Auto-responders, email lists and campaign sequences, oh my!

by eliwinfield in Musings, Updates

Hello, Dear Reader!

How is your summer going?

Mine has moved from the minor hell of helping hubbie’s family clean out auntie’s apartment into the Purgatory of ‘marketing’ and website design.  I’m ‘fixing’ the website, trying to build my audience and my email list.  I’m also editing the book that just came back, setting up a launch/pre-launch and finishing the next book.  And I’m attempting to figure out auto-responder campaigns.

Marketing is my personal purgatory.  Nothing ever works right out of the box, at least not for me.  I can find ways to break things no one ever believed possible.  I am wading through creating a ‘platform’ or ‘presence’ in the world (or breaking the one I currently have whichever you wish to think) so that I can get a story into your hands when you sign up for my newsletter. As an independent business person, I have total control. Of everything.   Even if I wanted to be a traditionally published author, I know that publishers expect authors to do much of the work creating a presence in the world. Editors want to buy from authors who already have a presence.  Long gone are the days of blindly listening to experts who guide the author’s presence based on hard earned experience.  And, this is the digital age.  There are no white washes or take backs with the world of the ‘Way Back Machine.’ Saying less is probably the best course, but if I did that, well, who would you be reading?  I might as well be my messy self, good and bad.

My whole Life is messy right now.  On top of the normal end of school chaos, we have both pre-wedding chaos (my goddaughter is getting married in two months) and  the end of life chaos filling our home. We shall not speak of the garage, the dining room table, or the cantina where all the boxes from hubbie’s aunt’s apartment have been stuffed.  We shall not speak of my goddaughter’s wedding dress that is in pieces and pattern-making or of the glitter that one of the layers of tulle is shedding all over my house.  Fairy dust.  It is fairy dust of joy sticking to your shoes.  And we definitely shall not talk about the dryer that is currently in pieces in the back hall. Life is running true to course.

Right, back to Marketing…

In an effort to make at least one thing in my life straight forward, I decided to take the Instant Bestseller Course from Tim Grahl.  In some ways, Tim is repeating what other people have said to do: building your own email list is the key to success.  But Tim talks about the business of writing and book launches in plain words advice that makes sense to me. I can see how it is supposed to work. I can do what he is telling me to do.  I’ve been trying to do this for two years. I haven’t yet managed to get the freebie to work.  If I can get this to work it will be worth every hard earned penny.

Unfortunately his website course, the Ultimate Author Platform, is following true to the rest of my life. If I didn’t already have a website with content and readers like you, the course would be super easy.  I’m trying to integrate his suggestions into my current platform and make them work. We all know I can find creative ways to break things that no one ever dreamed possible.  In the last two days I have broken and fixed my website at least three times.  I have not yet lost anything into the bowels of nothingness that can be the internet (knock wood) but when I (temporarily) lost the navigation tabs and the blog content, it was a little stressful.   Now things on the website mostly work like they are supposed to work.

Sumome…

I was ticking right along then I got to Sumome, the suggested plugin to run popups and analytics.

Sumome was a big fail.  It was not the instructions or the course (which are very straight forward).  It was the fact that Sumome only works with WordPress.org, not WordPress.com sites. After two days of hitting my head against a brick wall, I discovered I have to go back to the drawing board.  That means I am back in the land of finding something that will work.  Or several somethings.  Par for the course of my life, Dear Reader.

But I will figure it out because making it work will mean I can put a story into your hands moments after you sign up for my newsletter.  And that will make it worth everything.

Books, books, books….

by eliwinfield in Updates

Dear Reader,

(insert cheesy grin here)

I have the book edits back!  Now comes the hard work–fixing all the bits, making sure the corrections are correct. It has been so long since North Watch Keep was released. I have been working diligently, writing in spite of the crazy that is continuing to be my life but sometimes you feel like it will never happen.  You will never let go of the work, never let it fly free and become art.  You will always be in red pen purgatory.

Life and Other Strangers is my first collection of short stories.  Some are poignant, some fun, and some are just a little bit different.  I can hardly wait until I can tell you that it is on presale (in July assuming everything goes on as scheduled!).

I am so excited!

Life is a gift. So is art.

by eliwinfield in Updates

Oh dear Reader, where do I even start?

I am sure other authors would just say things like “I’ve been really busy!” and “The book is going great!”.  I am sure there are some crazy ‘thou shalt not say anything’ laws for authors I am violating by talking about reality.  Honestly? My life has been a soap opera for the last two months where I am (for the most part) just the witness to everyone else’ crisis.

For instance I learned the real difference between a peace bond (yes, you can go to jail if you violate it) and a restraining order (oh, they just call the police if you show up threatening to kill someone but you are just warned by them–trust me, reader, when in doubt, go with the peace bond).  It has been overwhelming and not in a good way.  There have been politics at school, politics at home and politics at church and I’ve been writing politics in the manuscript.

Maybe the experience has been useful.  Maybe not.

A couple of weeks ago my husband’s elderly aunt fell.  After five days of pain she was finally admitted to the hospital with ‘ambulatory cervical fractures’ after an MRI revealed she had compound fractures of C1. She was still walking and talking and feeding herself, dear Reader.  Unfortunately the bone fragments shifted and by the end of the week she was non-responsive and medicated for end of life care.  It was a blessing that it was fast and painful at the same time. Life is short.  We had celebrations and music and sorrow.  She gave me the ability to laugh and the willingness to sing when watching her leave this life made me want to cry.

But the thing that makes me most want to cry, dear Reader, is that she chose to live a life where everyone else was more important than her own gift of Art.  She was a gifted artist.  Her paintings made others feel joy.  But in her twenties she was a good girl and she gave up her own dreams to support the lives of her family.  And the bottom line, dear Readers, is that when you give up your dream it is  super hard to crawl out of the hole and get it back.  I have paintings and drawing she did, but the honest truth is that she never did. She never did Art the way her gift should have opened doors. There isn’t a magic formula but there is the real gift of art. That gift matters.

So today I raise a glass to my husband’s aunt.

May  the fire of Art burn bright enough to let you break free of the chains of duty.  May your gift become your calling into the world.

 

 

And in the midst of it all, there is writing

by eliwinfield in Updates

Hello dear Reader!  How have you been?

I’m doing fine.  A little bit of art, a little bit of teaching, a little bit of writing.  My life is both full and quiet at the same time.

Spring has arrived in our part of the world.  There are daffodils in our back yard and the grass is growing in the front.  Easter included a four day break of calm punctuated by singing.  No children at home.  Eldest was working and youngest was studying for exams and finishing assignments.  Hubbie built a lovely raised garden around the front porch which needs filling and planting.  He also put up the rest of the fence and the gate on one side of the house.  We still need to dig the posts for the fence on the other side of the house.  One day at a time, right?

School is its usual balancing act. I have one class that needs a totally different style of teaching from the other class of the same grade which takes coordination and thought to make sure everyone ends up at the same place.  There are politics exploding around me with situations involving others.  My students are lovely and challenging and fun all at the same time and we all have spring fever.

I’m inching my way through the end of the Physician King.  I’m averaging about half a scene and 400 words a day. My main character keeps having temper tantrums–well deserved temper tantrums, actually, because of politics–which would not be so bad except he makes the rocks in the floor move when he gets really upset.  All the players are getting themselves ready for the big crazy finish. I am just reminding myself that I am along for the ride.  The story wants to be finished.  My job is to let those words out into the world, to be the conduit that lets the words come to life and the story be told.

I’ve come to appreciate the concept that the story wants to be told.  I read that idea in ‘Big Magic’ and I believe this is true with all my heart.  The story wants to be told; it has waited most of a year for me to do my job, to sit down and tell it.  There are days I have to remind my characters that I can only write so fast and they have to give me a few moments (hours, days) to catch up to them, particularly since I need to work so I and my children can eat every day.  I love both my jobs which means my life will continue to be a balancing act.

I am working on what I need to do to let my stories out into the world, warts, imperfections and all.  The stories are gripping for me but I find it hard to allow myself say published is better than perfect.  Hubbie is currently yielding his ‘pink pen’ of doom on the first of the Cardonne series books.  Super School is out for its second round of beta readers.  It is all a balancing act of job and joy, home and pen.  And through it all, I appreciate that you are still here, listening and waiting for the next story.  It is nice to have you around.  You make this worthwhile.  So, thank you.

2017: The Year of Aprenticeship.

by eliwinfield in Updates

hesitant throat clearing fills the space

Hello, hello?  Hello, dear Reader.

I am so glad you are here.

No, I have not totally disappeared into the dark spaces of internet silence but if the last six months are anything to go by,  2017 may rival 2016 in terms of chaos filling my life.  I wanted out of 2016 badly.  I really hoped 2017 will be a little better.  It is not shaping up to be that way.

Why the dark silence, you ask?  Last summer while I was working on the current book (still not done), our lives changed: my 17 year old nephew moved in with us to finish high school.  Adding a new person and his dog creates chaos.  There is the whole ‘where will his bed go, how will we organize all our stuff, how will we deal with the yard so the dog does not escape’ challenge.  And then, when he couldn’t cope with the culture shock of a new, fairly white, town, there was the chaos of not coping.  He moved out in the middle of Nanowrimo.  I rattled around in the house without him and the dog and my writing came to a dribbling stand still.

Christmas was a blur.  We finished school the day before Christmas eve.  The house was not decorated and we had only two things ready to go. I bought all the presents on the way home that night.   Christmas Eve, the hand bell choir I direct played at our Church’s early service; my husband’s hand bell choir played at the late service, with only a 45 minute break between the two because of rehearsals. Then there was the usual holiday frenzy–our celebration, my husband’s family celebration and my extended family celebration which got changed three times.  It was a bit of a blur, to be honest.

There were some really good things about the holidays, though.  Both girls were home for several days at a time.  My girls are both so grown up.  I’m so proud of them!  One has just graduated from Fashion design and is starting her search for a career position and the other is half way through her engineering degree.  But having them here really made it clear that life is changing and we are all at a new stage in our lives.  They are growing up, becoming adults and moving on.  Now I have to figure out what I want to do in this empty nest of my life.

I have grown so much since I  got serious about my writing and started this blog.  I have also been struggling with letting my writing go into the world.  I actually have seven different finished pieces in the ready to let go of pile (two long novels, and five shorter pieces) along with two more in progress.  Over the break I had a total melt down about releasing books and writing and moving forward.  My husband is a very tolerant man, lol.  He listens to me when I struggle and he just keeps encouraging me.  He read my latest manuscript and commented how much I have improved since that first manuscript I finished.  When I had a total ranting melt down he listened to my rants and fed me wine and grapes and was generally tolerant of my silly stresses.

I am struggling, dear reader, with ‘serious performance anxiety’.  The fears are many: What if I write, pour my heart out and no one reads it?  What if I do my best and it is panned?  What if I let it go and it causes total chaos in the universe?  Writing with deep honesty is kind of like tap dancing naked on a roof top while the world and no one is watching.  There is a certain fear of exposure and failure.  We all struggle with fear.  But mine has gotten in the way of me letting you read what I am writing.  Paralyzing perfectionism at its worst.

My weekly writing group has also seriously dwindled.  For two months, I’ve been a steady group of one.  Everyone has reasons–a dying husband, serious health issues, the process of giving up on an old job and finding a new one, the production meetings that occur on the same night for the job that pays the bills–good reasons.  But it is hard to be a writing group of one. It makes me feel like I have done something to drive everyone away.  There is an ebb and flow of life, and this is the ebb of the tide.

So this year, instead of resolutions and goals which are just one more thing that I do not manage to live up to in my crazy life, I decided focus on better.  This is the year of Apprenticeship.  My only goal is to do something, one small step of improvement, every day.  Becoming a willing learner, a researcher on what works for others, and a listener.  Nothing big, just little steps moving forward.

The good thing about this is that even when the chaos continues (our church music director was released abruptly  from his contract and as a result my directing and singing life has been upended; my sister’s family challenges mean that our family is now in the middle of a real life soap opera involving lawyers, CAS, police and unearthing the floors in my parent’s house and a close friend’s child may have a life threatening disorder), my writing is still moving forward.  It isn’t about the book launch or the perfect blog or 10,000 readers on my email list.  It is about choosing to do one small thing every day.

 

 

I’m back!

by eliwinfield in Updates

Hello Dear Reader.

It has been a long time.  My poor old computer developed this lovely crack along the back spine, like a clamshell peeling apart about the last time I posted on the blog.  Then it started groaning every time I opened it, and over heating.  Not good.

I broke down at Christmas and bought a new computer.  A new computer was both good and bad: good, because it is lighter, smaller, faster and doesn’t over heat or creak; bad  because all of the logins for everything I have were on the old computer.  Remember how all the experts tell you to WRITE down all your logins and  site information and put them in a safe but retrievable place?  I didn’t do that.

But I have them now.

I was definitely writing even though I wasn’t blogging about writing.  I convinced my writing friends from Guelph Write Now to join me for a weekly ‘write in’ meeting.  We started meeting before Nanowrimo in October and we are still meeting once a week.   I am enjoying the fact that I have accountability for my writing with a great group of writers.  I’ve also joined Scribophile, an author’s site where stories are read and critiqued.  I’m still getting my feet under me on that site, but it is a great place to read writing at different stages, and to read other people’s critiques.   You learn a lot about how good  writers think about editing.

Since my last post, the novella set in Fairhaven,  Son of The King, has gone through another round of edits and should be available for release this month.  I’m still figuring out the whole ‘downloading for free’ and cart stuff of the business side of writing.  And fighting with it.

Dragon’s Court is at the editor for line edits.   The Physician King (working title) has gone from a novella to a full length novel. I’m at the dreaded 7/8 stretch– not quite done and arghh will it ever end–phase of writing, trying to move all the right characters to the right place for the big finish.  I’m also drawing maps and making my series bible.  With four books in the same universe, I need a series bible to maintain consistency.  There are so many stories fighting the good fight in my head these days, all arguing who will get their turn next, that I’m having trouble keeping track of which character has blue eyes and which one has green.

I’m also rewriting Super School, the first manuscript I finished when I started back on this journey to become a published author.  My writing has changed a lot in the last years (practice makes better!) and there was a lot of world building I needed to explore so  I  could do the ‘show not tell’ that everyone pounds into your head as a new author.   I have several minor characters who must be excised from the manuscript and at least one name change. Not name drift–no, the characters all have the right name all the way through.  They just all have names that sound almost the same.

I’m a bit sad about having to take out the dimension phasing alien but as I rework things, the story is coming to life.  My beta readers agree.  When  I read the first three chapters to my daughter’s friends at Spring Break and the story got groans at the right moments and the ‘What? You finished? Nooo….”  It is always nice to have feedback that makes you smile.

I promise I won’t take so long next time to give you an update.   Thank you for sticking with me during the long silence.  Readers are like gold and I appreciate you.

 

 

 

 

A Tiny Squee!

by eliwinfield in Updates

Dear Reader,

I am sharing a tiny tiny squee or two today!  I got my ISBN account information (which makes all of this just a little bit more real).  I received notice that I will be getting my first royalty payments, and I got North Watch Keep published to Kobo.

I am excited to finally get all the things moving through the process so you can get your hands on things.  Really, the hard part about all of this is not the writing.  It is keeping track of the pieces and bits, sorting out the flow of the process to move from idea to story to published work, and making sure that you, dear reader, get the chance to get your hands on my work in all the venues you would like to find the words.

In celebration of all that good stuff, North Watch Keep is dropping to 99 cents.  Pre-orders for the next episode in the series will also open on Friday! Thanks for being here, and for listening.

 

Bwhahaha, please don’t mind the ISBNs

by eliwinfield in Musings, Updates

Hello Dear Reader!

It has been a good week but a tiring week.  My classes got through the first half of their assessments (yay) which means I have lots of marking and planning to do.  Our employer walked away from bargaining (boo).  They did not make similar offers to us like they did other unions (double boo) or deal with the class cap issues, which means we go to level three of strike action and if nothing gets sorted out we start rotating strikes October 1.

The thought of rotating strikes chills my soul.

No one becomes a teacher for the money or the glory, particularly not an elementary second language teacher. You are there because of the kids.  My students have books to read because I bought them.  Almost all the materials used in my classroom I purchased myself.  I say classroom very loosely: I don’t have a classroom.  I am the run from room to room French teacher and I teach nearly a third of the students at my school.  I am not complaining–my students are great and I love my job.  But, the thought of ‘no class size cap’ chills me.  Imagine 32 three and four year olds with one teacher and you will totally understand my concern.  I am a tiny peg in a huge union and I have no control over what is happening.  I can only control my responses and keep my kids happy to be in my classes.  My stress management approach is to write and try to do exercise in the mornings.  The writing is going well.  The exercise?  Ha.

I have been trying a new morning routine.  I get up before school and write for half an hour or so.  So far, I have written every day since school started (and I have only been late to leave once).  Sometimes the words come easily and sometimes they are stilted and horrible but there are words on the page.  The story that is coming out is awesome.  Actually both stories are fun.  My sequel to The Dragons’ Court is super fun, and the rewrite of Super School is streaming out in great enthusiasm.

When I changed the starting age of my main character to an older child in Super School, she developed such an interesting voice.  And there are logical reasons for some of her issues and how she develops as a person.   There is a particularly wonderful scene when Paul and his brothers arrive to fix their house after a home invasion and Jonas carries in the new fridge by himself that made me laugh out loud.  When I read the story  to Hubie, he can tell me where we left off last time (memorable narrative, check) and as I read he keeps saying–go on, go on.  When I get to the end of the narration, he mutters a bit about how I should go write some more.  That is a very good sign.  I don’t normally write things that hold his attention quite like this story.  Or I use too many commas.  Or both.  But I am happy with the story and he is happy with the story.

I am feeling like a flake with the freebie.  I get halfway through the process of getting it to you, dear reader, and I get stuck on some stupid esoteric administrative question that I have no idea how to answer.  The same with releasing North Watch Keep on Kobo.  Some of the hold up is ISBN numbers.  I have applied for and finally gotten an answer from the people in charge asking for more information.  Hopefully my answer back to them will make them happy and all will be well and I will have access to numbers next week.  I know I should be doing things like pre-release hype, pre-orders for the book, and all that jazz.  Or sending out emails and asking if you want to become part of my special release team, but, I am going to be honest.  I am not quite at that point.  I will be, but I am not there yet.  If I get the freebie to work automagically this week, I will be happy.  The next step, releasing Dragons’ Court, will not happen until You, dear reader, get the freebie.  I will master this issue.  I will get through this.  You will profit from my managing the challenges.  In the meantime, I am just going to keep writing.

Writing writing writing

by eliwinfield in Novels, Updates

Dear Reader,

I just finished the first week of school.  That first week is always a challenge, but this year it was a bit of a madhouse.  My school was reorganized five times in the two weeks before school started.  The last reorganization was Friday afternoon before the long weekend.  I didn’t get my schedule or subjects I would be covering until Monday morning and school started Tuesday.  Needless to say, all those things teachers do in the weeks leading up to school didn’t get done until Monday afternoon. Even so, so far, so good.  I have a lot of students (and a lot of different classes because one of my French classes became coverages) but I am not so stressed about that. I like my job.  I have already had several people in observing students and one of their comments to me was that I was a very dynamic and engaging teacher.  All to the good.

My writer’s ADHD  has kicked in big time.

I’m working on a rewrite of Super School.  I woke up three days ago with what I think is a ‘simple’  way to solve my character challenges.  (Are any of them ever really simple?)  The new version has a better focus at the beginning and a tighter problem sequence.  I think I am going to be able to use most of the second half of the first draft with this new characterization of Marietta, but we will see as things get rolling.   I changed the beginning from ‘little kid’ to ‘almost sixteen year old who has hopped around the world with her dad and now is back in her home town for the first time since her mom died when she was six’.  The change is making the story work a lot better.  I have done some world building, and some character sheets.  I am dialing up the conflicts, and creating a better setup for the end by introducing a character who causes chaos much much earlier in the story.  And, as you roll through, you suddenly start to see how the super heroes are hanging around Los Domos in a subtle but powerful group.  Not quite hiding, but definitely not in plain sight either.

I am also working on the story after The Dragon’s Court.  It doesn’t really have a title yet, but it will pull together the stories from The King’s Son, North Watch Keep, and the Dragon’s Court, and add a new element.  I’m enjoying watching the characters develop.  I don’t know if I will write myself into a corner because I haven’t plotted out the story except–everything comes out right in the end.  I seem to be able to plan out about five scenes before my muse digs in her heels and refuses to play along, so I am going to keep rolling with that and hope for the best.

Good stories come out in good editing, right?

The Finder is at a stand still.  I need to find some beta readers who will listen as I read the story out loud or who will enjoy reading the story in smaller chunks.  My husband and children balked at the box of body parts left on the desk and the finger attached to the roses in the vase.  I don’t blame them but because my usual primary audience is going’ lalala I’m not listening’ with fingers in their ears, I need to find another group to read and comment.

On the marketing and communication front, I spent three hours  the night before school watching my lovely web designer fix the mess I had made of my new website when I installed the Author’s Theme.  The mess was caused by a combination of things:  I want a big landing page with a get a free book button on the very front top of the home page (there has to be a work around in that theme for this, but neither of us could figure it out); I want a store that works (eventually lol) and I want a bookshelf where you, dear reader, can go and buy my books in the format you want.  So far, I have a book shelf that mostly works, and a lot of stuff behind the scenes that will eventually become the store and the landing page.  But, at least, the website works and it is pretty.  My designer does not like lots of stuff, so pages got deleted and renamed and reworked all of which was cool.  And, in the end?

It looked like my old website page!  Nice to know I have good taste when all is said and done.

I am still fighting with the ‘free book’ set up (but I will figure it out, I promise).  I am debating about the whole ‘perma-free’ book thing.  Right now I have one book published, one almost ready to go, and a short story for the subscribers to my newsletter.  I would change North Watch Keep to a permanently free book but I worry that my readers who have already bought my book will be upset.  So, I am wondering how to handle this issue with grace and style.  I am leaning towards asking readers to provide ‘proof of purchase’ so that I can send them book two for free.  Which, is a great theory if I can figure out how to get everything to work for a reader to download.  Which is where I am stuck on the technology.  Technology is my …friend….. really.  If you sign up for the newsletter, you will  get Son of the King for free.

If you are willing to write a review for The Dragon’s Court I would be happy to send you a review copy.  Just email me at eli dot winfield at gmail dot com and let me know.  Reviews help others find my work.

In the end, this is all about sharing stories.

Professionalism…

by eliwinfield in Updates

Oh, Dear Reader,

So when you are a ‘real professional’ are you allowed to tell your readers that you are struggling to get all the pieces to play nicely together or are you supposed to be the quiet upper lip type who just doesn’t fulfill promises?  If I had not promised a blog that actually documented the real progress of an author’s journey, I think I would be in the ‘stiff upper lip’ camp.  But this is not that blog, and I am not that writer.  The truth is lots of people will tell you it is easy.  Sometimes it is.  The story usually is easy.  The rest of the pieces?  Ha!  Remember how I said I was going to get this all working by the 1st of September assuming technology plays nicely?

Well, I have all the pieces.

Free book for subscribers–check. (It is short book but it is a complete story.  I will never be one of those authors who gives you three chapters and then says–go buy the book!  No, this one is a whole finished story.  And Marsh is that character that is not your ‘typical knight in shining armor’ dude.  And I talked to my friend Paul and let him know his name is in the front of that book  yesterday.  Because if ever there was a guy who is not your typical ‘knight in shining armor’ it is Paul Z.).

Formatted for Kindle and Kobo and pdf–check.

Loaded to a space in cyberspace where you can all get it from–check, but with some difficulty.  Amazon S3 suffers from serious technobabble.  I am sure it makes sense to someone. 

List for the subscribers to sign up to–check

Pretty cover for the book–check

Page written that tells you I will not spam you and please tell me where to send you the free book–check

I also have a bookshelf that will direct you to buy books at your site of choice, and my own shopping cart so you can buy things here.

But …the technobabble, dear reader, the technobabble!

I am defeated by the computer geeks version of clear speaking which is why you are still looking at the tumbling egg timer of websites. I must have a plug in or a piece or something that does not play nicely with something else.  I do not know how to fix it so it all plays nicely together,  Today I am back to my full time work.  Tonight or tomorrow I will hopefully find someone else who can help me make it all work together. I might go back to a different format of website until I can get the Author theme (which I like!) to play nicely with my cart and my email sign up page.

In the meantime, I am going to go back to my writing and getting words on the page.  At least Carl is cooperating better than my website.

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