Why Does Retirement Mean I Have to Get a Job?

Retirement: that time in life when you cease being employed for money and start employing your time on your personal interest. Isn’t this a fair assessment of what it means to be retired? Then why am I looking at getting a full-time job?

A few months ago, my husband and I met with our financial planner. He’d been hounding us to send him all the various retirement account information (which happens when the major bread-earner has worked for multiple companies) and we’d finally supplied everything he requested. He wanted to talk about HOW we planned to spend money once we retired.

Did I mention I’m not planning to retire from writing books? Not ever. Well, unless my mind goes and I can’t come up with decent stories to engage readers. After a lifetime of longing and dreaming of writing stories, I have no desire to stop creating in the name of “retirement.” (Based on the definition of “retirement” I supplied above, I’m not employed for MUCH money doing the writing anyway, and it IS my foremost personal interest.)


Retirement: the Why

If I’m never planning to retire, why is this a discussion?

Because Mr. Computer Engineer doesn’t want to keep commuting to his office five days every week. He has no desire to be flying off to the uttermost part of the globe to install a new network security system. (Or whatever else he does in both foreign and domestic locations without me.)

Does he think he’s going to sit around playing video games instead of earning a paycheck?

No. In fact, he doesn’t want to stop working altogether. He’d rather build things and be a handyman rather than report to an office every day.

And it would be great to take days off or work only a few hours each day…on his own schedule.

Retirement: the When

Back in the day, people retired at age 55. I know teachers who still do this.

And then they turn around and work as substitutes for the next ten to twelve years to afford their insurance premiums.

My husband plans to retire at age 67. By then, I will be old enough to receive Medicare (supposing that isn’t a government institution that gets disbanded). We’ll still need to have supplemental medical insurance, and those premiums (even for relatively healthy people) are ridiculously expensive.

In fact, that’s what most of our money will be spent on in retirement. Crazy, right?

Retirement: the What

Now, on to those personal interests we’ll be investing most of our TIME in once retire. We’d both like to:

  1. Travel
  2. Enjoy our grandchildren
  3. Bowl
  4. Be active
  5. Spend winters in the sunshine
  6. Volunteer
  7. Expand our hobbies
    1. Such as scrapbooking, hiking and biking for me
    2. and golfing, building things and exploring for him

Most of these things take more than time, they take money.

Retirement: the Where


Unfortunately, we haven’t nailed the where down. We’ve considered relocating to Central Oregon where there are more sunny days and we could lead a more active, outdoor lifestyle.

But that means further from the grandchildren. (By the time we retire, I expect we will have at least TWO.)
Now that we’ve spent WAY more money to remodel our master bathroom than we’ll ever recoup, it seems we need to stay put for at least five years. Since retirement is a decade out for Mr. Wonderful, this should work out okay.

Double bonus: we have more time to decide on the where of retirement.

Retirement: the HOW

This is the biggest question mark.

Our financial guru’s special software, says we’re on target to have the right amount of money to pay ourselves for 25 years at the rate the same program says we’ll need to travel and keep our house.

But it was a pretty close thing.

And I’m not one who likes to risk homelessness or hunger.

That’s why I applied for a full-time job as a communications assistant with the local school district. I could return to school (online at WGU costs less than $3500 and if I work fast and hard, I’d have a MAT) and take a teaching position.

But I know myself well. I plan to work for a couple years, pay off our debts, build up my Roth IRA and then withdraw back to my full-time author status. During that time, I hope I can still release a couple novellas each year and expand my back list of published titles.

If I spend money and time to get an advanced college degree, I’ll feel obligated to work longer. Will I make more money? Well, I hope so, but I don’t actually need to make a TON of money. And the more I make, the more Uncle Sam will take because he’s stingy that way.

Would I enjoy teaching? Sure. I enjoy subbing now and I don’t have to bear the brunt of work and responsibility.

But I also remember how jaded I’d become about education when I quit working in it full-time nearly six years ago. The climate in education hasn’t changed all that much. Do I really want to deal with all those politics again?

“There’ll be politics no matter where you go,” says Mr. Helpful.

Yeah, thanks. That makes this decision so much easier.

What advice to you have for me as I search for a way to ease the financial stress of retirement?

What I’m Writing Now

I’m not talking about this blog. One of the new things you’ll see around here this year is at least once per month, I’ll give you a glance behind the scenes…or more accurately between the covers…of whatever I’m writing at the moment.

Have you Seen These?

The current project is in “revision” mode. This isn’t my favorite. I think I’ve shared this meme before, but each time I see it, it reinforces my emotions in the two processes of being an author: writing and editing.

There is a series within the First Street Church Series published by Sweet Promise Press. This is a trilogy I’ve affectionately called, TEXAS HOMECOMING.

In Book One, Jaz comes home with a plan to find a post-military job and make a quick exit. Since her brother’s death, she and her father can barely occupy the same room without having harsh words.

Bailey dreams of leaving Sweet Grove, too, but when his sister returns home with plans to convert the family ranch into a resort, he knows he has to stay and help her. She’ll be his only family once their father succumbs to the cancer devouring him.

But what if they don’t inherit the ranch? What if a “blood” relative comes to claim it? Bailey seeks out a legal expert and finds his high school crush. Jaz can’t turn the handsome cowboy away, but she’s hardly prepared to start falling for him.

Even without a will, love finds a way.

 

 

 

 

The story continues in Book Two. I refer to this as “Jaz’s story” because she finally gets questions answered about her brother. Of course, a mysterious visitor makes an auspicious delivery. When Bailey sees Jaz embracing the man, he suspects the worst.

Because he knows he’s not worth loving.

Sometimes hope needs a helping hand.

I Have a Plan

When I originally concieved the idea for this series, I hoped to write THREE books outside of Sweet Grove. I was going to pull readers from the Kindle World into my own sweet romance world.

And then their were no more Kindle Worlds.

But there was Sweet Promise Press. And I enjoyed working with Melissa Storm and her crew of friendly and knowledgeable professionals. So, I decided to bring the characters back to Sweet Grove. It was supposed to be a Texas Homecoming anyway, right?

My new plan is to release the third book in the trilogy in April.

Then I’ll hire a designer to make a lovely Texas Homecoming print wrap and in the fall, I’ll release the trilogy in a print collection. All three stories (somewhere between 80,000 and 90, 000 words) together in a single paperback.

Doesn’t that sound like a fantastic idea?

Between the Covers

Now for the moment you scrolled past the rest of this to see. Here’s a scene from the second chapter of the book.

I hate to give too much away, but book three is Bailey’s story. Plenty of reviewers have commented about how static and even whiny Bailey has been in the first two books. Well, he’s not weak. He has a bad past.

And it’s about to come to Sweet Grove.

From the second chapter (this is NOT final copy and is subject to change and IMPROVEMENT) before it’s included in the final book:

Lonie Dyer was a piece of work. Jazlyn Rolle had met sweet talkers like him during her six months with Boldt & Associates.  It wasn’t the false charm that grated against her as much as the expectation to get something for nothing.

By the time he’d spoken two sentences, Jaz had known that the striking physical resemblance between Bailey and Lonie was all there was. Even without the sharp planes on his face and hardness in his eyes, Lonie wasn’t at all appealing.

“And who might you be?” That was the first sentence he’d spoken.

“This is Jaz.” Tess stepped around her as the two of them entered the parlor.

Lonie’s hand settled possessively beside a photo book of Central Texas on the edge of an antique table.

“A Sweet Grove native like my little girl?” His tone dripped honey, and Jaz figured the man could con a starving man out of his last meal.

Probably how he’d convinced the parole board a man with one armed robbery after another shouldn’t serve out a full sentence. Jaz had entered the man’s name into the county database as soon as Bailey had mentioned he was out of prison. Not that she expected him to show up in Sweet Grove. He’d burned whatever bridge he might have had to his children years ago.

“I thought you’d be in your room.” Tess gazed at him with expectation.

That’s when Jaz saw herself in her friend’s posture. Tess wanted his approval. Since she’d always yearned for Daddy love, Jaz knew the feeling exactly. But her friend missed the calculating way Lonie’s eyes narrowed, and Jaz knew Tess was heading for heartache.

Jaz stepped closer. Lonie’s gaze flashed to her and roamed lasciviously down her body.

The very same thing had happened so many times during her six years in the army that Jaz was surprised when she glanced down at herself. The uniform she expected to see was only loose boyfriend denim and a form-fitting sweatshirt. By the way the lust filled the older man’s gaze, it should have been something much more revealing.

“I’m Bailey’s girlfriend, and he’s on his way here.”

Lonie’s lips thinned into a reptilian smile. “Boy couldn’t wait to see me.” His dry chuckle sent a hoard of shivers down Jaz’s spine.

“Tess and I are going to hang out until he gets here.” Jaz turned Tess toward the doorway. “Let’s get some sweet tea. What’s on the menu for breakfast?”

She forced her backbone to steel as she marched her friend back to the kitchen. Tess responded about breakfast, but Jaz didn’t pay attention. Now that she’d met the man and seen the open desire in Tess’s eyes, she realized Bailey hadn’t been overreacting to send her to the ranch.

Jaz blocked the doorway into the kitchen by leaning on the side of the bar. Lonie pulled up a stool like he belonged there.

“Sweet tea?” Tess paused to glance over her shoulder at Lonie while pulling glasses from the cupboard.

“I never did sweeten to it.”

Once Tess turned away, Lonie shifted a leer to Jaz. She glared, unblinking. Maybe it would be smarter to pretend to fall for his slimy charm, but she couldn’t do it. Men like Lonie Dyer had too much power over women, and Jaz refused to be another conquest for him, even if it was only in his own mind.

Tess handed her a glass of tea and sipped hers. “What are your plans?” She set her glass down. “Did you want something else to drink?”

This wasn’t part of her normal B&B hostess routine, and Jaz wanted to snap at Lonie to leave the kitchen, since it wasn’t generally open to guests. But Tess’s hopeful expression killed the protest before it reached her lips.

“A shot of Jim Beam would be nice.” Lonie chuckled again, this time the sound more authentic, although it still grated on Jaz.

“How about a coke? I have Sprite or cola.”

Lonie shrugged. “Don’t go to any trouble for me, darlin’.”

As if she hadn’t already by loaning him a rent-free room. The front door opened and closed, and footsteps plodded toward the dining room. Jaz’s heart leapt, but Bailey would use the kitchen entrance, so it must be Tess’ other guest.

“That’s Mr. Gary.” Tess brushed past Jaz and into the hallway.

Lonie arched a scraggly eyebrow at her and smirked. “How long you been goin’ down on my boy?”

Jaz clenched her fist. “He’s not your boy any more than Tess is your darlin’.” She mimicked his syrupy drawl of the endearment.

What do you think? Are you ready to read more?

The Push to Write Nonfiction

In August, Forbes ran an article headlining the fact that traditional publishers sold more nonfiction than fiction. For an author, something like that might make you wonder, “Am I writing the right thing?”

When most people think about writing a book, they either think of writing the Great American Novel or a self-help book about something they know how to do well.

According to the statistics, 2013 was the last year that adult fiction made publishers more money than nonfiction. Go figure.

So I should be writing nonfiction.


Would it surprise you to know I have two nonfiction titles published?

I do. Both of them are Bible studies.

Would it shock you to know that the last writer’s conference I attended I was pitching a Christian living book (yes, nonfiction)?

No one was buying. Whereas every fiction book I’ve pitched at conferences has inspired plenty of upfront interest.
It was a shocking experience for me. In retrospect, I chalk it up to not knowing the correct way to pitch nonfiction. I needed to have more data, and a better hook.

Still, the experience left behind a slimy residue that makes me leery of moving forward on that nonfiction book.
Except, I’m writing another Bible study even now. I plan to release it this summer.

The abandoned proposal for the Christian living book? It’s also on the schedule for resurrection in 2019.

The Bible Study

Since publishing my second Bible study, I’ve been bombarded with ideas for another study. A dozen new ideas shined forth each time I sat down to brainstorm.

But none of them stuck.

For a couple weeks, I was sure WHAT IS TRUTH? Would win my interest.

I’m not going to push ahead on writing a Bible study without complete surety that God wants me to write it. To me that means the ideas for chapters pour out. A tone comes to mind and I can write a summary of each chapter using it.

And that didn’t happen.

Time and again I found cool ideas but their trails ran cold before a solid outline could be hammered out.

Until FEED YOUR FAITH popped up as I decided what to teach at the church ladies’ retreat in October. I gave them my chapter on lettuce (make that “Let us” from the Book of Hebrews) and the lesson wrote itself.

The chapter outline took a little longer, but before too long, it came forth. Now, half the chapters are written.

One thing I decided to do since my second study book is so slender is to have a devotional section. In this case, I crafted three days of devotional readings that will complement each lesson. AND I drafted a sample weekly schedule so each chapter can be considered during the entire week of the study.

Through the Valley of Shadows

The Christian living book has a darker message. It chronicles my own journey through grief. It’s different from any other book I’ve seen on the market in that it includes Bible exposition in every chapter.

Truthfully, in the throes of grief, I wouldn’t have been able to read this book. It’s NOT for people grieving at the moment.

Instead, it’s for people who are in the anticipatory stage. They have a terminally ill loved one. Or perhaps they work in ministry and feel inept when approached by a grieving widow or parent or spouse.

I’ve been there. And I’ve been the one grieving.

This book could be an important resource.

But it won’t be if I don’t write it.

I’d still like to try to get it traditionally published. This means I need to craft an amazing proposal that will snare my top choice agent.

In the end, I think I’ll self-publish it if I can’t get a traditional contract. The content is too important to stay on my hard drive just because I can’t “sell it” to an agent.

After all, I’m NOT a salesperson. I’m an author.

It wouldn’t be very broad-minded of me to ignore the potential nonfiction book market when I have no shortage of ideas for these types of books.

A shortage on expertise?

Well, that’s debatable. Maybe Forbes will research the dilemma and get back to me with the push I need to write that nonfiction book.

Writing Romantic Comedy

Writing romance wasn’t my calling. I swear it. But that’s what most of my published books are: romance.

Sweet romance paved the way for me. Now most of my published titles are Christian romance. I certainly wouldn’t consider my dream to write romantic comedy.

Not because I’m not funny. I think I’m funny. But my children roll their eyes at my jokes. And yet I’ve written a romantic comedy…and it’s coming your way soon.

I must be crazy. Who do I think I am to write a genre with such high expectations?

First Pick

I’m a first round draft pick.

What? When?

Sweet Promise Press opens submissions for all their series. Authors submit pages (mine were actually from LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL, which is in NO WAY funny), and the series lead author and publisher read them. They make their “top picks” list for each series (and an author can only submit to ONE series at a time).

When the picks for MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKER were announced, I was chosen first.

I danced. I glowed. It was a moment of satisfaction for me.

And then reality set in.

Smiles instead of Tears

In nearly every book I write, there is one tear-jerking scene.

Not because a dog dies. Or a person dies. Usually, it’s a dark soul moment for one of my characters. They come face-to-face with the truth…and it’s heart-wrenching.

At least it is for me when I write it.

Reviewers have said I address “gritty” subjects, and my plots are life-like.

Yes, I want my characters to BE real to the readers. I want total immersion in my story world.

And when I deliver the happy ending, I hope readers walk away feeling empowered, as if they can slay the dragons in their lives.

That doesn’t sound like a ton of laughs.


Although I try to have some catchy dialogue, and scenes of irony are my favorite.

I’ve given Meredith an interesting quirk. She struggles with self-image (something I know about first-hand) and feeling like a failure. As a grandmother, she’s thrown into the “baseball mothers” mob and found to be a misfit.

One early reader said those moments made her sad. Another said they resounded with authenticity. Neither one of them were laughing.

So…I might be a little worried that I didn’t pull off the comedic voice.

Another “Mature” Romance

My shero in MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER is 45. Which makes her younger than me, and I’m NOT a senior citizen (but I guess I am mature…some days anyway). Don’t you have to be at least 55 before you’re considered a “senior”?

And still, I have reviewers saying they appreciated having “more mature” couples in the First Street Church romance series. Well, guess what? The series lead for MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS was excited about the “silver fox” in my story.

That would be Donavan. He’s all of 50, but like my own husband, his hair turned gray early, so he does have silver hair. And, somehow, he has a granddaughter the same age as my 45-year-old Mimi.

Both of them have been married before. Neither wants to do it again, but for completely opposite reasons. That’s enough to add conflict when they find themselves attracted to each other.

And, yes, Aunt B, we still feel attraction at 50. We might be sweating for no apparent reason, but we can still get butterflies when our handsome man gives us a smoldering glance.

Have you pre-ordered the entire set? You can grab all six of these stories for less than $12. Best of all, you’ll get all of them the day the first one releases.

Do you read romantic comedies? Who’s your favorite author in that genre? Or maybe you can list your favorite romcom movie instead.

A Fun Look into Match-Making

No, this is not an episode of HOW IT’S MADE. I’m talking about romantic matchmaking…not the manufacture of match sticks. Although both of them can lead to fire.

A matchmaker is a trouble maker.

Okay, that’s not the dictionary definition. But if you’ve ever been subjected to matchmaking by someone, you know first-hand that it can be a painful experience. Maybe not root canal or tonsillectomy quality agony but close.

A new series from my publisher looks at kids of single parents as the meddlesome matchmakers.

It’s supposed to be a series of romantic comedies. Although I’m the first to agree I’m hysterically humorous, I tend to write books with a serious tone.

I hope my readers won’t be disappointed by my foray into this new genre. Based on the experience, it’s unlikely I’ll continue to write in it. It’s not like I don’t have tons of other things to write (like I talked about here.)

 

THE LINE-UP

Indie authors with huge followings and tons of experience will write in this series. Although I’ve only read ONE of the actual stories, I know you won’t be disappointed in the quality of the writing. (UPDATE: I have actually read THREE of the stories plus my own, and I’m certain you’ll be thrilled to invest in the entire series.)

Here’s the Mommy’s Little Matchmakers line-up:

  1. Mommy Loves the Principal by Shenae Johnson
  2. Mommy Loves the Military Man by Allie Kincaid
  3. Mommy Loves the IT Guy by Joanne Dannon
  4. Mommy Loves the Rockstar by Janae Ronniesha
  5. Mommy Loves the Doggy Doctor by Deb Kastner

And last but not least…
MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER


Okay, first of all. There’s a titling formula for this series. I’m sure you noticed it.

My book is not about the actual mommy. In my book, the grandmother is taking care of the mischievous little matchmaker for a year. A more appropriate title would be MIMI LOVES THE BANKER.

So…you’ve been warned.

The Blurb

Neither was banking on love…but their granddaughters have different plans.

She was abandoned by her husband. He buried his true love. Can they find a second chance at happiness?

In a new town, filling her daughter’s shoes as a stand-in mommy, struggling entrepreneur Meredith Williams longs to prove her ex-husband wrong and make a go of her lotion-making business. But when he constantly defaults on his alimony, she approaches the local bank for a small business loan. She’s about to find something so much better.

Tightened lending policies at Bank of Virginia force Donavan Anders to reject Meri’s loan application, killing any chance he can act on his interest in the enterprising woman, until he realizes their granddaughters play on the same T-ball team. Maybe he can make up for bank policies and score a date at the same time.

When bullies make T-ball difficult for their granddaughters, it’s up to the grandparents to step up their game. While they’re working together on that, their matchmaking granddaughters connive their way into one sleepover and two lunch dates. Lots of girlish giggles might lead to a happily-ever-after…if only those stubborn grandparents will get a clue.

I LOVE THIS STORY

This story was tons of fun to write. Since I’ll be a first-time grandma a few weeks after this book releases into the wild, it was fun to imagine myself in Meredith Williams’s shoes.

We have other things in common too: 1) We’re entrepreneurs; 2) Dads who left; 3) Love of baseball and 4) Disgust for bullies.

While I’m happily married, it’s always great fun to imagine a romance for people near my age. Since Meri hadn’t really experienced all the feels of falling in love before, I wanted her to have lots of tingles and ah-ha moments.

Who better to give them to her than a man who HAD been head over heels before. A man who felt certain he’d spend the rest of his life alone because he’d already had his “one true love.”

Debunking ideas like this are one of the best things about being a fiction writer.

GRAB THE SERIES

If you’re a fan of this genre or you think the premise of kids as matchmakers is intriguing, you can grab the entire six-book set for 35 percent off the price of purchasing the titles individually.

Better yet, you will get ALL SIX STORIES on the day the first story releases. While everyone who doesn’t order the entire set is twiddling their thumbs for a month to read MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER, you’ll have it on your ereader on March 1.

Doesn’t that sound awesome?

Of course it does. Order your set now. Read one and read them all before everyone else.

After hearing about this book, are you excited to read it? Do you like a series written by different authors? Or do you prefer to stay with the same characters for a series?

My New Gig and a What the Heck? Moment

I have a new gig. The funniest part: that’s the ACTUAL name of it.

If you’re looking for someone to write your evil synopsis or proofread your story before you submit it, check me out on Fiverr. I have affordable rates.

Really. If you have a 100,000-word novel, I would proofread it for $550. That’s as much as half the rate of other professional editors.

Not that I have tons of time for proofreading novels. But I’m willing to make the time.

Why have I taken on another gig when I have so many writing projects under contract and in process?

There’s This Thing Called Retirement

My husband wants to retire. I talk a bit about some of our plans here.

I don’t think I’ll stop writing until I can’t do it anymore. Maybe my brain will turn to mush. Or arthritis will cripple my fingers. It’s possible the story ideas will stop plaguing me (but that’s hard to imagine).

However, my husband wants to stop the daily commute. He’d like to take on a new hobby or two. And both of us want to travel across the United States, through every state. Not just to say we have, but to see this country we’ve been born and raised to call home.

But all that takes money.

So before my husband can retire, we need to pay everything off. Plus, there’s the purchase of an RV that needs to take place. Don’t get me started on that.

To help in this process of paying down and saving for the future, I feel compelled to earn more money.

What About ALL Those Books


Writing isn’t a lucrative career. Not even for mid-list authors.

And I’m still WAY down the list.

With every book I release, I build a base. My earning potential increases. But I still don’t make as much with my writing as I can subbing only a couple days every month.

If I got a full-time job, I’d make even more. I’d be able to save my annual maximum in my Roth IRA with a couple paychecks and use the rest of the money to pay down my car loan and our mortgage. Then save it for a down payment on the RV.

What would probably happen then is that my husband would want to retire earlier. But with the whole medical insurance issue, that’s probably not going to happen.

Not that we spend much on medical expenses. But that will change as we get older. After all, old things break down. They need more maintenance.

Medical costs are crazy.

Which Led Me to Fiverr

Since the cover designer I usually work with has been swamped with writing contracts (good for her), I was back on Fiverr to find someone to design the logo and covers I need for the Reflections series.

As I was crafting my request for bids, I decided to just toss up a gig or two of my own. What’s the worst that would happen? No one would hire me and I’d be out an hour’s worth of work.

A week later, I got this lovely email from Fiverr:


They cancelled my proofreading gig because I’d mentioned proofreading college essays (I guess).

So…is it wrong to get your essays proofread by someone?

I ask this because I proofread many of my sons’ essays for college. I did NOT rewrite them. I did not change them. I proofed them for spelling, usage and grammar errors.

Yes, if there were flaws in reasoning, I mentioned that, but I didn’t rewrite anything. It was up to THEM to make even the changes I suggested. They still had to do the work.
Was it UNETHICAL for my—a professional author—to proofread my sons’ college essays?

I’d love to have a discussion about this. What do you think?

I think it’s a little crazy that Fiverr banned my gig because I mentioned proofreading essays. But perhaps they’ve had some sort of legal action brought against them in the past for soliciting students.

Changing Things Up Right Here

Change is a four-letter word in some people’s vocabulary. But not mine. You know this because 2018 was a year of transformation for me.

After I suffered unexpected and unwanted changes in 2017, I decided to submit. Become the caterpillar, I thought, and let the Creator make me into a glorious butterfly.

Or not so much.


I’m a work in progress.

Thus, the year of building for 2019.

But that sounds boring. And I’m a wordsmith, so I found a synonym I could embrace.


Since my brand has been transforming and I’m venturing into new genres, I figured I might as well move away from the traditional blogs, too.

For the three of you reading this (Hi, sis. Hi, cuz. Hi, Aunt B.) Whoops! Didn’t mean to leave out the one reader not related to me. A BIG hello to Deborah!


For the FOUR of you reading this, that means I’m not going to be posting my witty repartee about whatever strikes my fancy. Try not to cry. I know you’re seriously bummed.

Instead, starting in April, I’ll be posting excerpts from whatever I’m writing.

In August, I’m going to transition into a weekly study format. I’ll use a few chapters from FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD. Then I’ll take that book off of Amazon so that I can add content to it.

IF I get the participation I’m looking for from the website and my Facebook Group, I’ll include some quotes from YOU in the new and improved book. I’ll also be adding a devotional section divided by the topic of the chapters. Devotionals for Mentors and Devotionals for Teachers (those are two of my favorite chapters in the book).

Once I feel happy with the new content, I’ll send it out to beta readers. Hopefully, I’ll have it back up and for sale in early 2020. But no dates yet.

So…my blog will become a place for Christian living nonfiction content. I’m hoping this will help me as I search for an agent for the book I’m writing about journeying through grief. (There might be some modified content from this book here, too).

What do you think? Will you keep reading the blog?

Under Construction: Building an Audience

Welcome to Sharon Hughson, author under construction!


This is the year. In 2019, I’m going to build an audience of readers.

According to marketing gurus, an author needs one thousand dedicated readers to have a successful book launch. And I’m launching (at least) four new books in 2019.

Thanks to a few free and paid promotions using my third First Street Church romance, LOVE’S LINGERING DOUBTS, I’ve built my scrawny newsletter list to nearly 800 subscribers.

Only half of those open the stuff I send them. I’m betting at least 30 percent of those email addresses are to boxes that are never checked.

So the question becomes HOW do I build an audience?

STEP ONE: FIND MY TRIBE


Author in search of her first 1,000 readers isn’t a headline that drives traffic to my social media sites.

And…which social media site will be the best for interacting with my tribe (once I find them)?

Yeah, I have more questions than answers about the process of finding my tribe. But, I’m working on it.

Here’s what I hope will happen:

  • I gave away more than 500 copies of LOVE’S LINGERING DOUBTS. I hope a large percentage of the people who grabbed those ebooks will read (and review) this novella. More importantly, I hope they fall in love with Jaz and Bailey and want to read the rest of their story. (Spoiler: there will be a happy ending.)
  • Links at the back of the book will connect these readers to my other fiction. They will click through and read them all.

There’s also information about joining my newsletter and the Facebook Group. They will be so excited to get the next installment of Texas Homecoming that they’ll join it all! (Yes, I’m dreaming all sorts of crazy here.)

STEP TWO: INTERACT WITH THE TRIBE


It’s no secret that I’m an introvert. I would rather sit in my lovely, light-filled office playing across the pages with my imaginary friends. Seriously, even when I create problems for those guys they love me anyway.
Because I always give them a happily-ever-after.

Wouldn’t it be great if life guaranteed that? (Yeah, sorry. I’m totally NOT able to deliver that for you.)
But I enjoy chatting with people through social media or email. I’m even trying to plan some in-person events. To warm up for that, I (sometimes) do a weekly live video on Facebook.

There are twenty-five people in my Friends of Author group. Pathetic. I know. Don’t rub it in.

I’m sharing the group every chance I get, but still not getting much traction.

One thing I always share in this group is book recommendations and freebies of books I’ve read and enjoyed.

Once I get a few members who interact regularly, I’ll start some giveaways. I also want to have read-alongs of my new books (and other titles we might agree on).

This isn’t me reading the book aloud to you. No, it’s all of us agreeing to read a certain amount (three chapters) and then hang out in the group at a certain time to talk about what we’ve read.

Good times, right? Who doesn’t love talking about books?

Mid-year or so, I’ll be using a special feature in the group to share one of the study books I wrote with you. For free. For your input on HOW I could turn it into an online course.

Not that I want to teach online courses, but I do want to find an audience for my study books (since I’m writing the third one now and hope to release it in June).

STEP THREE: EXPAND MY REACH

Actual expression on my face while considering this step

Yeah, I’m totally clueless about how to do this.

I’ll participate in a few more Book Funnel promotions and probably pay for another promotion with LitRing to find new readers and subscribers. When I release my paperback omnibus of the TEXAS HOMECOMING series (you can help me title it in the Facebook Group), I’ll buy an advertisement on Amazon and cross my fingers.

But the best way for me to reach new readers is if my “1000 readers” share my books with all their family and friends.

Yes, friends, word of mouth is the BEST way to expand my audience.

So this is me asking you to spread the word. Share the memes I post on social media. Talk about my books. And review them on Amazon and Goodreads.

What other tips do you have to help my Under Construction Audience?

An Author’s Writing Resolutions

Another new year is here, and millions of people have made resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, save money or eat more healthily. Statistics say that by mid-February, a large percentage of those resolutions will already be broken.

As an author, what sort of resolutions should I make for the new year?

Goals, Not Resolutions

First off, I don’t make resolutions. Not personal ones and definitely not ones for my writing career.

I learned the hard way that breaking resolutions is easier than keeping them.

Does this mean I let a “new” opportunity to make changes leave me in the dust? Nope. I decided to set goals instead.

You’re wondering, “What’s the big difference?”

The difference is in mindset and planning.

Goals are written down (or should be if you’re serious about meeting them). More intentional thought goes into forming goals because we WANT to meet them.

No one wants to say, “I set these goals, but I didn’t reach them.” It sounds like failure and it feels like failure.

Failure is no fun.

Some writers make a resolution to:

  1. write every day
  2. finish their novel,
  3. submit their novel

or other reasonable sounding things.

But do they have a plan?

If their GOAL is to write every day, they might get out their appointment calendar and block out time each day for writing. Since they want to meet that goal, they form a plan to do it.

Resolutions are generally vague and abstract which is why they’re hard to keep but simple to break.

Goals need to be finite and measurable.

Maybe an author is going to finish a novel. They need to pull out their calendar and block out time to work on the novel. Maybe they’ll do a little math to figure out how many words they’re going to write so they can set a FINISH LINE.

Who wants to run a race when they don’t know where it ends?

Not me. I don’t like running that much.

So, how do I meet my goals?

Tracking My Baby Steps

I’d love to say that I have met every goal on time with finesse and verve. But that would be false.

However, in the past five years since I’ve being “doing this writing thing for real,” I’ve learned what helps me meet goals. And what doesn’t work for me.

First, I lay out a plan. It includes a step-by-step list of what it will take to meet my goal. And I track the markers I meet along the way.

This is like watching the mile posts go by on that run I mentioned earlier. It lets me know I’m making progress, and it reminds me that there is an end in sight.

I also like to reward myself for meeting these markers. It’s an incentive plan, which is something writers probably need more than the average non-author.

Why? Because you get a regular paycheck from your job (one that probably meets your expenses) but many authors get sporadic and often anemic paydays. Not that I’m complaining. I write for the joy not the money.

But it’s human nature to produce better results when an incentive is involved.

For example:

I know I can write 1,000 words per hour once I get in the groove. I’ve been known to write up to 1,700 in an inspired hour dedicated solely to writing. I give myself a word-count goal every day I write. Then I plan the “reward” for when I finish. It might be, “You get to read that awesome fantasy novel you checked out from the library.” Or it could be, “You can sit outside in the sun.” It varies depending on WHAT I WANT THE MOST that day.

I’ve also started keeping checklists on a free site called Workflowy. You can mark things off your lists there (which feels pretty amazing) and you can lay out every step in the writing process. Such as first draft, rewrite, first edits, submission deadlines, editing deadlines and publication dates.

This same strategy works for me if my goal is to lose (or maintain) weight or save money for a vacation.

Why not try these simple steps for your “resolutions”:

  1. Make the plan.
  2. Work the plan.
  3. Reward yourself for the baby steps along the way.

What about you? What resolutions have you made for 2019? What plans do you have in place to help you KEEP those “best intentions”?

 

**This post first appeared on the Roane Publishing blog in February 2018. In honor of that wonderful small independent publisher, I’m reposting it here. Share the love. Spread the word.

Under Construction: Crossing Genre Boundaries

This year is a construction zone in the world of Sharon Hughson the author.


You know, the multi-genre author who had FIFTEEN titles in various genres published until October 1, 2018. What genres? There was sweet romance, fantasy romance, young adult fantasy, historical fiction, Bible studies and a devotional as well as Christian romance.

Oh, so she’s basically a romance writer.

Except reviewers will say things like, “There needs to be more romance.” Or “Her stories explore in some gritty issues.”

Well…life.

Not that I want my fiction to read like a soap opera. Or a crazy police scanner.

I am not a drama llama.

But I write stories for real people about people with real problems. And even though I give them a happy ending (because that’s what fiction should ALWAYS promise as a pay off), they fight their personal demons and work through real-to-the-world problems along the way.

Yes, there will be cancer diagnoses and assaults and family tension and runaways and foster families. Maybe these aren’t your problems, but I hope they’ll help you understand those who face those issues. Our world could use a little more compassion.

When I entered the world of Christian romance, I hoped to interest my sweet romance readers in crossing over to read the Christian. After all, it’s not preachy or overtly religious because…no thanks.

I invested tons of time and effort in the Christian romances (there are FIVE of those babies in the First Street Church World), so I hoped THOSE readers would follow me into the sweet romance genre.
Then all my sweet romances disappeared overnight. (This is old news.)

So I was left with my Christian romances, the young adult fantasy short story (a biblical retelling in a dark, futuristic setting), two Bible studies and my indie title.

Enter the curse of the Muse! Two new stories that would work as a series with my indie title (REFLECTIONS FROM A PONDERING HEART) would not leave me alone.

This happened while I was writing the first drafts of the two Christian romances I’m adding to the First Street Church world in 2019. I expect to write two more books for that series in 2020, and then I’ll either be done with that, or have fans clamoring for MORE…and I’ll be happy to oblige them because I have tons of story ideas.

The thing about the indie title is that it’s a biblical fictionalization. It’s a first-person account from the perspective of Mary the mother of Jesus. I promoted it all December long because…Mary has a heart for Christmas. She was a major participant in that first Christmas after all.

Since my Muse will not give up on the idea for this series, I’m writing it. I’m working on completing the first draft of the first two books between now and the time MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER releases in April.


Later this year, I’ll be offering glimpses into these books and trying to tempt you to sign up for my Advance Reader Team (more on that later).

Recently, I surveyed my newsletter subscribers. About ten percent of them responded, and of those, only about ten percent said they would NOT be willing to try the biblical fictionalizations I described. So if that percentage carries true, I might have an audience for my new genre experiment. YES!

Do you read romance? Would you try a biblical fictionalization written by a romance writer you loved? Or is that too much of a stretch for your reading preferences?