Monthly Review

November 2022 Wrap-Up Post

This month was a struggle, as November almost always is. Between getting a lot of papers and work to grade, the time change, anxiety, and holiday stuff, I feel like I did not get as much done as I would have liked to. I’m trying hard not to beat myself up over it because I did the best I could with what I had in my mental reserves. This might also be a bit of a wake-up call to me [again] about making sure to refill the creative well instead of trying to steamroller forward even when I’m mentally exhausted. I also got into a minor car accident (got cut off and popped a tire running off the road), which made my anxiety skyrocket at the end of the month. If this is my “worst” month this year, I still think I did pretty damn good. Anyway, let’s see what my goals for November were.

  • Read 8 books
  • Blog weekly and put out the monthly newsletter
  • Keep marketing The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Word count goals for “Flowers and Flourishing”
    • Minimum- 10k
    • Intermediate- 12.5k
    • Stretch- 15k
  • Shop for majority of the Christmas presents
  • Actually work on that spring class’s lesson plans
  • Do something relaxing- not sure what exactly but video games, drawing, crafts count

Books

My goal for November was to read 8 books, and I read 8 books.

  1. The Ancient Magus’s Bride Vol. 16 by Kore Yamazaki- 4 stars, I like that we’re finally coming to a head with the antagonist in this arc. It could be its own manga series with how long it’s been.
  2. The Stand-Up Groomsman (#2) by Jackie Lau- 4 stars, loved this one. The MCs don’t hit it off initially when standoffish meets high energy comedian, but the way they truly see each other is *chef kiss*
  3. Even Though I Knew the End by C. L. Polk- 5 stars, demons, angels, and collected souls in 1920s Chicago with a queer cast? Yes please. Very short but very good.
  4. A Gathering Storm by Joanna Chambers- 4 stars, loved the disability rep with the MCs voice issue and [potential] neurodivergence along with the interweaving of spiritualism and grief.
  5. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell- 4 stars, a fiction/nonfiction interweaving of Shakespeare’s dead son, Hamnet, and his character Hamlet where the supernatural infuses the essence of the family’s life. Really interesting, definitely edges into lit fic stylistically.
  6. The Solstice Cabin (#4) by Arden Powell- 4 stars, magical 1920s Canada where one MC follows the other nearly to the ends of the earth for love.
  7. Skeleton Song (#7.7) by Seanan McGuire- 4 stars, a short story showing how Christopher fell into Mariposa and met the skeleton girl.
  8. What the Dead Know by Nghi Vo- 4 stars, fake psychics get more than they bargained for when putting on a seance at an all girls’ magical school.

Admin/Behind-the-Scenes Stuff

  • Marketed The Reanimator’s Heart a lot during the month
  • Sent out more audio review copies of Kinship and Kindness
  • Made a temporary cover for Flowers and Flourishing
  • Made a Goodreads page for Flowers and Flourishing
  • Wrote the blurb for Flowers and Flourishing
  • Did the majority of my Christmas shopping (very happy about this scrambling in December stresses me out)
  • Graded so a shit ton of papers *laugh sob*
  • Got a new tire put on my car because I got run off the road (yes, I’m fine, just freaked out)
  • Made email adverts for the class I’m teaching in the spring semester

As a side note, I did not touch my lesson plans for next semester at all. It has been pushed back once again. If I get through half of my plans in December, I’ll be happy.


Blogs Posted


Writing

How did writing go? Badly, lol. The sad part is that the words were good. The vast majority of what I wrote won’t require major edits or rewrites. It’s just the quantity that went wrong. As mentioned in my blog post on NaNoWriMo, I hate November. It’s the month when my brain nosedives due to seeing high NaNo word counts, the weather/time change, and all the grading I’m doing. I had wanted to write at least 10,000 words. Instead, I wrote 8,000 words, and the process was torturous. Luckily, I’m writing a novella, so I’m really not that behind at this point and will have it out on time as long as I don’t totally tank in December.

  • Week 1- 0 words (6 day week)
  • Week 2- 4,000 words, 571 words/day, (didn’t write for 2 days)
  • Week 3- 1,300 words, 186 words/day (didn’t write for 3 days)
  • Week 4- 1,300 words, 186 words/day (didn’t write for 3 days)
  • Week 5- 1,400 words, 467 words/day (3 day week, didn’t write 1 of those days)

Hopes for December

  • Finish writing Flowers and Flourishing
  • Edit Flowers and Flourishing
  • Read 8 books
  • Blog weekly and send out my December newsletter
  • Finish Christmas prep
  • Have 6 weeks of lessons prepped/outlined for next semester
  • Set goals for Q1 of 2023
Writing

Why I Never NaNo

I have held off writing this post until the end of the month because I didn’t want to “yuck anyone’s yum” as the kids say. I have no beef with other people participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but for me, NaNo is a no-go. And I wanted to write about it for the writers who feel discouraged that they struggle to do NaNo or don’t like to do it, especially when it seems like everyone is participating, except you.

I jokingly refer to NaNoWriMo as “No Words November” for me. Where other people see synergy and community, I find myself crushed beneath other people’s massive (for me) daily word counts. Comparison-itis hits, and it hits HARD. My soul dies incrementally at the beginning of November with each friend who participates and posts that they wrote 2,000+ words in a day. On a personal level, I am very happy for them that they’re making progress and don’t want to mute the word or my friends for a month, but my inner writer is screaming in panic as I am lucky if I get 500 words a day during November. The more I see the large numbers, the worse it gets to the point that I often get so far in my head that I stop writing in November. This has happened repeatedly.

This is a me problem. I know it is, and I know I need to work on my comparison-itis, but I think for people who tend to be slower writers or who don’t zero draft, NaNo feels like an insurmountable task. During the height of the semester, I’m lucky if I can get 10,000 words a month. Part of my personal grudge against NaNo is that it’s in November, which is when I am a) perpetually exhausted from the time change/weather b) under a mountain of grading because that’s when the long papers roll in. It’s just not a convenient time for me as a professor to be doing anything extra, let alone stretching way past my normal word count.

If we could shift NaNo to like June, that would be great. I vividly remember being in college and one of my friends having a meltdown because she was behind her NaNo goal and her schoolwork, which she sacrificed to write more. I wanted to shake her. NaNo is one month, grades are forever. The same rule applies as an adult with a job. I’m not sacrificing my mental health and totally stressing myself out for something that in the long run doesn’t matter. NaNo is just another month, just another arbitrary activity, and my life and worth doesn’t hinge on a word count.

My process also doesn’t work with NaNo. The typical wisdom is that you shouldn’t edit as you go, which I have to do. Editing is my warm-up before I start my next writing session, and it keeps me from having to do a massive amount of editing at the end of my draft. On top of that, I am a plantser/gardener. This means that I don’t usually have an outline before I start writing or, if I do, it’s on an act-by-act basis or only a few scenes ahead at a time. Not being a plotter means that either I have to zero draft (messy, scant rough draft), which I really don’t like to do, or I need to rapidly figure out where the hell I’m going. My lack of forethought does not lend itself to this process. I do not like cleaning up a mess. I am the kind of person who cleans the bowls and pans as they cook instead of dealing with a giant mess at the end. The same holds true for writing. Without being able to edit as I go or having the time to do so while writing so much, it really isn’t worth it for me as I will struggle to finish a book that requires that much editing.

Know yourself and your process should be the main takeaway from this blog post. If traditional NaNoWriMo works well with your writing process, then you should definitely go for it, but if it doesn’t work for you or the way you write, it might not make sense to go for 50k words in a month and wreck your mental health or manuscript. Every year the FOMO gets me during week 1 when everyone’s energy is high and they are so enthused, but once the stressed posts set in, I realize why I don’t torture myself. I know I would hitch my self-worth as a writer to those giant (for me) daily word counts, and things would not end well.

If you haven’t enjoyed NaNo this year but feel like it’s necessary or a hallmark of a “real” writer/author, it isn’t. I have never won NaNo. I have only tried twice and failed both times. Camp NaNo where I’ve stuck to a more reasonable word count goal is the only way I can do NaNo. I have eight books out with several more cooking, so don’t feel bad if NaNo just doesn’t jive for you. You certainly don’t need to do it in order to finish your manuscript or to find a supportive writing community. You can do that all on your own any month of the year.

Monthly Review

September 2022 Wrap-Up Post

September was a shockingly productive month. One of those months where I’m super convinced I forgot something very important because I got so much done and nothing seems to have gone wrong. I’m always suspicious when things go well. Let’s take a look at the goals I made in August for September and see how I did.

  • Maintain my mental health and a decent work-life balance while grading/teaching
  • Make my goals for quarter 4
  • Writing goal of 10k/12k/14k of “Flowers and Flourishing”
  • Deal with any last minute book BS that comes up for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Blog weekly and put out my monthly newsletter
  • Maybe make another book trailer/Tiktok for The Reanimator’s Heart (<– didn’t happen)
  • Read 8 books

Books

My goal was to read 8 books this month, and I read 9 books in September.

  1. Home Grown Talent (#2) by Joanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm- 4 stars, a gardener and a model turned TV personality team up for a weekly gardening segment where flirting for the camera turns to something more
  2. Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club by Roselle Lim- 5 stars, a matchmaker returns home to save her new career while dealing with a toxic mother and a gaggle of lovely and complex older gentlemen who need to be matched
  3. Saga (#8) by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 4 stars, rereading before volume 10 drops
  4. Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemore- 4 stars, a queer and trans retelling of The Great Gatsby where everyone manages to get a happy ending
  5. Imperfect Illusions (#1) by Vanora Lawless- 4 stars, set during WWI, two gay men with magic struggle to maintain their connection and safety during the war as they’re used as weapons
  6. Monstress (#7) by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda- 4 stars, things are getting dicey for our heroine, but her little fox comes to the rescue once more
  7. Lay Me Down in Ivy by Stefanie Simpson- 3 stars, an interesting Victorian-flavored erotica with a fem dom MC and a cinnamon roll male MC, could have used more characterization overall
  8. Monotone Blue by Nagabe- 4 stars, a studious reptile person arrives at a new school and starts to bond with a lazy cat person. A cute MM young adult romance story that I wish would continue and does talk briefly about some heavier subjects
  9. A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger- 4 stars, a wonderful story with lots of Indigenous lore where a human girl and a snake-shifter from another realm team up to save his frog friend and her grandmother.

Admin/Behind-the-Scenes Stuff

  • Proofed the audiobook of Kinship and Kindness
  • Paid narrator for the audiobook
  • Released the audiobook of Kinship and Kindness (see blog post in next section for links/info)
  • Fixed proof copy of The Reanimator’s Heart, so now it is ready to go
  • Made more marketing graphics for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Set up my goals for Q4 and have reset my kanban board
  • Got my omicron booster/flu shot
  • Touching base with my job about my classes next semester (required some logistical work)
  • Started teaching my writing classes for the semester
  • Have been continuously in grading hell, but I don’t feel like I’m drowning in work. That’s as good as the balance gets at this point.
  • Visited friends for dinner (we all are fastidious maskers on campus), which was really lovely and has helped my brain a bit
  • Worked on plotting “Flowers and Flourishing” and wrote act one
  • May have made a Pinterest board for the next Reanimator book, even though it isn’t in line to be written next, but I like creating a vibe while it marinates

Blogs Posted


Writing

I ended up writing a bit less than I hoped this month. My initial low goal was 10k words (as in 11.5k total), and I ended up only writing to 10k (9.5k words). I really shouldn’t be shocked though because the first act always takes me the longest to get through. Now that I’m getting into act II, I’m hoping that it will move quicker, and I’ll have an easier time balancing my grading and my writing as I’ll be more accustomed to my schedule.

  • Week 1 (4 days)- 720 words (missed 2 days)
  • Week 2- 2600 words (missed 4 days)
  • Week 3- 1800 words (missed 2 days)
  • Week 4- 600 words (missed 6 days)
  • Week 5 (5 days)- 2500 words (missed 2 days)

Hopes for October

  • Have a good launch for The Reanimator’s Heart (aka release ebook and paperback and maybe hit my stretch goal for my preorders)
  • Start prepping the weekly notes for my spring classes as they are both new *laugh sob*
  • Writing goal
    • Minimum goal: 10,000 words
    • Normal goal: 12,500 words
    • Stretch goal: 15,000 words
  • Read 8 books
  • Blog weekly and put out my monthly newsletter
  • Enjoy doing fall/Halloween stuff
Monthly Review

July 2022 Wrap-Up Post

July was a weird month for me, mainly because it’s my birthday month and I ended up having to last minute prep for a summer class I wasn’t sure if I would be teaching. Surprise, I’m teaching it, and I found out like last week that it was a-go. If you aren’t in academia, everything depends on enrollment, and in this case, I was not privy to how many students had signed up until the admins told me. If it looks like I did A LOT in the admin section, I have been panic working in case I did end up teaching that class. Anywho, here were my goals 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??

I can already tell you, the last bit did not happen. I didn’t crochet or do any art projects at all this past month, but I did play some video games.


Books

I aimed for 8, nearly failed, but I did read 8 books this month. Thank god for graphic novels.

  1. The Unmatchmakers by Jackie Lau- 4 stars, parents with baggage try to break their adult children’s budding romance and create havoc in the process (Kobo only)
  2. The Facemaker by Lindsey Fitzharris- 4 stars, fascinating read about the man who became the leading plastic surgeon during WWI and the people who influenced him
  3. A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall- 5 stars, I LOVED this book, a Regency story featuring a trans woman who falls for her ex-best friend. It is just so emotional and lovely.
  4. Saga volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 5 stars, rereading for volume 10
  5. A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske- 4 stars, an Edwardian MM story where a civil servant stumbles into the world of magic
  6. Lore Olympus volume 2 by Rachel Smythe- 4 stars, I love watching Hades and Persephone get closer, letting their walls down while also dealing with less than savory characters
  7. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Stephen Brusatte- 4 stars, highly interesting read about the evolution of dinosaurs from their origins to their extinction
  8. Saga vol 6 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 4 stars, rereading for volume 10

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Finished throwing out all the trash from my room/office reno. Everything is empty at this point and ready to go, but now, that room is hot and hard to work in. The reno is now on haitus until September because I’m not sweating to death and having paint peel off the walls from the high temperatures.
  • FINISHED WRITING The Reanimator’s Heart! The main draft of it is DONE. I AM FREE.
  • Made lots of promo graphics for TRH
  • Made a book trailer for TRH
  • Finished beta reading a book for a friend and send them their feedback
  • Prepared for that summer class that was semi sprung on me by creating a Blackboard, tweaking the syllabus, setting up my virtual workspace in the basement (I look like I’m in a hostage video, but it’s better than the 100 degree office)
  • Made the syllabi for my fall classes
  • Got all my cover stuff squared away for TRH
  • Had the cover reveal for TRH and launched the preorders (see blog post below for links)
  • Set up the preorder for TRH at all major retailers
  • Started working on a freebie story for my newsletter subscribers (won’t be out for a while)
  • Edited some bits of TRH that I had on my list that were in need of tweaking (larger things like resplicing a chapter)

Blogs Posted


Writing

I feel like I spent a good chunk of July feeling behind, panicking, catching up, falling behind, repeat. Luckily, I managed to pull ahead and finish The Reanimator’s Heart at 97,680 words (pre-edits). This total is also not counting work I’ve done on the newsletter freebie story during the last week of the month.

  • Week 1- wrote 3/3 days, 1,000 words total, 333 words/day
  • Week 2- wrote 6/7 days, 3,200 words total, 533 words/day
  • Week 3- wrote 5/7 days, 2,700 words total, 540 words/day
  • Week 4- wrote 5/7 days, 4,100 words total, 820 words/day
  • Week 5- wrote 4/7 days, 3,680 words total, 920 words/day (finished the book on Thursday)

I am very proud of the work I’ve done on The Reanimator’s Heart, so I’m really hoping you all will like it too when it comes out in October. As you can see, once I got toward the end, I sort of hurtled through the last few weeks. I’m finding it interesting to track the speed and fluidity of my writing at different stages in the story. Act I takes forever, Act II part 2 takes a long time, but Act III seems to flow so well once I get going.


Hopes for August

  • Stay on top of my summer class stuff (that runs from the beginning to the middle of August)
  • Set up the Blackboards for my fall classes (*quiet sobbing because I hate doing it*)
  • Edit the majority of The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Continue working on the newsletter freebie story
  • More graphics for TRH
  • Set up Google form for ARC copies of TRH
  • Read 8 books
Monthly Review

May 2022 Wrap-Up Post

Ah, May. The month when my allergies beat me up and steal my lunch money every year. But the semester is over, the grading is done, and I can fully invest my time in my work. I know we aren’t completely done with May, but I think the end of the 29th is good enough to capture most of what I have done. If anything earth-shattering happens those last two days, I’ll edit and add them. Let’s take a look at what my goals were for May.

  • Read 8 books
  • Word count goals
    • Minimum goal: 15k
    • True goal: 17k
    • Stretch goal 19k
  • Blog Weekly
  • Monthly Newsletter
  • Finish majority of room/office clean up
  • Play video games and craft more to unwind
  • Do a craft for fun (I’ve been slacking)

Let’s see how it went.


Books

I set out to read 8 books, and I read 8 books in May.

  1. The Hellion’s Waltz (#3) by Olivia Waite- 4 stars, wonderful sapphic historical romance between a union activist/weaver and a piano teacher
  2. Along the Saltwise Sea (#2) by A. Deborah Baker (aka Seanan McGuire)- 4 stars, a middle grade story with a sort of Wizard of Oz style voice and adventure
  3. Love Bites (Southern Gothic series) by Magen Cubed- 4 stars, origin short story for the Leather and Lace series. It’s interesting to see how the story developed and expanded
  4. How to Train Your Pet Human (Southern Gothic series) by Magen Cubed- 5 stars, erotic short stories attached to the characters from Leather and Lace. As always, Cash and Dorian are hilarious and wonderful
  5. Siren Queen by Nghi Vo- 4 stars, a sapphic historical-fantasy story set in pre-Hayes Code Hollywood, horrific and glorious
  6. The 7 Days Author Guide to Book Advertising by Matthew J Holmes- 4 stars, useful in deciding what sort of ads to use and how they differ, not very specific or fleshed out
  7. Saga (#3) by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 4 stars, rereading in preparation for volume 10’s release in October
  8. Fevered Star (#2) by Rebecca Roanhorse- 4 stars, fantastic second book in a Meso/Indigenous American inspired world

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Researched AMS ads and ran one (yay for trying new things)
  • Made a book trailer and posted it on TikTok
  • Ran a free book ad with Free Booksy that was a FLOP, as far as paid promotion goes
  • Created a book launch/pre-order checklist for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Made a list of keywords for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Finished grading and posted my students’ grades
  • Brainstormed the future newsletter freebie “Jasmine and Jaguars”
  • I have been working on my disaster of a room/office. I have organized all my clothes/purged the ones I don’t want, thrown out a metric shit ton of my childhood toys and junk, organized my books and purged the ones I no longer want. I have the vast majority of the work done. The only things left to tackle is some more childhood stuff that needs to go and getting rid of old furniture.

Blogs Posted


Writing

My goal this month was to add 15,000 words at a minimum, and I am currently on track to hit that if I write 1,000 words a day for the next few days. I think I can do it, but it might be close or I might fall slightly short. Either way, it’s fine. My stats below do not include the 30th or 31st of May.

  • Week 1- 2,700 words and 2 missed days, 540 words/writing day
  • Week 2- 2,600 words and 3 missed days, 650 words/writing day
  • Week 3- 2,700 words and 3 missed days, 675 words/writing day
  • Week 4- 5,100 words and 0 missed days, 729 words/writing day

So this month has been a mixed bag as you can see from above. I’m not 100% sure what sort of went wrong this month, but I have a few ideas. First is that I hit the second half of act two. In terms of plotting, that is the hardest spot for me because it requires weaving all the threads you’ve created and load them up for act three where they must tie together and make a satisfying, coherent ending. This is where I end up pausing the most while working to make sure I’m staying on track. The second issue was my mom being home several days due to it being her birthday month, which threw me off along with the post-semester change in schedule. That transition period always trips me up. Ultimately, the tragedies toward the latter half of the month have been hard to deal with. I alternate between throwing myself into my work to deal and being so numbed out that I can’t do anything.

Shockingly, I’m very happy with what I’ve written so far this month, which I hope will continue as I move into June. The Reanimator’s Heart should be fully written by the middle of July, fingers crossed. I edit as I go, so the hope is that there will be minimal large scale issues to fix.


Hopes for June

I still haven’t done any crafts or really played any of my video games this month. I’m hoping I can find better balance in June and actually do some things to refill my creative well besides reading. I have a few needle felting kits that are small projects, so I may try doing those to see if I can at least complete one project this quarter. Below are 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
Monthly Review

April 2022 Wrap-Up

And now we have reached the end of April. I don’t know about all of you, but April felt short yet incredibly long at the same time. That may be because I’m teaching and it’s the end of the semester, though. Here are the goals I laid out for myself last month:

  • Read 8 books
  • Start work on fixing my room/office (this is a giant project)
  • Writing Goals
    • Minimum goal: 12k to reach
    • True goal: 15k to reach
    • Stretch goal: 18k to reach
  • Blog weekly
  • Monthly newsletter released
  • Make blurb for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Brainstorm the newsletter freebie (since that didn’t happen in March)

Reading

I set out to read 8 books, and in April I read exactly 8 books, lol.

  1. Proper Scoundrels (#1) by Allie Therin- 4 stars, I really enjoyed her first series (Magic in Manhattan), and this continuation didn’t disappoint. Grumpy x sunshine is always a favorite
  2. How to Read a Dress by Lydia Edwards- 4 stars, really fantastic resource for period costumes. While not comprehensive, it provides good info about the shifting trends and repurposing of fashion.
  3. How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis by Brian Cohen- 5 stars, if you are a writer, I cannot recommend this book enough.
  4. Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 4 stars, I have read it so many times (since I teach it in two classes) but I’m rereading the series in preparation for volume 10’s release this fall
  5. Saga Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples- 5 stars, it just gets better. The world is expansive and the characters richly human (and awful)
  6. A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee- 4 stars, really great dark academia, psychological horror(ish) type story, but I feel like this would have been better as New Adult instead of Young Adult as it would have been more believable
  7. Heartless by Marissa Meyer- 4 stars, an interesting and clever retelling using Louis Carroll’s body of work, also made me sad
  8. The Forgotten Dead (#1) by Jordan L. Hawk- 4 stars, a contemporary paranormal mystery with romance between a ghost hunter and an academic studying paranormal phenomena, also yay for trans rep

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Reached the midpoint of The Reanimator’s Heart (and then some)
  • Sent the book so far off to my cover designer, so we can get to work on that
  • Created a blurb for The Reanimator’s Heart, which you can read in one of the blog posts listed below
  • Worked on the idea/outline for the free newsletter short story that will come out later this year (you can join my newsletter by clicking Newsletter in the top menu)
  • Finished the vast majority of grading for my class this semester
  • Made a significant dent in my room/office revamping (mostly cleaning, sorting, tossing, but it’s LONG OVERDUE)
  • Researched marketing my book on TikTok, but I’m not sure if I want to wade into that cesspool
  • Edited the first half of The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Commissioned couple art of Oliver and Felipe (thank you @Bloodwrit on Twitter)
  • Was significantly less anxious than usual this month, so I’m putting that here as a win. It’s something I have been struggling with, but I think I finally found some things that actually help.

Blogs Posted


Writing

In total this month, I wrote 15,000 words, and I am really happy with that, especially since I tend to write fairly clean drafts. Secretly, I had hoped I could hit 17,000 words by the end of the month, and I was on track to do so until I sort of burnt/spun out at the very end of the month. I have officially hit and gone past the midpoint in The Reanimator’s Heart, so we are on the downward swing, tying up lose ends and such. Aka watch Kara get stuck on and off til it’s over, lol. I’ll definitely update you all during the month about how it’s going.

  • Week 1- 1,505 words and 0 missed days, 502 words/writing day (3 day week)
  • Week 2- 2,855 words and 2 missed days, 571 words/writing day
  • Week 3- 3,955 words and 1 missed day, 659 words/writing day
  • Week 4- 4,685 words and 1 missed day, 781 words/writing day
  • Week 5- 2,000 words and 3 missed day(s), 667 words/writing day (6 day week)

I did so well in the middle of the month, and then I just faceplanted week 5. I fried myself a little bit trying to edit the first half of the book and then write profusely after. That worked for like a week before I tanked myself. I feel better now, but I need to remind myself to not knock myself out by overdoing it daily. Exponential monthly writing group isn’t really possible, and that’s fine.


Hopes for May

  • Read 8 books
  • Word count goals
    • Minimum goal: 15k
    • True goal: 17k
    • Stretch goal 19k
  • Blog Weekly
  • Monthly Newsletter
  • Finish majority of room/office clean up
  • Play video games and craft more to unwind
  • Do a craft for fun (I’ve been slacking)

Now that the semester/teaching is nearly over, my hope is that I can devote more free time to more crafty, artistic pursuits than I have been lately.
Let me know in the comments what you have planned for May!

Monthly Review

March 2022 Wrap-Up

Back in February, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish in March. Let’s take a look at that before moving forward:

  • Read 8 books
  • Finish Sarra Canon’s Publish and Thrive Course
  • Brainstorm a short story for my newsletter
  • Writing Goals
    • Minimum 10k to reach 30k words
    • True goal 15k to reach 35k words
    • Stretch Goal 20k to reach 40k words
  • Blog weekly and send out a monthly newsletter
  • Crochet something

Let’s see how March went.


Reading

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

  1. Where There’s a Kilt, There’s a Way (#2) by Ella Stainton- 4 stars, greatly enjoyed seeing their paranormal adventures continue in Sweeden with even more queer characters
  2. Gallant by V. E. Schwab- 4 stars, sort of a Secret Garden meets Crimson Peak
  3. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody- 5 stars, super helpful, would definitely teach creative writing from this in the future
  4. Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore- 5 stars, connected with me as a neurodivergent, queer, nonbinary person. Might be a little biased as A. M. is an auto-buy author for me.
  5. A Spindle Splintered (#1) by Alix E. Harrow- 4 stars for a Sleeping Beauty, multiverse story featuring a chronically ill character (closer to 3.5 stars but it was different and enjoyable)
  6. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings collected by Ellen Oh- 4 stars, as with most anthologies, it’s a mixed bag, but I found quite a few authors I definitely want to read more of
  7. Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee- 4 stars (more like 3.5 but the ending saved it), a trans teen realizes the realities of relationships and figures out how to be a better friend and partner
  8. Lamb to the Slaughter by Joanna Chambers- 3 stars, a interesting but fairly generic short paranormal fantasy story with a minor twist
  9. Her Favorite Rebound (#4) by Jackie Lau- 4 stars, Jackie’s books are always an auto-buy for me, billionaire boyfriend is the villain this time and the main character finds someone better and more self-worth

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Finished all 5 weeks of Sarra Canon’s Publish and Thrive course (highly recommend it, btw)
  • Created a series page for the series associated with The Reanimator’s Heart (not live yet)
  • Created the Works in Progress page on my website
  • Worked on my goals for the second quarter and prepped my kanban board
  • Made some spreadsheets for my author business stuff, like books sold per month organized by book, rolling monthly ebook royalties, and royalties in general
  • Outlined more of The Reanimator’s Heart

March was more of a writing month than an admin month, and I am totally fine with that. At some point, you get really sick of doing annoying little time-consuming tasks. My allergies are also starting to kick my ass, which is killing my productivity right now.


Blogs Posted


Writing

I’m actually really proud of how much writing I’ve done in March. In February, I was still struggling to get into the groove of writing consistently, but by the beginning of March, I had gotten far enough into the story that I got on a roll and was able to write most days without issue. I struggled with some fatigue due to allergy season starting, but I wrote 16,000 words total this month. My minimum goal was 10k, which I hit a little over halfway through the month, and I ended up exceeding my true goal of 15k.

Here are my weekly writing stats:

  • Week 1- 3,675 words and missed 2 days of writing, 735 words/writing day
  • Week 2- 3,455 words and missed 3 days of writing, 864 words/writing day
  • Week 3- 3,755 words and missed 2 days of writing, 751 words/writing day
  • Week 4- 4,145 words and missed 1 day of writing, 690 words/writing day
  • Week 5- 1,485 words and I missed 1 day of writing, 495 words/writing day (this week was 4 days only)

Can you tell which week my allergies were the worst? Looking at you week 5! We also had family events earlier in the month, which totally threw me off, but I’m very happy with 16k words. I feel like my allergies are going to be a problem at the beginning of April since everything is blooming. Let’s see how long I can manage not looking totally ill and bedraggled.


Hopes for April

  • Read 8 books
  • Start work on fixing my room/office (this is a giant project)
  • Writing Goals
    • Minimum goal: 12k to reach
    • True goal: 15k to reach
    • Stretch goal: 18k to reach
  • Blog weekly
  • Monthly newsletter released
  • Make blurb for The Reanimator’s Heart
  • Brainstorm the newsletter freebie (since that didn’t happen this month)

What are your goals for April? Let me know in the comments!

organization · Writing

How I’m Getting Back into Writing

As you may have gleaned from my posts since I started blogging again in the latter half of 2021, I have had a lot of trouble writing since the pandemic started. It was difficult before that, but it really worsened during the pandemic due to stress, worsening of my OCD symptoms, and what I now realize may have been covid brain fog (this seemed to greatly lessen after getting vaccinated). At this point, I’m in a much better place mentally than I was a year (or more) ago. Not 100% but at least 80% of the way there.

Since 2022 started, I have tried to really get back into the groove of writing like I did in 2019, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to optimize my writing routine and do things that make it easier to get work done. Before we get into this, I want to make it clear that I am not into the hustle grind, write a million words a day mentality. I’m literally just trying to get words on the page in a way that doesn’t feel like absolute torture.

Sprints

Something I started doing at the end of 2021 is using sprints. Sprints are setting a timer and writing for that amount of time. This is a branch off of the Pomodoro Method, which uses 25 minutes of work followed by a few minutes of time, followed by another “pomodoro” or 25 minute sprint. I found several authors on Youtube who do live sprints online, and I started joining those to help get started. Even if I found the videos too chatty at times, the synergy of writing at the same time as other people helped a lot. It took me a bit of trial and error to figure out what sprint length works best for me. 20 minutes seems to be my sweet spot. I can do two 20 minute sprints pretty easily and clock in a couple hundred words each time. I’m slowly trying to strengthen my creative muscles and do a bit more writing, so increasing from two sprints to three or even four in the future. I’m not there yet, but it’s a hope of mine.

Tracking Progress

With sprints, I’ve also started tracking my sprints with a printable chart that I got off Sarra Cannon’s website. You can see them in the picture below. Using these sheets and making note of the minutes long the sprint was helped me to find my sweet spot with sprint length. I also liked to see how much I got done each day and how the word count was increasing. Seeing progress makes me believe that it’s happening because adding words feels rather amorphous.

I also use a spreadsheet to track my daily word count. I take the total from the sprints and add it to an excel sheet. These spreadsheets also track my overall monthly goal (which we’ll get to in a bit). The monthly spreadsheets add everything up for me, let me track my progress, and the one I bought can track more than just my WIP. That way I can see that if I have a low word count on my WIP it may be because I wrote a 1,000 word blog post instead. If you’ve ever done NaNoWriMo, the word count trackers are a lot like what they have on their website, but this one covers more than one project at a time.

While tracking my progress has been good for me because I have the visual pay-off, something I struggled with greatly in January was not punishing myself for not writing on a certain day. I originally colored in the days where I didn’t write. That ended up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy where one writing-less day perpetuated more writing-less days. The colored bands stacked up, and my positive feelings surrounding my work plummeted. In February, I stopped coloring in the days I missed. I tried to treat the new month like a clean slate, and with each successive week, I tried to have less writing-less days if possible.

Realistic Goals

Let’s put a big neon, bolded sign around REALISTIC.

I somehow managed to be under the delusion that in the past, I could write like 30k a month despite logically knowing I didn’t write more 1,000 words a day. I actually went back through my blog and found my old monthly check-ins, which had my word count totals for the month. Most were 10k-20k depending on the month and where I was in the story.

This is also something I had to calibrate within myself. The beginnings of new books are a SLOG for me. I tend to have false starts, have a lot more pauses, and I can’t power through the beginnings when I don’t know where I’m going like I can in the middle of a work. What I am having to remind myself is that if I’m working on the beginning of the story (first 10k-15k), I need to be mindful that it’ll take me a lot longer than months where I’m in the middle or end of a book. I may only write 5k a month when I’m starting a brand new story and still feeling out where I’m going.

In January, I wrote 2,800 words, and in February I wrote 10k with the word count increasing each week. This leads me to my March goal. I decided that I’m going to have a good, better, best goal for my March word count goal. My good goal is 10,000 words, which is fairly modest and very doable if things continue as is. My better goal is 15k, and the best goal is 20k. I don’t think I’ll hit the 20k, but it would be amazing if I could. Instead of shooting for the fences and saying 20k for March, I have the lower goals which are more realistic and very doable. Basically, this is positive reinforcement as I stretch and rebuild my writing muscles. I have these goals written down on my sprint sheets and my word count spreadsheet along with how many words per day I need to reach each.

I’m a very visual person who likes data, so having all these spreadsheets and sprint sheets help me manage my goals while tempering my expectations (aka not being totally unrealistic because I can’t remember my past creative thresholds). Not everyone will like this, and I know some will actively hate that everything involves tracking because it has the opposite effect on them. But if you’re like me and need that sort of regimented, goal-oriented, piece-by-piece breakdown, some of what I’ve done these past two months may be helpful to you.

organization · Personal Life

How I’m Getting My Sh*t Together

If you saw my post on “Life’s a Mess but There’s Hope,” you know that I have been having a rather rough time. Earlier in the year, due to life/emotional stress (or from a potential asymptomatic covid leftover), I was struggling with brain fog, checking OCD, and general anxiety. This combined with work stuff and writing malaise had wreaked havoc on my self-esteem and self-worth, so while I was mainlining YouTube videos, as one does when they feel shitty, I came across Sarra Cannon’s videos about her quarterly planning.

I already am a big proponent of using planners and have used a bullet journal every year since 2016, but when my downhill mental spiral started in earnest in 2020, I stopped setting concrete goals and my organization devolved from there to the bare minimum. So when I saw Sarra’s planning videos, I was excited, especially since she is a writer and entrepreneur, and it turns out her HB90 system is centered around exactly that. Before I go on, I’d like to say that I am in no way affiliated with Sarra’s classes. I just took the HB90 course and felt that I benefited from it.

What is the HB90 system?

The HB90 system was created by author Sarra Cannon (YouTube channel is Heart Breathings) as a way to help others stay organized and move toward the ideal life they want. Instead of focusing on a year at a time, she breaks things down by quarter. Some of you might shrug and say it sounds like every other planner, but there were certain aspects that greatly appealed to me.

The first one was that this system focused on quarterly goals instead of yearly goals. A problem I often faced was getting off track due to life and my yearly goals would rapidly spiral into why bother land. I wouldn’t be able to right that ship and would give up. By having quarterly goals, they are smaller chunks, and after each quarter/90 days, you do a review and figure out what worked, what didn’t work, and what you need to do. That way, if you know you were doing something self-sabotaging, you can sort of check yourself and figure out how to move forward. Also, you can decide if you want to continue a half-finished/unfinished goal or shelve it next quarter.

The other thing that appealed to me was the visualization/ideal life aspect. At the beginning of the course (and each quarter), you fill out questions regarding what you truly want your life to look like. The idea is that if you have a specific direction/vision, you know that your goals should aim you toward that vision and you can eliminate or minimize things that won’t move you toward that life. It wasn’t done in a “you should be rich in the future with a mansion and a convertible” or girlboss kind of way. She’s simply asking you to find an ideal in order to make sure your choices make sense. Something I struggle with is “spaghetti flinging,” so if I don’t know what I need to do, I will do all the things instead. This means, I do a lot of random stuff that doesn’t amount to much. This is meant to eliminate that because I can say, “Yes, this idea is great, but this isn’t what I’m focusing on right now.”

I don’t want to go over every aspect of this course (this is what taking the course is for), but something I appreciated was that Sarra Cannon is mindful of reality and different realities. She asks you to be realistic but also kind to yourself. Don’t set yourself up for failure by being like “New Year New Me!” while still having old you’s habits and abilities. You have to work on that gradually, and I was so relieved to hear her talk about if you have chronic health problems and budgeting your time based on how often you know those things take you out of commission. This really isn’t a hustle culture kind of thing, so that work til you drop and hustle harder wasn’t there. It was about knowing what you are currently capable of and potentially working toward different habits in the future or scheduling yourself better right now. As someone who has inflammation problems, migraines, and anxiety, I can’t live up to the ableist standard of hustle culture, so this took some of that pressure off me while I was working on my goals/schedule.

My Ideal Life

When I was asked to imagine my ideal life, I struggled a bit. Academia has been going through a weird time of upheaval, especially in the humanities where I work, and that has made my own life more complicated. What I decided to do for my ideal life was to create a vision board on Pinterest, and I quickly realized it would make no sense to anyone but me. What I want is a life lived creatively. I want a rich, fulfilling life that is focused on things that make me feel good: my partner, my dogs, going to museums, doing creative writing, doing more art. There’s certainly room in there for a full-time academic position if one should ever come available, but I don’t feel like I can bank on that due to the current climate at US universities. I would like to model my life a little on Vincent Price’s. He was an actor, obviously, but he also loved art and cooking, and I want a life that is filled with creativity in various forms (he also wrote a book about his dog, The Book of Joe). I already crochet, but I’d like to do more traditional art, maybe even pottery, and I’d eventually like to live off my writing (especially if teaching full-time is ever off the table). This means my overall goals should be pointing me toward being able to rely on my writing more and giving myself the space to treat my writing seriously.

My Goals for 2022 Quarter 1

Goals in the HB90 system are a little different from what we normally think of as goals. The HB90 system asks you to pick things for goals that are slightly out of your control. That way you can see whether the tasks you put under them worked or not. So I’m not posting ALL of my projects under these goals, but the idea is that you have an overarching goal, then projects under it (larger scale stuff that you would normally consider goals) and those projects get broken into tasks that can be accomplished between a few hours or a week’s time. So here are my goals for Q1:

  1. To work on publishing new books while reworking my back list to increase my monthly income to $X/$Y/$Z a month (numbers have been hidden because I felt awkward talking about how much I make off my books).
  2. To create an energized community surrounding my works and increase my social media followers by 10%/15%/20% (Focus on newsletter, blog, Instagram, Twitter).
  3. Continue to work on my teaching materials and to maintain my mental health by maintaining a decent work-life balance.

To accomplish these goals, I will be writing more (please see my 2022 Projects post for specifics), reading some books on marketing, taking another course to keep my author knowledge up to date, hopefully sending out more newsletters, fixing the back matter in my books, and working on some departmental stuff for one of the universities I work at.

The Kanban Board

The top level of my Kanban board for quarter 1, aka the to-do section. The other sections aren’t shown since they’re empty.

To keep this post from being 8 miles long, I will not go into minute detail about the Kanban board (you can check out one of Sarra’s videos for detail), but the Kanban board is part of the HB90 setup as well. It is originally a Japanese form of organization where you get a dry erase board/paper/digital board and divide it into three parts. It goes to-do, currently working on, done. The idea is that you put everything in the to-do part, and as you work on it, you move it down until it ends up in the done section. Sarra uses sticky notes, and because my tasks aren’t super granular this quarter, I decided to use dry erase magnets as they are less likely to fall off.

The things written on each magnet are tasks that I need to do this quarter. I’m sure I’m missing some, but that’s what the extra magnets are for. What I like about this technique is that it is very visual. I am a tactile, visual person who needs lists in front of my face in order to remember to do things. If I can see progress (aka things moving down the board), I think I will feel better about myself and maintaining my mental health with be easier. Something I have struggled with is feeling like I’m doing so much but not getting anywhere. Something I’m still gauging is how much will fit in 90 days, but that should come with practice and will vary based on what classes on I’m teaching and such.

Final Thoughts

I’m excited to have some sort of framework in which to organize my writing and indie author stuff because these last few years have been a shit show for me. Sarra Cannon’s videos and course has helped to reignite my focus and zest for being an indie author. I’m cautiously hopeful that this will get me back on track.

Let me know if you want to know anything else about the HB90 program or how I use planners in the future! I do plan to update you all on how this is going at the end of the quarter.

Monthly Review · Writing

2022 Projects

Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

As I mentioned in my recent post, I want 2022 to be a year of getting my shit together. I’ll talk more about this in a future post, but I have been taking a course on the HB90 method, which is a way to keep yourself organized, plan future goals, and get your life in order. The course was made by a fellow writer, so I’m hopeful it’ll help me to get back on track. While I’m doing the behind the scenes work, I wanted to give you a little preview of what I am working on and hope to publish in the coming year.

Now, a little disclaimer that I cannot control many factors, so I don’t have full release dates yet. Assume longer projects will come out in the second half of 2022.


Photo by Mitja Juraja on Pexels.com

The Reanimator’s Heart

The Reanimator’s Heart is an off-shoot of the Paranormal Society Romances, so it still takes place in the same time period as Kinship and Kindness and many scenes are at the New York Paranormal Society. The reason I chose to create a spin-off is because this will be sort of equal parts paranormal mystery and M/M romance.

The Reanimator’s Heart is like Pushing Up Daisys meets Penny Dreadful. There are definitely some darker, scarier moments in this story, so if you like Jordan L. Hawk’s Widdershins or KJ Charles’ Magpie Lord stories, this is probably up your alley.

Oliver Barlow is the Paranormal Society’s resident coroner and necromancer. Oliver does his best to keep his powers hidden, but when he finds the man he’s had a crush on for years dead, he accidentally revives the charming Felipe Galvan. But Felipe refuses to go back to being dead until they find out who murdered him. Oliver and Felipe soon find themselves entangled with a murderous cabal that wants to bring something horrid from the great beyond.


Photo by Brandon Nickerson on Pexels.com

TROUSERS AND TROUBLE (Paranormal Society Romance #2)

Trousers and Trouble is the sequel/prequel to Kinship and Kindness. This story follows Bennett from when he leaves his uncle’s home, arrives in Brooklyn, and meets his best friends, Ruth and Rory. I know the series title says, “romance,” but let’s stretch this to mean platonic friendships and self-love. This is really a story of Bennett discovering who he is and a community where he is accepted for who he is (on several levels).

As with Kinship and Kindness, there will be magic, shifters, but this story has three transgender main characters. Ruth and Rory will eventually each have their own books in the series.

Between drag balls, performances at the Stratford Theater, and days spent at the Paranormal Society, Rory and Ruth are living their best, bachelor lives in Brooklyn. That is until a teenager on the run from his old life stumbles into their path.
While parenting had never been in the cards, Ruth and Rory know what they need to do, and they soon become Bennett’s fairy godmothers as they help him become the person he was always meant to be. But sometimes the past sinks in its teeth and refuses to let go. When Bennett’s family comes knocking, Ruth and Rory will stop at nothing to keep their new friend safe.


Future WIPS

  • A short story freebie for my newsletter that will probably be in the K&K world (join my newsletter in advance and you will get another free short story, “The Errant Earl”)
  • Tempests and Temptation (PSR #3)
  • Book 2 of the unnamed necromancer series
  • More books in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series- not sure how many, but there will be at least 2 more

Well, I think I have kept you all long enough. Let me know in the comments which of these projects you are most looking forward to!