8 Weird Things You Never Knew About Me

8 Weird Things You Never Knew About Me

I sent out an email awhile ago that asked my newsletter subscribers, “What do you want more of?” and definitely expected them to say, “Free books!” or “Book reviews!” or “Give me all the dragons!”

What did they say instead and knock me off my proverbial feet?

“Glimpses into the life of an author!” and “More about you!”

I chortled. Yeah right, I thought. My life is not that glamorous. I scrub toilets and chase dogs and toddlers. But then I looked through my Instagram account and realized that I don’t really post that much about myself.

Not really.

I mean, not real stuff about me, just about what goes on in my life. (Which is great too!) And if you look at my Instagram account here, you aren’t going to see many selfies or face pictures.

*awkward chuckle*

*clears throat*

So here is my attempt to let you see glimpses into the real life of a Fantasy (and Chick Lit!) author.

8 Weird Things You Never Knew About Me

  1. Curltastic. I’ve had small ringlets like this ever since I can remember. The rest isn’t this cute all the time. TRUST ME. O_O
  2. Vaguebooking. I intentionally don’t post pictures of my son’s full face (or his name for that matter) because I don’t feel it’s my right to put him in the world when he doesn’t know what it means.
  3.  Idaho Girl.  I am literally obsessed with Yukon Gold potatoes. They’re one of my (many) favorite foods. ESPECIALLY with this seasoning. #raisedinIdaho
  4. Grandma’s Girl. I keep this framed picture, taken on my wedding day, right next to my computer monitor to keep my grandma close to me. She was (and probably still is) my biggest fan! She was a serious firecracker.
  5. Bigfoot Believer. Finding Bigfoot is my favorite show. Hands down. Without fail. I genuinely love it. And since we’re talking about Bigfoot, I literally cannot find inspiration without my Yeti cup at my side. #besties #stayscoldforever
  6. DP 10 and DCP. If you’ve ever looked at my Facebook profile, you probably know this, but I have an obsession with Dr. Pepper Ten. Since I can’t find it in any local stores, I’m switching back to Diet Cherry Pepsis. Also a requirement for working. #justsayin

  7. Cheap. These glasses have been repaired by duct tape for well over a year now. I don’t see any problem with it. Just like my hiking boots that are tearing at the seams and are 12 years old. They’re fine.
  8. Not the selfie queen. I took this picture like weeks and weeks ago and still haven’t held the giveaway for this t-shirt and I can’t remember why. Also, I took at least 25 pictures to get one right. Literally, you guys. Literally 25. How hard can selfies be anyway? There. Now you have a selfie of me!7 Weird Things You Never Knew About Me.

    This is definitely not all about me! I want to hear five things about you that not everyone knows!

    Shoot me an email, a tweet, or leave yours in the comments!

 

Being an Author and a Military Spouse

Being an Author and a Military Spouse

Being an author is not an easy road. Creativity is often messy, so when you try to combine that with doing business and marketing and #allthethings, lines get drawn in the sand. Add kids on top of it. Add dogs. Add making dinner every weeknight (and kids want to eat on the weekends too).

Then add a deployment.

Look, this is not me playing the I-have-it-harder-than-you game. Because I don’t. Playing that game isn’t helpful and doesn’t work. We all have it harder than each other on different levels, so why quantify?

But there was a time when I desperately sought out information on how to be a parent, an author, and a military spouse. So here is my experience.

Please share it with anyone who may need a little reality.

What They Didn’t Tell Me About the Military Life

Being a military spouse is a sort of undefined line. Some of it’s black. Some of it’s white.

But most of it is gray.

Some spouses love it, some hate it. Some are really involved, others couldn’t care less about FRG and support systems. They just want to be notified if something’s going on.

I was somewhere in between.

I loved how much of the country we were able to experience (although I struggled with living in the South. #hellohumidity). We didn’t have LM when we were be-bopping around the South, so we’d travel all the time. Husband always got paid—except for when Congress couldn’t make up their minds—and we have great health benefits.

I went into marriage in the military with wide eyes. I knew what Husband’s job would entail. I knew I’d be alone for holidays and birthdays and anniversaries. I knew that I’d feel more like the mistress than the spouse sometimes. Like my girl Megan, I had girl power. I waved it all off. I was raised by a single Mom and worked as an RN while traveling the world.

“I got this.”

What no one told me—and I wrote a featured article about this once on SpouseBuzz—is that it would totally affect my career.

We’ve moved six times in six years. For the first 2 years, we moved three times. For two stations, we were only there 6 months. It’s really hard to get a job as a nurse (at least the ones I wanted) for 6 months. Also, licenses don’t transfer the way I want them to all the time, and pickings were sometimes scarce. For a girl that defined herself by getting her RN at twenty and rocking that job for 5 years, it was a major, major blow. I floundered for several months.

Eventually I shifted back to what I did for a hobby. Writing.

That was a really good plan and I didn’t even know it.

The Truth About Military Deployments as a Writer Without Kids

They suck.

But the truth is, there’s a cycle to them. And they get better.

Whenever Husband deployed, I’d be off for at least a week. Sleep was different. I’d kind of wander the house. I’d eat cereal or something easy for most meals. It was just a weird, transitory time. When it came to writing, it was a time of lacking focus. And I gave myself grace. It’d come back.

It always did.

Sometimes I’d go 1-2 weeks without hearing from Husband while he settled in, but typically by the time I had some contact with him, I was settling back into single life. Sleep was easier. Writing was a good distraction instead of an obligation. I found my friends and people and got out of the house.

By the time 1-2 months passed, I’d be in a routine. I’d maximize my work time. Figure out how to do one-person meals. Worry about him when we’d go several days, sometimes weeks, without talking. That kind of thing. Usually, at that point, my writing soared. There’s a lot of time when you don’t have a husband to reconnect with at night or make dinner for or plan your weekend around.

Writing, at that point, was a great support.

The Truth About Military Deployments as a Writer With a Kid

They suck.

But the truth is, there’s a cycle to them. And they get better.

And everything that can go wrong typically does.

To be honest, having a child and a deployed husband can get intense (especially when your child has colic and cries for 5 hours every. single. day. Trust me on this.) But it’s actually not as bad as I had expected. Although I may have totally prepped myself for the absolute worse, which is, I find, a pretty good game plan.

Having a kid helped me adjust faster because LM forced me into a schedule and kept me busy. There wasn’t as much wandering. The schedule and taking care of LM meant the days didn’t drag quite so much. Sleep was easier because I desperately wanted it. Writing, however, was a lot, lot less. Simply because I didn’t have the time I had before, and there are just emotionally exhausting days you can’t work around.

That being said—setting your own schedule and routine is pretty awesome. I controlled the house, didn’t have to fix dinner, and had evenings and naptime all to myself. I could dedicate nights and nap times solely to writing. So I still got a crap ton of writing done on those deployments because I still had more time, and I did everything I possibly could while the baby was awake.

The intensity of deployments with kids came into the constant emotional demands. When there’s no one else to wake up with that baby at 3 am, there’s no one else. I had great friends and family members that would help out and give me a break, which was so appreciated. The emotional intensity of Husband being gone was also way different because LM was achieving so many things without his Dad to see it.

Writing, at that point, was a great support. It gave me something outside of Mom to focus on.

Military Life as an Author

Having a husband in the military adds challenges. Husband’s schedule is sometimes really demanding. There are times he works 16-18 hour days. There are random days he gets off that I want to spend with him.

Being an author that works from home is awesome.

I have flexibility and the power to pivot in a way that being a nurse never gave me. Also, 12 hour shifts that are really 13-14 hours are really difficult to deal with when your spouse is deployed and you have kids, right? I don’t worry about that as much now.

Sometimes the stress and high demands on my husband’s time and energy make it hard for me to write because it’s distracting and there are more things at home I have to do then. It’s difficult to stay motivated when I feel like the weight of the house is resting on my shoulders  because he’s gone, the car has broken down, the baby has a fever, and I haven’t slept in a few years.

But I’m really grateful for these challenges.

I’m not sure I ever would have approached writing as a career if I hadn’t had it forced upon me in this way. I would have never lived in all these places, met all these people, or found out what I really am made of. SO many Milspouses say the same thing, and the truth is that Milspouses are tough. We learn to be independent and take charge.

Entrepreneurial jobs are ideal for that.

The military challenges all the people that are part of it, but I feel like it creates a really good environment for people like me to thrive if I (or we) choose to do so.

Is working as an author and being a military spouse possible? Definitely.

If you’re a milspouse and thinking about being an author, let me know! I definitely want to meet you and hear about how you’re doing.

What unique challenges do you face based on your family situation?

Are you an Indie Author launching a book and need some help? Or do you simply need someone to be accountable to every month and check in with? Because I can do both of those things and more! Just check out my Work With Me page and let’s get started finding your place in publishing.

Profit First and Money Organization

Profit First and Money Organization

To say that I jumped into self publishing without knowing anything about business is undercutting it a little bit.

Read: a lot. 

Words like quarterly taxes and sales tax and revenue and Quickbooks were SO not important. Writing was important. Making money was important so I could publish more books, but not because I needed to make a profit.

Silly reader.

Paying Yourself a Profit

Pulling a profit? That would come later. When I had more books and was selling more copies per month. The most important thing for my business was creating more books for more people to buy, right? Ebooks. Paperbacks. Audiobooks. #allthethings ALL my money that I pulled in from Antebellum Publishing went back into Antebellum Publishing. Wasn’t that how entrepreneurship worked?

Until when? Husband would ask, and I would just wave it off. Until I’m making more money. I can’t afford to take a profit right now.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Husband switched from active duty Army to the National Guard so he could get his Master’s degree, which left me sitting in the chair of provide as much money as you can to feed our child and pay our electricity bill. Which is awesome, because if anything, I luuuuhv the presshah!

In regards to my finances, I couldn’t put a finger on what was wrong, but I could tell something wasn’t right. How could I be making money, but not have any in my account? My Quickbooks screens were depressing: from April 2016—April 2017 I had made a profit of $10. (I had pulled in over $20,000, but somehow spent all of it again.)

I looked at those numbers and thought, WOT. Where has it gone?

I was basically Titanic heading right for that iceberg and I didn’t even SEE the iceberg. My business coach Natalie Eckdahl with the Biz Chix referred Mike Michalowicz’s book Profit First to one of her clients during an on-air coaching call, and I immediately checked it out. (When Natalie speaks, I listen.) Before I’d even bought the book, I emailed Mike about it.

The book arrived, and everything changed.

Picture of the book Profit First by Mike Michalowicz

Money Management In a Nutshell

Profit First is a system to organize your finances. That’s pretty much it. Mike breaks your business (as an entrepreneur) into five accounts and walks you through the process of slowly cutting expenses while paying yourself money. It sounds complicated but it’s really not as bad as you think. I’m the least detail-oriented human in the world. If I can pull this off, you can.

This is the basic breakdown. You’ll create five checking accounts. (Yep. Five.)

  1. Profit
  2. Owners Compensation
  3. Taxes
  4. Operating Expenses
  5. Income

Twice a month, you’ll divvy out your funds based on certain percentages that you slowly tweak from quarter to quarter. (You won’t go from all-in to only having 25% of your income go to operating expense, for example. He eases you into it.)

These days, I may a biweekly salary and a quarterly profit.

My Experience Implementing Profit First

Here’s a little advice in putting Profit First into motion.

  1. Read it first. All the way through.
  2. Don’t psych yourself out when he starts explaining percentages. It’s not that bad. I promise. He basically holds your hand with witty vernacular.
  3. Find a bank that doesn’t charge monthly costs for having 5 checking accounts and 2 savings accounts. They’re out there. Trust me. It’s so worth it. And work with them however you have to. It took me about two weeks to really get things set up and in motion. I called the bank at least six times to arrange things to my liking. Right now, I have 5 checking accounts and 3 savings accounts without monthly fees that I can transfer through as needed. It’s WORTH THE TIME.
  4. If you aren’t already using Quickbooks Self Employed or some other means to stay organized, start right now.
  5. It’s really tough to face this music. I had a hard time swallowing the fact that I’d been breezing through thousands of dollars in expenses that may have not helped me, or have been unneeded charges.
  6. Buy yourself a brownie when you’re done. That is a lot of work that’s literally going to change your life.

Why You Should Buy It Right Now

For me, Profit First has been more of a mental revolution than anything. It’s changed my focus. Thanks to Profit First, when I work now, I know I’m going to get paid, and that makes me work a lot harder.

 

 

Instead of all my funds going into one giant plate, I have lots of little plates. I can look at one aspect of my business and know exactly what’s going on. This pulls the entrepreneur that loves a challenge out of me. If I don’t have the money to throw at something, I’ll just find another way to make it happen. Because that’s what we do.

We make magic happen.

Questions?

Are you thinking about self publishing but don’t know where to start? Or are you a self publisher that just needs to sit someone down and get help? The great news is that coaching calls have arrived! I’ve absolutely loved helping all of you out via email, but the problem is I can’t do much that way. (read: toddler. dogs. husband. dinner. life.) In order to serve you guys best, I’m offering 60 minute sessions dedicated totally to you and your self publishing questions. We can dive in and get dirty.

Right now? They’re only $99. Join my KCW email list and get a 10% discount (not to mention other great discounts off indie publishing services too!)

Click right here if you’re interested.

I can’t wait to chat with you!

12 Tips for the Perfect Writing Retreat

12 Tips for the Perfect Writing Retreat

You know I did it. Yes. I escaped into the mountains for a writing retreat that pushed my limits. AND IT WAS AMAZING.

Two of my favorite writers (Stephan McLeroy and Kristin Luna) and I pulled together and busted out the best. writing. retreat. ever. If you want to see pics from it, check out here, here, here, and hereI’m kind of a creep in that last one.

*awkward chuckle*

Overall, it was pretty stunning.

We worked 12-14 hours days (I’m pretty sure I worked 16 hours one of the days, but it blurs) with sheer dedication to our writing tasks and career. There’s kind of an art form to productive writing retreats, so I’m giving you the information you need to craft the best—and most productive—time away.  (Trust me: this is not my first rodeo, but it is my first organized retreat with other people).

Because the most effective retreats are 1) focused 2) cheap and 3) exhausting.

12 Tips for a Productive (and cheap) Writing Retreat by @kcrosswriting

12 Tips To The Perfect Writing Retreat

1. Don’t Spend Money.

At least, not more than you have to.

I was easily under $500 for the trip (minus an airline snafu due to a change in my schedule). I left on Saturday, returned on Thursday and had 4 days of full-time work and 2 days of part time work.

  1. We split a rental car.
  2. Bought groceries for the week, and shared dinners.
  3. Kept track of flights way ahead of time to buy cheap.
  4. Carried my bag on the plane.
  5. Used my family cabin. (Thanks again, Ma!)

No one ever said writing retreats had to be far away, for the record.

2. Pick the Right People.

Kristin, Stephan, and I knew each other from the Superstars Writing Seminar where we met. We keep in contact enough to sense that we’d be great together.

And we were.

A few things that helped:

  1. We all did our own dishes.
  2. Took turns making dinner.
  3. Had (and used) headphones/ear buds.
  4. Set out expectations every day.
  5. Collaborated whenever we needed.
  6. Did other stuff, like card games, trips to a local town for groceries, etc.
  7. Fart jokes.

3. Pick the Right Environment.

For me, the familiar mountains are a safe place. (New ones are just a temptation I couldn’t refuse, so that was off the table for options).

Although I just wanted to go trail running all the time, being up there moved me out of my usual headspace and into another one. I busted through work like crazy, and enjoyed some trail time when I needed a break.

4. Have a To Do List.

I’d started a list before I arrived (and added to it quite a bit). Having it already in my head beforehand made it easy to plunge into the retreat. I also discussed some of my goals with Kristin and Stephan, who always had valuable feedback.

5. Take Comfortable Clothes.

I literally wore yoga pants the entire time. This will vary. Some people find heels comfortable. You do you. I’m just saying: put yourself in a physical place where you can dive headfirst into writing. Whatever that means.

6. Pick Childcare You Totally Trust.

This was so important. Because, obviously, LM got sick the day I left and had raging fevers until Wednesday. Thankfully, my amazing husband and in-laws rose to the occasion and I didn’t worry at all.

7. Have Decompression Time.

Working that much (if you choose to work as much as we did) can get really intense. At the end of the day, we had great food and plenty of easy card games that didn’t require a lot of brainpower. Not to mention intense, deep conversations I’ll never forget and always cherish.

8. Don’t Hold Onto Parent Guilt.

Doing something for myself and my career was no joke!

That is hard to do! Husband took two days off work so he could care for my son, and my in-laws made space in their busy lives for me—and LM—so I could have this chance. When I found out LM had a raging 102 degree fever, I felt horrible. But then I realized that this was going to be fine. LM had people who loved him taking care of him, and this was a wonderful opportunity I didn’t want to squander in guilt and insecurity. So I let go of it and chose to enjoy.

When I came back to LM, it totally was fine.

9. Take Breaks. Often.

Breaks meant several things for me.

  1. Trail run.
  2. Walk/hike.
  3. Walk around the deck.
  4. Lay in the sunshine and deep breathe.
  5. Dance to the Moana soundtrack.
  6. Edit instead of writing.
  7. Web design instead of editing or writing.
  8. Talk to Kristin and Stephan.
  9. Take a hot shower.
  10. Stare at the wall.
  11. Play a card game.

10. Switch Projects.

This won’t apply for everyone, but having a lot of projects helped me be able to work 12-14 hour days, because I never got bored or overloaded by one thing. I did anything from editing, freelancing projects, website redesign, blog post curation, fantasy book development, and more.

11. GOOD FOOD. I mean, like, GOOD FOOD.

This, for me, was a must.

At the end of a long day, knowing I was going to dive face first into delicious food (like this vegetarian South African soup that Kristin made) motivated me a lot. Is that sad? Probably.

But so wonderful, too.

12. Don’t forget to take the tax deduction.

That flight? Deduction. Those miles? Deduction. Those groceries? Deduction. Deduction. Deduction.

In Conclusion

Writing retreats really don’t have to—and arguably shouldn’t—break the bank. Especially as parents. If you can finagle time away from the kiddos to just do what you love (and you don’t have to work as much as I did), then you can thank yourself for the self care. There are no rules. Retreats don’t have to involve other people, travel, or even food. (But why wouldn’t you?)

We’re definitely doing this every year. I’m going to make the choice to take time for myself once a year. Even if that means I lock myself in my bedroom for an entire weekend and send everyone else to my inilaws.

Writing retreats are just good for your brain.

The Other Side of Chaos

The Other Side of Chaos

After my last blog post on Hiring A Virtual Assistant, I contemplated the impression I put out there. A few words come to mind. Utter insanity. Total chaos. Life without stops. While that day happened—as they do—I realized I’ve done a disservice in making it seem like I’m ripping out my hair every day.

I like my hair too much for that.

My motto is transparency, so let’s talk about the other side. The quieter side of Indie Parent Life.

The Other Side of Chaos

It’s true—those days of nonstop pandemonium happen. They just don’t happen all the time. I estimate that I work about 4-8 hours a day between naptime, bedtime, and the occasional (getting rarer) babysitter. When I have a deadline coming up, new ideas spawning, a book release, or a writing conference on the horizon— yep. Those days absolutely happen.

But not every day.

The Gift of Balance in the Chaos

Two days ago, LM and I went on an hour and a half hike. We threw rocks in the stream. Meandered along some paths. Chased the dogs. Climbed benches. Soaked up the Colorado sun. Then LM fell flat on his face and received a superhero scar between his eyes.

Lesson learned: even the best days end in blood.

We went home, I cleaned him up, fixed dinner, we ate as a family. Bob Ross played in the background while Husband put LM to bed and I washed dishes. And sometime around seven, I remembered that I needed to do a little writing so I pounded out a few scenes.

In all, about 5 hours had passed and I hadn’t once thought about work.

Those days are my favorite. For me, they’re actually the most important. My conscious brain says, “Peace. I’m out.” So when I come back to writing, I’m fresh. The ideas flow. My fingers fly. I live in the moment in every possible way.

Fantasy is fun, but living in the moment is better.Click To Tweet

It’s a beautiful thing when those days draw out so perfectly. They remind me to keep going when the inevitable poop-explosion-and-toddler-tantrum-days strike.

#canIgetanamen

Truthfully? I don’t live in dream worlds all the time. 5 out of 7 days consist of me playing with LM, running with my dogs, writing during naptime, and watching fail videos with Husband while we connect after dinner.

That’s it. And it’s my imperfect perfection.

I’m still figuring this authoring thing out, guys. Blogging. Balance. Life. How to show who I really am the right way. For awhile I thought about editing down the last post to reflect less psycho-ness. But I won’t. Because that day did happen. Also: I don’t actually know what I’m doing.

You should know that.

Stick around. Maybe we’ll figure it out one day together.

 

In the meantime, let’s be balanced! Tell me your favorite non-writing activity in the comments. MUAH.

Working With a Virtual Assistant

Working With a Virtual Assistant

The fateful day when I realized I needed an assistant came on a Wednesday.

While drowning in my poor attempts at website coding, horrible layouts, a looming writing deadline, LM’s four molars breaking through AT THE SAME TIME, Husband deployed with infrequent contact, and 8,000 emails—many of which needed answering yesterday—I realized something.

I turned to myself and said, “Self . . . I can’t do this.”

Working With a Virtual Assistant

Being a parent is hard. Throw work on top of that and it swirls into a disaster. There are schedules to merge. Priorities to make. Sales to increase. Books to publish. Health to maintain. And heaven forbid—mouths to feed.

*eyes whiny dogs and toddler*

I found that paying for a virtual assistant makes it a little less hard.

Bottom line: as a working parent, I don’t have time for everything. So I pick my work priorities carefully.Click To Tweet

I reached out to Cristina with Faithfully Social and said, “halp!” So she threw me a chocolate donut and we started scheming, starting with a list of responsibilities for her, a massive overhaul, and major rebranding.

‘Cuz why not?

We worked together for several months. She helped get me organized, brought new ideas to my business, and helped me think outside the box. While I wrote, she optimized my website. We aren’t working together anymore because finances and life situations didn’t allow for it, but I had a wonderful experience hiring a VA, and I learned a lot about delegation and working with others.

A Checklist of Requirements

This will look different for everyone, but for me, the following criteria had to be met.

  1. Flexibility. I live and breathe toddler-and-needy-Vizsla-military-wife time. Which means I’m all over the place and miss or rearrange deadlines as needed. Things shift. My assistant needed to be okay with that.
  2. Inherent organization. I am not organized. (see above)
  3. Professional bearing—with a hint of spice. I just can’t take life too seriously. But when it’s time to knuckle down, it’s time. Maybe we sometimes tweet crazy one-liners from our business meeting, too.
  4. Clear communication. When I’m in author-blogger-nap-time mode, I’m kind, but firm. I need someone who doesn’t take giving orders or writing to-do lists personal. #itsnotyou
  5. A Sounding Block. Someone I can say, ‘Hey! Just had this marketing idea. What do you think?’ or forward them an email and say, ‘Hey! Let’s do a cookbook!’ or ‘Hey! I started this project and need organization help.’
  6. Someone who knows their crap. I needed someone who could help me in the industry, with the industry.
  7. Number one priority: Katie writes. If my virtual assistant couldn’t understand that their goal was to make it easier for me to write and interact with fans, it wouldn’t work.
  8. Self motivated. Look, guys. I can hardly get myself outta bed. Not doing it for my virtual assistant.

From what I’ve heard and experienced myself, success is all about finding the right person. They should fit like a puzzle piece.

Here’s what our division of responsibilities looked like.

Me:

—I create all content.

—I make decisions.

—I handle all fan interaction—blog comments, social media, emails, etc.

—I write books.

Cristina:

—All the other things that I sent her.

We shared a folder in the Google Drive with folders, spreadsheets, calendars, to-do lists, password stuff, and then connect with Skype sessions as needed. Her goal was to sweep away stuff so when I have writing time, I focus on what matters—my readers and my writing. She’s has a life too. By common consent, most of our magic happened Thursday and Friday. We communicated through FB messenger. She proofread my posts or told me when I’m getting too in-the-clouds or wrote out a pretty calendar so I could see it all.

 

What would you get off of your plate so you could get to writing all the things? Tell me in the comments!