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!


 

anniestaples1

anniestaples2


 

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.

The Dog Days: Too Much Fruit!

“I can’t talk! There’s too much fruit in the house!”

Lemons

One of my favorite television sitcoms is Everybody Loves Raymond. One episode, in particular, has been on my mind as of late. In the pilot episode, Raymond gets Marie (his mother) a birthday gift that “keeps on giving”. He signs her and Frank (his father) up for the “Fruit of the Month” club which sends a crate of fruit to their house each month for a whole year. Below is the dialogue that ensued:

Ray: Listen, Ma, I want to talk about Debra’s birthday…

Marie: My god, talk about birthdays. Your birthday gift to me finally came this morning. Did you know they sent me a box of pears?

Ray: Yeah.

Marie: From a place called “Fruit Of The Month”?

Ray: That’s right, how are they?

Marie: They’re very nice pears. But, there are so many of them. There are over a dozen pears. What am I supposed to do with all those pears?

Ray: I think you’re supposed to eat them.

Marie: Myself?

Ray: You and Dad and Robert.

Marie: How many pears can Robert eat? I appreciate the thought, but please, don’t ever send us any more fruit again. Thanks.

Ray: Another box is coming next month.

Marie: What??!! More pears??!!

Ray: No, it’s a different fruit every month.

Marie: Every month??!!

Ray: Yes, that’s why it’s called “Fruit Of The Month” Club.

Marie: It’s a club??!! Oh, my god! What do I do with all this fruit?

Ray: Most people like it, Ma, they share it with their friends.

Marie: Which friends?

Ray: I don’t know. Lee and Stan?

Marie: Lee and Stan buy their own fruit. Why did you do this to me? I can’t talk, there’s too much fruit in the house.

[Frank walks in.]

Marie: [to Frank] Do you know the fruit keeps coming, month after month? [pointing at Ray] He’s got us in some kind of a cult.

Ray: It’s not a cult, it’s a club.

Frank: What do you mean, month after month? For how long?

Ray: A year.

Frank: My god, are you out of your mind? What do you think we are? Invalids? We can’t go out and get our own fruit?

Marie: I tried to tell him.

Ray:  Alright, I’ll cancel the Fruit Club.

Frank: Marie—

Marie: I can’t talk! There’s too much fruit in the house!

The “Fruit of the Month” club then became a running joke throughout the series and was mentioned in several other episodes. Marie will frequently say, “I can’t talk! There’s too much fruit in the house!” She gets flustered and inconsolable about the fruit. As ridiculous as this may seem, I see it as a perfect parallel to life. When things go wrong in my life, I feel like saying, “I can’t talk. There’s too much fruit in the house!”

Recently, I wrote about our mold and landlord problems. Being newlyweds, we expected to have some difficulties during out first year of marriage. We just didn’t expect to be unexpectedly displaced from our first home together and forced to stay with Kyle’s parents until we figure out what to do. Now that I have an hour and a half commute to and from work, I have time to think about what is going on in life.

The other day on my evening drive through the bumper-to-bumper traffic, I decided that life had signed us up for the “Fruit of the Month” club as a belated wedding gift. Of course, a crate of a different type of fruit each month would be pretty nice since we like fresh fruit and it can get kind of pricey sometimes. That would have been a great gift to get. Unfortunately, life didn’t think we needed the variety package so it signed us up to receive a crate of lemons each month for an indefinite period of time. We’ve got crate upon crate of lemons stacking up in our lives and there’s most definitely “too much fruit in the house”.

lemoncrates

With all of these lemons, we are starting to get creative. We’ve made lemon pies, lemonade, lemon chicken, lemon juice, and any other kind of lemon concoction possible but the fruit keeps on coming. From illness to job loss to financial difficulties to Annie and now this, it seems like we are having lemons with everything we eat!

That being said, we don’t actually have lemons overflowing in our home. We do have obstacles and difficulties abounding, though. Just as I think things are starting to get better, something else happens. Take this, for example:

We’ve been managing with the commute from Georgia to Florida and things seemed to be getting better in life. We both had to make the drive on Monday morning so we brought Annie along and let her stay at the apartment while we went to our respective work places. I took a break from work to go a check on our dear sweet Annie. I didn’t want her to have to stay there alone for very long because of all of the mold problems we have been having.

When I walked in the door, I found the apartment in shambles. All of the blinds on all of the windows had either been mangled or torn down. Annie’s fourth leash (which didn’t last two weeks) was chewed through. The pinch collar and some of the leash were still hanging on the peg where we left it but the remaining ¾ of the leash was upstairs with chew marks on the handle. Our IKEA lamp that was in our bedroom was ripped to shreds. Furniture had been knocked over and pieces of the blinds were strewn about the floor. Apparently, Annie decided to forget how to behave like a good dog in the few days that we have been displaced. I promptly ordered a giant dog crate (which we had been putting off purchasing due to her fabulous behavior when left alone) and patiently awaited its arrival.

AnnieApartmentMess

Too much fruit!

Now we are on the search for a new place to live that doesn’t have mold and terrible management. I’ve searched most of the popular internet sites and we’ve asked our friends and coworkers for help. We need a place with good air quality and someone we can trust for a landlord, but where do we find the perfect place? Who knows!

What I’ve learned from this experience is that you can’t count on a place being the “perfect” place. When we were about to get married, we sat down and decided as a couple to spend our honeymoon money on the “nice apartment”. Now, after almost a year of living in the supposedly “nice” apartment, we are forced to move once more. This time, we will check the utility closet BEFORE we sign the lease. Hind sight is almost always 20/20.

Would I go back and do things differently? Probably not. We did what we thought was best for us and our future at that time. Plus, there’s no way of knowing when life will sign you up for the “Fruit of the Month” club.

Sometimes we all have to say, “I can’t talk! There’s too much fruit in the house!”


Have you ever had “too much fruit in the house”? If so, tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to hear your story about life and lemons!

Until next time…

J. G. McNease

The Dog Days: It’s Getting Hot In Here

**This episode of The Dog Days is more about our Labor Day weekend adventures in the heat than it is about Annie, but Annie is always a part of our lives in every way.


This past weekend was Labor Day weekend which was a holiday for most people. At 5:00pm on Friday afternoon, I left work feeling jazzed about the long weekend. I couldn’t wait to get our apartment cleaned up and start relaxing. So many things were happening this particular weekend… it was the start of college football, it was a long weekend, and things were looking positive in life.

As Kyle and I cleaned every nook and cranny of our apartment, we ventured into the utility closet. When we opened the door, a cloud of dusk billowed up to greet us.

“This is disgusting,” Kyle remarked.

He proceeded to vacuum the dust bunnies that had collected on the floor and scrubbed the walls. I continued cleaning the kitchen and other areas of the apartment until I heard him say, “Oh no!”

I rushed over to him and asked him what was wrong. He pointed up towards the ceiling while holding his shirt over his nose and mouth. What I saw before me was mold. It was green mold all over the corner of the utility closet ceiling. This wouldn’t have been such a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that the utility closet houses our air conditioning unit and is the primary place from which the A/C unit pulls clean air. Clean, moldy air.

After consulting with Kyle’s parents (especially his father who designs and builds houses), we decided we needed to meet with our landlord. We took pictures, grabbed our filthy filters, and headed out to the main office. When we arrived, it looked vacant. There were no cars in the parking lot and no sign of movement inside. I approached the door and read the signed that was posted. It said:

“We will be closed on August 31st, September 1st, and September 2nd for the Labor Day holiday. Please leave your rent in the box by the door.”

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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.