Sunday, January 31, 2016

It’s time to clear the clutter again!

It’s that time of year…the time after the holidays when you may realize you’re having a hard time finding room for everything.  Or you’re suddenly just tired of all the “stuff” around you, taking up space, cluttering the corners of your home, collecting desk.  I believe it’s a revelation most of us have about this time every year (or when it’s time to spring clean) and whether we decide to do anything about it will usually have a glaring effect on how well we’re able to make the same attempt to clear away the clutter the following year. 

Sound familiar?

Whether you’re trying to clear the clutter on your desk, in your house, your life or even in your head, it can be taxing to rummage through the old to make room for the new. 

I’ve seen a large assortment of books for sale lately about how to organize, tidy, and declutter your home, your life, or even your mind, as well as how to live with less, spend less, and make use of what you already have.

I’ve also seen an absolutely obnoxious amount of coloring books for adults – I’ll admit I bought two for myself, the Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, before the craze really stuck and it was actually hard to find them at the time – but the choices available now are just about overwhelming.  It just goes to show how quickly others will jump on the band wagon when an author/illustrator strikes a vein of mass proportion. 

It’s also goes to show just how desperately adults want to find ways to ease the stresses of daily life, even if it means reverting back to what we enjoyed doing as kids.

Anyway, coloring books are like many hot topics…it’s a fad that may soon pass when the next big idea strikes a chord.  But the idea of organizing, tidying up, decluttering, living with less, being happy with what we have…that idea tends to invade our thought process every year as we all move into a fresh New Year with a relatively clean slate, or around the spring when the formerly bashful sun glaringly exposes our weaknesses, and the clutter around us becomes annoying, mind-numbing or toe-stubbing. 

I haven’t purchased any books about organizing or decluttering – it’s in my DNA to be organized and I am, if we’re using labels here, an organized packrat (um…collector) so it’s not in my DNA to just get rid of stuff.  I’m almost an expert (according to my husband) at organizing items so well, it’s not always apparent how much I may have actually accumulated.  However, organized clutter is still…clutter and while it’s difficult for me to get rid of things on a whim, this is usually the time of year when I look around each room with a critical eye and begin packing away items I believe I can do without.

With an inherent need to declutter as we moved into another New Year, I focused on all the above:  home, life and mind.  The boxes and bags scattered throughout the house, each filled with various items I feel might be better use for someone else, will help declutter my home.  I’ve already found a way to declutter my mind, to become “unstuck” from my crippling mindset, with the onset of a new outlook at the beginning of this year.  And when it comes to decluttering life in general, that’s a more difficult task since we can’t always control what life hits us with, but my way is to use my new day planners (one for personal and one for writing) to keep track of what’s important rather than trying to remember it all.  In addition, I also continue to journal so that each day, whether good or bad, may be confined to the page to reflect upon so that I can then purge myself of the mind clutter and begin the next day with optimistic expectations and a clear focus.    
I’m clearing away the clutter – again.  Eventually, I do hope the process becomes simpler with time but I’ll admit it’s a learning process.  If I finally begin to learn my lesson, I’ll have less clutter to go through this time next year.

Only time, and the items I have to dust every week, will tell…  J

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Staying on track even if the train wants to derail

It’s almost the end of January…the first month of the New Year after many hopefuls made resolutions they hope to stick to with the idea that this year things will be different than the last.  If you made New Year’s resolutions, I hope they are working out for you and that you’ve been able to stick to them so far.

I didn’t make resolutions, really.  What I did was find a new outlook so that I could become unstuck in order to move forward rather than continue looking back or fearing what may come.  The concept of living in the present is not just a concept, it can be done, but we tend to forget how because we are usually on overload, from a combination of home life, health, work, kids, outside obligations or the ever-growing to-do list.  

My ulterior motive for this year is to accomplish my goals even when the brick wall of life doesn’t always move out of the way.  Let’s face it…life is big and it’s messy and no matter what we do, there comes a day, a month, a year even, when the brick wall stands tall or the train wants to derail.  It’s just not something we can control, but we can learn to control how we respond when it happens.  Therefore, we have to figure out how to maneuver around the brick wall or how to stay on track even if the train derails. 

So far this month, I’ve focused on what I need to do to stay on track in order to reach my goals:
Since writing every day can be difficult, I stress less about daily writing and work towards reaching a word-count goal every week instead.  If I’m able to write every day, that’s just a bonus.

I put together a series Bible for the Jorja Matthews mystery series to help me as I continue to write more books in the series – I really wish I started this during or right after the first book because it has taken me quite awhile to finally get the binder put together.   But you know the saying, better late than never.  Now that I have one, it will be very beneficial for me to use as I write more books and it will be much easier to add to from now on.

I have a new personal planner but I was searching for a planner just for keeping track when it came to my writing, but I just wasn’t able to find anything that would work for me.  A calendar is a calendar, but I wanted a planner that would also inspire me and allow me to track different goals and accomplishments throughout the month.  Not finding one, I finally made one myself using a classic planner binder I haven’t been using.  In this planner I’m tracking my monthly focus, my weekly word count, my weekly/monthly/quarterly to-do lists, social media tasks, marketing and event ideas, writing ideas and thoughts and also notes and a timeline as I work on my current books.  I’ve also added motivational quotes and photos to make it more visually appealing and fun. 

With what I’ve focused on so far this month, I believe I’ll be better able to stay committed to the tasks required of me to reach my goals, even when life tries to steer me off course. 

So that’s where I am right now with my new outlook on this New Year.  What changes have you made to try to stay on track with your goals or resolutions?  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Starting off the New Year with numbers.

It’s been awhile since I reviewed my stats and what better time to start a habit…new, old, revised, or otherwise…than the first of the year?  My plan is to at least continue to check my stats quarterly, in order to keep track and to see if I can find any contributing factors for the reasons behind why my author rank or sales rank for each book may spike or plummet.  It’s not my plan to live or die by the stats, or let the numbers ruin my day if they are not as I would hope.  My plan is just to use them as a reference, especially when I want to compare them as I move on from one season (or one book) to the next.

For my sales rankings, I found that all books spiked recently, except 1313 Psycho Path (which did better near Halloween), but mostly when it came to the eBooks rather than the paperbacks.  “11:11 Anna’s Awakening” is the only book that spiked in sales for both paperbacks and eBooks; but it is also the most recently published book. 

The eBook version of “11:11” spiked a few weeks before Christmas:

While the paperback spiked just after Christmas/right before the New Year:

For the other books, the paperbacks weren’t the high sellers but the eBooks for Best Kept Secrets and Ties That Bind took off a week or so before Christmas:   


While No Mother of Mine spiked just after Christmas:

When the holidays aren’t upon us, it can be difficult to guess what may cause a spike in sales but as I continue to publish additional books, I do hope to see continuous upward movement and not just around the holidays or each time I attend an event or publish a new book. 

It’s great that Amazon will allow me to view my sales rank from a 2-week viewpoint, up to months, years and even the lifetime of a book.  I don’t know if there’s ever a cut off for the lifetime viewpoint of a book, but No Mother of Mine has been out since 2012 and I can still view the sales rank from 2012 until now:

While the sales rank for No Mother of Mine continues to jump up on fairly regular intervals, there is a continuous downward motion that I wish to change.  I’m hopeful that as I publish more books, and as I get back into some serious marketing and branding again later in the year, the sales rank for this book will run on a more even, horizontal level between spikes, which is what the sales rank for Best Kept Secrets and Ties That Bind have continued to do. 

What the sales ranks also show me is when I’ve been ‘quiet’ or just not quite out there as an author, which is a good indicator when there is little movement upward or when there is continuous downward movement for a long period of time.  See the obvious lack of spikes for Best Kept Secrets during 2015 from January through October in the chart below?

That’s what happens when an author goes off track for awhile.  There is no mystery as to the reason for the lower sales rank during this time…this is obviously the time period I was not writing much or putting myself out there while I was trying to deal with the unexpected death of my Dad.  But when it comes to staying on track creatively, it is definitely something I wish to avoid from happening again.

In the past when I reviewed my sales or author rank, I would notice an obvious jump after I took part in large book events or author signings.  I’m not able to hold a signing on a quarterly basis right now but it would be nice to be at or near that point sometime in my author life, or at least part of something that continuously helps build my author brand and gets my name out there. 

Now that I have reviewed my author and sales rankings to get an idea of where my numbers are the beginning of the New Year, I can get back to the numbers that are important right now, which includes:

4 - for the fourth volume of the Jorja Matthew mystery series which I plan to complete/publish the end of this year and…

1 - for the first young adult book I hope to continue working on as I’m able so that I have a final draft completed by the end of this year (I’m already at 30,000+ words so it has quite a head start). 

Don’t worry, for those who are waiting for the 4th book in the Jorja Matthews series, it will take priority over any other book and will be published next, I promise.  J

Carry on, create and have a great week!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A New Year reveals a new outlook.

A New Year has once again crept upon us at lightning speed - not possible?  This sounds like an oxymoron, I suppose, but it is how the New Year hit me.  I would have usually posted at the end of the year with a positive review about the past year, goals reached and a list of my most popular posts, all while eagerly looked forward to the upcoming year.  The celebrated year in review…let’s not and say we did.  Unfortunately, I was not able to contribute much when it came to my journey as a writer and for the second year in a row, I’ve begun a New Year full of serious worries and uncertainties.  It’s not quite how I wanted to start another New Year, especially back-to-back. 

In my book, the year 2015 will never be dubbed as one of the best years, and 2016 has already shown its hand but I will say this about 2015…the year allowed me to reflect…a lot.  On what I want, what I don’t want, what I expect from myself, what I need to add to or improve in my life and also what I need to eliminate.  It has reminded me who I can count on and that control over anything, except myself, is never an absolute.  It has helped me to remember how strong I am – mentally, physically, creatively and spiritually – and it has revealed where I’ve become weak.  It has taught me that I need to continue to learn, practice and cultivate in those areas so that I don’t get stuck when life hits me hard.  

And that’s where I feel I’ve been for most of 2015…stuck.  Stuck while I waited to get through the hard times.  No one can live life feeling encouraged if they are constantly distressed about what has happened or what will happen.  That’s obvious.  You cannot hang on to the past or fear the future because in doing so you will lack what you need to live fully in the present.  We all know this, but life can sometimes hit you so hard you forget that little gem of advice. 

It took awhile but my head is finally in the present and with that comes the sheer need to create.  Not to hide from present doubts or fears, but to guarantee that when the days do get hard, I have someplace to channel my emotions…and also to continue to nurture my ideas and my creativity and promote inspiration within myself. 

This is what my reflection of the past year has revealed for me and I intend to run with it.  

Happy New Year!