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Business Plan 2021

It looks like that time again. I try to prepare a business plan for my writing career every January. These have been some of my most popular posts over the years, but that isn’t why I write them. I feel like everything is better with a little planning.

I’m sure this is no surprise, since I’ve posted both here and at Story Empire about my storyboarding method for plotting out my stories.

Mostly, I write these to keep myself honest. I refer back to them throughout the year to see how I’m doing. Let’s dive into it.

A few years ago, I decided my best promotional move was to write my next book. I’ve gotten discouraged with advertising that fails to produce, social media that sucks time, but doesn’t seem to do much else, so I write.

Honestly, it seems to be working. I can’t explain it exactly, but if someone were to pull up my Amazon page, it appears that I’m somewhat seasoned and in it for the long haul. Perhaps people are more willing to take a chance on me more than someone who only has one book. No idea, but it makes some sense.

It’s not that readers pick up everything I write. If someone likes paranormal tales, I have a few. Same thing for science fiction and fantasy. Some are like me and read all those genres, but I can appeal to the specialists now, too.

For the last two years, I’ve published three books per year. It’s kind of a grueling pace, but it was worth it.

This year, my goal is two publications. I want to complete my Lanternfish trilogy and get it out the door. I’ve already started on the final volume, but it’s been slow going. Too many holidays and not enough quality time.

The other book I’m working on is a continuation of The Hat series. Since this is an ongoing series, I don’t feel as much pressure as I do with Lanternfish. I have a couple of storyboards for volumes beyond the one I’m writing, and a few solid ideas with notes started.

Last year, a couple of things changed for me, and forced me to make a decision. My cover art and Lisa Burton promotional pieces took much longer than I was used to. I kind of overwhelmed my critique group, too. My choices were to start another project while I waited to publish the completed ones, or take a break. I took a break.

I know this doesn’t seem like me, but I needed it and I imagine my critique partners appreciated the few months off, too. I didn’t exactly kick back during this time. I spent it getting ready for two extensive blog tours. I make all my promo stops unique, so writing ahead was a good idea.

Timing of publications continues to vex me. I would like to hit one right before school lets out in the Spring, and the other around Halloween sometime. I’m not sure I’ve ever hit the Springtime target before, but have been moderately successful in the Fall.

By publishing two books instead of three, maybe that will simplify a few things. Maybe not, because Grinders in late Winter went off without a hitch.

I intend to use any spare time I have drafting something new. I don’t know what that will be yet, but I could go on the African adventure, maybe the post apocalyptic piece that’s set in the swamp, or something set in outer space. That last one seems to want to be a trilogy again.

The idea of another trilogy kind of drags me down, and excites me at the same time. For one thing, I could do things differently this time. I could hold the entire thing back while I finish it, then go for quicker releases after it’s finished. This would make it my side project for a couple of years.

Lanternfish was only intended to be a stand-alone story. Comments and feedback convinced me to turn it into a trilogy. With one already on Amazon, the others have to come along as they can.

I need to make some decisions on how to promote Wreck of the Lanternfish. I could promote the book, the whole series, or a bit of both. I could go on two different blog tours; one for the book, then months later for the whole trilogy.

I might be able to use some discount days or free days to promote with, too. James is clearly the main character, but Serang has become a co-main character along the way. Her origin story has never been on sale and walks readers into the trilogy. I could do something similar with Voyage of the Lanternfish, or both.

Promotion is like dowsing to me. I’m open to suggestions here, so don’t be afraid to speak up.

Last year, my blogging goal was to post two to three times per week. This came after years of posting four times per week, because Lisa Burton Radio was always on Thursdays. With retirement of Lisa’s show, it should have been easy to meet. I failed completely.

This is the one thing I will blame on Covid. Many of my posts are a slice of life. With all the lockdowns, working from home, and all the rest, there wasn’t much life to share. I’ve been lucky to make a weekend post for the last few months. I don’t know if this will change, so I’m not setting a goal here. I will keep updating Entertaining Stories, and meet my Story Empire assignments. Anything beyond that will have to be an extra.

Then there is social media. During my summer break, I kind of bailed on it. It never really has produced anything for me, and I spent some time changing out my pinned tweets and all the rest. I changed it almost weekly when I promoted the Experimental Notebooks. My blog automatically feeds to most of them, and I still share all of your things when I can. I just stopped actively participating.

Prior to my break, I used to go through my feed and retweet all of your posts, share the bigger things on Facebook, etc. Now it’s mostly posts from your blogs.

Older rules were that we had to be active on social media, because that’s where readers find us. It made perfect sense, but I never really saw it function in real-time. Interest in blogs seems to be slowing down, too, but it’s about all I have left. It also seems to be the only thing that will sell books from time to time, so I’m all-in here.

My goals aren’t as severe this year. Two publications that I already have partial manuscripts for. Keep the blogs up, and dabble in social media. Spend any spare time drafting something new.

Weigh in today. Teach me your promotional tricks. Do you prepare a business plan every year, or is that just me?

They say all posts perform better with a picture, so here you go. Frankie likes to help Mom make the bed, particularly when the bedding is warm from the dryer.

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Time for some changes

There hasn’t been anything too interesting going on around here lately. With all the Covid concerns, we work, then we stay home on weekends. It’s been fairly boring, to tell you the truth. Some of this isn’t likely to change any time soon.

We watched a few Halloween movies yesterday, but there wasn’t anything all that exciting. Honestly, there’s just been too damned much television this year. After saying that, I did enjoy the new episode of The Mandalorian.

Old What’s Her Face decided we weren’t going to give out Halloween candy. So, of course, she ran to the store at the last minute, bought a huge bag of candy, and welcomed kids anyway. We didn’t get too many, but we wore masks.

All of my touring is over for 2020. (It’s okay to cheer or breathe a sigh of relief. I feel the same way to a degree.) I like interacting with everyone on blog tours, but it’s a lot of work to come up with unique posts and to keep checking them for days after the posting day. I hope I interacted with everyone who commented, or at least liked the comment if it was directed toward my hosts.

I love all of my hosts. There were many of them over the course of three publications this year. I tried to give some of you a rest and not hit you for every book. Some wanted me to show up anyway. Hopefully, everyone is happy. Remember, I’m here for you whenever I can return the favors.

I really want to start drafting new materials. That’s my happy place. I’m being a little resistant, because I could use a breather. Also, I don’t know that I need three releases next year.

First priority is going to be getting the Lanternfish trilogy wrapped up. Then I want another story for Lizzie and the hat. Anything after that will be gravy. Even if it only comes to a partial draft, that works too.

Beyond that, welcome to Standard Time for those places who still change. Idaho floated a bill to leave us on Standard Time year round, but it failed last year. I have a hunch it will be back. The time changes never bothered me. My body just knows when it’s time, and it feels right today.

They say all blog posts perform better with a picture, so here’s one of Otto rocking out.

Stay safe everyone. Blogging is socially distant, so it’s okay to leave comments.

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A very busy flex day

Today is my flex day, and it started out in a way I’m not a fan of. I had to get a hole drilled in my head. I probably need more holes, but this one involved filling a tooth the dentist had been watching for a decade. He also removed an old filling, replaced it, and fixed a chipped tooth I’ve had for about four years. None of that was a real problem.

Deep cleaning was a problem and hurt like hell. Then the lady only did one side, as if I’ll ever go back and do the other side. She doesn’t know me very well. Old What’s Her Face pointed out that I’ve never been in for tooth cleaning in the 30 plus years we’ve been together. I don’t see the point. In my case, there is no gum decay and no bone loss. I’m not saying it isn’t a valid procedure, but I just don’t seem to require it.

I wrote and sent out the last two posts for my Lanternfish tour. I planned on ending it in August, but it will carry into the first week of September.

I managed to play two rounds of pumpkin ball today. One at mid-day and one after supper. They’re still crazy about these things.

Tonight, I paid the invoice for formatting The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. This one is coming in October, and makes for a good Halloween themed push for me. October has always been good to me, so hoping I can keep some of that magic flowing.

Then I got an email that said Murder They Wrote is now available in the book store. I knew this was coming, but it looks like I’ll be doing promo into September this year. It could have been worse. At least it doesn’t overlap Lanternfish and Mrs. Molony. It will fit right in the middle.

Seven great authors came together to produce this anthology, and I’m proud to be included. That image up above is a purchase link if you want to get in early.

I was invited because they wanted a science fiction author involved. This posed kind of a conundrum, because I was right in the middle of drafting both Mrs. Molony and HMS Lanternfish. I actually had a character who could stand in perfectly.

Jason Fogg has been with me since my trunk novel days. He first appeared in public as a short story character, earned a second short in my second collection, then became a player in the novel Viral Blues.

Jason returns to short stories in Murder They Wrote. He also returns to his first person POV style. I don’t want to say too much here, because I have promo posts to write. This is just a first strike as part of my busy flex day.

I actually took vacation time tomorrow. I anticipated sore gums and wanted a day to kick back, maybe do some reading. Old What’s Her Face struck like a viper and now I have to take Frankie in for one of her vaccinations.

Sounds cute right? Dad and his girl going to the vet for something that isn’t an emergency. In reality it’s more like a cage match. She doesn’t like her harness. Doesn’t like riding in the car, and doesn’t like going to the vet.

Catch you guys later. I might be able to write some Jason Fogg promo posts before I go to bed tonight.

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Saturday goings on

I bounced around a lot today. I wrote one blog tour post, and need one more. My schedule is all taken care of next week, but I want to get ahead of the following one. If I can get one more written, then I will ask a couple of folks about their availability.

Honestly, doing it this way is less stressful than trying to pre-write everything. A couple of stops per week is also easier to keep up with. I enjoy chatting with everyone along the way and it isn’t like trying to cover too many bases at once.

I pulled down my portable generators and am running them in the garage. They haven’t been started for a long time and it’s good for them. It’s also better than learning in the field if I’m not going to have air conditioning in the camper. Bulldog lives are at stake here. One of them only seems to work if I use the choke. That’s not a good sign. I’m thinking maybe a bit of STP or something might help. Open to suggestions if you have a trick.

Speaking of bulldogs, it’s pumpkin ball season again. This has always been Otto’s favorite toy of all time. They seem cheaper this year than previous years. The old ones used to have a flasher in them and were made from a more durable plastic. They’d squeak and flash as he played with them.

Here’s a photo of him with one of the older kinds.

He and Frankie went ballistic when they came out of the bag today. They were both bouncing off the walls. We’ll probably play with them again after supper. It appears she likes pumpkin ball too.

Can pumpkin beer season be far off?

I have all my corny graphics inserted into The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. I’m one title page and some Copyright data away from sending it to my formatter. Shooting for an October 1st release on this one.

Then I spent some time with the Muse. For some reason she’s sent me some great ideas for a Space Opera. I don’t think I write them particularly well, but I’m keeping notes at this stage. I’ve matured over the years and it might be time to try it again. It hasn’t earned a storyboard yet, but it has me thinking.

I already have a bunch of storyboards I can start writing on when winter rolls around. Sometimes a board takes years to mature, and this concept could be one of those.

Hope all of you are having a good weekend. Tell me what you’re up to, and stay safe.

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Today’s Office

It was supposed to be a lovely post. A photo of my campsite in the ponderosa pines with an undergrowth of blueberry bushes. Then there was the mule deer doe that hangs around the edges of the campground. However, I’m down to a cellular hotspot with only two bars of service. I spent two hours trying to get the photos included, but no bueno. In fact, I have my doubts whether this text only post will upload, so here goes nothing.

It was hot yesterday. Somewhere in the nineties. This is tough on bulldogs, but we have power here, so the AC helped a bunch. They were restless most of the night. Otto decided to get up somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00 this morning. It’s either listen to him pace and whine with no hope of going back to sleep, or get up. My MO is to get up. When it’s time for breakfast, it’s time for breakfast.

Frankie rarely eats when we go out like this. Otto was content to clean his bowl, then hers. I picked it up before he got a double breakfast. Old What’s Her Face got to sleep in a little, then she gave them some hamburger and an egg, so Frankie isn’t starving.

I plopped down under the awning while it was still dark. The first order of business was to deal with the final critiques for Lanternfish. I don’t need wifi for that, and it’s all resident on my iPad. It can save to the cloud when I get home. Good suggestions, and it’s in the fermenter for a couple of weeks. Then I have to read it from start to finish, because there are always things that get missed.

Next order of business was to send out a chapter for Mrs. Molony. For some reason, while slow, that went off without a problem.

I’m still going to add a couple of paragraphs to this story. They aren’t needed, but there is a minor theme that could be addressed. I’ll let my critique group decide when they see the final chapter.

That left me the short story with Jason Fogg. It’s time for it to come out of the fermenter and get the last reading. Only I found two boneheaded errors. I fixed those, then put it back in the fermenter. I’m on vacation all week, so during the staycation part, I’ll make sure it gets submitted.

We took a drive today and saw quite a few deer. I only took the one picture and it didn’t upload anyway. I hoped for an eagle here on the lakeshore, but he never showed up.

There are still quite a few mushrooms in the darker parts of the forest. I hoped to do a snoop for a good one to add to my breakfast, but the mosquitos were pretty bad. I’d sprayed myself with repellent, but my wife was having none of it.

I did see one I’ve never seen before called Dead Man’s Fingers. It was a pitiful example, and looked more like a bunch of thin black spikes. I have a hunch it wasn’t mature yet. This thing looks like zombie fingers poking from the earth if you find a good one. I fully intended to look for one, because I wanted a photo. But Old What’s Her Face insisted we leave.

Tonight we dined on grilled lobster tails and some kabob vegetables. I’m washing it down with a bottle of stout right now. We’re having a good time, but the post would look better with pictures.

 

Update: The guy camped across the street from us is a piece of work. He is there with a girl of about thirteen and a son at about four, if I had to guess. Then grandma is with them. He’s one of those guys who is on his phone all the time. He tries to sound like a big deal, and has that wheeler-dealer mentality. He called his boss and is going to miss work on Monday. I couldn’t help but overhear. Something about the ex-wife and how he had to hire a babysitter one night because he had some function to attend. Then he was contacted by Central District Health. There is a trail of Covid-19 exposure going through the alleged babysitter. He said he has to take Monday off to get his entire family tested, but none of them are showing any symptoms.

I’m not totally freaked out, and they are about fifty feet from us. He’s been down at the dock fishing with the post-toddler. The dock is swarming with people. He’s also been in the neighboring camp telling them about his fishing prowess. Not one mask in sight.

If I’m not mistaken, the rules are to stay home until you get the all-clear. Not to go camping and mingle with other people, because you might not have Covid. The teen had the little one and was pointing into our camp. “Look at the puppies.”

No. Don’t look at the fucking puppies and keep on your side of the god damned street.

He’s a tent camper, too, so that means they’ll all be using the restroom facilities.

Between you and me, I think the guy was lying to his boss. He’s that kind of bullshitter. I’m not willing to take that chance, and if Otto misses out on making one friend he’ll get over it. We have social distancing on our side, and we’re outdoors to boot. I’m not letting any of them near my stuff, or allowing them to pet the dogs.

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Something fun

Old What’s Her face received a box of items because she works at the hospital. It’s a good box of fresh produce and even included a small ham. All of the workers got one. It includes a bag of peaches, one of apples, potatoes, onions. Good stuff.

You might imagine it isn’t perfect. She also got a few yams. It isn’t even a bag it’s more like a half bag. We talked all morning about what to do with them. Neither of us likes the old-school candied yams like people serve on Thanksgiving.

Maybe one of the television chefs had some kind of recipe for them. We spent some time checking those out. In despair, she said we weren’t going to be able to use them.

It was then I had a different idea. “Who wants a new toy?”

The dogs were apprehensive to say the least. Otto eventually took one and walked off polite, but obviously disappointed.

Old What’s Her Face asked if they were safe for dogs. I had to admit, that hadn’t even crossed my mind. She said she would Google it.

I decided to take them away, but Otto was having none of that. He trotted away, then headed for his favorite obstacle course – under the table. Frankie was excited because she could make hers roll across the hard surface flooring.

Turns out, yams are considered a nutritious treat for dogs. They noted that some are sold as dog treats and some dog food brands include them.

About that time, Otto decided to bite down a bit harder on his. He thoroughly enjoyed chewing his up, and wound up eating quite a bit of it.

It took Frankie a bit longer to come around. She was busy rolling hers across the floor. When she saw Otto eating something she had to check it out. Then she returned to hers and gave it a try.

Tomorrow, we’ll probably have a nice Denver omelette including some green peppers and the ham that came from the box. We have a few more dog toys left as well. (Don’t tell the root monsters.)

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A glorious writing day

This had to be the longest work week in history. It added to my back problems, because I had to spend the entire day yesterday in an uncomfortable chair to attend a Zoom meeting.

I doubted my ability to even get out of bed this morning, but I made it around 7:00. I think the Woodford Reserve helped last night, because I slept like a baby.

Frankie was a little shit most of the morning. She’s really smart and calculates things. She wanted Otto to play outside with her, but he’s figured out her nonsense. She spots an imaginary squirrel, then paws the door with urgency. She runs out all excited, but he watches from the doorway.

Now she’s added me to her game. It was cold, but I’d let her out enough times that I left the door open so she could come and go. She started coming to me in a lather. She stomps her front feet back and forth, makes a Chewbacca noise, then runs to the door… but the door is open.

I decided that maybe someone threw a ball over the fence or something and she wanted me to see it, so I stepped outside and played right into her evil plan. Otto always goes outside if I do. As soon as he stepped onto the patio, she jumped him. I was just a device to get Otto to go outside. I really wanted to write, but you’ve gotta stop and laugh at that.

The Lanternfish crew was in the wake of a large sea battle that introduced some new elements into the story. Today was about what’s known as a sequel. If you haven’t been reading Staci Troilo’s excellent series over at Story Empire, you’re missing out. Here’s a link to the first one.

Stories have a kind of ebb and flow that I’ve always thought of as waves. The crest of the wave is all cannons, fire, and action. The valley between waves is about recovery, regrouping, then forging ahead to the next crest. They’re more properly called Scenes and Sequels. I think the naming is unfortunate, and prefer my wave analogy.

The crew completed their primary mission as privateers. They delivered their goods to the Admiralty. From this point on, everything changes. It’s more dangerous, riskier, and I hope I can pull it off.

One of the weird things I love is an outfit upgrade, and I wrote two into this chapter. One involves passing Yoshiko off as a princess to Western minds. She is a princess, but it isn’t that big of a deal in the East. The hope is the Westerners will fall all over her.

The other involves General Serang. You guys remember Serang. She’s come a long way since her origin story, and her appearance in Voyage of the Lanternfish. Just to refresh your memory, here is Lisa Burton posing as Serang.

Lisa Burton

I really like her makeover, and as she steps to the dock ahead of her army, everything is different. The only things she kept are her weapon, and that rockin’ hat. Sadly, she just marched out of this story. At nearly 96,000 words, the final chapters are all about James and the Lanternfish crew. She has a big role to play in the final book of the trilogy.

Makeovers are a great way to announce a change has happened. There’s something new here. If you like superhero movies you’ll see them used all the time. Two characters, two visions, one of grace and loveliness, the other of power and strength.

Anyway, I’m pretty happy with it, but it may need some fine tuning. Today’s word count comes to about 3200. A very good kickoff to my four day weekend.

If you’d like to check out Serang, you can find her origin story or Voyage of the Lanternfish on my Amazon Page.

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Life in the modern era

Things have been slow around here, but I don’t want you guys to forget about me. I wasn’t designed to work from home, but I’m doing it anyway.

There have been a lot of connectivity issues and delays, but I’m getting things done somehow. I was supposed to be in Savanna this week, but that got canceled. The conference went virtual, so I’ve been attending Zoom meetings like everyone else. It works, but doesn’t encourage a lot of interaction. Today is my flex day, but there was one meeting I wanted to sit in on late morning. This seems to be how it’s done right now.

I always get up early, so I had some writing time before I had to log in. I’ve been on a roll with Lanternfish, but I have samples out for critique. That made it easy enough to eliminate for today.

Nothing I do has a deadline, but I usually have a plan I want to stick with. I hope to get Lanternfish out this summer. You know I hate summer releases, but as book two of a trilogy, I don’t expect much from it until book three is released.

Then we have Lizzie and The Hat. Their current story is called The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. Again, no deadline, but I’d like to have it out for the Halloween season. These are short novels on purpose, and I already have 21K words. No pressure there.

That leaves the anthology story, featuring Jason Fogg. I managed a good 1500 words of it before I had to check in at the office. It’s a bit light for a flex day, but I feel good about it.

I’m writing this one without a storyboard, but at least I have a broad concept and some familiarity with the character. I even dreamed up a new way to take him out. I haven’t written it yet, but it seems there are a few ways to take Jason out. I froze him in his cloud form in an earlier story.

I was told to make this story 10K to 15K words and I’m off to a good start. I think they want it by mid-summer sometime, and if I chip away at it, I should make it.

After my Zoom meeting, I decided to thin Asian pears. This is easiest when they’re BB sized. I use a pair of scissors and go to town. I managed about 2/3 of the tree until my back said no more. I’ll probably prune it a bit, too. I don’t have to thin the branches I’m removing.

I don’t have a new picture, and hated to retire the cool frozen pond background, but it’s time. Winter is over. I’m recycling some bulldog brindle as a background for now. It makes a cool enough graphic.

As I type this, I’m in the process of acquiring some Hattori Hanzo steel in preparation of killing Bill. But first it’s time to get even with Lucy Liu. I think I’ll just bum out for the rest of the day

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Trying for fun

While the world is in exile, it’s important to enjoy the little things. I snapped his photo when I got up this morning.

I think the dogs are trying to tell me something, but their penmanship is horrible.

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There are still fun things

“We’ve finally got him surrounded, Dad.”

”What should we do with him?”

***

Stay safe everyone.

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