Echoes of Accountability: Switching Gears and Pulling Ahead

Happy Friday, Echolettes!

I said these Friday updates would be short, but I didn’t stick to that so well last week. I’ll try to do better. With that in mind, onward to this week’s progress report!

On Sunday I spent 20 minutes writing 501 new words on Desolation of the Damned. This is notable because I’ve always had a strict “no writing on weekends” policy to keep my brain from frying from having to come up with too many words during the week. But for the sake of consistency, and also to remind myself that this is also something I do because I enjoy it, I decided I can handle 15 to 20 minutes on Sunday (Saturday remains a day off from all kinds of work).

Then on Monday, I switched gears. I had always intended that when I got to this novel, I would edit it as I go, but then on a whim I decided to start it during Nanowrimo, which doesn’t leave any space for editing (and in fact actively discourages it).

But, with over 25,000 words and a solid grasp of where this story is going, I decided to backtrack and edit what I’ve got so far. I’ve spent at least half an hour each day this week on edits, starting from Chapter One (which was a big one), and by now I’m through the first scene of Chapter 2. I’ve still got to do today’s edits, and I’m hoping to get through the rest of the chapter.

Once I get caught up, I’ll edit as I go, as originally planned. This means it’s going to take me longer to finish this manuscript, but it will mean LESS time getting it ready overall, because there won’t be multiple drafts or passes — other than proofreading, once I get to the end it will be DONE.

At least, that’s the plan.

After the way it took me so long to get through edits on Book 2, due mainly to just feeling overwhelmed and procrastinating on it far too long, I think this way will work better, and get this book into your hands much sooner.

I’ll keep you posted!

Until next week,

What’s One Cool Thing from Your Week?

Each week, I’m opening up a discussion thread where you can tell me and your fellow Echolettes about something cool from your week. It can be a piece of art, entertainment, news, a recommendation, something that’s making life worth living right now, something that happened to you, something you saw/witnessed/overheard… I’m not picky, as long as it’s not political and everyone is respectful and kind.

Here’s my cool thing: A Small Fiction, a Twitter account containing really well done pieces of microfiction that are a mix of whimsical, fantastical and poignant. If you need a super-quick story fix, check it out.

Your turn! I can’t wait to see what you share.

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Echoes of Accountability: Desolation Progress and One Cool Thing

Hello, Echo-ettes, and happy first Friday of the new year!

(Yes, I know technically it’s the second Friday, but it’s the Friday of the first full work week, hence the first that counts.) Let’s all give ourselves a high five for making it through our first week back to work after drifting through the holiday haze.

My goal heading into the week — and into the year — was to be more consistent, and I’m happy to report that so far I’ve managed to consistently exercise, avoid sugar and work on my non-fiction projects. But more importantly, as far as this community is concerned, I kept my promise to show up each day this week and work on my novel.

So here, without further ado, is the progress I made on Desolation of the Damned, the third and final book in my Trilogy of the Damned series, in which vampires enslave what’s left of humanity following a good ol’ fashioned zombie apocalypse, and humanity fights back.

I’ll break down the daily stats below for the stats geeks among the crowd, but if that sort of thing bores you, you can skip past them to read a short non-spoilery excerpt from this week’s output.

Total words added this week: 4,301

Total novel word count so far: 25,892

And here’s the daily breakdown…

Day 1: Background music: Trilogy of the Damned playlist on Spotify

Session 1: 40 minutes. No words written - used time to go over outline, organize what is already written and get my head back into the story.

Session 2: 30 minutes. 250 words. Spent most of it reading over the scene where I was picking back up.

Session 3: 20 minutes. 450 words.

Total words of fiction for Monday: 700

Day 2: Background music: Trilogy of the Damned playlist on Spotify

Session 1: 30 minutes. 601 words.

Session 2: 20 minutes. 449 words. Finished a behemoth of a chapter.

Total for Tuesday: 1,050

Day 3: Background music: Trilogy of the Damned playlist on Spotify

Session 1: 20 minutes. 437 words.

Session 2: 30 minutes. 706 words. Completed another scene. 

Total for Wednesday: 1,133

Day 4: Background music: The sound of silence

Grocery day. 1 15 minute session. 280 words.

Day 5: Background music: None

Session 1: 20 minutes. 490 words. Broke 25K. No music.

Session 2: 30 minutes. 648 words. 

Friday's total: 1,138


Not bad for my first week back at the keyboard. I’m in that part of writing a novel where I know clearly what happens in the back half of the book but I’m making up the first half of the middle as I go. It’s resulting in some nice character moments, which are a joy to write, but it’s also slow-going. I expect to pick up speed once I catch up to the point where I have a good idea of what needs to happen to get to the end.

Anyway, here’s that non-spoilery* excerpt I promised:

*If you’ve read the first two books. This will spoil Deliverance of the Damned if you haven’t read it yet.

Paula was in the middle of changing the baby when the explosions rocked the camp. Leaving Noah diaperless, she clutched him to her as she took refuge under the flimsy folding table she’d been using as a changing station. Fat lot of good the table would do at providing actual protection if the tent got hit, but that didn’t stop others from crawling under there with her, while other refugees squeezed into the pens and crouched low, pulling cots over themselves for protection.

Whether uncomfortable because he was mid-changing or simply startled by the scary noise and Paula’s own fear, the baby drew in a deep breath and let out an angry scream. Paula patted his bare bottom and did her best to bounce him in the cramped space. “Oh angel, hush now. It’s okay.” Her own voice shook. Who was she trying to convince. “Oh second thought, you go ahead and cry it on out.”

“This might help.” A dark hand held out the clean diaper she’d left on the table. Paula took it gratefully and turned to see Julia beside her.

“Thank you.” She lay Noah on the floor and quickly spread the diaper beneath him. A moment later, she had it secured and zipped him back into his little onesie. He didn’t stop crying. Paula scooped him up and cuddled him against her chest. “He’s scared half to death, poor little thing.”

“With all that child’s been through, I am surprised he scares so easily.”

Paula glanced at the vampire. Former vampire, she reminded herself. “I take it you’re not frightened by a little thing like explosions?”

“On the contrary. I very nearly needed a diaper of my own.”

Paula looked at her straight on. She hadn’t spent much time around the woman, and all she really knew about her was that she’d been high up in the vampire food chain and had been running the prison where they’d all been kept until she’d been cured against her will. This Julia had never struck Paula as someone who made jokes. She’d made the remark with a straight face, but there was a glint in her eye and a slight quirk at one corner of her mouth, suggesting she might possess a sense of humor after all.


Finally, before I leave you I want to share one cool thing from this week. AND! We’re going to try out this new feature that lets us have a discussion thread, where YOU can share YOUR one cool thing from this week. It can be something online, something from your life, news you want to share — whatever. I’m not particular, as long as it’s not political and everyone is respectful and kind to one another. Let’s all share our cool things!

Here’s mine: Tsh Oxenreider’s new podcast The Good List launched this week, and the first episode delves more into Atomic Habits and the concept of setting a lot of ridiculously small goals to help you work up to one big goal (a concept known in Japan as kaizen). While I still haven’t read AH, I’ve been using kaizen techniques to trick myself into actually acomplishing things for a while now, and it’s a big part of how I got myself to bust out of my sugar-and-holiday haze to write nearly 5,000 words on my novel this week.

Your turn! I can’t wait to read what you share.

Until next week,


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New Year, New Newsletter

If you're the sort who's overwhelmed by change, I'm sorry.

Happy New Year, Li’l Echoes!


I still need to work on that.

At any rate, hi! And welcome to 2020, which is even more futuristic-sounding than Y2K, which still feels like it just happened.

It’s a new year, a new decade, and a new newsletter! We’re on Substack now, and that’s not the only change that’s happening here.

By the way, if you’re reading this, congratulations! You survived the Purge, wherein I culled the serial non-openers from my list. To those of you who actually read these words I send out once a month, thank you. I appreciate you so much.

I also value your time, which is why we’re trying out a new format in my attempt to streamline things. We’ve all got an impossible amount of things clamoring for our time and attention, and as long as you allow me into your inbox, I want to make our time together not only enjoyable but also short enough to stay enjoyable.

So real quick, besides the new publisher and the new format, here’s what else is changing as we move into this new year:

  • While this newsletter will still go out once a month, I’m also going to start sending out short updates every Friday on how my WIPs are going — just a quick progress report to keep you posted and keep me accountable.

  • For those of you who enjoy the more personal updates I’ve previously included in this letter, as well as my lengthy blog posts and ramblings about things like my faith and the enneagram and life hacks and etc., I’m going to be starting a separate monthly newsletter that will take the place of my blog. If you’re interested in that, reply to this e-mail to let me know and I’ll add you to that list so you’ll be sure to get the first issue when it launches later this month.

  • I’m also streamlining my social media usage and trying to reduce my digital footprint. If you’re following me on Twitter or Facebook, you should know I’m no longer maintaining an active Twitter presence, and I’m probaby going to delete my Facebook page at some point. I’m mostly on Instagram these days, but I’m also phasing out my author account @jmbauhaus and focusing entirely on my personal account @jean_of_the_hills. So if you follow me at the first one, you might want to switch over to the second.

What’s with all these changes, man?

I basically have one overriding goal for the new year, and that’s to be more consistent. And I’ve realized that I can’t be consistent when I’m spread too thin and piling too much on my plate. I’m narrowing my focus this year to just writing (not counting the adjacent tasks necessary to producing online content and publishing books) instead of trying to do all the things.

And that — writing, that is — is one of the main areas where I want to be more consistent. I’m going to try a new thing — forgetting about metrics like word counts and quotas and just focus on showing up to the keyboard (or the notebook) on a consistent basis. This year is all about building consistent habits that will eventually result (hopefully) in being consistently successful in my work.

What’s your big goal/intention/one word/resolution for the new year? I’d love to hear it — just reply to this e-mail to tell me what it is.

And before we move on, can I ask a quick favor? If you enjoy this newsletter, will you share it with your people? I would appreciate that very much. And if you show me receipts (a screenshot that you tag me in on Instagram, for example) I’ll even put your name in a drawing for a free e-book of your choice from my back catalog.

Big Wins from 2019

I always feel like I’m a painfully slow writer — and I am, when I compare myself with those Indie authors who are cranking out a book a month on Kindle Unlimited — but I still managed to launch four new books last year. Okay, calling The Spirits Collection a new book is a bit of a stretch, and my publisher put that one together without my having to do anything, but still. Between that coming out last summer, both my first non-fiction book and my novella duology Women’s Work coming out last winter, and the long-awaited Deliverance of the Damned finally releasing in November, that’s not a bad year by objective standards. Not super-prolific, but definitely not bad, especially considering this isn’t what I do for a living.

(By the way, if you’ve read Deliverance, would you mind leaving a review? That would go a long way toward helping new readers find this book.)

2019 was also the year I finally broke into the audio book market, with both Self-Publishing for the Broke Author and Dominion of the Damned being produced for Audible, which was a fun experience and one I hope to repeat with more titles in the future.

Another exciting thing you guys helped make happen: the e-book version of Dominion made it into the top ten free books in two of its categories on Amazon — making it all the way to #4 in free U.S. Horror Fiction! So thanks to everyone who downloaded the book and/or helped spread the word and got me that temporary boost in visibility. ♥

Big Goals for 2020

I only set project goals for one 90-day period at a time. So apart from my professional writing goal — which is basically just to do the work as it comes in and stay ahead of my deadlines — my main focus for the next 90 days is getting the final book in the Damned trilogy finished. That’s the project I’ll be keeping you updated on in the weekly e-mails.

Of course I have other books I’d like to write. I’d like to get back to the supernatural thriller series I started last year, for one thing, and I’ve got more non-fiction book ideas vying for my attention. And besides the other newsletter I’ll be starting this month, I’ve also got plans to launch a publication on Medium that focuses on simple living, mainly for the purposes of expanding my freelance portfolio and giving myself something to write about besides pet care.

But getting this novel off of my plate and onto your e-readers is my biggest goal. I’m also planning to release a paperback version of Deliverance soon, and I would love to get the ball rolling on an audio version if I can work out a deal with the narrator of Dominion. I might have to see about doing a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign to make that happen, so that’s not likely to occur before the final book is launched, hopefully by the beginning of summer. For one thing, I’m not likely to have time for a campaign before then, but also if I wait, I can hopefully get both of the remaining books in the trilogy produced in one go.

3 Things I Love

This section is devoted to things that are delighting me or making my life better in some way (this section may contain Amazon affiliate links). For this month, they are:

  • Crio Bru - It’s touted as a coffee alternative, but it’s basically finely ground cacao tea that you can brew in your coffee maker or French press. It’s not as finely ground as cocoa powder, nor is it as rich as cocoa — it’s got a more mild chocolatey flavor that I actually like better than hot cocoa. I asked for and received a bag for Christmas and it’s helping me come down gently from all the chocolatey treats I’d been eating all month long.

  • This podcast interview with James Clear - I haven’t yet read Atomic Habits (I hope to rectify that soon), but this interview with the author provides the basics of what you need to know to start building good habits. This interview basically provided the steps I plan to follow in my goal to be more consistent.

  • Ashley Bell - I read a little Dean Koontz back in the ‘80s (mainly because teen Jean was all for reading a book that turned into a movie starring Corey Haim), and rediscovered him a few years ago with his Odd Thomas series (which you’ll love if you like my Restless Spirits books). I guess you could say I re-rediscovered him this year, and with this novel I think I’m officially a fan.

3 Links You’ll Love

This section contains links from around the Internet (or just Instagram) that I’m 99% certain will delight you as much as they delighted me.

  • This cover of The Middle by Audrey Assad and Guests - It started with Audrey Assad posting a soulful cover of Jimmy Eats World’s The Middle on her Instagram channel. And then a couple of other artists layered in their vocals. And then a musician added strings. The arrangement was already beautiful and it keeps growing into something truly amazing.

  • This Christmas Bloom County strip - Berkeley Breathed is every bit as good at poignancy as he is at comedy, and yet I’m always surprised when this classic comic strip about a talking penguin and a lobotomized cat makes me tear up. Fair warning: if you’re a dog person (and probably if you’re just a person), this WILL make you cry. So will this gorgeously drawn epilogue.

  • @dudewithsign is out there fighting the good fight, protesting the truly important issues of our day.

All right, that’s it for another month, folks! I’ll pop into your inbox next Friday to let you know how it’s going as I get back to writing Destruction of the Damned.

See you then!

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