Amazon, you hit like a bitch.

The Never Ending Book Basket

It’s taken me a bit of time to write this post, but I figured it’s about time to share the utter nonsense that’s happened between me and Amazon, and how a company that I once highly respected, has now become one that I have zero respect for.

I’ve thought about writing this post for weeks, what I would say and how I would capture everything that’s happened, and I’ll be honest with the fact that this post has taken on many forms, but finally I decided that it would just be easiest to state the facts.

So here it goes…

IMG_0376 This is the first email I got from Amazon. As some of you know, on February 24th I was sent an email from Amazon letting me know that I could no longer post reviews on their website, and that all of my previous reviews had been suppressed or removed…

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Social Sunday: This Thing Called Adulting

I was going to write this post on Saturday, but I figured since I have a 12-hour shift today, I might as well blog on Sunday instead to at least take up an hour of the day. I worked a 12-hour shift once, and it wasn’t too terrible. I only had to work it because the other consultant wanted to go to Atlanta since his sister had just given birth. Plus, I was at least able to make a membership sale that I otherwise would not have made had I left at my originally scheduled time. Today, however, I haven’t the slightest idea why I’m working all day; the other consultant was already off twice this week. But it’s kind of whatever considering this gives me a chance to hopefully make a decent amount of sales.

In other words, I have officially moved out! Okay, so maybe not fully or officially yet because I still have to bring stuff over to my fiance’s apartment. The point is that I am at my fiance’s apartment and will be remaining there. Sadly, this means leaving my precious kitty behind. I actually shed tears over knowing that I wouldn’t wake up to her resting next to me or even go to bed with her resting next to me. I’ll admit I’m going to miss waking up in the morning with her annoying me by playing with the bags I have strewn about my room. (I’m not exactly an organized person, but that’s going to have to change.) I will still be able to visit her; however, as anyone with a fur baby can understand, it’s not going to fully be the same. I also worry about how she’s going to be since I won’t be regularly around her. I know it’s best to leave her at home though; she’s grown up there and is most familiar with it. Putting her in a new location would stress her out. She also doesn’t exactly get along with my fiance, and she has an issue with peeing where she’s not supposed to. Pet deposits and monthly pet fees also aren’t fun. She’ll also be by herself most days, something I know she’s not used to. I’ll be sure to visit her as often as possible, though, and to feed her treats as well so that way she will continually associate me with good things.

Nice DeskAlso in other words, my fiance and I are apartment/townhouse hunting. (I cannot wait to decorate the place!) We’re either going to stay in a luxury apartment or rent a townhouse. I am so excited and cannot wait to move into this new place in July. I also cannot wait to move because I’ll be able to style my own little office area. I’ve already purchased a nice desk that I won’t be unpacking until we move into this new place. I am absolutely going to take awesome pictures of this office space. I only have a vague idea of what I’d like it to look like, but I plan to draw inspiration from Lauryn Evarts of The Skinny Confidential. I draw a lot of inspiration from her. She’s like my entrepreneurial maven, and she doesn’t even know it. Speaking of entrepreneurship…

You guys already know I’m going to be starting my own personal training business in the summer. I want it to be more, of course. I also want to try to make money off the website itself through ads and affiliate marketing.

I’ve decided to call it TDW Lifestyle. It stands for The Dancing Writer Lifestyle, but totally sounds much more professional as TDW. Now some of you may be wondering why it’s not TDW Fitness. I believe that fitness is so Business Cardsmuch more than, well, fitness. It’s a lifestyle composed of nutrition, good sleep, relaxation, and, ultimately, well-being. My primary target audience is going to be special populations, such as those looking for weight loss due to health reasons, or those looking to exercise to help with some sort of problem, like high blood pressure or diabetes. I want to train these populations because these are people who need the most help, whose lives I feel like I can impact the most. For these people, fitness IS a lifestyle. It’s not simply exercising for aesthetic reasons–hence my motto, “Health. Not Aesthetics.”

I am so excited for the future. I cannot wait to start my own business, even though I am super nervous about it. I’m not necessarily worried about failing. The start-up costs for this business are not ungodly, so there is plenty of time for this business to grow, even if I can only snag one client a month (I’ll make sure to hustle for more, of course). For now, I’m not looking for more than 5 people to train. Eventually, I’d like to move my business to full-time, but only when I start getting referrals out the wazoo.

I don’t know what I’m nervous about. I suppose nerves are simply natural for someone wanting to be her own girlboss, which is what I’m most excited about. My current boss is absolutely awesome, but I’m a creative type, you know? And since I am a creative type, I’d one day like to dictate how things are done with minimal–SUPER minimal–influence. Don’t get me wrong. I love this current job. I’m no longer miserable. I’m no longer steeped in financial insecurity. While I seem like an introvert at this current job because I haven’t opened up to anyone like I opened up to the people at my last job, at least I can share my passion for fitness and nutrition with others. At least I’m surrounded by others in a stimulating environment. At least I can control my level of boredom!

I’ve got my business cards, my liability insurance, some equipment, and I’ll soon be getting a set of dumbbells that can be loaded with different-weighted plates. Depending on where we move, I plan to make either the patio or spare bedroom the place where I’d like to train my future clients. I plan to style this place appropriately as well. If it’s the patio, I’m going to fill it with fresh-smelling flowers to give my clients the perfect therapy. If it’s the spare bedroom, well, I haven’t decided yet, but I know I’ll come up with something.

Anyway, I’ve been adulting hard lately. I paid rent for the first time–half of the rent total for the apartment we’re currently at. I was able to hand over a good bit of cash to my parents to help pay off my car. In the last post, I mentioned I bought liability insurance, which is super adult-y. Moving out is also adult-y. I also went grocery shopping with my fiance and was astonished to find out we only spent 215 dollars, and it was on a lot of healthy stuff, too. I’m telling you, I think health foods are becoming cheaper now that they’re becoming more widely available, especially in places like Walmart. What’s funny is we didn’t even use a list this time and ended up spending way less than when we did use a list! I get excited about grocery shopping, though. I love food, and I love healthful eating. I love going to Kroger’s and seeing what goodies I can come out with from their health food section. I love being able to choose every single item that goes into the cart.

I love control. I guess that’s why I actually enjoy adulting and all that. I love feeling successful. But I think what I love most of all is that those few years I spent struggling with bipolar disorder haven’t hindered me from becoming successful and finding the happiness I know I deserve.

Bipolar disorder really put a damper on things starting in the fall of 2012. I never thought I’d survive my episodes, but I am so proud to have been depression-free for more than a year! Even though it was so sucky to struggle with an eating disorder last year, at least I managed to stave off depression.

Part of me wonders if I’ve been cured of my bipolar disorder, but part of me does not want to test it by stopping my meds cold turkey. I’ve been doing good this long, and I don’t want to mess that up because of a stupid experiment.

I know the future will be filled with many, many surprises. I never thought I’d eventually be living in a luxury apartment while being able to afford groceries that aren’t junk. I also never thought I’d want to go in the direction of having my own business; however, personal trainers are paid abysmally by gyms, and I can’t afford to go from making a salary to making $0.00 dollars until my client base is built up. This choice is more exciting since there are far more opportunities than training at a gym where growth is likely minimal.

Overall, the future has renewed my zest for life.

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 Purchase When Stars Die at Amazon, Lulu, Kobo, and Barnes&Noble. It also has 99 ratings on Goodreads now with a rating of 4.3!

Social Saturday: Create Your Own Future

I have been incredibly silent on the social media front as far as my author platform is concerned. I am well aware of this. I also haven’t been that diligent toward the marketing and sales of When Stars Die. Even so, I am working on The Stars Are Infinite so that it can be released some time this year.

But crickets have been chirping on my blog for a reason.

I’ve been prioritizing my career in fitness over anything else right now. I’ve been busy building my personal training website (still super busy with this), I’ve obviously been busy with my full-time job, selling memberships and shadowing a personal trainer; I’ve been cramming my head with research to aid in my career; I’ve been hitting the weights hard to grow muscle; and I’ve just overall been busy with research to launch my business successfully when the summer comes. I’ll also be moving in with my fiance soon, and that’ll be time consuming as well.

Now that I have a planner, I can commit myself to a regular blogging schedule, but it will only be once a week, and I will dub it ‘Social Saturday.’ It’s going to basically be a recap of my entire week, a bigger, better glimpse into my life that you haven’t yet seen, where I will get real, raw, and honest. Now let’s get on to what I want to talk about today.

I somewhat regret my English degree. The somewhat part comes into play when you consider that my English degree has helped me become a better writer and self-editor. I’ve also gained many experiences from it that I otherwise would not have gained without having majored in it, like launching my own literary magazine and being a tutor for my university’s writing center. I would not give up these experiences.

I mostly regret my major because I’m in the final stretches of earning my English degree, and I know that unless I win the lottery or scholarships drop in my lap, switching my major to exercise science or something similar is no longer an option. I’m not willing to put myself in debt for an education I want to use to simply supplement my certification. At the same time, I desperately want to major in exercise science, but there is no way I’m allowing myself to be steeped in debt of up to 30,000 dollars (and I wish this were an exaggeration). The only reason I would want a BS is so that I can go on to earn an MS and conduct my own research into exercise science and write books on my discoveries. Having an MS would legitimize my research. Alas, this will not come into fruition any time soon.

I’m not brimming with regrets, though. If anything, I am currently buzzing with pride. After getting my tax return today, I was finally able to purchase liability insurance, which is the first step into launching my personal training business in the summer. All I now have to do is pay to launch my website. I am filled with so much pride because I have paid for everything myself to make becoming a personal trainer possible. This is what I have spent:

  • $799.00 for my ACE certification
  • $299.00 for my group fitness instructor certification (this one was on sale)
  • $399.00 for my functional training certification
  • About $200.00 dollars in supplementary books
  • About $60.00 for a heart monitor and calipers
  • About $17.00 for business cards
  • About $286.00 for liability insurance

Thus far, I have spent a little over 2,000 dollars to make all of this possible for me. I don’t list these prices to show off how privileged I am to be able to pay all of this off without accruing any debt. I know I am privileged. If I didn’t currently live with my parents, I’d probably be in credit card debt.

I post this to show that even though I was able to pay all of it off, I still took financial risks. I paid for some of this stuff with my credit card but was able to later quickly pay it off. I was at a point in my last job where I was very financially unstable and still in some debt from my group fitness certification, but I had to make this possible, even if that meant making just the minimum payments for my credit card.

I have decided that I want to launch my own business because currently I am salaried and also receive commission from the sales of memberships. It’s decent money. I’ve also been interning for two months and have received a pretty good insight into the life of a personal trainer. While I would still love to train at a gym, I am not willing to give up my salary and start entirely from scratch. When I move in with my fiance, I’ll have rent to pay. I still have to pay off my car. The point is that I have things to pay for, things I wouldn’t be able to pay for if I transitioned over to training full-time. My pay would be entirely contingent on training hours; building a base of clients takes time. The specific trainer I’m shadowing actually has to train on his own time in order to make ends meet. Training at a gym isn’t enough for him.

I am incredibly lucky in that my fiance is currently the primary bread winner and is able to support me in my endeavors. So I will remain a fitness consultant while also training on the side when I launch my business this summer–and hopefully surpass my fiance’s income.

I have created my own future, with my own money, and I am not going to sit here and deny that I was without help. While all the money came from me, I am economically advantaged in that I didn’t have to pay for much else while investing in my education as a personal trainer. Of course, I am also very good with money and was able to make all payments on time.

What I want you to know is that if you envision a particular future for yourself and don’t think you can achieve it, you need to find ways to achieve it, no matter what sort of risks you have to take. Don’t bankrupt yourself. Simply sacrifice what you can in order to make this future possible for yourself. Budget your money. Figure out what you need and don’t need. Just go for it.

I was so tired of not being certain of what I wanted to do with my degree in English. I was so tired of my last job. I was so tired of feeling like the only thing I had going for me was writing novels. And I was so tired of letting fear hold me back.

No more. I made this future possible for myself through hard work. I found something to be passionate about other than writing novels. I found something I can make good money from while also changing people’s lives in a big way.

I found myself by finding who I want to be. And even if I want to be someone different later, at least I know I can do it through my own hard work.

foundmyself

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Purchase When Stars Die at Amazon, Lulu, Kobo, and Barnes&Noble.

 

Blackout, Anxiety, and News

If you hadn’t noticed, my blog wasn’t online for about a week. This is because I was in the midst of job searching for a position as a personal trainer. It’s something my dad suggested, especially because I do talk about my eating disorder that I recovered from last April. I also share strong opinions about a few other topics that future employers could have judged me on, so I thought it safest to just temporarily take my blog offline. I also did it with my author Facebook page.

I remember the last time that I went job hunting it took me a month to land the current job I’ll be at for probably about 2-3 more weekends. But this time, it only took me a week to find a job!

So, yes, I’m a fitness consultant for Evans Fitness Center Express. In the meantime, I’ll also be shadowing some trainers during my shift, and then once I’ve gotten a good amount of sales experience selling memberships and establishing rapport with the clients and gym, I’ll transition over to personal training. I get a salary plus commission. The manager recommended I start out as a fitness consultant since trainers are only paid by the hour, so it would be a rough start for me.

I’m happy with my choice, at peace with it, essentially. When I started the job hunt, I was filled with a ridiculous amount of anxiety. Would I ever find a job? Am I going to be stuck working minimum wage for the rest of my life? What if my lack of experience dooms me? What if I’m just not meant to be a trainer?

It was a painful week.

I thought I’d be super giddy and happy when I got the job, but this sense of calm passed over me. No more money worries. No more wondering if I’m ever going to find a job. No more feeling uncertain about my future. No more feeling like my mid-20s are supposed to be spent being miserable because the job market isn’t like it was when my parents were my age. My dream job is now a reality.

There’s a song I have in mind. I can’t remember the name of the singer or singer’s band or whatever you want to call it, but the lyrics talk about how the singer wishes he could go back in time to the good old days, when he had nothing to worry about because his mom could make everything better and he wasn’t worrying about student loans.

At first I thought it was stupid. ‘You’re a singer on a mainstream radio,’ I thought. .’What do you know about student loans? What do you have to worry about? You’re probably making bunches of money and have no money worries. And even if you are going to college right now or whatever, I highly doubt you had to take out student loans.’

I then began to understand that it was a song directed toward millennials and millennial struggles. I didn’t feel that struggle until I began to lose hours at my job and then started freaking out about job hunting. Of course, this isn’t a uniquely millennial struggle, but it’s not easy finding even a minimum wage job like it used to be because the job market is so crowded.

Now I’m only speaking STRICTLY about minimum-wage jobs here. All others don’t apply to these bullet points (or they may, but I’m just talking about minimum wage):

  • You generally have to apply online, and I have NEVER trusted online applications. I applied to over 40 places back in 2012 and only heard back from two.
  • Calling about the status of your job application can be detrimental to your chances of even landing an interview. You would think this would help since it shows your interest in the job.
  • The job market is so crowded with people fighting for minimum-wage jobs.
  • When you’re applying online, sometimes you have to take those ridiculous personality tests that can kill your chances of even having your application looked at if you don’t pass this test.
  • You might have to go through more than one interview to try to land a job that only wants to pay you $7.25 an hour. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth the hassle, but you’ve got to keep chugging along.
  • Your hours aren’t always guaranteed, so you may have to pick up another job.
  • Hoping to get an interview that you may never get. I once applied to Walmart several times and never, ever heard back from them.
  • First impressions are everything. I understand why the interview process can be difficult for minimum-wage jobs, especially because they’re probably interviewing a bunch of people, but sometimes you feel like you should be paid more than minimum wage when you have to go through an interview process that feels like you’re applying for med school.
  • Some minimum-wage jobs want you to submit a resume. I submitted one to work at a new McDonald’s that was hiring a bunch of people. Never heard back.
  • That overqualified thing? It’s not a myth. I was applying for a job at a Japanese restaurant that I was sure I’d land because I had a friend who worked there and was well-liked by her boss. However, once her boss looked over my resume, she asked my friend why on Earth I was applying when I could get better. I’m not too good for a minimum-wage job. And, no, I couldn’t get better at the time because I didn’t–and still don’t–have a degree. I also didn’t have any special certifications in the past. The only solid experience I had was editing and tutoring, but jobs like that generally require a degree.

But hopefully all that’s over with. I hope I’m going to do well with this job, and in a few months, I’ll be a full-time personal trainer.

Seriously, though, I feel like this job was literally handed to me. I walked into the gym, handed in my resume, the manager took a look over it, and immediately recommended fitness consulting to me. All I had to do was show up a few times to check up on my resume. I didn’t receive a formal interview. I just got the job. And I’m assuming they only had one position open because the head trainer there said they were looking for SOMEONE.

That is a great feeling.

The stress can now be over with.

In other words, three poems of mine are featured in an anthology titled Purple Sparks. You can get it here. It’s a number one new release in poetry anthologies! I really hope you guys will check it out. It’s an anthology complied of poems from survivors of sexual abuse. You can check out the book’s website here.

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Purchase When Stars Die at Amazon, Lulu, Kobo, and Barnes&Noble.

Say Hello to Neko!

Here’s a story about my kitty!

catcloseup

This little beauty is my kitty named Neko, which is Japanese for cat, but, hey, my friend named her, and I kept the name out of respect for that friend. So what does this little girl have to do with my blog? Well, animals are great for your health. Having a little furbaby–or featherbaby, scalebaby, whatever–can be great for your mental health. Plus, many people adore cats and can’t get enough of cute cat pictures.

I adopted her from my friend, the one who named her, when her cat had kittens. I remember her as this tiny kitten dragging around a feather duster twice her size. My friend commented that it looked like she was carrying a ham around. To me, she just looked like a walking feather duster.

During this time, I was going through what my high school freshman mind perceived to be a bad break-up. I was…

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Promotional Opportunities for Your Novel

I have been thinking about how I’d like to increase sales for When Stars Die, and this has to do with seeking out every promotional opportunity I can. I’m also a firm believer in that in order to make money, you need to spend some money. Even so, there are a variety of promotional opportunities available. You just need to be willing to put in the time to both seek them out and work hard at some of your own promotional strategies.

  1. Social Media. This one should be obvious, but social media is one way in which you can promote your work. For example, you can post a tiny excerpt on Twitter each day with a link to your work. You can connect with other authors and host a party on Facebook where each author takes a turn at hosting the party in order to promote his/her novel, along with other authors’ books, which can be used as prizes. I would also argue keeping a blog is vital, especially due to the SEO that can bring people from around the world to your blog.
  2. Newsletters. Having your own newsletter is essential. I do monthly newsletters, and I always have my book in the sidebar of it. The way to attract subscribers is by having links to it on all of your social media. Also giving potential subscribers an incentive to subscribe works, like doing a book giveaway. You can also pay to have your book included in a newsletter, like BookBrag, The Fussy Librarian, and others like it. This is what I do as well.
  3. Cover Reveals. When you get the cover for your book, you can schedule your own cover reveal and contact book bloggers to help out. You can also contact other writers as well and offer their books as giveaway prizes. You can even find a company to pay to help you set up a cover reveal–or a book blast or release party or something similar.
  4. Street Team. A street team is a great way to have free promotion. I have a small street team composed of author friends. We promote each others’ blog posts and books. I wish I could offer further advice on how to assemble one, but I have my street team simply because they were on the staff of my literary magazine. But offering incentives, like review copies of your book, may help to build a street team from people who enjoyed your work.
  5. Goodreads Giveaways. If you have print copies of your book, giving away a copy on Goodreads is one way to gain exposure for your novel, particularly if your book has a very attractive cover. I can gain a little over 2,000 entries for my novel from holding a month-long giveaway.
  6. Ads. I’ve done a Goodreads ad, and my book received over 30,000 views from that one alone. Ads, however, can be tricky, as you need a stellar cover and a short, perfect blurb to quickly catch people’s attention so that they click on your ad. You can use Google as well or even Facebook ads.

 

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Purchase When Stars Die at Amazon, Lulu, Kobo, and Barnes&Noble.

 

*Picture from Jason Howle’s “Instagram and other Social Media Apps.”

Looking Back on 2015 from 2016

As I look back on 2015 and look down the sparkling maw that is 2016, I’m filled with much excitement for this year. Let’s look back on 2015 to see some of what I’ve accomplished:

  1. Landing a contract for When Stars Die with Gnome on Pig Productions.
  2. Passing my exam to be certified as a personal trainer.
  3. Earning my specialty certification in functional fitness.
  4. Starting the advanced level in ballet.
  5. Finally nailing those blasted foutte turns.
  6. Writing, completing, and publishing A Treacherous Flame. (Seriously, this is huge for me because I hadn’t written anything in a while.)
  7. Recovering from my eating disorder in April.
  8. Being free from depression for an entire year. (I’ll write a post later this week on what this feels like for me.)

Now here is what I hope to accomplish in 2016:

  1. Earning my group fitness certification.
  2. Finding a job as both a personal trainer and group fitness instructor.
  3. Getting The Stars Are Infinite published.
  4. Increasing sales for When Stars Die.
  5. Graduating with my BA.
  6. Moving in with my fiance and getting married.
  7. Studying for a specialty certification in nutrition.
  8. Having a full list of clients within three months, preferably before I earn my BA.
  9. Getting back en pointe since my shoes are dead and I screwed up my foot when I fell on it in pointe class.
  10. Building more muscle through ballet and crosstraining.
  11. Helping clients succeed with their fitness goals.
  12. Writing a novella (or novel, whatever it turns out to be) for Forevermore Publishing.
  13. Writing the third book in The Stars Trilogy.

These are all of my goals for the year of 2016. It’s a lengthy list, but I know I can succeed.

So what do you plan to accomplish in 2016?

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Purchase When Stars Die at Amazon, Lulu, Kobo, and Barnes&Noble.