Weaning Myself off Amazon

Before I get to the main topic, I want to speak to any writers who read my blog. There is a terrific podcast out there called Write or Die. Authors are interviewed about the road to publication and it is eye opening. I knew it was a long process, but until I listened to these authors, I had no idea how long. A part of me thinks it would have been good to know it can take 8 or 9 years to get a book from written to published before I took my leap. My 3 year financial cushion wasn’t nearly enough. On the other hand, it’s a good thing I didn’t know, or I never would have taken the leap. Give it a listen. It’s great information about getting published.

Now to the title – I’ve made the decision to end my Prime Membership and wean myself off Amazon. It’s something more Americans might want to consider. Let me lay out the reasons.

  1. Brick and mortar stores have long warned that Amazon hurts local businesses. Local businesses employ local people, giving them money to spend, and building thriving local economies. I’ll admit there have been many times I have ordered products through Amazon that I know I could get locally, but it seemed so much easier to have it show up on my doorstep, rather than drive to get it. There was a good chance the price was better too.
  2. Amazon’s policies are impossible for smaller businesses to compete with, and are creating entitled customers who expect the same service. No shipping expense, and if you don’t like it, you don’t pay to ship it back. Package stolen – Amazon refunds it fully or sends another, without many questions asked. When a business isn’t doing the volume Amazon does, they lose all profit with those policies. But if they don’t provide them, they lose all customers.
  3. Amazon is the poster child for corporate greed – Recently, on the same day they announced huge profits, blasting through all expectations, they also raised the fee for Prime Membership citing rising costs. Riiiiiiiight. Jeff Bezos has so much money he’s using it to go to space, but he can’t pay his workers a living wage, and provides horrible working conditions. When Seattle tried to tax Amazon to help the homeless population, which has grown due to the high cost of living in the area, partially due to tech companies, Amazon fought back and killed the tax.
  4. And for me, there’s a final kicker. They broadcast extremist views that are contributing to the deaths of Americans – NRA-TV.

I’ve got until December before my Prime membership renews, but I’ve already begun the process. I can’t get my cat food anywhere in town, but I can get it through PetCo. I’m searching out item after item and am finding it locally, ordering it directly from the manufacturer, or at the very least, another distributor. That doesn’t mean I won’t use Amazon from time to time. In fact, if I’m trying a new product, that’s exactly who I’ll go to, precisely for the free shipping and easy returns. But once I know I like something, I’ll buy it elsewhere.

Greed is not good, and right now neither is Amazon.

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#authorstats

If your’e an aspiring author, search Twitter for #authorstats. This hashtag was started to give us encouragement. They asked published authors to list their stats… how long to get an agent. How long to sell their first book. How many revisions.

This is the first one I saw:

Author after author had a similar story. It took years to get an agent, and it took revision after revision after revision.

The hashtag succeeded. I feel encouraged. I’ve only been trying to get an agent for a little over a year. I haven’t even completed ten revisions. My lack of success at this early stage is entirely normal.

Whew!

My only concern now is managing to pay the bills until I land an agent, sell the book, and earn a little income from my hours and hours and hours of up-to-this-point free labor. Because I now have a firm belief that it is not if I sell, but when.

The latest round of major revisions is complete. My next task is to sit down and read it from cover to cover to make sure the new additions flow. Then it will be off to the editor for another quick go-over, and then it’s back to querying.

I’m excited for the next rejection that might give some feedback and lead me to another revision. Of course I’m even more excited for the possibility that they might request my manuscript. Or beyond that, that they might request their own set of revisions (meaning they’re interested enough to see if you can do the work.)

Of course, in quiet moments I doubt myself. I’m sure I’m a talentless hack who has deluded herself into thinking she has something to say. Criticisms and slights ping pong around my head. However, now there’s one thing I can counter with. I’m not an idiot. And even if the doubters are right, right now – I can learn. I can improve. I can revise. I can do this, just like those other authors did.

What goal are you trying to achieve that seems out of reach? Are you frustrated that others make it look so easy? Does that make you doubt yourself more? Rather than stewing about it, try asking them about their journey. Find out their stats. You may just find your doubts are unfounded, and you’re right on track for success.

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Making Connections

There are oh so many things in the news I would love to write about and get off my mind, but I’ve been doing too mach of that lately. Instead, this post will be a progress report.

The feedback on my book has slowly been trickling in. For the most part, it is positive. Where there are issues, I go in and attempt to fix it. So many kind people have pointed out small flaws in the timeline, questions about motivation that can be made clearer, typos, and odd sentence structure. They have also pointed out the good qualities like pacing, dialogue, character development, and chapter endings that keep you turning the page. So far, everything that’s wrong can be fixed, and everything that’s right… well, it’s just right. All good news.

A few weeks back one of our clients at work asked me some questions about my book. Her face lit up and she said, “You know who you should meet?!” She proceeded to tell me about a local author who has sold millions of books, won many awards, and is a good friend of hers. She set up lunch for us to meet and talk about writing, books, and publishing. It was a fun lunch and I was able to ask many questions and get some concrete ideas about what to do next.

His best advice was that it didn’t matter if my friends, family, or even strangers like my book. Until I put it in the hands of a professional editor, I won’t really know what I have. So, next week I plan to get started on that process. Thanks to another connection, one back in LA,  I may already have a good one.

The other piece of advice gleaned from our lunch was that it is time to start querying agents and publishers. So, that means it was time to sign up for The Writer’s Market – a huge searchable index of agents, editors, and publishers that lists what they’re looking for in both a query letter, and a manuscript. It feels a little overwhelming to see all the places I’m going to have to start sending letters, but I imagine the list will get whittled down by a large pile of rejection letters. Even Harry Potter was rejected at first. Eventually, I have faith that someone will see potential and take a risk.

One of the things I’ve loved about this process is its ease. In Hollywood there was a constant scramble to make good connections. If you were chatting with someone, and you realized they were in a position to help your career, your antenna went up, your brain started churning, and you calculated all the different ways you could approach, suck up to, and harness their power for yourself. It made for sick relationships, up and down the power ladder. I’m glad to be off that ladder. I’m glad to be in a world where connections flow naturally.

Even better, it’s nice when your friend has the courage to ask the guy who’s sold millions of books to read your novel. I could never have done that. It will be interesting to see what he has to say, if anything.

For now, the editing continues, the professional is about to be brought in, and I’m going to find out for real if this little leap of mine is going to work.

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Following Joy

When this blog was started, I believed I was on the verge of leaving LA and having lots of adventures. It’s a little frustrating that I am still here, blogging from home about the minutia of my life, and waiting to leave. While the first buyer was eager to be in the house, this sale is dragging out a little longer. It now looks like the earliest I will be out of here is the middle of May. This week all the requested repairs will be completed, and hopefully by the end of the week I will know if the sale will go through.

In the meantime…

Every day there is so much to be learned, and I’m still figuring this new life out. A few weeks ago, it was frightening to have found myself with time to just be. We in the West have a hard time just being. It is beaten into our heads – Life is work. Life is effort. Rest is sloth and a moral failing! We believe in “work hard, play hard,” but the work hard always has to come first. You never hear it said, “play hard, work hard.” I began to feel guilt over not having work to do. This was why it suddenly seemed important to impose some discipline and outline five daily goals. The unexpected consequence was that making a list of things that should be done, turned it into a list of chores. It turned play into work, so that I no longer wanted to either work hard, or play hard. In my brain there was a German woman in a uniform with a riding crop saying, “You vil do dees tings dat make you happy, or I vil beat you about de head. Be happy now! Schnell!”

After fumbling around with these daily goals and becoming more resistant to them, it became apparent that a different method needed to be tried. Not knowing what else to do, I simply began to do whatever interested me that day. One day it was geocaching. Another day it was writing. Then surprisingly, the day ceased to be about guilt and became about joy. Where joy led, I followed.

Following joy is a brand new experience. It has been a long time since there wasn’t a responsibility, deadline, or obligation leading me through life. After I have moved across the country, and settled into life there, there will certainly be a return of responsibility, deadlines, and obligations. However, right now, there is a sweet little window of waiting. I’ve done so much packing and preparation and can’t really go any further until I’m sure the sale is going through. If there was ever been a time in my life to let go of discipline and structure, and experiment with following joy, this is it. I’m grabbing my chance and refusing to feel guilty no matter how I spend my day. It won’t last forever, but I’m going to enjoy this mini-vacation from obligation.

Who convinced us that the sole purpose of existence is productivity and not bliss? Why do we buy into it? What leads you through life? What would you do with this day if you had absolutely no responsibilities or obligations? Can you find a compromise? Life is too short not to follow joy as often as you can. Make sure you do at least one thing every day that brings you joy… more if you’re able.

 

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Rolling with the Punches

Yesterday was the day I was supposed to post. I want to commit to writing something intelligent at least once a week, and had decided Tuesday was the day. I had started on an idea about doubt and the roll it plays in faith. However, life sometimes has other plans. Rather than write about doubt, I got thrown into a big pile of it.

Things were moving along swiftly with the home sale. The inspection went well, and the buyers had little concern for the small details and even some of the bigger ones that were found. They are anxious to finally own a home. Suddenly I was looking at being out late next week, and that left a lot of details to work out quickly. There were reservations to be made for a moving pod, movers, and pet-friendly hotels. I was busy on the phone, excited and scared all at the same time. Then out of the blue, it all came to a grinding halt. I thought a home was worth what someone was willing to pay, however, banks  utimately control the price when they are lending the cash. The bank says my price is too high, regardless of the fact that there are 4 people who are willing to pay that price.

Now what? It gets frustrating and lately my tolerance level has been low. My dating life had alraedy played out like Charlie Brown, Lucy, and that football. I was tired of ending up flat on my back, gasping for air, so stopped kicking a long time ago. Then I felt that way with my job, too. Time and again I thought I had figured a way out, only to have it yanked away. So now with this, there’s that familiar frustration that bubbles up quickly. Here again I feel like my dream is just within reach, and wham… not so fast. When is that football going to stay in place?

However, I keep reminding myself that up to this point everything has gone so smoothly, that a bump or two in the road should be expected. If I have to drop my price, which will hurt badly, I will lose 2 years of writing time. But if I’m successful, those years might not be needed anyway. It means a used car, and continuing to use my barely functioning computer. BUT, it’s not the end of my dream. I recently told a friend that it’s good to be hungry as a writer. Knowing the time is shorter, might push me harder. I can’t let this get me down. I need to keep my frustration in check, as that can spiral into even darker feelings.

The truth is, there’s a slim chance I could still get what the market will support. I mean, we had 4 offers after two broker opens, and never even got to an actual open house. We’re pursuing the possibilities. So today, rather than worry, I packed. I might be leaving LA next week. Maybe not. Either way, I’m just going to have to roll with it.

Perhaps next week I’ll have something to say about doubt.

 

 

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Come Along as I Leap

Not another blog!

The last thing the internet needs is yet another writer blathering on about their life’s experiences, and yet here I am, adding my voice to the cacophany. It seems foolish, because lately I keep running across internet articles that make me think we have jumped the online writing shark. Articles like – You’re Wiping with Toilet Paper All Wrong, or How to Act Before and After a Massage, or An Open Letter to my Ex-husband’s Latest Conquest Who Wants to Raise my Child. Really? Selling an article has come to that? More humliliating, that writer probably only got paid a few dollars for their work. But still, I’m joining in.

This isn’t my first chasm.

If you didn’t read the ‘about’ page, let me catch you up to speed on why you might enjoy reading this blog among the many that are out there. I am a 50-year-old woman who you wouldn’t bother talking to if you sat next to me on a plane. Trust me on that, I’ve had lots of silent flights. However, hidden behind my plain exterior are many adventures.

I grew up with 1000 acres of South Dakota prarie to roam. I spent most of those years imagining I was someone and somewhere else, so when I finally was old enough to make that happen, I went adventuring. I spent a couple of years in Hawaii (chasm 1), returned back to South Dakota before heading off for a summer working in Yellowstone National Park. That summer opened my mind to possibilities, and I just kept going. From there I worked at the Grand Canyon, where I learned about a job at an outdoor science school in California. After leading 5th and 6th graders on nature trails, and helping them deal with a week away from home, I moved into L.A. (chasm 2) to make it big in film and television. Almost immediately my typing speed and work ethic landed me steady employment as a teleprompter operator.

There I was, a small town, farm kid working with Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood, Michael Jackson, Sydney Poitier, Bill Clinton, Neil Simon and John Candy. The list could actually go on and on and on. It made my mind spin. Pulling onto the lot at Universal or Warner Brothers was absolutely thrilling. I was living my dreams every day. Based on that early success, I was convinced only great things lay ahead for me. However, my career stalled when I took a job with the Late Late Show. With no ability to move up, and no opportunity to grow, I stagnated. Since my interests weren’t in late night television, I wasn’t making the connections that could take me where I wanted. Efforts to find my way out always got squashed. When the economy fell apart, it was even harder to leave.

A few years ago, I realized I was too old to realistically expect a writing career to take off in Hollywood.  Prompting paid a decent wage, but there was no pension or retirement waiting for me. My later years were looking very bleak. Staying where I was seemed like death, yet lying before me was empty space. I was standing at a great chasm.

This Time I’m Jumping With a Net

The game changer for me was a risk I took 5 years ago when I invested my entire life’s savings into a house after the real estate market bottomed out. The market recovered more quickly than I expected and will allow me some starting over money – a net, if you will. I decided almost a year ago that when the previous incarnation of the Late Late Show ended, I would sell my house, leave the industry, find someplace affordable to live, and throw myself into a writing career. I’m risking everything I’ve managed to accumulate all these years. It will give me a cushion that will keep me afloat for a few years, but ultimately, it will have to be my words that provide my income for my later years. I have a net, but it’s a thin one.

Enough of the exposition…

… let’s pick up where I am currently. I’ve been out of the entertainment industry a little over a month, I’m in escrow with my house, packing up the life it took me 25 years to build, and heading across the country to Missouri. A place with a good friend, a circle of supportive women I’m just getting to know, a low cost of living, thunderstorms – which I miss terribly, and lots of peace, quiet, and beauty… the perfect place to reinvent my life and allow the words to flow.

Come with me on this journey. See if I fly or fall. Let me inspire you to create the life of your dreams. Tell me about your leaps of faith. Let’s create a community that jumps in faith, believing that they will land spectacularly on the other side. Afterall, it’s not as wide as you think.

 

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