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Category: Personal (page 1 of 278)

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Why A Chicken Dinner Is A Big Deal Tonight

For just shy of ten years now, our family has had an unusual diet. At the age of only fifteen months, our youngest tested positive for a variety of food allergies including fish, poultry, rice, eggs, nuts, and legumes. For the better part of ten years, we have kept our own intake of such items to a minimum while remaining always on guard for the hidden presence of these allergens.

We learned a lot from it, too. We learned various ways of substituting eggs in recipes. We learned the hidden dangers of things like Worcestershire sauce and Guinness, both of which contain fish (although you can find versions of Worcestershire sauce that are fish free occasionally). Even as recently as last month we learned that vegetable stock, and vegetable broth can have very different ingredients, and one of them has chicken broth under some brands. There was even a time when I complained to Knorr because their “vegetable bouillon” included proteins from fish.

Our world is currently upside down.

Some things changed a while ago. Rice and eggs, ultimately, were reintroduced successfully. But even so, we were consigned to the adage that if it has scales or feathers, or contains nuts, it’s off limits. Then we took our youngest in for an allergy test so we could get updated documentation for her new schools here in Oregon.

For the first time in ten years, we can eat chicken, turkey, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios. A whole new world has been opened up. It’s hard to explain the shift, especially since it’s something we’ve lived with for a decades now. How do you get across that foods people take for granted were out of reach?

We have theories on some of the changes. Some has to do with protein markers some nuts share with tree pollens. Our running theory around poultry has to do with the reintroduction of eggs a few years ago.

So when you see me shouting about food, it’s not just because I’m hungry. It’s because our youngest got something back in her diet that she was deeply allergic to before.

(Fish, peanuts, and almonds are still very much off the menu, though.)

I used to write.

I used to write. Now I just complain about my lack of writing and give feeble attempts at guilting myself into writing.

I think it all went downhill when I self-published my last novel, Chrysalis. I’d been looking forward to releasing it for a while. It was polished, it was the start of a series I’ve wanted to write for a long time, and I was finally going to get to share it. My first foray had had a little success, so with this one I had hopes for. I made newsletters, an author page, I even advertised. I thought I had everything lined up.

It bombed. Worse than bad reviews, it received almost no reviews. I think I can name every person that read it. While I am generally a go lucky, well adjusted and happy guy, I felt a writer’s fugue encroaching. Efforts to work on the sequel floundered. Writing in general began to lapse. I tried to motivate myself, but I couldn’t find the words. I blamed equipment (maybe it’s the software; maybe it’s the type of hardware; this interface doesn’t empower my words), the seasons (despite evidence to the contrary, I feel more productive in the colder months), and the stress of the day job (I got promoted! I’m hiring! I’m a 2 man shop at the moment!), I failed to see the obvious: I was in a writing depression.

Past me never let the real world slow me down. I’ve written in commuter vans at 5 in the morning and on scraps of paper between tasks at work. I’ve given up mornings and/or evenings to be able to get in those needed words of the day. Blaming anything – even the valid – is just masking what was really going on. Although by no means a true depression, I am (as they say) “down in the dumps” when it comes to writing. I’m burned out. For the last month or two, I’ve largely withdrawn from social media. It’s a lot of extra static in my day that, although interesting, sometimes even vaguely informative, doesn’t really add any value. I find I just don’t miss it. Most of the updates I get aren’t personal (not all, but most). I check in on twitter occasionally, mostly because the format lends itself to dipping in every now and then without feeling compelled to catch up on day’s worth of posts. Facebook? Not so much (I check for messages every few days, but avoid most of the timeline at this point). I’m not even following my favorite blogs any more, though based on what I see in Feedly, they aren’t publishing too much either.

So, what have I been doing with my time? At first, I played video games to fill the void. I highly recommend The Last Guardian, by the way, if for no other reason than it’s like playing an interactive Studio Ghibli movie. Then I played and beat Mass Effect: Andromeda. A little too easy in parts, a little predictable, but I enjoyed it. Then there’s the reading – I’ve read 13+ books in just over a month now. I’d like to think my brain is saturated with the primordial ooze of story at this point. I don’t know if that’s fair, maybe that’s just putting more pressure on that weary organ, but surely something is brewing in there.

My hiatus from blogging isn’t over, though. Instead, I’d like to provide fewer but more informative posts. We’ll see how that goes. But for the few of you wondering what was going on in the world of Mike, there you go. Feel free to drop me a line, but it’s time for me to get back behind the screens and see if I can put some words together.

Forget the writing – how rich are you now?

Woe to they who think the path to riches lies in self-publishing. Let’s just start with that.

I blog a lot about writing here. In fact, it’s probably the one thing I talk about the most. Part of that is for accountability – not to you, but to me. Blogging about writing gives me a place to talk about something that isn’t work related, a place to remind myself why I work so hard for my free time. I talk about the stories in progress, or more recently, my attempts at publishing and getting attention for those books, but these early days there is actually a lot of floundering going on.

Some of it is all me. I’m new at this, and while I think I’m personable, I lack that personality trait that let’s me just go out there and mingle randomly. That lowers my visibility, which in turn affects sales. The big problem I’ve faced, though, is figuring out how to encourage reviews. Reviews really are the force of the lifeblood of self publishing. The more you have, positive or negative, the more likely you are to have successful sales. I encourage folks to leave reviews in whichever venue they prefer, but when it comes to sales, the Amazon review is probably the most influential for me. Oddly enough, a handful of great reviews is worse for a book than a hundred mediocre reviews.

What?

Sadly, it’s true. Amazon ranking is based in part on how well reviewed your book is. And of course like the cart and the horse, the more reviews you have, the more visibility you get, the more sales you garner, and the more reviews you get. It’s a closed loop system that I’m trying to figure out how to breach. I know it can be done, and I know a few people recently that have done it with great success.

I just haven’t figured out how I can do it.

So what’s a writer to do? Because if you haven’t figured it out yet, there are no riches on this end of the rainbow. The answer for me is pretty simple: continue to write. While I enjoy the project I’m working on, at least so far book one hasn’t really snagged the interest I’d hoped for. That’s OK. I want to finish writing this series, or at least the first trilogy of it. If sales don’t pick up for the Niki books, I’ll move on to a different series. I have plenty of them bouncing around in my head, waiting to get out.

And that’s the other lesson I have in self publishing. If the first lesson was don’t expect sales to be great early on, the second is to keep writing even if you don’t think anyone is reading you. There are plenty of reasons we write, but the chief one should be to tell a story. If that means that for now only a handful of people are going to get that story, that’s fine. Isn’t it better to have a back catalog of works to share with new readers when something does hit a nerve in the future? How many times have you read a great book and wished the author had written more that you could binge on?

And to answer the question in the title – not rich at all. I’m barely breaking even so far on my writing when you include things like ads. My goal is to break even. Of course, like anyone, my day dream is to make enough to take my spouse out to dinner every now and then, but I don’t want to be greedy.

This week I’ve been closing with a reminder that Chrysalis is currently on sale for 99 cents, and this post is no different. But to add to that, if you’re a writer that stumbled on this post, ping me on twitter (@kodermike) – kindred souls deserve company.

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