Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Roundup

What happened in July? Quite a lot. I'm proud about the things I have achieved and I'm still striving to tackle more next month. Here's a roundup of what I've been up to:

Camp NaNoWriMo:
I participated in another round of camp this month. Starting from scratch on an outline I couldn't stop writing during last November's competition, I aimed for 25,000 words. I managed to get 11,534 words, which isn't a bad start, though one of these days I would love to win this competition. I've been competing way too long to not have a win yet.

I'm looking forward to meeting the NaNo challenge again in November. 

The Novel in Question:
This novel that I still can't quite categorize and still spend moments agonizing over the name of the fictional island--it's still totally alive, which is more than I can say about some of my previous NaNo novel projects. I don't think [#] is even a third of what the novel could be, so there is plenty of more first-draft writing in my future. 

My Next Challenge:
That whole pesky "real job" talk? Yeah, I think it's time to get one. I know what I want to do, I'm just not surrounded by opportunities I can take advantage of. I'm currently writing cover letters for editorial assistant positions. However, the stress of the massive amount of planning is getting me down. I'll be the first one to say my cover letters are probably not the best I can do (yet), but I know that I am perfectly qualified for this position.

All of these jobs are in New York. That's the hard part. I'm still debating on whether I should just suck it up, take a chance and go first, then submit the letters; submit the letters with a specific date of arrival; or simply leave it open and throw together a quick travel plan if I'm lucky enough to get a call back. I know which option will give me the best chance, so taking a huge risk on a relocation may be just what the doctor ordered.

Ultimate Dream:
Ooh... that's easy. Getting the editorial assistant job and living it up in the city. Living it up may mean free days at museums and spending time people watching in a park, but it still works.  Achieving this within the next month would be AWESOME, but I probably need to think in smaller steps. Although, this surge of positive energy does make me feel like I can do just about anything right now.

Other Goodies:
Money is an evil necessity.

That's not technically one of the goodies I was talking about, but it relates. I still have plenty of books to sell on I've reduced the prices a bit to make them even more appealing. I need them out of the way, and it doesn't hurt to get a little pocket change in the process.

Of course, you could always take a chance on buying my haiku book, too.

Okay, that's about it. Let's see what August brings!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Amazon's New Kindle Unlimited Program

While I may have had a rant about cover letters scheduled for today, I decided to scrap that and talk about the new program from Amazon called Kindle Unlimited. You get to learn about this new program, and I get to spend more time crafting really good cover letters for my next career adventure, so everyone wins.

I received an email from Amazon on Friday introducing me to this new program. While on the surface it may look like just another way for Amazon to get your money, for the savvy reader it can be an affordable option to read like crazy without paying $25.99 for a new hardcover.

The program lets you pay a monthly fee of $9.99 to download and read an unlimited number of books onto your Kindle device. Amazon says that you have a choice from more than 600,00 titles. The Kindle Unlimited Page lists quite a few bestsellers and current popular titles, most of which are price between $8-$15. Not a bad deal, right?

Those who will see the best benefit from this program are the readers that are exclusively or almost exclusively using a reading device. It is also beneficial to readers who can devour at least 3-5 books a month. At just $9.99, the Kindle price of many popular titles will pay for themselves even if you just read a single book a month. However, if you are like me and don't necessarily want to be forced into reading a specific amount a month to justify the cost, you may want to skip this program for now.

The program is also great for Kindle authors. If an author chooses to enroll in KDP Select, their book is automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. The benefits for writers include being paid a royalty for the download, but the catch for this is unlike the royalty from the Amazon Prime Lending program, to get paid the Unlimited royalty the reader must read at least 10% of the title, otherwise the download does not constitute a payment.

Good news: my book is part of KDP Select, so you can take advantage of reading it if you sign up for Kindle Unlimited. But please, for every independent author's sake, read at least 10%. It costs you nothing but a few minutes of your time and you may discover a great read. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Revision Monster is Hiding Under my Desk

This time around, Camp NaNoWriMo is going well for me. I'm still behind on my daily word count (who isn't?), but there's a clear path to winning this time. That is, if the Revision Monster would just get off my back.

I can forgive a few misspellings here and there. While the squiggly red line draws my eyes in to previous paragraphs, I can resist the urge to correct. A  misplaced comma? No sweat. That can be taken care of easily in August. It's so garishly out of place I wouldn't miss it during the first round of revision. A half written novel without a title? No problem--I'm notorious bad at getting just the right title for the novel (if I don't start out with one). But what I'm fighting this monster on now is very hard to resist.

I'm writing out of my comfort zone, so the majority of the novel takes place on a fictional island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Do you want to know what that island is called?

Yeah, me too.

And so does my Revision Monster.

I am having such as hard time resisting the urge to waste hours--maybe days--on finding just the right name for the island. It creeps up every time I open my novel to write some more. "The island need a name," that little bugger calls out to me. Every single time. I may not be able to shake it until I come up with a name. But forge through I must so that I can get 25,000 words before the end of July.

Revision Monster--you won't win this time.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Heading Back to Camp

I love that NanoWriMo holds camp twice a year--that means I get to fully immerse myself in one of my ideas for yet another month. This time, my cabin mates are all from or have been published in Luna Station Quarterly. In July I will be working on something that I have yet to attempt. I still can't really pinpoint what genre it would be. It's about a fictional island in the Pacific. Although our current world exists in this world, they know little of it.

That's very vague, I know. But until I get working on it, I'm not sure I can reveal much more.

I've also got to get back on the revision bandwagon. I really want to get last November's project to the submission phase, whether that's another self-published title or (hopefully) published through a great indie publisher that seems to fit with what I'm working on. July will be a busy month writing away.And I'm going to love it. ;-)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Getting to the Next Big Thing with a Kick-Ass Life: A Tale of Two Self Help Books

Sometimes, you can get lost in your own life. You feel like you’re in a rut and there it just no way out. 

Tell me about it. 

I wasn’t going to just sit back and let life continue to pass me by, but I didn’t know how to stop it from happening. So I started to read Your Next Big Thing by Ben Michaelis, PhD. A few days later, I was just looking for another book to read and picked up 52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life by Andrea Owen, CPCC. While it wasn’t intentional to read these two self-help books at the same time, I was interested to see which one would speak to me. Here’s how it went. 

The Situation

My situation is simple: I want to live in New York City, but I don’t know how to get there. 

Okay, literally I know how to get there. What I mean is that I want to be able to live successfully there—which means a good job. An apartment. Human connection. I’ve been working full time as a freelance writer since 2008. This job has had its ups and downs when it comes to the all-important paycheck, but it’s been in a steady decline for about three years now—to the point where even a simple Midwestern lifestyle is not achievable (translation: I moved back in with my parents three times in the past ten years). I’ve done what I can to perk it back up, but so far nothing has worked. That means I’m in a little bit of debt, and I don’t feel comfortable throwing caution to the wind by just packing up and leaving tomorrow. If I did, I wouldn’t need to read either one of these books. 

Everyone says: get a new job, save money for a year, go. Well, not here. That’s my setback. I would not be opposed to getting myself out of full-time freelancing if I had another option for a job even loosely related to my field (I hold a degree in English—it’s a wide, wide field). There’s nothing here but customer service positions—and I’ve suffered through that two and a half weeks longer than I thought I would before I got out of it. In New York, I would be more open to positions that creatively uses my creativity. And I’m sure there would be more options, even if that meant long hours, low pay or *gulp* back to customer service. 

I’ve wanted this since I was five years old. I thought I would go to college there. That didn’t happen. I thought I would move there after I graduated. That nearly happened, but didn’t. I just assumed that I would be there by now. I’m turning thirty in two and a half weeks (yikes!) and for some reason, that was my arbitrary deadline. Why would someone out of there 20s be stupid enough to carry all that debt and all that lack of courage to a city that can eat you alive with one wrong look? 

Still… sounds like a fun place to live. I still want it. That’s why I tried these self-help books. I wanted to know what I could do to change my mindset and change my situation to make this dream come true. 

What These Books Promise

Like any self-help book, these books do not promise an overnight turnaround. If any book did, it would be a worldwide bestseller and the rest of the self-help industry would go out of business. These books are a guide. They are a way to help you work through your own issues and, in time, figure out what it is you want and what you are willing to do to change your life around. 

Okay. I’m ready. 

But it takes more than just being open and ready (you may actually find out when you start reading that you are definitely NOT ready). Once you start reading either one of these titles, you will realize that it is not something you can do in a day. It takes time to let each of the subjects soak into your brain to really see any change. Personally, I don’t recommend reading any more than one or two chapters a day. 

52 Ways is a book that is meant to be more general in what you could attain. You are looking to get a fulfilling, kick-ass life. It teaches you how to discover what you truly want out of life, what’s holding you back and what you can do to fix it all. It covers everything from the curse of dieting to relationships and work issues. 

Your Next Big Thing seems to have more of a narrow focus according to the title, but really it is doing the same thing as 52 Ways. It is giving you the tools you need to discover yourself, find what you want and give you the confidence to take the next step in whatever it is you want to pursue. 

The Homework

Yes, boy and girls, these books ask for homework. There may not be any right or wrong answers, but making lists of values, what brings you joy, your nonnegotiables, and how you can best serve others is an important part of the process these books ask you to go through. These exercises help you understand what you truly have and want you truly want. Writing these things down provides tangible evidence about yourself and what you want. 

I’ll be honest—I didn’t write anything down. It’s not that I didn’t do the exercises, because I definitely did. But I closed my eyes and wrote them down in the space of my mind, not on a piece of paper. In my household, papers with words on them tend to end up as public property, and this is a very personal journey. So, aside from not having a physical copy of the homework, I did complete it. 

There are also requests in the book to make small shifts in your life. Some of the ones that both books have in common is to honor yourself, listen to the difference between your inner critic and your inner hero, love yourself and of course getting rid of the negative relationships in your life (for me, that feels like I would have to get rid of every single person I know. But that’s a problem for another day). Not everything can be done as soon as you finish the chapter. It’s all a marathon, not a sprint. 

The Approach

This is where the books really distance themselves from each other. If both books are essentially teaching the same concepts, the approach is what will be the appeal or the turnoff for readers. 

If you are looking for the more scholarly approach, Your Next Big Thing is definitely the book for you. This book has that familiar school chapter structure of: 

A) Here’s what you will learn,
B) The bulk of the chapter that teaches you that concept, and
C) Here’s what this chapter just taught you. 

This is helpful for those who like this type of structure or for those who may have already started working on themselves and want to go back to relearn certain strategies or concepts. It is a calm, caring, clinical approach that can (if you’re reading late at night) find you nodding off a bit while trying to read it. 

52 Ways is a whole other story. This is a book that doesn’t kid around—it wants to give you that needed kick in the ass so you can turn it around to have a kick-ass life. With chapter titles such as “Don’t Take Other People’s Piles of Shit” and “Quit Bitching and Moaning” you know there’s no fooling around reading this. 52 Ways is like that friend or family member in your life you hate going to advice for because they tell it like it is without a filter to spare your feelings. However, that person is always right, which annoys the hell out of you. 

I will tell you that I definitely responded to 52 Ways more than Your Next Big Thing. Why? Because every chapter made me feel something. Some chapters made me sad, some filled me with a momentary abundance of confidence. Some just pissed me off. But I felt something. And I could use that energy to learn more about myself and why I feel so stuck. 

The Verdict

Did either one of these books get me on the path to changing my life so that I can best achieve my goals and dreams? Both of them definitely got me motivated to create a big change in my life (though listening to the theme song to Who’s the Boss? can leave me with the same feeling), but as far a clear direction to start, I’m still a bit lost. I think I was looking for a more personal, definitive answer to my issues, which you can’t—and shouldn’t—expect from a self-help book. 

I know what I want—I know the options available right now to take that next step, but none of them seem right for me personally unless I’m willing to take a huge risk, which is not a “I’m afraid of failure” risk; it’s more like a “I could end up homeless” type of risk. I’m pretty much in the same place as when I started reading either one of these books. 

That doesn’t mean these books are not valuable to the general population of readers who are interested in making a change. These books can be great for those who are in a number of different situations including a career change, relationship issues, and discovering a passion that you may have left behind years ago. 

I don’t think rereading either one of these books in their entirety will help me get any more clarity, but I will be revisiting specific chapters are helpful in my situation. I realize that I may just be suppressing my own inner voice and waiting for another person to tell me what I should do—which is probably the source of my problems in the first place. 

See? I learned a lot about myself, I just need to keep working at it. So the effort to improve myself was worth it, even if I wasn’t magically lifted up on a cloud and placed into a Manhattan apartment with a steady income.  

**Disclaimer: Both of these books were free for me. I received 52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life through a Goodreads giveaway, and I received Your Next Big Thing free through an Amazon promotion.