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How Do I?…

Using Instafreebie and Mailerlite

I recently started an Instafreebie (IF) campaign to grow my newsletter. IF is a place to giveaway ebooks providing people opt-in to your newsletter. My (and many others) newsletter is set up through Mailchimp (MC). However, I have found that automation is best when dealing with new subscribers, and MC wants to charge for that.

What is automation? Automation services allow you to automatically send out a welcome e-mail instead of having to do them by hand every time someone joins your newsletter, a time consuming and bothersome process I assure you. It can also allow you to send timed automatic letters such as 1 week or 2 weeks later, etc.

I’m currently taking a couple of marketing courses, and will implement what I learn from them, but in the meantime, I’m keeping it simple and low pressure. These courses suggest several letters on a step-progression, but I don’t want to over kill just yet.

Thankfully though, I found Mailerlite (ML). It has free automation. I still have to import addresses from MC, and eventually from IF itself when my free trial runs out, but at this point, it’s worth it to me.

I also want to point out that registering with MC was no hassle at all. ML? That’s another story. I had to register a new e-mail address tied to my domain with Zoho, add MX’s and CNAME’s details to my domain. It was a royal pain and took several hours. So, you have to weigh your options. Is it worth several hours one day to offset $20 a month? To me it is. ML does walk you through it, and it’s easier if you have a common domain supplier, like GoDaddy, so it isn’t impossible, just annoying.

In summary, IF integration with MC along with automation will cost you $40 a month. You can always get coupons, discounts, and referral points, but that’s never a guarantee. If you want to avoid this charge, you’ll have to use ML and manually add addresses, which, in all honesty, isn’t that bad as you can export subscribers quickly and easily, and IF deletes duplicates, preventing you from having to do that manually (I couldn’t imagine). Either way is going to cost you some time, but in the end, both appear to be very similar in the amount of time (aside from setup), and quite frankly, why pay $40 a month extra?

My Recent Diet

DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for your actions or your body. What you choose to do to yourself is between you and your doctor. I do not recommend you do anything I am listing below.

Now—

I tried off and on for a good two years I’d say. Had to be two years. Anywho, I tried off and on for about two years to lose weight. Nope, nada. Finally, like so many others, I gave up. But earlier this year, my doctor got my thyroid levels normal. I also have to tak vitamin D and iron pills. Vitamin D deficiency can cause weight gain. Thyroid trouble can cause weight gain. I had both.

I got up to around 180. I think the last time I weighed myself, it was 178. Couldn’t really stomach doing it again after that. But then Doc said my levels were good. My thyroid was back to normal. So, I gave it one more go, and this time, I wasn’t holding any punches. Here are the steps I used. I recommend one week per step (again, disclaimer, I don”t recommend this to anyone.)

  1. No sweets. This includes alcohol. If you drink, you might want to add an extra step before eliminating sweets altogether and just eliminate alcohol. This also includes soft drinks. If you drink a lot of juice, cokes, kool-aid, etc, you may need to add an extra step for that as well.
  2. Once you’re good with all the previous, start walking. Twenty minutes a day, three days a week. Some people, like myself, do better dieting if they’re exercising. I started walking from day one. You might want to do the same. It’s just walking.
  3. Walk five days a week. You can also start cutting back on your food at this time. If you’re not hungry, you’re not burning more than you’re consuming. If you want to lose weight, you have to eat less than you need. Period. Your stomach will shrink. These people that get bypass surgery are doing nothing more than skipping a few days of discomfort. That’s all it takes. My stomach shrank in three days. Yours may take more; it may take less. Once it shrinks. DON’T OVERFILL!!! The last thing you want to do when dieting is get stuffed. Then your stomach will stretch out again, and it’ll be harder to diet.
  4. Up it to thirty minutes.
  5. Add running in three days a week. I recommend my running schedule. To be fair, I skipped most of this. I was able to run a full mile the first time and just kept that. Keep walking T/R
  6. This was the next step for me. After one week of running one mile M/W/F, I upped it to 1.5. I also cut my food back to a small breakfast (two waffles with syrup OR one bowl of cereal OR eggs and turkey bacon or something), no lunch (this was made easier because I started back to school), and a moderate supper.
  7. Up to two miles. I also had to add in one half of a peanut butter sandwich or something similar either earlier or later in order to take pills. Keep walking T/R
  8. At this point, I kept the two miles and added core on T/R. The first week of core was hard. I was only able to do it once and just walked the next time. By the next week, I was able to do it both times

Step 8 is where I am now. I run two miles a day M/W/F and do core T/R. My core exercises are getting better every week, but I’m still not able to do the whole video.

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When it rains, (or I’m sunburned) I do a 30 minute step program. It has intervals of high activity to help that heart rate.

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I know that little link says it’s core strength, but it isn’t. It’s a whole series. You want to click on the one that’s beginner step. Even though it’s beginner and only 30 minutes, it has a higher heart rate than the advanced. If you want longer, I suggest Cathe.

So that’s where I am now. I drink water, chew non-artificially sweetened bubble gum, and stay hungry. But it’s worth it. I’ve already lost eight pounds. Thirty more to go!

The balancing act of adding something new to your schedule

We’ve all done it. A new job, and new baby. Something BIG to add to your schedule, all at once.

I recently started back to school. I currently go to a campus an hour away every Monday-Friday. Prior to this, I was writing 2000 words a day on book 3 of the Cupolian Series and spending the rest of my time marketing, networking, and working on other books/stories/projects. By five o’clock, I was finally able to spend time with my family and do household chores.

And then…

I went back to school. I am only taking one class, but it’s not an easy one. It’s also crammed into just five weeks. I will continue this type of schedule all summer. I knew it was more important than my writing, and I knew I had to reschedule my life. And I wasn’t looking forward to it. I had finally gotten my writing time, something I had been looking forward to for months, years even, when this came up.

Oddly, it’s working, and here’s my secret. (This applies to adding one big thing to your already busy schedule)

Don’t try to add the one big thing to all the previous little things. Quit the little things. Obviously, if you have daily responsibilities that can NOT go undone, do them. But other things, like my writing, marketing, etc, can wait. I just finished my third week of school, and I’m finally able to add my writing back in a comfortable manner. I have had to give up some of my previous activities, at least with the same intensity as I did them before, but I have been able to juggle them.

This also explains my long absence from blogging – sorry.

But remember, in the future, if you’re adding something big to your schedule all at once, don’t think you can just do that with the rest of the items on your list not moving. They will probably get moved, but it’s a whole lot easier to change a bunch of little things then one big one. And before you know it, hopefully at least, you’ll be able to slowly add some of those items back in until you’re doing more than you ever were before.

Taming Your Anxiety

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor. This post is not medical advice. It is of my own experiences and you should discuss anything you want to “try” with your doctor. Period.

For those who have followed along, you’ll know I have issues. Mainly anxiety issues, but issues. And here’s what I’ve learned:

First, let’s start with what people told me:

  1. You’re perfectly normal
  2. You’ve tried to handle too much for too long
  3. You’re not weaker than anyone else
  4. You’re faking it
  5. There’s nothing wrong with you
  6. Buck up or shut up

1-None of these are the exact wording of what I had been told, but that’s OK, because none of them are true. Let’s start with “normal” – No one really know what “normal” is, but when you can’t show up at work due to tunnel vision and vomiting, that’s not normal. No, I was not (and potentially am not) normal.

2-Just what is too much? I worked 32 hours a week and homeschooled my child. Yes, that’s a lot, but I didn’t cook and rarely cleaned. So just where was the too much part? Honestly, for me, it was the job itself, my own personal problems, and not having a set schedule. If my schedule had been set, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. I would have had a routine in my life. So no, I don’t think I tried to handle more than others have. I think it was something else entirely.

3-What about being weaker? Well now if any, that one, was true. I wasn’t weaker than anyone else, except that I succumbed to things allowing my anxiety to grow instead of having enough courage to face it. Maybe if I had just marched down to the poor excuse for a school and straightened them out for the third time in a row. Maybe if I had just found a way to switch his school. Or maybe, if I had simply told my dad that I wasn’t paying for any more of his stuff. See, I had originally planned on working long enough to pay off the storm shelter and recoup our savings. That turned into 2 years because by then, we needed more land, and it would take two years to build up enough credit to get a loan to get the land. Then it turned into infinity. Every time I paid off something, and I mean down to the week it was paid, I came home to a new truck, or a new trailer or something else I didn’t ask for or need. I then had to work another year to pay it off, and then it happened again. Finally I told my husband I wasn’t paying for any more stuff my dad bought. And I didn’t. But it was too late. I was already broken.

4-6 – I wasn’t faking it. Wish I were. Same goes for the next part. And the latter, if I could have, I would have.

But I’m better now, not perfect, but better.

How?

I realized a few things:

  1. Anxiety is an emotion
  2. You can control your emotions
  3. Medication doesn’t and won’t help
  4. I push myself too hard
  5. I’m lazy
  6. I’m afraid

1-Anxiety is an emotion. Recognizing it is the hardest part. Not all emotions are easily recognized. You may not realize you’re depressed until your friends ask you what’s wrong. Why? Well, when you’re a baby and watching Sesame Street or you’re parents are teaching you smile=happy, tears=sad, there is no “this face=depressed” or “this face=anxiety”. For one, those emotions don’t have faces, and are thankfully rare enough that children don’t often ask what’s wrong with someone to learn. For example, if Mommy cries happy tears, little Bobby may ask what’s wrong. It is then that he learns that sometimes tears mean happy. But when Mommy mopes due to depression or cries due to anxiety, he assumes or isn’t answered truthfully because she doesn’t know herself. She thinks she’s tired, sick, worn out, etc.

So first of all, I had to teach myself what anxiety feels like. It wasn’t easy, and I still have trouble sometimes. Have you ever been angry about something permanently? Like a political issue or something horrible someone did? It can set you in a bad mood by smell, a song, a word someone says, and you may never realize you’re in a bad mood and getting short with people. Same goes for anxiety. That feeling snowballs in you and grows because, let’s face it, anxiety is a primal feeling. And primal feelings often feel good, at first at least. By the time it’s grown out of control, it’s too late.

2-Once I learned what it felt like, or how to recognize its imminent birth, I stopped it. I told myself to stop feeling that way. How? Ever made yourself calm down when you’re angry? Ever try to stop crying? Sometimes it doesn’t work, but with practice, it gets easier.

3-Medication did nothing to help me and everything to make matters worse. Period.

4-I expect perfection from myself. That’s bad. No one’s perfect.

5-Yet I’m lazy.

Now wait, how can you be both? Simple. I don’t want to do things, and when I’m forced to, I get anxiety, so I wind up doing anything but to keep from having the problem. This inevitably makes the problem worse, for the thing never gets done, causing the anxiety to grow. But by golly when I do do something, I DO it. And I don’t stop until it’s perfect. This is especially true with physical fitness. In fact, the only reason I’m not working out right now and am overweight is because I was killing myself eating 1200-1500 calories a day and working out 1-2 hours a day, 4-6 days a week. I was still at least 10-15 pounds overweight, and 2 sizes too big. Finally one day, my husband looked at me and said, “Stop. You’re killing yourself.” I wound up having iron deficiencies and had to stop. My levels still aren’t where they need to be, so I’m still not working out. Hopefully, in the future, I can control myself in my workouts. So like I said, I push myself too hard.

6-And finally, fear. I was afraid of things that hadn’t happened yet. One of my biggest fears is getting fired. Long story. But whenever a supervisor wanted to talk to me, I knew it was to fire me. They talked to me a lot at my last job, and it was never to fire me. But my fear made me react differently than best, and caused anxiety that didn’t need to be there.

So what can be drawn from this?

  • Recognize what triggers your anxiety, not so you can avoid it, but so you know when to expect it.
  • Learn to recognize the feeling
  • Then stop the feeling. Say, “I don’t want to feel this way.”
  • Stop analyzing. Stop trying to figure it out. You’re anxious. Big deal. Now make yourself stop being anxious just like you would make yourself stop crying or calm down.
  • Understand that it takes time. A lot of time. When anxiety has infiltrated every aspect of your life from getting up in the morning to going to the bathroom to even checking the blooming mail, it’s going to take time. Do you cry when you answer the phone? How about when you have to write an e-mail to someone? No, of course not, but these are common anxiety sources for people. You will feel anxious 100X more in a day than sad or angry. So it’s going to take time.
  • Stop being afraid. Are you afraid that you said the wrong thing in the e-mail? What’s the worst that could happen? Probably not life threatening. Usually the worst that could happen isn’t as bad as you think. For example, I’m having a launch party coming up. I have one relative coming. As far as my fears go, that’s all that’s going to come. So what? How is that any different than if I didn’t do it at all? It’s not what I hoped for, it’s not a good thing, but it’s not a bad thing. I got a review from someone that I thought would love my book but didn’t, and I haven’t heard back from any of the other reviewers. Therefore, in my mind, my book is a flop. So what? Well, yes, that could mean I will never recoup my investment. It may be so horrible that I don’t even finish the series. But my friends are still going to be my friends. I know that much. And my family will still love me. I will have pursued a dream to learn the outcome. Better than not ever trying and never knowing.

You can do this.

Judging a Book by Its Cover

I judge a book by its cover.  Who doesn’t?  So, when you go to get a cover for your book, you will want the best you can get.  I set a budget for mine.  I won’t go into details, but I couldn’t go over this budget.  I wanted a book cover with cel shading drawings.  Like these:

Shadows mapmaker 0c286aff235c57d13b22098ee10c0a90

You can click on them to make them bigger.

Too many children’s book, imo, are too realistic on the cover.  That just says boooorrrriiiiiiiing to me.  I want something that says, “I am awesome and fun!”  So, I looked at SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) to find my illustrator.  And here is what I found:

A.J. Cosmo:  Blog and SCBWI profile gallery

Is his work not awesome?  Does it not scream fun fun fun?!  My favorite was the Princess.  Love it! And, he was in my budget.  Truly a Godsend!  Thank you, God!

So, now you’ve found a illustrator, what do you do?  You sign a contract.  I trusted this guy, but let’s not be stupid.  Sign a contract, I don’t care if it’s your uncle George.  Especially is it’s your Uncle George.  I contacted an IP lawyer.  They wanted $700.

*blank face with stunned blinking*

That wasn’t going to happen, but it did cover copyrighting too. (yeah, cause that made it worth it). Instead, I copyrighted it myself (piece of cake) and found this contract online. Now, change the state to the state of the illustrator (It makes them feel safer to know it’s with their home state, and you are getting the most out of this, so it’s only fair). The illustrator may not have a company name.  You can leave that off if you need to.  Use your real name (You can put your pen name in parenthesis or “ie”, and probably should even).  That will save you a bundle, and let’s face it, if you do sell a 100,000 copies, you can afford a better contract then, right?

Good luck!

Copyrighting that novel

So I’ve decided to self-publish a novel.  My views have changed slightly from what they were before.  Some of this is due to the time I have spent since then studying the industry, agents, publishers, and editors.  I’ll give you one or two things I’ve learned, and then move on.  For one, you’re expected to do your own marketing.  Pretty much all of it.  You may have a budget and guidance that you most certainly don’t have self-pubbing, but the work is still there.  There are many many perks to traditionally publishing your novel, don’t get me wrong.  Wish I were one of those on their acceptance wagon.

Or do I?

They will rewrite your novel to fit their cookie cutter first novel mentality.  I had no problem with this on most of my work, but on this one I do.  A few of the “must have” items in their first novel list will ruin my story.

There are fads to follow.  I’ve never been one to do that.  If your story hits the right fad at the right time, yippee!  Otherwise, forget it.  And btw, these fads are not always with the readers.  Readers don’t read what agents and publishers do.  They read what they want to.

So, the reason for this post:

copyright

Writers are told to never copyright their work, that it makes you look like an amateur.  Really.  Did you know that even though your work is copyrighted the moment you write it, that copyright protection will not hold up in court?

So, as soon as your book is done, and before you self-publish it, you might want to copyright it.  But what if it’s part of a series?  I’ll get to that.  I talked to a lawyer.  They wanted $250 an hour.  OK.  But it doesn’t take an hour, let alone two, to copyright material.  I did it in 30 minutes for $35.  www.copyright.gov.  Click on “register a product”.  Now, you can upload your novel and be done in a snap!  You will have to register with a crazy password, username, test question, etc.  You will have to provide all sorts of info.  You can also include your pen name.  If your work is being published under a pen name (mine is) then you can include that.  (There’s a separate box for it, so please register under your legal name.)  You can include other people that can discuss it. If your work is still untitled, that’s OK.  If your work is part of a series (mine is) then you can include the series name (or untitled) as part of the first book’s registration.  Cool, huh?  It’s all there.  There is no reason to go looking for these things.  All the items I mentioned are part of the walkthrough process.

But you can NOT include many items like multiple authors, borrowed works, etc.  So, be sure to read the fine print every time and read it well!

 

Up next-that contract with your illustrator for cover art.

The Chunky Method with Sticky Notes

Remember when I did a post on using Sticky Notes to organize yourself?  Well, now there’s another way to use them.

Allie Pleiter has a book out, The Chunky Method

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This method of time management and organization is not just a great way for writers to finish projects, but for many people to complete many tasks in their lives.  After spending weeks trying to find a spreadsheet or application that would help me to do as she described in her lecture, I finally fell back onto my old Sticky Notes scheme.  Here’s what I came up with (click on the image to enlarge it):

the chunky method with sticky notes

On the far right, I place any task that needs doing.  I color code it: white for office work, purple for writing work, and green for housework.  I only allow one of each color per day.  Period.  If something else gets done, great, but it’s not required.

Most planners have time schedules.  Do this at 8AM or this at 2PM.  If you’re like me, this isn’t practical.  I have no idea if I will have survived until 2PM, let alone be able to do said chore.  My method allows for everything to get scheduled without the pressure of time restraints.  It also requires you to space your tasks out so you don’t overwhelm yourself or feel too pressured.

I hope this helps.  And thank you Allie Pleiter for your Chunky Method 🙂

Videos of the Elements

This is really great for chemistry supplementation.  This webpage: http://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/video contains a periodic table, as seen below.

Elemental Reactions

Clicking on any of the elements within the table will allow you to see a video on the element itself.  Some of the videos are extremely basic with a CGI view of what the element looks like and comprises in nature.  Other videos give a detailed lecture with reactions shown.  We watched Oxygen and Hg and were quite impressed.  I will note that many of the elements have more than one video.

As you can see here, when you hover over an element, it will display the videos in the pocket of the table.

really cool science videos

And as you can see here, clicking on said element will take you to the screen of videos where you can choose which one to look at.elements in their basic form This added a new level to our science curriculum today.  I hope you enjoy it as well!!

Plotting Your Story When Nothing Else Works

plotting your novelFor those following my blog, you know I’m a writer. If you don’t by now, I’ve done something seriously wrong in my blogging. I am on my fourth, yes fourth, book. None of the other three have been published, yet, and in fact, only two are actually “finished”. During my current project, I have discovered a few things. I have learned how I write. I learned what I need to do to get a story on paper. I thought I would share these recent lessons in the hopes that you may benefit from it as well.

I would just sit down and write books out. Very little, if any, plotting involved. Plotting for me was like running on a yellow line. Imagine making your feet hit that line all the way down the road. You would eventually seize up and fall over. Well, I would anyway, breaking something in the process. But I recently learned how to plot or outline a story.

I had read countless articles and books on story arcs and planning your novel and how to plot or outline, etc, but none, I repeat, none of it helped. I tried to make it work. I tried to make it make sense, but it never would. Then, I found this. Scroll down to the second one, the one that says “Plotting Worksheet with Prompts”. Now, the worksheet without prompts was just as useless to me as any of the other “tools” I have tried. It was like reading French. The prompts made all the difference.

When I first started working it, I couldn’t answer half of the questions. I wanted to allow myself to sit back and say, “My story is different. It doesn’t need that. Who wants a cookie cutter story anyway?” But I couldn’t. No, I had to answer those questions. That one worksheet on that one book took two days. It made me ask really hard questions that I didn’t want to ask because I knew I wouldn’t like the answer, or lack thereof. It made me face the fact that some aspects didn’t make sense. I had to completely redo the main events. I now have an actual working outline of book one and have started on the other books’ outlines and questions.

She has another worksheet on that same page, “Characters Chart Template”. I used that too. Like I told my husband, I don’t have to include all the info in the book, but I have to know it. Those details make them real to me. And when the characters are real, the story is real too.

After answering these very difficult questions, I was able to go ahead and start plotting the other books in the series. I have spent many days doing this and feel like I’m spinning my wheels. But this is a very important part of the writing process. I am also learning patience…supposedly.

I will add one more piece of “advice”. I didn’t jump in and answer these questions before writing anything at all. If you are anything like me, that will never work for you. If it does, then go for it. But I had to write 27,000 words before I could begin to answer those questions. Those words were several scenes, my own questions and notes and ramblings. At least 70% of it can be used in the final product. And I had to write those words to discover who my characters were, how they related to each other and the world around them, their personalities, what they wanted, what was going on, and who the bad guys were. These were not wasted words.

Since doing this, I now have the tools to go back and make those two unpublished books sellable and finish the third. This isn’t anything I can jump on today, but it’s good to know that I can when I’m ready. I hope this helps you somewhat in your plotting. Every writer is different, but every writer has to ask those horrible, horrible questions “Why? Why not? How?” that make the story make sense.

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