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A New Outlook

I need a new outlook on life. The past several months have been incredibly stressful and depressing, and they are taking a toll. I really noticed it over the weekend.

I try to stay positive on a daily basis, focusing on the things that make the day great instead of what makes it terrible. But that’s been tough, and I find myself being incredibly angry and disappointed more often than I probably should be.

I used to live my life like that back in the day, but I’ve been trying really hard to make a conscious effort to be happy. It’s not always easy, and the world keeps throwing me curve balls, but something has to change. It’s exhausting being angry all the time. And I’m sure my boys would really appreciate it if I stopped yelling.

Aside from trying to focus on the positive, I’m not really sure what else to do to change my outlook. What are some things you do to get you through stressful/depressing time?

Sticking to a Routine Takes a Lot of Dedication

Last week, I talked about the importance of having a schedule if you want to be productive. I explained that I have a general outline for my day instead of a strict itinerary, but I still have an idea of what I want/need to accomplish.

What I didn’t talk about was how I accomplish my routine. It’s one thing to say I have a schedule, but it’s another to adhere to it.

Let’s be honest: if you work from home and you don’t know if/when you’re going to get work for the day, it can be hard to find the motivation to get out of bed.

I’m not a morning person. I’m also not a night owl.

But I’ve been forced to become a morning person. I thank my children and my pets for that. Of course, the kids are slightly better than the pets. They’ll sleep in if I don’t get them up or they don’t set an alarm. The pets will let me sleep for a while, but eventually, they think they need to eat.

Nothing wakes me up faster than the dog who eats poop licking my face.

I hate getting up in the morning. I have chronic back pain, so some days it is physically difficult to get out of bed. I’m the type of person who you really shouldn’t talk to until I’ve had my coffee. And a shower. And a few hours under my belt. I’m pretty cranky.

Since I have to get up in the morning, I’ve developed some routines to make it as easy on me as possible. It doesn’t make me less cranky, but it helps me wake up faster so I can at least talk to people in a civilized manner.

1. When I get out of bed, the first thing I do is open the shades

If the sun is shining through my windows, it helps reset my circadian rhythm and wakes up my brain. Plus, when my room is bright and sunny instead of dark, it makes it less tempting to climb back into bed.

2. I exercise

Being physical and breaking into a sweat helps wake me up. Depending on the day of the week, I rotate between cardiac exercises and weight lifting. This also helps keep me in shape since I spend a lot of time sitting.

3. I take a shower and get dressed

I work from home. No one is ever going to know if I’m still sweaty from my morning workout or if I’ve brushed my teeth. However, by getting ready for the day, I prepare myself mentally for what I have to do. Getting out of my pajamas and into my day sweats (hey, I work from home; I’m not putting on fancy clothes) resets my brain for work mode instead of lounging mode.

4. I schedule a time for lunch

It’s so easy to get engrossed in work and forget to eat—and that’s not healthy. Or, conversely, it’s so easy to not be working and spend most of my day eating—and that’s not healthy either. Sticking to a routine gives me a chance to take a break and get some much needed nutrition.

5. I end my day at a specific time

As I mentioned last week, it’s incredibly important to have boundaries when it comes to working at home. Otherwise, the potential exists to never stop working. Having boundaries gives me a chance to spend time with my family and unwind.

Again, being totally honest, there’s absolutely no reason why I have to follow these steps or develop a routine during the day. As long as I get the work I receive done by the deadline, I could spend the vast majority of my day dirty and sleeping. So why do I have a schedule?

Some days, I don’t know how to answer that question. I like to get things accomplished, and I have a Type A personality so I thrive with routine, but—technically—I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to meet my deadlines. I won’t get more work if I don’t, but work is overrated. Who needs money? There are other ways to get cash, such as selling things or sponging off my spouse.

I would like to tell you I stick so well to my schedule because of dedication. And, honestly, that might be part of it. Some days, it takes a lot to pull myself out of bed to face a day of maybe or maybe not working. It would be so easy to just plop down in front of the TV (or Netflix) and lose myself in shows.

In the end, what will sticking to my routine get me? Well, with a little luck, I’ll get more jobs, which means more money. With enough time, I’ll be able to write more books, which could potentially give me more money. My kids will see that dedication, perseverance, and routine can lead to amazing accomplishments.

There’s no reason for me to stick to my schedule and follow a routine every day. I could easily say screw it and do absolutely nothing and the world wouldn’t care. But I would care. My work and routine gives me meaning and purpose. It might not be making a huge impact on the world, but it makes my existence more meaningful.

It’s Here! Humanity’s Hope Is Finally Here!

Humanity’s Hope is finally available in ebook form—and it came early! Originally, it was supposed to be released on July 27th, but the process went swimmingly, so it’s now on Amazon.

I’m super excited for the book to finally be out. I’ve been chomping at the bit to share Caleb’s story for a long time. This book is the first in the Saving Humanity series.

In addition to this new release, I also figured out how to reduce the prices permanently on a few other of my young adult books. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but kept forgetting. I get distracted very easily.

Anywho, for those who are interested, you can now get the Road to Salvation series ebooks for just under $4.00. This isn’t a special. This is their new, permanent pricing. The books include The Appeal of Evil ($1.99), Dealing with Devils ($0.99), and Good Intentions ($0.99). 

My writing has been a bit of a roller coaster recently, so having these upswings makes me feel really good. I’m still plugging along on the third Ifs book, and I have a narrator working on the audiobook for Life After the Undead. I’m getting a lot accomplished.

As usual, I want to thank all you amazing readers for supporting me throughout my career. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.

Want to Be More Productive? Develop a Schedule

I love my schedule. I thrive in a structured environment. As someone with anxiety, a schedule helps me feel in control and able to control my panic. It also helps me get me work done.

For a long time, my goal was to be able to work from home. I was able to get a job that allowed me to do that last summer, then after a few months, things didn’t work out. However, before finding another office job, I worked as a freelancer. After moving to Nebraska, I find myself freelancing once again.

The month leading up to the move was chaos. I didn’t have a schedule per se because my days were focused on packing and cleaning my house and maintaining my sanity. As I look back on those days now, I think I probably would have been more successful if I had developed a schedule.

Are some of you groaning out there? Do you think I’m weird/crazy/Type A because I do better with a schedule? When I say the word “schedule” or “structure,” you probably think I’m not having any fun and it’s all work, work, work. For some people, having a schedule takes the spontaneity and spice out of life.

Well, that’s fine. Schedules aren’t for everyone, but life wants a schedule. It’s made for structure! There are benefits to having a schedule. And I don’t handle spontaneity or spice very well.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I can be flexible with my schedule when I need to be, and my days aren’t exactly predictable. Some days I get more work than I expected, and other days I don’t get work at all. That can throw off all my plans. What do I do then?

When I talk about having a schedule, I’m really talking about having a general guideline for the day. I make myself get up at a certain time, otherwise I’ll lounge around all day. I make myself exercise, which is incredibly important because I really enjoy dessert and I need a dose of endorphins. I also make it a point to end my days at a certain time, usually around 5:30, so I can make dinner for the family.

This part is incredibly important. If I don’t set boundaries, especially as a freelancer, I will be working all the time. I don’t want to do that (I’ve done it before, and it was no fun), and my family doesn’t want me to do that either. Once I’m done working for the day, I have my evenings to do what I want—and that usually means something fun.

If I have work, I get that done first. Since I’m freelancing at the moment, I prioritize what needs to be done by what is due first. If I don’t have work, I figure out what things I need to do around the house (laundry, clean, etc.) and get those finished. If I honestly have nothing to do, that’s when I allow myself time to read.

But, wait, you say, what about your writing? Writing is part of my daily schedule. When I’m done with my work, I sit down and put words on paper. I’ve always done this—even when I had an office job. Most of the time, my writing was scheduled for the evenings and weekends, but it was still scheduled.

Again, I realize that all of us are different and what works for me might not work for you. My point is that if you want to get things accomplished during the day, you have to set aside time to get it done. The world isn’t going to stop for you to work, and things will always pop up to keep you from getting stuff done. If you have a schedule, you have more of an obligation to get things accomplished.

Try it for a week. Set some general guidelines for your day and stick to them. Get up at a certain time every day. Set aside time to exercise—even if it’s for only 20 minutes—at a time that’s convenient for you. Set your end time for work and stick to it. I’m telling you: you might be surprised at how much you get done.   

The Boys Are Back!

We picked the kiddos up over the weekend, so everyone is home and recovering from their adventure. So far, things have been normal, and by that I mean not quiet. But I expected that. I don’t doubt we’ll be spending the next few days readjusting to life without grandma and grandpa.

On our way home from picking the boys up, we stopped at the Archway at Kearney. We’ve driven by it multiple times, so we decided to check it out.

It was pretty cool. It’s a museum dedicated to the history of travel. Apparently, Fort Kearney is a place where all three trails (the Oregon, the Mormon, and the California) converged before heading their separate ways. Fort Kearney was the gateway to westward expansion.

The exhibits were pretty cool. They have these devices with a speaker that narrates the story as you walk though. Throughout the area, there are cards with chips in them so you can get more information about a display. It was a nice break from being on the road—even though the museum was dedicated to being on the road.

I’m very happy my boys are back. Soon, sports and school will start. Until then, I’m hoping we get to have some more fun and visit some other cool places. We have a few on our list…

Diversify Your Marketing Campaigns

Sometimes, I think “marketing” is a bad word. It’s one of those things that we as authors (and business owners) have to do, but it’s hard to do. I certainly don’t market myself and my works as much as I should. I’m pretty good about talking about marketing and marketing for other people, however.

I think the reason marketing is so hard is because we have to talk about ourselves, and most of us were taught that it’s not polite to talk about ourselves. When we market, we’re supposed to talk about how wonderful our product is and how great we are for developing it. It can be difficult to do that, especially if we don’t want to come off as bragging or being self-centered.

It’s also incredibly difficult to be heard and seen in a sea of others who are marketing their products. Consumers are so desensitized to calls of “Buy My Stuff!” or “Check This Out!” that they don’t notice the calls anymore. I’m exactly the same way. I get so irritated with ads, I tune them out. When I watch TV, I even go so far as to mute the commercials.

That’s why it’s so important to find a way to market your product but do it in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re selling something. That’s where branding comes into play. It’s a unique way of showing off you and your product without actually shouting “Buy My Stuff!” to the consumer.

There are a variety of different ways to brand yourself, and I’m not going to get into them in this post. What I want to focus on instead are the different venues you can use to market yourself and your product.

We’ve all been told that the best way to get your stuff out there is to be online. You have to have a blog. You have to be on social media. You have to send newsletters. You have to belong to discussion groups.

The list of “have tos” goes on and on. And while you’re being told you have to do all these things, millions of others just like you are being told the same thing. If all of us are going to be on the sites we have to be on, how do we stand out from the crowd? Of course, that’s the real challenge.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be on these sites, you should.  It still gives you a chance to be heard and seen, even if it’s by a small percentage of people. And who knows, maybe you enjoy being on social sites, so by all means, do something you enjoy.

What you need to keep in mind is that while social media has its benefits, it also has its downside, the most prominent being that it doesn’t reach a large percentage of your intended audience. There are so many people on Facebook and Twitter, they have to limit the amount of people who see your feed. If they didn’t, mass chaos would ensue. Either that or our heads would explode from the sheer amount of information in our feeds.

When marketing your product, it’s important to keep in mind that using different mediums targets different audiences. There may be some overlap from the different mediums, but for the most part, you are probably reaching new audiences. That’s why it’s important to diversify your marketing campaigns.

When I worked as an ad rep for my local paper, one of the biggest reasons people didn’t want to advertise in the paper was because it cost money. Why would you spend money when you could get free advertisement through social media? It’s a totally fair question.

It’s hard to justify spending money on something that may or may not get you a return on that investment. It’s much easier to take the low-risk alternative. But, as I mentioned earlier, you might not be reaching all the potential clients through social media posts. Technically, you might not reach them through a newspaper either, but you would at least be expanding your potential customer base.

What makes marketing successful is having a variety of people see your campaign. You can only reach so many people through social media or through a local paper or even on the radio. But when you develop a plan that incorporates all of these mediums, you increase your chances of being seen.

Marketing is tough. It’s hard to know what is going to work and what isn’t going to work. It’s challenging to invest money in something that may or may not see a return on that investment. However, if you run a business—even if that business is being an author—it’s worth it to develop a marketing budget and expand your reach to different mediums.

It’s Been So Quiet

Since last Wednesday, the boys have been with their grandma and grandpa. And my house has been so quiet. I both enjoy and hate those times.

As you can imagine, I enjoy not having to yell at my kids. It’s nice not to constantly tell them to stop fighting and if they can’t figure out how to share no one gets the ______ (fill in the blank). The doors aren’t slammed every time they go in and out of the house, and the dogs aren’t barking every two seconds because one of the boys is messing with them. (They’re just barking every two seconds because someone walks by on the sidewalk in front of the window.)

But on the other hand, I also don’t get to hear them laugh or have fun with one another. They aren’t here to tell me stories about the video they just watched on YouTube or what they saw on their bike rides. Sure, I call them and hear about their day, but it’s not the same as having them in the same house. If you’re a parent, you know the love/hate moment I’m going through.

Because it’s been so quiet, I’ve had lots of time to get my writing done, and I’ve taken full advantage. I still feel like the story is taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r to write, but I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not in a race and progress is occurring quite nicely.

I’ve also had time to catch up on my TV shows and start a new series. Has anyone else seen Snowfall on FX? It’s incredibly fascinating.

I’m enjoying the quiet while I can (and as much as I can). My boys will be home soon enough, then everything will be loud once again.

The Holiday Threw Me Off

I hope everyone who celebrated the 4th of July had a fantastic holiday! I had a great time hanging out with my family, and my fabulous mother-in-law came out to visit. The boys got to light off fireworks for about a week, so they were super excited. Personally, I was not sad to have the fireworks end—and neither were my dogs!

Normally, I post on Wednesdays, but the holiday threw me off this week, so you get this post on Thursday. I thought about not posting anything, then I decided to throw some words onto the page.

Exciting things are happening around here. I’ve been working on the third installment of The Ifs series. It’s still going fairly slowly at the moment, but at least it’s going. For a while, I wasn’t doing much work at all—and that was incredibly depressing. Slow or not, I’ll take what I can get.

Humanity’s Hope is scheduled to come out at the end of the month. I still don’t have a date yet, but from the way the publisher was talking, it shouldn’t be long. When that happens, all my other zombie books will go on sale. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you when that happens.

It’s hard to believe that it’s July already. In a way, summer is half over. I hope you have or are on track to accomplish everything you want to accomplish. My only goal was to start writing again, and I have.

Fun at the Zoo

Last week, I had the opportunity to take my boys to the Omaha zoo. It was amazing! We had so much fun and saw so many animals I didn’t even know existed! Of course, now I can’t remember their names, but one seemed to be a combination of a squirrel, kangaroo, and mouse. There was even a squirrel that reminded me of my smallest dog. We called it the Siggy Squirrel.

There were even baby animals there. A sweet, adorable 5-month old gorilla, a giraffe, and a baby sea lion (I didn’t actually see this one, but my oldest did).

We walked through a butterfly pavilion—which I had never done before—and it was super cool. There are some really beautiful butterflies out there.

There was an aquarium and an exhibit dedicated to creatures of the night. When we went through this particular exhibit, there were some pools on the floor. They didn’t have any barricades around them, but they were next to the path. My oldest was making a beeline for one of them, and I grabbed his arm before he reached it. I had no idea if there was glass over the top (it didn’t look like it), and I wasn’t going to find out the hard way if there was or wasn’t.

As we were looking into the pool, a shadow passed by on the opposite wall, looking exactly like a shark (I’m sure it was probably one of the fish swimming close to the light), but it freaked my son out a bit. I thought it was super cool.

My kids even convinced me to get on the Skyfari, and I am NOT comfortable on chair lifts. I kept a tight grip on the bar and anxiously awaited for my time to get off. The chair went over some pens, so we saw some animals, but I was focusing on not losing my mind.

I took my hand off just long enough to take this picture of us. 

Zoos are both awesome and sad. It’s great to be able to experience and see animals that we might not ever see, but it’s sad that they have to be kept in cages. All in all, though, we had a great day together and created some memories. I look forward to going back.

Have you done anything exciting so far this summer? If you’re going to celebrate the 4th of July, I hope you have an awesome day and stay safe!