The Dog Days Are Back: This Author is in a Drought!

This is a quick post and is in no way representative of my writing abilities but I want share with you a brief update into my life right now. I’ve completed my Office Surgery Inspections contract (my first with the State of Florida) and now I’m just trying to get caught up on the daily duties of my job that have fallen behind due to writing a contract (which is very time consuming, might I add). Because of that and other life events, I haven’t had the time to even think about personal writing. On top of my work life, we are definitely back to the dog days of summer with Miss Annie.

A few weeks ago, Kyle and I went on a date (a rarity for us lately) and were only gone for two and a half hours. When we returned to our apartment, we were greeted at the door by Annie making her “Uh oh, I did wrong” face. We walked into the living room to find her bed covered in staples. Yes, staples. Like those sharp metal things that you use to bind paper together. Where did she get the staples? Your guess is as good as ours. Oh, but she got them, alright. She tore the box apart and tore the staples apart. They were chewed and gnarled and literally everywhere. After picking up each individual staple that we could see, we vacuumed the carpet and her bed and combed the area for any lingering staple. I called the emergency vet line to find out if we needed to take Annie to the vet immediately since she probably had ingested a few staples. The vet on-call said that it wasn’t necessary because of her size. She would probably pass the staples in a few days with no problem. The vet did warn that if she began vomiting or showing signs and symptoms of a more serious condition, we should bring her to her regular vet immediately. Annie was alright for the first day after eating the staples but, of course, on Monday morning, we awoke to her hurling her poor puppy guts up. She was sick. I called into work, took a day of hard earned sick leave, and called her regular vet for an appointment. The vet asked questions about the staple eating incident and then said that the only way they could tell if she was sick from staples was to do x-rays. Shortly after the x-rays were taken, the vet came in and said, “Well, she definitely ate staples. A lot of staples.” The x-rays were displayed on the computer screen and I could clearly see that the staples were in there. And the vet was correct, Annie had eaten A LOT of STAPLES!


 

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My first question was, “What can we do?” The answer, of course, was surgery. She told me that she could take Annie into emergency exploratory abdominal surgery as soon as we were ready but she wanted to check another option first. Apparently, there was a new specialist in town who did doggy endoscopy and our vet said that she thought it might be a better option for Annie than surgery. Of course, the less invasive you can be, the better. The price, however, was extraordinarily invasive into our pocketbooks. The specialist did agree to take Annie as a case, so I drove her right on over to their office for a consultation. They didn’t waste any time in getting her evaluated and the specialist (an internal medicine specialist with a Scottish accent) said that he wanted to put her on IV fluids overnight, have her stay in the hospital, and then determine whether or not to do endoscopy in the morning after a new set of x-rays were taken. At this point, we didn’t have any other choices other than surgery so we agreed to leave her overnight. I had to pay a deposit to leave her which cost several hundred dollars and I also had to sign a waiver stating that I wanted her to be revived if she went into cardiac arrest. In the morning, the vet called and said he would have to do endoscopy to remove the mass of staples that was stuck in her pylorus. For those of you who do not know what the pylorus is, it is the part of the stomach that connects to the duodenum (or small intestine). The rest of the staples had moved out of her large intestines and into her colon so they would be coming out in her next bowel movement. The staples that were stuck weren’t going to go anywhere without help. The endoscopy was done fairly quickly. She was up and running by that evening, even though she was quite drowsy from the anesthesia. Annie is perfectly fine now–no more staples. Fifteen hundred dollars later and we have a happy healthy dog again. Oh, the joys of being a dog owner! We’ve now officially made it through our first year of having Annie in our lives and it may have been one of the most stressful, most expensive, and most fulfilling years of our lives.

That being said, thank you for your continued support and love! If you want to read more of my work, go buy my book! It’s 99 cents on Amazon Kindle or the free Amazon Kindle Reading App for almost all mobile devices and tablets! You can download the free Amazon Kindle Reading App from my Works page or by clicking on the image below. What a steal of a deal! It’s also in paperback as well if that is more to your liking. Check it out!

FREE Kindle Reading App

The Art of Setting Goals: It’s Not Always “Go Big or Go Home”

This article was a guest blog post on The Book Designer in June. In the article I look at the goals that gradually brought my book to fruition, and I extract some wisdom at every step of the journey. If you would like to see the original article, click HERE. I hope you enjoy this re-post! Happy weekend!


The Art of Setting Goals: It’s Not Always “Go Big or Go Home”

Goals are the destinations to which we journey in life. Goals give us a sense of purpose when we are working—something to achieve or strive for.

Sometimes without even knowing, we set goals and achieve them, giving us that feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment. Writing is no different from any other life or work endeavor and, therefore, goals are essential—a means to an end.

Have you ever started a writing project without an end goal? Maybe you didn’t realize you had a goal but somewhere in the back of your mind, you had a purpose for writing. It happens to me all of the time, so there’s no need to feel out of place.

When I started writing my book, I had no idea it would actually become a book, published on Amazon, and purchased by others. It was simply a story I had in my mind and I decided one day to put it down on paper.

My first time sitting down and writing, I truly didn’t have a goal for the book or chapters. I wrote three chapters at first and didn’t do anything else with it for a while.

It was never my dream to become an author. I never imagined that it was possible for me to write a book. This is where goals come in to play for me. I’m a goal-oriented, future-focused kind of woman. I set my sights on a goal and I work, work, work until I achieve that goal.

I did the same thing with writing a book as I did with running a half marathon. I set my end goal in the beginning and I worked towards that goal until I reached it. I’m going to do a bit of self-reflection and share with you my goals, show you how they changed over time, and how those goals led me to become a self-published author of a twenty chapter novel.

GOAL #1: Write a Book

My first goal, when I actually had it in my mind that I was going to write a book, was to write as much as I could each day that I had a chance to write. I didn’t have a set amount of words I wanted to write per day or a number of chapters I wanted to complete per week. I didn’t even know how long the book was going to be.

The problem with this goal was that it was big. I couldn’t see the end, which led to boredom. Because I grew tired of writing I took long breaks, sometimes even months at a time. With such a large goal, it was difficult to keep focused on my final destination.

  • TIP: Set your writing goals realistically, break your book into smaller goals, and find a style that works best for you. If you work well with word counts, then set a daily word count goal. If you work best with chapter completion, then set a weekly number of chapters goal. If you are not good with either one of those things, find what works for you and go with it.

GOAL #2: Publish

My second goal came when I was around chapter 15 of the book. I had now written more than I had ever written in my entire life and I had invested quite a bit into the story and characters. I started looking into publishing avenues and read a couple of “how-to” articles on traditional publishing.

During my research, I came across an article on self-publishing an eBook through Amazon. I hadn’t really given this much thought before, but the article was pretty convincing. I looked into Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and decided that I wanted to take this route to publish my book. Once I had set publishing as my end goal, I had more motivation to write the remaining chapters of my book.

  • TIP: If you don’t want to publish your work, you don’t have to, but it is helpful to have an end goal in mind for your writing project. Maybe you just want to write a book without publishing it. If that is the case, then set your end goal as the completion of your book.

GOAL #3: Set Launch Date

I finished writing the book, all twenty chapters and an epilogue, and let it sit for a month or so. I knew I wanted to publish my book on Amazon but I had no time frame for publishing. The book needed editing but I had worked so hard to finish writing that I had no desire to go back and read over it.

I needed a break so I took one. When I felt up to the task, I sat down and read over the book. It had errors and plot holes as I had expected but it was a quality story overall. The editing and formatting process took time, and I didn’t know when I would reach the end. It was March and I finally decided to set my publishing date around the end of May.

  • TIP: If you are self-publishing, setting a launch date will give you a time frame in which to complete everything. From there, you can set due dates for different parts of this process. This will help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed as you take on the roles of author, designer, formatter, and publisher.

GOAL #4: Format

Over the next month, from March to April, I researched best practices for self-publishing an eBook. I read about everything from cover design to formatting to marketing. I hadn’t realized how difficult the self-publishing route would be to do it all on my own. I had a deadline of the end of May to complete everything.

Formatting was a nightmare and it made editing look like a piece of cake. I tried templates and suggestions from blog posts and websites, etc. to get my book formatted correctly in Microsoft Word. It was a tedious process—format, convert to HTML, convert to .MOBI, test on Kindle Previewer, find an error, repeat.

I did this formatting dance countless times before I finally found Scrivener which made my life so much easier. The formatting was done, saved, and I was ready to produce the final product.

  • TIP: Formatting an eBook for Amazon may not be a problem for you. There are people out there who will do it for you for a fee. If you don’t want to spend any money, invest in Scrivener. It changed my life and made the daunting task of formatting much easier. I’m pretty computer savvy but formatting apparently isn’t my forte. You can find the Scrivener application and even try it out for free at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

GOAL #5: Sell Book

I had a discussion with my husband a few weeks before my launch date about my goals of selling the book. What I wanted was to publish the book but I hadn’t thought about what happens after I publish it. I didn’t have a big following of readers who were anxiously awaiting the launch of my book. In fact, I didn’t really have a following at all.

I decided that it didn’t matter to me how well my book sold, so long as I could sell at least one book. The end of May came and I launched my book, The Last Navigator, on Amazon Kindle. I can’t even begin to explain how good that felt to have accomplished my goal of publishing a book.

Once it went live, I sent the link out to family and friends and waited for the purchasing to start. In the first few days, I had 5 purchases which would have been really great considering I had a goal of selling at least one book.

Somewhere in between the time I set my original selling goal and the time I started selling, I had let my imagination run wild with the possibility of becoming a best-selling author. This was a mistake. The 5 purchases I had in the month of May were as follows: my husband, me, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, and my dad. I hadn’t thought about the fact that all of the purchases might be family members who were just trying to support me. I was discouraged about my book sales even though I had technically accomplished my goal.

  • TIP: To avoid getting discouraged, set your goals smaller. It isn’t very likely that you will become a best-selling author overnight if you aren’t well known in the world. Don’t let this stop you from dreaming big, though!

Defining Goals and Starting Small

I shared my story with you as an example of real-life goal setting by someone who isn’t a professional writer or experienced author. I fell into the trap of “Go Big or Go Home” and I want to warn others that it’s easy to fall victim to this notion.

If I could have gone big, I would have certainly loved to do so. It isn’t a reality for me, at least not yet, and I needed to set my goals to reflect my current circumstances. After a week of severely slow sales, I came home and cried to my husband. I was a ball of self-pity and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel anymore. I was fully prepared to take my ball and go home when he gave me this nugget of advice.

He reminded me of my original goal to sell just one book. He told me that if I had changed my goal, I needed to come to terms with that and work harder to reach my new goal. He advised me to try to set realistic goals for myself and not expect to become a best-seller overnight.

I reflected on this for a while and came back to him later on in the night. My goal had indeed changed and it was an unrealistic goal that was only going to lead to disappointment. When I told him this, he smiled and told me that I just needed to sit down and define my goals—starting small and celebrating the little accomplishments.

With a deep breath I embraced his advice and set my first real selling goal as follows: to sell my book to one person with whom I am not related and have no relationship. I got a call from my dad the next day who told me that one of his former students (with whom I have no relationship and I am not related) bought the book. Goal accomplished! I set my next selling goal to sell at least 10 books during the month of June and have made it almost half way already.

  • MY ADVICE: Start where you are in life and make changes as your circumstances change. If you go big, you may end up going home.

Interview on “Meet The Author”

I had the pleasure of being interviewed for the “Meet The Author” blog by K.M. Francoeur. The interview is posted on the blog but I wanted to give you a preview here. Below are the first few questions of the interview. If you would like to read more, click HERE.


J. G. McNease Interview Preview from “Meet The Author”

J. G. McNease

Question:  How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was just a little girl, but started writing novel-length fiction about a year ago.

Question:  What was the name of the first book you ever published, and when was it published?

The name of my first book is “The Last Navigator”. I published it in May of 2013.

Question:  Was this book published by a publisher; or did you self-publish?

I chose to go the self-publishing route with “The Last Navigator” using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program.

Question:  Tell our readers about this very first book.  (For example:  What was the inspiration for writing it, and what was it about)?

My inspiration to write “The Last Navigator” came from experiences I had while participating in a graduate school course in Hawai’i several years ago. While visiting the School of Social Work at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, we learned of the Navigators, and of Nainoa Thompson, one of the few remaining true navigators. The Navigators are a group of people who use natural elements, such as the stars, the planets, the movement of the waves and clouds, to find their way in the ocean. The title, “The Last Navigator”, was inspired by the Polynesian Navigators and, although it is not about them, the Navigators in my book do use the stars to find their way. I pulled from elements of the Polynesian Navigator traditions to write “The Last Navigator” and develop my characters. The storyline and many of the characters were also shaped by my background as a social worker and my desire to learn about and understand the human condition.

In writing “The Last Navigator”, I wanted to create a story that pulled from my experiences in Hawai’i as well as from current societal and personal life themes. Themes such as the empowerment of women and the hardships of single parent households are evident in the book. The main character in “The Last Navigator”, Lani, is a young female whale who dreams of being more than average. She wants to make a difference—and she does. In developing her character, I wanted to empower young women to follow their dreams and not simply conform to the norms of this world. Lani is shaped by her life experiences and her relationships with other characters, such as, Mother, and Kilo, and even the zany character of Manny, the sea turtle. She learns through trials and overcoming obstacles that she can indeed reach for the stars and achieve great things. My hope is that in reading “The Last Navigator”, some part of Lani’s character will resonate with each reader. Whether that resonance is found in her search for life’s meaning, or her desire to go against the grain, I hope she will touch the hearts of readers young and old.

News and Other Nuggets of Knowledge

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

My first short story, The Woman in the Zebra Hat, is now available to download on Smashwords.com. This was my first experience publishing through Smashwords and I have to say that I’m thoroughly satisfied. Their process is quick and easy if you follow their Style Guide. It took the guess work out of the publishing process and I got multiple formats for free. If you would like to check it out, just click on the book cover below to be directed to the Smashwords website. The story is free to download and it includes a preview of The Last Navigator at the end. It’s the perfect lunchtime read!

The Woman in the Zebra Hat: A Short Story

In other news, I’ve submitted the final version of The Last Navigator to Amazon’s CreateSpace for a proof to be printed. The proof has shipped and I’m waiting (im)patiently to get it in the mail. I can’t wait to hold the physical copy of my first book in my hands. What a thrill! Overall, my experience with CreateSpace has been satisfactory. The process is easy and, best of all, it’s free! The only thing you have to pay for is the proof and personal copies.

Sales of The Last Navigator for August have been pretty abysmal. I know that $2.99 is a stretch for someone to pay to get an ebook by an unknown author. In an attempt to make it a bit easier on the wallet, I’ve decreased the price of The Last Navigator to $0.99 in hopes that my sales will increase and more readers can experience a great story. If you want to download The Last Navigator at this discounted price, click HERE.

On Labor Day (September 2, 2013) I will be releasing The Last Navigator on Smashwords in multiple ebook formats. It’s a Labor Day special and you can pre-order your copy today!

Do you prefer to read your ebooks via your iPad or iPhone on the iBooks app? Or would you rather download a PDF version and read it on your computer? Do you have a Sony Reader or a Palm reading device?

The Last Navigator is available for pre-order in the following formats:

  • EPUB (for reading in Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others)
  • Kindle (.MOBI file for Kindle devices and Kindle apps)
  • PDF (for reading on a PC and other e-reading devices or printing)
  • LRF (for older model Sony Readers that don’t support .epub)
  • Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Want to pre-order your copy? Click HERE.

One more topic I would like to address is the topic of reviews. I received a great review from Sherrey Meyer (Found Between the Covers) recently but haven’t seen any increase in reviews on Amazon. I hope that those of you who have read The Last Navigator and have liked it will think about writing a review on Amazon. It only takes a couple of seconds to write a quick review and I would truly appreciate it!

I hope to write up a post on my publishing experiences with CreateSpace and Smashwords soon so be on the lookout for that. School is back in full swing and I’m excited about things to come this fall!

Until next time…

J. G. McNease

Found Between the Covers Review of The Last Navigator

My debut novel, The Last Navigator, has received a wonderful review by Sherrey from Found Between the Covers. Thanks, Sherrey!

http://foundbetweenthecovers.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/the-last-navigator-by-j-g-mcnease/

 

The Last Navigator [Kindle Edition]

Found Between the Covers

TheLastNavigatorCover
THE LAST NAVIGATOR
by J.G. McNease
Published: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Source: Author

Synopsis: The ancient history of whales is rich with ancestral tales of superior wisdom, prehistoric tradition, and unending love. Through haunting songs and fluid dances, stories were told of the valor of warriors, the triumph of great chiefs, and the celestial songs of a mythical tribe of whales—the Navigators.

As a young female whale just coming of age, Lani finds herself daydreaming: not about the local boys, like her best friend, Prissy, but about the myth of the Navigators. When a new comer arrives at the islands and rumors spread about his connection with the Navigators, her imagination ran wild with possibilities. Against the will of her elders, Lani seeks out this new comer in an attempt to satisfy her inquisitive mind. What she finds is more than…

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