yet, I suspect.

Nothing like a memento mori to give one a real kick in the rear.

SF SV’s 1st month results & the homegrown MFA in genre writing

Today is the one month anniversary of the release of book 1!

By the numbers, for sci-fi only:
Royalties earned to date for this pen name: $804.26 (approx)
Sales: 620
Kindle Unlimited page reads: 89,180 (works out to be about 250 full reads, give or take)

Now it’s time to adjust the year end goals. By the end of 2017 I will have:

  • Finished books 2 and 3 (80,000 words to the finish line)
  • Made a submission to an anthology (w/no guarantee of acceptance)
  • Wrote one more short story for my mailing list subscribers
  • Grown the mailing list to 3,000 people
  • Made one Bookbub submission (accepting that my chances are nil-low)
  • Read and made notes from 4 craft books, focusing on characters/structure/plotting

I wish I could make a royalties goal for the end of the year but I really have zero clue as to how things will go once books 2 and 3 come out. A slight boost, I hope, but I’ll be surprised if I hit over $1k/mo income for any month this year.

My Homegrown MFA
I’ve been thinking about how to characterize SV. Of course, I want to make money and attract readers. But as I started picking up some writing craft books this year I kicked around the idea of getting more formal training and education in writing. That said, as I ruminated (lookit me using them big words!), I realized that I’d made the most progress as a writer by, well, actually writing. And the best, most accurate (ugh, brutally accurate) feedback came via sales, or lack thereof.

So, I’ve decided that Side Venture is going to be my very own homegrown MFA in genre writing. There are three components:

  1. Craft – This is one I’ve largely ignored as I plowed through writing the first few novels of my life. I downloaded some loose novel outlines and kindasorta adhered to them; I adapted a couple popular beat sheets; I created an outline structure in a spreadsheet that has been working okay but not great. Picked up a book on scenes by Jack Bickham recently and discovered that there is so much good info and guidance that I’ve just been blithely ignoring by going my own way. I flatter myself thinking I have a basic understanding of what makes effective storytelling, but there’s so much more that I could be thinking about to improve it. Good craftsmanship means that a reader is unconscious of the effort that went into the writing, and can simply immerse themselves in the experience/world of the novel. The end goal: learn to write absorbing, pleasing, page-turning scenes.
    1. Craft curriculum for 2017: read the 4 craft books on my list (Scene and Structure by Bickham, 20 Master Plots by Tobias, 45 Master Characters by Schmidt, and Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Viders). Put notes into Evernote.
  2. Process & Productivity – I have a full enough life as it is. So, I need to learn how to maximize the time I do have for writing (she thought with self-righteous determination as she continued to waste time on her blog). MFA students have this part easy: they have deadlines and professors and thesis projects. I have to come up with my own motivation, schedule, and techniques for making this happen. A spreadsheet is probably involved. So far my daily word goals are helping here but this is going to evolve constantly until I reach a pace I’m satisfied with.
  3. Marketing – The bane of all writers’ existence, and the most mysterious. I have an ad campaign running for book 1 on AMS but do need to figure out Facebook ads at some point. Some day. Probably in 2018. Right now, the pieces here are to build up enough of a social media presence that I look like a “normal” author and develop my mailing list engagement. Facebook ads can wait until 2018.

When do I graduate? I’ve thought carefully about this. I think when I have made over $60,000/year I can consider myself graduated from this MFA. If I’m making that much money, then I’m probably doing enough things right to consider myself a true professional wordslinger.

Beginning a tentative goal list for 2018:

  • Have at least one month where I make >$1k/mo
  • Make 3 figures every single month
  • Write standalone novel in current SF universe (60k words?)
  • Write 2 more novels
  • Run a Kindle Scout campaign
  • Compose list of craft books for 2018

More goals to be added at the end of the year, when I have a better sense of my books and universe, and how saleable this particular universe is. Maybe I’ll start a new series or keep writing in this one. We’ll save that analysis for the end of the year when I have more/better data, and update my MFA curriculum to match.

SV Mid-Q2 2017

I’m only $139.22 in the hole, including projected earnings from last month. Closing the gap! Looks like I’ll be able to break even this year. Woohoo.

Audience building

  • Mailing list size: 2194; open rate’s gone down since I’ve added more subscribers but no one is reporting me for spam and I get a lot of clicks from the people who do open my emails. Year end goal: 3k subscribers.
  • All review averages for both novel + novella are above 4.5 on Amazon and Goodreads.

Actual writing
So, this is the hard bit (naturally). I’m slogging along with book 2 but have made an appointment with the proofreader to have the draft to her by June 25 at the latest. That means a minimum of a thousand words a day, maybe pushing to 1.5 to be safe. I think I can make that. I have to.

SV Beginning of Q2 2017

Profit: $1005.77
Expenses: $1506.45

A bigger deficit than last time, yikes. Approx $500 in the red. Buuuut we’ll see where things fall in a few months. Actually, I’ll probably even deeper in the red. I might modify 2017’s goals to be: break even.

Audience building

  • Mailing list size: 1160; open rate holding steady at 54%, click rate at 32%. Will need to shave off subs who haven’t opened emails.
  • 4.7 star average on Amazon for novel, from ARC reviewers, 7 reviews total; aiming for at least 10 before publishing

Actual writing
I’m 5k into the action in book 2; wrote 2 novella/short stories in the series as reader magnets (17k and 12k each). That’s around 30k so far in 2017. End goal? 180k. Time to get to work…

“Fear is the mind-killer…”

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. -Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, Dune, Frank Herbert

In December, where did I think I would be by now? I thought I would be releasing book 1. <insert image of God/the fates having a good guffaw>

In a sci-fi state of mind, I thought of the Litany Against Fear this morning when I was thinking about what I wanted to accomplish this year for Side Venture. I’m more fearful about turning SV away from romance and towards sci-fi, since romance is just so naturally profitable and popular, and I’d built a small & faithful audience. But the problem is, writing romance is not sustainable for me. If I were writing full time and had time to maintain more than one pen name, then I’d keep doing it, but I have limited time now and must choose. So I pick the one I personally enjoy reading more–SF.

Last night I received my marked-up draft of book 1 from the proofreader. I was initially excited, and then terrified. She did a great job, and there were positive marks as well as critical ones, and I thought I was good at taking feedback by now, but it did still send a pang of anxiety through me about the quality of my writing. I climbed into bed with C and he said, you won’t know if it’s good until you publish it. And, it doesn’t even have to be good, look at ____ author.

He was, as he usually is, right about this. But it’s hard for the perfectionist in me to let go of a work that might not be good–might just be so-so or even mildly bad. Or it could be absolutely great fun and it will find its audience. I dunno.

Today I’ve worked through her suggestions and feel a little better about things. Apparently, my perfectionism likes to aim the occasional salvo at my work, hopes and dreams, but actually getting down and dirty into the actual work fends her off. (She’s a jerk, but a lazy one.)

So, because I’m too tired and preoccupied to cogitate more about whether my writing has any merit, the state of SV by the numbers:

Profit: $731.98 (from romance pen name)
Expenses: $950.45(PO box, DBA filings, proof of filings, review service, cheap covers for freebie stories, notary, domain purchase & hosting, proofreading, pre-booking book promo service)
*Currently -$218.47 in the red, but that will decrease slightly when my ‘Zon payments come in at the end of the month.
*At least I don’t have to pay any taxes this quarter if I stay in the red! But seriously, I haven’t been in the red since I started SV, so this is giving me some anxiety.
*Forecasting further expenses for the year: $180 for proofreading (going w/cheaper editor for books 2/3), $90 for PO box to fulfill can-spam reqs, $300 for miscellaneous (including marketing) puts me at $570 for the rest of the year’s expenses. Even if I only make $100/month from romance pen name residuals and very little from sci-fi, I should be in the black by the end of the year. (I hope.)

Audience building

  • Over 1,000 people have downloaded a short story of mine for free in exchange for being added to my mailing list. Open rate for this list is 54%, click rate is 32%, which is pretty darn good for a list of freebie-seekers. Unsubscribes at about 3%. Hoping that translates to an okay conversion rate when I actually have a book to sell!
  • Observation: sci-fi readers skew male. Or readers attracted to my kind of sci-fi do.
  • Someone emailed me: “I would rate “<short story>” FIVE STARS. I enjoyed the book tremendously. The storyline and characters were great. Thank you for a exciting story”. It made me feel pretty good. 🙂
  • about 14 people requested to join my review team. I need around 10 reviews to be able to run book promotions. Hoping for a 50% yield from that list, so…7 reviews? Organic reviews will fill out the rest, I hope.
  • No one follows me on FB or twitter, which I understand to be no big deal as far as sales are concerned. Thank god, because tweeting does not come naturally to this old lady.

Actual writing (I mean, really. Who does that?)
Book 2 is fully outlined and ready to chug, but I’m realizing that I need to outline book 3 so it can inform what happens in book 2. This pushes my writing schedule back slightly. Blarghity.

To work, and beyond!