Diagnosing What Ails Your Career
As a writer, working from home during the Coronavirus outbreak is nothing new. What is unusual is that I have not been successful in starting a new novel. Not wanting to waste time stewing about my lack of inspiration, I decided clean house. At stake is my 35 year, 39 book , traditional and indie published career. This includes:
Having retained my rights over the course of my career, I republished all my books when Kindle hit the market. I did not reread those books, I have not re-formatted them since the original uploads, and I have not sold more than a handful. The category romances are so far removed from my thrillers that they don’t seem to be written by the same person. That led me to ask myself this: Is my early work hurting my brand? The answer was yes. Readers made that clear with every review. Now the question became, what should I do about it? The answer to that was a bitter pill.
I have an attachment to these category romances. They are proof that I paid my professional dues, that I worked hard, and that I grew into the author I am now. I thought readers would embrace this journey, but I was wrong. I also thought I loved these books, but I do not. That was hard to admit because these early books represent years of my life, the agony and triumph of traditional publishing, and my point of view not only as an author but as a woman moving through the decades. Admitting these books are amateurish was difficult. Once I did though, it was time for professional triage. This is what I have done.
1. Immediately removed all category romances from every platform.
2. All stand-alone thrillers and series work remain viable and were not touched.
3. Analyzed all 100,000 word Women’s Fiction novels, and determined these books informed by current brand as a thriller writer. They share the elements of intricate the plots, rich characterization, and suspense.
4. I am rebranding the Women’s Fiction into The 90s Collection complete with new covers and a collection banner. I am also editing to create smoother dialogue and expository while removing politically incorrect elements. I have left the flare, fun, and romantic inclinations that were hallmarks of that decade.
I will release these novels as second editions with letters to the reader regarding what they represent in my career arc. I will include my thrillers in the ‘also by’ section of these books, and publish them in Kindle Unlimited since I do not plan to put a lot of advertising money behind them.
It was difficult to admit that I was not ready for primetime all those years ago. A sharp professional scalpel will not leave a lasting creative scar; a prescription for moving forward will make my brand healthier. Bottom line? I know that this triage has been good for my soul, and I have faith that it will be good for my career.
LOOK FOR THE 90S COLLECTION COMING SOON!
I’ve been writing for a lot of years. It started somewhere in my corporate career when the girls were little, with short stories I’d read to them for birthdays and holidays. First book I’d written began as a story to celebrate my oldest daughter’s 12th birthday. That’s when the muse came a calling, and next I know, the story was over 300 words. It had all the faux pas of a newbie, repeating words, passive voice, minimal sensory and bad spelling (didn’t have spellcheck in those days). I had it bound as a hard copy, gold lettering for the title – cost me a fortune back then, but it was worth it. She liked it so much; I wrote a sequel of similar length. It is still one of my daughter’s most precious possessions.
The muse took up residence, and it wasn’t to be denied. With a job that had me boarding planes weekly, how was I supposed to satisfy the writing urge? Weekends were out. That was family time—and chores—and honey-dos—and kid’s events . . . I learned to access time slots while a prisoner of an airplane (seats were bigger then) and forgo watching hotel television at night (there wasn’t anything worth watching anyway). Can’t write on a plane anymore unless in first class. Coach seating is a sardine tin where we’re all a little heavier, the tray table might fit a drink glass with a deck of cards, and the seat in front of me is maybe ten inches from my nose.
At home, I’ve got the writing cave and silence, where the muse happily homesteads, ready to fill my thoughts with new directional themes. When I’m traveling, almost always with my wife/kids/grandkids/siblings, it’s a non-stop cornucopia of distractive activity, surrounded by the din of fellow humans. The muse had become accustomed to the safe zone of my writing cave and doesn’t appreciate the competition for my attention. No sooner do I sit down at the laptop, somebody calls my name.
Why don’t I write at night like I used to, when things quiet down? Unlike many writers who thrive on burning the midnight oil, I have become a morning writer. The muse is fresh, unfettered by the noise of life. Skipping the cocktail hour might help, but it’s the only time my wife and I convene to compare notes of the day, eat dinner, then wait for the daily Facetime call from kids who are on western time (grandboys are rather insistent I take part). When traveling, I’m expected to be participative, and young folk participate after work. By the time it all ends, the muse “has left the building”.
So, what’s a morning writer to do? For short trips, I might do some editing, or compose a few notes of the current project, which is kind of aggravating for the muse and I. We’re both hardcore pantsers. Plotting gives us hives. On the long winter forays where we’re domiciled near the kids out west, I go in search of a quiet haven. Local library is a good start, but it’s best to know when toddler reading hour is scheduled. Last time I went, a little nose-miner saddled up to me while I was typing, begging to crawl in my lap. It’s enough to instill fear in today’s times. We rent a condo when visiting mother down south. Most have nice gathering areas that nobody uses in the morning. Again, awareness of scheduling is important. The local women’s club du jour might show up, ask a lot of embarrassing questions, then seduce me to join them. Last year’s rental had a front-row seat at the ladies seventh-hole tee box. All day long, whack—thump—followed by ample cussing. And to think many of them were grandmothers.
I may go days, or weeks, writing nothing meaningful. I grab whatever opportunity arises. When I return to the word processor, the muse is waiting with a head shake and impatient foot-tapping, but ready to rock. Booting up after a long absence, the magic is even more special. I guess the saying: “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, works for us writers as well.
DT Krippene is a contributing author in the recent BWG’s paranormal anthology, Untethered (available below). A man buys a house for a price that is too good to be true, until he discovers the bizarre strings attached in “Hell of a Deal”. He’s also contributed articles for the Bethlehem Round Table Magazine with “Snowbelt Sanctuary”, and “In Simple Terms”.
A native of Wisconsin and Connecticut, DT Krippene deserted aspirations of being a biologist to live the corporate dream and raise a family. After six homes, a ten-year stint in Asia, and an imagination that never slept, his annoying muse refuses to be hobbled as a mere dream. Dan writes dystopia, paranormal, and science fiction. His current project is about a young man struggling to understand why he was born in a time when humans are unable to procreate and knocking on extinction’s door.
You can find DT on his website, and his social media links.
I first discovered the Titanic nestled among paperback romance novels on a shelf in a small library branch near the sea.
‘A Night to Remember’, that wonderful tome definitive of all things Titanic, had found an unlikely home among princesses and maids. I imagine the Walter Lord book was shelved there by a fussy librarian because of its provocative title, but oh, what a lucky break for me.
I was thirteen and living in a small beach town on the coast. Every day that summer I’d walk to the small library branch and take out as many books as they’d let me. Then I’d walk down to the beach and sit under the boardwalk, listen to the roar of the pounding surf, eat strips and salsa, and read.
Read… read… read.
I read ‘A Night to Remember’ a million times, imaging myself on the ship of dreams wearing an elegant gown and long white gloves, dancing in first class with a handsome gentleman. Then reality would set in and I realized I’d more likely be in steerage since my family came over from Ireland.
The place dreams are made of…
When I was a little girl, I lived with my Irish grandmother for a while and I remember sitting at the big, wooden table with her as she added flour, milk, and herbs to leftover mashed spuds for potato cakes, or wound her blue rosary beads around her gnarled fingers while she spun tales about life in Ireland. Grand times they were, and a lovely thread woven through the quilt of my childhood.
Books were my companions back then and I’d read anywhere, anytime. I read tons of romances, but I’d often end up in the history section of the library looking for more stories about the Titanic. Imagining sneaking into first class and pretending I belonged there. Something I found hard to do growing up since we moved a lot and I was always the ‘new kid’ (I went to fifteen schools before college). I yearned to be among the popular kids at the beach, but somewhere in my heart, I knew the way to better myself was reading and the rest would come later.
Reading was my world.
That became the basis of my heroine, Ava O’Reilly, in THE RUNAWAY GIRL, a girl who wants to better herself by reading books but it’s forbidden to the servants in the grand house in Ireland where she’s in service.
Then when she’s wrongly accused of stealing a diamond bracelet, she escapes.
To the Titanic.
And every tale I’d heard at my grandmother’s knee, every book I’d read, every film about the ship of dreams I’d watched over and over again became the fodder for telling my own story about the Titanic.
Based on my girlhood and love of books.
And the sea.
And yes, romance, too.
And how an Irish girl makes a daring choice on that fateful night when the Titanic hits an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. that changes her life forever…
And mine, too.
Two women hold the keys to his heart. Only one will survive that fateful night…
When Ava O’Reilly is wrongly accused of stealing from her employer, she has no option but to flee Ireland. The law is after her, and she has only one chance at escape – the Titanic.
Aboard the ship of dreams, she runs straight into the arms of Captain ‘Buck’ Blackthorn, a dashing gentleman gambler who promises to be her protector. He is intrigued by her Irish beauty and manages to disguise her as the maid of his good friend, the lovely Countess of Marbury. Little does he realise, that the Countess is also in love with him.
As the fateful night approaches, tragedy strikes further when Ava is separated from Buck, and must make a daring choice that will change her life forever…
A sweeping historical romance set aboard the Titanic, from the author of Her Lost Love (Christmas Once Again).
Praise for Jina Bacarr:
‘A delightful holiday romance that has all the charm of a classic Christmas movie. Christmas Once Again is perfect for anyone who loves a holiday romance brimming with mistletoe, hope, and what ifs.’ Andie Newton, author of The Girl I Left Behind
‘A breathtaking holiday romance that is sure to stay with you long after reading’
‘A mesmerizing holiday romance that is sure to sweep you off your feet and take you away to another place, another time.’
‘A fabulous book you won’t want to miss’
THE RUNAWAY GIRL e-book, print and audio book:
I had the most interesting conversation this week with Brad Borkan. He co-authored the book, When Your Life Depends On It, about Antarctic explorers of the early 20th century. At first, I didn’t think I’d find this very interesting at all; I just wanted to interview him to talk about writing nonfiction.
But boy, was I wrong! Brad studied decision sciences and works during the day with a major software company understanding how businesses and people make decisions. He wrote his book as a study of how these explorers made so many life and death decisions – and stayed alive most of the time. And then he showed us how to apply those lessons to our own lives.
I think you’ll find this episode really interesting, just like I did! I hope you enjoy it. 😀
Happy April and Happy Birthday to me. Today’s my birthday and I am celebrating at a very intimate and exclusive restaurant, my house.
There is no need to rehash or complain about what we are all enduring. Here’s my only comment or prayer, we are all victorious survivors and can endure more than we can imagine.
I’m going to keep it short this month.
I just finished my first quarter as a planner girl. It has been an amazing experience. I’m a lot more focused and I’m amazed at how much I got accomplished. There are some tools I really like and some that I didn’t. At least right now. I might revisit the ones that didn’t fit later. I will only be discussing the planning tools I’m using for my author business.
Tool: Kanban Board
I’m not going to say I love this just yet, but I really like it. It helped a lot to see my tasks in front of me daily. It also forced me not to bite off more than I could chew. When I put this in place, I was going to write a different book. About two weeks into the first 30 days, the book I scheduled just wasn’t. I switched books and the words flowed like a faucet. In fact, the book went from novella to novel length.
There were a few things that were moved because it involved the book I was no longer working on. My math might be a little off but here are the results. I started the year with 3 goals and 59 tasks. I complete the goals. I realize those are going to take a little longer than expected. The goals had 59 tasks. I completed 32 tasks, 15 didn’t get done and 7 were carried over.
As of this posting, I’m working on next quarter’s Kanban board.
I have been meaning to try Fussy Librarian and just hadn’t gotten around to it. However, I received an email offering me a chance to try them for free with a free book. I did and ad day produced great results. My book got to #4 in a couple of categories and in the top 100 with another one. The tails on the ad lasted about a week. I will definitely be trying them again.
I have an official ad budget and I’ll let you know how it’s working at the end of the quarter. I think I need 90 days to really assess the results. I am currently in the first stage, testing facebook ads. This is an area I really want to crack. I have spent too much time and money on courses for them not to work.
Tool: Planner Inserts
I have been testing a mixture of planner inserts searching for the ones that are right for me. I think I have a system I like. I’m not the planner who likes a lot of stickers. Although I did see some last week that I really like. I do use colored transparency tabs and some dots.
I created an engagement log sheet which I use weekly to chart my sales, word count and social media followers. This has helped me. When I write things down, it helps me visualize and push myself. Or know when to take a break.
Tool: Author Planner
My author planner is really a business bible. It contains a calendar, production schedule, newsletter and ad schedule, expense and sales log, print book inventory and event schedule. This is very handy. I use it in conjunction with my 90 Day Plan notebook. Any story ideas are kept in a separate notebook by my bed.
Tool: Instagram…Social Media
I did an online course on building your Instagram audience for my lingerie business and tried it with my author business. It works well for the lingerie, but not as well for my author business. I’m thinking about trying Planoly to schedule my author posts. When I post on Instagram, I make sure to click the other social media options. This helps me stay engaged and post regularly. Interesting thing, when I post a shirtless man, I get great engagement. Go figure.
WIP…as of this post, I am approximately 4500 words away from completing my book. I know last month I said I was about 7000 words away from completing my book. That was true. However, the story took a turn and I added a few more thousand words. I really thought I would have finished it sooner. But the delay has worked to my advantage. I’m not sure how a release would have done right now.
I’m not sure what I’ll talk about next month. Let’s play it by ear.
Happy April. Stay safe.
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