Checkbook surprise

A few months ago I published a little ebook on Kindle, (shameless plug) and then with the house listed and life turned upside down, I largely forgot about it. Not that I wasn’t interested. But I was overwhelmed, and preoccupied…too busy with craziness at the moment to focus on my budding self-publishing career.

So imagine my surprise when I was balancing my checkbook in September and noticed a deposit from Amazon. The first thought that flashed through my mind was that this was a refund for something I had bought from Amazon. But I immediately realized that didn’t make sense…I buy with my credit card, so anything that was refunded would show up on the card activity, not in my checking account.

It actually took me a couple of minutes to realize…this was a payment to me from Amazon! It was a royalty payment for my book sales!

And it was for a grand total of $20.24.

Alright, I’m not making a fortune here. But do you know what that represents?

And yes, I do understand that self-publishing in the digital world is not quite the milestone as say…having a book hit the New York Times best seller list.

But still…I actually made money from something I wrote, and something someone else bought.

And a few days ago, it happened again. This time the deposit was only for $16.74, but it was there.

And it whetted my appetite. If one little book generates two small deposits, maybe there’s opportunity for more.

Haven’t I been looking for ways to move my income stream to the digital world? And isn’t this income?

Well, so far I could do a couple of fast food meals, or a few rounds of morning coffee. It’s a modest beginning.

But it is a beginning.

Do you ever think about the end of the story? You know, the way movies often start…at the end, showing the outcome of the story, then taking you back to see how it all unfolded?

That’s the scene I play in my mind. I’m not forecasting that I’ll become a famous author, or even a wealthy one. I do have a fantasy that I’m self-funded, and looking back to how it all started…little by little, growing into a steady stream of deposits that support more than a coffee habit.

I’m thinking about other titles…what books do I have in me?

I’ve been curious about the Kindle publishing platform for a long time. I buy Kindle books on a regular basis, and I wanted to walk through the process to experience it…see how easy or difficult it was, see what it would be like to have a book on Amazon.

Well, now I know. It actually works!

Not that I was skeptical. I’ve certainly read enough from others who have published via Kindle to know that it is a legitimate publishing venue, to say nothing of having the powerhouse of Amazon behind it.

And let me say, just to be clear, that I am a hearty and staunch supporter of independent bookstores and printed books. But I am a realist, and I believe there is room for both digital and print books, for online retailers and the brick-and-mortar shop as well.

But there’s no doubt that for someone like me, digital publishing offers an opportunity that I would likely never have in the print world, at least not at this point, not with my approach.

So I’m grateful for the incentive that two little deposits in my account have given me.

And I’m doing a little daydreaming about the end of this story.

Here’s the other thing. I’m sharing this to say, if I could do this, so can anyone else. The digital world is amazing…levels the playing field in so many ways, and opens the door to creativity and determination and ambition. Like a little engine that could, I hear myself….I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

And you can too! See you on the playground!


Can’t get it out of my head.

I never do post prompts. But this one caught my eye.

Like a song I go to over and over on my play list, here I am, still, or again: learning, exploring, wondering, and waiting…all these things I can’t get out of my head. I feel like there’s work I’m waiting to discover, waiting to begin. I see potential. But the gap between where I am and where I think I belong is some invisible thing that I struggle to bridge. I don’t even know how to define the pieces I’m missing. What exactly will it take to move me from where I am to where I would like to be?

I work, and then I research. I read about content marketing, about apps, about business platforms, I listen to podcasts, I watch videos. I bookmark. I’ve narrowed my focus a lot; but often, I know I’m still in the mode of “ready, fire, aim.” Still wandering around in the wilderness doing discovery by accident.

I’ve blogged about this before, and I continue to look: under every rock; sites I come across that seem to have answers; books that fill my Kindle, begun, but rarely finished. I think I’ll know the answer when I see it, or when I feel it. Or when the universe opens up and rains it down on my head. Or will I? Maybe the rain has fallen already and I was protected from the answers with my umbrella of questions. Is it right? Is this the beginning? Do I have what it takes? How will I know?

My search for entrepreneurship, solopreneurship, authorpreneurship, has been on for a while now. And I struggle with one of the most daunting barriers: I have work, and income, and commitments. How do I jump from what I know and what is stable to something shaky and risky? I’m no 20-something ready to embrace my first failure on the road to success.

No, I’ve done it backwards. I’ve had all the traditional trappings of the good life: family, home, work, stability. So why am I looking for more, in my 50s? Wasn’t I satisfied? Wasn’t I fulfilled? And since I’m making a living doing what I’m doing, if this is just about money, what difference will it make to exchange one way of earning an income for another?

Yes, I was satisfied. And yes, I have had many good things in life. I’m not trying to fill a hole, I’m trying to express an ambition. And the ambition is not for money, although I can’t leave that out of the equation. The ambition is to create something of my own, something that has my stamp on it and my sweat behind it.

Now I dream of building a consulting business to offer writing services. I love the validation of seeing my blog name on the screen, and seeing my logo on my business card. I love the feeling of empowerment that establishing a digital home has given me. I’m not vain about it, but I am proud of it. It feels like the emotions I experienced with my children. I knew that they were not solely of my making, but I had a hand in the process, and a mother’s fierce protectiveness toward them and their journey.

Turns out, it was a lot easier, in the short run, to birth a child than to birth a business, at least for me. Or maybe this is still just the incubation phase, the pregnancy phase, and I’m waiting to see the results of three years of thinking, and exploring, and obsessing. And I don’t feel hopeless: just obsessed and curious. Like someone looking on from the outside, I wonder, when will it happen? And what will the story be, when all the pieces come together?

Community at The Point

There’s a little art gallery/beading store/restaurant that I love here in Ketchikan. It’s called The Point, Ketchikan’s only “waterfront art cafe,”

The Point

and it is housed in a building that overlooks the water. You can have lunch and watch float planes landing, or see the big ships docked down the way. On a nice day, the water looks so blue it’s amazing.

The food is just the simple fare of lunch: soup, sandwiches, quiche, cookies. They serve artisan freshly baked bread with their soups, and the cookies are baked in house as well. In fact, from what I can tell, everything is done in house. Which is amazing, when you realize that it is more an arts business than a food business. Or at least that’s the way it began. Not sure these days that the restaurant side of the business isn’t taking top billing.

You can eat at The Point, or if you have a work meeting and want to order, they’ll deliver their full menu for the day to your office. Simple as a phone call and a credit card. And the food is so good, if you let staff know where you’re ordering lunch, they’ll show up with appetites.

But the best thing about this restaurant is that it’s local. Owned and operated by people who have been here for a long time, it reflects the personality of the place. Local artists are prominently featured in the gallery displays. Classes are held there, and at lunch you see a mix of people from town, from all ages and walks of life.

I think the success of the restaurant side of the business is a bit of a surprise to the owners. They seem to be growing in popularity and in menu offerings. I and others have asked if they plan to publish their recipes. I have a sense that they’re on to their own little “overnight” success story. And it’s refreshing to see a small town enterprise doing well…not a chain, another fast food place, not linked to national advertising: just a local effort that is paying off and is the result of hard work and risk taking.

Good for the entrepreneurs! And good for me at lunch!

How to declutter in easy steps

Decluttering is easy if you do a few things first:

Move to an island, then decide to move away, and get a moving estimate for crating all of your stuff away. (This only works if you are paying for the move yourself: if your moving costs will be paid by your employer, this will not be effective.)  The packing/shipping estimate will motivate you to be ruthless in cleaning out.

Second, even if you think you have decluttered regularly, take a hard look at things you may be keeping for the wrong reasons…guilt (I can’t get rid of kid memorabilia), sentiment, (grandparent cards, a special dress from 20 years ago), indecision (do I like this or don’t I?)…you get the picture.

I also use one of my husband’s strategies: he goes through a box of books (or whatever) and tries to thin out a small percentage. Later he goes through the same box and tries to thin the contents a bit more. I think he usually does this at least three times, using the theory that it is easier to get rid of a small amount of stuff multiple times, rather than a larger amount all at once. Ok, it works for him. That’s one of the keys to decluttering: you have to find what works for you.

Next, decide what items are worth selling and what should be donated. I’m no garage sale expert, but I’ve heard people say that clothing doesn’t move well in garage sales. If you have appliances, tools, furniture, or other big items to dispose of,  you can probably sell them. The other benefit is that you don’t have to haul large items away if someone comes to buy them from your house. And if you donate clothing, books, etc., be sure that your donations are clean and in a good condition to give away. Don’t unload your trash on local charities.

Don’t try to do this as a marathon event. In my experience, you can only make so many decisions before either a) deciding to keep too much or b) deciding to get rid of too much. To keep your objectivity as you sort, limit the amount of time you spend on this task at one stretch. This means you will need to begin the process well in advance of your moving date. I also find that I need morning energy to tackle my decluttering. Find the time of day that works best for you.

Finally, be ruthless! If you don’t love it, need it, use it, let it go. You may be shocked at how freeing this experience is, and how it helps you to think about stuff. Believe me – I moved to an island, and decided to move away.

Learning to trade

I’m learning a new life skill: My husband has introduced me to the world of the stock market and trading. Although not a broker or trader by profession, he has had an interest in that world for many years, and over time has honed his skills. He is now attempting to use trading as a serious cash flow engine, and to further that goal, recently enrolled in a formal training course.

The add-on for me is that he is able to have a guest audit the training, so I‘ve been able to access and complete the modules for free. Let me tell you, to a novice who has barely followed the markets, this is a whole new world! It has its own language and complexities, far beyond the simplistic ups and downs of the stock market numbers that are so frequently quoted in news headlines. Puts, calls, straddles, vertical spreads, Greeks…the terms are strange and sometimes funny. Who knew Wall Street vocabulary could be humorous?

We went to a trading seminar in August that was a revelation to me…there are actually all sorts of diagnostic tools, charts, graphics, complicated software, etc., etc., that help people make sense of this world. And books…you can spend a fortune on books! You can trade stocks, options, bonds, futures, commodities, foreign exchange funds… the variety of ways you can make a living in the financial markets is staggering.

So what is the point of all of this? To make money, of course, and to learn a bit more about the way the world works! Anything can impact the markets, from tech news to current events to currency values…you never know how the market will interpret information.

I have made a little money in my IRA account so far, doing my very own trading, thank you! I’ve had some coaching from my husband, but I’ve made a couple of decisions on my own too. I’m finding that I prefer to buy stock in companies I like, whose products I buy, whose quality I value. I make it a bit personal. To date, I haven’t lost money yet; I’ve made something on every order. I’ve also not made the maximum I could have made, but that’s part of the game too…be happy to walk away with a gain, rather than bemoan the fact that you missed out on part of a run up. (By the way, that’s easier to say than to do; but good advice, none the less.)

My new phrase is “I like to buy money.” That’s what you’re doing if you’re lucky…spending money to make money, and bottom line, that translates to buying money. Will I get rich doing this? Unlikely, and I’ll be fortunate to pad my IRA account a little here and there without doing serious damage. But it’s fun, it’s stretching me, and I’m learning a new language.

FYI…we used Investools, from TD Ameritrade, for our education/training. Check it out; it’s expensive, but hopefully worth it in the end. And no, I’m not receiving any reimbursement for the mention…and in the best tradition of financial services firms, let me hasten to say that I am not recommending this program, just sharing information that this is the company we used for our training.

Good luck if you decide to dive in!