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 | Zazzle.com
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: 
"...my 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

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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)...it'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, but...no. 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? 😂 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Birthday Eggstravaganza

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My mom-in-law's birthday is on April 8th, Trin's birthday is on the 11th, my dad's is on the 13th, and my dad-in-law's is on the 30th. So April is basically Christmastime, Round 2. Because of all these April birthdays, it's not uncommon for us to have a birthday land on Easter. 

In this case, Trin's birthday fell yesterday, the day before Easter. Celebrating was a little trickier this year due to the lockdown, and the fact that we were snowed in until yesterday morning so unable to get food/cake until an hour before her celebration. We decided to have a small birthday get-together with our Sheltering-In buddies (aka: My sister's family). My parents decided to come too, but vowed to maintain their social distance. This worked out really well for the first hour or so until they got buzzed and all caution flew out the window.

All in all Trin's birthday was a blast. I mean, a literal blast. In addition to playing Exploding Kittens, my brother in-law Jeremy was itching to try out a small, real-life cannon he had built that week, so we fired it once or twice.

Okay, it was six times. (Maybe seven). But that was only because Jeremy wasn't satisfied with the loudness of the blast. Apparently it wasn't boomy enough. So the boys kept adding more gun powder and more compression. More compression = dish towels and hamburger buns, by the way. The final time we fired the cannon, it was ear-splitting--the kind of noise that slams against your chest and rattles your inner core. We all went running and shrieking into the house, yelling "We are soooo busted!" totally convinced that the sheriff would be pulling up any second.

We dubbed it "Trinity's Birthday Boom." Good times.

That night we came home for Round 2 of Trin's birthday with Teri and Carey. Teri made an amazing chocolate cake from scratch topped with beautiful amethyst gemstones carved from sugar. She needs to be on one of those baking shows on Food Network. Anyway, they both did a great job of social distancing in the beginning too...even keeping their face masks on. But as the evening progressed, everyone got a little more comfortable--or less conscientious, and the masks came off. Today, as we celebrated Easter, social distancing sort of went out the window. We did our Easter Eggstravaganza, which is basically a tournament of egg-games, including the Egg Roll Off, Egg Drop, Egg Derby, and Egg Shoot Off. It was so much fun. Teri obliterated us. She won last year too, so that's two years in a row now that she gets to flaunt the ever-coveted Easter Eggstravaganza trophy.

(Yeah, I hear it. We're ridiculous).

After the egg tournament, we had our normal Easter egg hunt. The snow afforded a lot more hiding places and as I type this we are still missing six eggs.

Merry--er--Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

COVID-19 - A Post for my Future Grandkids

This post isn't for the general public. We're all going through this quarantine together, so there's nothing I can say here that would be new or interesting for you.

This post is for my future grandkids. I want them to know what life was like here in California when Coronavirus hit America. So Ling Ling and Thing 2 (and any other grand-babies that end up popping into existence), this is for you. 

When it comes to shocking events, everyone remembers exactly where they were or what they were doing when their world was suddenly spun off its axis. My grandparents remember where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed. My parents--though little at the time--remember the shock that swept through the nation when they got the news that John F. Kennedy was shot. For my own generation, it's 9-11. We all remember the sickening numbness that washed over us when we saw that second tower crumble down, and the fallout that resulted from that terrorist attack. But for your parents (I'm talking to you, Ling Ling and Thing 2), it's Coronavirus. As I write this, I'm 41. Your [future] parents are in their late teens. This pandemic...well, this is their life altering event.

Pandemics don't work like bombings or presidential assassinations or planes hitting towers, though. There's no "Where were you when..." discussions, because it doesn't slam into you the way other calamities do. Instead, a pandemic creeps upon you slowly, where you see it first from a safe distance, and you think nothing of it. It continues to inch closer and closer, and you adjust to every new development. You get used to its omnipresence in your world. But then you wake up one morning and realize you were the frog boiling slowly in the pot all along, and your entire world has been turned upside down. And you take a step back, and scratch your head, and mutter to yourself "What the hell happened?"

For me personally, it all started Wednesday, March 11. With over a thousand cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) now in the U.S., the virus was already on the peripheral of my thoughts, but at this time most of us considered it nothing more than an extreme cold or flu (except for my twin, Shannon. She's known since December that this was something different). That night, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In school the next day, our principal came on over the loudspeaker in the middle of third period to ask all teachers to play a safety and hand-washing video for our students. At my school, it's rare for the school's intercom to be used to interrupt teachers in the middle of their lessons, so the loudspeaker announcement was probably my first real sign that the outbreak had finally stretched its long, spiny fingers far enough to graze my part of the world.

That night, panic buying ensued. Aisles were cleaned out of food, especially bulk food such as beans and rice. And of course, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. I don't even need to mention the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 because that one will be forever marked in history.

The next day was Friday the 13th. We found out that Disneyland and Disney World had closed, along with Universal Studios and every other major theme park. Students and teachers scraped by the school day. I was out with a sub to take Elijah to the doctor's for a possible ear infection. I never went home that day; we had planned a trip to Las Vegas for my nephew Dylan's 21st birthday. So after Elijah's appointment and lunch, we started the long drive. We were nearing State Line when we got the news that school was cancelled until further notice.

Our weekend in Vegas was...surreal. Buffets were only allowed to stay open if gloved restaurant workers dished out the food. There were workers stationed at the escalators with disinfectant spray and towels, whose only job was to continue to spray the moving hand railings and wipe them down. Everyone--visitor or worker--had hand sanitizer. You'd see hand sanitizer every five seconds, next to slot machines or as you were walking the aisles. Despite all this, there was a relaxed vibe in Vegas. Kinda. It was calm, yet there was an underlying uneasiness in the air; a nervous energy. It was an accident that we all happened to find ourselves in Sin City in the beginning phases of a pandemic, and I think most of us wanted to go home. No one likes to be away from home when the shit's hitting the fan. We still had a good time, but it was the weirdest 21st birthday ever. Our family spent a lot of our free time during meals following the events happening in California and laughing over the latest toilet paper memes. 

We returned home on Sunday, March 15. The entire Vegas strip shut down a few days later.

Here's where I start to lose track of dates, because every day seemed to bring a new damage report--and still does today. So what I can tell you is this: Sometime after returning home from Vegas, we were given "Stay at Home" orders from the governor. All non-essential businesses were closed down. Grocery stores (of course) remained open, but movie theaters, parks, dine-in restaurants, etc., were all closed, and remain so today. Gatherings of any kind are prohibited, so birthday parties and social events are now being held over video conferencing. Here's me and some colleagues enjoying "Wine Night" together:



If you take your dog for a walk, you have to practice "social distancing," which means you must avoid coming within six feet of another person. It's so odd, because we hear this phrase a thousand times a day now, to the point where social distancing feels like it's been a fixture in our lives forever. But in reality it never existed a month ago. 

Seniors (such as Trinity's boyfriend, Caleb) will not have prom or graduation this year. The Class of 2020 is probably the most gypped class in our nation's history.

Visiting any of the essential stores that are allowed to remain open is...strange. Unless you show up right when they get their new deliveries, aisles are still cleared of food and other provisions. Half of the shoppers are wearing face masks. And more rules keep getting added.



My mom works as a nurse, and you should see the 'gear' she has to wear. It looks like a hazmat suit from the movie Outbreak. Here are the confirmed cases here in America, as of today:
It's expected to peak at the end of this month. School is now out for the rest of the school year, and Distance Learning starts tomorrow. 

I think the most surreal part is, unlike the assassination of John. F. Kennedy, or 9-11, this pandemic is not isolated to the United States. It's happening across the globe. We're all in various forms of lockdown. I've never in my life experienced an issue that everyone on the planet can empathize with. It's disconcerting on the one hand, but unifying and equalizing on the other.

The plus side of all this is the amazing quality time I'm getting with my family. We play games regularly, take walks, have movie nights, etc., and I get to do leisurely things that I've never had time for in the past, like take Neil Gaiman's online writing class, home interior projects, and play Sudoku. My favorite thing though is sending and receiving "Polos" from my mom, sister, and niece. These are short video messages, and we go back and forth all day, staying a part of each other's lives.

I don't know. Is the world still like this a decade from now? Because right now, it feels like it's never going to end. It's permeated every part of our lives. Even when it does end, it won't end. So many Americans who are considered nonessential employees have lost their jobs--either temporarily or permanently--and despite an emergency stimulus package that was recently approved, our nation might be heading for a bad recession, if not another Great Depression.

As I write this, I wonder how your lives--Ling Ling and Thing 2--have been changed as a result of Coronavirus. Is it normal in your world to see people wearing face masks? Do people still carry hand sanitizer everywhere they go? Are they still practicing social distancing in public? 

I'm going to end this with a few random pics that capture a bit of the world we live in today. I believe that, for the most part, life will return back to the way it was before a pandemic held the entire globe in its grip, and that someday this will all be a blip in the radar of our world's history. But I also believe this pandemic has created waves that will be felt for generations. LL and T2, you'll be born in the wake of those waves, so you won't know the difference. But they're there, and will always be there. Every little ripple will be felt and known by the people who remember what life was like before the outbreak of COVID-19. Your parents and grandparents--their lives will never be quite the same.












 








 











 











Doctor wheels elderly Coronavirus patient outside to watch the sunset.