Expectant Moon Gets a Makeover

The importance of a great cover cannot be overstated. It’s crucial to grab a potential reader’s attention while also giving them a general idea of what kind of book they are looking at. Great, now you’re halfway there! The second step is to provide an enticing book description, which, if done correctly, peaks their interest and convinces them to purchase. I’m going to save step two for another post and focus on the cover today.

One of the challenges an indie author faces is the overwhelming body of knowledge needed to successfully publish a book. Assuming you have a great story and the manuscript has been written well and edited properly, you’re still left with all the marketing issues – including the items mentioned above. I was arrogant enough to believe I knew better than my graphic artist what a great book cover should look like. Consequently my choices have been underwhelming, affecting sales and my brand. (Yes, my other books need new covers too, but I can’t afford to change them all right now.)

Well, this old dog really CAN learn new tricks! At times it’s difficult for me to admit I was wrong, swallow my pride, and let the “experts” guide me. Perhaps you share the same struggle and know what I mean. Anyway, with Traitor’s Moon nearing completion, I was determined to find an AWESOME cover for it. The original plan was to model it after Expectant Moon’s with slight changes. Now, I’m very fond of the present artwork and wouldn’t normally spend the money to replace it so soon, but I’d made too many mistakes and it had to go.

After eating a generous portion of humble pie, I contacted my graphic artist with a request to start from scratch and design the whole series, which will include at least three books. This time, I gave her the freedom to do it properly and ignore my input if it got in her way. The difference between the old and new is quite striking and early feedback is convinced I’ve got a winner. Tell me what you think!

New Cover:

ExpectantMoonSmallerWebUse -new

Old Cover:

ExpectantMoonSmallerWebUse

 

Weekly Roundup 8-15-18 My Publishing Anniversary!

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

art-bright-celebrate-1229838By Rudolf Kirchner on Pexels.

WOO HOO! One year ago I became a published author! It’s been an incredibly busy time of growth, change, excitement, and, yes, discouragement. Though I’ve learned an awful lot, it’s obvious I have much further to go and wonder when, or if, I’ll ever arrive. It isn’t just the constantly changing nature of publishing, but the deep pool of knowledge an author needs to run the business side of things. Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart, and I can’t even imagine trying the traditional route!

One of the reasons I spent a year writing before any attempt to publish was the sheer number of things I needed to learn. I came very close to giving up when I realized how complicated and time-consuming it was. The process would have been far easier and more pleasant if I’d had a mentor to guide me and answer questions. l still wish I had some fellow authors I could talk to when I need to vent or ask advice.

At the beginning, my sales figures were the primary driving force, and I was riding high for a while – until Pronoun closed up shop. Sales tanked after that and I am nowhere near where I’d like to be. Once more, I seriously considered calling it quits, but made a commitment to stick it out for two years before making that kind of decision. In the meantime, I had to find an other source of motivation and settled on two things:

  1. I love to write.

I have tons of ideas for future stories; so many in fact I don’t think I’ll live long enough to ever see them all published. Writing is so fulfilling and downright fun I simply MUST keep going!

  1. Readers enjoy my work.

Even though sales are slow, I realized it wasn’t because my books were bad. I’ll probably never be famous or rich, but I believe I have something to offer and feedback from my readers tells me I’m on the right track.

My goals for the next year include improvement in the mechanics of writing/editing and more effective marketing. Meanwhile, each book will be better than the one before it and adds to my back list. Perhaps I’ll get a lucky break and win an award or be offered a movie deal! What?! I can dream can’t I?

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Current manuscript:

Progress has been slow on chapter six of Traitor’s Moon. At this point of the story, I’m transitioning from the set up to the main action points and the primary romance. It’s tricky weaving all the threads together without leaving out anything important. I’m hoping to finish the chapter in the next day or two. Current word count is 46,000+ which is close to novel length and I’m only half done!

Quotes I liked:

“Too often do reviewers remind us of the mob of Astrologers, Chaldeans, and Soothsayers gathered before the “writing on the wall”, and unable to read the characters or make known the interpretation.” Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre, September 19, 1850.  (Well said, Charlotte. Some things never change!)

“The breathless voice belonged to a vivacious blonde. Her clothes screamed popular cheerleader. Perkiness seeped out of her pores in puke-inducing waves.” From Lone Wolf by Shelley Munro. (LOL. Can’t you just picture this person? How did she do it with only 23 words?? Thanks Shelley!)

Weekly Roundup 7-25-18 The power of reader feedback.

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I received a delightful email from a reader this week! You may wonder why this is such a big deal, and to someone else it probably wouldn’t be. In almost a year’s time I have only received a handful of emails, despite encouraging my readers at every turn to contact me, and it makes my day every time.

I cannot speak for all Indy authors, but this one needs affirmation, encouragement, praise or plain old contact with another person. I want to know what they liked about one of my books or how it met a need or spoke to them personally. It boosts my spirits and motivates me to keep going amid the discouragements of life. It validates my efforts in the same way a stage performer feeds off audience applause.

Hearing directly from a reader is not the same as a review, which is usually addressed to fellow readers (unless the reviewer is particularly unhappy with the book!). When a stranger writes to me saying they enjoyed my work, it is humbling to know I made a positive difference in their life or at least provided some transitory enjoyment. Such powerful connections are a wondrous thing and should be celebrated!

Here’s the message I received from an 88-year-old gentleman from NY who appreciated my book Green’s Thumb.

“Hi! Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this particular book. Since my partner of 26 years died in 2009, I have become an avid reader of m/m romances. I did not meet the love of my life until I was 52, and just five years out of the closet, so am most appreciative of a novel that has more mature MCs. Most are in their 20s and 30s; okay, but not something with which I can easily identify any longer. So the story of Karl and Mitch was a great surprise and more to my taste. Even though I was never married, I identified with Mitch who was more my age when entering the relationship and suffered from the same inexperience. Thanks for this heartwarming story. I shall read it again.”

Wonderful! In my response, I shared that parts of the story were taken directly from my own life. It was great to see how the book meant something to him and met a need. I also told him I plan to include more silver characters in future stories, since older gay men are mostly ignored. The author of this email had no idea how much his simple communication would mean to me, probably assuming it was nothing special. Well, it was, and I am deeply appreciative.

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Update on current manuscript: Traitor’s Moon is gaining momentum! I’m part way through chapter five, having reached over 35,000 words. I’m having fun revealing more of Jack’s history, introducing new characters, and describing the drama surrounding Nolan and his mate. There’s so much more ahead for Gladstone, and I can’t wait to get it all written and to my readers. The feedback from early beta reading is very positive!

Reader Roundup 7-4-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

“The Fourth of July – also known as Independence Day or July 4th – has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.” See the full article HERE.

Looking back, July 4th was always a fun family day. I don’t recall my parents teaching us anything about the Holiday itself or why we celebrated it, and as a child I’m almost certain it would have gone over my head. I was more interested in the evening cookout, homemade ice cream, watermelon, and fireworks.

I may be mistaken, but I seem to recall July 4th was one of the few times we used the grill. Perhaps it was because meat was expensive and feeding our large family wasn’t easy. Pasta goes a lot farther on a budget than beef! Dad would cook hot dogs and hamburgers while Mom served potato salad, baked beans and other picnic type foods such as chips and pop.

Making the ice cream came before the the grill was fired up, and I was probably in my teens before the old hand cranked device gave up the ghost. It always took at least two of us to get the job done – one to crank the handle and the other to sit on the top (cushioned with a folded rug) to keep the blue wooden bucket from tipping over. It was the only time of the year we got to enjoy homemade ice cream, and couldn’t wait for dinner to end so we could have some. Hello brain freeze!

Sometime after supper the ice cold watermelons were brought out and sliced, which inevitably ended up in a seed-spitting war. Uncouth? Sure! We had a blast anyway! (If you’ve never done it, the trick is to nail the other person in the face with the seed, minus the spit. Sometimes you got both…)

Before the sun set, Dad would dole out the snakes, smoke bombs and parachutes, since none of these were any fun in the dark. It kept us busy for a while while Dad set up the bigger fireworks display. They were illegal where we lived, so he would drive to a neighboring state to buy them. His job was to light them while we kept an eye out for the cops! Bottle rockets, roman candles, fountains, pinwheels, firecrackers – he always bought a variety of cool stuff for our private show.

After the main event, he handed out the sparklers and we enjoyed trying to write our names in the air with them (you have to move really fast!). I recall some years we also created floating lanterns made out of newspaper and straight pins. We had a lot of fun every year, and I’m amazed no one ever got hurt! I don’t usually bother with going to fireworks displays any more. I don’t like the heat, noise, or crowds, and the magic of it all is long gone. Oh well.

I hope you and yours take a moment to remember what we are celebrating and have a safe, enjoyable Holiday.

Other things going on this week:

  1. Making some good progress on Traitor’s Moon. Still in chapter three and hope to finish it up by next week. I’m at an exciting part of the story with a lot of action, and writing it requires careful thought and precision. Nolan finally meets his mate, and they’re both in for a surprise!
  2. Been working on adding an email sign-up to my website. I chose MailPoet and am wading my way through the settings and trying to figure it all out. I’m not a tech person, so this kind of thing gives me hives. I would vastly prefer to let someone else do the set-up while I get more writing done.
  3. Started reading a dragon book this week, but had to quit. It wasn’t billed as a YA title, but it certainly wasn’t geared for adults! Too simple, too cute, too illogical for me to enjoy. That’s OK – there are enough books out there to satisfy every taste imaginable, and I’m not arrogant enough to assume everyone will enjoy my work simply because I wrote it.
  4. I don’t know about you, but the heat here has been awful, and I tip my hat to the fine gentlemen who invented air conditioning! In 1902, the first modern electrical air conditioning unit was invented by Willis Carrier in Buffalo, New York. In 1945, Robert Sherman of Lynn, MA invented a portable, in-window air conditioner. The first mass-market system for automobiles appeared in the Nash Ambassador in 1954. Without these fine inventions I would melt into a puddle of goo like the Wicked Witch. Not pretty folks!

 

Reader Roundup 6-27-18 What? No Aliens?!

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

FINALLY! Someone in the scientific community has been brave enough to suggest what I have always believed – we are alone in the universe.

“Alien life should be everywhere. Yet, by all appearances, humanity seems to be flying solo in our galaxy, and perhaps the universe. Many solutions have been proposed to solve this riddle, known as the Fermi Paradox.

Researchers of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute have another answer. It’s likely intelligent life doesn’t exist at all, outside of Earth.

The researchers write that there is “a substantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe,” and we shouldn’t be surprised if we fail to detect any signs of it. In other words, there is no need to speculate about the fate of aliens. It’s likely they’ve never existed.”  (See the full article by Michael J. Coren HERE)

Many people sincerely believe in the existence of extraterrestrials, and the news is filled with claims of alien craft sightings and abductions which serve to keep the speculative fires burning. Why? One reason may be the desperation to believe someone/something will come and rescue this planet from its own foolish inhabitants, bringing peace, prosperity, and a reversal of the damage we have inflicted on the earth.

Personally, I believe they are looking in the wrong place for such deliverance. I hate to break it to you but if such life existed, and was intelligent and powerful enough to travel from planet X for a visit, they would more likely see us as a pestilence to be removed or a food source. So, do you REALLY want them to find us??

So, whether or not they exist, why are aliens so often found in popular literature today? Because the mere possibility of alien life makes for great stories!

Strange beings from outer space add drama, excitement, interesting allies or enemies, and that Ohhh/Ewww factor, adding spice and fueling our imaginations. Good aliens often shame us for our reckless behavior while evil ones make us look good in comparison or give us someone to conquer. Any way you slice it, intelligent life forms from outer space provide a vast array of creative possibilities for interesting fiction. This is why I enjoy writing about them in my own books, not because I believe they actually exist.

OK – on to other things this week.

My birthday: yep, the only day of the year which belongs to me has come around once again, and no, I’m not going to tell you how old I am! If you want to give me a gift, buy my books or just send cash.

My current manuscript: I have finished chapter two of Traitor’s Moon! Word count is 15,000+ and so far I have added eight brand new characters to the series. In consultation with one of my devoted beta readers (thanks TC), I have decided to create a “Cast of Characters” list for both Expectant Moon and Traitor’s Moon. I don’t want the story to be confusing for my readers, so I’m hoping the list will help them keep track of everyone as they read.

Chapters one and two were mostly setting up the new story, so I’m looking forward to chapter three and the excitement and drama you’ve come to expect! Hang on Nolan, you’re in for a wild ride…

A great quote: “Miles had claimed, not even a week ago, that he could never be attracted to a man with such a stick up his ass. He was not happy to discover he might have been wrong. The only explanation was that Evan, like any decent mold, grew on you after a while.” Loved it! My thanks to Beth Bolden and her book “Bite Me” Kitchen Gods Book 1. Check it out HERE.

Have a great week, and I’ll see you on the 4th of July!

 

Reader Roundup 6-13-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Seems as though everyone and their mother is trying to sell me their book on how to be a successful author. Much of the material I’ve seen is repetitive, common sense stuff with little value. Allow me to share some helpful gems which are worth repeating – and I won’t even charge you for it!

  1. SLEEP. A consistent sleep schedule with 7-8 hours per night is essential to supply your mind and body with the energy and creativity you need. Shortcuts lead to lethargy, sluggish thinking, and a lack of productivity. No more excuses – DO IT!
  2. STOP. Stop writing before you are finished. What?? The best way to jump-start your writing the next day (and avoid writer’s block) is to stop before you complete the section/chapter you are working on. I find it very helpful to leave myself brief notes which include the things I still want to say, giving me grease for the wheels when I come back to it later.
  3. FORGET. Forget about the guilt if you can’t write something every single day! I work full time and often have days of zero writing. There are enough pressures on my time and psyche, so laying a guilt trip on myself is destructive and pointless. Yes, a serious author must remained committed to the task, but there’s no need to beat yourself up in the process.
  4. COLLECT. I’ve mentioned this before, but always be prepared to record ideas when they make themselves known. Just because you are on chapter one doesn’t mean you should ignore a great idea for chapter six or even the end of the book – or subsequent books if you’re doing a series. Write it down, send yourself an email, record it on your phone – whatever works for you. The point is not to let good ideas get away simply because they occur to you at an odd time. Once forgotten, they may remain so!
  5. EDIT. Go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb, and then hand it off to a team of beta readers. Make corrections and then re-read the thing from start to finish to see what else you and the others have missed. Repeat as often as necessary to produce the cleanest possible product. If you cut corners here, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Readers will forgive occasional mistakes but they will not give your book(s) a second chance if it is riddled with errors.
  6. COVER. You must have an attractive cover if you expect people to seriously consider looking at your book. Even if your writing is top-notch and the manuscript has been carefully edited to within an inch of its life, you have one chance to grab their attention. Spending the time and money to do it right will pay for itself many times over. Remember this – many potential readers will initially see your book cover in a thumbnail size, so make certain it’s clear and eye-catching.
  7. BLURB. Writing a book description, or jacket blurb, is one of the hardest things an author must do. It has to be brief, yet catch and hold the attention of a potential reader within seconds. It ain’t easy! You are competing with hundreds of other books, and readers are looking at the cover, blurb and price to determine if they want to purchase. If you lose them right out of the gate, all your hard work on the manuscript will be for nothing. Personally, I use my beta readers to help me determine if the blurb is doing its job. If not, I write as many as necessary until they give me a thumb’s up.

There are probably a zillion other things I could mention, assuming I’m even aware of them myself, but this is a good start. The next step is marketing, which is a minefield each author must learn to navigate for themselves without losing limbs, and I’m not going to pretend I have it figured out. For now, focus on writing a great story and preparing it for publication, since that in itself is a huge milestone and worth celebrating!

Do you have tips and tricks to share? Comments/questions? Just want to say hello? I would love to hear from you! Click HERE.

***Update on my current manuscript, Traitor’s Moon. I finished chapter one today and am ready to move on to chapter two! This may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s an indication of real progress. I’m eager to write about new characters as well as old friends from book one who have an integral part in the story.

Galactic Neighborhood series review

The Galactic neighborhood series has been out since last August, but I’m sure many of you haven’t yet read it. See what RSBProds, a Top 1000 Amazon reviewer had to say:

 

THE STARSHIP “EXPEDITION” ENCOUNTERS A DANGEROUS PREDICAMENT  by RSBProds on October 20, 2017

Four PERPLEXING Stars. Expedition is a fast-paced novel by talented author Alexander Elliott. It is Book 1 of the “Galactic Neighborhood Trilogy” and concerns the familiar passengers-like setup as the colony starship Expedition searches for a home for its 300 souls in stasis with an AI. They encounter trials and tribulations as Elliott creates a real page-turner, and wastes no time moving the plot through several twists and turns to a satisfying conclusion which leads into the second novel of the trilogy, Odyssey, which I immediately bought; followed by Book 3, Exploration, which really looks like it’s an action packed story. Very Definitely Recommended. Four DETERMINED Stars.

 

THE SPACE OPERA CONTINUES WITH DANGER, INTRIGUE, & DISCOVERY ON PLANET “SAHARA”  by RSBProds on October 23, 2017

Four and a half REVEALING Stars. Odyssey, by talented author Alexander Elliott, is the second novel in the “Galactic Neighborhood” trilogy where the reader is taken to the planet Sahara, whose existence was suddenly revealed at the end of Book 1, Expedition. The author begins slightly before the climactic event of the previous novel giving the reader a feel for specifically how ‘Sahara’ and ‘Pacifica’ learned of each other’s existence. From there, this becomes an exciting tale of technical wonders, space diplomacy, political intrigue, conspiracies, and unique discoveries with some romance included, set against an overall air of impending danger. Just as President Morales on the planet ‘Sahara’ feels the colony is truly alone and vulnerable in the universe, things begin to rapidly change and not all for the best. The reader will benefit by reading the first Galactic Neighborhood novel which began in deep space aboard the colony starship Expedition, which had a wild story line of its own. But here attractive new characters and very unusual and interesting scenarios are introduced that keep the fast pace going in this mostly planet-bound story line. Odyssey is a very imaginative expansion of the Galactic Neighborhood space opera. I immediately bought Book 3, Exploration, to see where it all goes. Highly Recommended. Four and a half DANGEROUS Stars.

 

THE CLIMAX OF THE “GALACTIC NEIGHBORHOOD TRILOGY”: PAYING A HIGH PRICE  by RSBProds on October 27, 2017

Five FASCINATING Stars. Exploration is the 3rd book by talented author Alexander Elliott in his “Galactic Neighborhood” series of novels that began with Expedition and then Book 2, Odyssey. Elliott spins a wide-ranging, entertaining tale that involves multiple locations and story lines and ties up all of the loose threads of all three novels very well. Intended to be a standalone novel, more enjoyment is obtained by reading all three books in this space opera. True to the author’s format for the series, cliff-hanger events impacting Book 3 actually begin with the dramatic attack on the starship Explorer in the Epilogue of Book 2, Odyssey. Yet another odd alien race makes a striking appearance in the opening pages and is the key to a mystery. Proceeding on multiple fronts and overlapping story lines, the author skillfully weaves a fascinating, torturous tale of war, treachery, ingenuity, and xenophobia. My Highest Recommendation. Five CLIMACTIC Stars.

Pick up your copies today on Amazon!   EXPEDITION   ODYSSEY   EXPLORATION

PS – Expedition will be FREE May 27-28!

 

Reader Roundup 5-23-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Two things have kept me busy this week: promoting Expectant Moon and thinking deep thoughts about BEAR, DRAGON, and CAT shifters.

As to the first, Expectant Moon has been well received so far and garnered ten five-star reviews. This makes me happy! A recent FREE promotion on FreeBooksy resulted in over 2800 downloads. This also makes me happy! Overall sales are not what I was hoping for. This does NOT make me happy! Until I figure out what I’m still doing wrong, I suppose I will have to be satisfied with whatever I can get. There’s a magic formula of “behind the scenes” tricks for selling on Amazon, and I don’t have it figured out yet. I honestly don’t think it’s the books themselves – it’s the cursed marketing which is giving me fits! Like many authors, managing the business side of writing is a time consuming, confusing, and often frustrating endeavor. I didn’t really sign up for this part, but I’m stuck with it now!

On to more pleasant things…

Now, who doesn’t want to think about shifters?? They are so COOL, and lend themselves to really interesting stories! Some of you are wondering why I am spending time on anything other than book 2 in my Gladstone Shifters series. I have been working on the outline and background material, but have not yet started writing the story because other ideas have been popping up in my brain and I cannot ignore them!

I have found it beneficial to stop and record new ideas whenever they reveal themselves. I always carry a small notebook and pen at work for furious scribbling when no one is looking. Often, I get great ideas while in the shower or on my way somewhere in the car. Even dreams have presented new ideas or helped me solve problems with a current manuscript. Sometimes it’s simply an interesting book title or a general idea I might want to use in the future. Other times, I get the entire story line in a flood and have to hurry up and record it  down before I forget.

The bears are on my mind because I am toying with a bear shifter story for either Christmas or Valentines day (you’re going to love it!). I have dragons on the brain right now because of a series of books I have been reading lately. They too will get their own story in the future – probably a series. Recent articles in the news regarding cougars and lynx got me all excited about cat shifters – particularly because they reside right here in the states.

For those readers who are waiting for more Science Fiction books, never fear! I have some great stories on the back burner, and have been adding new ideas all the time. Imagine vast ocean creatures waiting to get their tentacles on the humans who have invaded their planet. Hey – they just want to talk!

 

My Books Now On KDP Select

Beginning today, I made an executive decision and moved all my books to KDP Select, meaning they are only available from Amazon for the foreseeable future.

I gave D2D a try for a couple months, hoping a wider distribution would result in greater sales – it didn’t. Plus, it prevented me from offering my books for FREE as a promotion option, which is something I really didn’t like.

The loss of Kindle Unlimited income was also a factor in switching back to Select. Right now, sales are slower than I would like and I need the additional KU income to pay for promotions.

I realize some of my readers prefer a different format or don’t like shopping on Amazon – so I offer my apologies for the inconvenience. If I had unlimited time and funds, I would have the freedom to do things differently. I appreciate your understanding, and hope you continue to enjoy my work.

 

Reader Roundup 5-9-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I have learned much since launching my first books last August. Many revisions have already taken place as I update/correct/improve the manuscripts, but there is always more to be done. Time is, as always, in short supply, so do I spend it writing new material or improving existing books? Some authors advise focusing only on new material, rather than wasting time on older work. I want to do both and hate having to make a choice!

This week, I put off starting on the second book in the Gladstone Shifters series to do some work on Green’s Thumb, which has already received significant revision. You see, a recent review caught my eye, and I took the reviewers words to heart (yes, I pay attention!). Later today I should have the manuscript in better shape and it will replace the version currently for sale. Now I have another problem – I want to expand the book!

A number of earlier reviews for Green’s Thumb made note of its brevity and “hurried” whirlwind romance, reducing its real-world credibility. I may or may not agree with that assessment, but I acknowledge the story could be improved by fleshing it out with more back story and additional interaction between the characters. Now that I recognize it needs to be done, where will I ever find the time to actually write it?

I already have readers demanding the next Gladstone Shifters book, so how can I justify delaying new material by going back and improving an older book? Not an easy decision, but I think I need to file my notes for Green’s Thumb for sometime in the future. The old adage “strike while the iron is hot” applies in this case, and I don’t want to lose the feel of the series or characters by allowing too much time to pass between books.

The quality of my writing increases with each book I write, so at some point I will be able to bring my earlier works up to speed while producing new novels which won’t need major post-published corrections. Until then, I have to figure out how to balance it all and keep everybody, including me, happy.