Writing–Taking Care of Business (Sort Of)

Yearly special editionI was supposed to spend this month taking care of the business end of my writing. That’s where my energy was supposed to be focused. Organizing all of my projects and my schedule and trying to figure out how to sell more books, most notably, how to sell the Yearly Special Edition.

Well, I managed part of that.

My projects are organized. I have a good idea how the next few months are going to play out schedule-wise.

But I’m really no closer to figuring out a selling plan than I was at the beginning of the month.

Here’s the deal.

I think I have a good enough position in the Internet world to throw out links to my ebooks. It costs me nothing and I don’t do it enough to annoy people or turn them off. If nothing comes from my tweets/posts, then I really didn’t waste anything. It’s easy and comfortable and guaranteed.

However, I have no position in the Real world and not enough position in the Internet world to try to sell a physical book. It’s easy to ask people to spend a buck or two on my words. It’s a lot harder for me to ask people to spend 10 or 12 bucks because I’m nobody. How can I say I’m worth it?

Because of this uncomfortable uncertainty I don’t want to make the monetary investment it would take for me to sell those books in the Real world. It’s available online and I could do the same ol’ link-and-leave-it maneuver, but there’s a bit of ego that really would like to shill this thing in a hands-on way. There’s a bigger bit of ego that would like to actually sign these books and give a few away as part of a contest that drums up readers and such.

There’s a bigger bit of practical sense that says I will lose my ass doing this. This bigger bit of practical sense points out that I’ve never been a good salesman, that I’m not exactly popular, that I’ve got no place to store unsold books, and that my credit card would probably be happier if I didn’t buy books I couldn’t sell.

I really envy people who can do this sort of thing. That can make this kind of investment and then pull it off. I just don’t have the skills for that, which hurts like road rash on your ass in the self-publishing world. Doesn’t look good to agents/publishers either when nowadays getting published means you do most of your own marketing.

I guess I’ll stick to what I know for now until I get a sign that I’m ready to scooch further out on the selling limb.

At least my credit card will appreciate it.

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Writing–The Characters in Me (and Vice Versa)

Rainbow paperMy mom is a supportive mom and she reads most everything I write. I either give it to her for a beta (because my mom is not shy about her opinions and won’t be biased in my favor just because I’m her kid; if she doesn’t like it, if she thinks there’s something wrong with it, she’ll let me know) or she buys it. But either way, she reads it and there’s something she’s pointed out to me on more than one occasion.

Sometimes she has trouble with the story because she can see bits and pieces of me in the characters and it distracts her.

Now this is not a huge concern to me. Joe and Jane Average-Reader aren’t going to be able to pick up on whatever characteristics of myself I put into characters, so it’s no big deal. I just find my mom picking up on even the smallest little tidbit amusing. And also accurate.

I do put bits and pieces of myself into my characters. And not just the protagonist either (though, they might have more than the rest). Something of me can probably be found in every single character I put on the page. And not just my good points, either. Many of my characters get saddled with some of my worst traits.

Part of this is probably ego. I find myself to be a great, complex, interesting human being on occasion, so why wouldn’t my characters benefit from a little bit of my awesomeness?

But the bigger part I think comes from a revelation I had when I was in high school.

For a while I courted the idea of being an actor. It didn’t matter to me that I was too fat and not pretty enough and my boobs were too big. It was something I wanted to do, so I gave it a run. I took theater arts my senior year of high school and I think I did a pretty okay job of it (I got an A in the class, for the record), though maybe the stage wasn’t my best venue. However, when it came time for our final project, a play put on for elementary school kids, I got the full-taste of what I could expect for my acting career.

I had to play Mother Goose.

See, the play was about Mother Goose’s children acting out various nursery rhymes to raise money so the bank wouldn’t foreclose on Mother Gooses’s shoe-turned-house. I wanted to be one of the kids because I wanted to play a bunch of the different parts in the nursery rhymes. Instead, because I was 18 and already looked like I’d had eight kids, I had to play Mother Goose.

And that’s when I realized I’d never be an actor. I didn’t want to be Mother Goose for the rest of my life. I wanted to be everybody.

Now, as a writer, I can be everybody. I can be a private investigator and a gigolo and a medium and a vampire and a bartender and a serial killer and a teen in the ’70s and a corrupt sheriff and a man gone missing. My size and my face and my ability to cry on cue don’t hamper me. And just like an actor, I use bits of myself to make the characters I play become more real.

It won’t win me an Emmy, but it’s still pretty useful.

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Funtimes–Five Things About My ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

bucketIn case you missed it, earlier this week I participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and posted the best part of the video on my KikiWrites Facebook page (you would know that if you liked that page, hint hint). It’s the craze sweeping the nation and all for a good cause!

But because I’m an egotistical sort and this is my blog, I thought I’d give a little insight into my particular ice bucket challenge.

Here are five behind the scenes trivia bits about it.

1. I wore that shirt on purpose. You’d think it was a blunder wearing a white shirt for a water challenge, but no. I wore it for the message (Live Laugh Love) and I wore it because my darling friend Carl referred to me doing the ice bucket challenge as a wet t-shirt contest and I felt compelled to play up that angle because I thought it was funny.

2. I involved my nieces. I decided to seize the opportunity of being challenged to educate my nieces (I’m homeschool them anyway, so might as well). In order to dunk Aunt Kiki with ice water, they had to learn a little something. The older two had to read about ALS and the ice bucket challenge while I explained it all to the youngest niece. When it came time to do it, the middle niece filmed it while the youngest niece had the honor of drenching me (the oldest niece had lost interest at that point because being 12 is hard, yo). The younger two then opted to also do the challenge unofficially (I did film them and posted those videos for family to see). What started out as a fun opportunity to pour ice water on Aunt Kiki became an education in charity, illness, and the power of community.

3. I flipped the bird to certain people in the comments of the original video. The full-length video was posted on my personal Facebook page because that’s where I was challenged. My first comment on it was to inform people offended by the “waste of water” of two websites, water.org and cleanwater.org, which they could visit in order to turn their disdain into positive action. If you’re going to be asshole by judging and dismissing people’s attempts to do something good, then I’m going to make you LOOK like an asshole. I got no problems with that.

4. I donated money, too. Many of the detractors point out that people are wasting water just to get out of donating money. HOWEVER. Many, if not most of, the participants are donating some money. I couldn’t afford to kick in a lot of dough, but I did kick in a bit. I also made sure to mention the website repeatedly so other people would know where to go to donate.

5. I did this challenge at my mom’s house, so… She got that big dead spot in her yard where her pool had been nice and watered, but it’s a 25 minute drive home for me and I wasn’t going to do it in wet clothes. And since I already lug two bags to her house to teach, I really didn’t want to pack another one so I could change for the drive home. So I took my pajamas instead. And drove home bra-less.

The more you know…

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Rerun Junkie–The Addams Family

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky…and most likely more fun than your own family.

Snap along!

Snap along!

This fun ’60s show featured an oddball clan led by father Gomez (John Astin), mother Morticia (Carolyn Jones), children Pugsley (Ken Weatherwax) and Wednesday (Lisa Loring), the witch-like Grandmama (Blossom Rock), light bulb enthusiast Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan), the hairy-adorable Cousin Itt (Felix Silla), and the loyal and prompt butler Lurch (Ted Cassidy). The family was always frequently aided by a helpful hand-in-a-box named Thing.

Enlightening!

Enlightening!

The house was a museum (as stated by the theme song) filled with curious objects like a noose that rang a gong for the butler, a foghorn doorbell, a rack, an iron maiden, suits of armor, an elaborate train set with frequently crashing trains, and a bear rug that roared. Being a typical family, they had their pets: Morticia had an African Strangler plant named Cleopatra and a vulture named Zelda; Pugsley had Aristotle the octopus;  Wednesday had spiders like her black widow named Homer; and of course, there was their lion named Kitty Cat.

The family had a rather spooky view of life. They lived for Halloween, ate weird foods and even poisons, clipped the roses off of their thorny stems and kept the stems, practiced fencing in the living room, made potions, had a dungeon, camped in swamps, and were generally odd, much to the chagrin of neighbors and the fright and/or awe of folks that stopped by. The oddness didn’t affect the Addams family wealth, though, and Gomez (a lawyer) employed a stock broker who managed the weirdness in the name of money.

Among those that dropped in at the Addams’s residence: Vitto Scotti and Virginia Gregg, because they stopped in everywhere; Margaret Hamilton as Morticia’s mother (a fitting role for the Wicked Witch of the West); Don Rickles; Parley Baer; Ellen Corby down from Walton Mountain; Hal Smith, better known as Mayberry town drunk Otis; Meg Wylie; Marty Ingels; Jack LaLane; Peter Bonerz before he became a dentist in the same building as Bob Newhart; Madge Blake, Dick Grayson’s Aunt Harriet; and Richard Deacon.

While the family was pretty bizarre in a fun way, they still dealt with the usual family troubles and resolved them in their own way. When a neighbor told Wednesday that witches didn’t exist (like telling a kid there’s no Santa), they held a seance to conjure up a long dead (burned at the stake) witch relative named Aunt Singe. When Morticia thought Gomez had gone broke, she and the rest of the clan rallied around to make money on the sly so his ego wouldn’t be hurt (Lurch and Uncle Fester were escorts, Morticia taught fencing, Grandmama became a beautician, and the children set up a lemonade stand that sold something not quite like lemonade…even Thing sold pencils). When Gomez was insulted by the property tax bill (it was something like eight bucks and he thought they should have been charged much more for their beautiful palace), he ran for mayor with the family helping his campaign.

They helped each other, supported each other, and genuinely loved each other. Keep your Romeo and Juliet; I want a love like Morticia and Gomez!

This could be us, but you playin'.

This could be us, but you playin’.

This is one of those shows that I watched a lot as a kid, enjoying the randomness and wackiness of the family. I’ve since rediscovered it and am now enjoying all of the hilarious dialogue that I missed as a kid.

Fester: (talking about the neighbor that told Wednesday that witches didn’t exist) I still think he should be horsewhipped. I’m going to get a horse!

Morticia: (in response to Gomez asking if Aunt Singe likes children) All witches love children. Remember Hansel and Gretel?

Morticia: (explaining Cousin Itt’s dilemma) He hasn’t quite found himself.

Gomez: And with Cousin Itt that isn’t easy. He looks the same from every angel.

Not to mention the variety of meanings of Lurch’s groans and Cousin Itt’s gibberish.

It’s one of those shows that I wish would have lasted longer than two seasons, but I’m still happy that I found it again. So let’s sing the theme song one more time!

Thank you, Thing.

Thank you, Thing.

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Megalomania–Board Quotes

quotesI have two small white boards hanging on my closet door. One of them has my two week schedule, bill due dates, and my shopping list. The other used to have a writing To Do list, but I moved all of that business to Evernote. Afterwards, I wondered what to do with it now that it was all empty. I like my things to be useful.

I ended up turning it into a quote board. It all started quite innocently. I wrote my mantra “Let’s Be Brave” on the bottom of it. (For the “Let’s Be Brave” story, click here.) It’s a visual reminder of how I’m supposed to be running my railroad.

The second quote that went up came across my Twitter feed and was attributed to Guillermo del Toro (I’m not sure if he actually said it, I can only relay the circumstances in which I found it; I hope he did, though).

“Success is fucking up on your own terms.”

I love this. I love this so much. It serves as a constant reminder that if I’m going to do this thing called life, the only way I’ll ever be able to call myself a success is if I’m doing what I want to do. Even if I fail at it, it’s still a success because it’s the path I wanted to walk.

Then I added two quotes that I’ve been carrying with me in some fashion since I was about 17. They’re pinned to the cork board over the computer desk in the kitchen and I realized that I needed to bring them into my bedroom work space as well, especially since I don’t work in the kitchen work space all that often anymore.

“The power is inside you. Nobody can give it to you. Nobody can take it away. Now go play the harp.” Michael Nesmith said this on an episode of The Monkees (I’ve talked about it before) and even though it might have been scripted, I like to think that he put a  little something into it. A reminder that I am the master of my command here on the big Earth ship.

And from his fellow Monkee, Peter Tork: “Scary to cope, to have to deal, but sometimes it works out, gets real. Don’t quit just before the miracle.” Life is rough, kids, but you have to keep going. There’s always something just waiting to be great.

Finally, the last quote I added to the board came from Maya Angelou. It was added shortly after she passed away. The woman was so gifted with words and feelings that it’s a shame that I didn’t have this up on my board eons ago.

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

Something I need to be reminded of daily, particularly when I’m being questioned about the not-so-conventional life I’ve decided to lead. I don’t have to prove my worth to anyone. I have every right to exist as I am, doing what I’m doing right now.

I look at the board every day, to be inspired and to be reminded.

I think it’s the best use that white board could have had.

 

Edit: After this post was initially written, but before it was posted for the world to read, I added another quote to my board, once again because of a death, this one untimely as all hell. Another quote to remind me that I’m doing things right.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” ~Robin Williams

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Megalomania–Now I’m Just a Slacker with Only Two Day Jobs

slackerYou read that right, kids. I quit working one of my day jobs. I am no longer kid-minding.

During my semi-vacation from teaching home school, I was asked to consider taking on more subjects. So I considered it. I considered it and I considered it. It wasn’t really the actual teaching that was in question, though. A big part of my considering was trying to figure out how to schedule the additional subjects into my work week. If I wanted to keep working all three jobs (as well as the little online plus jobs I do for a few bucks throughout the week), then I’d have to cut into a significant portion of my writing time.

Writing is my career. The day jobs just pay the bills so I can pursue that career. In other words, writing is the priority.

I chose to quit kid-minding and do more home schooling.

There are a few motivations for this.

One, I’ll be teaching science in addition to taking over the reading assignments (I already teach English/grammar and Spanish). I may possibly take over math later on. It’s more lesson planning, but I’ll get to do science, which I love. Plus, I get to make the children read the books I had to read when I was in school. Revenge really is some kind of sweet. Plus doing the reading projects with the kids may prove beneficial for my own writing.

Two, one less job means less stress. Not that kid-minding was hard. The boy, for the most part, was well-behaved (at least with me) and his randomness was quite entertaining. But that three-job schedule could be a bitch to juggle sometimes and to be honest, I was pretty burnt out on it. It’s not fun to be working all the time, even for a workaholic like me. Yes, working one less job means less money, but the bills still get paid, I get a little bit more time for writing, and I’m a little less frazzled thinking about running from one job to the next while trying to squeeze in the household obligations and my own writing deadlines.

Three, this move sharpens my focus on my writing career. It’s time that I stepped it up. Now if I want to make more money, I either need to go back to working three jobs (or worse, get a “real” job) or I need to sell more books. Which would I rather do? Consider this the kick in the ass I’ve long needed.

So, there you go. My reasons for being a slacker and only working two jobs. Not that I need to justify my slackerdom to anyone, but sometimes people like to know the why’s and what for’s of my life as they are generally interested in my existence.

I know. It’s weird.

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Megalomania–Selling Art

Art!

Art!

I decided to redo my Etsy store. I haven’t been making much jewelry lately and really haven’t been selling much either. Besides, calling it the Jewelry Box had become a bit of misnomer when I started selling bags anyway (they’re currently unavailable as I re-design the straps). But I do like to make things and I do like to sell the things I make if I can, so I decided to go with a new store name and concept that goes with that.

The thing that really pushed me to make this change was my art. We’ve talked about it before. Those colored pencil drawings I like to scribble out from time to time. Lately, I’ve been cutting my sketch paper in half so I could do smaller, quicker drawings. At some point during my scribbling, I got the idea that maybe I could sell them (Etsy wasn’t my original marketplace, but the first one didn’t work out, so it made for a great back-up plan). There’s no way I’m going to pass them off as fine art, but maybe someone who just wants something a little quirky on the cheap, I might appeal to them.

Selling my art is a very funny thing.

I scribbled out the drawings out of a need to draw. I just needed to color, be creative, be expressive, try to put the things I saw in my world on paper. It’s a fun little outlet for me to have. If I didn’t make an attempt to sell them, then they’d probably just sit in my art drawer. I really didn’t make them for anything other than just to make them. I’d rather see them go to some use. If I can make a little money off of them, why not?

It’s a funny thing, though, because I have no trouble parting with these drawings. I have no hang-up in putting them out in the world for sale even though I’m no artist and these are not great works of art. It’s like I have no ego attached to them so I have no problem putting them out there.

I was telling my roommate Carrie, an actual artist who actually went to school and stuff, that she must think I’m an enormous hack for doing it (she says she doesn’t, but she’d have every right to). Here I am, this hack job, selling my crappy pictures, whereas she isn’t and should be. She’s got a lot more skill than I could ever have. But she also has a lot more ego attached to her art. It’s her craft. Putting it out there for her is a lot more personal than it is for me.

It’s like my writing. I’ve seen people churn out shit without a second thought and have it go popular. Meanwhile, I work hard on my stories and don’t put them out until they’re the best that I can make them (that doesn’t mean they’re good; they’re just the best I can do). My ego is attached to my words.

But my ego isn’t attached to my drawings. And because it’s not, I will throw it out there for sale as soon as I get it done without a second thought.

So buy my art scribblings while waiting for my next word scribblings.

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