Tag Archives: writer

Working Title, Chapter 2

It almost didn’t happen – I had to battle some kind of virus (damn you, Australian winter!) and another bout of writer’s block. Overcame the first one by sleeping and the second by giving up on a particular scene (not deleting, just moving it down) and taking a slightly different direction. Voila, a new chapter and a new painting in the nick of time!

Thank you all so much for providing comments! They really helped – you may notice Pop is now Pa, and I have amended the first chapter accordingly. If you are new to the blog, please note that what follows is my attempt to write and live-post my new story one chapter and one character portrait at a time. There’s no way I can finish a portrait in a week, so I will be posting photos of each painting as they progress through the stages – some stages may be ugly. This one is of Rose, the narrator. Please feel free to comment, but be kind – I bruise (and doubt myself) easily. Also, if you’re new and interested – start with the Chapter 1.

Here she goes.

rose-2.jpg

The morning it all started someone dumped a box of kittens on our doorstep, tiny little things with ringworm so bad, their tails were bold. Pa was so excited I was seriously concerned he might have a coronary.

“Look, Rozochka!” He held one of the meowing rats up for me to see. “Look at ze white paws! Is like he has socks!”

I was less than thrilled. I actually like cats, just not so many of them. With the new additions, the household feline population reached at least a dozen, if you counted in the transients.

“That’s cute, Pa.” I leaned in closer and ran my finger across the kitten’s belly. “That’s a flea. I just saw a flea.”

“I will call him Socks.” He hugged the dirty little thing to his chest.

“Don’t start naming them, please,” I said, checking my watch. “Socks needs to find a good home very, very soon. And wash your hands, for the love of God. Ringworm is extremely contagious.”

“I will wash, Rozochka.”

“Thank you. Gotta go. And please, I beg you, don’t let them in your bed.”

That was pointless, I thought, getting into my car. The kittens were destined to have the run of the house, grow up to be big fat cats, and settle in permanently. Pa was about to spend whatever was left of his pension on veterinarian bills and every waking minute grooming and feeding them. Pa needed humans, not a bunch of useless freeloaders that had no purpose and didn’t contribute to anything, just laid around staring out the window and contemplating their pointless lives.

I’m angry at kittens. That was a new low, except, of course, it wasn’t kittens that got me there. It was my freeloading soon-to-be-ex-husband. Alex and I were still stuck in mediation, and that meant I was stuck in life until I could settle and get unchained from the dead weight. Once the house sells, I will move into my own place. The thought made me terribly guilty, the way it always did. Pa wouldn’t say anything, but it only made the guilt worse.

“It’s the only way,” I said to myself. The only way for me to have a chance at those grandkids Pa so desperately wanted. I imagined Alex now regretted not even considering having a baby – God knows, he would be claiming child support too. I was almost thankful for his selfishness, except for me “kids” would now most likely mean IVF, even if I managed to find some guy equally anxious to procreate. According to Claire, there were still plenty of them on the Internet, men who just crossed over the hill and finally realized that greener grass is usually fenced in and jealously guarded. I still had a few years to sort through them before even the most unscrupulous IVF clinics would turn me down, I just needed my own place to do that. My own place, with no useless freeloaders contemplating their pointless lives.

And definitely no cats.

*

“Just move out now,” Claire said. “You don’t have to buy a house, just rent one. Rent an apartment. Or a room. Move on.”

“I can’t,” I whispered. “I feel so guilty.”

I didn’t have to whisper – the office was nearly empty, with everyone out in court or meeting clients. Still, years of working for the law firm of Rich&Richer, as Claire called them, trained me to think in billable hours. Talking with the fellow paralegal was not billable. Not that Claire cared.

“You’re always feeling guilty,” she said. “You need to stop that.”

“What, just stop caring about an old man who has nobody except me in this world?”

“He has a son, doesn’t he?”

I rolled my eyes. “You know my father is useless. The best-case scenario is that he disappears forever and I don’t have to worry about paying his debts, too.”

“When was the last time you saw him, two years ago? Maybe he’s dead.”

“That’s what I love about you,” I said. “Ever the optimist.”

She laughed. “Any time, darl’. But seriously, move out.”

“I can’t. You don’t understand. He’s so old. And the cats, my God, the cats. He got more this morning. People bring them around now. I bet if you Google “cat lady”, his address would be at the top.”

She laughed again. “So, he got the cats! He doesn’t need you.”

“He needs people. He only collects cats cause he’s so lonely.”

“Maybe you both need dates.”

I shook my head. “You know he wouldn’t.”

“Oh. The grandma?”

“Yep.”

My grandmother, Roza Lansky, has been dead for over sixty years. Sixty-eight, to be precise because that’s how old my father was. To my knowledge, Pa has not so much as looked at another woman for sixty-eight years. I suddenly felt like crying, and not because I was sad for him. I was sad for me, poor little me. I inherited her name and, according to Pa, her looks, but there wasn’t a man in the world who would mourn me for that long. Except for Pa, but he didn’t count.

“You’re okay.” Claire patted my arm. “Seriously, you don’t have to babysit him. That’s enabling. He should meet other people.”

I wiped my eyes. “He doesn’t leave the house.”

“Maybe he should. Join some club. Play golf or something.”

“He can barely walk.”

“He can study. They have this University of the Third Age now.”

“I don’t think he even finished school.”

She snorted. “It’s not an actual university. It’s like a school for old people. They teach random stuff, like public speaking and current affairs. My grandmother loves it. She is taking painting lessons. Maybe your Pa can do some painting?”

*

Pa wasn’t on the porch when I pulled up to the house later. I was spent – being a paralegal, especially in my office, was basically doing twice the work of a solicitor for half the pay. I had a thick folder to get through and if Pa wanted to watch movies on his own, then great. All I wanted was my bed and some quiet.

The house was dark. Dark and quiet, except for the cats that greeted me at the door with indignant meowing, demanding dinner. For one terrifying moment I thought Pa was dead, had a heart attack while I was at work, or worse, hurt himself and couldn’t get to the phone, and slowly bled to death, alone, on the floor. It wasn’t hard to imagine, the old man was almost ninety. Then I heard cooing from down the hallway and saw a sliver of light coming from under the bathroom door.

He was sitting cross-legged on the bathroom mat, a towel in his lap, fussing over one of the kittens. The other kittens were asleep together in a basket and one of the tabbies observed the scene patiently from the counter, only the tip of his tail indicating the rage at having to wait for his regularly scheduled meal.

“What’s going on here?”

“Rozochka!” He straightened his back with a visible effort. “You’re home early.”

“Pa, it’s after six. How long have you been sitting on the floor?”

He looked at me with genuine confusion. “I don’t know.”

I helped him get up while he babbled away about the kittens, and the fleas, and how the vet said he could only use lavender oil to treat them because they were so young.

“Ze fleas, they don’t like ze oil. Very strange. It smell so nice.”

His fine white hair was messy and his hips and knees popped loudly. “You can’t do this, Pa.” I said. “Have you even showered today? You need to take better care of yourself.”

“I know, I know.” He shuffled towards the kitchen.

“You’re not cooking,” I said, overtaking him. “Sit down on a sofa, okay? I will cook.”

He didn’t even protest as he usually did. “Sank you, pet. I need to feed my babies.”

He fed the cats and then watched the news while I made a chicken stir-fry, something quick that I didn’t have to feel guilty about later. I brought the bowls into the living room – we usually ate at the kitchen table, but tonight wasn’t a usual day.

“Do you want something else, Rozochka? Maybe mashed potatoes?”

I almost had to hold him down. “Pa, relax. I don’t want any, but I will make something else for you if you’re hungry. Are you hungry?”

“No, no,” he said. “You know I don’t eat much.”

“That makes two of us.”

He sighed but didn’t even lecture me on the many reasons why I need to eat more. That was definitely unusual.

“Pa, are you okay?”

“I am very good, Rozochka,” he beamed at me. “The doctor gave me lotion for ze kittens. For tails. He said ze fur will grow back. He said­–“

“Pa, seriously. I’m starting to worry about you.”

“Why, Rozochka?”

“I don’t know. It’s the cats. Or maybe that you’re cooped up in here. When was the last time you got out of the house?”

“I went to the vet today.”

I laughed. “You see, it’s the cats again. When was the last time you did anything for yourself? Just for fun?”

He thought about it. “I am not cooped up. I like ze house. And cats.”

“You need people.”

“I have you, pet.”

I almost said I know. “Other people, Pa. New people. New things to do.”

He paused to think again. It was almost childlike. “I don’t know Rozochka. I don’t want anysing new.”

I don’t know why I kept pushing and I’d like to think that only part of it was the guilt of wanting to move out. I was worried about him, kind of like I worry about everything. I wanted him to be happy, and I wanted him to be safe, and all the research said a social circle is what everyone needs, but Pa’s circle was, unfortunately, more of a line. A thick, straight line between us, with no support from anyone else, not even his beloved son. It was that way forever, and it wasn’t my responsibility to fix, but I guess I didn’t see it that way. I pushed and prodded until he agreed to check out the University of the Third Age. It was in the city and he could take the tram almost to the door. There were language courses, and choir, and music, and yes, bridge.

He promised, I mean, practically swore he would check it out.

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It begins. Working Title – Chapter 1.

(Text and images by Ana Spoke. All rights reserved).

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CHAPTER 1

I know terrible things. Big, awful secrets that I can’t unknow, no matter how long I lie awake at night, rolling them over in my mind, sweating over the fantasies of going back in time and undoing all the wrongs, even though I would be powerless to change anything. I “what if” and “I wish” and I wipe away angry tears, but they keep on coming. I wish I was someone else. I wonder what would have happened if my father was never conceived. I cry over what could have been. But most of all, I wish I could go back to the last year, to the day I bought that paint set, so that I could set fire to the damn thing.

*

I moved back in with Pa and the cats thinking it was going to be only temporary, until the divorce came through. I didn’t yet know Alex was on the war path, determined to waste every cent of his and my money on proving that I was some evil, manipulative monster responsible not only for the demise of our marriage, but also for his mental health, life goals and his ability to be gainfully employed. I was sure then that things were about to get better, and how could they not, after a decade of living with an abusive drunk.

Pa couldn’t be happier about his little girl moving back home. He never said anything, but I knew he was secretly relieved that Alex was gone and so were my desperate attempts to cure my husband from his many addictions. He was happy to have my company, too – Pa loved his cats, but the conversations with his flock of strays were mostly one-sided. I would often catch him chattering away as he loaded their bowls with canned food, furry tails of all colors rubbing against his legs. They would meow back occasionally, but once their bellies were full they would move on to licking themselves and generally ignoring Pa and the whole world. Ungrateful creatures. Once I told him so.

“Zey are innocent, Rozochka,” he said. “Zey are like children, don’t know any better. And you know I do it for me. I like feeding.”

He did. Pa was a feeder. I blamed him for my thighs when I was young, before I knew about refined sugar and self-restraint. But when I got married and moved out my thighs got even bigger and it wasn’t until the day Alex picked up our wedding photo and said “boy, you really let yourself go, haven’t you?” that I had to admit it was all me. I can’t even blame Alex for the bout of bulimia that followed. I knew what I was doing. It was hard to show that self-restraint, though, when I found myself back in Pa’s loving care, showered with attention and casseroles.

“I can’t eat this much,” I said one day, sitting down to a plate full of carbs and unidentifiable fat. “This is not healthy, Pa. You need to eat more vegetables.”

“Potatoes are vegetable.”

“But not the butter you’ve drowned them in.” I poked around in the mound, trying to find anything that had not been fried.

He smiled at me, a wrinkly grey angel. “But you love butter, Rozochka.”

“I do.” And I did. But I loved him even more.

*

Come to think of it, my entire life I have searched for a man like Pa to take my hand and wrap me in a warm blanket of love, and care, and protection, and all those things that you expect from a relationship. Twice, I thought I found such a man, but each time they morphed into needy, greedy, gross, lazy, addicted, dependent Peter Pans. They morphed into my father.

I don’t know if I ever loved my father. Every now and then, when he came around and was sober enough to talk to me, he tried to tell me stories of how we used to play together when I was little or about all the times he took me fishing. I never could remember us playing, but I do remember at least one fishing trip when he yelled at me because I wouldn’t sit still in the boat. I remember how he forgot to pick me up from school once and I just stood there, cold and alone, until my mother rolled up, tires screeching and tears streaming down her face. I remember her hugging me for a very long time, and how she kept saying sorry over and over. I don’t remember my father apologizing. But then again, I don’t remember much of him at all. Mom didn’t suffer fools for nearly as long as I did – it was over between them by the time I was in the second grade. From then on it was the three musketeers – Pa, Mom and I. We were happy, so I didn’t understand then why she got married again. I understand now, but when she said we were going to move to Perth to live with Richard, I cried hysterically until it was decided that it would be better for everyone if stayed put. I had nothing personal against Richard, he is still a decent man. I just couldn’t leave Pa. So technically, from the age of eleven I was an orphan.

Eventually Mom had two more kids, and so – again, technically – I have two siblings, but not the kind of siblings with whom I can share the life’s burdens. I have a brother and a sister, but they’d never even met my father, so I can’t talk to them about Dad’s drinking. My brother is fourteen years younger than me, so I can’t ask him to scare off my no-good husband. My sister is even younger, and never been married, so she can’t relate to the seven-year itch. I have been visiting them at least once a year, in summer, but they never came to visit me. I never asked, but I got close to when I moved back in with Pa. I needed someone to share Pa’s obsessive attention.

Other than cat-saving and cat-feeding, some gardening and an occasional trip to the hardware store, Pa didn’t have any other interests. He’d kept mostly to himself his whole life and now there were no buddies to play bridge or whatever else the oldies do when they get together. He never travelled, would not go to restaurants or even movies because everything outside his four walls cost too much. Which I imagine it would if you had close to a dozen dependents at any given time. I never thought about how he’d managed while I was married and preoccupied, he certainly never complained about being lonely. Or anything at all. I only realized that he must’ve been once I was back – every day when I came home from work, he was on the front porch, in one of the rocking chairs, waiting for me.

“You must be tired, Rozochka,” he would say. “I made dinner for you.”

He did. He made dinner for me every single day. But he didn’t stop there. He was never a good sleeper, so he was usually up with the birds, waiting for my alarm to blare, so that he could come to my room and give me my coffee.

“Pa, you don’t have to. Really.”

He would just smile at me and shuffle off back to the kitchen, where I knew he was already making my lunch.

“I put something nice in for you, pet.”

Every day there was something nice. At first it was candy, then after I told him I don’t eat sugar, he started making fruit salad from scratch. Sometimes he’d put in a note, in summer it would be a flower from the garden. Once he put in a book because he thought I might want to read on my break. I should have been happy, and I was, but it was too much. I could never reciprocate enough, not that he expected me to. He never expected anything, but he followed me around like a shadow.

“You want to watch movie, Rozochka?”

“Cup of tea, Rozochka?”

“Rozochka?”

“Rozochka?”

I should have watched more movies with him. I should have hugged him more often, longer, closer. I should have said “thank you.” Instead, I bought him a paint set.

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The happiest day of my month

It’s five am. I’m awake and I’m the happiest I’d been in a long time, maybe even a year. I wrote over a thousand words yesterday! And not just any words, the first chapter of that next novel that has been stuck in my head for so long. I’m still marveling at how easy it was to do, especially considering that I have had trouble writing anything for almost two years, even regular blog posts. How did I do it, you ask?

I simply decided that I don’t HAVE to write a book. The solitary year it would take me is just too much of a mountain, a burden, a crippling task. First I thought I will just write short stories, maybe see if I get enough of them to compile into something worthy of publication. But the story I wanted to write doesn’t easily fit into a short format, it needs time to unwrap its many layers. So I once again decided to try and publish it as an online serial.

So this is what I’m going to do. I will publish it on this blog, chapter by chapter, as it comes to me, without worrying too much about copy editing and comma polishing. It would be a challenge in itself, because it’s scary for me to show something I’ve written before I’ve had a chance at mulling it over for a long time or getting a native speaker/editor to fix the grammar and spelling. I just hope that the flipside will be that I won’t lose the momentum I gathered yesterday. After all, that’s how I wrote my first novel – it was a joke email to my sister, and had she not laughed and demanded more, it might have just stayed an email, forgotten in the sediment of thousands of other jokes I wrote and said to her. So if this serial post thing works out and I finish it, I still have a chance to turn it into a published book. After all, that’s how a few bestsellers started – The Marshian and if I’m not mistaken, The Twilight. Yes, traditional publishers would probably frown on this, but then publishers have ignored my many attempts at publishing Isa Maxwell series, so what’s new?

I decided that I won’t give up painting either and will weave into my new method – each post will have a new or updated painting to go with it. I have almost finished painting one of the characters and about to start on another one, my very first male portrait.

So that’s the plan. I will post the first chapter in a couple of days. Right now I will get back to writing and who knows, I could write another thousand words before my actual day begins.

Wish me luck!

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Storyteller UK competition is now OPEN!

I’ve had the calendar reminder for this since the last year and still almost missed it! Entries opened since 1 May, but luckily the competition remains open until 31 August 2018. What is it, you ask? It’s an opportunity to get your book professionally published, get a $20,000 pounds prize, and travel to London to be recognized in a special ceremony. Do I have your attention?

You can get all the details on the official entry page, but here are the main points:

  1. The book must be in English, previously unpublished. It goes without saying that it has to be your original work, although you could have a co-author.
  2. It must be published during the above entry period using Kindle Direct in electronic and paperback formats (you can also use CreateSpace). It HAS TO BE BOTH formats.
  3. The book must be enrolled in KDP Select during the entry period.
  4. You MUST use a special keyword when publishing (in metadata, the keywords you choose when setting up your book) – “storytellerUK2018” (without the quotes).
  5. You are not eligible if you live in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria or Region of Crimea. Also, the Competition and these Official Rules are void in Mexico, Brazil, Tasmania, Quebec and where prohibited by law, and are subject to applicable laws. Whatever that means.
  6. You can submit multiple books.
  7. Looks like porn or sexually explicit content would disqualify an entry.
  8. Your book could be as short as 25 pages.
  9. By entering, you do agree to enter into an exclusive publishing agreement. Do read the whole set of rules for more details.
  10. In addition to the $20,000, there are other prizes, including an Oasis for each finalist

It also looks like you may get additional exposure because the above entry page lists all the entries submitted and omg, I may actually finish that draft I got lying around. Or even write a new one, although the previous winners look to be very well made. Don’t know if that was before or after winning, though. All entries will be considered, even if you submit on the last day.

So what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

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Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Shizzle, Inc.

Once again, BookBub delivers

If only I could have a BookBub every week…I could have a free lunch. It’s been seven hours and eight days since the International Feature promo ran in UK, Canada, Australia and India, and I’m still getting $10-15 of sales and reads per day. It has long since earned the $38 fee and even covered the $50 I wasted on running a simultaneous BookBub ad (don’t do those, but more on that later).

Here is the pretty graph:

BookBub results April 2018

While I’m very happy with the result, the number of free downloads is less than it was the first time around. Last year I got 5,094 downloads in the first three days, and this time it was 3,501 over the same time. Unfortunately, I did not include in the last year’s post the buy through, or basically what I sold as a result. Not to make the same mistake, here are the results over the last 8 days:

  1. Shizzle, Inc: 9 copies sold at $2.99 and just under 8,000 KENP. Approximate return of $58.
  2. Indiot: 2 copies sold at $2.99 and 2,900 KENP. Approximate return of $18.50.

I have also ran the BookBub ad for full-priced Indiot, spent $50 and sold 9 additional copies, at a loss of $32. So after all of that and $38 for the BookBub, I have made a total of $6.50! In the black, baby!

I could still make more, if KENP continues to move along. With the last BookBub I was wide, which did not pay, since I got hardly any sales through Smashwords. I also did not get to enjoy the sustained spike in KENP, as you can see above. I’m continuing to run an AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) ad and so some of KENP could be due to that, but the ad has been running for several months, and there were hardly any pages read before, an equivalent of maybe a copy per week. That’s one problem with AMS – you can’t tell when your ad and click results in a borrow.

I do have a theory – the book was $0.99 during the last few months and maybe, just maybe, not deemed “worthy” by KU owners. Now that it’s $2.99, maybe it looks like a better value to borrow on a KU plan? The only way to confirm that would be to check the stats a month from now, when there’s no chance that any sales or borrows are generated by the BookBub afterglow.

I have promised to write a post about AMS and will do so next – I’m on annual leave right now but not going anywhere, only painting walls and canvasses.  Writers need hobbies too.

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I got another BookBub!!!

Oh, it’s nice to be back out in the sunshine of possibilities and hope! And how could I not feel sunny after winning the equivalent of self-published lottery for the second time in 13 months! I was writing the “thanks to Arnold” post just a few days ago and mentioned that I have neglected my marketing efforts, one of which has been clockwork monthly submissions to BookBub. So I fired off another one, and when I got the email back I almost deleted it on autopilot before realizing that they have accepted Shizzle, Inc for another BookBub International Promo. The last time I had almost 6K copies downloaded over 3 days, vs BookBub’s own estimate of 2.5K. This time they are telling me that on 2 April it will be sent to 250,000 subscribes and they estimate about 5K downloads. All at the cost of $38! The only bummer that I am yet to get the coveted US mailout.

By the way, this means Shizzle, Inc will be free in all Amazon stores 1-5 April, so why not download a copy for yourself 🙂

I will let you know the results of this promo, this is just a reminder for myself and all to persist – set a monthly calendar reminder to submit to BookBub and just don’t give up. I have submitted Shizzle, Inc nine times before I got the first one and an additional eight times to get the second one.

Good luck!

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Something each and every enterpreneur needs

No, it’s not start-up capital. I mean, yes, of course, we all need a venture capitalist willing to prop our idea with an overstuffed wallet. It’s something else, something I have not considered until I started probing Alibaba.com for possible manufacturer partners of my yet-to-be-revealed toy of awesomeness. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, covered in sweat, vaguely aware of some dream in which Velcro yet again stole my idea. I have started the trademarking process with Australian IP Headstart, but it doesn’t hurt to have another bodyguard.

A non-disclosure agreement. NDA for short.

Ever had to sign such a thing? Maybe for an employer, promising not to talk about their dirty secrets in exchange for a wage and medical benefits? In this case, I want a manufacturer to say that they won’t use my design to sell toys to whomever else offers a buck. I know what you gonna say, that an unscrupulous company would sign whatever agreement and then proceed to ignore it. There’s also an argument that I’m in no danger of being copied unless my “thang” goes viral. The way I figured my current state of anxiety could be expressed by the following formula:

f (losing IP) / f (making it big) = trademark * NDA / blue moon

In other words, I don’t know what I’m doing. That means I might as well get an NDA. Question is, how do you get one without paying much/anything for it? Especially when your husband reminds you on a daily basis not to lose the house and/or enquires as to how much money you plan to sink into the new venture.

I started by asking all 5 shortlisted companies on Alibaba if they would sign one. Two immediately replied yes and one sent me theirs. Half of it was in Mandarin, so it means I have to write one. And that means I need help.

As per usual, I started with my free consultant, Google. I searched for a “non-disclosure agreement” and the first search result was from legalcontracts.com. They offered to create free NDAs for my employment, contract work, sale or even an invention. Bingo! It looked good until they asked me to pay for it or get a free week trial, after which I would get trapped into a monthly subscription. Next!

I have added “free” to the search and Legal Vision promised to create free NDAs for Australian businesses. Of course, mine is between me in Australia and some phantom company in China, but at this point, I figured a free NDA is better than no NDA.

And wouldn’t you know it? A free NDA is exactly what arrived in my inbox after a filled in a form! Undoubtedly, it will be followed by overenthusiastic phonecalls from Legal Vision sales department, which I will politely decline by yelling into the phone in an extra thick accent: “No Ana here thankyoumuchhavagoodday!”

My next thought was that “Government should provide these for free!” Turns out it does. Of course, now I have to look at the half-mandarin, commercial freebie and the government handout together and figure out which clauses I want to keep. But that’s what I get for being a cheapskate.

I ain’t losing my house, y’all!

 

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Thank you, Arnold.

Hi everybody.

So, ahm, how’s everyone? I know…I don’t write, I don’t call. I post a motivational message full of plans and commitments and then proceed to fall off the face of the Earth. I’m sorry.

I do have excuses, plenty of them. Shortly after that last post my father died, which was a huge shock to my whole family. The Iron Man had a nagging cough that twenty doctors couldn’t diagnose or cure, but nobody expected him to just be gone in a blink of an eye. I wanted to post something when it happened but just couldn’t find the right words. Instead, I jumped into IVF, something that I have meant to do for over a year, but didn’t have the guts. When that didn’t work, I went on a shopping spree – well, not a spree per se, I only bought one house. While the bills piled up, I continued working in my awesome new job, which was slowly killing me with stress.

It shouldn’t come as a shock then, that as of last week, and probably for many months prior, I was not happy. Not the entire time, mind you – I was riding a rollercoaster of ups and downs, the bumpiest few months yet. I’ve done so much over those months, including tons of writing, except none of it was for fun. Plenty of reports, emails, and responses to customers, but not one sentence for the new book or the blog. I have even let the twitter feed die. I have not run a single promotion (except for “always on” Amazon Marketing Services, which I have to write about next). As a result, the book sales have been pitiful, yet my career was going stronger than ever. I could almost see the vortex forming, at the end of which I would be promoted to the next, even more stressful level. That would mean a full stop to my writing dreams, but what options did I have when I became an owner of a house and a mother to a frozen embryo?

The only thing that has been consistently awesome throughout those months was my relationship. Josh has helped me manage all of the above by putting a coffee  into my blind hand every single morning so that I could start yet another stressful day, packing a lunch for me so that I could stay at my desk, and making dinners so that I could crash on the couch.  I do wash dishes and massage him, I’m not completely spoiled, but it didn’t seem enough to show him how special his constant care made me feel. So when I saw that Arnold Schwarzenegger was flying to Melbourne to host bodybuilding events and speak at a business summit, I knew I had to get tickets. I love Arnie too, but mostly for his blockbusters. I didn’t expect to gain anything from the talk, other than a few happy snaps of Josh smiling ear to ear.

It turns out I have a lot more in common with Arnie than our respective, too-easy-to-make-fun-of accents. We have both left our respective countries for the greener pastures of the US. We share the same drive to see how much we could lift, both physically and figuratively. Yet listening to him made me realize that lately, I have lost the lust for life and that spark that would drive me to persist in the face of overwhelming odds. That was the first epiphany of the evening.

The second one came when Arnold mentioned that early on he had invested his bodybuilding winnings into real estate with the sole purpose of providing him with income when he started to pursue his acting career. The steady flow of cash enabled him to only choose the roles he wanted (yes, I know, that means he wanted Hercules in New York. Maybe that was before the rent started coming in). And that’s when I had my second epiphany.

I’ve been working so hard for the last few years, trying to squeeze writing in the few empty spaces in the sleep-eat-work-repeat cycle. I have taken five months off that rat race and it enabled me to complete the second book, but it also wiped out my long service leave (I’m once again sorry to Americans for even mentioning such a luxury). It will take about seven years of spinning the hamster wheel before I can do it again. Other authors have replaced the office work hamster wheel with writing hamster wheel, producing a book each month to make a living, but I just can’t do it. There has to be another way.

Like Arnie, I have invested in real estate. Unfortunately, it only tied me closer to the office desk. I have also dreamed about how I’m going to write a bestseller while on maternity leave, J.K. Rowling style, but that dream is quickly dissipating too. The only answer left is to build some kind of business that would be flexible enough to give me the money I need to continue eating regularly and the time I need to be creative. The only question remained, what is that business?

I thought of leveraging even more debt to buy a franchise, but that idea was quickly poo-pooed by the family committee. I thought of getting a similar but less stressful job, but it seems like more of the same and could be even worse if I got a nasty boss. Then I remembered how much I love to invent stuff. Did I tell you about the time I invented the new and improved Velcro? I used this in Shizzle, Inc, but that did happen to me. One day, about fifteen years ago, I bought two flexible pet hair brushes on sale. They got stuck together in the shopping bag, the rubber bristles perfectly sliding in between bristles on the other brush. When I pulled them apart, I had this flash of an idea to miniaturise them to make new Velcro that didn’t rely on fragile loops. I drew the picture in an idea book I keep to this day, but I was poor and insecure and I didn’t pursue it. About a year or two later, Velcro came out with Poster Strips and made millions. I made nothing, other than the joke for my book.

So what am I going to invent now, you ask? Color Post-Its? Or a new Miracle Mop? Not quite, although it’s a bit of a “better mouse trap” improvement on an existing product. In euphoria following Arnold’s talk, I have already invented a new adult toy. Not the kind you’re thinking! More of a gag gift – it’s funny (I think) and it could take off (I think). I wish I could tell you what it is, but I’m afraid Velcro might find out about it so I will wait until I apply for a trademark, which should be in a matter of weeks. This time around I have a bit of money and a lot more gumption, so let’s see what happens.

Meanwhile, I will be posting blogs on my experience, mainly so that I don’t forget how I did things, and so that I am accountable to myself. I have a lot to do:

  1. Trademark the concept. I have done some research already and will begin by trademarking in Australia via Early Start service, then adding China and USA. No lawyers. Wish me luck!
  2. Develop a prototype – I have drawn up the idea and have contacted several manufacturers via Alibaba, who are willing to develop a prototype for about $150USD.
  3. Market research, for which I need the above prototype. My limited research with drawings has had great feedback – everyone wants this toy! They are my friends, though, so I will need to figure out other ways to understand the market potential. One of them may be via this blog.
  4. Website. I have already bought two domains and I know some basics from running this blog, but this time around I need a website with a shopping cart so it will be a challenge.
  5. Marketing. I already know some basics, but I will need to take it to a whole new level. I have already enrolled in a couple of webinars and will read a pile of books, which I will review here.

So there I go, on a pursuit of passive income that will allow me to write whatever I please. Wish me luck.

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Need a quick, FREE cover design? Try Canva templates

Hi everyone,

You may or may not remember my endless trials and tribulations over design of Shizzle, Inc and Indiot covers, which have started with concepts by professional designer, went through a number of versions and online feedback. In the end, I have designed them myself, using Photoshop and images from Shutterstock. It was a costly exercise, to say the least, so it doesn’t surprise me when authors opt for a pre-designed cover, which a number of designers sell for just $50-100. At least you can see exactly what you are getting.

But what if you don’t have even $50 to risk? Until now, your options were limited. Either try to enter a contest and win a free cover design, or opt for embarassing yourself with one of those home-made covers that become the laughing stock of the Internet. If you are lucky, beg a friend for a favor.

Turns out there’s another option! Apparently, Canva has a whole range of pre-made, FREE cover templates. I have not personally used them, but Canva is a simple, drag-and-drop, design software that’s completely online and free to use, so it’s not much of a risk to try. You can choose from literally thousands of book cover templates, add your own text and be on your way in less time than it would take to read Adobe’s terms and conditions (and believe me, you have to read them, unless you don’t care that they will keep charging your credit card with the monthly subscription fee, and charge 50% of remaining fees if you decide to cancel.)

Have fun and let us all know if you’ve given it a go.

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Mr. Hue finally comes to life

Well, sort of.  I have not sold the movie rights, at least not yet. But as promised, here’s the result of the last Crash Test Drafts event. Note that the actor had just one hour to rehearse the monologue, that’s why he has the text in his hand.

If anyone lives in Melbourne, I highly recommend connecting with Crash Test Drafts on Facebook, either as a writer, director or writer. I have learned a lot from the judges’ feedback, and surprisingly most of it from the feedback given to other writers. The one bit of advice that really stuck with me was that we as writers have to make the reader care about what’s happening to the characters, care about what they are going through, and why. Elicit a response. The most intricately plotted novel would fail with flat characters.

The next Crash Test Drama event is on 3 June, so there’s still time to submit your play or excerpt. And if you are not in Melbourne, why not start your own?

Next on my list of promises was a stand-up routine. I have not done that yet. Because I’m scared, that’s why. But I will.

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Filed under Self-publishing and marketing