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Right on schedule…

Today I officially published my first actual book. With my name on it.  I can’t even count how many ebooks and physical books I’ve ghost-written over the past few years.  I was always surprised by how much actual work goes into them and watching my work rise on the sales charts with someone else’s name on it was bittersweet.  But whatever.

 

So today I tasked myself with finishing a project I started for a client a few years ago.  He decided he was unable to pay for the rest of the book,so I finished it without him and published it on Kindle today.  It should go live on CreateSpace soon,so readers can order printed copies of this.

 

When I published the romance books,I had someone else do the formatting and layout. This time,I did it myself and Whoa my goodness,what a royal pain that was.  It looks one way on my laptop,another way on my phone,another way on my kindle,another way on the iPad and an entirely different way on the kindle cloud reader.

 

In the end,I gave up.  Literally.  I just said “fuck it”and published.  I’m done.  It’s 5pm,I’m clocking out.  Except I’m not really clocking out,just moving on to the next project.

 

So here it is…Gluten Free Pregnancy

 

For the record,the magic tool that enabled me to get this done so quickly is called Scrivener. I absolutely love it and I already have all of my projects (a gluttonous 12 right now) loaded into Scrivener. When i was watching a tutorial,I saw the funniest tweet about Scrivener and I totally agree with,it said something to the effect of “I want to marry scrivener and have its little organized babies.”Scrivener is insanely organized and so easy to use. If you can sit through tutorial videos,that is. I went through the Scrivener quick-start tutorial and I got as far as step 5D before I gave up. I watched a 2 hour video tutorial (played it in the background while I tended to other tasks) and as I was working,I checked youtube for specific instructions to specific issues I was having. So there’s a learning curve,you can’t just jump right in and feel the magic. But once you do,it’s amazing. I love Scrivener. So much

Buy Scrivener 2 for Mac OS X (Regular Licence)

 

I used a coupon code WINTERFEST2015 to get a 25% discount and you can too. And besides,there’s like a free 30-use trial (not 30 days,30 uses so every time you open it it ticks another one off the count. That’s how they got me. I downloaded it a few months ago and I hate when free trials are on a timer because I wouldn’t have had the chance to actually use it if it had been 30 days counting.

 
Buy Scrivener 2 for Mac OS X (Regular Licence)
 

Today was a success. I’m off of work until Sunday,so I’ve got a little more left in me during this run. Happy Wednesday to you :)

Quick update (Aww who am I kidding,it’s a state-of-my-writing address)

My writing adventures were stalled for a while because I thought life would be better working outside of the home.  For a while,I was right.  Writing from home had become a little bit of a drag for a while because I wondered if I could even make it in a “real”job.  I felt the need to “break up”with my dining room table and surround myself with actual living breathing other people who I didn’t give birth to.  As a divorced mother,I believed that maybe the best way to generate income for my family would be to seek outside employment. Because isn’t that what stay-home moms “have to do”when they get divorced?

Well,there’s good news and bad news;I made it.  I started off as a cashier in a boutique grocery store (think Whole Foods meets Circle K;it’s general store with tons and tons of local delicacies and some housewares and home decor.)  It’s an amazing little store and I feel insanely blessed to be part of the company.  It has everything I wanted in a workplace;it was a startup,which appealed to my sense of creating something bigger,my coworkers are rock stars who work their @$$#s off every single day to provide an awesome experience for the customers.  They care about their work and each other and overall the experience has been phenomenal.

After ten weeks,I was promoted to store manager and I made important changes to the way the company works,changes that have helped the company to grow and we’re now in the process of opening additional locations,the success of which will be directly impacted by my work.  It’s an amazing feeling and I’m incredibly proud of the work I’m doing;creating a marketplace for small food producers and contributing to a company that strives to service the needs of an entire community in a way that’s sustainable and responsible (and utterly adorable;you should see this place).

These days,I find that many of my tasks now are related more to the growth of the company instead of the minutiae of running the store (developing training materials,analyzing data,communicating with vendors…),and that puts me right at home;listening to my kids play,cleaning the house and typing away at my keyboard like in the old days.

I’m missing those old days.  That’s the bad news.  Or is it also good news of a different sort?  I’m missing the control I had over my work schedule;For a while my mother was living here with us and watched the kids while I was away at work.  She’s moving away in a couple weeks and I’m looking into childcare arrangements and I’m not really impressed with my options.  I’m also remembering the days when the kids were able to participate in all sorts of activities,when I was able to sleep in or stay up late and when I could travel easier.

I’m missing the freedom to choose my own income. When I was working from home,it was easy to decide I needed an extra thousand dollars for plane tickets or dance recital costumes.  I remember feeling overwhelmed by my own schedule,and how I kept using a million different tools to keep myself organized,but the experience I’ve had over the past 18 months has really helped me master the process of scheduling my time and I’ve found the perfect tools to keep myself in check.  If you’re wondering what my favorite tool is,it’s Priority Matrix from Appfluence.  Hands down,this is my absolute can’t-live-without-it favorite tool for organizing tasks,projects and keeping track of things I’ve delegated.  I am 100% sure that the rigors of this job would have bogged me down if I hadn’t discovered this tool.  I’m also 100% sure that if I’d been using this tool 4 years ago I would have been so much more productive.

I’m missing the projects I put on the back burner.  When I first started working,my royalties and commissions and ad income from my niche websites in addition to the revenue from web content contracts that I had outsourced were enough to sustain me minimally.  Little by little,without any TLC from me over the past 18 months (OK,maybe 3 years),those revenue streams have been reduced to about 1/3 of what they were when I started.  My niche websites have lost rank,the content isn’t fresh anymore,my forums haven’t been maintained,a few databases have crashed and even my eBook sales have disappeared because I failed to maintain the lead pages.

So basically,for a while,I was benefitting from the 7+ years I had put into my writing career with a great passive income that I took for granted.  Today,with that income reduced to just a fraction of what it was,I’m growing a little tired of my (otherwise awesome) adventure and wanting to bring back my writing business and get back the freedom I had when I was self-employed,while still keeping the awesome connections I’ve made working outside the home and contributing to the growth of this little company I’m completely in love with.  Yes,this is me wanting the best of both worlds.

I first started feeling this way last November when I took a crash course in romance writing.  From November to February,I published five little romance novels and uploaded them to Kindle.  I used a pen name and cranked them out like a madwoman(and no I will probably never reveal that identity). After a while though,the work of managing a store consumed me and I didn’t check it again until June when I realized that I had nearly $800 in my Amazon account just waiting for my payee information to be updated.

That was exciting.  And once I dig up the name of the program I will publish a review of it here.

So my mother is moving away,my childcare is disappearing,I’ve grown weary of the 6am-2pm schedule I’ve created,I’m missing my kids and I’m discovering all of these amazing writing tools (hello Scrivener,you sexy thing)

I think I’m back.

It will take a little while to make sure the company is in an awesome position to move forward with less of physical me,but I am committed.  During that transition,I’ll be weaning myself back into writing.  I have some super exciting projects in the works and thanks to Priority Matrix,I’m simultaneously working on 4 different kindle/ CreateSpace books (each the beginning of a series) training materials for the company,data analysis for the company,social media for the company,inventory management,store management,managing my kids and my home and forcing myself to sleep 6-8 hours a night. (That’s a lie,I don’t actually get that much sleep).

But I’m back. And I’m energized and I’m scheduled and I’m organized.  And I’m writing. Life is awesome.

I'm back,bitches

Be Better At The Grammaring

grammar-mistakes

An excellent resource for editing for clarity

Explaining the Hemingway App without actually copying and pasting from their website would be kind of lame because once you click on it you’ll end up seeing what it’s about anyway. So click on the words Hemingway App above and find out for yourself. It’s pretty awesome. Enjoy.

And Suddenly I Realize I’m an Avoider of Phrases…

suddenly-a-goatI don’t claim to be any kind of awesome writer,and because of this,there are phrases I avoid simply because I don’t like them.  Until I started listening to the Grammar Girl podcasts I wasn’t really interested in knowing the truth. I can’t control what anyone else says or does in their writing so rather than learn the truth I just decide to avoid using terms I’m not sure about.

Until today.

Apparently I’m not the only one who hates “All of a sudden”and its cousin “All of the sudden”because the debate is pretty fierce.

What’s a sudden?

What’s the sudden?

Apparently “all of a sudden”is correct,but if you (like me) can’t stomach saying either,then let’s join together and use the word “suddenly”when it’s necessary. There’s always a different way to say it and with such a hot debate between the two phrases,does it really matter which one you use? Someone will always think you’re wrong.

 

On Being a Sellout

I know a lot of super creative writers. I love the idea of self-expression and creating beautiful things with words,but it’s just not my style. I’ve been preparing for a career as a web writer since I was in junior high school.  I used to always get A’s on essays in school.  The secret that I discovered early on was that teachers rarely read the middles. I’d write a killer intro followed by skimmable paragraphs that looked like they said something tangible and then close it out with a final,well-constructed closing paragraph.  This lasted all through high school.  My teachers always commented on what a great writer I was,but I always felt like a fake. I thought my writing was shit and couldn’t imagine why they thought otherwise.

On my personal blog,it’s a rather psychotic combination of personal journal entries and things I’m excited to say out loud.  I wouldn’t call it good writing either. In fact,nothing I write is good.  And that’s not me giving myself a hard time,looking for compliments or being a perfectionist,it’s simply stating a fact. Almost no thought or brain power goes into my writing. I tend to be hit-or-miss picky about spelling and punctuation. I rarely proofread for substance and honestly,sometimes I’m surprised by the things my clients love about my work.

So I don’t really care about being a sellout.

A friend of mine is one of those super creative writers. She puts her heart and soul into her writing and I love to read what she writes. She cares a great deal about writing as a form of self expression and strives to be understood. She writes eloquently and artfully to convey deep emotion without fluff. Her kind of writing is what I enjoy reading when I’m reading for pleasure.

I often intend to write that way when I’m on my personal blog but I never really reach that goal because by the time I say the facts,I’ve lost the desire to ruminate on the best possible way to express myself.

So,I’m a sellout.

I make my living selling words I get with little to no mental investment.  In honor of that,I have made this Tshirt.  Please share this shirt with friends or it won’t get made :)

 

 

You might need more than just web content

Today I was writing for a tour company in the rockies. They offer horseback riding and ATV tours and lodging (though no mountain-biking on the trails,isn’t that weird?). They’re trying to pitch their services for catering and events and I think they need more than just a team of content writers bringing traffic to their website.  Here’s what I was able to find in just five minutes of poking around online:

Keep in mind that over 75% of the reviews were five-star reviews.  So this place doesn’t suck in general,in fact they’re getting A’s 3/4 of the time. It’s just not enough.

I didn’t find a single positive review of the ATV tours on any travel review site anywhere. It seems the owner of the company was a bit militant about maintaining a low speed and the guests thought he was rude and the experience of creeping along slowly was boring. One likened it to being part of a chain gang.

To solve this:market it as a slow tour and make sure the guests aren’t expecting something different. There’s nothing wrong with a slow ride in general,but there IS something wrong with charging people for one thing when they’re expecting something else. There’s something about the term ATV that implies off-roading and even mud splashing. If that’s not what you’re offering,make it clear before they book the tour.

Reviewers had legitimate complaints about the customer service they were greeted with over the phone.  I suspect it was the owner of the property,in which case…tsk tsk…You need to stop answering your own phone or retire please. Either way,each of these review websites allows the property owner to log in and respond.  At the very least,he could log in and say “I’m sorry,my dog died that day and I was crabby to everyone. my bad.” If the reviews aren’t true he can deny them (although that always looks like lying)

And finally,I visited their Facebook page.  In several of the reviews,customers mentioned one gifted tour guide by name. He was the best,he was so much fun and he made sure we all had a great time.  On the company’s Facebook wall,I could see that he recently commented on an event the facility hosted.  I clicked on his face to reveal his personal profile and found him bemoaning the fact that he had to fish a tampon out of the toilet at work using catering tongs.

Yeah,I’m sure that’s good for their catering business.

Yuck.

The lesson here is to ALWAYS be completely mindful of what your online presence is saying about your company.  There’s nothing we can do about the bad reviews the company is ignoring or the fact that their catering equipment works double-duty in the outhouse.

Best Podcasts for (Fiction and Nonfiction) Story Writers

I looked down at my hands and they were pasty and contorted into unnatural shapes,like a 90 yr old woman with arthritis. They were cramped from white-knuckling the steering wheel for the past 2 hours. I was glad that the kids had been asleep in the backseat for so long because several times I squealed and jumped when puddles of water from passing vehicles flooded over the windshield,blinding me.

The other cars became “something not to hit”and the slowly creeping semi trucks became obstacles that drove me to endure the sure death embedded in the wave of water they left in their wake,with my windshield wipers maniacally swishing back and forth in a panic,desperately trying to clear my view and unapologetically making my heart beat faster while I waited to verify that I had not,in fact,been pushed off of the cliff and into the Columbia River.

I didn’t have time to get annoyed that those trucks were hugging the safe side of the road that night. Surely on rainy nights like this,All big rig truck drivers in Oregon would feel inclined to band together keep little Prius drivers like me safe and reverse the whole slow lane-fast lane paradigm. At least on eastbound routes. Be slow on the scary side of the road,please. Be big and tall over there,by the edge of the cliff so that little old me can hug the mountain and if I happen to lose control,catch me,OK bro.

After one very surfable wave blanketed my little car and my life flashed before me,I wondered if I were to die on this road tonight,what would be said about me? Surely my ex husband would call it suicide. He was always quick to chalk everything I did up to some mental health deficiency. As if it was crazy to hate being married to him. The death of me and my kids that night would surely prove to him that divorce was a bad idea. I wondered if my boyfriend would be notified. None of “my people”really know much about him. Come to think of it,I don’t have a lot of people that I confide in. (Also,I think that might be the first time I have typed out those words;“my boyfriend”it sounds so juvenile.) I guess my friend Karri could tell him.And my children,what futures will be robbed of the world tonight when we go tumbling down into the river? Also,does drowning hurt? Or would we even make it all the way down the cliff?

Yes,I have just spent the past two hours driving down the freeway listening to The Moth podcast. These are short stories from the lives of the storytellers. I like how one of the announcers said that “The moral of each of these stories is ‘And I never looked at life the same again after that.”

I’m not a storywriter or a storyteller. I write nonfiction articles and blog posts for corporate websites and small businesses and nonprofit organizations. I guess you could stretch it to call it storytelling,in a cumulative sense.

But listening to all of these short stories has caused me to narrate every thought in my head like I have some omnipotent,no omniscient,no omnipresent a microphone and I’m looking back at the experience and somehow it changed my life.

That’s a cool perspective because it means that no matter what I do the following day it’s going to be important.

So here I am today,avoiding work for a few minutes to write this,drinking my 3rd cup of coffee at 9am and about to close my laptop and make breakfast for the kids who slept through my entire adventure last night.

If you’re a storyteller at heart,or you want to see if it’s possible to alter your mind through a mental immersion in storytelling like I did,Here are a few of the awesome podcasts I have been listening to for short stories lately:

Selected Shorts
True Story
The Moth

Also,check out BuzzFeed’s article 12 Storytelling Podcasts that you need to be listening to and the UK Telegraph’s article The Best Podcasts for Stories,Fiction &Poetry.

How to FOCUS on work when you have kids in the room

OK,so in the past my solution to working from home in spite of the fact that I have children was to lock myself in the bedroom and beg,bribe or otherwise encourage (mostly begging) them to leave me alone until this one task is complete. There’s never been a soundproof room in any of my homes,so this only works to the extent that I can tune out whatever is going on outside the door.

But Alas,I have found something that allows me to sit at the kitchen counter and knock out writing assignments in the middle of the day just as quickly as I can at 6am when they’re all asleep.

The solution (for me) is White Noise

Yep,that’s right. That static sound that old TVs used to make when they went off the air for the night. That has been my saving grace.  That and my earbuds.  Wearing a plain old $5 pair of ear buds and listening to white noise louder than my kids’conversations makes it possible for me to be so much more productive when they’re awake and active.  FINALLY we can share the same space in the middle of the day.  I don’t get to HEAR them much,but I’m much more accessible and much less crabby this way. It’s taken a bit of learning for them to see that I can’t hear them event hough they’re right next to me.  They have learned to weigh their interruptions against my relative attentiveness. Since I’m working at the kitchen counter,I can choose to stop working when I see them starting to prepare foods so that it’s done with little waste and that it all gets cleaned up quickly. So far,this is the perfect solution.  I have this video bookmarked so that I can return to it over and over again,you might want to also.  I now present:My new favorite sounds to work by:


 

My new favorite webwriting agency

I’ve been writing for Blogmutt since December 20,2013 and almost instantly,they were my #1 favorite place to log into.  Their behind-the-scenes format is so easy to work with.  Instead of blowing their horn here on my website,I’m going to send you directly over to Blogmutt via some links to posts I wrote for the company blog:

How to Spot the Best and Worst Content Writing Services Online

Effective Blogging for Insurance Agencies

Freelance Work-From-Home Opportunity For Seniors

I encourage you to check out the way this company operates.  As part of their compensation plans,writers can “level up”to a point where they’re given a share of the company’s profits.  I’m currently at a level 4 and in the next few weeks I expect to reach level 5,whereby I can officially claim “writer”status on Linkedin and I think at some point I’ll get a T shirt ;)  Honestly I’m not too terribly concerned about the levels,I think it’s a cool system but as a mom of six I’m just glad that I can spend a little time creating web content for other sites and still pay my bills. Not a damned thing is currently scheduled for disconnect and my bank balance isn’t negative. Hooray for little things :)  Now,I’m off to get some schoolwork done and write just one more for the day.

It just occurred to me that when I review writing websites I’m much more thorough. I haven’t said much here but I’d like to add that they pay every Monday.  You do have to click the little “submit invoice”thing to request a check. I like that because you can choose how often to pay yourself.  You might want to let it add up on a monthly basis so you can use it effectively.  It goes directly into PayPal which (at my house) means “Gas money for my teenagers.”So there’s no benefit right now for me to let it add up significantly. I do pay a few bills through PayPal,but not a lot. That’s so irrelevant,I have no business writing at this moment. Goodbye,friends.