Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Hollywood Ending

As you know, my family has suffered five long years of financial hardship in the Great Recession, but I'm not complaining. We've also experienced five years of joyous discovery and modern-day miracles. Our faith in God has been strengthened, our hope in mankind has been renewed, and our hearts have been broken open for others. The Recession has been wonderful for my family on more levels than it has been terrible. 

The Recession is ending in the U.S., I feel it in my bones.
It is also ending for our family.

Our story concludes with a larger-than-life Hollywood ending--hang on to your hats folks!

I'm thrilled to announce I've received a four-book deal with HarperCollins Children's Books for my new middle-grade fantasy series!!!

Can you believe it? If you've followed my recession blog for the last five years, you know how much this means to my family. But besides the financial opportunities, this means everything to my heart. I've been writing since I was eight years old and I submitted my first novel to publishers when I was nineteen.

I finally broke into traditional publishing with my fifth novel. I wrote it out of pure pleasure and inspiration. It's the book I was born to write as it follows all of my passions--horses, faith, family, politics, fantasy, and love--all in one story! Here is a description of the book from my agent Jacqueline Flynn's website:

"Every hundred years the balance of power is threatened when a black foal, prophesied to either unite or conquer the five herds, is born. No pegasus—not even the foal—knows which he has come to accomplish. 

Though this century’s black colt, Star, is born malformed and unable to fly, the over-stallions of the five herds plan to execute him on his first birthday. Because his over-sized wings drag on the ground, Star suffers a constant ache between his shoulder blades, and he must travel by hoof like a common horse. His greatest wish is to be a regular flying foal like his friends, but death and destruction seem to follow his every step. 

With the future of the herds in the balance, and more importantly the lives of his best friends, the black foal rockets toward his inescapable destiny."

The first book, The Guardian Herd: STARFIRE, will be released in hardback in the Fall of 2014 with a book to follow each six months. 

I feel blessed and grateful. I've worked for this most of my life, but it's still a shock. I just wanted to be published and now I have a book deal that exceeds my wildest dreams! It's hard to believe it's happening to me.  

Thank you for supporting me and praying for me through thick and thin. It's been a rough five years and this news is truly a balm to my soul.

My official author photo!
by Karen Perez
IMG_0041 2
Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

The pen is mightier than the sword!


Book #1

Book #2

Friday, May 25, 2012

Never Say Never: A Mom Writes For Her Life

Well, I have applied for a job. Again. And I have been rejected. Again. I think getting published might be easier!

Here is the response I got from my online resume submission:

"We have received your resume and appreciate your inquiry in a career opportunity with our organization.

During the next two weeks, we will review your qualifications and our open positions and determine whether a match exists. If it does, we will schedule a further discussion with you. If you do not hear from us during the two-week period, we were unable to find a suitable position for you. As we receive hundreds of resumes every month, we apologize that we cannot personally respond to every resume submitted to us to discuss why we will not be moving forward.

Again, thank you for expressing an interest in employment with (name of bank). We wish you all the best in your job search."

I am also querying literary agents. Here is a response I got from one of them:

"Thank you so much for your query.

Please note that, per our submissions policy, we are no longer able to respond to every submission. We receive such a high volume of submissions that a personal response to all is unfortunately no longer possible. We regret that we can't send a personal response to every author, but we continue to read and consider every query carefully, and we are grateful for the opportunity to consider your work.

If we are interested in seeing more of your work, we will contact you at the email address you provided. If you have not heard from us within 6 weeks, please assume that the material submitted is not right for our agency at this time. 

Thank you again for thinking of us and considering our agency. We look forward to reading your work!"

I don't understand this rabbit hole I have fallen into where getting work is as difficult as getting published!

One or the other has to pop, and soon. I saved my house with a single blog post, and now I'm trying to save it again with a book deal (or a job). I don't write just for me anymore. I'm writing for our lives, every day, without fail. 

I have a fast growing blog to maintain at The Jennifer (Author) Diaries, a non-fiction book proposal out to sell The Jennifer (Recession) Diaries, book two of the Pet Washer Series to finish, and I'm actively shopping my new YA novel, Dead Girls Don't Cry.

People ask me what motivates me--it's survival pure and simple. Writing is no longer just a hobby. I'm hungry for success and it has nothing to do with my ego. I am willing, motivated, and I'm putting in an average of 8 hours per day to make it happen.

This year I became a paid speaker. I taught myself how to create Powerpoint presentations. I taught myself how to market The Pet Washer. I taught myself how to market my blog. I have made industry contacts by interviewing authors, editors, book designers, and publishers. I have created a writing career out of thin air. 

One day, I believe I will earn money at it.

In the meantime, I figured I should try again to find a job. Who knew it might be just as hard? Ramon has construction work lined up for awhile, but it's surviving winter that concerns me. We need to prepare for that. I've always enjoyed volunteering, preferring to work for free, but the recession has forced me to put a monetary value on my time.

Will I save the day with a book deal? I'd say the odds are about the same as getting hired so, what the heck, why not?

Please pray for me, my friends, because I can't do this alone. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Life After A Loan Modification

When I first came out of the closet about our financial difficulties it was hard, but it also brought relief. The construction industry in Sonoma County felt the economic crash first. Most of the large construction companies filed bankruptcy years ago. The smaller ones dried up and blew away. The rest circled their wagons to bear out the storm.

I haven't written in this blog for awhile for two reasons. I have put all my writing time into my new blog, The Jennifer (Author) Diaries and into writing and editing my young adult novel, Dead Girls Don't Cry. But there is another reason I haven't written. I have been hiding.

I wanted our loan modification to be our Hollywood ending. I spent nine months fighting a losing battle with my bank to have it all miraculously turn around with one tear stained blog post! With our home saved, the only thing left is to ride into the sunset, right? I am a writer, I like solid endings like that.

Unfortunately, my life is not a movie. Truth is over half of all modified loans default within nine months. March 25, 2010 (Bloomberg) -- More than half of U.S. borrowers who received loan modifications on delinquent mortgages defaulted again after nine months, according to a federal report.

The last four months have been the worst for Ramon and I since 2008. I like to put on a cheery face and I am full of hope, but it's all smoke and mirrors. I have been a walking zombie. A few times I have woken up crying and this hasn't happened to me since the darkest days when losing our house seemed a sure bet.

I'm tired, nay, exhausted. I have been held to the fire for four long years now. We are at the end of the few resources we had left after bankruptcy. We have been 30 days late on our mortgage twice in the last four months. Ramon is walking the streets handing out flyers about his business. I am working like mad to get a writing career off the ground. I know that writing and selling novels to support my family might be considered a pipe dream--but no one ever did it who didn't dream it first! I believe in myself! I have decided, "Why not me?" Give me one reason why I can't succeed and I will give you ten why I can.

I haven't written in the Recession Diaries because who wants to know that we are still struggling? I wanted to leave things at the triumphant Hollywood ending. But then I opened our local paper this week and I read more foreclosure notices than I have ever seen in my town! I returned to my keyboard and clicked "new post". I am writing this for the people who are losing their homes, modified or not.

April 4, 2012, Reuters, “…the new face of the U.S. housing crisis: Middle class, suburban or rural with a conventional 30-year fixed mortgage at a reasonable interest rate, but unemployed or underemployed. Although the national unemployment rate has fallen to 8.3 percent from its peak of 10 percent in October 2009, nearly 13 million Americans remain jobless, meaning many are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments.” 

A whole new wave of foreclosures is coming. It's not over for my family and it's not over for America. I decided I have to write again for the families who need to know they are not alone. I don't like to be a bother or a burden to anybody, heck, I'm tired of my own problems, but now I see that they are not just my problems. Families like mine are facing what we face everyday.

As bad as the last four months have been, we are looking forward to the future. Ramon has work lined up for May. He says he's "on the launchpad!". This man lives on hope and would die without it. He has never wavered in his belief that God loves us and that everything will work out. A few weeks ago, I struggled to get out of bed--depression had me pinned to my pillow. Ramon blasted me with a lecture about how Alvarez's don't quit, how we never give up, and how I was showing no faith in God. It worked. He snapped me out of it. I married the perfect man for me.

I am not writing today for your sympathy. I'm writing today to say that you are not alone in any trial you face. We are living in tough times. This recession is no joke. I'm not going to suffer in silence. I'm not going to pretend that everything is okay just because it makes for a better story. My life doesn't bend to the will of my pen. I'm not crafting this life, I'm recording it.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Experiment

I woke up this morning with an idea for my shiny, new blog at (I'm posting this here in case you are interested in participating in this experiment). You have probably heard of the movie, Julia and Julia? It's about a woman who cooked a Julia Child's recipe every day for a entire year and blogged about the process.

I am setting up my own challenge!

I am going to do one thing every day to promote myself as an author. This will include promoting, The Pet Washer (published last month), and seeking publishers/agents for Dead Girls Don't Cry. I am going to document this laborious process for my own record and for the public record.

This challenge will accomplish the following:

1) Force me to be accountable for my goals
2) Keep track of all my ideas and actions in one place
3) Connect with writers and readers
4) Encourage others and receive encouragement
5) Exchange marketing ideas
6) Showcase the life of a writer--the rejections, the successes and the work of it!

Please click HERE to view the new blog and subscribe to join me on this journey!!
(I will make every attempt to keep my posts short because we are all busy!)

Now--true to form, you need to know what I did today to promote myself. You will be shocked to learn that it included MATH! Egads, I have never enjoyed math (except for geometry!)

Today I registered The Pet Washer with Nielson BookData UK. They are a global information services company. They work with publishers large and small all over the world and keep records on 16.2 million titles. They supply libraries, publishers and bookstores with the most comprehensive global database in the world. Books are ordered using a sophisticated search engine which helps book buyers make informed decisions.

I contacted them for the first time on 12/26/11. Today is January 9, 2012. It took them about two weeks to register my publishing company, Dreamcatcher Books. Today I uploaded my product data and book jacket .jpg file. This is when I had to do the math. Nielson BookData is a British company, so they use different units of measurement. I should say, WE use different units of measurement in America than they do so I had to convert everything.

Being American, I have never worked with millimeters. The Pet Washer is 8 inches by 5.2 inches with a .5 inch spine. Now I know that it is also 203.2mm by 132.08mm with a 12.7mm spine!! It weighs 10.4 ounces or 295 grams (I rounded). I hope I did this right but I also had to convert the price to pounds (why do they measure their money in our weight system--it's confusing enough!!). So my $10.99 USD book costs 7.14 pounds in the UK. (I hope the exchange rate I Googled is correct!)

I successfully included my book in the catalog--barring any emails from the help desk at Nielson pointing out everything I probably did wrong. This is serious business, they have the most accurate title database in the world and I'm winging it! But that's what I'm finding in this indie publishing business--there is a lot to learn. I'm doing the best I can. I'm also seeking a publisher for my next book because this is often too much work!!

This morning, I should have worked on my book. Instead I converted inches to millimeters. But I'm not complaining, well I am, but I'm not unhappy. Everyday is exciting after you publish a book. Everyday I have hope that I will reach outside my own circle of friends and grow. I didn't have that hope when my book was trapped in my hard drive!

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I am a huge fan of Craigslist!

I see no reason to hold a garage sale anymore. I have not been able to sell anything for a fair value (to me) at a garage sale. I've spent 6-8 hours with a garage full of stuff, only to make $200. Maybe's it's user-error, but I just don't have any luck, even with foot traffic.

I find that your average garage sale customer is looking for fantastic deals only. The professional customers are looking for the same. There is something about putting your cute sofa on your lawn that transforms it from furniture into junk. I think garage sales scream, "Junk for Sale!" And everyone knows that after 2pm, it's all going to Goodwill anyway (at least that's what I do.)

I think garage sale customers often believe they are doing YOU the favor and you should almost just give them your stuff for free. The exchange of money becomes a polite gesture rather than a business deal.

Not so with Craigslist!! 

If you haven't tried it--you must. I use it for all items worth $10 and up. Everything else goes straight to Goodwill and I spend my Saturdays with my family instead of haggling over pennies. 

This is how Craigslist works for me. I take a photo and post my item. I generally price it for half of what I paid if it's in good shape (unless it's electronics--then I go lower).

Within a few days, it's sold. Often, it only takes hours.

Here are some examples.
Trendy dog carrying purse--$20. Sold in 2 hours.

10 year old TV--$45. Sold in one hour.

Plastic toy workbench--$10. Sold same day.

Five year old, heavily used portable crib--$40. Sold in two days. 

Bedroom set, $1000--sold same day for $750.

Rustic coffee table--$75. Sold in four days and received $45 more dollars to deliver it 16 miles away. 

Plastic, faded outdoor playhouse--$150. Sold for $120 same day.

Brand new double-stroller--$200. Sold for $200 same day.

We've also sold cars and dirt bikes and many other things that I can't remember. 

Just the above items (not including the vehicles) sold for a total of $1305 and each only took minutes of my time (other than the delivery). It would take me 6.5 Saturdays to make that much money doing garage sales, and I'd have to sell a ton more than 8 items!

My items sell so quickly because the customers on Craigslist are looking online for the exact items I have for sale. They know that potentially thousands of people are shopping at the same time, which produces a real sense of urgency. They want to purchase their items before anyone else does--so they call immediately and set up an appointment with me. Most of my customers arrive with the exact change for the item. Items over $100 may draw some haggling, but that's to be expected.

Both parties generally leave the transaction feeling like they got a good deal. Every customer I've had has been kind and grateful--and I have felt the same way. My items are not perceived as junk. Craigslist customers are savvy to tricks. I photograph my items as they are with no big "production". It's a high-class garage sale, but one that puts real dollars in your pocket and real savings in your customer's as well!

Be safe though! I never meet anyone alone at my house or at their house if I'm delivering an item. I bring my husband.

The second side of Craigslist is the purchasing side. I've had just as much fun and success buying things from Craigslist. Recently, my brother and I fixed up our dad's apartment. He needed a breakfast table. I checked Craigslist, found a solid oak, round table, and we picked it up that day for $40. The cheap tables at WalMart were all over $150.

The unspoken benefit of Craigslist is that it's green. Anytime you can buy something you need used or sell your item rather than junk it--you're helping the environment. You're also buying local and helping your neighbor. Not to mention--it's FREE (unless you use paypal and then there is a small fee--thanks for pointing that out Chris!).

All and all, it's a win-win website and I'm grateful for it!

(I have no affiliation with Craigslist or any of its employees--I'm a natural cheerleader when I find something I like!!)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Christmas!

They say the Recession officially ended in 2009....hmmmm, not so sure about that. The average U.S. income has continued to drop, combine that with inflation, the re-distribution of wealth, lower home values and we have a lot more "poor" people in 2011 than we had in 2009. 

I believe this poem is still relevant so I'm re-posting it. I'm happy to say that 2011 has been better for us than 2008, 2009 or 2010. We have a long way to go though. We've had "just enough" for the last twelve months. Enough is enough they say and it's true. Having too little is pure misery, having too much is unnatural and having enough is just perfect!
(This poem was originally posted on 12/24/2010 and it no longer reflects our exact circumstances.)

'Twas the Night before Christmas 
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the home
Not a bill had been paid, not even the loans.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with fear
That Saint Nicholas would not be visiting this year.

Soon the children were nestled all cold in their beds
While visions of propane danced in their heads.
And Papa in his sweats and I, in my gown,
Settled onto our sofa at the side skirts of town.

When out on the roof there arose such a fray,
I thought it was bankers come to take our house away.
Across to the window I flew like a bird,
Only bankruptcy could save us now, I had heard.

The moon on the beads of fresh fallen rain,
Gave the lustre of dreaming to my over-stressed brain.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But eight tiny workers and a big job for next year!

My husband climbed out, so lively and quick,
And signed the sub-contract, lickety-split.
More happy than ever, his workers let out a cheer
They would have jobs for the coming new year!

Now Christian, now Brian!
Now Mario and Rick!
On Daniel, on Ryan!
On, Lionel and Nick!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Paint away! Paint away!
Paint away all!

As dry leaves that before the Recession flew,
When they meet new work, they rise anew.
Up to Ukiah the painters they flew
With a truck full of ladders and my husband too.

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The sound of a ladder and my dog saying "woof".
As I drew in my head and was closing the shade,
My husband came down with the money he'd made.

He was dressed all in white from his head to his toes,
Except for the paint that splattered his clothes.
A bundle of toys he had slung on his back
And some new boots for me and a treat for the cat

His eyes, how they twinkled, and he looked extra tall.
He was home for Christmas and with presents for all.
His red, little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the paint on his whiskers was like fresh, winter snow.
Some pink chewing gum he held tight in his teeth,
And he blew a huge bubble the size of a wreath.
He had a rugged face and muscles to boot,
They rippled when he laughed, and he was so cute!

He was happy and proud, jolly like an elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a whisper in my ear,
Let me know that things would be better next year!

He spoke no more words but allowed me to see,
As he filled all the stockings for our whole family.
And laying a finger on top of the knob,
He opened the door in search of more jobs.

He sprang to his truck, sent his workers a text,
And away they all flew from one job to the next.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Recovery to all and to all a good night!"
My hubby!