Archive for June, 2012

I have always had a lot of debt. It’s a common symptom of people who grow up poor. We struggled as it was for most of my childhood, but when my stepfather left, quite abruptly, we had nothing. My mother had always stayed home but suddenly had to find work, having no skills, no car, and the looming fear of the unknown. My brother had quit school and had a job as a night watchman. I was sliding into my freshman year of high school then. I got work babysitting five hours a day after school and we somehow managed to make ends meet.

We picked up a car, a yellow Pinto, for $300. It was pretty beat up on the outside and the driver’s door didn’t shut. The driver would have to hold the handle when he turned a corner and the floor boards were so rusted and worn through that you could see the road. We were always “This” close to not making the rent. We never actually did get evicted but the fear was there. We didn’t get our utilities shut off or starve to death and we didn’t receive public assistance. I remember buying a quarter pound of ground beef and adding bread and spices so I could make four burgers. We made do.

I used babysitting money for anything I needed but was very careful. Once I was sixteen I got a real part-time job at the local ice cream place, then a department store. Eventually I got out of school, got a full-time low-paying job and went to night school. Then life got in the way and I needed things I couldn’t afford. I got married and had a baby then got a divorce. I never finished my English degree.

Fast forward to now. I’m forty-three years old. I have the car I always wanted, an overpriced townhouse which has lost $70k in value in the last five years. I have a bunch of expensive impulse pets who I love but did not need. I’ve had some great vacations I couldn’t afford, traveled extensively for writers’ conferences not in my budget, and ate out way too many times when I should have gone back to my roots and eaten ramen noodles.

A few months ago, I upped my 401k to the max they match at work which gave me less cash flow but seemed smart for long-term savings.  Shortly after doing that I was hit with unexpected medical expenses. Until then I was fine with high debt and no way out, but my new financial situation woke me up. I had a ton of credit card debt, the car payment, the mortgage and now less money coming in and medical bills that weren’t in my very tight budget. My bills were all paid on time and I had excellent credit but there was no money left to get ahead. My credit card balances were increasing every month. 

At Book Expo a few weeks ago I got a free copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Reading his book inspired me so I went to the library and took out four more books about financial freedom. The only good one in the lot was Suze Orman’s Nine Steps to Financial Freedom.  That was a life changer. In Rich Dad, Poor Dad and this one what I learned was that sitting here fearing my financial situation wasn’t going to  help. I needed to just fix it all. Now.

First I dug out a credit card I haven’t used since 2007. I called to cancel the card but seeing how long I’ve had it  (2006) and hearing the giant credit limit I was able to call and in seconds the woman on the phone took me from 13.99% to 9.99%. A start. I said, “I’ve got two cards at 11.99%. Do you have any 0% transfer options?” Within five minutes I’d moved most of the debt on those two to this one at 0% until October 2013, saving almost $300 a month in interest. Wow, that was easy. $300 a month appeared out of thin air.

I dug out the Sears charge from the drawer which has no balance and huge limit. I’d opened it to get a dress for $.01 back in 2008 and never used it again. I’m going to put this on my Outlook calendar to buy a pair of socks every six months and pay them off immediately. Okay so this isn’t saving me money but it’s upping my available credit to increase my credit score.

I returned those books and got four more.  This got me thinking about my college degree. I’ve always worked in the financial industry so why was I still hung up on the English degree? I decided to finish the darn thing now that Abby is old enough to stay home alone. Plus, having a long distance boyfriend means most of my weekends are spent home alone watching movies or writing. Schoolwork would be a better use of time. The company will pay a  big chunk of it. I re-enrolled and next week will find out how long it will take  and the cost. My goal is to finish in two years.

And finally, due to Suze Orman’s insistence that the first step in Financial Freedom is responsibility to others, I wrote up a Living Trust and a Pour Over will. Next week, I will work on actually transferring assets to the trust.

I made an awesome graph to chart out my debt reduction over the next six months. I’ll update the blog then and how it all turned out.

I’m breathing easier and am looking forward to the future now and watching things get better.

-Tracy

Don’t forget to check out my site my  AMAZON PAGE  and  NOOK PAGE to see all my fiction currently for sale.


When I first learned how to upload short stories to Kindle, I fell into their marketing effort to grant them exclusivity for 90 days. It really is a good program as they offer you 5 days of free giveaways each month. From what I’ve experienced, offering free books to readers greatly increases readership and generally increases sales afterwards as well. But some people don’t have a Kindle and don’t want to download the Kindle app to their phones or iPads. Several of my friends have said “Can I get any of your work on The Nook?”

I tried putting a story up on Smashwords which will supposedly roll it out to many venues, but I found the process cumbersome.  A manager in a Barnes & Noble store told me about Pubit. It’s the B&N’s system to VERY EASILY load your e-books.

In the last few days I put three stories up. The others will have to wait until their exclusive periods from Kindle expire.

I am outlining the process here. It’s really a snap.

First CLICK HERE to access the PUBIT site, which is part of Barnes & Noble. If you already have a B&N account from buying books, you can use that. Otherwise, sign up for one which is a quick process.

Click the first section for UPLOAD/CREATE an Account.  As with Kindle you’ll have to fill in your name, address, SS# etc to set the PubIt acount up.

From there ADD a BOOK. You can see the few I’ve added here.

Add in your title and other details including the description about the book, tags, and categories (you can list 5). Don’t forget to add your cover. The button for this is up on the right and you might miss it.

Below is another screen shot of the set up.

I think the best part of the PubIt site is that you can upload a Word Document. There’s no fancy formatting or html formatting. Spaces are fine. When you click preview, a virtual Nook comes up on the screen so you can see how it would really look. And if the formatting is off, just fix the Word doc and reload.

On a .99 book, you make .40 so the royalty is also higher. Granted, I don’t expect a lot of sales. In three days I sold one copy from the three stories I had up. But this is such a quick process that if you have a cover and document and synopsis, you can load a story in about five minutes.

The turnaround time is also much faster than with the Kindle. You are published within hours or less.

The biggest con is the distribution and relative low number of Nook users. But the more places a read can display his or her work, the better.

Good luck with your publishing and happy writing!

Don’t forget to check out my site my  AMAZON PAGE  and  NOOK PAGE to see all my fiction currently for sale.

One of my favorite standby recipes before I became a low carb eater ( a few weeks ago) was Pepperoni Pie. I made it all the time and often brought it to parties. I’ve been trying to come up with a recipe that will take the place of the old recipe and still be acceptable on this diet. The new creation is delicious, healthy and low carb. Yay!

Ingredients:
carb count
3 eggs 3
2 tbl Heavy Cream 1
1/4 tsp pepper 0
1/4 tsp oregano 0
 3/4 tsp concentrated basil 0 less than 1
 2 tbl Tomato eggplant brushetta 1
1/4 cup water 0
4 tbl flax seed meal 0 net carbs
22 slices of turkey pepperoni 2
8 1/4 slices Muenster cheese 4
11
Only one carb per Pepperoni Mini Pie

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously spray 11 full-sized muffin tins with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a blender (or mixer but I like using a blender) combine all the ingredients except for the cheese and pepperoni. Blend well. Pour into a small bowl. Cut the 8 slices of Muenster Cheese into quarters.  Pour 1 tbl of the liquid into each tin. (my recipe yielded exactly 11 so don’t fill all 12).

Next put one slice of the cheese, then one slice of pepperoni, then cheese, then pepperoni, then top with cheese. Finally, top with another tablespoon of the mixture to cover.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until they are golden brown and bubbling. Let them cool slightly before removing from the tin or they will stick. These can also be served cold.

These are good-sized servings, and at just one carb each you’ll be happy and well fed. Flax seeds have some great health benefits so that’s a plus. Looking at the recipe, it appears to be gluten free as well.

Happy eating!

Don’t forget to check out my site for other recipes and also my  AMAZON PAGE  and  NOOK PAGE to see all my fiction currently for sale.

Two years ago my first book came out. It was not the first book I had planned, but a story I wrote for my daughter. I met a small publisher at a conference who was looking for YA books so I thought, why not?

The book came out in July 2010 and by March 2011 I had my rights back and was on the lookout for a new publisher. That’s another whole story I won’t get into. Suffice to say that the book is republished now and in better form, new title, new cover, new content. But while I was pushing The Man Of Mystery Hill I spent a crazy amount of money on marketing. And really, none of it made me a cent.

I’d like to share some of my “great marketing ideas” with you, so you can avoid making the same mistakes.

First, there was the url. I already had a bunch of domain names but decided I needed http://www.abbymcnabb.com. This would point to a new page in my already cumbersome website. I have since shut off the auto renew on the domain but I’m stuck with it for a while. Not a lot of money but it started the tally.

Next came the new business cards. I put the new web address on there, a picture of me and a cover of the book. Now that I’ve changed everything, the cards are useless. Vista print doesn’t charge a lot luckily. I  bought some postcards of the book cover. Also useless. Then there were the large posters bonded to white boards that cost way more than they should have, but I was excited. This was my first book after all.

I paid for ad space in print magazines, split with the publisher. I don’t think there was much benefit to that. Next came the tattoos. That’s right, tattoos containing the book cover. And honestly, what’s more fun than 5000 tattoos? I’ll tell you what, the $175 I paid for them to now sit in a drawer. Up goes the tally.

This book originally starred a 4th grade girl. In the new version she’s in 6th grade. I thought on it and decided that Mood pencils would be super fun. Especially if I had 500 of them. Honestly, what’s more enthralling than 500 mood pencils that change color in your hands and sport the abbymcnabb url? The money I blew on them, that’s what. And up goes the tally again.

But I was still so eager to sell this book. I was booking signings for at least once  a week, sometimes two. I was going to make a ton of money and all the cash I was putting out for giveaways would come back to me (foolish girl).

I think the bears were the last straw. I got it in my head that if I bought little bears wearing t-shirts with my book cover on them, that would be about the best thing ever. And honestly, they are adorable. When I opened the box of 100 of them (after shelling out about $375) I was thrilled. I gave away about half  to get people to buy my books at events. Of course my royalty was way less than what I spent on bears. What was I thinking? Now they are in a bag. Buying new t-shirts with the new cover will cost as much as new bears and I’m kind of all set with mini plushies.

The new version came out in November 2011 and I’m very pleased with it. This time, I’m going free and low-cost marketing. The jury is out on how successful that is but at least I learned from my mistakes. I hope you can learn from my mistakes too.

Happy selling!

-Tracy

Don’t forget to check out my AMAZON PAGE  and my new NOOK PAGE to see all my fiction currently for sale.

I’m just on the way home from my first Book Expo at the Javitz Center in Manhattan. It was a long day but surprisingly fun. I’ve spent a good deal of time whining the last few weeks about the time and expense of going to BEA. It was a free slot but I had to buy all the copies of The Soul Collector I’d be giving away, hopefully to librarians, distributors and bookstore owners. I also had to buy a train ticket. Because I was determined to do this in a day trip, I took a very early train (6:21am) to arrive in plenty of time for my 11am signing slot. The train station is 55 miles from my house so I was up at 4am, and shaking which is was happens when I get that tired.

But the day got better. I took a Business Class Acela on the way in which is so nice. Roomy seats, quiet people, most of whom were sleeping, like me. When I awoke, I was happy to see I had a Wi-Fi connection. I edited some stories and listened to The Martian Chronicles on my audio books on iTunes (courtesy of my boyfriend who is always providing me with cool stuff).

I arrived in NYC at 9:45 and smiled when I saw the sun. It was in the 60s but sunny. I took short brisk walk (15 minutes) and arrived at the mammoth Javitz Center. I walked in and was instantly overwhelmed, and that’s even before I got to the signing floor. I got my registration badge and found the Horror Writers association booth.

My 75 copies of The Soul Collector had arrived from the printer and were waiting for me. It was 10:40 by the time I sat down and got settled, and already people were crowding around asking for books. It was dizzying and fun. I unloaded all the copies to happy takers within my one hour alloted time. If you’re a writer, you know how much a kick you get out of signing just one book and seeing someone get all excited. So a dose of that times 75 was amazing. Sure, I gave them away and didn’t sell the them, but the people wanted to book and smiled. And that’s really what it’s all about. It really motivated me to start setting up book signings again and put the finishing touches on my next two books: my short story collection and my Women’s thriller.

I got to see some old friends, Gary Frank and Charles Day, Trish Wooldridge, and got to meet Vince Liaguno in person. Plus I met a new person Joshua (don’t remember his last name despite spending time with him in the booth). The place was absolutely packed which says something to all those naysayers who keep blabbing “No one reads anymore.” I beg to differ.

When my books were gone, I wandered the floor and got a few free books. I could have gotten more but didn’t want my bag to get too heavy. I ended up with Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T Kiyosaki, which they weren’t giving out but I asked nice and they said okay. I got an ARC of The Stress Pandemic by Paul Huljich because I know stress like nobody’s business and can always use tips. I also got a fun little romance called, Does This Church Make me Look Fat? by Rhoda Janzen.

There were so many rows of publishers and booksellers and authors it was intimidating. How could I possibly make it to the level they’re were at, with a booth at this expo, selling books and schmoozing? Then I laughed because I WAS at the expo sharing a booth and signing books just like everyone else. Note, at this point I was hungry, having had only an Atkins Bar and an Atkins shake since 4am.

I walked the “quick sunny brisk walk” back to Penn Station (saw this funny sign) and this time it was a long painful walk. I’m not used to heels and certainly not used to dragging myself along all day in them. It’s a reminder that my frequent Con days are far behind me. I’d forgotten all about Con Foot (squishing shoes that are used to loafers and sneakers into pretty heels to look nice and wincing with every step).

I finally saw Penn Station in the distance. Yes! Right outside I ordered a Chicken Shish-kabob. No sauce or rice. Just meat on a stick and a Diet Coke. $6. I brought it in and looked around the station. Not a single bench. I was just making myself a spot on the floor when I saw and then remembered that if you have an Amtrak ticket you can sit in the comfy section with seats and Wi-Fi and power outlets.

So here I am, finishing this blog, with only 45 minutes until my train takes off. All in all, a nice day. Looking forward to a relaxing ride home. I’ll be on the regular old Amtrak local this time, with a million stops and seats that probably aren’t as comfy or new as the sleek ride this morning, but at least I’m not driving. I’ve got lots to read and listen to.

There is piano music playing the background, half a kabob in my lunch bag and some cheesesticks for later.

For all my whining, it was a really fun and productive day.

Visit again for new recipes and don’t forget to check out my AMAZON PAGE to see all my fiction currently for sale.

I’m at the end of my second week of Atkins. I’m down 5.6 lbs. Last week I hit a plateau. Despite my special ketone strips yielding results in the pink section, and my staying on track, and walking like crazy, this is just how it goes sometimes. No weight loss all week then 1.2 pounds yesterday when I weighed myself this morning. So hopefully I’m back to losing again.

Today, I made my very favorite low carb recipe of all, gleaned from The Low Carb Cookbook, by Fran McCullough. I foolishly donated all my Low Carb cookbooks a few months ago so borrowed this one from the library and copied my favorite recipes. I’m listing this one out because I modified it slightly (added chocolate) and also because once you taste this you will run out and by her book, as you should. It’s chock full of delicious recipes and tips on low carb dieting. Consider this recipe a sample of the kind of delight you will find when you buy or borrow her book.

To start, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a springform pan with cooking spray.  I got just a great new pan and recommend it highly. It’s by The Food Network. The ingredients are few, and very basic.

2 lbs cream cheese. (4 packages) at room temperature

2 tbl heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs at room temperature

1 and 1/2 cups of Splenda

4 tbl of unsweetened cocoa powder

Note, from the recipe in the book I have altered three key things: I did not add lemon or orange zest, I used Splenda instead of Equal, and I added in 4 tbl of unsweetened cocoa which will add 4 total carbs to the recipe. Per serving (12) that is just an extra .3 carbs so not a big deal for the extra flavor.  When this book was written, when I bought it 13 years ago, you couldn’t buy Splenda in the U.S. I used to buy it from Canada and have it shipped. I’ve always used Splenda in this recipe.

Beat the cream cheese until it’s smooth and creamy. Slowly beat in the Splenda till smooth. Add in the eggs one by one. Next add in the vanilla and heavy cream.

Next, the 4tbl of cocoa. It will be thick and creamy. Pour into the springform pan.

The next steps are vital. Place the cake into a preheated over for JUST 10 MINUTES.  Drop the temp to 275 degrees and cook for an hour. 

After the hour, shut the oven off. Slide the cake out on the rack and loosen it from the sides. Put it back in the oven to cool.

The final product will shrink down but will still be lovely. This makes 12 servings at 4.3 net carbs each. Note, this cheesecake has no crust and doesn’t need it. Reading over the ingredients, it’s Gluten Free too so there’s another plus for those with allergies.

When I did this diet so many years ago and lost all that weight, I had this for breakfast everyday so it’s clearly fine to eat. On the Atkins Diet Induction phase you are only allowed 20 carbs per day so make sure you count this in at 4.3 carbs.

Happy eating!

-Tracy

Visit again for new recipes and don’t forget to check out my AMAZON PAGE to see all my fiction currently for sale.