June Wrap-up

This month has been a busy one, and I accomplished several major goals.

Book Releases

I published the hard cover library edition of In The Blood. I’d been working on the project for a couple of months, and after a great deal of research and hard work, it’s finally here. I’m very happy with the way the dust jacket turned out, and I’m equally proud of the interior. It’s satisfying to hold it in my hands, knowing I truly owned every piece of its production. I’m hopeful readers will like the new format.


My next project was the product of swift and concentrated effort. For the last four years, I’ve been bullet journaling, and while I enjoyed the process, I sometimes found the extra effort of doing all those monthly and weekly layouts time consuming in a way that became counter productive. After searching for alternatives, I was frustrated with the journals and planners on the market. None of them incorporated all the elements I wanted. I took all the things I loved about my bullet journal and added in some of the missing pieces I needed in order to accomplish my goals, and created a planner tool that was as close to my ideal as I thought I could manage.

Originally, I’d envisioned the book for my own private use, but as soon as I completed the design work, I knew other people would find it helpful too. I’m proud to announce the release of Soar: Indie Author Business Planner, available in paperback and hardcover. With annual planning worksheets, quarterly, monthly, and weekly business planning pages, customizable “bullet journal style” pages, and regular assessments, the book is designed to help writers stay on task and accomplish their goals.


Rachel Steele from my local public radio station KPIP interviewed me for their Local Voices segment. You can listen at the link below.

KPIP Local Voices Interview with Rachel Steele

Upcoming Projects

As soon as these books were completed, I began work on a dark fiction short story anthology I’m editing and plan to publish later this year. More details will be coming soon, including a title and cover art, but I’m nearly through with the first round of edits and am truly thrilled about these tales. Each one is like a little gem. I can’t wait to share the book with the world.


I have also been asked to write the forward for my friend, Brian Spielbauer‘s forthcoming book, The Battle from Concordis Publishing. It’s an honor, and as soon as details are available for the book release, I’ll share that information with you.


Book Four of The Blood Royal Saga, Flesh and Blood, is in progress. I’ll announce the release date with preorder links as soon as it’s available.


In addition, I’m working on a werewolf book which I’m very excited about, and that story may end up being yet another series. Once I’m ready to talk about that a little more, I’ll share that information.


Summer/Fall Events

I’ve been asked to speak at several events this year, so I had a photoshoot with Drummond Photography. This picture will appear in promotions, and I’m very pleased with the way it came out.

  • In July, I’ll be at the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival in Highgate London.
  • During August, I’ll be at some local events – Fayette Festival of the Arts and Celebrate Wildwood.
  • September is Mid Missouri Pagan Pride in Columbia, Missouri, and then I’m off to VampCon Chicago.
  • In October, I’ll be at the Missouri Library Association annual conference in Kansas City, the Twin Cities Bookfest in St. Paul, Minnesota, and then Multiverse SciFi and Fantasy Convention in Atlanta.

Details about all these events can be found at my Events Page.


Reminders:

“How do I get copies of your books,” you ask? All the links for ebooks and paperbacks are conveniently listed right here.

Ebooks, paperbacks, and hardcovers of all three installments in The Blood Royal Saga and copies of Soar: Indie Author Business Planner can be ordered directly from Eagle Heights Press.

If you’ve read any of my books, I’d love it if you’d take a moment to post a review on Goodreads or Amazon. Reviews help me improve and they also help other readers find the series as well.

Also, sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t done so yet. I promise no spam. Just updates on books and events. Plus, if you sign up, you’ll get a coupon good for 10% off all books in the store, including ebooks.

Unplasticing My Life

I’ve been recycling since the early 1990s and have made a point to buy recycled and recyclable products. We carry reusable grocery bags and keep leftovers in ceramic reusable containers instead of plastic. We don’t buy single use drinks that don’t come in glass or aluminum. We grow a lot of our own vegetables or shop at local farmer’s markets to eliminate waste and packaging. We went back to old fashioned bath soaps produced locally and packaged in paper. We’re committed to composting our food and yard waste. We buy as much food in bulk as we can to reduce packaging waste. We buy used or upcycled products and donate items we no longer need in order to reduce waste. And we recycle every possible thing we can.

However, since Chinese recycling companies stopped taking our plastics last year, I’ve made a commitment this year to work on eliminating single use plastic in every way I can.

In February, when I ran out of shampoo and conditioner, I replaced those empty bottles with bar versions from Ethique.

I bought reusable, compostable beeswax wraps to replace plastic wrap in the kitchen. I bought silicone storage bags to replace the ziplock plastic we have used in the past. I got cloth drawstring bags to take to the grocery store to use for produce instead of the plastic ones the store provides. I bought plant-based, biodegradable kitchen trash bags. And we have a small kitchen compost bin with compostable liners to make it easy to deal with fruit and vegetable scraps. These were not expensive changes to make, and the products are readily available online.

I’ve also actively been looking for skin care products that are not only ethically produced but which are packaged in glass containers with metal lids so every part of it is endlessly reusable. Those are more difficult to find, but the time is well worth spending, and the cost is comparable to other products.

But plastic is far more insidious than we consciously realize. Even if you’re making a point of seeking out foil, paper, and/or compostable packaging, it’s sometimes not obvious that plastic is being used. Nearly all processed foods are packaged with plastic either embedded in the paper wrapping or with a plastic seal over the top. Frozen foods of all kinds all use plastic, often multiple layers of it. While this is done in the name of food safety, the tradeoff is that even if China hadn’t stopped taking our plastic waste, most of this packaging plastic isn’t made to be recyclable.

It’s difficult to combat the flow of plastic that comes into our homes. But it’s difficult primarily because we don’t have alternatives that are convenient or inexpensive. Businesses don’t take eco friendly packaging into consideration for products geared at average consumers. As a result, there aren’t a lot of options on a wide range of products, unless you make a concerted effort to seek out alternatives. That requires time and effort and money many people don’t have.

Glass was once the dominant container for most items in the grocery store. Most people began buying single use plastics not because we wanted them but because companies shifted their products into that type of packaging because it was cheaper to produce and lighter to ship, leaving us with no other options. But the environmental cost of that decision has been devastating to our planet.

We can’t continue living a plastic life. Our planet is not disposable. All that plastic doesn’t just go away. It lingers for centuries. Every ketchup packet used for take out is still around, filling landfills or settling to the bottom of the ocean. We use it for thirty seconds, but it will remain unchanged, choking the life from this planet for hundreds of years into the future. Is it still convenient if it never goes away?

Change can happen, however. If manufacturers see that customers are passionately opposed to something they’re doing, particularly if they voice that opposition on social media where that complaint can gain traction, they will alter what they’re doing and cave to pressure in order to retain market competitiveness.

That’s why I’m not willing to sit back and wait for companies to change their ways on their own. I’m committing to asking about their packaging on Amazon, saying things like “Why is this product packaged in plastic rather than recyclable glass/aluminum/paper?” or “Why are there no bulk options for your product that don’t use individualized plastic wrappers which can’t be recycled?” I ask in the grocery store if they have products that don’t use plastic packaging, and voice my concerns to the store owners directly. When I see ads for products on Facebook or Twitter, and it’s obvious they’re using single use plastics, I comment beneath the post about their choice and voice my reasons why I won’t buy their product until they change their ways.

Yep. I’m that person. I’m going to keep being that person, and I won’t apologize for it. Because it matters for the future of our planet and for the survival of our entire species. I’ll keep speaking up because it’s necessary.

This strategy works. In response to consumer pressure, ALDI is removing single use plastics from the products they sell. After customers pushed for it, IKEA has announced plans to ship products in compostable protective packaging rather than styrofoam. Several cities have banned single use plastics, and the state of Maine banned single use plastic food and drink containers. More are following that trend as awareness grows.

One person changing their shopping habits isn’t going to change the world. But money talks, and if enough people voice their concerns publicly and give pushback against manufacturers so they see it’s going to hurt their bottom line for them to continue making unethical, unsustainable decisions, companies will change what they’re doing. Big corporations rely on our product loyalty, and they will change if they see that loyalty is in jeopardy.

Speak up, and help put an end to single use plastic.

Oh, The Places I’ll Go!

Saying that 2018 was eventful is a huge understatement.

My mom and I were busy traveling to local events as well as several in other parts of the country, and we even went as far as Romania to attend the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival (Some photos from these events are shown below.).

This year is shaping up to be extremely busy as well, and I’ll be on the road (and in the air) a lot. Every month has a major event planned, and I’m thrilled about all of them.

  • June 22, I’ll be in my hometown with a booth at the Boonville Heritage Days celebration. Local folks, stop by and say hi! I love this event every year, and it should be a good time.
  • July 8-16, I’m heading to London for the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival in Highgate. This year, I’m going as a tourist and to enjoy the festival. I’ll also get to spend time with friends. I’m excited to see what’s in store and to see some places I’ve only read about in books.
  • In August, a friend of mine is getting married in Tanzania, and I’m planning to attend. This one is still in the planning stages, but I’m so thrilled and honored to be included. It’ll be quite an adventure!
  • September 20-22, I’ll be a special guest at VampCon Chicago. I’ll also have a booth with books to sign, and Marie will be there for selfies too. I’m looking forward to meeting some of the people I’ve always admired and to introducing new readers to my series. It’s got a great lineup, and I can’t wait for this one!
  • October 12, I’ll be at the Twin Cities Bookfest for the third year in a row. I love this event. The organizers are wonderful, and we have met some wonderful people there year after year.

Looks like my suitcase will get a workout.

Sadly, I won’t be able to do everything I wish. I will have to leave StokerCon, Scares That Care, and my beloved Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat for 2020. There just isn’t time and money enough to go to all of the things I’m interested in. I will miss all the folks there, but I promise to be back in the future.

If you see me out at any of this year’s events, don’t be surprised if I have a notebook or laptop beside me. I’ve got several big projects happening this year too. I’m writing two books (Book Four, Flesh and Blood, comes out this fall and the other is still to be determined), producing the audiobooks of the first three novels in The Blood Royal Saga, and Eagle Heights Press will be publishing some other people’s books as well. There are a few other things in the works that I’m not quite ready to discuss yet, but I’ll be talking more about all of the above as they progress, so be on the lookout for those announcements.


Fresh Look!

The next installment of The Blood Royal Saga is underway. Book Four will be entitled Flesh And Blood, kicking off the next story arch, and I anticipate its release in the Fall of 2019.

To celebrate, I’ve not only made a new cover for the upcoming book, but I’ve also given the rest of the books in the series a fresh new look. It’s been nearly two years since the release of In The Blood, and I thought it was time for a makeover! Hope you enjoy!

Paperback Sale for Limited Time

Amazon dropped the price of paperback copies of In The Blood to $5.43. That’s 50% off! I don’t know how long this price will last, so get them while you can!

In the Blood: Book One of the Blood Royal Saga

Ten Things No One Told Me About Being a Full Time Writer

I’ve been away from the blogging habit for a while now, spending time focusing on writing books and keeping the things I used to post here in a private journal instead. The last few years have been a whirlwind for me, ushering in huge changes in my life. After a lifetime of working for other people, some of which was literally organized by bells marking the passage of time, becoming my own boss was a huge adjustment. I’d never had the flexibility of setting my own schedule. I didn’t know which hours were my peak hours. I didn’t know how to plan my time accurately. I didn’t know how to find a good work/life balance.

Before I began working from home, I thought I’d done my homework. I’d read books and articles on it. I knew friends who had made the leap. And as for the writing part of it, well, that was easy, wasn’t it? I mean, I had written a first draft of my novel in my spare time while working a full time job and doing some side hustles too. If I was working at it full time, I could easily finish a book every couple of weeks at the pace I normally wrote.

A lot of people think of working for yourself as though it’s like a day off – sitting around at home in your pajamas, listening to music, watching YouTube videos, scrolling through social media while your pet does something cute.

Okay, yes, I’ve done my fair share of that, but most of my time is spent actually working.

Don’t believe me? Okay. Imagine this.

You hear about a place other people like to go. It sounds exotic, and you read up about it on the internet. You watch Rick Steves videos about how quaint the little towns are. You look up how to cook some of the local cuisine. You even learn a little of the language. Finally, you decide it’s time to visit. You buy your plane ticket and reserve your hotel room, and finally the day comes and off you go. Once you arrive in this virtual paradise, you walk around, see the sights, meet some locals, and you think “wow, it would be great to live here.” So you quit your job, pack your things, and move to that magical place. But you don’t know where the good grocery store is, and you didn’t realize how bad the traffic would be, plus the rent is really steep and no one in the area is hiring at anything approaching a living wage. It’s no longer a hobby. You’re not visiting. You live there.

That’s what it’s like starting your own business working from home, especially if you’re a creative person.

What people don’t tell you about working for yourself is that, if you’re going to accomplish anything and if you like what you do, you’re probably going to be the meanest boss you’ve ever had.

You’ll have weeks when you repeatedly wake up, sit down at your desk, eat meals there, and stay until it’s time to go to bed. Working from home is not like a day off at all. It’s the workday that never ends, and if your desk is in your living space, you never really have downtime at all unless your friends, family, or significant others force you out of that space. There is a continual sense that you don’t have enough time.

Every action that requires leaving the house is an interruption. It means taking time to put on pants, for goodness sake! That’s a whole hour of work you’ll miss out on while you’re doing frivolous things like choosing what to wear in public or ensuring that your hair doesn’t look like a haystack.

I knew how to do project management. I knew how to write long projects and how to do the tasks that were required for publishing them. I even knew some things about bookkeeping (though I had a lot of room to learn in that department). But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I had no idea what I’d signed up for.

It’s been nearly four years now since I took that leap, and I’ve learned a few things in that time.

  1. I’ve learned to say no to things I don’t want to do. I’m the boss. I make the rules. I choose the assignments. If I don’t want to do something, I have the power to refuse. I won’t be fired for insubordination. Saying no means I’m productive on the things I do care about because I’ve selected those tasks. I’m invested. I don’t have to do tasks that feel like drudgery. I can create a work environment I look forward to every single day. I don’t ever have a Monday when I wake up dreading my job.
  2. I’ve learned that taking an occasional three day weekend off is necessary in order to stave off burnout and exhaustion. It’s okay. You’ll even perform better when you go back to work.
  3. I’ve learned that continuing education is even more important when you’re working for yourself than it was when you worked for someone else. Learning from experts in your field who are succeeding at the thing you want to do is vital to becoming better. That means going to conferences, taking courses, reading books, and studying everything on the subject that you can.
  4. I’ve learned that having a designated workspace outside your normal living space – whether that’s a remodeled garage, an extra bedroom converted to an office, or a regular table at your local coffee shop or library – and setting regular and reasonable work hours is essential to help you stay motivated. That separation is important for your mental health. You need a way to physically feel like you’re off the clock. Just like drinking water while you’re running a marathon, you need regular stops so you don’t get overwhelmed or exhausted.
  5. I’ve learned to tell my friends and family that I need to schedule time with them. I cannot drop what I’m doing and take time off on a whim. I tell them if they would not call me or interrupt me at my place of work when I was working for someone else, then they should follow that same rule while I’m working for myself. Emergencies, of course, are an exception, and certainly it’s important to spend time nurturing relationships with people who matter, but allowing them to start a spontaneous twenty minute conversation about Aunt Lou’s gout or ask me to run errands during my work hours is not okay. Boundaries are important so I can stay on task. For writers, that’s doubly true. Respect your work. Respect the drive that’s in you to do the thing you’ve set out to do. And ask that they respect it too.
  6. I’ve learned to take chances and be willing to fail. Send in that manuscript. Search for those speaking engagements. Email that library or conference. Reach for that business opportunity. Apply for that grant or contest. Get outside your comfort zone and talk to people, even when it’s scary and new. Everyone who’s succeeding at what you want to do had to start somewhere, and at some point in their career they had to do the scary thing and risk rejection. You don’t move forward if you are never willing to be told “no.”
  7. I’ve learned that my job doesn’t have to be isolating. There are tons of ways to meet people who do what you do. I’ve found virtual watercoolers where I can talk to other people who do what I do online. I’ve gone to conferences and writers retreats and gotten to know some other people in the field. I’ve gone to libraries and book events and had the opportunity to meet and share with readers.
  8. I’ve learned to take care of myself and get in tune with my intuition. When I experience “writers block,” that’s my clue something is wrong with the story, and I need to go back and rethink things. When I feel sick, I need to take a day off, just the same way I would do with any other job. When I’m struggling with some part of a project, I take a break and hug a puppy or go for a walk or bake bread or knit a hat. The idea will come if I give my mind room and time to work on the problem without pressure.
  9. I’ve learned that success doesn’t come all at once but happens gradually over time. You have to be patient with yourself. Have faith. You’re running a marathon, not a sprint. Most people give up before reaching the finish line. Even the people who are considered “overnight successes” took a long time to achieve it.
  10. I’ve learned that not everything you try is going to be a masterpiece. Work hard, but don’t expect perfection. Even masters at what you’re trying to do have failed attempts and they falter sometimes. You only see the things they completed, but you don’t see the long road it took to get there.

Coming Up For Air

As I was putting away my suitcase, I realized I won’t need it again until next spring. I’ve traveled so much this year, I needed a moment to let it sink in that I don’t have any more business trips for the next three months, at least. Whew.

It’s a funny thing, writing a series of books. I knew all along what the last chapter would be, but I was as surprised as anyone else with some of the parts in between. I’ve lived with the story and those characters for so long, I’m not quite sure how to handle not having the urgency behind me to reach the finish line. I’ve worked so hard for so long, and now it’s out there in the world, for better or worse (hopefully, for better). It’s time for me to take a break and write something else for a little while (next year I’ll be working on a stand alone project), but I’m glad I don’t have to say goodbye to my characters for good. I have outlines for much more to come.

Construction is moving steadily on in the office space. Today, they put down subflooring and started work on my roof overhang. Tomorrow, they’ll finish that job and get started on the siding. After that, it’s on to the interior. Wahoo! I can’t wait.

Meanwhile, I’ve been taking care of errands this week, getting a checkup, and generally doing some of the things around the house I haven’t had time to do since my publishing journey began.

On Thursday, I’m at the St. Louis Public Library, and on Saturday, October 27, I’m at the Boonslick Regional Library for a Halloween talk about Dracula and vampires in general. Yay for books!

Next month, I’ll be working on an exciting new book project with my cousin Brianna Carlson and there’s a local author event at the Daniel Boone Regional Library in Columbia.

In December, I’m on vacation all month long (the office move will happen then, I hope), and also the audiobook will begin production with Tiffany Flynn. I’m totally thrilled about that too!

That sounds like a lot, I know, but the pace will actually be MUCH more relaxed through the end of the year. I’m grateful for all the good things this year has brought, but I’m ready to have time to catch my breath before I start my next big thing next year.

It’s been a long road to get to this point, but I know it’s only the first stop in a lifelong journey.

Thank you for coming along with me. And for those of you who are new to the series, welcome aboard.