Updates on What I’m Working On

Before I dive into this, I want to mention a couple to things:

Larson Book List is Finally Here!

I finally got a “Larson Books” list composed on this blog. It’s in the menu bar at the top. This list tells you which Larson character is in which book, and I do give it in chronological order. I’ll be updating the list as I add more Larson books to my catalogue.

I wedged the Marriage by Design Series in between Book 1 and Book 2 of the Marriage by Design Series. This is why.

I also created a chronological list of the Regency books I’ve done. You see, in The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife, I introduced Lilly Lowell and Mr. Morris. Though I made it clear the two ended up together in the epilogue, I had a couple of people mention an interest in reading HOW the two ended up together. I held off on writing it until I had the perfect plot for their story. I never want to write a story unless I have the right plot for the right characters. Well, that finally all fell into place last year.

The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife takes place in 1813. A Most Unsuitable Earl takes place in 1815. The epilogue of The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife where Lilly and Mr. Morris are married takes place in 1814. So I had to wedge Breaking the Rules between The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife and A Most Unsuitable Earl.

While writing Breaking the Rules, I got interested in two of Lilly’s friends that I’m going to write. So Nobody’s Fool and A Deceptive Wager also fit between The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife and A Most Unsuitable Earl.

I updated covers for the Marriage by Scandal Series.

After saving my money for half a year, I was finally able to afford new covers that I feel are more visually appealing to the eye.

Here are the old covers:

the earl's inconvenient wife new ebook cover3 a most unsuitable earl new ebook cover 3 his reluctant lady new ebook cover3.jpg the earl's scandalous wife new ebook 3

Here are the new covers:

20200108_TheEarlsInconvenientWife 20200108_AMostUnsuitableEarl 20200110_HisReluctantLady 20200110_TheEarlsScandalousWife

I realize this drives some people nuts that I go through and update old covers, but I didn’t like the look of the old covers. They were bugging me for the past four years. I just had to save up enough money in order to get the new ones. My next goal is to update the covers in the South Dakota Series because those are bugging me, too.

I like all of my other covers, so I don’t plan to make changes on those, at least not in the near future.

With that aside, here’s what I accomplished in the writing area:

Breaking the Rules (Marriage by Design Series: Book 1)

Breaking The Rules new ebook cover2

I am still going through edits on this one, but my goal is to have it available at the end of next month.

The Rancher’s Bride (Wyoming Series: Book 2)

The Rancher's Bride ebook cover3

I just finished the first draft of this one yesterday. I’m going to put this out in April. I need enough time to go through edits, but I switched my original plan to get The Duke’s Secluded Bride out before this book because the events in this book are closely tied to what happened at the end of The Outlaw’s Bride, which is Book 1 in this series.

The Duke’s Secluded Bride (Marriage by Fairytale Series: Book 5)

The Duke's Secluded Bride ebook cover

I finished the first draft in the middle of last week! This will end the Marriage by Fairytale Series. I plan to have this out in June.

Books I’m going to work on next:

Nobody’s Fool

I ended up getting stuck for a few weeks on The Duke’s Secluded Bride, so I broke down and started Nobody’s Fool because I was wasting time staring at the computer and getting nowhere while I had scheduled time for The Duke’s Secluded Bride. I figured it was better to work on something than spin my wheels and getting nowhere.

Nobody's Fool ebook cover5

This is Book 2 in the Marriage by Design Series. It takes place right after Breaking the Rules.

Because I ran into that road block in The Duke’s Secluded Bride that lasted for over a month, I am going to keep three books in my “writing” list. I’m not going to restrict myself to two. Even with homeschooling, I do manage to get in a couple of hours a day for writing. After trial and error from the end of August to the end of November, I have finally worked out a good time management system to balance writing with homeschooling. I’m also lucky enough to have a kid who’s old enough to do some independent learning. I can give him assignments and have him do those in another room.

I’ll be starting these two books after February 1.

I have scheduled time off from writing for the next two weeks to give myself a break. This helps to avoid burnout. I’ll be getting back to Nobody’s Fool. I’ll also get to these:

The Fugitive’s Bride (Wyoming Series: Book 3)

The Fugitive's Bride ebook cover3

This is going to be Wade’s book.

I don’t know if there will be a Book 4 or not. I’ll have to see how this story goes. But I will be tying up a crucial loose end in Wade’s story.

Perfectly Matched (Husbands for the Larson Sisters: Book 2)

I have no cover for this yet.

This is going to be Patricia Larson’s story. She is Tom and Jessica’s second daughter. Remember Jim in Nelly’s Mail Order Husband who was Val’s good friend? Well, he didn’t end up marrying the woman Val thought he did. It turns out, he hopped the first train to Omaha and gave up the family fortune, thinking that Val’s sisters-in-law are all going to be rich because Val was too embarrassed to tell Jim the truth.

This is going to be a comedy.  I expect Patricia and Erin to initially fight over who gets to marry him. From there, I’ll see how things go. I know he ends up with Patricia because I already know who Erin will end up with. I gave a hint to that in Nelly’s story.  As for Daisy, she’s still too young to marry anyone. So it has to be Patricia. I have an idea of how things go from their wedding, but things can still shift around. Until I work on a book, it’s impossible to tell how things will go.

***

That wraps up everything writing related going on at the moment. 🙂

I want to do another trivia post for one of my books. Does anyone have a book they would like me to do?

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Financial Independence (A Money Post)

This is a more general post, but it’s a topic I’m interested in because my dream is to get to the point where I can write books without having to worry if they’ll sell or not. This post is applicable to writers who would rather write for passion than try to write something you don’t like because it’ll sell. (There are times an author’s passion is what will sell, but that’s not always the case, and I’m focusing more on the authors whose passion doesn’t lead to sales.)

This post can also benefit anyone who would like to reach the point in their life where they can have enough money in order to 1.) not do a job they hate or 2.) trade the job they’re at for the thing that gives them passion. If you can work at something you are passionate about, that’s the ideal equation, but not everyone can obtain that balance.

So for those of you interested in this topic, I plan to do more posts like this in the future. My focus on this blog will still be what I’m writing because writing is my main passion, but I’ll be popping in from time to time with stuff I’m learning as I study the subject of financial independence. I figure there’s no point in investing so much of my time and energy into exploring this topic if I can’t at least pass on what I’m learning. It might be that someone might benefit from these posts, and if so, then that’s all the better. I love being able to help others whenever I can.

Alright, that aside, here we go with the initial post on the topic of financial independence.

Inspirational motivation quote endless road

ID 116325005 © Topdeq | Dreamstime.com

1. I think it’s important to define why money has value. (This is picking your reason for wanting to achieve financial independence in the first place.)

Money doesn’t have value because it’s money. The reason money has value is because money buys you freedom to pursue the kind of life you want. If you have enough money, you can afford to pursue what most makes you happy. So really, the more money you have, the more freedom you have to do what you want with your time.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to be happy. I’ve seen a lot of videos where the main goal for people who want to reach financial independence is to reach that coveted millionaire status. These remind me of the authors who keep saying that if you want to be a successful writer, you must make that magical six-figure income. Otherwise, you haven’t “made it”. This thinking, of course, just isn’t true. A successful writer is different for everyone. Some authors live a very frugal lifestyle and manage just fine with $20,000 to $30,000 a year. They’re making a living at their work, but they won’t get any pats on the back from authors who only acknowledge that coveted “six-figure income”.

But success in writing doesn’t always boil down to money. To me, being a successful writer is writing the kinds of books I feel will give God glory because this life is much more than me; this life is ultimately about Him. If I spend my time writing books that I would be ashamed to show Him when I die, then I have failed, regardless of how much money those books made. When others are entertained by what I write, then it’s icing on the cake. But no, my real goal is not money. However, I do need to pay bills and eat, and because of that, I need a plan to get to where I want to be.

Money is a bridge that allows you to do what is most in your heart. Think about what excites you. What is it that would make you want to jump out of bed first thing in the morning because you can’t wait to do it? That thing that most inspires you is the real purpose in reaching financial independence. I think if you keep your eye on the prize, it’ll make the journey a lot easier.

2. Now that you have a goal, the next thing to do is to create a plan.

I haven’t gotten far into this one yet, but just from my experience as a writer, I know that it’s a lot easier to reach a goal if you specify what it is you want to achieve and then break things up into smaller steps in order to get there.

I currently have a total of 92 books out. Back in 2009, my goal was write 100 books. I took that big goal that seemed like this big mountain at the time, and I broke that goal down into smaller, more obtainable ones. I started with the goal of 10 books. Back then, I wrote one chapter in the story each day that I sat down to write. When I hit 10 books, my goal went to 20 books. By the time I got to 20 books, I realized I tend to write books that are in the 50,000 to 70,000 word range. I began to figure out how many words I typically wrote in a day, and from there, I was able to get an idea of when a book would be ready for publication based on my average total word count for a book. So instead of writing a chapter, I would focus on reaching a certain word count each writing day. As I continued writing books, I discovered better ways of breaking things down into smaller goals.

The reason I rambled on about all of this is because finding the smaller steps to your big goal is going to take time. You’ll have to experiment with the small steps you come up with in order to see if they are realistic to your situation. For example, I have a husband who spends more than I do. I would do just fine with a bed, a desk, a computer, and cardboard boxes for everything else. This is how I was living before we got married. I did have a small TV and VCR for entertainment, but that was it. I didn’t need a lot of things. Even today, I prefer to minimize the things around me. My husband, on the other hand, likes to have more things. So we have to have work on compromising in order to be satisfied, and these compromises have taken a while to figure out. If it’s just you in the equation, you’ll get to your goal a lot faster. If you have others in the equation, it’s going to take longer if that person doesn’t see things the same way you do.

Also, when you’re looking at the smaller steps, you have to decide what little luxuries you value the most. I don’t believe in the “sacrifice it all” method, though some people have successfully done this. My mindset is that real change takes time, and if you deprive yourself of something you love, the temptation to give up is going to be greater. You’ll be giving up some things as  you go on your journey to financial independence, but you don’t have to give up everything. You can factor in a modest amount of wants. Figure out what you’re main “wants” are and eliminate the rest. For example, some people love to travel. It’s their big enjoyment in life. Other people would rather have expensive clothes than travel. And some people would be willing to give up travel and expensive clothes if they could eat out instead. If you can reward yourself for taking effective small steps to the big goal, I think progress will be smoother. This doesn’t mean you won’t have some setbacks. There will probably be setbacks. But those are easier to overcome if you have something to look forward to while you’re on your way to financial independence. Don’t be afraid of experimenting and finding new ways that work best for you.

3. So what should your big goal be? (This is your financial independence number.)

What I’ve learned so far in researching this topic is that you have to start with a list of your monthly expenses. This list mainly takes into account survival expenses, rather than everything you actually buy in a month, but you can adjust these numbers to include the “high value wants” you purchase in a month.

When you figure out how much you need a month, the next thing you do is look at what how much money you’ll need to satisfy one year’s worth of expenses. This is the stage where you are at Financial Security according the You Tube video I’m going to share below. It’s called “10 Levels of Financial Independence and Early Retirement” AKA “How to Escape the Rat Race”.

The explanation of Financial Security is at the 5 minute mark. The next stage is Financial Flexibility, and that is taking the annual income you need to survive and multiplying that number by 12.5. (The explanation for that is at the 6 minute mark.) The stage after this is Financial Independence, and that is taking the annual income you need to survive and multiplying that by 25. (You can find this starting around the 6:50 minute mark in the video.)

Now, I don’t think your “Financial Independence” number has to be 1 million dollars. If you live a modest lifestyle, you can easily get away with less than that much. I know I don’t need that much.

What you have to factor in is how much money you can spend and how much money you can save. That’s why the “Financial Independence” number will be different for everyone. Everyone’s situation is going to be different. I suggest sitting down and playing with the numbers. Start tracking your expenses for a couple of months. Find areas where you can cut back. Find areas where you want to keep spending. And remember to include your spouse and children into this equation (if you have them). Be realistic about this, and plan accordingly.

As a final note, I just want to emphasize that the goal in achieving financial independence isn’t to sit at home all day and do nothing. You don’t have to be scared about spending every single penny you have. Just be smart about how you spend your money. We’ll get more into this in the future, but for now, think of the kind of life you’d like to live that would give you the greatest satisfaction.

Since this post is a little over 1700 words, I’ll stop it here.

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Other People (Another Writing for Passion Post)

Skip this post if you don’t want to hear me do another “writing for passion” post. (I received feedback a while back that someone was tired of reading these types of posts. So I figured I’d give the heads up in case this isn’t your cup of tea.) 🙂

That aside, here we go…

Recently, I came across a pre-made cover that I thought would make a great new cover on a very old book. I’m in the process of systematically going through my backlist and updating covers. The older covers I did look awful. But buying new covers to replace them has taken time because I have to save up money in order to do it.

Anyway, as I was sorting through pre-made covers, I thought to myself, “I want that cover!” Right after that, another thought came to mind. “What if someone doesn’t like it?”

And that’s when it hit me. The ultimate downside of writing to market (or writing to trend, as some want to now call it) is “other people”. If you start writing for other people, you will have to involve them in the decision-making stages of your book. Everything from the content of the book, to the cover, to the description, and to how it’s marketed will revolve around other people. You have to anchor yourself in other people’s opinion.

And guess what?

Other people never agree on one thing. They all have different opinions. I only have four beta readers, and there is always one who doesn’t like something the other three do. That’s just in the content of the book.

Over the years, I’ve asked for feedback on marketing strategies people want me to use, covers I’m debating about using, titles for a book, the next book to write, plot ideas, character types….

Every single time, I got different answers. No one could agree on any one decision.

This is why it is impossible to please every reader who picks up your book.

Writing to market is like being a traditional publisher. Traditional publishers pick stories based on what the market wants. Everything they do to package up the book (content, cover, book description, keywords, pricing, timing of publication, and marketing) is all based on the market. You are chained to other people.

There might be money in it, but it is really no longer the author’s unique work. It is a work by committee. The result is a watered-down story that has no unique voice and is, ultimately, forgettable. I’m sorry, but at the end of the day when all is said and done, I think books written by committee are forgettable. There’s no spark in them. There’s no passion. There’s no flavor and excitement. When I read these books, I feel like it’s more like a “this is how to write a successful book in this genre” manual.

I realize that a lot of people will disagree with me. My method obviously isn’t a lucrative one. Writing for passion often means you aren’t earning a lot of money, and ever since I shifted to writing for passion, I’ve lost about 70% of my income. But writing to market was killing my ability to write. I had burned out. I had reached a point where I hated writing and never wanted to write another book for as long as I lived. And that scared me because ever since I was a teenager, I loved writing more than anything (except for God). Writing was the driving force that used to get me out of bed in the morning. I felt more alive when writing. It was fun and wonderful and fulfilling. Two years after seriously writing to market, I hated writing more than I hated anything. My entire attitude toward writing had done a complete 180.

Unlike other authors, I didn’t stop writing when I hit rock bottom. I knew the love for it was still there. It was just buried under all the, “But you have to please the market or no one will ever buy your books ever again” and the, “you’re not a real writer if you aren’t making a ton of money” arguments.

I knew the answer was within me. I had to shift my mindset. I had to choose love for writing over love for money and other people’s approval. So I wrote through this transition. It took me six months after I made that mental shift before I could sit down at the computer and not think, “I don’t want to do this.” Those were days when I looked forward to my scheduled days off. It was like pulling teeth to get those books written, but I knew the only way I could get back to the enjoyment of writing was by getting past the writing to market mindset. Avoiding writing was only going to make the journey back more difficult. After those six months, it got easier. I started having days where I enjoyed writing. From time to time, I actually sat down at the computer and looked forward to working on my stories.

Today, I hate my days off because I’m not writing. I make myself take them because days off give you a break that helps you recharge your creative juices. I’d rather think, “Bummer. I can’t write today.” instead of “Bummer. I have to write today.” It’s a huge difference. So after two years, I’m finally back to the place where I love writing more than any other activity under the Sun. And it’s wonderful. Writing for passion is the solution to burn out.

I no longer write by committee. If I like something, I put it in my book. If I don’t care for something, I leave it out of my book. I pick characters I want to write about, and I pick stories I’m most interested in doing at the moment. I pick covers I want. I market the way I want. If I have a question about something or want to bounce ideas around, I’ll ask for opinions, but in the end, I know the decision is mine, and I take full responsibility for every aspect of the story.

One great thing about writing for passion is that the critic doesn’t matter. There are people who will hate something about every book you write. All you can do is ignore them. They are “other people”. Their vision doesn’t line up with yours. Taste is subjective. You can’t please everyone. It’s pointless to try. I’ve been dealing with critics for over a decade now, and the number of complaints have only gone up since I went back to writing for passion. No matter how hard you try, you can’t satisfy the critics.

Here’s the way I propose to shift your mindset on people who don’t like your books. (Only do this is you are writing for passion. It won’t work if you’re writing to market or trend.) Realize these are your books. They have your name on them. You’re the one putting the time, energy, and money into getting them into the world. You’re an indie author. You have the freedom to do things your way. What ultimately matters is what you think of your work. Writing for passion is about following your heart. It’s not about doing what other people want.

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