After Greg died, I was left to deal with a financial mess. About eight months ago, he decided he would take over the bill paying because I was sick and tired of always having to make the calls to negotiate payment plans. The scene would go like this: I would make the call. Greg would be talking to me while I made arrangements with whomever we owed money. I would tell Greg the agreement I made, and he would get angry because the company didn’t accept what he wanted. All this would occur while I was on the phone: one customer rep on one end of the line and Greg standing in front of me, both talking at the same time.

I finally got fed up and told him YOU TAKE CARE OF IT. YOU TALK TO THEM. I’M DONE. And he did, but he didn’t do a good job of it because as I found out, he was doing some creative accounting with paying the bills.

The big issue was that we weren’t sticking to a budget. Greg’s one big expense was going out daily to buy candy, soda, cookies and chips and a sandwich. He had replaced his bottles of wine with junk, and that amounted to $10 a day. I wasn’t so innocent either because I paid for Hulu, Netflix, Audible, Spotify, Graboid and whatever Kindle book that sparked my interest. Between the both of us, we were paying for items and services we didn’t need.

About ten days before he died, he asked me to hand over my entire paycheck to pay the bills. I wasn’t comfortable giving everything I had and have nothing in my bank account.

In the back of my mind, there was a red warning light flashing that it wasn’t prudent to give him all the money. After duking it out, I finally gave in because I was too tired to argue. I wrote him a check for the entire amount I’d been paid; he deposited it on Wednesday the day before Thanksgiving with the intention to pay everything the following Monday.

He died on Sunday.

I was left penniless.

I’m lucky this is a tiny community because word traveled quickly of his passing. A day after his creation, I went to the bank and explained to the branch manager my situation, and she was able to retrieve the money so I could pay the rent.

My luck pressed on when family and friends pitched in to help me through the holidays. A writer friend generously set up a GoFundMe account so I could manage to get by for a few months. Between what I earn, a couple of new projects that are coming up and just plugging away to get more work, I’ll be okay.

The key, though, is to find more work that pays well. And what I mean by well is that any writing I do moving forward has to fall in the $1 per word category. No more taking low-paying assignments to diversify my portfolio. No more writing for quarterly publications that pay late. It’s time to get over my insecurities as a writer and pitch the big boys.

For someone who is so free with her words, this is scary stuff because I question my skills, my craft, my talent. If I want to conquer that spinning windmill of debt that taunts me, I not only have to earn more money, not live beyond my means, but also get over the insecurity that blocks me from achieving my financial goals.

First on the agenda: I made some decisions to minimize my debt. Once this cold spell is over and the snow melts, I’m selling the Jeep. It’s a monthly payment that is causing me agita. Second, I called a credit counseling service to negotiate credit card payments at zero percent interest rate. Third, I eat vegetables, fruit, whole grains and have eliminated all meat including fish from my diet. At some point, I will have to move, and I need to figure out where, what’s affordable, and dog-friendly. Lastly, I am turning myself into a money-earning machine. As I mentioned above, that doesn’t mean accepting every measly assignment that comes my way.

In fact, I turned down the opportunity to write a feature story for a new publication based in Lake Placid. The pay: $50. The publishing cycle: bi-annual. When would I see that money? Most likely sometime in the summer—if it paid promptly. No thanks. Not worth my time.

I recently took a webinar taught by Melanie Lockert, the personal finance guru of Dear Debt, on how to manage debt. We were asked what would be the ideal freelance earnings for 2016? Ideally, I’d like to bring in a minimum of $6,000 per month, but that might be a tough reach this year. And how will I do that as a writer when so many publications pay under a dollar a word? Well, there’s the side-hustle. For me, it’s teaching Scrivener classes for writing organizations, privately, and selling the workbooks I’m close to finishing. And, stepping out of my comfort zone—learning how to network more effectively both on social media and in the real world that will lead to more work, more money and reach my goal: eliminate debt.

And now a word or two about this blog. You’ve noticed I’ve gone back to the more minimal look. As much as I liked the new look, it didn’t seem quite like me. I am about the words, the stories, and the observations. I decided that as nice as the lovely pictures were to look at I wasn’t presenting this blog or me in a genuine manner. However, I’ve made some changes: Hover over the navigation bar and you’ll see I have menus and sub-menus. I also decided this blog is not only about my adventures in writing Julius, but about writing in general and the topics that interest me such as health, fitness, wellness, personal finance, animals, the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, cooking and so forth. Which I hope will also be informational for readers.

Will I continue the Breakout Novel series? Yes, because that’s my personal take of what I’ve discovered in revamping, revising and rewriting Julius that I’m happy to share with readers.

I am discontinuing the site Alvah’s Books and moving the reviews here and will also be adding reviews under the Alvah’s Books menu.

What can you expect? A varied reading experience. Lessons I’ve learned and happy to share. Maybe a rant or two. Hopefully, all presented in my inimitable voice.