Listening to: Shock Notice by Solid Gold
It was a sunny summer evening, and it was bliss – the sun felt warm on my shoulders, there was a cool breeze blowing across my cheeks, and I was in the middle of a furiously fun text convo with my lil’ brother, Dan. Standing on the light rail platform, waiting for my train, I tapped out my responses and read his texts about some of the investigating he’s been doing in order to prepare for the next phase of his life. Dan’s got a cool full-time job out in L.A., but he’s also an actor, and a great one, and it’s obvious, without him being obvious about it, that his improv and acting classes are the thing that stokes him the most about his life out there. So, like every actor in the history of the L.A. census, he’s looking for something that will allow him to focus more on acting.
And he should, you know? I think it’s easy for people to hear stories about “actors, a.k.a., waiters” and laugh + roll their eyes, but the thing I think is: At least they’re doing it. At least they’re trying. They’re fucking going for it, and if it doesn’t work out, you still can’t take away the fact that they had the guts to move out to L.A. and at least fucking try.
So we talked about passive and residual income. He told me about all these books he was reading about building a Kindle book empire on Amazon, which caught my attention. A few years ago, after Holiday Chick came out, I had a plan: Holiday Chick would be The Thing, but I would pull an Amanda Hocking and write a few other books, quick-like, and get them up on Kindle, too, so that readers had something else to read/buy when they were finished with Holiday Chick. But back then, getting a book up on Kindle was a tedious process, and if you were a tech lame-brain like me, you were dependent on other people to help you with it, which could still be slow process. So after a while, I kind of abandoned the idea and focused on my print book sales.
But as I read Dan’s text, it hit me: I could do all of that now. I’ve been using the Scrivener app for my writing for the past two years, which formats and compiles Kindle books like a dream. The Middle of Nowhere (Holiday Chick’s second coming) was only a couple weeks from being totally done. I had my second + third books, all the things you never knew and certain things you ought to know, that came in a 2-books-in-1 print edition but could easily be turned into 2 separate Kindle books with the help of Scrivener. I was in the midst of archiving my old blog, An Amber Colored Life, and knew I had more than 10 years of material and possibly three different books waiting to be formed out of that collection of posts.
I could go for it, now. I could really do it, if I wanted to, I found myself thinking, as the train sped me toward home.
About a year ago, I wrote a series of posts about a transformative trip to L.A. Basically, it was magic-making…I will never, for the rest of my life, forget that moment of sitting in rush-hour traffic in downtown L.A. with my kindred spirit Erica, staring up at the ad for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and realizing that I needed to just finally make writing my entire life. To stop dicking around and just do whatever I had to do to make it as a writer. I had so many books in me, swirling around, but I also had a knack of filling up my life with other projects and personal and professional endeavors that, even though I told myself when I started them that they were merely to help support my writing, they always seemed to have a way of crowding it out.
I also realized that I was happiest on the West Coast and Wisconsin/Minnesota winters were bullshit and that I had maybe one more winter in me and then I was packing up and moving out west, no matter what.
So I came home with those two goals in my pocket. I signed up to be a builder with an essential oil business, thinking that it could lay a foundation of residual/passive income that would allow me to live wherever I wanted and provide income while I wrote. Knowing that I needed a better platform that could better serve as a hub for my books, writing portfolio, and my blog, I made AmberLCarter.com my internet home and closed down An Amber-Colored Life.
I made a series of short moves that got me out of my 3-year lease at the Penthouse in Hayward, WI, and brought me back to MPLS in October. I was nervous about this move…Minneapolis has a way of turning you into the kind of fat, happy bear who forgets all about why they ever wanted something different in the first place. Y’know? I was afraid I would move back to the city of my heart and have so much fun being with my friends again that I would forget all about wanting to try something new. And I didn’t want to forget about that. Living in the PacNW is something I’ve wanted since I was 19, and in the past handful of years, I’ve been thisclose to just packing it all up and moving there, but something has always happened to keep me in the Midwest. But this time was different: Something happened when I announced it on the blog that I was moving to the West Coast. People paid attention. And they brought it up every time I talked about the future. They weren’t going to let me forget about it, even if I wanted to.
For a while, things here were humming along at a relatively peaceful place. I had landed a gig that paid my rent; I was doing two podcasts that were becoming more and more well-received; I moved from North MPLS to South MPLS, which made my car-free existence smoother; and I was absolutely loving the time I was getting to spend with Katy, the Bauschy crew, and the new friends I had made since moving back. The oil business was goin’ a’right…I had come up with some super fun class topics and was experimenting with an essential oil line for dudes, which I was excited about. But I wasn’t seeing the success with it that I thought I would, and sometimes I wondered if maybe it just wasn’t a good fit. I was writing almost every day, and I still had the West Coast in the back of my mind, but I was starting to become a little complacent with the timeline.
And then I had a little repeat of a lesson to remind me again of what all of this was for. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s similar to the time when I left my decade-long career as a behavior therapist, in that there should have been a lot of panic, but instead…there was this weird sense of calm. The situation sucked, and I was going to have to get creative with what I was going to do in the short-term, but also, it felt like…okay. This is exactly what was supposed to happen. And I could either get really upset about it and roll around in the disaster of it, or I could just brush myself off, throw up a middle finger to the bullshit behavior that surrounded it, and promise myself that this was going to end up being the best thing that ever happened to me.
Because at the end of the day, and in the way it always is with stuff like this, this was me getting pushed out the door by the universe, lovingly shoved a little harder into doing the things I was always meant to do.
So I got to work. There was a fervency to it that hadn’t really been there before…I think I was just done waiting. As writers, there’s always this thing that you’re subconsciously waiting for: You’re writing, but you’re also waiting…for someone to notice you…to hire you…to buy your book…to tell others about it…to read your query letter…to hand you a book deal…to ask to buy the movie rights…to basically just tell the world, “This kid? Is a WRITA!” It’s a lot of work that is inherently at the mercy of a lot of fate.
Until you just decide that it’s not. Until you simply decide that you’re ready to do everything you can to make your own way.
So I came up with a strategy, and then I started pulling all-nighters, working hard on getting The Middle of Nowhere done and off to print. I would work through the night, fall into bed ’round 4 or 5 a.m., sleep a handful of hours, and be in front of my laptop again five minutes after I woke up, back at work on the book.
Becoming intimate with the story again reminded me of how much I loved it, and now that it had been revised and rehabbed and reformatted, I knew there wasn’t a person in the world that I wouldn’t hesitate to hand it to and say, “Here. I’m really proud of this, and I think you should read it.” The more I worked on it, the more I knew I owed it to myself to take this book as far as it could possibly go.
We announced the presale of The Middle of Nowhere late last month. I took a day to read and rest and watch TV, and then immediately got back to work on producing the Kindle versions of all the things you never knew and certain things you ought to know.
And going through those books, I was also reminded of how much I loved them, and how they contain some of the best things that I’ve ever written + could possibly ever hope to write.
I wrapped those up, and then immediately got to work on doing three things at once: Archiving all the back posts of An Amber-Colored Life + uploading and organizing my writing portfolio + organizing the most well-loved and personal favorite posts from ACL into the first draft what is to become the An Amber Colored Life book.
THAT was a monster of a project. But the commitment I had to working on it at full-throttle and really fucking going for it taught me something: I’m ready. And I could remember when I was so happy to work so hard on a thing. There was purpose and joy and desire there, and all I wanted to do is follow it.
So I started clearing some things out of my life. It’s a lot of little things that are kind of too boring to talk about on here, but mainly, I stepped away from the oil business. I saw a FB post from a fellow tribe member who talked about how she was so happy she had found her purpose in this business, and I suddenly realized that I recognized the purpose and passion in her because I felt it, too…but about writing, and not about oils. I still think essential oils are the shit and that you can really build a great business and life through the company I was a part of, but it’s also the kind of thing that, if you’re going to make a go of it? You have to really be ready to make a go of it. And I’m ready to make a go of it, but with writing, and not with this.
And I’m moving. When the disaster that I alluded to above struck, I knew I had a choice: I could get out there and pound the pavement and look for a new job here in Minneapolis, or I could take that energy and use it to do the thing that I’ve been saying for so long that I’m going to do. Because the thing that I’ve learned in my adult life is this: With uncertainty comes freedom. And that uncertainty can scare you because nothing is guaranteed, or it can free you because now you get to make your own choices.
So I’m moving to the Pacific Northwest later this fall. I’m doing it because I’ve been dreaming of it since I was 19, and now I’m 36, and I owe it to myself to just fucking do it already. And I’m doing it the way I always said I would, when I did it: I’m selling off most of my things and heading out there with only a few suitcases. Mostly because I’m essentially unemployed and can use the cash more than the things, but also because it’s the romantic vision that I’ve always had for myself, and so if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it the way I always said I would.
I have a job and a place to live waiting for me when I land, so I’m not going totally rogue, but there’s a lot of hustle that needs to happen before then. Overall, I’m so, so excited about it. Because it’s time I take the advice I’ve so willingly and forcefully given to others: When you do something like this, even if you end up getting there and hating it, no one can ever take that experience away from you. And it’s time I stop waiting for these things to happen to me, and just start fucking doing them.
So with writing: Here’s the plan, because the absolute last thing I want to do is be that person who’s filling up your feed with constant posts and social media updates about my books. We all know that person who is so desperate to sell something that they’re posting about it every three hours, and that shit is so lame-o and boring and annoying. And right now every day is kind of Happy Book News Day, but also, a little overload on OMG I HAVE NEW BOOK NEWS AGAIN TODAY PLEASE TRY TO KEEP UP. So I’m just going to put everything here so it’s all nice and tidy and an easy reference point for all of you.
My goals right now are two-pronged:
First, I’m working on taking The Middle of Nowhere straight to the top (baby!). Because I believe in it, I think it has some major legs, and I owe it to my past self to make all the work I’ve put into it worth something. The first rung on that ladder is to get it into the Top 100 Kindle Bestseller List, so that it can also grab the attention of Amazon Encore. Amazon Encore uses sales results and customer reviews to identify high-potential self-published books. It then acquires these books and republishes them with the marketing support and sales distribution clout of Amazon. It’s a big deal. And I think MoN is worthy of it, so I’m working for it.
Second, my overall goal is build a foundation of books on Amazon that can support and sustain me while I work on something new. I’m totally aware that the books on there right now are old news to some of you, but there’s a method to the madness. And it’s this: I’m pushing out the stuff I’ve already done so I have some breathing room to create something new. As in, the two new novels that I am SO EXCITED to write.
And I can’t wait to share these new books with you, because if you loved MoN, you are going to LOVE these stories.
Like seriously LOVE them. SO MUCH LOVE THEM OMG YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.
But if you want them sooner than later, then I need your help…
First: If you read Holiday Chick and liked it, it would mean the world to me if you gave The Middle of Nowhere a star rating and/or a review on Amazon (and maybe Goodreads, too, if you’re feeling all generous-like). Holiday Chick had some absolutely stellar reviews that I am still so grateful for, but since MoN had major revisions that made it essentially a new book, these reviews can’t be carried over. The more star ratings + reviews, the more likely it is that Amazon will recommend it to new readers.
Second: Tomorrow (Saturday, August 16) until midnight, you can download a free Kindle copy of The Middle Nowhere on Amazon FO’ FREE.
Free book days on Amazon are AWESOME because the more people who grab at my free books, the higher those books go up in Amazon’s rankings; and the higher my books go up in rankings, the more other people see it and the more likely Amazon will be to recommend it to new readers, which means new and better sales. So when these days happen, it would mean a lot to me if you would tell everyone you know and strong-arm them into downloading those books + telling their friends about it.
Cause it’s a free book, ya see?
Third: I’m just going to take a minute and announce the thing that I’ve been excited to announce all month:
The Amber Colored Life book is a collection of the most-loved and favorited posts from the Amber Colored Life blog. As a special bonus, it also features a foreward from The Poster Boy For The MPLS Nerd Herd, Jason DeRusha (thanks, Jason!). AND, if we can swing it in formatting, it will also include some of the most hilarious and awesome comment threads (which means that, if you were a regular commenter on An Amber Colored Life, you’ll be in the book!).
The book will be released November 1st, and the presale is happening right fucking now.
To order your copy, head on over to ma’ lil’ book shop and select the edition you wants the most:
I know that I’m a total sucker for instant gratification, so I get why people don’t love ordering a book when it’s still in presale and they won’t get their actual hands on it for another month or two, but as an author…presales are the shit when it comes to supporting our work. Making a book is an expensive business, and yes, I’ve thought about doing a Kickstarter or an IndieGogo for it, but that increases that whole “OMG SUPPORT MY KICKSTARTER” constant-post business that I talked about wanting to avoid above, and spending all that time on promotion takes away so much time from the actual writing.
Plus, as a reward for planning ahead and preordering, presale prices are cheap as fuck.
If you check out the Books category at the top of this site, you’ll see that it’s now chock full of info + excerpts + a soundtrack, with more to come. I had a lot of fun putting all of that together for your hot faces, so I hope you’ll check it out!
Other than that, though, my hope is to keep the book promotion stuff to a happy minimum. I really only want to do it if I can find a way that’s fun + interesting + entertaining in its own right, so I’m going to try my best not to clog up feeds with tawk about it. Cause I did that once before with the whole 2 Million in 2012 thing (yeah…remember that?!) and I like to think that I learned my lesson on that one (YA HEAR THAT, ADAM? I actually listen to you SOMETIMES).
And that’s the wrap on that! Lots of big changes have happened in the past month, which more to come, which…I mean…if you’ve been reading me for any span of time, you’re probably not surprised, since that’s just how my life works. But I feel really good about this stuff, you guys…I feel like I’m finally getting it, this life + purpose stuff, and I love being able to share all of this with you.
(Speaking of sharing, let’s get back to the business of actual blogging, shall we? Like, Bachelor In Paradise is happening, and I took a break from recapping it the last two weeks, cause THANKS, BACHELOR, FOR TRYING TO TAKE OVER MY SUMMER WITH YOUR NON-STOP SHOWS – but I came up with an idea for how to recap it so it’s as fun for me to write as it is for you (hopefully) to read, so we’ll be back at it next week!)
Wanna stay in the loop on all future book news + events? Check out my Amber L. Carter Facebook Page (it’s my blog + author page – FANCY!) and fill out the form below to get on the email list. I promise I won’t send you a bunch of stuff all the time – just the real, real important kind!