Tag: goals

A high mileage odometer is a badge of honor

I like to travel. A lot. And seeing as how I’m kinda poor, being a grad student and all, most of my domestic travel is by car.

That’s why I’m happy to report this milestone I hit this week:

250k miles!

Yep, that’s right – I hit 250,000 miles on my car!

It had about 130,000 when I got it in the spring of 2012, so that’s 120,000 miles in 5 years – an average of 24,000 miles per year.

A lot of it, of course, is due to commuting to my university, driving 125 miles roundtrip 2-4 times a week for the past couple years. But it’s also a couple trips to Canada every year, and California, and the East Coast, and everywhere in between. So far in 2017, for example, I’ve gone to India, San Diego (flying, not driving though), Georgia and the Carolinas, and Michigan – twice. That’s a lot of miles. 🙂

timeline map

Google has a cool feature that plots your adventures on a timeline, and here’s what my US/Canada trips look like, starting in August 2013 (so excluding a roadtrip to New Orleans I took in March 2012). This summer, depending on my work schedule, I’m also heading to the Pacific Northwest and taking several small trips around the Midwest. And I’d love to get down to Mississippi to research the sequel to my novel Yours to Keep or Throw Aside (spoilers: it involves Aida in Andrew’s hometown). No matter where I end up going, though, I’m looking forward to adding more dots!

How’s your odometer looking? Any memorable trips you’ve taken or cool dots you’ve earned?

Spring 2017 goal review

sand castle

Much needed self-care at Coronado Beach, CA

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how little progress I’m making on them. Here’s the update for this spring.

1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.

If you count chapters, I’ve almost done this! I finished the first two chapters of a novel I’ll really excited about, tentatively titled Waylaid on the Road to Nowhere.

2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything. Either with my publisher or self-published or in a magazine, doesn’t matter where.

I’m not there yet, but I have several longer short stories that are in the pipeline, and I hope to have at least one done by May for an event I’m doing.

3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.

I have to take a dissertation class next fall but since my dissertation proposal will (fingers crossed!) be done by then, I plan to work on a draft of a research how-to book for the course instead. Don’t expect updates on this for awhile.

4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc. Again, it’s about getting my name out there.

I’m on fire here! Kind of. I’m signed up for the Rock Town Lit Fest in early May, the I.O.W.A. book fair in August, and a Read Local event in October. I’ll try to add more events as I hear about them.

5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.

Due to some stupid international relations stuff, I’m not sure how feasible this’ll be. I’m in the planning stages for a trip back to India around Christmas. I was in San Diego a couple weeks ago and wanted to hop the border to Tijuana, but we didn’t have enough time – although if Canada doesn’t count (I’m planning a trip to Banff over the summer), then maybe Mexico doesn’t count either?

At the very least, I’ve been able to travel a lot recently. Three weeks in India at the beginning of the year, a road trip to Savannah and Raleigh-Durham over spring break, and a week-long conference in San Diego. That comes out to a trip a month, so I’m doing pretty good.

6. Read 100 books.

So far, I’ve read 21 books this year, which leaves me only 4 behind schedule. I had a lot of time to read in India (I’m not looking forward to the ereader ban on flights through Abu Dhabi or Doha, the two airports I’ve flown through in the past – what else do you do on a 28-hour trip??), plus I’ve been sneaking in books as a break from my overwhelming schedule this semester.

Overall

I’m actually in a good place regarding my year’s goals. Part of it, I think, is because I’m so busy, not in spite of it. When I don’t have projects and deadlines, I tend to procrastinate, but when I have to be careful about my time management, I get more done.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Resolutions: 2016 review and 2017 goals

new years mandela

Kolam near my hotel in Puducherry, India

Every year I set goals and then periodically update the world on how I’m not meeting them. Here’s the latest year in review.

1. Write at least 30 minutes a day.

Did not happen – at least not on fiction stuff. This year was crazy busy with school stuff that I wrote on instead.

2. Finish something every month.

Nope. But I did at least start something every month. Now, if only I had time to write every day, maybe I’d finish them.

3. Publish at least 4 of those finished things.

I published “A Place to Die” in January. It’s available for $.99 at Amazon or free if you join my mailing list. And I had a short story, “Three Casseroles, Two More Cookies, and a Pile of Uncles on the Floor,” published in a local holiday anthology. I’m close on some other stuff, but school stuff popped up – comps, research projects, classes, etc.

4. Continue the focus on increased marketing.

Overall this year, I focused a lot on marketing: ads, promos, giveaways, etc. Unfortunately, I can’t say that it’s worked very well. True, I lakh-tupled my newsletter subscribers, but that’s not converting to reviews or sales. I’ll be reevaluating this for 2017 because I can’t afford to keep throwing away money on approaches that don’t work.

5. Read 100 books.

I read 73 – by which I mean I finished them completely; I didn’t count books I started but gave up on. This also doesn’t include books I read for classes.

6. Continue the focus on being healthy.

I joined a gym in November – and have made it twice, due to a very busy end of the semester (I think I pulled more all-nighters this semester than I have in the rest of my life combined). My diet also wasn’t the best towards the end – again, no time to cook so I ate a lot of meals out that weren’t the healthiest.

Overall in 2016

Overall, I failed at my goals. Every one of them. BUT I’m doing awesome academically and am on pace to get my PhD in 3 years instead of 4. I’m focusing a lot on building my career-focused CV, which doesn’t leave much time for much else. However, I seem to be more productive the busier I am, so I should have better time management in 2017 and thus actually meet some of my goals!

Speaking of which…

2017 goals

  1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.
  2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything. Either with my publisher or self-published or in a magazine, doesn’t matter where.
  3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.
  4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc. Again, it’s about getting my name out there.
  5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.
  6. Read 100 books.

What are your goals for 2017?

Fall 2016 goal review

After All cover

Hey look, a shiny new project!

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how I’m not making progress on them. Here’s the update for this fall.

1. Write at least 30 minutes a day.

I’ve been averaging about 30 minutes per week, not per day – unless you count writing for school stuff, in which case I’m hitting my goal. But we’re not counting that, so I’m not doing so well at this goal.

2. Finish something every month.

I would probably do a lot better at finishing something if I’d stop starting new things. I have at least 50 stories started at this point – if I could just sit down and write, I could probably finish some of them.

3. Publish at least 4 of those finished things.

So far, all I’ve published this year is “A Place to Die” in January (which you can get for $.99 at Amazon or free if you join my mailing list). I have several things mostly done, just gotta sit down and write and I could probably still meet this goal for this year.

4. Continue the focus on increased marketing.

I’ve fallen behind on this lately, but my publisher will be running Amazon ads soon so that should give me a boost. And as soon as I have something new published, I’ll be promoting that like crazy.

5. Read 100 books.

I’m currently at 58, which Goodreads informs me is 18 behind. I’m holding pretty steady on this one.

6. Continue the focus on being healthy.

I discovered the cambus (campus bus) at school, so I’ve been taking that instead of riding my bike. But I also discovered a really nice local farmers’ market and have been buying a lot of fruits and veggies, so there’s that. Which will win out? Stay tuned!

Overall

Basically, it comes down to one thing – making myself sit down and write. Fortunately I’ve taken on a bunch of new projects this year, plus gotten permission to take my comprehensive exams a semester yearly so I can start on my dissertation in the spring and graduate a year early. The way my mind works is that the more I have to do, the more I want to work on other stuff (ie, writing). So I should be writing a lot coming up, instead of doing what I need to for school.

(This TED talk is a great look at my life.)

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Summer 2016 goal review

Spice Pirates cover

Maybe I should spend less time making covers and more time writing.

I’m going to be wandering the country next week (2016 big roadtrip #3!!), so I thought I’d do my quarterly review a little early this time.

1. Write at least 30 minutes a day.

I’ve been writing a bit here and there, but it seems like there’s always another, more pressing project to work on instead. I’m going to try writing for 30 minutes every morning when I wake up, so that even if I don’t get a chance to write something later, I’ll have hit my goal. We’ll see how that works.

2. Finish something every month.

I wrote a short story for a contest, “Special,” about post-apocalyptic people living in caves. And I just finished a chapter of one of my novels-in-progress, tentatively titled Waylaid on the Road to Nowhere. Including “A Place to Die” in January, that’s 3 things out of the 6 I should have by this point.

3. Publish at least 4 of those finished things.

I published “A Place to Die” in January. It’s available for $.99 at Amazon or free if you join my mailing list. I’m now two stories behind.

4. Continue the focus on increased marketing.

I’ve been experimenting with Facebook ads. While I get great engagement for the money spent, it’s not translating to sales. I just participated in an Evolved Publishing day at Instafreebie which resulted in a ton of signups for my newsletter, but I’m not sure if the people who signed up will either open my next newsletter or buy my other stuff.

I’m doing a multi-author book fair in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in a couple weeks that I’m hoping will get me some attention and sales.

5. Read 100 books.

I’ve read 35 books so far this year, which Goodreads tells me is 14 behind. But there’s a good chance I won’t have internet for part of my trip next week, so I’m hoping to catch up.

6. Continue the focus on being healthy.

I got a couple kayaks for my graduation present to myself, and I’ve been trying to either ride my bike 10+ miles or kayak at least a couple times a week. I’ve cut most processed food from my diet, eating a lot of veggies and protein. I think if I could just cut Pepsi from my diet, I’d be doing pretty well – too bad I need the caffeine to function.

Overall

Like always, I’ve been overly optimistic about how much free time I’ll have to work on everything (writing, marketing, school, research projects, etc). And like always, my time management skills aren’t what they should be. So I’ll end with an optimistic promise to catch up, and we’ll all have a good laugh in October about this.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Spring 2016 goal review

It’s that time already – another look at how I’m failing to meet all the goals I set for myself for the year and a bunch of lame excuses for why I’m not doing well on the writing front.

1. Write at least 30 minutes a day.

I wrote for at least 30 minutes for about half the days in January, none of the days in February, and a handful in March. Excuse: grad school – papers, internship, and TAing 2 sections of a class.

a place to die cover2. Finish something every month.

I finished “A Place to Die” in early January. Since then, nothing. See excuse from above. I’m close on several things, which I hope to finish soon.

3. Publish at least 4 of those finished things.

I published “A Place to Die.” It’s available for $.99 at Amazon or free if you join my mailing list. In addition to being probably my favorite story I’ve written, it’s getting great reviews. I’m going to try to have another short story, “Spice Pirates,” out in the next week or so – just in time for a big sale of my novel Yours to Keep or Throw Aside (formerly The Lone Wolf).

4. Continue the focus on increased marketing.

I’ve been trying to blog more often and post more frequently on Facebook and Twitter. So far, my engagement has gone up but not sales. I tried a lot of stuff last year that didn’t work, so I’m taking a more cautious (ie, free) approach this year.

5. Read 100 books.

I’ve read 26 books so far this year, which Goodreads tells me is “on track.”

sandworms

Sandworm infestation I found while biking through my neighborhood

6. Continue the focus on being healthy.

Now that the weather’s warming up, I’ve been riding my bike more, including taking it to campus with me. I’ve also been trying out a bunch of Asian recipes focusing mostly on vegetables, which I’ll claim are healthier.

Overall

Overall, I’m not that far behind (yet). I only have about 5 weeks left of school and my internship. My summer is shaping up to be pretty low-key – several research projects, maybe a few weeks teaching summer school – and lots of free time. Of course, I tend to waste my free time, so I’ll have to make an effort to focus on writing. Guess we’ll see how I’ll do at my next check-in in July.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Resolutions: 2015 review and 2016 goals

Every year I set goals for myself and periodically evaluate them. Here are 2015’s:

1. Write and submit at least one new short story every month, with the goal being at least 10 publications this year.

Did not happen. At all. I didn’t complete a single short story all year, let alone submit one.

2. Write the rough drafts for a seven-part novella series, and maybe even publish one or two of them.

Book one is half done. The rest are in various stages of plotting – but the overall series is progressing.

3. Have at least one novel published, with another one polished enough to publish in 2016.

Didn’t happen. My next one, A Handful of Wishes, needs serious revisions.

4. Publish at least two long short stories (10k+) or short story collections.

Almost. I have one more pass of edits before I hit publish on “A Place to Die.”

5. Improve my marketing strategy in order to increase my fanbase (as measured by newsletter subscription, Facebook page likes, and social media interactions like comments, likes, and favorites), sales, and reviews.

Partly. I doubled my newsletter subscriptions. I also did a lot more promos this year (Facebook and book list ads, author events), but it didn’t have much of an effect on sales. And social media interactions didn’t really increase either. But I did get a bunch of reviews.

6. Read 100 books.

I read 62.

7. Get healthier: cut out my daily breakfast Pepsi (not sure how the lack of caffeine will work when I generally only get 4-5 hours of sleep) and eventually almost all soda; go out to eat once a week or less; eat more fruits and veggies and less processed, sodium-drenched foods; use the gym membership I’m paying for; ride my bike to work when it warms up; etc.

I did this for awhile, but then backslid when I started my internship this fall. However, I lost 15 lbs this year and haven’t gained it back yet, so that’s something.

Overall, I sucked when it came to writing new stuff in 2015.

Part of the problem is that I have horrible time management skills. I tend to procrastinate then cram at the last minute (studying, writing papers, reading journal articles, etc). But the thing is, it works. For the past couple years of grad school, focusing on the immediate next project, rather than planning ahead, resulted in A’s. I have very little incentive to not procrastinate.

Also, I had a lot of free time this fall. Yeah, I was taking 3 classes and doing an internship and teaching a class, but compare that to 5 classes while working full time. I’ve found that I work better under pressure; when I have free time, I tend to waste it on activities that help me unwind (for example, funny cat videos) but don’t do anything for meeting my goals.

So for 2015, knowing that, I’m going to focus on using my time more wisely. Here are my goals:

  1. Write at least 30 minutes a day, which I’ll track through 750words.com.
  2. Finish something every month, whether it’s a short story, series novella, novel, or whatever.
  3. Publish at least 4 of those finished things – ideally, something every 3 months.
  4. Continue the focus on increased marketing, same as last year: increase my fanbase (as measured by newsletter subscription, Facebook page likes, and social media interactions like comments, likes, and favorites), sales, and reviews.
  5. Read 100 books.
  6. Continue the focus on being healthy – riding my bike more, cutting back on the meals out, eating a more balanced diet, etc.

What are your goals for 2016?

2015 book roundup

goodreads 2015One of my goals for 2015 was to read 100 books. I read 62 – more than last year’s 56, but still not there. My son is getting into longer chapter books, so I included some of those this year (I didn’t last year). I didn’t include textbooks or journals that I read for school.

This list only includes books I finished. There are dozens that I started but didn’t finish (often not even the first chapter) either because they were poorly edited or didn’t hold my interest.

Here’s a breakdown of what I read:

  • 2 (3%) were either kids or young adult; the rest were adult.
  • 3 (5%) were nonfiction and the rest were fiction.
  • 14 (23%) were single short stories (yes, I realize it’s cheating to include those), and 10 (16%) were short story anthologies.
  • I know the authors of 29 (47%) of the books; 7 of the authors (9 of the books or 15%) of them are also with my publisher, Evolved.
  • 6 (10%) were in a series. I tend to binge read those. A couple more were also in a series but the other books haven’t been released yet (or hadn’t been after I read the first one and I didn’t track the next ones down later).
  • 5 (8%) came from Buzzfeed’s list of 32 Books That Will Actually Change Your Life, which I started in 2014. These were some of the best books I read this year.
  • 15 (24%) were books I’d downloaded at some point (probably free) and found on my Kindle; another 13 (21%) were books that randomly caught my eye, something I’d wanted to read for awhile, or were based on a movie I watched. All the rest (55%) were either recommended or written by someone I know or follow online.

Best books I read in 2015:

If you challenged yourself to read a set number of books in 2015, how did you end up doing?  What were your favorites?  Anything you particularly disliked?

Fall 2015 goal review

catvining

Procrastinating by watching funny cat videos with my cat Brett.

Every year, I set goals for myself, and every quarter, I review my progress. Here’s my fall check-in:

1. Write and submit at least one new short story every month, with the goal being at least 10 publications this year.

I have stories written, but I haven’t submitted anything for a couple years now. Looks like I need to be renewing my Duotrope subscription.

2. Write the rough drafts for a seven-part novella series, and maybe even publish one or two of them.

I’m almost done with the first one. Two and three will probably be my NaNoWriMo project.

3. Have at least one novel published, with another one polished enough to publish in 2016.

A Handful of Wishes has a cover and an assigned editor, but that’s as close as I’ve gotten.

4. Publish at least two long short stories (10k+) or short story collections.

Maybe this will be my NaNoWriMo project.

5. Improve my marketing strategy in order to increase my fanbase (as measured by newsletter subscription, Facebook page likes, and social media interactions like comments, likes, and favorites), sales, and reviews.

I’ve been hitting this hard. I just did a book fair last weekend. I’ve taken out various ads. I signed up for a book review service. I’ve gotten a lot of reviews (relatively speaking, compared to my previous rate) and a lot of free downloads. I haven’t gotten more sales, but at least I’m getting my name out there. My publisher is doing a huge marketing blitz in December and I have another book fair then, so we’ll see.

I’m going to focus for the next couple months on growing my newsletter by offering a free story to subscribers. I’m also planning a big giveaway in November centered around The Futility of Loving a Soldier.

6. Read 100 books.

I’m at 46 – 33 behind schedule. If only there were a way to count all the reading I do for my classes…

7. Get healthier: cut out my daily breakfast Pepsi (not sure how the lack of caffeine will work when I generally only get 4-5 hours of sleep) and eventually almost all soda; go out to eat once a week or less; eat more fruits and veggies and less processed, sodium-drenched foods; use the gym membership I’m paying for; ride my bike to work when it warms up; etc.

My eating habits are a lot healthier, mainly because I’m not sitting at a desk eating all day. I’m riding my bike more; parking at my university is horrible, so I take my bike, park on the street a mile away, and bike in. I may be stalled on weight loss and toning, but I feel healthier.

Overall

Overall, I don’t know what happened this last quarter. I had more free time than I’ve had in the last couple years, but I’m less productive when it comes to writing. I think I need to schedule writing time every day and just focus on that – not marketing, not networking, not cat-Vining. Writing.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

 

Iowa City Book Fair on Saturday, Oct 3rd

One of my goals for this year is to improve my marketing. In addition to running various ads, I’m also trying to fit in more appearances – book signings, author fairs, etc.

This Saturday, I’ll be at the Iowa City Book Fair, part of their annual book festival, running the table for my publisher, Evolved Publishing.

Stop by the downtown pedestrian mall from 10-5 to say hi, pick up a copy of The Lone Wolf and works by other EP authors, and get lots of free swag.

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