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

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??
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.

Monthly Review

January 2022 Wrap-Up

So back in the day, like October 2016 back in the day, I used to do a monthly wrap-up post where I talked about what I accomplished that month and what I hoped to do in the next month. I have decided to start doing that again because

a) I think seeing my progress will be good for me (even if it’s a lack of progress sometimes)

b) it’s an easy place to put up book reviews without doing a book review

c) I can talk a bit about things I’ve been doing behind the scenes that are not interesting enough to warrant their own post


Reading

I set out to read about 8-9 books this month since my yearly goal is 100 books, and I ended up reading 10 books in January. (The numbers beside the titles are where they are in the series, if there is one)

  1. Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque (4 stars- helped a lot with shifting my feelings about my newsletter)
  2. How to Read a Suit by Lydia Edwards (4 stars- highly interesting if you want to learn more about period specific clothing as well as masculinity)
  3. Where the Drowned Girls Go (#7) by Seanan McGuire (5 stars- absolutely LOVE this series, YA portal fantasy)
  4. Heartstopper (#4) by Alice Oseman (5 stars- the focus of this one was heavily on mental health and I loved that love couldn’t solve/magically fix it)
  5. The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (#2) by Olivia Waite (4 stars- this series is f/f historical romance, and this one features a beekeeper and has tons of queer side characters)
  6. Winter’s Dawn (#3) by Arden Powell (4 stars- every novella in this series has been magical and wonderful)
  7. The Missing Page (#2) by Cat Sebastian (5 stars- Page and Sommers team up to solve Sommers’ cousin’s disappearance from 20 years ago, fantastic)
  8. Boys Run the Riot (#4) by Keito Gaku (4 stars- a manga with a trans lead about fashion, mad it’s over)
  9. The Excalibur Curse (#3) by Kiersten White (4 stars- I am so upset this series is over but it was a fabulous King Arthur retelling filled with queer characters)
  10. Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron (5 stars- very useful as a I work on The Reanimator’s Heart)

Admin/Behind the Scenes Author Stuff

  • Updated the back matter and formatting for the ebook versions of all my books
  • Republished said books on Amazon and D2D
  • Published all of my books on the Google Play store
  • Fixed my website aesthetically to make it pretty again after I wrecked it last year
  • Updated every page of my website to be current
  • Created, uploaded, and published the second box set in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series, which contains books 4-6 (Dead Magic, Selkie Cove, and The Wolf Witch)
  • Updated the covers/titles for the audiobooks for The Earl of Brass and The Gentleman Devil
  • Contacted/contracted a narrator for the audiobook of Kinship and Kindness (which will hopefully be out by summer. PS- my narrator is trans, and I’m super excited to have a trans narrator for a series that has a trans lead in each book)
  • Fixed/relaunched my monthly newsletter (You can read January’s here)
  • Read some author craft books (Newsletter Ninja and Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel)
  • blogged weekly and did weekly marketing

I did a lot of admin stuff this month, but I want to emphasize that I didn’t start teaching until over halfway through the month, so I got a lot of work done while on break. Please don’t judge my productivity against yours if you are working full-time. Due to pandemic mess, I’m teaching less classes and trying to make up for it by [theoretically] boosting my author income. Hence, all the admin stuff.


Blogs Posted

If there’s ever anything you want me to write about, feel free to let me know. I will never complain about blog suggestions.


Writing

Oh boy. So this is where I find myself cringing because while I look very industrious in all the things I mentioned above, I did not get a whole lot of writing done. This month The Reanimator’s Heart reached about 11,000 words. This was due to multiple reasons. Part of it was that I had to tweak the beginning of my book to make it work, which then created a cascade of tweaking. Most of it was due to stress though. I had bad anxiety at the beginning of the month, which led to a horrible bout of writer resistance. I can’t even pinpoint why, but I was struggling. I also had car issues, a dog with diarrhea, and my classes started up again all within a two week period. As soon as I get stressed out, my ability to write plummets. It’s something I’m working on, but it still throws me. My hope is that, while I probably won’t catch up completely in February, I will make a dent in my word count goal and actually get close to where I hoped to be.

I also figured out that I do significantly better doing 20 minute writing sprints than 15 minute ones, so here’s hoping that I can use that new information to build momentum going forward.


Hopes for February

  • Read 8 books
  • Write 20k words (stretch goal is 30k to fully catch up)
  • finish a syllabus I need to write for a future class
  • finish a course proposal for a future class
  • blog weekly, February author newsletter
  • crochet more because I barely crocheted at all this month

That’s it for this month’s wrap-up. Let me know what goals you hope to achieve in February!

Personal Life · Writing

In Defense of Small Word Counts

Let me let you in on a little secret. I don’t write a lot of words per day.

My daily word counts vary from 350 to 700 on a good day, but I almost never break 1,000 words unless I’m at the very end the book because the resolution is often easy for me to write since all the major strings have been tied.

On social media, it’s common for people to post their word counts after a writing sprint or just as a daily thing they do to hold themselves accountable. When I see people post that they wrote 4,000 words in a few hours, I feel sick. That’s more than I write in a week sometimes, most times. Seeing giant word counts is something that bothers me on and off. When my writing is flowing well, I don’t really care. When I’m struggling, all I see are other people’s numbers and I begin to feel inadequate.

When I’m writing consistently, it’s easy say to myself, “Why do you care? You’ve published 5 books. It isn’t like your words don’t add up to a full book.” And my books aren’t exactly tiny. Most are over 90,000 words. So what if it takes me 6-9 months to write it? I’d like to blame capitalism for that. Everything we do is measured in productivity and inevitably we tie our self-worth to the outcomes of our labor. How many words per day is merely a metric by which I measure my self-worth when things aren’t going well.

Someone might say, “Ditch the word count. Just write.” I tried that last year when my mental health was rather shitty, and it did the opposite of help because without something to push me, I wrote nothing for a few months. When writing is a form of self-care, you understand how this can cause a downward spiral. My small daily word count goal of 350 words is like saying I’m going to meditate for 15 minutes every day. It’s something I have to push myself to do because my brain, when it’s feeling low, resists doing it even though it’s good for me. A small, doable goal gives me the push I need to get it done.

Once I hit my 350, I can stop and go to bed. Most of the time I keep going. Days I don’t write because I just don’t have mental or physical spoons to do so, I make up for it the next day. I have a word count tracker that I use to chart my progress and hold myself accountable. Days I don’t write, I don’t put a zero in. Some may think it’s cheating, but zeroes made it harder to write when I was down. Now I just fill in 350 and make up for it the next day by writing 700 words or as I tell myself 2 350s.

We do what we must to trick ourselves into taking our medicine.

For years, I’ve dreaded things like NaNoWriMo where you write 50,000 words in a month or 1,667 words a day. Before I made friends with other writers, I thought you had to be a pro to accomplish such a massive daily word count or be on speed. It never seemed possible. Then I made friends with writers who seemed to do it without a lot of trouble and my confidence cracked. I couldn’t do it. I tried to do NaNo and gave up within the first week. Despite all the hype and support of other writers, I stared at that word count like it was Mt. Everest. Only the strongest and best could do it, and I couldn’t.

What I failed to notice is how many writers do NaNo and don’t publish or shop the book after. Plenty of books grow out of NaNo, but most don’t or they need to be heavily revised. That’s far from my usual process. Until last year, I had never had to totally rewrite a book. My books need editing, but most of it is fact-checking, copy edits, and cleaning up/beefing up descriptions. What I start, I finish, even if it takes the better part of a year.

I guess the point of all this is that you have to do what works for you. If writing a lot and then editing a lot is what comes naturally, then do it. If you write a little at a time, that’s fine too. There’s no one way to write even if there are plenty of books that try to teach you how to boost your productivity. At some point, you have to come to terms with what your process is and embrace it as best you can.

Monthly Review · Writing

May 2016 in Review

Last year, I decided that I would post my accomplishments for the month and what goals I hope to achieve in the following month.

Somehow I didn’t expect to be so productive in May, yet I feel like I’ve walked away with a lot of writing and ideas to use in June.

What I accomplished in May:

  1. Wrote 17,000 words on Dead Magic (hit 39,000 total)
  2. Wrote 8 blog posts
  3. Read 2 books
    1. Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
    2. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  4. Heavily researched for an Ingenious Mechanical Devices companion novella
  5. Began cover construction for Dead Magic
  6. Finished the audiobook for The Winter Garden to Audible’s specifications (should be out within the next week)

What I hope to achieve in June:

  1. Write at least 18,000 words of Dead Magic (for 57,000 total words)
  2. Write at least 6 blog posts
  3. Read at least 3 books
  4. Begin outlining and writing one of the IMD companion novellas
  5. Write the back blurb for Dead Magic
  6. Do a preliminary edit of chapters 1-10 of Dead Magic

I can’t believe I wrote 17k words this month. March and April were so slow in terms of my word count, but it seems that once the story hits the 1/3 mark, it just starts to roll. Laying the foundation is the slowest part, followed by the end when I need to make sure that I’ve tied everything up. I’m hoping that June will continue the trend of the productivity.

I’m so excited to be able to share some random excerpts of Dead Magic. Writing it has been a blast so far with lots of dark things, some gore, a bit of magic, and having to do a lot of research on trauma and PTSD (sorry, Immanuel). My artist boyfriend/cover designer/Photoshop guru will soon be working on the cover for Dead Magic as soon as I finish the back blurb and convince him to do it instead of working on his new design shop, Regal Rook designs. I’m sure I’ll be posting more on that in the future as well.

The one major thing that was sacrificed this month was my reading. I meant to finish Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater in May, but I was busy researching and writing and it ended up sitting on the sidelines. It’s a really good series despite how long it’s taking me to get through it.

On Tuesday in my post Plot Bunnies and Projects, I wrote about the companion novellas I’m planning to write over the summer. I haven’t really begun planning them out yet, but I hope to have at least one of them written (probably Judith Elliott’s first). I’m super stoked to work on them because I really love the ideas I have rolling around, so hopefully, they’ll come out as good on paper as they are in my head. I will be updating you as I write.

At the top of the page is a little newsletter sign-up thing. If you want to get exclusive excerpts, ARCs, and messages about new sales/deals, sign-up. I don’t send them out often, so you won’t need to worry about me blowing up your inbox.

So what are you working on this month?