“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:

Expense/Profit
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!

Committed

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
-Get EIN/DBA?
-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

Body
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
-Dentist

“The blue colour is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight…”

“The blue colour is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight; and whether seen perpetually over your head, or crystallised once in a thousand years into a single and incomparable stone, your acknowledgment of its beauty is equally natural, simple, and instantaneous.” – John Ruskin, quoted in a very interesting article about ultramarine

Today was a good and beautiful day, and the sky was as blue as beauty, and the passionflowers were blooming in my backyard, and sunlight illuminated everything.

Today was especially lovely as it was cooler than yesterday. I spent yesterday at the  courthouse near Lake Merritt, waiting to be excused from jury duty for a murder trial. The courthouse was clearly a WPA building, art deco and covered in wood and marble within. There was nothing else nearby, a few closed museums and the lake not too far off. I went to a Cambodian restaurant for lunch and ate overpriced egg rolls and fried rice, then waddled back in the afternoon to see if my hardship excusal had been granted (“I will be 38 weeks pregnant when this trial begins…”).

The court staff and the judge were amiable and understanding that no one wanted to be there; they called two groups of 80 and excused most of us. I was almost moved to tears when standing in the hot, windowless vestibule of the courtroom a very nice man offered me his seat. I hadn’t realized how tired I was that afternoon. I took the BART home and walked back to the house very, very slowly. I lay down on the daybed in the baby’s room but don’t remember if I slept.

I can’t decide if I am genuinely less energetic than before or if the lack of distractions–like I had at work–is simply making me focus on my bodily discomforts more. The day before I left on leave an attorney commented that pregnancy hasn’t slowed you down at all. I cheerily responded that I felt great!

Well; three days later and I feel unwieldy and tired so much of the day. Maybe at work I had no choice but to keep moving, keep working, stop thinking so much about my body. I tried to get more exercise today–11.5k steps–and it did help some, I think. I wasn’t tempted to nap this afternoon. But my feet still ached, and I was short of breath, and my right hip felt like it was aching and over-rotated (like I had pushed my turnout too hard).

Still, the day was not without its minor achievements. I proofread my last novel and caught a few errors; I have my cover ready to go and will likely publish it this weekend. This poor book will alas be an orphan; I have no desire whatsoever to write a sequel and this will be for a different pen name. If it recovers the cost of the cover ($40?) I will be happy. I also began learning basic formatting for creating paperbacks, and this book will be my guinea pig. Tomorrow: dentist, more formatting, possibly some outlining.

I made berry smoothies and fried eggs for breakfast, lettuce cups and roasted Japanese sweet potatoes for lunch, and avocado quesadillas for dinner. I only had one slice of the strawberry cake we made this Sunday. I split a rich chocolate cookie with Carter for evening dessert. Very. Small. Victories.

Baby is turning over and over within me. She just finished her nightly session of hiccups. Little one, how is that I know you are going to be big trouble?


Things to do, mostly unorganized:

*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
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*
Jiaozi
Ravioli
Garlic meatballs or meaty marinara
Carnitas
[buy] precooked rice, TJ’s frozen meals (orange chicken, Indian entrees), frozen organic fruit (smoothies), raisins
Steel cut oatmeal pucks (freeze)
Freeze sliced whole wheat bread
Cookie dough
Banana bread (slice)

*Writing*
Sign box set contract
Proofread standalone novel
Format and publish standalone novel
Outline SFR series (4)
Outline bestseller story sequels (3)
Finish outlining space opera book 2
Outline space opera book 3
Write 1/3 bestseller story sequel

 

“Marklar, or brick pile.”

“Marklar, or brick pile.” -my nephew, providing name suggestions for the baby

I rather like brick pile. Brick-Pile or Brickpile. It’s a nice strong name, unisex, and no one in the family’s used it in the last few generations.

These days baby spends her time kicking me to let me know she’s there and won’t be ignored. Fair enough, little girl. I won’t forget.

I spent a hefty chunk of my break planning to plan (and failing). Come new year I usually do set resolutions, or at least a few solid goals as to what I want to accomplish in the upcoming months. But this year I am feeling hesitant. It wasn’t just pure laziness this go around: more than any other year, I don’t know what 2016 will bring. I don’t know if it will be sheer madness, or bliss, or both (which is more likely). I don’t know if I’ll have time for anything more than baby, Carter, and work. Will I have time to write? If I have the time, will I have the energy? I don’t know.

I could force myself to get down to business and work on side venture, but on the other hand, why don’t I savor the privilege of having a good maternity leave?

So, I’m floating in limbo. It’s strange to start a year with very few plans beyond pushing a human being out of my private parts.

I think I may formulate a plan and then go with the flow. It may happen this way, or it may not. This year more than ever I feel I will have to retract my claws and let myself be blown around in the wind.

So let’s try this.


Year-end results, based on mid-year and Q2 2015 goals

{Personal/art Goals}
-recovered from miscarriage, got pregnant, stayed pregnant
-finished head & hands drawing class (got an A!)
-earned a promotion at work, which is good because maternity leave will render promo impossible for a while

{Side Venture}
-Made $12.5k for the year, exceeding $10k goal
-Got over 200 sign-ups on newsletter
-One failed submission (no regrets)
-Did not learn paperback formatting, did not write one of my planned sequels
-Wrote/pub’d around 100k words overall

Given the amount of time and work I put into SV in 2015, I’m pleased with the results. Sure, I could have done better/more. But this is good. I’ll take it.


Soft-peddly squishy aspirations for 2016 (avoiding the word “goal” like the g-damn plague)

{Personal}
-Give birth to healthy baby
-Physically recover from pregnancy and childbirth
-Don’t go insane in first 3 months, and first 3 weeks especially
-Be nice to Carter
-Be nice to myself
-Read 75 books, track on Goodreads

{Art}
-Doodle more often, weekly at least
-Take one more art class before due date (v. risky)
-Journal daily, or close to it

{Side Venture}
-Outline and write 3 shorts for bestselling series to keep reader engagement, but not reaching for anything grand or huge numbers
-Aim for February, May, September release dates
-Make $6k (a reasonable number considering drop off in publication)
-Read space opera bestsellers
-Outline and write my own space opera series (3 books, 70k each)
-Publish in September, October, and November.

Actually looking at the thoughts and hopes that have been fluttering around my skull in writing makes me realize that I am still being very, very ambitious. This is probably a bad thing, but it feels good to write it out. If I can accomplish half these things by the end of the year I will be overjoyed. If I can accomplish a quarter, I will be pleased. If I can only accomplish 3 things (the first 3 things on the list preferably) I will be satisfied.

Yesterday a royalty check rolled in from a distributor I’d totally forgotten about, so I’m already at $1,850. They actually pay me more each quarter, despite my works for them being rather stale. So yay! I’m almost 1/3 to my $6k goal! Maybe I’ll make my “reach” goal $12k again. But I think it will be somewhat less than that this year, as I’m not writing very much for my established pen name and sci-fi is a much less lucrative category.

Well, let’s get going.

“The mundane is the edge of glory.”

11wks

That, messieurs et mesdames, is my daughter or son. At 11 weeks old he or she was twitching and moving in the womb, waving her arms and beating her heart as fast as she could. Yesterday I went for my nuchal test;  the little one was bigger than ever and even more active, wiggling so much that the ultrasound tech struggled to make the measurements.

It’s so strange to think that all of this movement is going on–perhaps at any hour of the day and night?–without my knowledge, inside my very body. I am eating, working, sleeping, watching terrible television, reading. Meanwhile this tiny person is building a spine, organs, and arranging her cells in preparation for life among us. This is all a mystery.

When I think about it too much I feel light-headed.

So, I don’t think about it too much. Half my time is spent eating or thinking about eating. The rest of the time, I’m trying to write, exercise, draw, and keep my head tightly screwed on to the rest of my body.

Exercise
Hitting 10,000 steps most days, although my goal is still 12,000-15,000. Once in a while I squeeze out a 17,000 step day, but that’s few and far between compared to how far I used to go. I do the occasional prenatal yoga video, but I think this is less strength/cardio and more stretching.

Drawing
I’m not doing the best job this go around, But I have been making some progress on drawing faces in perspective.

Writing
Making a surprising amount of progress here. Doing nano, at a rate of 2,000 words a day. I’m on track to finish my novella before Thanksgiving–probably won’t write a full novel, which is not something I do for side venture anyways. I handed off space opera partial to an alpha reader and got positive feedback. I’m feeling optimistic about this project.

Side Venture
Projecting $12,000 for 2015, which is $2k beyond my initial for 2015! I’m delighted beyond words. Will do a full accounting at the end of this year, but I am happy with how it went this year. I’m scaling goals back for 2016 due to baby ($6,000?), but very satisfied with the success of SV this year.

I have a lot of plans for writing in 2016, but not quite as much where publication goes–at least until the fall. I want to spend the first half of 2016 writing, the summer polishing and getting covers lined up (to skip over the summer slump), and then some fast paced publishing come fall. I’ve got plans. Yes, I do. If I play my cards right, 2017 might be very interesting indeed.

Or, it could be a total flop, in which case I will bury my nose in my baby’s sweet neck and let it go. The prenatal yoga videos encourage me to think about the word surrender, which is a good virtue for the pregnant state, but I can’t bring myself to do it completely. I have an irresistible urge to keep pushing at everything, but at work and writing in particular. Partly with the knowledge that I can’t predict how productive I’ll be once baby comes, but also because I feel like I can and should and want to push myself.

For now, the motto is: work hard, and then surrender.

“Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.”

Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money. -Jules Renard

Biz
I’ve stopped really keeping track of my earnings since March, except in passing…no more obsessive weekly tabulating of numbers and extrapolation of expected payouts, except a very thorough calculation at the end of the month for tax purposes. I think I passed the $3,000 mark (gross, pre-tax) in Q1. That’s around 2,000 sales on Amazon only.

One thing I might do in the future to boost revenue is eliminate my $0.99 books. They earn me hardly anything since at that price point Amazon takes most of the money, although I like having a range of prices across my catalog (free-$4.99). I think the current $0.99 books will stay where they are, but everything else going forward will be $2.99+.

Another point is diversification. Amazon is great for the first 3 months of a book’s life, but beyond that I think it’s less useful. So I published one story + a freebie on 6 non-Amazon platforms at the beginning of this month and am pleasantly surprised by how well it’s doing. It’s made $54.47 as of today, which is a lot more than I expected.  I thought it would earn, at most, $100/month total on all non-Amazon platforms, but at this rate, it might make at least double that. As much as the ‘Zon is the main marketplace for books, there are apparently readers that live and buy on other platforms, so it’s worth reaching out to them.

I need to get serious about my marketing game. Part of the issue is short stories vs. full length novellas and novels; 95% of my catalog are short stories, which turned out to be more profitable than I thought, but readers really want full novels for their buck. And where marketing/promo is concerned, it’s much easier to do novels than shorts. I do loathe marketing, though; I hate twitter, I hate Facebook, and I hate researching book blogs and asking for reviews. That said, it’s surprising how far I’ve gotten with no marketing: 3.66 average rating on Goodreads, and review averages of 4-5 stars on the ‘Zon (around 50 total).

Most days I dread doing too much biz-related stuff at the cost of wordcount, but when I do, it’s shockingly fun. I like thinking like a businesswoman–doing market research, and running little experiments. I’m open to traditionally publishing at some point, but really love the level of control I have over every aspect of this side venture so far.

The Writing
This is the steadier, more predictable part of things, but also the more existential-dread-inducing.

1) space opera! The more I work on this, the more I love it. I don’t even care if it sells. Writing it is enjoyable enough. That said, it’s sooo muchhh slowerrrr than almost anything else I’ve written before (excluding literary fiction). Worldbuilding is fun but it can be like a prison sometimes to remember what all the elements are, and how it might affect the story. I’m falling in love with some of my minor characters, also, to the point where I’m having a hard time keeping track of my protagonist, who is increasingly boring in comparison. That’s okay. Everyone thought Han Solo was cooler than Luke Skywalker, right? The goal for space opera is to be finished by July (I know, I know…moving the deadline out, but it’s so much harder to write!). I also realized that I can’t push this story as hard as I can push romance stories. If the next scene is not there, it’s just…not there. Writing this genre required me to slow down, to let it sit fallow and then come back to it after a few days or a week, even.

But I love it so much I always come back. For once, this is not going to be a story that I’m going to abandon. I even have sketchy outlines for parts 2 and 3…

2) Side Venture: I’m fast at this now. Fast fast fast. 2k-3k per day. It helps to have a strong outline to kick me in the ass whenever I slow down. I’ve also run some polls among my subscribers and now know what my readers want to read next (results were not surprising–about what I expected). Over the last 2 weeks I’ve written about 14k for my next SV story; it’s going to be a full length novel, maybe around 60k total. It flows so quickly and easily compared to space opera; going back to SV writing after getting stuck on my last space battle was reassuring, because it showed me that it really was the genre/story, and not that I was intrinsically blocked in my writing. I have no idea when this will be done–I’m prioritizing space opera, but space opera gets congested regularly, during which time I revert to working on SV. So…end of August, early September?

Total works to be written: 5, approx. 205,000 words
1. Space opera (80k)
2. SV novel (65k)
3. SV sequel #1 (15-20k)
4. SV sequel #2 (40-50k)
5. SV sequel #3 (undecided-maybe 25k?)

If there are 147 weekdays left in the year, that means I have to write about 1395 words per day to hit that number. I exclude weekends because, well, weekends. If I include weekends that drops the number down to a nice clean 1k. This is all doable.

Subscribers helped me organize the order of sequel stories to be completed this year, as well. This year I’ll have fewer published works, but better quality works and longer ones.

Misc
1. Learn & build custom WordPress site, find host
2. More regular newsletter postings

Excelsior!