Monthly Review

My End of 2022 Reflection

I’m sure within the next few weeks, you all will be really sick of new year stuff, but I wanted to do a recap of everything that has happened this year and sort of parse out my feelings regarding 2022.

2022 has been the best year in a while for me. It feels odd for me to say that considering all the negative things that happened in 2021. Last year was rough. 2022 was a year of regaining my equilibrium and figuring out what my new normal is. Where 2021 put things in perspective, 2022 was a year where I actually started moving toward a future I want.

Before 2018, I was doing pretty well as an indie author, but I had massive burnout and depression that year, which tanked my writing and career in general. When I started to finally come out of it and focused on my writing again, the pandemic hit. This year, I decided to make a concerted effort to get my writing and author career back on track, and it worked. I wrote, edited, and published The Reanimator’s Heart, and I even wrote Flowers and Flourishing (a newsletter freebie coming in late January) during that time. What shocked me most this year was how much I accomplished and how much of an impact those things had on the success of The Reanimator’s Heart.

When I say The Reanimator’s Heart was the best book launch I ever had, I’m not exaggerating. I had over 100 preorders (nearly double of my previous best), lots of first week reviews, consistent sales, and so much buzz and support from my friends and readers. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for all the support I’ve gotten for this weird book. Never in my wildest dreams did I think an autistic necromancer and his undead love would get this kind of attention. I just wanted to write a book that appealed to me and was the right brand of weird to get me back into writing consistently again. Oliver and Felipe are a pair I cannot wait to write more of, and I will be publishing book 2, The Reanimator’s Soul, in 2023 (no preorder yet but you can add it on Goodreads). There will be at least one more book in the series as well, maybe two, so stay tuned for that.

My word of the year for 2022 was “rekindle” because I wanted to rekindle my career and my love of writing. I’m still in shock that I managed to do it, but I put in a lot of focused effort to get there. I did the HB90 class as well as Publish and Thrive to remind myself of good practices for authors and where to focus my energy. I advertised my books regularly online and did a decent job of preparing for my preorders campaign for The Reanimator’s Heart. Looking through my goals and notes for the year, I covered a lot of ground, and I am proud of myself for getting my shit together finally.

In a perfect world, I would love to be able to rely less on adjuncting for my income and rely more on my books and/or other creative endeavors. Previously, I’ve applied for lots of full-time jobs and got approximately zero interviews or responses (and yes, many were outside academia), so part of me wants to try working for myself more while I’m able to do so. I enjoy teaching a lot, but the tenuous nature of class quotas, universities deciding to cut or change programs, and just the general misery surrounding the way the humanities in academia have taken a nosedive makes me hesitant to put all my eggs in that poorly constructed basket. With my writing and creative stuff, I can’t control how much I make, but I can certainly influence it and do my best to set myself up for success. The fact that I can change things or make choices that work best for me is the greatest appeal. That and being neurodivergent, I don’t necessarily cope well with many traditional jobs, which sucks. I would love to be able to do so and have more stability, but thirty-one years of life has shown me I’m suited to the structure academia but they aren’t hiring, unfortunately.

When all is said and done, I’m really proud of what I’ve done this year and how I feel going into 2023. I hope this coming year moves me forward as 2022 did, but more than anything, I hope I can look back at 2023 next year and feel the same sense of pride and achievement. I’ll talk more about what I have planned for 2023 in a few weeks, but for now, I hope you all have a happy holiday season and a great new year.

organization

3 Ways I was Goal Setting Wrong

If you go back to a post from much earlier in the year, I talked about trying to get my shit together this year, and frankly, I have. Is it perfect? No. Have I achieved every goal I have set out to accomplish? Also no, but what I have done is far better than what I did from 2018 through 2021. The system I am currently using is Sarra Cannon’s HB90 system, which focuses on creating goals, projects, and tasks that span 90 days. I really like this system because I am very much a short-term thinker. When I do year-long goals, I fall off track, get horrendously behind, devolve into a pile of self-hating goo, and never recover. With a 90 system, I basically have four fresh starts throughout the year, and because the goals are for a shorter duration, it’s easier to figure out where I’m going off track and recover. Recovering is the most important part here, but there were a few major aspects to goal setting that I figured out along the way that had been holding me back in the past.

Not understanding the difference between wishes and goals.

I like to think of it like this: wishes are things you can’t control but want while goals are things you want but can control. The problem with new year goal setting is that people often set wishes rather than goals, and then, they beat themselves up when they don’t achieve those things. For instance, getting a specific kind of job isn’t a goal, it’s a wish. You can’t control the hiring process, you can’t control what jobs will be posted, but what you can control is setting yourself up for success while applying. Instead, you might make some goals like get feedback on resume from someone in industry, brush up on things related to the job, review interview questions, apply for twenty jobs. Those things are all within your control but will, hopefully, set yourself up for success with the thing you’re wishing to have. With the HB90 system, the goal would be “work toward getting a better job” with the projects and tasks all the things listed in the above goals section.

I was talking to my partner about this today because the thing that sets a lot of neurodivergent people back is rejection sensitivity, and sometimes this manifests especially hard when we treat our wishes as goals. When they don’t come true, we beat ourselves up extra hard. You only had three “goals,” so why couldn’t you manage to achieve those few things? Well, if they’re out of your control, you really can’t guarantee that.

If you reframe your overarching goals as wishes with various goals/projects/tasks/actionable steps under them, even if you don’t hit your actual target, you can still look at all the things you did and say, “Hey, I did all that I could to get to this thing. I did my best.” Alternatively, you could also look at what you did that didn’t work and try to figure out how you can change up your technique to do better next time.

For 2023, I’ve been working on my wishes for the year, which include things like

  • double my author income for the year
  • rely on adjuncting less
  • get a house

Some of my goals are

  • Finish the second Reanimator Mysteries book
  • Work more on fixing up my office
  • Research creating a sticker shop

What is actionable versus what is out of my control is far more obvious, and if the former don’t happen, I won’t beat myself up as much.

Not considering date-specific tasks

I don’t know if this is just a me problem, but I have a hard time keeping track of time/dates unless I can orient myself visually with a calendar, and sometimes when I’m doing my 90 day goal setting, I forget that I have to grade portfolios in December or that I get seasonal affect problems in November, which mixes with research papers coming in and tanks my brain. At the time, I was only focused on what I could cram into 90 days rather than those specific 90 days. What I’ve learned this past year is that I need to make a note for myself somewhere reminding me about my workload when making goals. I somehow forget that it fluctuates from month-to-month, and I am setting myself up for failure when I overload my plate.

If you’re a visually minded person, you might want to make a hypothetical calendar and mark out the busy times of the year. You might notice that one quarter has a lot more busy time than others, and you can plan accordingly. It’s better to under plan than over plan since you can always add more to your plate if it’s slower than usual. Obviously, it’s different if something sudden comes up, but I felt a bit silly that I forgot about grading piling up in Q4. The same goes for when you have vacations planned or a lot of birthdays that disrupt your weekends. You need to take into consideration that with each quarter, there are differences in energy levels and obligations.

Not prioritizing low v. high energy times

The HB90 system utilizes task blocks, which is basically half hour chunks of time that you would use for certain tasks. I haven’t quite nailed how long things take me to do yet, but what I ended up using the page for was marking out when I had work, when I ate, when I had daily chores to do. Then, using different markers, I delineated the times of day when my brain is at its best, then the middling periods, and finally the times when I tend to be rather useless.

What I used to do was think that I would be able to teach my night class and do all the things I could on an off day after my commute. I knew it was laughable. I knew I came home braindead after teaching and driving, yet I was hellbent on getting things done those days. If I could do it other days, I should be able to do the same on late class days. I actually started putting stickers in the box for the day of my late class to keep me from over-scheduling tasks. It was the easiest way to remind myself to rethink those choices.

What I’m doing now is using my energy chart to remind myself when it might be the best time to do certain tasks. At the same time, I plan on making a brief list of tasks that fit into each category in case I’m feeling aimless or forget what is reasonable for me to do at a certain time. It won’t be exhaustive or always work, but sometimes having those visual reminders is necessary.


I hope my list of screw ups helps you as you go into 2023 with your lists of goals or plans. Just remember that your productivity does not define your self-worth, and that even if you don’t hit a single goal, you still made progress along the way.

Personal Life · The Reanimator's Heart · Writing

The Fear of Success

This isn’t actually the post I had planned to put up this week, so bear with me if this seems off the cuff because it is.

Since the end of last year, I’ve been trying to get my shit together, especially in regard to my writing life. I ended up taking both of Sarra Canon’s classes, HB90 (a planning/goal setting system) and Publish and Thrive (a course on indie publishing), because I felt like I was spaghetti flinging hoping what I was doing would work. I’ve been sort of methodically moving forward trying to set and hit goals in order to move toward what I want. That goal is having more time for creative pursuits, leaning more into my writing, and only teaching at the university that gives me better opportunities and is better for my mental health but pays less. I have a chunk of savings as a cushion and have been trying to strategize how I can go about doing this in a way that doesn’t totally kick my butt and doesn’t depend on my partner landing a much better job as we cannot control that.

The Reanimator’s Heart has sort of been step one in that goal. It’s the project I’ve been working on since I started trying to get my shit together, and things have been going well. I do well with structure and goals, so I have surprised myself by actually getting a lot done. After taking Publish and Thrive, I was also able to brush up on what is working in indie publishing right now, and from watching various indie authors on Youtube, I’ve been working on my publishing strategy for this book. In the past, I’ve sort of just haphazardly launched things. I would let them rip as soon as I finished or not send them to any bloggers/ARC readers. I’ve certainly done things to tank my own success because I was more excited about people reading my work than doing a good job with the launch. This time, I’ve purposely slowed myself down, made lists, made a half-formed plan for releasing this book.

The problem is that I’m scared because it’s working.

Yes, I raised my eyebrow at myself too at the realization, but as reviews have been rolling in and people are enjoying the book, I’m panicking more. The cover is beautiful (thank you, Crowglass Design), the characters are lovable messes, and the pacing and such is solid. Between this book and Kinship and Kindness, I think my skills leveled up in certain areas, and that sort of rise and recognition of that rise is scaring me.

What if this is the best book I ever put out? What if everything after this is a disappointment?

Thus far, I haven’t gotten too far into my own head, but the panicked thoughts are seeping through more and more. The pitiful thing is that this isn’t like super viral panic-worthy success. This is “I’m doing better than my previous launch” success.

After everything that’s happened these past two years and my own issues with confidence as a creative person, I am always waiting for the shoe to drop and things to go wrong. It is an absolutely shitty way to look at life, but part of me feels like I should be bracing for impact instead of celebrating that things are going well. It’s possible to do both; I wildly vacillate between “Omg, look at my preorder numbers” and nail-biting panic.

Part of this, I think, has to do with also reaching outside my comfort zone with this launch. I set up my book with a review service, and I’ve reached out to a few authors I love and respect for potential blurbs, which I’ve never been brave enough to do. Pointing eyes to my work is something that could pan out for me, but also could potentially magnify the imperfections. Logically, I know not everyone will like my book. Certain people will absolutely hate Oliver and Felipe, which is fine. It really isn’t bad reviews that are bothering me (trust me, I’ve seen enough homophobia on The Gentleman Devil‘s reviews to cure me worrying about them). It’s a fear of success.

What if this book does really well? What if more people start reading my books? What if they’re disappointed when they go through my backlist and the rest of my books aren’t as good? What if nothing I write after this is as good as The Reanimator’s Heart? Or what if someone outside my usual circle sees it and sends the 1 star mob after me due to homophobia or whatever other assholery they can come up with?

Living in the age of the internet means constantly worrying about the wrong kind of attention for your creative projects, especially if you’re a queer author writing queer characters or in this case, a neurodivergent author writing neurodivergent characters. Will someone flag Oliver as “the wrong kind” of autistic and rip me and him to shreds? I could come up with a myriad of what-ifs at this point, all of which get more illogical and self-destructive.

On the flip side, I’m constantly trying to remind myself that people preordering and/or enjoying The Reanimator’s Heart is a good thing. It means I’ve done a decent job planning this launch, and that its success might move me a step closer to my goal of having more of an income from writing. This success isn’t random is something I have to remind myself. It means that I took the things I learned and applied them in a way that worked. Like I said earlier, this isn’t a runaway, gone viral, wtf happened kind of success. This is a building upon past success with previous books to make this launch even better. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I put in the work, and by doing so, things feel less out of my control.

I’m sure I’ll still have several absolute oh-shit panic moments between now and October 25th, but I’ll just reread this post and stare at all my past to-do lists to remind myself that months of work went into this launch and I should be proud of what I’ve done instead of scared.

If you’d like to help out while simultaneously adding to my panic, you can preorder The Reanimator’s Heart here. Paperbacks will be available closer to release day.

Monthly Review

June 2022 Wrap-Up Post

June was an oddly good pleasant and productive month for me. Things, of course, were rocky with everything *gestures to the world* going on, but I think I’ve thrown myself into my work in order to cope. I will say, at this point, I’m feeling a little fried. With productivity comes the back swing of fatigue and minor burnout, so I’m starting July mindful of that. Here were my goals for June:

  • Read 8 books
  • Word count goals
    • Minimum goal 13k
    • Real goal 15k
    • Stretch goal 17k
  • Finish the room/office destruction/cleaning
  • Blog weekly
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Approve cover design
  • Work on new reader magnet story
  • Play a video game/do some crafts

Books

I set out to read 8 books in June, and I read 9 books total.

  1. By Pain of Death by Suzanne Clay- 4 stars, a trans retelling of Hades and Persephone where the latter is a trans man. It was a tender hurt-comfort sort of story.
  2. Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray- 5 stars, an MM Beauty and the Beast retelling featuring a vicar and a dragon man in a cursed manor. I loved this so much, like I was upset when I finished because it was the right amount of tenderness and angst.
  3. I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston- 5 stars, a mystery mixed with romance featuring tons of queer characters in a conservative school and how you can still find community and make change.
  4. Saga Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 4 stars, rereading Saga in preparation for volume 10 in October
  5. The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes (#2) by Cat Sebastian- 5 stars, Robin Hood-esque story following a prickly woman who murderers her horrible husband to save her family/friends and the soft, animal-loving blackmailer who loves her.
  6. The Jade Setter of Janloon (#0.5) by Fonda Lee- 4 stars, a prequel story set in the same world as Jade City.
  7. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs by Caitlin Doughty- 5 stars, a nonfiction book about the strange questions kids want to know about the dead. As always, Doughty doesn’t sensationalize things and her authorial voice is *chef kiss*.
  8. Deceiver of Minds (#3.5) by Jordan L. Hawk- 4 stars, John, Caleb, and Grey try to find others who went through the same horrible experiments as John and end up in the crossfire as loyalties are tested and relationships turn out to be more than they appeared.
  9. Total Creative Control (#1) by Johanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm- 4 stars, a boss x personal assistant romance centering around a TV show about vampires. I love a prickly, complex character. Much like Sebastian’s book, it’s a bit of grumpy x sunshine romance, and I’m here for it.

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Nearly completed the entirety of my room/office clean-out. At this point, I’ve stalled out because I need to put a lot of stuff into the garbage and only have so much room in the can per week. But the bulk of cleaning and tossing is done.
  • Chose the direction for the cover design of The Reanimator’s Heart with my designer, and it is BEAUTIFUL. I’m waiting on the final mock up from my cover designer, but once I have that in the next few weeks, the preorder will go up. I can promise you that it is absolutely lovely and fits this book so damn well it hurts.
  • Created a detailed release plan that scares the shit out of me to look at for The Reanimator’s Heart. It is the most thorough plan I have had in years, and that scares me a bit since my last release was in the middle of the pandemic while I was running on fumes mentally.
  • Played/finished TWO video games. I have been trying to make an effort to actually play some games to help recharge, and I finally succeeded. They weren’t the games I initially bought, but both were good.
    • Unpacking is quite short, but it is super low stress. It tells a story through the objects a person brings from house to house as throughout their life. It is cute and sweet.
    • The second I played was Strange Horticulture, which takes place in a creepy British town where you run a horticulture/plant shop that sells rare and strange plants. You need to figure out what people need while also helping/hurting a strange figure take over. I don’t want to giveaway too much, but if you like puzzles, plants, and murder towns, it’s really good.
  • Made a list of Amazon genres for The Reanimator’s Heart when it comes out
  • Outlined the entirety of the newsletter freebie, which has a new title, “Flowers and Flourishing.” I did not start writing yet, but that’s fine because I’ve been focusing on The Reanimator’s Heart.

Blogs Posted


Writing

My minimum goal for June was to write 15k words, and shockingly, I wrote 18k! I was amazed at how much I wrote. It’s an exceptionally high number for me as I tend to be a put-put writer, but once I hit the middle of the book, things tend to speed up a little (thank god).

  • Week 1- 2,500 words and missed 1 day, 625 words/day (5 day week)
  • Week 2- 5,000 words and missed 0 days, 714 words/day
  • Week 3- 3,000 words and missed 1 day, 500 words/day
  • Week 4- 4,600 words and missed 1 day, 767 words/ day
  • Week 5- 2,900 words and missed 0 days, 725 words/day (4 day week)

I would like to know how I managed to blow my goal out of the water, but I do sort of know. Hit the right part of the book, not teaching any classes right now, and plenty of alone time to work. I feel like my writing muscles are finally coming back to how they were circa 2018. If I could keep them going while avoiding burnout, that would be magnificent.

I really like how this book is shaping up, so fingers crossed, the editing process should be fairly smooth. If you’re interested in my writing process, check out last week’s blog and stay tuned for next week’s blog, which is about the editing process.


Hopes for July

  • Finish Writing The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Start Editing the beginning of The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Figure out what to do with old room furniture/prep for reno
  • Start drafting newsletter freebie, at least a little bit
  • Do the cover reveal
  • Start making release graphics
  • Read 8 books
  • Crochet something?? Or do some other art project??