Archive for the ‘#openbook’ Tag

On Staying Healthy   4 comments

Health & Fitness for Busy People – What little things do you do to stay healthy? Food, exercise, special vitamins, clothing, shoes, etc. What do you do that could help someone else.

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I have a full-time job and an author gig on the side. I have a husband and a son who still lives at home. I also do things in my community, primarily through my church. So, I am busy.

I’m also blessed. For whatever reason, I have a very strong immune system. I always have. But I’m half-way through my 50s in a family that regularly sees their 90s, so I’m trying to stay healthy for the long haul.

I typically wear flats or shoes with only a slight heel. It’s easier on your knees and back. The downside is plantar fasciitis which I developed for a while, but I started doing some exercises and it seems to have stopped.

Image result for image of walking in sunlightBecause the streets of Fairbanks are often covered with ice and snow, I go to the gym to work out. Some weeks I only make it once, other weeks I make it 3-4 times. I don’t do anything really spectacular. I ride an exercise bike or rotary trainer for an hour. Sometimes I lift weights. I don’t try to go fast and I’m not trying for any power-lifting records. I’m just trying to stay flexible and strong and to counteract the affects of living in a climate that doesn’t get enough sun in the winter.

So in addition to doing weight-bearing exercise, I don suncreen and use a suntanning booth once a week from October to April. I don’t strip all the way to bare. My goal is to get enough time in the “sun” to stimulate Vitamin D production. Like everyone else here locally, my Vitamin D production drops as the winter goes along, but tests show it doesn’t drop as much as many of my neighbors. That could be because of my Swedish blood (Swedes have adequate D levels, according to Alaska Fit), or because we eat a lot of salmon, but I suspect it has something to do with not being afraid of tanning booths. Cousin Rick, the immune system doctor, suggested it, with proper precautions.

D production is not just about bones. Deficiencies have been linked to daytime sleepiness, depression, autoimmune disease, insulin resistance, complications during pregnancy, muscle and joint pain, obesity, and problems with the thyroid to name a few. To top it all off, it’s been found that low vitamin D levels increases your risk of death by 26%. Wow. If you catch a cold several times a winter, it might be because you are Vitamin D deficient. It’s also important for blood clotting, thyroid function, and heart health.

So why don’t I just take pills? I do take 1000 mg (in the winter), but you have to take closer to 2000 mg a day on the 64th parallel to get as much Vit D as a 15-minute daily stroll in the sun on the equator would provide and 2000 mg a day — well, it has effects on my bowels and as bowel cancer runs in the family, but skin cancer does not, Dr. Rick suggested I spread my risk around. So, I enter the tanning booth with a tank top and shorts on, coating the exposed parts of my skin with SPF16, and I only do 10 minutes once a week. I’m not trying to get a tan (and I don’t), but to provide my body with some “sun” exposure when it is impossible to get because of the latitude I live at. It works, according to my blood serum tests.

Other things that I do to stay healthy —

Image result for image of a balanced mealI try to eat right. My diet includes a little bit of meat and a lot of vegetables. That’s not easy here in Alaska because our food must be imported, so veggies arrive here essentially flavorless, having been in suspended animation for two weeks. We buy a lot of frozen vegetables. Frozen carrots actually taste like carrots, by the way. I do eat carbs – bowel cancer runs in the family, whole grains are necessary. I don’t care for fluid milk, but I eat cheese and yogurt. We also have to eat frozen and canned fruit a lot, but we grab fresh fruit when it is in the stores and affordable and actually smells like something. If it has no fragrance, it’s going to be tasteless. You probably don’t have this problem.

I try to stand on one foot and on my toes for at least five minutes each every day. Sometimes that’s 1-minute five times a day for each. This helps with balance and core strength. My daughter the ballerina once stayed on her toes with arms in first position for 20 minutes to show the football team that they weren’t that strong.  One football team member made it 19 minutes, but he needed assistance to keep his balance after two minutes. Mere ordinary people get a lot of benefit from five minutes a day.

I also do Kegel exercises at least once a day, about 20-50 of them depending on time. What are they? Google them. If you’re a woman and you want to maintain bladder control into your 90s, they’re a good thing to do. I’m just saying …. And, there are side benefits, but I’ll let the Internet inform you of those.

Drink lots of water. Most Americans are dehydrated and we often eat because we confuse thirst for hunger. And, no, sodas don’t count, but coffee does (though it’s only about 90% effective compared to tap water). Also know that distilled water lacks the minerals your body is craving when it tells you its thirsty. Filtered tap water is okay, but distilled water is really pretty useless. Read the label of your bottled water. Some of it is useless and some of it is worthwhile. In the US, tap water is almost universally safe … (provided some idiot muni doesn’t try to save money by not including a corrosion inhibitor in a town with lead pipes, but I think Flint’s woes have put all the others on notice).  You notice I don’t mention taking calcium supplements. Fairbanks water is loaded with calcium and iron.

One final thing I do is rinse my nasal passages occasionally. The winter air here is very dry, so many Alaskans have sinus problems. I discovered that using a low-flow, high-volume saline rinse opens up my nasal passages, allowing my sinuses to drain, preventing headaches and reducing colds and allergy symptoms. It will also substantially shorten a cold’s symptoms. I use a squeeze bulb so I can remain upright. The netti pot is too much like self-waterboarding to me, but your experience may vary. If you live in a dry climate or fly a lot, I highly recommend it.

Statistically speaking, people who are part of a regular faith community tend to be healthier than those who are not and those who laugh a lot also tend to have fewer health problems. I’ve got those covered too.

Posted August 21, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Examining the Cubbies   2 comments

Make a list of interesting stats in your niche – Want to blow your reader’s minds? Create a useful resource of stats in your niche.

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So, when this topic came up, I had to think long and hard about it, because I wasn’t sure what was meant by “niche”. What particular niche are we talking about?

IImage result for image of author in genre silos‘m a member of several niches. I’m a multi-genre author, for example. I’m cubbied with born-again Christians (though I don’t write expressly “Christian” literature”. I’m a libertarian. I’m an Alaskan. This is probably just my dislike of categories that is rearing its head.

So bookish stats –

Print books are back (though you can’t tell it by my paperback sales). Apparently 571 million print books were sold in 2015, which is 17 million more than the year before. E-books are hovering around 25% of the book market, which actually makes me feel pretty good about my sales, which are growing but not setting any records. Adult non-fiction remains the largest print category. Hard cover books saw sales increases in 2015, but sale of mass market paperbacks saw a double digit decline.

Ebooks have proven they’re not just a fad. They’re here to stay. According to K-Lytics, 75,000 new books are added to the Kindle store every month so it looks like e-books have stabilized and they are selling. Part of the problem is that, in the US (the largest e-book market) over 1/3 of all ebooks don’t have trackable ISBNs, which makes it hard to monitor the market. (For the record, I own my ISBNs, I don’t get them “free” from Amazon).

Traditional publishers discourage the purchase of ebooks by pricing an ebook (that can’t be loaned or resold) the same, or even higher, than paperbacks, which means traditional publishers don’t see a lot of sales from ebooks. I’ve seen many of my traditionally published author friends struggle to make any sales at inflated prices, but you do want to price an ebook in such a way that people feel they are receiving quality.

According to Mark Corker (of Smashwords), ebooks priced at $2.99 to $3.99 sell, but books priced at $1.99 don’t. I find that interesting and a good reason to increase my book prices. Another niche I’m a member of is capitalistic entrepreneur.

Meanwhile, here are some cool statistics

  • 1/5 to 1/4 of ebooks are by indie authors.
  • Nearly 1/3 of ebook earnings goes to indie authors, who receive a higher royalty than traditionally published authors.

I’m a multi-genre author because when I look at my back catalog, I see I’ve always been a multi-genre writer. That can be a business decision. Not all genres sell equally well. Readers have preferences. The most popular genre is ….

Romance. Okay. Moving on … no, seriously … I couldn’t easily write a romance because that’s just not me. I walk in the woods with grizzly bears and I carry a gun. Just not all that sentimental. I could only do romance if it was mixed in with something else. But … but … it’s the biggest genre. Maybe I need to free myself to think differently in order to dip my toe into the genre that makes up 50% of the ebook market.

The good news is that other genres are gaining a substantial foothold with readers in the ebook market.

Science fiction and fantasy are the next most popular genre(s) in ebooks. I think of them as separate genres, but the industry mostly doesn’t. I’ve got a fantasy series underway and an apocalyptic series too. Technically, apocalyptic is science fiction even if it is set in a world we all recognize. I’m happily nested amid this combined genre that makes up about 12% of the ebook market.

The National Book Awards’ young writers prize, 5 Under 35, announced that the margins are in today. For the first time in its 10-year history, three of the five honorees were published by independent presses: the Dorothy Project, Ig Publishing and Hawthorne Books. With smaller print runs and often an intimate relationship with readers, these smaller houses are able to take bigger risks than their larger counterparts and are finding truly excellent writers outside the mainstream.

There are 5 large publishers (Penguin-Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette), plus between 300-500 medium sized publishers and 86,000 small press/self-publishers. That’s me. Because I’m an independent author who publishes through an author cooperative, I am technically a small-press publisher. Self-publishing rose slightly in 2015, with more self-publishers reporting that they use consultants for editing and formatitng support. That will be an interesting research project in a year … to see if e-book quality by self-publishers has increased any over the last 12 months. We can only hope so.

The Times … They Are Changing   1 comment

List some of the things that you have seen change or develop in your lifetime.

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I used to marvel at my grandmother’s generation. Born in 1887, she entered a world without cars, airplanes, phones, electricity, running water, radio or television. Women didn’t have the vote in almost any country and they wore dresses down to their ankles and corsets were considered modest. By 1971, when she died, there were cars, airplanes, phones, electricity, running water, radio and television and women were barely wearing clothes in the country at the time. Imagine how thoroughly exciting the pace of discover and development must have been in those 84 years.

Image result for image of changing times

My own lifetime hasn’t changed that much, but there have been a fair number of changes since I drew my first breath.

In 1960, the US was in a Cold War with the Soviet Union, each busily dividing up the world based on their individual philosophies. The Civil Rights movement had already begun, but had yet to be felt throughout the nation. Women had long had the vote, but women who worked outside the home in jobs independent of their husbands were few and far between. Kids were respectful of their parents and what their parents wanted them to do as adults. Religion was seen as a net benefit to society. When my mom in Fairbanks Alaska called my grandmother in Seattle Washington, they had to scream to be heard across the 2000-mile line and a 10-minute phone call cost a half-day’s wage. Computers filled warehouses. You didn’t need a passport to travel to Mexico or Canada. Everybody smoked and, in Alaska, everybody including the kids, drank alcohol, but almost nobody had heard of cannabis. Cars didn’t have seatbelts … at all. Baseball was the national pasttime. Almost no Americans had ever played soccer. Unless you lived in a big city, your television (often black-and-white) only got a handful of local stations. Everybody in the nation watched Walter Cronkite at 6 o’clock and families sat down to watch general-age programs together after dinner.

So, what’s changed?

Almost everything.

In 1960, my parents created me outside of marriage and being a mature adult in her late 30s, my mother considered having an abortion. Fortunately for me, abortion was illegal at the time and the only doctor in Fairbanks who would perform one was a drunk, so she asked my dad for traveling money to go to Anchorage to “take care of the problem” and found out that he was happy with being a first-time father in his late 40s. My parents didn’t really have an option to prevent pregnancy. Condoms were highly unreliable and so were diaphragms. Today, options abound and they are extremely reliable if used correctly. Why this generation continues to fail at that simple task is a mystery to me, but I count effective contraception as a major achievement in my lifetime. For the record — anti-abortion and pro-choice – I just believe your choices should occur before you create a child.

Today, I can call someone in Africa and have as clear a conversation as if they were right here in Fairbanks. More than that, we can Skype as if we’re talking face-to-face. Video conferencing didn’t exist when I was born and for most of my adulthood it was hurky-jerky, but today, it’s seamless. And virtually free. If I Skype, it’s included in the price of my Internet connection. If I call long distance on my cell phone, it’s paid for with my subscription. Even using my landline, it costs only pennies to talk for significant amounts of time.

Of course, that ease of communication is born of the computer age. In 1960, the University of Alaska Fairbanks installed a Honeywell computer the size of an aircraft hangar with a computing capacity comparable to the laptop I am typing on right now. When I graduated high school in 1979, the personal computer was only four years old, you had to build them yourself and do all the programming as well. I remember going over to my cousin’s house in winter of 1981 to see the first Apple. My computer teacher in college, one of the original Bell Labs programmers, referred to the personal computer as a “fad”. I can order a laptop from the Internet for about a day’s wages and it comes loaded with tons of software and will fit in a briefcase. I have more computer power in my smart phone than that Honeywell number cruncher had. It’s a major technological change that has transformed society and made it possible for people like me to become authors and publishers.

I could go on about the Internet of Things, the gig economy, streaming and social media, but if you’re reading this post, you already know about those things.

In 1960, politics were pretty ho-hum. My mother, a fiscally conservative independent, and my father, a staunch Democrat, could congenially argue about their opposing viewpoints and not feel the need to end their relationship. In Alaska, politics was an indoor sport and everybody was permitted to participate. Even kids were expected to have an opinion, which the adults would try to sway us from. Starting in the late 1960s, politics became a divisive issue where people could no longer reasonably debate the various topics and points of view. I blame the first half of my own generation (I’m a boomer) for this. My older brother and his friends felt very passionately about what they believed and their inability to consider the alternatives to their viewpoints or to follow those viewpoints to their natural negative consequences has led to the polarized entrenchment of our day. When you start insisting that everybody ought to walk in lockstep with you toward a mythical utopia, sooner or later someone is going to point out that there is a cliff ahead and refuse to keep monkey-walking with you.

Frankly, because I was raised in Alaska, I didn’t experience the Civil Rights or Youth movements in the same way I would have if I’d lived in another part of the country. Alaska passed a civil rights bill in 1945, so we’d already been desegregated 15 years when I was born. Our schools and neighborhoods were already mixed race. Alaska is considered among the three most racially diverse state in the union. But we did have a few protests in support of the Lower 48 Civil Rights movement and some of the people who came up from other states really didn’t get that nobody here much cared about race. Of course, you can’t dictate what is in people’s hearts, but you can ostracize idiots and it worked pretty well. But in 1960, even racially liberal Alaskans couldn’t have foreseen that there’d be a black man as president within my lifetime. That alone ought to be a testament to some huge changes in our culture and the fact that some people think otherwise suggests there is another kind of racism in the works today..

In 1960, my mother was an odd duck – a “married” woman who worked outside the home in a job not attached to her husband.  This was partially because my parents never married legally, but it was more because my mother had learned from her first marriage that having your own income was a good thing … even a necessary thing if your husband was a fool with money. She enjoyed working and she enjoyed being able to direct her own economic life and my dad was all right with that. They were able to buy two houses and fund a retirement because she worked. But only about 8% of married women in 1960s worked outside the home in an independent job. Today, it’s about 68%. My mom was seriously bucking a trend and she took some flak for it. Today the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak. People tend to look down on women who stay home with the kids. The times shifted and will shift again. Women in the workforce is here to stay, but hopefully we’ll learn to accept that women aren’t being subversive when they decide to tend the home fires instead.

I think the thing that has changed the most in our culture since 1960 is the concept of morality and the value given to those who adhere to morality. In 1960s, pastors were respected and churchgoers were coveted as employees. People might not be regular attenders, but most people belonged to a church and it was considered a gauge of integrity that you attended. Today, many people distrust churches and subtly ostracize people who regularly attend them. Although employers are not legally permitted to discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation, many employers make it difficult for faithful employees to continue with regular attendance and/or any acknowledgement of faith in the workplace. Companies owned by Christians are increasingly under pressure to ignore and violate long-held Biblical principles and practices. They’re told they should keep their beliefs out of the workplace, which is a PC way of saying stopping believing what the Bible teaches. Discrimination against Biblical beliefs and those who hold them is considered by some to be a worthy goal, something to be stated proudly in public. On the other hand, we have had vast improvement in accepting non-Christian religions and their right to express what they believe in the public square. The first is a deplorable mistake. The second is a positive development.

Times always change and I expect my children will be able to write a similar post with different details in 30 years. I don’t think the world has changed as much in my lifetime as it did in my grandmother’s, but I still have 30+ more years to live. What will be different then?

Maybe everything and maybe not much. You know the Proverb, right? “There is nothing new under the sun.” The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s because, despite the technological and social window-dressing, human nature remains stubbornly the same throughout history. The details change, but we do not.

Posted August 7, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Keeping It Simple   2 comments

What Are Your Favorite Blog Plugins?
Write out all the awesome plugins that you are using on your blog. Make a big list of how you use them and why others should also be using them.

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To be perfectly honest, I don’t use a lot of plugins. I’m still using a “free” Word Press blog, which means that I can’t use a lot of the plugins available, but I’m not sure I would even if I could. I am definitely a subscriber to the “Keep it simple, Stupid” school of most things.

Image result for image of a wordpress appWhich is why I have only four plugins I would recommend for every author.

Word Press allows you to link your social media accounts, so that when you post on your blog, it also posts to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. This definitely falls under the KISS concept because I don’t have to mess with my other social media accounts. Right now, I’m in rewrite mode for “A Threatening Fragility” and so Twitter is being updated while I’ve taken a hiatus from maintaining it. While I know I’ll drop some in stats because I’m busy elsewhere, I can afford to do that because my blog is still feeding into Twitter.

It also allows you to post to Goodreads. Because my blog is not always book-related, I don’t have that plugin for Goodreads set up on my main blog, but reblog book-related articles on Daermad Cycle’s page, which is linked to Goodreads. It’s an extra step that allows me to use the linking feature for Goodreads without annoying readers with political philosophy, economics and Christian themes.

The second recommendation that I have is Grammarly. You can associate this grammar checker with your blog quite easily and it saves all the mess of cutting and pasting from Word to check your blog articles. Again, KISS dictated its use for me. Once I set it up, it works there in the background and I don’t need to think about it much.

Buy links are available for Amazon for Word Press and Facebook. I highly recommend these point-and-click bait buttons. Make it easier for your potential readers to buy your books … give them a one-step portal to your Amazon author page.

Newletter signup. Word Press in association with Mailchimp allows visitors on my blog to sign up for my newsletter … which I only publish every few months. It’s a simple process to sign up and insert the commands and “they” claim that authors need to build a mailing list.

So, that’s it. I’m sure there are dozens, maybe hundreds of plugins one could use and there may be a day when I get around to using a few of them, but these four are the most basic, the simplest and the ones I think give me the most benefit.

There comes a time when authors need to stop playing on their blogs and return to writing their books. I’m there … I really am … but if you have any recommendations for me … you know … comment.

Lessons of an Employment Vagabond   2 comments

July 24, 2017 – What Kind Of Lessons Could Anyone Learn From What You Do In Your Career?
Are there life lessons that people who aren’t in your career could learn from? You might be amazed.

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Related imageI’ve been a fair number of things in my employment career. My first “real” job (not working for my mother’s daycare or babysitting the kids down the street) was washing laundry and running the cash register at a laundromat. Then I was a waitress at a family-style diner, a janitor, a maid, front desk personnel at a campground, a cashier in a few businesses, a reporter/journalism, and then I went into administration. When I first decided that I needed a job that actually paid money (reporting wasn’t providing me with a living wage), I decided my existing skills best suited office work, but I didn’t have any experience in that field, so I signed up with a temporary placement agency while I was still working as a reporter part-time. I showed what I could do. I also learned that temps, though they aren’t eligible for benefits, make more money than full-time employees, so I actually temped for about 2 1/2 years in a variety of offices — medical, legal, insurance, University of Alaska, did some research for private investigators, took minutes for some boards, and transcribed a lot of depositions and the minutes for Doyon’s annual meetings.

Then I took a break to spend time with my daughter when she was little. That company went out of business, so I had to start with a new company when I went back. I didn’t like it so well, so as soon as a temp position offered me a full-time gig that I thought I would like, I landed a “real” job. I worked in a construction company, a travel agency, and then went into the mental health field. Now I work in transportation.

I’ve probably had 25 “permanent” jobs in my working career, one for 15 years and then the one I’m working now will probably be the one I take into retirement. I expect to work about 12 years here. That job number is not unusual for Americans these days. We’re all employment vagabonds. The era where you took a job right out of high school or college and worked there until you retired has been over for about two decades. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing for society, but this one thing I learned from my own employment journey … be flexible.

Image result for image of flexibilityFlexibility is the most important tool an employee can bring to any job. Even in the long-term job I had with the mental health agency …. I used a variety of skills, the demands shifted from time to time and I had to learn new skills occasionally to continue to do my job correctly. The job I am currently in added a component to my position that is journalism-adjacent. I aggregate the transportation news for Alaska on a daily basis. Although I had a background in journalism, it required adding new skills to my set because it had been nearly 25 years since I’d worked in the field.

Flexibility keeps employees in demand and, as an indie author, it provides me the confidence to say “I can do that.” Maybe I’ve never done “that” before, but I am confident that I can learn how to do “that” because I have been acquiring new skills and being flexible my entire working career.

Flexibility is the key to employability.

Posted July 24, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Beginnings   2 comments

How’d You Start Your Business, Blog, Or Freelance Career?
People always want to know how to start out in their niche. This means the nitty gritty details on how to do it all. Teach them how to start one of their own.

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Wow, this is an interesting topic that I don’t think I can teach anyone else. I didn’t start writing as a business. I wrote a story in the 5th grade that I hated and decided to write a better one and I haven’t stopped in several decades.

Image result for image of wordpressI love writing so much that I thought I would enjoy making my living at it, so I went to college to get a degree in journalism. I did enjoy the writing part and even some of the reporting part, but the office politics part turned me off so I eventually drifted away from journalism.

I wrote some freelance magazine articles to keep my hand in, but then I had kids and I didn’t have time. I hear tell of the mythical freelancer out there who makes a living freelancing, but I’ve never actually met such a legend. My day job does include some writing, but it is not a “writer’s” job per se.

Still, I always wrote fiction. It is a part of who I am. I don’t know that I can stop. And all of that is something I can’t teach anyone else because it’s my personal journey and I think we all walk different paths in artistry.

Starting a blog was really pretty easy. When I decided I was going to self-publish my first book The Willow Branch, someone told me I needed to start blogging to build an audience. Yeah, okay. I quickly realized that Facebook is not a blogging platform, so I decided not to go that way. As part of my day job, my boss asked me to look into a local blog which happened to be hosted by Word Press. I thought this would work. I signed up for a free account and started playing. There are still a lot of things about it that I don’t understand or make full use of, but I get my message out. Ah, but … the message ….

Image result for image of wordpressThe hardest thing about blogging is that you have to have content. I stared at the blank computer screen and went “hmm.” One thing I was certain of was that this wasn’t going to be a personal blog where I talked about ME. Not my thing. I quickly realized by looking at other blogs that writing only about my books would be boring … and not just for me, but for the readers as well. That’s no way to grow an audience. So I stared at the screen some more and then … someone posted something really nasty on Facebook and my first real blog post was born. I was working through a series on who I was – writer, non-partisan, fiscal conservative, Christian, but that hate-filled vitriolic Facebook post caused me to launch full-bore into the overriding theme of this blog “political philosophy” with Shouting Across the Chasm. It is actually kind of surprising to see how little my message has changed since 2012 and how the problems we’re addressing today are the exact same problems that existed when President Obama won his second term of office. It’s kind of amazing really. It’s like I wrote those posts just a few months ago.

Starting a blogging is really easy. Just go to wordpress.com and follow the instructions. Weebly is also a good site with some features that I wish Word Press had … and some features I’m glad Word Press doesn’t have. Find a platform that works for you and use it. Content is the hard part. Don’t be boring. Don’t be self-absorbed. Find something interesting to talk about.

We were supposed to get into the “nitty-gritty” details of starting our business or blog, but the fact is that blogging is easy to get into and Word Press makes designing the site relatively simple. There are some things that I struggle with and if I weren’t so cheap, I would hire someone to fix. Yeah, that’s a thing and you can find these people actually on Word Press. Pretty much anything I could teach you … if I remembered how I did it from 5 years ago … is available on Word Press’s website. Good luck. May the Force be with you and, if you learn something amazing, post it in the comments so I can learn it too.

Then there’s the novelist part of my business, but I’ll leave that for another post at another time. Lots of moving pieces to that one.

A Day in the Life   2 comments

What Is The Day In The Life Of An Independent Novelist Like?

Walk your readers through the hour-by-hour day in the life of (your title). Also, don’t forget to share pictures. It’s always a lot of fun for people to peak into others’ lives.

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Okay, so I’m not going to talk about my day job. My employer might consider that a conflict of interest. I’m an administrator. I support people who have a key role in keeping Alaska rolling along. I don’t agree with them politically and I think they’re engaged in slowly-evolving economic suicide, but otherwise they’re very nice people and the job pays well enough. I’ve said all that I should on that topic.

Image result for image of typing on laptopSo my weekday starts at about 6:30 am when my second alarm insists it is time to get up and go to work. Right now, in the midst of Alaska’s 24-hour daylight, sometimes my day starts at 5 am because our dog is confused and her bladder is full. She can’t read a clock, so I get up and take her out and then I might crank out some writing. I’m usually wide awake after standing on the lawn watching Goldeneyes check out her favorite spots, so I get at least a page (about 200 words) written. But most mornings, I drag out of bed like a normal human being with time just to make some breakfast, pack my lunch and warm up the car to go to work. The dog goes out in the time it takes to toast my bread. There is a lengthier process during the season-that-shall-not-be-spoken-of, but I refuse to think about that in July. During the school year, I drop our son at school on the way to work. I then have about 10 minutes to write in my head while I drive. Right now, I have 15, nearly 20 minutes to head-write.

Image result for image of yellow lab chena river

I often use my lunch hour to deal with the social media time suck. I work out after work 2-3 evenings a week (and Sunday afternoon because I feel guilty about partaking in the breakfast they offer at church). I either watch television news as research while I work out or I write in my head. Some of my best writing happens when I don’t have the means to write it down and when my mind really needs to be occupied to get through the drudgery. Working out, mowing the lawn, a huge filing project or shredding at work is a very productive writing time for me. My coworkers think I’m nuts that I’m not bored enough to pass it to my subordinates. Shredding … what shredding? I’m sword-fighting or riding dragons, thank you very much.

After I’m done sweating and maybe a little closer to getting back into shape, I then go home to make dinner for the family. It’s usually Brad’s job to collect the teenager from the rock-climbing club where he has gotten himself after school. Since he blew a disc in his neck, Brad is not climbing himself, which means I don’t get alone time except on Thursday evenings. At around 7 pm, I sit down with a plate of food and usually a gigantic mug of tea to write. Hey, an indie author had better learn to multitask because there’s only so many hours in the day.

Image result for image of yellow lab chena riverOften the television is on (except Thursdays), so I’m multi-tasking. I spend the first hour doing something for the blog and then I’ll turn to one of my writing projects. As I’ve explained before, I often have more than one project because if I get bored or stuck with one, rather than give myself writer’s block by obsessing, I can switch to the other and get myself unstuck or less bored so I can go back to my primary project refreshed. Fount of Wraiths (Book 3 of the Daermad Cycle) is on long-term hiatus because I can’t stay focused on it. I write a scene and then I need a break. My next published book will be A Threatening Fragility (Book 3 of Transformation Project). It is the beta project that won the alpha-beta wrestling match. I’m writing the other book. I’m not stuck. It’s just taking a long time to get it out. It sure beats engaging in crippling self-recriminations because I’m not keeping my promises to myself.

Speaking of shattered promises, I promise myself I’ll go to bed by midnight. For most of the year, I can do that (you need more sleep and feel sleepier during that season we don’t discuss), but during the summer, I frequently find myself up until 2 am (and once a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t go to bed). At midnight, the sun finally dips below the horizon and than at 2 am, it starts to rise again, all visible from the north-facing window, so … yeah, that’s my signal that I’ve lost track of time. I’m chronically sleep-deprived in the summers. Fortunately, sleep deprivation seems to ignite my creativity, but I was slightly goofy at work the day after the night I didn’t sleep. Most of my coworkers are sleep deprived too this time of year. I fit right in.

Image result for image of yellow lab chena riverI try to write every day and even on a workday, I’ll produce about 1000 novel words (not blog words), but my big writing time is the weekend … unless we go hiking, camping, fishing … you get the picture. I get up at 8 am, make coffee and toast (take the dog out … we really need to teach her to use the toilet), and turn on the radio. Patriot’s Lament (KFAR 660 AM) starts at 9 am and I get my weekly dose of anarchism. My family generally sleep in very late on weekends, so it’s just me and the dog and Josh Bennett and Michael Anderson. These guys, their guests and callers give me so many ideas for Transformation Project that I am doing research while I listen, but I also spend time writing. This is my big day. This is the day when I will often produce 3-5,000 words. I take breaks to listen to the guys, but often they’re just background chatter as I really pound out the words. But, wait, they’re talking about why the 4th of July is a secular religious rite and the American flag is an idol. Maybe the writing can take a rest to listen. And then there’s toast and coffee and rubbing the dog’s butt with my foot. Sometimes you just have to take a break.

The show’s done at noon, which is usually about the time Brad starts a project in the basement (or the yard in the summer). I’m not bothered by noise (my mother operated a daycare center in our living room; I do react to blood-curdling screams, but mere skill saws … why would I?), so I keep writing, getting up occasionally to throw laundry in the washer or dryer (just outside the door) or to remind the teenager that Saturday is the day “we” vacuum and scrub the tub. He’s not sure who this “we” is I keep referencing. But I scrub the toilets, so he doesn’t argue because he knows he’s getting the better end of this deal.

Image result for image of yellow lab chena riverAbout three pm is the heat of the day around here (solar apex is 2 pm), so I take a break in the summer to go out on the deck and get some rays. Alaska homes are set up to deal with the cold of that season-that-shall-not-be-spoken-of, so we don’t have air-conditioning and it does get into the 90s here on a summer day. I will take a book with me. Sometimes that’s the markup manuscript for one of my books, but most often it’s a fantasy novel. It has to be a paperback because I can’t see my laptop screen in the sun. This is a good relaxation time for me. I’ve finished The Hunger Games trilogy this summer and Terry Brooks’ Elfstones of Shannara. I’m currently reading a history of Alaska, which is actually a fantasy novel because not everybody here experienced statehood as a benefit. (During the season-that-shall-not-be-spoken-of, we gather in the living room from about noon to 2 pm to catch the wan rays of the sun as it inches up over the neighbor’s roof. Yeah, it’s up about 2 1/2 hours. Occasionally, Brad will insist we drive up into the hills overlooking town and have a picnic lunch in the car so we can catch 3 1/2 hours of sunlight — yeah, and waste a lot of gasoline and create some air pollution, but it’s sunlight and … meh).

Back on the summer deck, the sun starts filtering through the birch trees around 5 pm, and it cools down slightly, so we do some yard work and then make dinner. The sun is still up, of course, and it’s warm enough to sit out on the deck, but not so bright I can’t see my computer screen, so I often will get in another hour of writing on the deck after dinner. If Brad hasn’t found a movie or TV show for us to watch, I’ll often write until bedtime, but I do recognize that I live in a community and should interact occasionally. Sometimes in the season-that-shall-not-be-spoken-of we play cards or board games. The teenager is getting really good at Cribbage, but reports that he’s the only 18-year-old he knows who plays it with real cards.

Related imageOne thing we try to do most summer evenings is go for a walk around 9 pm. Understand, it’s still broad daylight here then and it’s hot out. The sun is still above the horizon. People are out on their decks or throwing sticks for the dog down at the river. Often that’s where we’re headed too. Although my writing day might not be over, it’s a pleasant break and a time when writing is set aside, because it’s important to back up now and again and see things with natural eyes. It clears the cobwebs away and sometimes what I see on that walk works its way into a scene. And that’s why I included a lot of photos of what we see down on the river.

That’s a day of my writing life.

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