Saturday, August 29, 2020

Deleting Twitter & Teaching on Zoom

I deleted Twitter. That place has become a cesspool. It got to the point where I asked myself if selling a few books was worth wading through the daily shrieking and finger-pointing on that site, and ultimately I decided I'd rather never sell a book again than see one more boycott hashtag or self-victimizing-drone who thinks their mindless bleating is original thought.


(^Also sorry that I'm not really sorry.)

Only problem is Twitter was kind of my only venue for selling books. I'm still on Facebook, but really that's for family and friends--people who already know I have a book out without being told via a post. Twitter was how I reached the outside world. Not sure how to circumvent that, but I have faith that it'll somehow work out. I'm just so relieved at this point to have the stink of Twitter out of my life, and book sales or not, I'll never stop writing.

Which, by the way, I'm now at 76% for Spring of Crows! My goal is to get to the 80% mark before we're back to work in person.

Speaking of, work is...weird. We started back to school on August 6th, but my county is on the COVID watch list, so students aren't allowed to be on campus right now. Us teachers are teaching our classes via Zoom. It sounds easier than teaching in person, but it's not. During the school day it's the same workload as regular teaching since we're doing live classes, but the behind-the-scenes planning is more intense because I have to make sure my lessons are easily understood and accessible to students working from home. Things I'd normally cover in class in five minutes can take a dozen emails back and forth. Not to mention all the technology meltdowns my district keeps experiencing. Despite all this, I'm kind of enjoying my job. It's mentally taxing trying to keep up with all the emails, engagement logs that the state is requiring, and so on, but physically I feel like I have more energy by the end of my workday. Plus my students are very sweet and very committed to coming to classes. We have a great rapport so far, even if we're all two-dimensional. It's also fun getting to meet their baby sisters and dogs, or having students respond to questions in-between bites of Top Ramen. Zoom classes expose you to layer of your students' lives that you'd never experience in a regular class setting.

That's it for now. Remind me to tell you about our weird Laughlin trip during my next post. :)

P.S. Still keeping comments off for awhile. Maybe permanently? It sucks because I do love hearing feedback on things I'm prattling on about, but at the same time I think I'd like to turn this blog back into the original 'journal' that it used to be ten years ago.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Blog Parasites

I'll do a real post soon. (Translation: anytime from tomorrow to next year). I just wanted to hop on here real quick to say I'm removing the ability to comment on my posts for a month or two. My blog has become a target for overseas spammers and bots, and I'm being bombarded through the comments. I.e. My last post is currently at 50 comments, and only four of them are from real people. It feels icky. I'm annoyed by how ridiculously impotent Blogger's spam filter is. Last week I adjusted my settings to where a Google sign-in is required, but it didn't help. Apparently spammers have Google accounts. The only thing left is to password-protect my blog (only people with the password can read it), but frankly my blog isn't juicy enough to require anything that drastic. So now I'm hoping that shutting down my comment window for a period of time will take me off the radar of all these blog parasites.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Planning a Vacation During a Pandemic

I feel like there should be sitcoms devoted to the comical ways life has changed since this pandemic. Like the fact that I received this in the mail yesterday:

It's from a Jehovah Witness who, due to social distancing, was unable to come to my door. Now their only path to converting all of us heathens is to hand write really long letters. I was so tickled by this little piece of mail that I almost didn't have the heart to throw it away. (Almost. I ended up throwing it in the fireplace. I do appreciate this lovely woman's effort, though).

But nothing beats trying to plan a vacation during a pandemic. Last year, my extended family (Mom, Dad, sister, brother in-law, nieces, etc.) and I booked a summer cruise to Alaska for my grandpa's 90th birthday, which falls on July 13, 2020. At the end of May, our cruise was cancelled. We were disappointed, but we moved on. We found a resort on the island of Kauai that was still welcoming tourists. We booked the resort and all our flights. In some ways, the new vacation sounded more fun than the original.

Then in June, Hawaii brought down the hammer. They decided that anyone flying into their islands would be required to be quarantined for fourteen days. Not a possibility for us, considering we were staying for only a week.

After that, Clint found an amazing deal for an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. Jamaica has no travel restrictions or quarantine requirements--they're pretty much welcoming tourists with open arms. Clint and I went ahead and booked it. My mom and my niece were super excited, viewing this vacation as even better than the first two! The one caveat was my sister would now need to get passports for her kids super fast since we were only a month out from our vacation. No big deal; the passport agency is willing to expedite passports for an extra fee. 

Oh wait. No they're not. Not during a pandemic. Apparently a worldwide virus required them to downsize their staff and they no longer have enough employees to expedite passports. 

So we waved goodbye to our Jamaican dream. After that, the conversations regarding "Where should we go for vacation" reached ludicrous levels, with a lot of manic-type crying and kicking and screaming (along with some hair pulling) over the subject. Some ideas originally open for discussion due to the public reopening were quickly disregarded due to these same areas going down into lockdown again, or due to safety concerns with the recent looting/rioting (because, you know, a pandemic isn't enough. Let's throw social upheaval into the mix as well).

So what's the verdict? What did we decide to replace our beautiful Alaskan/Hawaiian/Jamaican trip with? Are you ready to be awed by the glamor of my upcoming vacation?

We're RV camping at a KOA about 2 hours from my house.


Yep. Most of life's 'new normals' are inherently unfunny, but there is some humor in all of this if you look hard enough. Like, really hard. Really really har--yeah, okay. I hate this sh*% too.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

BookBub is a Game Changer

I'm going to avoid talking about things happening in our nation right now because this is basically us:
To Hell in a Handbasket Postcard |
So instead, I'll give some quick writing updates. I'm finally making some headway with Spring of Crows again! I got a little stuck with Owen's character and with Phee not wanting to embrace her role as narrator, but both of those problems have worked themselves out. Clint sat down with me and helped me outline Part 2 of the book, and honestly it's so much better than I could have pulled off on my own. I love having his guy humor to sprinkle in my stories. 

In other writing-related news, I'm still experiencing an impact from the BookBub promotion I ran three weeks ago. I've been using a spreadsheet to keep track of everything, and here's where I'm at as of today:

In a previous post, I had stated the following: 
" campaign has [probably] given me 150 + new readers. I'm hoping of these, about half of them will reach the end of the novel and purchase the sequel, but I have no research or stats to support this..."
So at the time, I was hoping I'd have about 75 readers purchase Black Lilies. And look what I ended up with! 121 paid units sold. This is why I love keeping my expectations on the low (and maybe slightly grim) side.

But the best part of all of this came from a totally unexpected source: Kindle Unlimited. BookBub typically avoids listing books that are enrolled in KU, for two reasons: 

  1. BookBub prefers promoting books that can be found at multiple retailers. KU books are available through Amazon only (KU is like the Netflix of books, priding themselves in offering exclusives that can be found at no other retailers).
  2. BookBub's entire claim to fame is free (or dramatically discounted) books, but that claim falls flat if a book is already available for free outside of the BookBub promotion through the Kindle Library.

Since my book was enrolled in KU, it should have never been accepted by BookBub. And honestly I totally forgot that Chasing Echoes was even listed under KU when I applied for BookBub, because I've never made any money through the lending library. A needle in a haystack is a needle in a haystack, whether it costs money or is free. But through a crazy accidental loophole (I'll skip the details right now), BookBub accepted my novel. Best accident ever. On the first day of my promotion, I had over 12,000 free downloads of Chasing Echoes, and it bumped me so high in Amazon's algorithms that Kindle Unlimited subscribers were now having my book recommended to them. Out of nowhere, my needle in a haystack was being found! Even once my five day promotion ended, the number of pages read through KU kept going strong. When Clint saw this, he talked me into enrolling Black Lilies into KU as well. At first I was reluctant because the whole point of giving Chasing Echoes away for free is to attract new readers, knowing that those who enjoy the free book will purchase the sequel. It's common knowledge in the indie world that you don't make money from your first book--that first novel is nothing more than bait. For KU, on the other hand, authors get paid about half a cent for every page read. But Clint and I did the math, and it turns out that if someone borrows Black Lilies from the Kindle Lending Library and reads it from beginning to end, I make the same amount of money as if they had purchased the book. So I decided to enroll Black Lilies in KU too. This would allow Kindle Unlimited subscribers to glide straight from Chasing Echoes into Black Lilies, and it'd be the same as me selling that second book. 

Anyway, here's my estimated royalties for May (estimated because the money per page varies anywhere from .4 to .5 of a cent):

Check out how many pages were read before May 12. (Spoiler alert, it was none.) 😜 My ad started on the 12th. The blue bar is Chasing Echoes, the orange is Black Lilies. There should be a point where blue drops down as readers switch over to Black Lilies, but it hasn't happened yet. 

We're only six days into June, but here's June's data so far:

By tomorrow I'll have made $1000! I know this kind of steam can't last much longer (I'm seeing a small dip these past few days that might be permanent), but like I said a few posts ago, it feels so good to have my book(s) on the map. I'm just really kicking myself now that I didn't wait until the final book in the series was out to run my BookBub promotion. My readers are reaching the cliffhanger ending of book 2, with book 3 pending for at least another year. By the time book 3 is released, my readers will have lost interest. Dumb dumb dumb. But I honestly had no idea that my promotion would get accepted, let alone have these kind of results. So...I'll just keep trying to focus on the positive.

If you've authored an engaging series, I highly recommend that you apply for BookBub. And since you'll probably be rejected the first time out, apply again. Then again. Then one more time. It's worth it.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Little Greenhouse in the Big Woods

On a thread in my FB gardening group earlier, I mentioned that "a resurgence in gardening seems to be one of the more pleasant side effects of this quarantine." 

In reality, a resurgence of all hobbies has been a side effect. Last month I posted this question on facebook:

It was surprising to see how many replies this simple question prompted. There was such a crazy variety of activities mentioned--everything from home improvement projects to trying new recipes to building furniture from scratch. People were eager and proud to share their best coping strategies for dealing with a societal shutdown. It was pretty cute.

So my stay-home hobby has been gardening. My sis and I both became obsessed with growing things last month. Unfortunately where I live gardening is sketchy. Not only is my house on a slope, but we're on the shady side of the mountain and only get direct sunshine in any given spot for an hour or two a day. Adding to that is our elevation, which can lend itself to lower temperatures at night, even in spring. All of this makes it tricky to figure out what will actually grow here. 

So to resolve these issues, we leveled out a small piece of our property in the sunniest spot in our yard, built a short retaining wall with cinder blocks, and put in a little greenhouse!

Isn't it so dang cute?! This thing has become my joy. Clint even installed fairy lights on the inside so I can visit my plants at night. I was so worried that my veggies and flowers wouldn't make it because even though this is the sunniest part of my yard, it still only gets direct sunlight for maybe ninety+ minutes, then partial sunlight during various parts of the day. I've heard that tomatoes need 5-6 hours of daily sunlight, so I wasn't sure if things would actually grow. But after nearly a month, everything in my greenhouse is thriving! The tomatoes and peas have doubled in size, and all the seedlings in Trin's ball jars have taken off. So I think that even though our sunlight is limited, the greenhouse turns it into supersized UV rays or something. (←Totally scientific.)

Shan built a greenhouse too--before ours was up, actually--and it's awesome. Trin and my niece Cass have also gotten into gardening (all those ball jars in my greenhouse are Trin's), and my mom's yard looks like something from a magazine. So with all of these emerging green thumbs, we've been sharing our garden adventures with each other via Marco Polo. It's fun to have a common interest to share with my family.

Though suddenly I'm wondering if I got into gardening out of sheer pressure. 😂

Oh well. I love it. If you yourself are still stuck at home, I hope you've found yourself a good quarantine anti-drug.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Book Bub & Other Writing Updates

See the source image

Chasing Echoes was featured on Book Bub yesterday, and I never imagined what a crazy-fun process it would be! I knew Book Bub had a pretty far reach, but I was expecting maybe a thousand downloads. As of today the book is at 15,000+ downloads. To be clear, this doesn't mean 15K people are now reading my book. I'm a Book Bub subscriber myself and I tend to hoard freebies; the majority of them lie dormant on my Kindle, never read. I'll be lucky if 10% of the people who downloaded my book yesterday actually read it. I mean, really lucky, because 10% would be 1,500 new readers! That would be amazing. But I'm pretty convinced that the real numbers will be nowhere close to that percent. So what is a reasonable expectation for me to have? Book Bub has articles about this, but naturally their articles are slanted to getting authors to use their service, so they tend to put out the more optimistic stats. I like to take a pragmatic approach to things, so I've decided 1% is probably a reasonable expectation. I think it's safe to assume that 1 out of every 100 people who downloaded my book will probably read it. If this is the case, my campaign has given me 150 + new readers. I'm hoping of these, about half of them will reach the end of the novel and purchase the sequel, but I have no research or stats to support this, as it depends on the level of enjoyment each reader gleaned from the book.

Either way, I'm so happy I did this. It was exhilarating to see that many downloads, even if the book ultimately ends up lying dormant on Kindles. All of those downloads bumped my book up on Amazon's algorithms...even leading to THIS:

Currently Chasing Echoes is the #1 bestseller in Paranormal/Urban Fantasy and Time Travel Romance! It started yesterday and is still continuing today. Obviously my bestseller status will disappear once my campaign is over and new campaigns take its place, but I feel like my little obscure book is finally on the map, and it feels amazing.

In other news, Spring of Crows is at 48% completion, but I am really struggling with Phee's character. The problem is the book starts off right away with some intense action (since it continues where Black Lilies leaves off), requiring Phee to immediately rise to the occasion and be a bad ass. I know this all sounds good, but it's just falling flat, because we never get to see Phee's baseline character. We never get to see the shallow person she is under normal circumstances--when she's not dealing with a serial killer and an ice age--making it harder to 'root' for her and applaud her character growth. Also, Phee's little sister Krystal really wants to take over the story. It's technically Phee's book (told in first-person narration), with chapters here and there from Krystal's point of view (in third-person), but Krystal wants it to be her book. I'm really struggling with this. I feel like I'm forcing Phee's chapters when Krystal wants to narrate the events. But if I decide to give in and let Krystal take over, it would require mass rewriting of several chapters--not to mention Krystal is too young to narrate a young-adult book. So I need to figure out a way to get into Phee's head and let Phee take over this story. I have a feeling it's going to require me drinking a lot.

Another challenge: Owen, the love interest. I can't nail down his personality. I feel like I already burned through my desirable male personalities with Stryder and Kade, and I don't know how to give Owen a unique voice. I gave stoicism, broodiness and a dash of alpha male to Stryder, and I gave chivalry, gentleness, and confidence (with an air of arrogance) to Kade. So what's left for Owen? I don't want him to come across as some cookie cutter, 'insert love interest here' character, and I definitely don't want another Stryder or another Kade. But what does that leave me?

These challenges are far less than I experienced with Chasing Echoes and Black Lilies, so I'm not panicking over them. I just need to get this sorted out soon, because I can only hang in there for one more chapter tops before I've hit a wall with writing.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The First Lines of Emails I've Received While Quarantining

I don't know why this poem makes me giggle so hard (written/posted by @jessica_salfia on twitter)'s not like it's that funny. Nonetheless, I'll leave this right here. Sorry it's blurry:

In other news, Chasing Echoes was selected for a featured promotion for Book Bub! I'd love to say they just recognized it's awesomeness and chose it right away, The book was rejected several times prior, so maybe it finally had enough reviews to be taken seriously. Or maybe it's because Black Lilies is out, and having two books makes you appear more legitimate as an author. Or maybe I just finally wore them down. I don't care, I'm just thrilled it was finally accepted.

Semi-related-but-not-really, this commercial just now came on while I was typing:

Tearjerking stuff, right? 😂