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!


Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 9.51.53 AM.png

That there is a screenshot from my receipt for the commissioning of three covers for my space opera project. I had to take a couple of deep breaths before I clicked the buy button; I’ve never, ever spent so much money related to side venture. And immediately the doubts poured forth: what if I never break even on the covers alone? Should I have picked a cheaper artist? A more expensive one? What if I get a bunch of one star reviews? What if I never finish the sequels? What if someone I know picks up the book and the shame of my terrible writing becomes known? What if no one buys it at all? Have I been going about this all wrong and don’t even know it?

But. The fact of the matter is, I did click that buy button. It means I’m committed. I want to do this, have always wanted to do this, and I have no time to waste. The baby needs a mother with some measure of courage.

Also, I have too much scrimpy immigrant in me to spend that much money and not try to squeeze all the value I can out of it.

Finally, I like this story. I’m having fun writing it, which is more than I can say for some other things I’ve worked on. I would write this story even if it did go exactly nowhere. So maybe–even if my worst dreams came true, and it was a commercial flop, I would still be happy to have written it. That’s a good thing.

When I look at my previous post, I realize that I’m really not so behind when it comes to SV goals. I’ve outlined SO1 extensively and is 25% written; SO2 is lightly outlined, and I know how SO3 ends. I didn’t complete nano (blame he-who-shall-not-be-named, a cold, a 7 month old, and Thanksgiving), but am still continuing to write at a steady pace. I found a cover artist. We’re on track.

Deep breaths.

Updated SV goals for the end of the year
-Finish SO1
-Finish SO3 light outline
-If time, do detailed outline for SO2 + SO3
-Start list of blog topics (have backlog of 5-10 before publication of SO1)

2017 Q1 SV Goals
-Complete SO2
-Detailed outline for SO3
-Hire proofreader for SO1
-Set up mailing list
-Compile list of new release book promo sites
-Find advance reviewers
-Facebook page?
-Plan for February release?!

2017 Misc/long-range goals
-Complete SO3
-Return to romance pen name, finish short stories 1-3
-Further blog topics for SO
-AWS/Facebook ads?
-Make $10k in 2017

Starting over – side venture & beyond

Well, baby is 6 months–almost 7 months!–and much has changed. Is that a simple, obvious understatement? Yes. Motherhood and early babyhood is so overflowing with drama and meaning and boredom and drudgery that I can scarcely make heads or tails of it. Things are moving so quickly that to stop and reflect means scrambling to catch up a few minutes or days later. It’s harder than I thought it would be, much harder. Nothing I have done in life could have prepared me for it, and things are getting easier and more complex at the same time. The doula who led my mother’s group said that parenting is to adapt and adjust, over and over and over again. We are all alive, C is gaining weight, and more aware day by day. She can roll, hold food to gnaw on, drink water, and grapple with toys. She loves to be held, although she’ll complain loudly if she’s not properly entertained while in our arms. That’s where we are for now–in a month, or even a few days, everything will change. That is the only thing that’s certain.

Side Venture
And now for the self-knowing: I need to get back to writing. For sanity and meaning and purpose and profit.

In 2015, the year I was most active with publishing, I made $12,475.15. This year thus far, I’ve been paid $6,743.36, about half of what I earned in 2015.

I haven’t published at all, written much, and have done zero marketing/advertising. It took me weeks to respond to a few meager pieces of fan mail. So, I surpassed my royalty goal while being totally indolent, which was $6k. If I  make $7k total for 2016, I’ll be content.

Nonetheless earnings continue to dip as the algorithms are so dependent on new releases. I should expect that I drop from about $200 a month to $150 and eventually $100 a month next year without new releases. This makes my quit number quite beyond reach. So, it’s time to ramp things up with writing in order to get off the CHW (corporate hamster wheel).

The problem is, when I sit down to write, or even outline, my eyes glaze over and I tab over to facebook or reddit or some forum. My ability to concentrate is weak and flabby, as if my brain’s constantly scanning the environment for snakes or spiders or tips from my mothers’ groups. That must change. And, like all exercise, it’s all about repetition and discipline. I think my ability to focus will improve if I just try, over and over and over again.

Tentative SV goals, for the end of the year:
-Outline SO1
-Outline SO2
-Outline SO3
-Outline SOprequel
-Complete nanowrimo (for SO1)
-Find cover artist

One markedly positive thing that came out of pregnancy and birth is a deepened sense of appreciation for my body. For what it has done for me, for what it has done for C, for simply what it is capable of (more than I ever gave it credit for!). I want to do more to make life easier on body.

Body goals
-Lose 5 lbs
-Wean in Dec/Jan

The worst week of my life

Cee was born on a Friday morning and spent the first weekend of her life in the NICU under the lights, being treated for a mild case of jaundice—she’s A+ like Carter while I’m O+, and was sluggish during her first night with us. As we were trying to sleep the pediatricians came in, looked at her, then took her to the nursery for some time in a bili blanket. Her levels didn’t go down; in the morning they said that out of caution they were putting her under the heavy-duty NICU lights, and supplementing her with formula since my milk hadn’t come in yet.

It was good in a way; I was able to rest and sleep and go up to the nursery to attempt breastfeeding every four hours or so. Three of my closest friends came to visit on Saturday and I escorted them up to meet her. My best friend burst into tears—good ones—at the sight of her. We stood in front of the incubator with our arms around each other and looked—just looked at her.

Carter went home to sleep on Saturday night, and I spent the night going up and down to and from the NICU. He came and brought food—sandwiches and smoothies from Whole Foods, Chinese takeout. Sunday they released her, and we put her in the carseat and drove home with Carter’s mother in tow. I had a feeling of mild unease when we went home; I knew that the real hard times were about to begin. Over the next few days my breasts became painfully engorged, my legs and ankles and feet swelled with fluids. I couldn’t fit in any of my shoes. The nights were murderously difficult as I tried to feed Cee with my minimal milk and then supplemented her with formula. I think I burst into tears on Tuesday night after Cee burst out of her ineffectual swaddle for the third time.

The engorgement slowly began to fade; by the weekend it seemed things were better. Sunday, however, Cee stopped eating. Her latch was terrible and then she began to refuse formula, which was a first. As she faded we panicked and went back to the ER; they admitted her to the NICU again. We hoped it was jaundice; it was not. The nurses and doctors had no idea what it was. They did every test they could think of over the next week: upper GI, head ultrasound, jaundice, electrolytes, blood cultures, spinal taps, everything. All was normal.

I became gradually more and more unhinged. I would go to the NICU and sit there with my floppy baby on my lap, sobbing over her. My milk production was low, and I spent hours tethered to the pump. I’ve never fallen apart like that before. I spent time furtively running searches on the internet about obscure medical conditions. I tried to bargain with God.

Carter’s mother came to help us, buying me flowers and cooking meals and staying up to keep me company. I tried to pump to bring in milk to the NICU—I didn’t manage to get much. Less than an ounce most of the time. Stress? I don’t know.

On Thursday the 7th, my mother-in-law and I got up to go to the NICU in the morning. When we arrived, the nurse told us that Cee had eaten 70 milliliters, and had been fussy. I high-fived her and promptly burst into tears. Now you’ve got me going, said my mother-in-law, and then she started to cry.

I leaned over her bed and kissed Cee on her forehead and promised her that I’d never complain about being woken up in the middle of the night again. All the while wiping my nose to avoid dripping tears and snot all over her.

I texted Carter that she’d eaten 70 milliliters!

I took her onto my lap and breastfed her, while my mother-in-law took a call from Carter. She handed the phone to me and I said yes, she’s eating, I’m nursing her right now. He told me he loved me.

That moment was like the laws of entropy had been reversed in the universe.

They kept her for a few more days to make sure she gained weight. I went home and pumped milk with a renewed determination. She came home the following Sunday morning. We were together again.

Labor & delivery

My doula took notes (bolded), which I thought made a good outline of the entire process.

March 24, 2016

4:00 a.m. water broke
I woke up to use the bathroom during the 2AM hour. I could still smell the herbal scent of the shampoo that the salon had used yesterday when I cut and blow-dried my hair. I was in a dim half-asleep, half-awake state an hour later when I felt a warm trickle between my legs. My first thought was that half-asleep, I’d lost control of my bladder. But then it kept coming and I snapped wide awake. I stumbled down the stairs and went to the bathroom as more trickled down my thighs. I sat on the toilet and more came. I checked the water–it was colorless. I grabbed a towel as I went back up the stairs and laid it down on the bed.
I woke up Carter–“I think my water broke.” It only took a few seconds for him to be wide awake. I asked him for more towels to tuck under me. I called the nurse line at my practice and a nurse called, and said that it did sound like my waters broke. They advised I go to the hospital within two hours since I was positive for Group B Strep.
4:30 called J, recommended resting, eating, etc…
 I called my doula after that; instead, she advised that we go back to bed, eat a big breakfast, and then go to the hospital at 9 in the morning.
I couldn’t sleep, but I could hear Carter snoring. I kept thinking–my life was going to change. Everything was going to change.
7:00 we talked about slowly getting ready to go to AB
I got up a little before 7 and went downstairs to call the doula again. We got up in a leisurely way. We ate breakfast sandwiches and smoothies and fruit, and took Beast out for a walk along Ohlone Greenway. The day was full of sunshine and blue skies.
11:00 at hosptial, admitted to L & D rm #15
We arrived at the hospital. I heard a nurse say to another nurse that my bag of waters had been “grossly ruptured” outside the curtain. I piddled more amniotic fluid on the table while we waited. They put me in a wheelchair and took me to our room, where we settled in; they moved me briefly to another L&D room where a pigeon was nesting on the windowsill outside before taking me back. I called the doula, who advised me to take them up on their offer of inducing labor rather than sitting and waiting to go into labor naturally, since I’d said I wanted a epidural anyway.
The entire time I sat there on the bed on a puppy pad, leaking here and there. I went into the hallway to walk, and made a mess on the floor. Oops. I got my first bag of antibiotics (the first of four).
12:45 first dose of miso, contractions starting after the miso
It was a tiny half pill of misoprostol but I could feel the contractions ramping not long after that. Labor started in earnest. Carter went to Tai San to grab lunch–I got garlic green beans and ate between contractions.
3:30 J came to AB, we walked the halls, etc….ctx had slowed down a bit so we agreed to check in later
The doula did some light acupressure, but the contractions began to taper off. Around 4PM, I got another half pill of misoprostol. The contractions were more intense this time, and showed no signs of slowing down. Carter brought a chicken burrito from Whole Foods and a smoothie; I ate part of it, along with some tasteless veggie soup. It was harder to eat this time between contractions.
9:45 phone check in, Carter going home to sleep, all still quiet
I sent Carter home to get some rest, since it seemed like I’d just be in labor for hours and hours yet. Not that anyone knew, since the doctors didn’t want to do cervical checks on a woman whose waters had broken. Still, I wanted one of us to get some rest, and sleep didn’t seem like a likely prospect for me. I mindlessly watched a nature documentary about Indochina and flopped back and forth in my bed on my amniotic fluid-soaked puppy pads.
11:45 B called J, asked for meds at hospital but it’s taking them a long time, she asks me to come in to give support to her.
The contractions got worse. The nurse has gone AWOL with my pain medication. When I managed to hobble to the bathroom, I saw more and more blood. I call my doula and ask her to come. Frankly, I just wanted someone to chase down the nurse and get me my drugs.
12 a.m., I arrive, labor seems more active, B quiet, focused, inward.  Doing really well breathing.  Lots of bloody show.
I don’t remember much about the pain, but the breathing was in through the nose, out through the mouth. The doula put her hand on my shoulder and reminded me to relax my face and neck and shoulders.
12:15 nurse gives dose of nubbin, in your IV and also a shot in the leg.  
I have no idea what that painkiller was, but it didn’t do a thing for me.
12:30 nurse shift, new nurse, Zoe.  B in bed, lying on her side, trying to rest.
Zoe was the coolest. She had purple hair and a Vonnegut tattoo–so it goes.
1:30 we talk about epidural, nurse calls Dr. T who thinks it’s probably too early but says she’ll come check her cervix.
The doctor was a little patronizing. I asked for the epidural and the doctor said something to the effect of well you may be in this same state this time tomorrow, so…
2:00 Dr T comes in, recommends morphine to sleep because she thinks it’s still too early for epidural.  I tell her I’ve been watching this labor since yesterday and a lot has changed, so she checks and B is 6 cm!!
The doctor finally, reluctantly, laid the responsibility on me for choosing to do a cervical exam. Lo and behold, I’m ready for the epidural.
2:05 nurse gives a dose of fentanyl
I ask for ALL THE DRUGS.
2:10 Dr. S comes in to do the epidural
The anesthesiologist was mellow. He remarked that the mood in my room was so calm, having apparently come from a room where there was a lot more screaming. I never screamed during delivery. I had thought about a few choice swear words in advance that I could use while in labor, but when I tried them in labor it didn’t do a thing for me. Screaming–meh. Groaning–I didn’t really make much noise. Doula said I made some faces and that I “focused inwards.”
2:30 epidural in, B lying down resting
The insertion of the epidural was painless and the effect was immediate. It felt like I had some buzzing in my legs and thighs and feet, but could still move my legs around with some effort.
3:30 begins to feel rectal pressure
I ask Zoe the nurse what I should do if I need to poo, since I couldn’t walk anymore due to the walk. She said bluntly that what I was feeling was probably the baby’s head. She asked if it felt like I had to poo all the time, or if it was only with contractions. It was only the latter. The doula patted my shoulder and told me that it was a good sign.
4:50 B saying she feels like she needs to poop, nurse does cervical check, 10 cm! and baby super low (+2/+3 station).  I called Carter and told him to come back to AB.
5:10 Dr T stopped in, says she’ll be back in a few minutes.  Zoe set up the bed and got the room ready.  
Carter arrived, a little shocked at how far along I was (and appalled that I hadn’t called sooner). This was a blur. I wanted to push so badly. It was hard holding the baby in for Carter and the doctor to arrive. The doctor, again, didn’t seem to believe that I was ready to push. Zoe asked me to do a practice push while we waited. She told me that the push I did was more of a kegels and asked me to try again. The baby moved down slightly with the push–the nurse could easily feel her head!
5:20 Dr T returns, B starts pushing at 5:23
The overhead lights switch on, focusing on my business. Probably the only time in my life when my ladyzone will get spotlighted. Everyone gathered around the bed, two people grasp a leg each. I push about three times per contraction for a total of 10 pushes.
5:32 baby girl!!
Nine minutes later, I could feel the head stretching me–the ring of fire, if the ring of fire was just a sensation of pressure. All I can hear is encouragement from the nurses and my doula. You’re doing so good! The baby slid out in a slippery rush, like she’d come out on a wave of liquid. I glimpse a bawling baby above me and then she’s on my chest, her dark eyes blinking, the cry going out of her a minute later. We look at each other. I smell her–her vernix smells like the amniotic fluid. She’s warm. She has my eyes.
5:40 placenta
I barely notice this coming out. A nurse presents me with the placenta after labor, showing me the ruptured amniotic sac attached to one of its sides. The doctor sews me up–a second degree tear–and leaves the room without so much as a good-bye. The baby is weighed and tested and vaccinated. I try breastfeeding for the first time–her latch is good although I can’t help but wince.
The fading epidural has left me feeling warm and buzzy and sleepy. I clutch the baby on my chest as they massage my abdomen, examine the baby over and over and prepare to move me to the recovery room. Eventually I’m wheeled out of the room and taken to a spacious room with a view of one of the hospital’s inner courtyards.
How fast it all went! It didn’t feel like that at the time, especially in those long, elastic hours before 5AM, but it went so, so fast. I was stunned in the aftermath of it all–grateful that it was over, sure, but also stunned by the little human being in my hands.
I tried to sleep, but of course I can’t stop looking at her.

“You know who DOES have a funny bone in her body? Your Mom every night for a dollar!”

“You know who DOES have a funny bone in her body? Your Mom every night for a dollar!”  -Tina Fey, Bossypants

The rib improves–I think. It was pretty marginal for the last week, as I winced my way through the day, alarming Carter with my squeaks as I turned over in bed and heaving myself up and out of couches and chairs and car seats. Underwire bras have been banished. Extensive couch time has been prescribed. Multiple naps have been undertaken.

The ribcage still hurts and I do yelp in pain if I happen to cough or sneeze or twist too far in one direction or another, but it’s slowly, slowly, slowly less noticeable. The naps will continue until morale improves.

Meanwhile baby is thumping away. I think I’ve located her butt or her hip, which she likes to push out where my stomach used to be; I can feel the fluttery squirm of her feet a few inches on my right side. Her head is down pressing against my cervix, as it has been for the past few weeks. We saw it on the ultrasound during my last appointment: a big round circle, wedged at the bottom of my uterus. It didn’t move much. There it will stay, I think, until she’s ready for her grand entrance.

A good sign of my recovery is my ability to knock things off my to-do list. Today’s been a good day. I’ve scheduled my haircut, made shopping lists for the friends baby shower this Sat, and dropped a few things off at the donation center. I’ve written about 3k words for Side Venture since Sunday. Who knows, I might even make 10k steps for the first time in a few days!

Yesterday we visited with Lisa and Erik and their sweet newborn for the first time. My goodness, she was so little, but had such a big presence! And made such impressive poops! Seeing her made it real what was going to happen to us very, very soon. Carter came home and set up our pack n’play, moved even more things up to the attic and bought a TV from Costco for future daddy-soothing purposes.

The next list is going to be simplified and completed tasks removed, I think. Tomorrow is 37 weeks and time is speeding by (a consequence of overnapping?).

*General to-do’s*
Buy Toms shoes on eBay (Mon)
Buy Tieks (any day)
Toss old shoes (check for tread and holes)
Sign up for Imperfect Produce box using coupon code
Sort through SIL’s hand-me-downs
Thank you cards for family baby shower
Make lettuce wraps
Bake sweet potatoes
Clear old food from fridge
Jury duty (check Sunday night)
Laundry (Sunday night)
Schedule house cleaning for Thu
Put cleaning powder on rug and vacuum
Schedule haircut
Roomba 2nd bdrm and bathroom
Trim dead leaves off houseplants
Repot the goddamn mint
Frame for art in baby’s room
Badger parents about TDAP shots
Cake for baby shower
Create inventory for chest freezer
Set up bassinet
Pack hospital bag
Get prescription filled
Clean out baby’s dresser, move my junk upstairs
Organize DVDs by genre
Wash baby clothes given as gifts, organize in dresser

*Food planning for postpartum period*
Garlic meatballs or meaty marinara
[buy] precooked rice, TJ’s frozen meals (orange chicken, Indian entrees), frozen organic fruit (smoothies), raisins
Freeze ripe bananas

Steel cut oatmeal pucks (freeze)
Freeze sliced whole wheat bread
Cookie dough
Banana bread (slice)

Sign box set contract
Proofread standalone novel
Format and publish standalone novel
Outline SFR series (4)
Outline bestseller story sequels (3)
Buy covers
Write 1/3 bestseller story sequel
Pay Q1 2016 taxes