Life, writing

I have to do what? Author tasks.

I posted a funny graphic on Facebook a few days ago about what it takes to be an indie author. If you missed it, here it is.

And the headbanging

While I laughed at the statement, it’s 100% true. This indie author thing isn’t simply putting words to the page and hitting publish and the cash flows in. If only. The writing is the easy part. It’s everything else that is hard for me to maintain.

For fun (or torture,) I thought I’d go over the list of things mentioned and let you know how much (if any) I do of each of the tasks assigned to an author (whether we want them or not.)

  1. Read-Yes, authors need to read. Not just their own books, but others in their genre to make sure they are on target with what readers are expecting, but also books outside of their genre to expand the mind and provide fuel for the muse. It’s hard to make time for it because so many other things are on the list, but I always try to have at least one fiction book by my bed.
  2. Write-That’s a no-brainer. A writer needs to write. Seems simple enough but you’d be surprised how hard that can be. Because I work a full-time job, I have carved out one hour a day before I log into work to write/edit, whatever needs to be done. An hour might not seem like a long time, but when it is focused and planned, I’ve found I”m able to keep up with the goals I’ve set for myself. Which is four book releases a year.
  3. Edit-While I do hire an editor for my books, I also do self-edits in the 4-5 drafts of a manuscript before it lands in the hands of my editor. As an indie author, you’ll read your own story so many times that you’ll get sick of it. That’s usually when I know it’s time to send it to the editor… before I delete the entire thing.
  4. Proofread- Once the editor is done with your book you still have to look over each and every suggestion they make to see if you agree or not. Simple punctuation may be an easy thing to accept, but oftentimes, editors will make suggestions about the dialogue or the plot, and you, as the author, have to decide whether to take those suggestions or not. Even if it means a substantial rewrite.
  5. Format the books-If you have a Mac, this is pretty easy, as there is an auto-generated formater you can use. If you’re stubborn or poor and can’t afford a Mac, (like me) you can pay for other services, or go old school and format it yourself in Word. Which is what I do. And that takes time. A good chunk of it. You have to format the ebook and the paperback because each of them have different requirements. Of course they do.
  6. Make Ads-Admittedly, this is where I suck. I know what I need to do, but it’s so time-consuming. I have the books, and I know about the courses, but making an ad shouldn’t be that hard on Facebook and Amazon! If you want people to pay for your services at least make it user-friendly and not this big mystery you have to figure out. Then again, I’m sure they make a decent profit on the idiots like me who don’t know what they are doing.
  7. Maintain Social Media Accounts-This was easier to do before the day job. At the end of the day, all I want to do is be a couch potato. So, another marketing fail. I know I need to get better. I’m trying to make a better plan for that. When I can find the time. Ha.
  8. Blog-What you’re reading right now. I tried for a while to do two posts a week but that has turned out to be too hard to maintain. Blogs are a good way to keep readers in the loop of weekly stuff that comes up, both with writing but also personal stuff. Blogs also serve a functional purpose. It keeps my name active in a search algorithm. It’s a necessary evil for me.
  9. Newsletter-A vital tool for the author. Newsletters can be sent monthly, weekly, or whatever you decide. I aim for 2-3 a month. Content for my newsletter is mostly book-related. Releases, sales, member perk stories, etc., but each author needs to decide for themselves how they want to utilize their Newsletter. Great. More things to think about! Ha.
  10. Graphics– You want to make ads for your books? You want to market them at all?Then, you need to learn how to do graphics. There are several places to use. PicMonkey, Canva, BookBrush… Find one and start practicing your graphic design. For each book release, I make anywhere from 50-100 graphics. No joke. That takes time to create, time to learn the platform and time for mistakes. So many mistakes.
  11. Craft books-An author essential. Writing is something that can always be improved. When I look back at my first suspenseful romance and compair it to my most recent suspenseful romance I can’t believe it is the same writer. The voice is still in both, I think, but my skill as a writer has only grown. That skill comes from practice, sure, but also the lessons I’ve learned from books I’ve read on the craft. I try to get in at least one or two craft books a year. These are the two I’ve been working through this year.
So far, both are solid reads.

If you’re writing anything that requires research, like historical fiction, or you’re writing about a character who is say, a doctor, but you don’t know anything about what it’s like to be a doctor. That means you need to research that stuff. What hours would they work? What does their environment look like? How much do they make, ect. All of this stuff factors into the character and the world you are creating. And that research takes time. You guessed it.

There is also something missing from this list. And that is taking the time to live your life. See family, go out to movies, have dinner with friends… time to experience things so that you have some real-world experience to draw from. The pressure to do everything on the list can easily overwhelm you which can cause you to think that you’re failing. I’m a painful introvert, and even I know I need to get out of the house every once and a while.

Over the weekend, I’ll be losing an admin day (to write blogs, newsletters, make graphics, etc.) so I could take my daughter and her friend out to see a movie and grab dinner, then back here for a sleepover. The writing tasks will fall behind as a result of that outing. But that’s okay. Making memories takes priority. There will be time to write newsletters next Saturday.


Until next week, friends,

Danielle/Dani Bannister, author and seeker of experiences

Life

Attempting to create meal plans. ATTEMPTING.

I’m not much of a cook. In fact, it’s one of the things I hate most in life. Probably because I wait to cook food when I’m ‘hangry’ (so hungry you get angry.) I’ve noticed, however, that since starting my new remote 9-5 job, I enjoy cooking even less. If that’s possible. At the end of every day, I’m so mentally drained and hungry, that the idea of going to make food in this recent heat leaves me eyeing the cereal boxes. And on days when the kids are with their father, that is often my go-to.

My children, however, probably should have something a tad better than Corn Pops for dinner. Lately, it’s been frozen pizzas or chicken nuggets and fries, etc, because… well, see above.

Last weekend, I went down a YouTube rabbit hole of quick and easy dinner ideas. Two things I love. Quick and easy. These same YouTubers tell me I’ll save money this way too. Well, wouldn’t that be a nice bonus?

Most of them said variations of the same thing:

1. Take an inventory of what you already have in your house. What spices do you already have (have they expired?) What condiments are in that side drawer of your refrigerator (have they expired?) What’s in the pantry? What’s frozen that you’ve long forgotten about?

Yeah, this is not a great situation. I know. I know.

Admittedly, this is a valid step. Did I do it? Well, not to the extent it suggests, but I do plan on doing these things. In chunks. Starting with my spice rack. I KNOW there is stuff in there that should be tossed or I will NEVER use. I re-did my pantry recently, so things are pretty easy to see, and yeah, I have stuff I should use up before I buy more. My freezer is small, so again, not much hides there, but I could widdle that down too. I’m starting to see how this might save some money ha.

Write down all of the meals you know how to make without thinking about it. This will eventually sort itself out into about 20-30 meals that you can rotate through which will take out some of that stress of shopping.

I did say I wasn’t a good cook, yes?

My list is NOT great. Part of why I want to try this. Maybe my ideas can expand. My poor kids. ha.

Head over to Pinterest and start pinning. So many of these YouTubers said they went to Pinterest for meal ideas, so off I went, and I went a little pin happy.

I now have a bunch of ideas I think my kids would like and that I might realistically be able to make. Including several crock pot meals. If I can’t throw stuff in a crock pot and walk away, then I need to re-think some things.

Get a binder and start printing off meals you’ve tried/liked and will make again. Then, using your inventory, your grocery staple list, and your new list of meals, you can figure out what meals will work best for your family that week given the schedule you’ve got going on.

I’ve got my binder started…

These are the three meals I’m gonna try out this week.

I’ll eat up some of my frozen leftovers on the days the kids aren’t with me, but this is at least 3 days of dinners that don’t seem super hard and I think will work.

I’ll serve up the sliders with sliced cucumbers, and that bag of frozen fries taking up space in my freezer. The pasta I’ll pair with some frozen garlic bread I have on hand and I’ll whip up a simple salad with the lettuce that I always buy that seems to go bad before we eat it. For the chicken and potato, I’ll roast up some carrots or if I’m super lazy, grab a can of corn or green beans and call it good. Not sure why recipes leave out veggies but they usually do.

Now, did this prep work save me any money at check out? It did, actually. About 50 bucks worth. Is this sort of prep something I can pull off every week? Well, that remains to be seen.

Curious, do any of you meal prep? Got any tips/tricks or easy meals I should add to my binder?

Until next time,

Danielle/Dani Bannister author and experimental cook

Life

Best-laid plans, am I right?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you’ll know I love to make a plan. Even though I know the plans don’t always work out. Having a plan makes me feel like I have some control over a chaotic existence. Ha. Futile, I know. But it helps me focus.

To that point, in January, I started my first-ever book reading challenge. I wanted to read one fiction book a month. I even made a handy-dandy little chart to know which book I’d read when.

I HAD A PLAN, DARN IT!

And then, well the position I had for 16 years with super flexible hours was reduced in hours by half thanks to the pandemic which meant I had to switch jobs. Can you tell me what month I started the new gig? Ha.

Ah, life.

March and April were a big learning curve for me as I adjusted not only to a new position but also moving to consistent work hours. It’s taken me a few months to find a new groove, which meant that some of my usual reading time was cut. And with it, two books fell off this year’s list. They’ll go on next year’s challenge, but this is where I’m at now. And I might not get to all of the books left this year, but I’m giving it a whirl. And at the end of the day, that’s all you can do, right?

Until next time…

Danielle Bannister, author and changer of plans

Life

Harry is welcome at my house.

Well, it’s May 20th, which might not mean much to some of you, but for anyone with a Harry Styles fan in the house, you know it’s release day. My daughter has a slight obsession with the man, and I can’t give her any slack for it because I’m right there with her. (Okay, maybe not to the same extent but I can appreciate talent. And that man has it in spades.) I’m not going to stay up until midnight like my daughter did to listen to the album the second it dropped, but it will be on heavy repeat today. I appreciate talent but I like sleep more.

The day the pre-order dropped for the album, I instantly bought two copies. One for the house and one for the car. Yes, I know I can just listen on my phone, and I absolutely will, but we needed the CDs too.

When my daughter started listening to him years ago, I by osmosis, had to listen to him too. Even in the 1D albums, I could always pinpoint Harry’s voice, because it was the strongest. Sorry, Zane lovers. I said what I said. Since departing from 1D Harry has continued to make musical choices that are bold, original, fresh, and fun. He pushes expectations from everything from lyrical choices, to sound, and style, and it’s refreshing and beautiful.

If you haven’t seen much of Harry, or don’t know him outside of 1D, might I suggest these examples that highlight his diversity? (I threw in a few live performances too because that’s the true test of a singer for me.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have an album to listen to.

Danielle/Dani Bannister, writer and member of Harry’s House

Life

Are you there, Laura? It’s me.

Today’s blog post is a bit of an odd one, I’ll admit because it only applies to ONE person. Literally. But, if you want a fun story with a small treat at the end, read along.

Several years ago, a reader from Australia reached out to me via e-mail. Let’s call her Laura (because that’s her name.) I think she found me through my blog (hence why I’m posting here. ) She had read one of my books and reached out to tell me so. Laura is also a writer and for years after that first contact, we sent long winding emails back and forth talking shop and life stresses. It was always a treat to get an email from her because we each wrote novel-length emails. We became long distant, digital pen-pals.

Then, one day, I sent her an email and didn’t hear back for months. I knew she was going through some life/work changes so I didn’t think anything of it. She’d reach out when she had settled. Eventually, she emails I asking how I was doing. I replied back about how much I’d missed her, and wondered if she got my last e-mail since I hadn’t heard from her. And nothing. Nada. Weird.

Then, about a year later, she messaged again, reaching out sorry that she hadn’t written, hoping I was well, yadda, yadda, yadda. I emailed back immediately, but again. No reply. Very weird. I even sent her a separate email from a different account wondering if she might have inadvertently blocked me.

Crickets.

She’s not really on social media often, though I did try to reach her there. Nothing.

So, Laura, if you happen to catch this blog post: I’M NOT AVOIDING YOU. I just can’t seem to get into your inbox! Ha. Shoot me a message on Facebook! I miss you and need to be caught up on all the things!

If you are NOT, Laura, and you’ve made it this far, here is your treat: a picture of my daughter’s dog getting a bath. She’s a pretty little lady.

Until next time, friends (and Laura too if you read this!)

Danielle/Dani Bannister, author and searcher of my friend, Laura

Life, writing

Work/Life Balance: A month in

It’s been a little over a month since I started a new full-time remote gig and I’ve been worried about what that shift in hours at a day job/responsibility load would do to my writing schedule. Even WITH planning ahead for such a transition, I knew there were bound to be hiccups along the way.

And that first hiccup hit me hard last weekend. Since starting at the new job, I’ve spent my weekends catching up on the administrative tasks of being a writer: blog posts, newsletter content, social media posts, graphic prep, and reading books in my genre to make sure I’m on top of troupes, etc. You’ll notice there is no actual book writing time scheduled for the weekend. That was a deliberate plan.

M-F Write/edit in the mornings for one hour before logging into work. S-S, admin work, and any catchup of writing/editing that needed catching up. It’s a workable plan. Until it isn’t.

You see, last week, unbeknownst to myself, I was plucking along editing the WRONG draft of a manuscript. For four days, I raised an eyebrow at how much longer this round of edits was taking and got mad at myself for missing so many things. It was on morning five that I realized I was editing draft 1 of my manuscript and not draft 3. NO WONDER there was so much wrong with it! Now, in the grand scheme of things, that’s just four days lost to edits. But when you’ve mapped your whole month out based on things getting done, it does throw a wrench into the system.

Not to worry, I build in catch-up days (weekends and a few days each month because life happens.) With a pencil in hand, I re-worked all my due dates and still made it on time.

Until, another hiccup. I forgot about Easter. My kids and I to my parents each year for Easter. And while it was only about five hours I was gone, that’s five hours of catch-up time I wouldn’t have. Out comes the pencil again, because, of course, I went to see my family. I know where my priorities are. Hence, why my plans are always in pencil.

So, what does this mean for the fate of Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 of Where You Left Me? Not a thing. Those are still on track, hiccups be damned. Vol. 2 is out with ARC readers, and Vol. 3 will just take a week longer to finish. Not the end of the world.

Now, as to when all the housework is going to be done… that’s a matter for another weekend.

Hey, at least they are clean.

Until next week, my friends!

Danielle/Dani Bannister, author and balancer of all the life things

Life

Don’t Be Fooled Today…

Today’s blog post is a public service announcement. WARNING: It’s April Fool’s day. Believe NOTHING without further independent research.

As an empathetic person, I loathe this day. A day when the ‘holiday’s’ sole purpose is to make someone else believe a lie. It makes me literally nauseous. Can my fellow empaths relate? Or is this just something that upsets me physically?

I can’t watch those videos of people falling and getting mildly hurt. Instead, I worry about them. Did they break something? Do they have good insurance? How much pain might they be in. Do they have someone in their life to help them through it? Yeah. It’s a spiral effect. Don’t get me started on second-hand embarrassment. There is a whole category of movies I won’t watch because of how badly I feel for the hero that keeps getting embarrassed for the sake of laughs. I hate it.

I have issues. Clearly.

Even wildly popular shows like The Office… I have a hard time watching poor Steve Carrel when he’s on the screen. Yes, he’s a moronic character we’re supposed to laugh at, but what I see more than anything is a terribly lonely man. It’s difficult for me to watch him bumble through his life trying desperately to make a connection, with anyone, and consistently failing. (Yes, there is SOME redemption for him with his character when he leaves the show, but man, it was hard to watch the moments leading up to that.)

So, a day devoted to making someone feel foolish? Not a fan. I’m aware this character trait makes me “too sensitive” or “ridiculous” but it’s a part of me. Like it or not.

Today, I shall go through everything I see and hear today with a layer of hesitancy. Even more than normal. Ha.

Until next week, friends!

Danielle/Dani Bannister, author and cautious exister today

Life, writing

Ask it. Believe it. Receive it. Pt 2.

A while back, I did a post on manifestations. In that post, I talked about how I’d been trying a new approach to thinking. I’d been reading a lot of manifestation books and articles on the concept and thought I’d give it a shot.

The general idea was that you should ask the Universe for something. Then, believe you’d get it, and when you did, realize you got what you asked for. Ask it. Believe it. Receive it.

So, I had to think about things I wanted. And being okay with wanting something. This was no time to be meek. I had to allow myself to ask for things. After some self-reflection, there were three really big things (for me) that I started with.

  1. I wanted Girl on Fire to become a bestseller.
  2. I wanted a new couch. A very specific new couch.
  3. I wanted financial stability. (Don’t we all?)

With the list of what I wanted, I began the work of manifesting them into reality. I started this journey of manifestation back in August of last year. It wasn’t as easy as just writing down the things I wanted. I also had to trust and BELIEVE that those things would come to me. That the Universe would give me what I wanted. My job was not to focus on HOW I’d get those things, but rather to trust that they would happen and acknowledge it when it did.

For six months I journaled. I asked the Universe for what I wanted. I imagined myself having the things I asked for. Truly believed that they would come to me. All I had to do was ask and believe, (harder than it sounds) and if I did those two things, the Universe would find the fastest way to give me those things. Trust me, I know it sounds wackado, but I did it anyway. I trusted the process.

Well, it’s six months later. How have any of those three manifestations come true?

  1. I wanted Girl on Fire to become a bestseller.
Boom.

2. I wanted THIS couch. I even taped inside my journal six months ago. I did not have the $1,300 bucks to pay for this couch. I only had about $300 bucks tucked away for it one day.

I have ALWAYS wanted an L-shaped blue couch.
I have no idea why.

Then, out of the blue, $1,000 came my way. It wasn’t money I was expecting or planning on. But the Universe provided it to me. I’ll be honest, at first, I didn’t want to use it on the couch. My worrier wanted to save it, or put it toward a new car (which I also need.) But a dear friend reminded me that I had asked the Universe for this couch. My job was to receive the gift. So, I ordered it!

It is everything I hoped for and more!

And lastly, the big item I was the most terrified to ask for.

3. I wanted financial security.

Now, this ask is a personal one. Ever since my divorce years ago, I have struggled to raise two kids with my day job. My writing, while I love doing it, isn’t paying for anything but itself at the moment, so a day job is a necessity. But, finding a job with my health issues is tricky. Which is part of why I stayed at my lower-paying job for 16 years. It worked for my health.

Earlier this month, my current day job let me know that my position might not be there next year. COVID had really affected the need for my role in its current state. Suddenly, I HAD to look for a new job. While I was terrified of the thought of starting all over in a new position, I trusted that the Universe had a plan. I BELIEVED that I would find the perfect job for me. As a normal worrier, it is not easy to let go of control.

But I had asked the Universe for financial security, and I am here to report, that that is exactly what the Universe gave me. Starting next week, I’ll be working a remote job that will take care of the health issue, I’ll get great benefits, a built-in community, but more importantly, it will also tick off that final box of being financially secure. After 16 years of living paycheck to paycheck, I will be able to let out a breath and know that I’ll be okay.

So, six months in, do I think manifestation works? Do I think writing down daily things I’m grateful for matters? Yeah. Yeah, I do.

Now, the only question is, what am I going to manifest next?

Danielle/Dani Bannister Author and believer of dreams

Life

Gratitude amidst a wake of chaos

I’ve blogged here a few times on having an attitude of gratitude, which can be challenging especially when the unexpected happens. Like your pipes freezing and your plumbing deciding to have issues at the same time.

To make a long story short, I’ve been having some plumbing issues in one of my bathrooms that my landlord thought he fixed with a new toilet. Not so much. Then we got hit here with -15 degree temps for three days in a row. Those temps, despite my best efforts to keep those pipes warm (constant drip, heat up, cabinets open) were no match for that bitter cold, and so my one working bathroom was no more. And the septic people wouldn’t be free for at least two days. Oh, and my kids were with me.

Two days without running water or toilets with three people? Um. I don’t think so. I called my kid’s dad to see if they could stay there instead and I was planning on staying at my work. Not ideal, but at least they had heat and a bathroom. But then the ex-husband said I could crash with the kids if I wanted. My ex and I have a good relationship so I took him up on the offer and brought my air mattress and slept in my daughter’s room.

It would have been so easy to be grumpy about being displaced. To wallow in how annoying it was to pack a suitcase and travel in the bitter cold. To lament that I wouldn’t have my comfy bed to sleep on or to stress about the pipes bursting and causing damage to my home while I was away.

Instead, I pulled out my gratitude journal and wrote down three things I was grateful for.

  1. I am grateful that I have a warm place with running water I can stay in with my children.
  2. I am grateful that I rent and have a landlord who is tending to the frozen pipes and plumbing issues.
  3. I am grateful I am not experiencing a UC flare at this time.

That simple act of focusing on gratitude shifted my entire mood about the situation. It made me appreciate all of the things that I did have so that when I got the call the next day that the pipes were thawed and that the septic people would be there the following day, the kids and I packed up and went home, grateful for water and one working toilet.

I now have two working bathrooms and a mandate to only use single-ply toilet paper until an elbow pipe can be replaced this summer. Could I moan and complain about the annoyance of using the literal worst of all toilet papers? Sure. But I could also be grateful that I now have the use of both bathrooms back. You don’t realize how much you use a bathroom until you can’t anymore. So, I’ll choose gratitude and endure the single-ply.

Danielle/Dani Bannister, writer and grateful single-ply tp user

Life

Some days are like that…

There are some days that I forget I have a chronic illness. When the flare ups are a memory and life is normal, or as close to normal as it gets when you have chronic illness. Then, there are days where your body reminds you, “Oh, right. I’m sick.”

The last few days have been like that for me. The unpleasant reminder that all is not well in the core that is Danielle Bannister’s body. And orange sherbet is to blame. Yep, something as pure and sweet as a frozen treat can sometimes be all the trigger my ulcerative colitis needs to go, “Nope, that does not work for us. Cue the pain and misery.”

Today’s annoying plan.

When a flare-up happens, the best you can do is be VERY careful what you eat (nothing rough on the gut at all) lay on your couch and be close to a bathroom. It makes doing much of anything challenging. Even making dinner for your children becomes hard because standing up hurts. You also lose quite a bit of blood during a flare up so you also just feel weaker in general. It makes to-do lists nearly impossible. And you know how much I love a to do list.

Today is day three of the flare and I think I’m getting better… though I still couldn’t finish my 20 min walk. I got about 7 min in and had to lay down. Frustrating.

Even after a decade long journey with this illness, I’m still finding new things that trigger symptoms and new wrenches it throws at me. Good thing I write my to-do list in pencil. I’ve learned that plans change. For chronic illness suffers, it can change on a dime. We have to be ready to PIVOT.

I’ll now attempt a shower to get ready for a podcast recording later today. Assuming I’ll be able to sit up that long.

Until next time, my peeps.

Danielle Bannister, author and current couch potato.