Heather’s Reflections on Summer 2017

As I look back and reflect on the summer it has had its ups and downs. Overall though it was a good fun and successful summer. I started the summer by laying out our schedule. It was full almost from the start between baseball for Gideon, gymnastics for Cecilia, and several already planned trips. But we had set a goal when buying our camper last fall to try and go camping at least once a month during the summer and so we put some weekend camping trips in there and then also added a week long trip on the only week we had left between end of activities and start of school.

I tried hard to be intentional about enjoying the time I had with my kids since I know it is going by really fast. I was working during the days so the afternoons and evenings and weekends were the time I had. Looking back I feel I did a pretty decent job of making the most of that time.

Some of the highlights of the summer for me included:

  • Having fun at Great Wolf Lodge with the family. Riding the slides with the Gideon and Cecilia one at a time most of the time. Thankful for my mom being able to come watch Ephraim so I could focus on them.
  • The multiple camping trips. None without some sort of excitement: The first one being early May when and it being right after returning to work. I thought I was a little crazy but it turned out to be good as it forced me to take time and relax in the outdoors one of my happy places. Our second trip in early June was marked by a fridge that popped open sometime during the drive and drained our battery. So while the older kids fished with Adam, I drove an hour into town with Ephraim to get a new battery. The third trip, my mom and grandpa came along. We went fishing again although we still didn’t catch anything. That trip was marked by forgetting plates so we ate from bowls instead. The fourth trip was the annual trip to the Sand Dunes with my parents and brother. I got up early with Gideon to hike to high dune, then we played a little in the water before the girls took a trip to attempt to hike Zappata falls. We didn’t manage too because the crossing the creek was more like hiking up the creek and the water was too cold for that. Then my parents, Adam, and the older two went for fireworks while my brother and I stayed back. Me so I could put Ephraim to sleep and my brother so he could get extra rest.
  • Simple afternoon fun: Running in the sprinklers, bike ride to the park with Gideon, art with Cecilia, painting with water with Ephraim and Cecilia, and just enjoying spending time outside watching them playing and listening to Ephraim giggle.
  • There was also the baseball games where Gideon did really well and had lots of fun.
  • Cecilia learning to ride without training wheels
  • The rained out Sky Sox game which we are going to try to go to again Labor Day weekend.
  • Girl Scout camp with Cecilia where I got to enjoy the weekend with her and meeting some of the other moms
  • The trip to New Mexico with visits to Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, and Bandelier. Plus fishing at the stocked pond so the kids finally caught something and were so excited.


Yet Another “Been Too Long” Post

Yes. Blame whatever makes you feel good. We made it through the holidays and are now starting the new year. For those that care the next two paragraphs are quick catch-up summaries, one for the freelance/writer career and one for family. Then I’ll write other stuff after. Maybe.

Freelance writing is bringing in a little money. Not a ton, but a little. It couples with Fiverr gigs for now. The income is generating enough to cover monthly freelance costs after paying us, so that’s a start. A ways to go until it covers a mortgage though. The trickle should only grow over the next few months. Until fiction writing can start taking over, hopefully this spring. At the end of this are the latest articles I’ve written and had published. I’ll also update my portfolio page soon. Nonfiction writing is going alright considering. I need to finish the research for book 2 and write it. Book 1, How To Register A Drone, sold a copy the day before Christmas and has had some Kindle page reads. (Kindle page reads is how authors get paid for books in the Kindle Unlimited program.) I’ve done effectively no advertising for it, but once book 2, on licensing regulations, is done I may start. Book 3 will be a study guide leading to a training course. I may need to invest in an actual commercial grade drone (unless someone has one sitting around?) to do that one properly. (Another side business could come of that I suppose.) I also released a journal while learning how to create them that I’ve done literally 0 advertising for. I honestly don’t even know how good it is printed, I didn’t order the proof. It was largely to practice going through the publishing process that I released it and forgot about it. It sold a copy in early December. The next journal is one made more or less specifically for Heather, but I’ll release it as well.

The baby is going to be here soon, likely still in this house though. We’re checking every house close to our spec as it hits the market here. We had one we were ready to put an offer in on, but in a rare situation the buyer’s financing that fell through in the final hour was a FHA buyer, and there was another FHA offer coming in at the same time as ours. We couldn’t beat the assessment inspection timeline, nobody but another FHA could. It hurt for a couple of days, but we’re back watching for something to hit that fits us. The kids are both in scouts, cub for Gideon and daisy for Cecilia. Not much else to say about family. We’re all here and doing as well as we can.

Hmm. Now that I think of it, there isn’t much else to write. My main motivation for today was to get the latest articles I’ve written out there. There are multiple, so tweeting them will take a few days. Here’s the list, I’ll try to remember to tweet one each weekday until I’m through it.

Is Your Big Data Project Ready for Apache Ignite?

Do Data Pros Belong in the IT Department or Somewhere Else?

How Do Your Data Analytics Priorities Stack Up with the Rest?

How Data Analytics & the IoT are Revolutionizing CityManagement

The Value of a Comprehensive Incident Response Plan


A New Venture, Selling Books

20161019_195609As many of you know reading is something our family loves to do. Adam and I have been avid readers most of our lives. More recently Adam has embarked on a career as an Author when the job market proved saturated here in the Denver/Colorado Springs areas. This love for reading and learning is something we strive to pass on to our kids. We’ve read to them almost every night since they were babies, we visit the library regularly, and we are always looking to build our home library.

A few years back while trying to build our home library we came across Usborne books thanks to one of the daycare’s teachers. (Yes, their sales model is largely direct marketing.) Some of these books, such as “You Choose” and “Fairy Ponies” have become among the kids’ favorites. In the last week or so I attended a virtual party on Facebook and found many new books I wanted to add to our collection, as well as gaining more Christmas gift ideas.

With our current financial situation, it’s proving tough to find the money for all of the books we want to get. This party included a little more information on the business side and becoming a consultant than previous parties I’ve attended have. What I learned is that the discount could really help us afford the purchases we were looking to make. In doing the math I figured that even if we end up only getting the discount for a few years we’ll probably break even on the start-up costs. That said, we like the idea of getting some extra income on the side while simultaneously sharing our love of reading and learning with others.

If you haven’t heard of Usborne books I understand. It seems most schools out here use their competitor, Scholastic, for book fairs. Usborne is very similar in what they do. They concentrate on books for kids in Elementary or Preschool. They have exclusive books that aren’t available elsewhere. Their prices and quality levels line up with each other. Usborne even has a school book fair program that we would love to learn more about so we can share. (Maybe next year.)

As we head into the holiday season we’d love to help you find some books to give out as gifts, whether to your children, grandchildren, or friends children. The primary marketing method, and the one that gives the best discounts for everyone involved, is the party method known by us all. Usborne allows not only on-location, but also Facebook parties so we can do this from anywhere and include friends from all over. As new members of the Usborne team we are allowed to offer an extra discount to hosts for the first couple of months so please contact us to set something up as soon as possible. If you could also keep our family and our new ventures in your prayers, we would appreciate that as well.

Our storefront: https://1106185.myubam.com/

A Month Goes By

I’m not gonna lie, the last half of September was tough.

The writer’s conference was OK. I’m not sure I’ll try hard to attend that one again. It was a decent experience and I could see some value, but it’s really focused on non-fiction authors using books largely as part of a greater platform. As someone more interested in a fiction career long-term it didn’t line up completely with my goals.

I did start getting some alright freelance work. It pays well enough for what it is. More importantly, it’s a chance to get experience working with editors and build a better portfolio. I may try to get on the list of editors there in a couple of months depending on how things go.

I didn’t finish the non-fiction. I also made slower than planned progress on the novel. Very slow. The good part is I think I know why the progress was slow and I finally made it past that last week. I increased my total word count by 50% in one week versus the whole month of Sept. I anticipate in a couple of days when I can get back into it I’ll be writing much faster and get through it. I’d love to use NaNoWriMo as a time to write book 2 and I can fathom it happening. Once I’m starting on the 2nd book I need to plan more short stories and book 3. The increased speed will also encourage me to finish the non-fiction so I can start the follow-up for that one.

We had a short trip in our new to us pop-up camper to start the month. We got an amazing deal on the pop-up and I think it’ll be good for us come next year. (It’s at a storage lot right now and likely will be for the next 5 months or so.) The kids are excited about it and I hope the house we manage to find and afford next spring has a garage that can hold it.

The kids break is in the final week. Thanks to the help of Heather’s family in the area I’ve managed to get time to work during it. This is great as I have no good way to try out dictation, especially away from the computer, at this time.

Before I go I guess there is one thing I’d love to get input on. Does anyone have a suggestion for a tax person? Last year’s taxes were a bit of a mess, and this year’s looking to be worse. We made it through last year and everything worked out fine. This year we’ve got a new business started with more put into the start-up than I imagine it’ll earn this year. I could be wrong, and I’d love to be, but I’m not planning it that way. If I am wrong I’d rather it be a happy surprise than plan for it to make more and be disappointed.

Are you all ready for the holidays? We aren’t!

Crazy Weeks

It’s midway through September and Heather and I are both ready for a break, but we won’t get a slow down until, I dunno, mid-October? The last couple weeks have seen Heather working hard at birthday party stuff for Cecilia, and this weekend I’m attending a local writer’s conference. The kids days off of school start within a couple of weeks, including their first two and half week break at the beginning of October, so busy.

The kids are still excited about getting a new sibling. The novel is coming along nicely. I sold one copy of the short story. I think Amazon’s page told me to over price it and am dropping it down to $0.99 for a few weeks to see if there’s any difference. I’ve also started one of two non-fiction books in an undeserved niche that I think will be worth the effort. I hope to have the first one live by the end of the month. That does mean less short stories being written, but I think that’s ok for now. I think the non-fiction novel is going to be better at getting some income in the short-term whereas short stories are part of the longer-term play.

Some freelance writing work should be coming in the next month. I found a service that pays alright, not as well as direct contract work, but better than similar services traditionally have. The other thing I believe to be true is that I’ll actually be able to refer back to the work I do for them as examples (“clips” in the biz) for prospective direct clients. Ultimately this is a way to get income on the way in while building up a base of released books. I see writing such as this as the short-term filler for the long-term game of being an author.

That’s all for now. Every minute writing this is minutes not writing other stuff!

Windows 10 Woes

August is coming to a close which means it’s State Fair season back in Minnesota. I hope to get us to visit that fair again in the next few years. Every year is obviously not happening anymore, but I do miss it.

Out here the kids have settled into school and the new routine. The computers in the house have been having issues though. Since the upgrade to Windows 10 mine has been restarting as much as 4 times a day blaming the video driver. (Usually about once every 12 hours though) Some searching has revealed the issue to possibly be related to having an SSD as a primary and a SATA as a secondary drive. I hope whatever it is it gets fixed fast. I am working such that stuff is saved to the cloud in near real-time, but it’s frustrating when the computer restarts two times in less than an hour. The laptop is better, but still restarts occasionally and has screen blackouts once in a while.

All of this wouldn’t be quite as bad if I had income coming in by now, but that hasn’t yet happened. The freelance bit is hard to get started due to my lack of connections and introvert tendencies. I’ve been trying to vary my marketing approach to get results. I think I need to figure out how to offer a writing service a company needs to them still. the novel is almost ready to be written. I’ve got it mostly planned and the group I’m in has September as a writing month. I’d love to see the first two books of the trilogy written by next year, and that’s not too far-fetched. I’ve started working on some in-world short stories to help build a mailing list and maybe even get early sales, but of course as a new author that can’t justify spending $300 on a cover for a <5,000 word short story that’s not likely to make more than $50 over the next few months. (It’s about the ROI of the investment. the math just doesn’t work yet.) The job market continues to not be great. I’ve had a few leads over the last month, but they have either been development jobs, to far to commute, or didn’t result in an interview.

Speaking of the short stories. The first one, bad cover and all, is out now and currently free. (Amazon Link) I won’t get any royalties if you pick it up now, but if you do and can honestly leave a positive review, that can only help me. Something to remember, it’s a science fiction/cyberpunk short. If you’re a die-hard romance reader you probably won’t like it. However, you could send it to someone you know that likes that type of story?

That’s all for now. I really want to finish that outline ASAP. Hopefully tonight, probably tomorrow. Writing month starts Thursday.

August is Half Over?

Somehow we managed to make it to the mid-point of August. Wow.

The kids are settling into school. Cecilia is taking to the new schedule with a little bit of difficulty, but I suppose that’s to be expected. Gideon struggled with it too.

I’m still struggling to find my place as a freelance writer. I know technology and can write for it, but I’m struggling to write compelling Letters Of Introduction (LOI) to companies. I think my problem at this point is a lack of identifying specifically what I will write for them. I tend to leave it open, kind of a “let me know what you need” statement instead of a “let me write you a <type of writing job>” statement. I think I can overcome this if I do a bit better research on the companies before I send out letters.

The novel-writing is coming along. I’ve narrowed a focus to Cyberpunk and am working on knowing my story. That means I’m meeting the characters, touring the setting, and figuring out the story/plot points. It’s going alright. By the end of the month I should have a solid outline with enough detail to allow me to flow out the novel itself. Based on my typing speed when I’m not trying to figure out a story to tell that means I’ll easily finish on track for a February or so release.

I guess an author’s mailing list is their lifeblood, and I have two ideas of freebies to entice people to join a mailing list. Thing is, I need to write them alongside the books. One should do for a mailing list reward, the others can become novellas or short stories on Kindle Unlimited I think. For now, I have nothing other than the offer of a newsletter at unknown intervals to entice people to join.

Speaking of that mailing list, please feel free to join it here. You’ll be in the “in club” when I make it as a successful author later. You’ll be like those kids that were all “I’ve known about <insert band name here> for years, they’re selling out now” when your friends ask if you’ve heard of this new Sci-Fi author. Or not. Hopefully not, nobody wants to be one of those kids…

(Here’s a big long version of that link in case the one above got hidden. thanks for joining!)

And July’s Almost Over

It’s been an intense two weeks. It honestly feels more like a month has gone by in some respects. With the kids out of school and somewhat around most days it’s been a little harder focusing on freelance building and novel-writing than I had hoped. If a couple of months from now we can see a future from this direction I may need to look at a laptop for me so I can go to remote locations regularly. Right now I would need to take the one Heather uses. It would be OK for me to take it on occasion and test working elsewhere, but it wouldn’t be a permanent solution.

On the freelance writing front I’ve spent some time trying to refine my marketing efforts. The most important thing a freelance writer has to market themselves is their clips. (Examples of their work for others.) As someone new to freelance writing I don’t have clips. I have years of writing here on this website, and over 75 articles at OurAgileJourney.com. The problem here is two-fold. The stuff written here is mostly personal blogging. It’s audience is family, friends, and weird internet stalkers. (Yeah, you know I’m talking to you. It is weird. We have no connection. Either introduce yourself or stop. Your life will be better for it. 🙂 ) The stuff at the other site is written professionally, but it wasn’t on-spec/commissioned/written for hire stuff. I’m working a couple of angles to try and get clips to put up. I’m offering a discount on the first project for clients and am willing to talk to non-profits about doing pro-bono writing projects. I am attempting to find and target tech companies large enough to hire out writing services but small enough to not use a large national marketing firm. I’m also trying to start with relatively local companies in hopes of that angle helping my pitch.

The novel-writing apprenticeship has started and wow! The talent represented is intimidating. Many involved are full-time authors already, working to go from making a living to making a really good living. Some are branching into a new genre for the first time. Some are trying to improve the catalog in their current genre. I find myself wanting to soak up all the knowledge and creativity they have to offer and being a little timid about contributing. If I create and maintain connections with a handful of the people from this group over the course of the next 9 months it’ll be worth it. Not to mention that I’m pretty sure it’ll be close to impossible for any of us to not get at least novel #1 written in a 3-5 book series in the environment created by the group. I hope to have #’s 1 and 2 done with #3 either done or close by February. I also plan to turn around and start another series as we finish. I’ll be looking for Science Fiction fans later this year to do beta reading, so feel free to let me know and I’ll make sure you get invited to a mailing list. (Which I don’t have set up yet.)

That’s all for now. Next time I update the kids should be back in school. This two month summer break just flew by!

Where is the Summer Going?

I thought it had been two weeks since my last update, but it’s been a month. Sorry about that for those that have been keeping up with them.

The last month has seen a big change. Heather and I have decided to let my job search fall into a passive mode while I attempt to build a career out of freelance writing and authoring novels. We will re-examine this decision after a few months to see if it still seems viable. If some nibbles come up I will pursue them, but I am not currently actively looking.

I have started to qualify and contact companies for freelance writing work. I plan to ramp up my volume on this one to contacting 25 companies a week and re-contacting them after 4 weeks. This is largely a numbers game. Of all the companies that I contact some percentage should be viable prospects looking to get some writing stuff done. As I build a client base I am offering a discounted rate for the first project. If you or anyone you know might have a need for a freelance writer I would love to hear from you or them.

On the novel front I have it out with some readers, and I need to spend some time this month following up looking for feedback. The next novel is outlined and I am ready to start blocking out scenes. There is something more to this one though. I have joined a group doing an apprenticeship on writing good genre fiction with some very successful authors. The idea is to find the intersection of what you love to write and what the market is buying and create a novel in that space. Over the course of the apprenticeship we will go from choosing a genre (no story idea required) to marketing and releasing the novel. This process is not one that I will use the middle grade fiction for. I think I am going to do Science Fiction for it and currently have a very general story arc for 3 books with a 4th kind of hinting at me. This was not an easy choice as there was not only a decent financial commitment, but there is a time and effort commitment as well. If all goes as planned with this there will be at least two of the novels out by this time next year. A downside is that this may slow down my hoped for progress on the middle grade fiction work. An upside is that I expect it to accelerate a fiction writing career dramatically for me, shaving a good 1-2 years off of what it would otherwise take to see a path to living off of that alone and providing a network of like-minded individuals that would otherwise take years to build.

That’s pretty much it for now. The next few months to a year will require hard work and dedication, but I think the end result will be worth it.

Short Week

This week I managed to get the novel both entered into a local contest and out to some people who are going to do beta reading for me. It is being sent with a pen-name because some of the people have kids that would recognize my name and possibly skew their feedback. I have started on the next story arc and hope to be outlining by this time next week.

The job front continues to be quiet without much posted and very little action when things are.

On the freelance front I have a very basic site set up at adammyhr.com. Next week I’ll add some detail and start actively pursuing clients. With that in mind if you or anyone you know have any projects that include freelance writing or editing I’d love to talk. As an added bonus I’ll work out some great rates if you (or someone you know) contacts me in the next two weeks and mentions this post – even outside of the technology space.