Month-End Update: October 2017

If October were a chapter in a novel, I would let my eyes linger over the final word. Then, I would take a deep breath and close the book, keeping my thumb wedged between the pages to mark my place. As I cradled the tome against my chest, my eyes would sting with tears already cried, but a small smile would play at my lips. After a few moments, I would sigh and reopen the novel, ready to face whatever Chapter 11 had in store.

Golden Gate Bridge

In other words, October was bittersweet. The month began with a personal loss, but also with an outpouring of love for which I am incredibly grateful. It ended with a wonderful visit from my best friend and a few days exploring my new, long-term but still temporary, home in San Francisco (that’s us at the Golden Gate bridge). Somewhere in between, I followed my creative passions to some major world-building for my upcoming dark fantasy series … but didn’t make as much progress as I’d hoped in Desertera.

All in all, October has been a bit of a mixed bag. But, sticking with my “positivity” New Year’s resolution, I’m going to focus on the good. I wrote more in October than I did in September. I’m feeling more confident in my author skin. And I’ve got two more months to work on my 2017 goals!

Now, let’s recap the details …

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – still a little behind
Write a second novel – starting for NaNoWriMo!

While my October word count is nothing to write home about, it’s exponentially better than September. Though I’ll be starting NaNoWriMo late (due to my friend’s visit), I plan to write a large chunk of a new novel. Good news for Desertera fans: given my recently revised publishing plan, this will now be Desertera #4!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Create short story for my Reader List – in progress
Blog twice per month – on track
Read 52 books this year – catching up!

Things are slow but steady in the business realm. There’s a lot I want to put into practice for 2018, so I’m trying to focus more on writing for the rest of this year. Once again, good news for readers!

Books Read:
Angel & Faith: Season 10, Vol. 3 by Victor Gischler
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10, Vol. 3 by Christos Gage
Selkie Cove (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #5) by Kara Jorgensen
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Angel Omnibus by Jeffrey J. Mariotte
The Sixth Gate by K.T. Munson

Book in Progress:
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – still going well
Break a bad habit – huge improvement!
Exercise 3x week – still doing it!

While being positive was difficult this month, I’m still proud of the attitude I maintained. Though I did have two stress migraine days (my first in over a year), I remembered to be kind to myself and give my body the time it needed to rest. As for my bad habit and exercising, I’m actually impressing myself with the progress I’ve made and even rewarded myself to some goal-related treats. Woot!

Goals for November
Participate in NaNoWriMo (and ideally catch up)
Send Desertera short story to my editor
Begin Desertera #4
Continue re-evaluating and planning for 2018


How was your October? What’s your project for NaNoWriMo? Share your successes, failures, and goals in the comments!

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Month-End Update: September 2017

Have you ever had an experience that fundamentally changed your view of a subject? Maybe you read a transformative novel or attended a mind-blowing lecture or traveled to a new country. This month, I had one of these experiences, right here at my desk.

bootcamp notesDuring the last week of September, I attended the Smarter Artist Bootcamp hosted by Sterling & Stone (which I’m sure you’ve seen me mention a time or twelve). This free event featured five two-hour workshops, in which Johnny, Sean, and Dave shared their process on planning, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing a novel. I attended Bootcamp last year, and it was really helpful, so I was extremely excited for the 2017 edition.

What I didn’t expect was a major revelation. I won’t go into details here — partly to avoid boring you and partly because I still have a lot of soul-searching to do. However, the main point is that I finally realized how much I’ve grown over the last three years and how my desire to be super human (aka do ALL THE THINGS) has held me back. So, while I start my next novel and finish out 2017, I’m going to allow myself to rethink everything I’m doing and only keep the essentials that bring you the best stories I can write.

Now, let’s take a quick look at the goals, so I can get on with October!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – still a little behind
Write a second novel – hoping to start this month

While I didn’t complete as much writing as I would have liked in September, I accomplished strong pre-production work (e.g. outlines, worldbuilding, character sheets, etc.). Though I want to count this as a win, I also know I’m suffering from a little analysis-paralysis. Too many ideas! Too many characters! Too many series! In October, it’ll be back to drafting.

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Create short story for my Reader List – in progress
Blog once per week – fun plans for October
Read 52 books this year – catching up!

After attending Bootcamp, I am sorely tempted to re-evaluate my business goals. Instead, I’m going to save that for 2018 and focus on finishing 2017 as strong as I can. I’m really excited about the blog posts I have planned for October (all Halloween related!), and I’ve found more reading time, which has done wonders for my creativity and stress levels.

Books Read:
A Time to Die (The Legend of Carter Gabel #3) by Jonas Lee
Revived (Foreverers #1) by Nina del Arce
Risen Gods by J.F. Penn and J. Thorn (audiobook)
Angel & Faith: Season 10 Vol. 2 by Victor Gischler, Will Conrad, & Joss Whedon
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 10 Vol. 2 by Christos Gage & Rebekah Issacs

Book in Progress:
Selkie Cove (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #5) by Kara Jorgensen
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – still going great
Break a bad habit – a little setback
Exercise 3x week – actually doing it!

At risk of sounding like a cliché, moving from the East Coast to the West Coast has dramatically improved my quality of life. My new work-from-home schedule gives me the afternoons to focus on myself, and I’ve started a meditation practice that has done wonders for my positive outlook. Daniel and I have also recommitted ourselves to exercise, and I’ve worked out at least three times per week since we moved here. We’re eating healthier too. It’s been so refreshing!

Goals for October
Finish Desertera short story for my Reader List
Start drafting my next novel
Begin thinking ahead to NaNoWriMo
Track author/business activities to decide what should stay/go in 2018


How was your September? What goals do you have for the last quarter of 2017? Share your successes (or failures — no judgment here!) in the comments.

Month-End Update: August 2017

Yes, I’m alive. Yes, I’ll be around more in September. And yes, I have stories!

The Tyrant's Heir booksAugust kicked off with a bang, as August 8th marked the publication of my third novel, The Tyrant’s Heir. Book launches always stir up a lot of emotions for me: excitement (Yay! It’s finally out in the world), fear (Will my readers like it?), but mostly gratitude. Thank you to everyone who has read the novel, shared it on social media, and of course, left a review. I seriously couldn’t do this without you.

Good news: if you’ve been waiting to order your signed paperback copy of The Tyrant’s Heir, go ahead! I have two boxes of books ready to be signed, sealed, and delivered. Visit the book page for ordering info.

What happened after the book launch? Well, the very next week, Daniel (my husband) and I loaded up our belongings and moved to our new home in California. As you might remember, Daniel finished his Master’s degree in Connecticut, but now he’s off to complete his PhD. I couldn’t be more proud of him. We had kind of an extended, two-part move, but it definitely made for an adventurous summer!

Most people think I’m crazy for it, but I love driving. So, getting to say that I’ve driven literally coast to coast in my beloved Pontiac feels really cool. (And I mean coast to coast. I didn’t let Daniel drive a single mile just so I could claim that title for myself! Luckily, he hates driving just as much as I love it.)

Of course, it wasn’t all long hours in the car. We enjoyed a stopover in Kansas (my real home), where we caught up with friends and family. On the second half of the road trip, we made a 150-mile detour to pop up to the Grand Canyon. And let me tell you, if you haven’t seen the Grand Canyon, it’s worth the trip! I always worry about seeing monuments and famous tourist destinations in person. Sometimes, they appear more impressive on TV or in photos, but the Grand Canyon lives up to its name and then some. I’d love to go back and explore it more!

Eventually, Daniel and I made it to sunny California (113 degrees Fahrenheit driving through the desert!), then onto our new home in the Bay Area. We’ve been here for a little over two weeks now, and we already like it 100x more than New Haven. Being in a real house with plenty of nature around has improved my emotional well-being more than I can say. I grew up in the country, and I had no idea how much I needed wildlife around me until I lived in the city. As dramatic as it sounds, I feel like I can breathe again.

As you probably guessed, all this upheaval left little time for writing, reading, and the other author-related pursuits I enjoy. But now that we’re finally settled, I’m ready to dive back into my projects. August became a month of personal productivity, so I think it’s only fair that September focus on writing again!

Before I sign off, here’s the quick recap as concerns my annual goals:

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – a little behind from the move!
Publish The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3)

One of my goals for August was to decide on my next writing project, and my goal for September will be to make some serious progress. First, I’ll keep plugging away on the free Desertera short story for my Reader List. Second, I began planning my next series in August, and I hope to have a complete outline (maybe even a first draft started) on my first book in this series. Don’t worry — I’ll still have Desertera #4 out next year!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Create short story for my Reader List – in progress
Blog once per week – getting back on track
Read 52 books this year – catching up!

Most of my business goals are ongoing, so I don’t have any new ones to cross off this month. However, I’m happy to report that I’m almost caught up with reading books written by my author friends. As always, you all haven’t disappointed!

Books Read:
Friend or Foe: A MenoPausal Superhero Short Story Collection by Samantha Bryant
Face the Change (Menopausal Superheroes #3) by Samantha Bryant
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (audiobook)
Fall of the Titan (The Desolate Empire #5) by Christina Ochs

Book in Progress:
A Time to Die (The Legend of Carter Gabel #3) by Jonas Lee
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – still going great
Break a bad habit – doing well
Visit a new state – several during our whole road trip!
Recoup savings post-Yale – such a relief!

I’m down to three personal goals for the year, all of which are continuous. Focusing on a positive outlook has been going well (I’m even adding meditation to my routine to help!), and I’ve been avoiding my bad habit. Exercise, though, remains my Achilles heel. The good news is that I have a free spousal membership to the university gym … so my excuses have dwindled to almost none!

Goals for September
Write Desertera short story for my Reader List
Outline the first novel of my new dark fantasy series
Establish a new author routine for my new surroundings


What successes do you have to report from August? What do you look forward to in September? Any tips for me on establishing a new writing routine in a new home? Leave it all in the comments!

Month-End Update: July 2017

Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 WinnerJuly marked the first month with my revised goals and author vision. As you might remember from my June month-end update, I took 2017’s halfway mark to reevaluate my New Year’s resolutions, as well as consider who I am as an author and what I want for my independent publishing business.

These changes, combined with the fact that July was a book launch preparation month, have helped me focus on what’s really important. As silly as it might sound (and as invisible as it might be from the outside), I feel a new sense of purpose and maturity with my business.

However, now that The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) is all-but ready for publication, I’m also feeling a little lost. Yes, I have a massive to-do list to tackle (as always!), but I’m also standing at a proverbial crossroads. Should I finally start the new series I’ve been daydreaming about for months? Should I dive right back into Desertera and begin the fourth book? Should I take a creative break and focus on marketing for a while?

I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I know I’ll have fun figuring it out! For now, let’s take a look back at July – aka Camp NaNoWrimo #2.

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – doing really well
Edit The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) – done!
Publish The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) – on track

Technically, I won Camp NaNoWriMo by completing over 31 hours of “author work.” While I wanted to split my time between finalizing The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) and creating a Desertera short story for my Reader List, I ended up working solely on the book launch. But, it’s all good news. Readers will get the third book on August 8, and my Reader List subscribers will receive their bonus short story in a month or so. Everyone wins!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Create short story for my Reader List – in progress
Blog once per week – on track
Read 52 books this year – catching up!

The “business” side took a backseat to publishing this past month. However, since I wasn’t working on my own writing, I took time to read a few books written by my author friends, and I hope to read more this month. Another big August goal? Officially deciding on my next writing project!

Books Read:
Deceived by Heena Rathore P.
The Gate Guardian’s Daughter by K.T. Munson
A Bhikku’s Tale by David R. Jordan
Cemetery Shift (Cheston Chronicles #1) by Nina del Arce

Book in Progress:
Friend or Foe: A MenoPausal Superhero Short Story Collection by Samantha Bryant
Face the Change (Menopausal Superheroes #3) by Samantha Bryant
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – great!
Exercise 3x per week – doing a little better
Break a bad habit – on track
Recoup savings post-Yale – I’d say we’re nearly there!

As you might remember, I’m (kind of) in the middle of a cross-country move, and Daniel (the hubby) is adjusting to his new Ph.D. program. Despite these rather drastic changes, my personal goals remain strong. If the last few years of moving and post-university”adulting” have taught me anything, it’s to take life as it comes and appreciate the present moment. Now, if only I could be as wise about exercising …

Goals for August
Publish The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3)
Write Desertera short story for my Reader List
Decide on and begin my next book project


How did my fellow NaNoWriMo campers fare? What are your goals for August? Share in the comments!

The Power of Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman LogoAbout a month ago, Daniel (my husband) and I went to see the new Wonder Woman movie. No spoilers, I promise. Because Daniel’s a huge movie buff, I let him share his DC fanboy analysis first (basic message: “That’s the movie Man of Steel should have been — hopeful, optimistic, awe-inspiring, untouchable!”). As we pulled into the pet store parking lot (exciting errands for this married couple), Daniel asked for my thoughts.

And without warning, I burst into tears.

This is why I’ve waited so long to write this post. I’m embarrassed by my reaction, and I don’t even know if I can put words to how Wonder Woman made me feel. But Daniel insists that you (especially the women) will appreciate my thoughts and so here they are.

For whatever reason, at that exact moment in my life, Wonder Woman was the superhero movie I didn’t know I needed. In the most basic ways (sometimes subtle, sometimes not), Wonder Woman overcame and surpassed the negative stereotypes and tropes that often define female superheroes (and characters in general). At the same time, Wonder Woman embraced Diana Prince’s womanhood and sexuality — even made them an asset for our hero — while still portraying her male allies in a positive light. The movie made me proud to be a woman, and as I watched the scenes unfold, I couldn’t help but feel like some kind of invisible weight had lifted.

Writing this now, I’m starting to become insecure. I can already imagine the ways in which I might be ridiculed for my reaction:

“Crying proves that women are weak!”
“Please, honey. You’re still white, cisgender, straight, American, abled, etc.!”
“Um … there are plenty of other strong female characters out there!”

To the first, I shake my head and move on.

To the second, I say, “I know!” I’m lucky to have been born with certain privileges, and having this experience has given me a new empathy and respect for those who feel underrepresented or excluded from our entertainment culture.

To the last, I say again, “I know!” That’s one of the reason I’m so boggled by my reaction. I grew up watching Xena Warrior Princess, and I’m a proud (albeit recent) member of Buffy’s Scooby Gang. I’ve read myriad books and graphic novels with strong, leading women. So why now? Why did Wonder Woman mean so much to me?

Honestly, I’m still not certain. Maybe it’s because Diana represented my brand of Feminism (which sometimes feels like it’s giving way to more radical, arguably misandristic perspectives). Maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of a bunch of huge life changes and needed affirmation of my strength. Maybe it’s because the other recent DC movies have been underwhelming for me. And maybe, it was just a damn good movie that manipulated my emotions as the master marketing team intended.

Whatever the reason, after a tearful episode in the pet store parking lot and a quick purchase of cat laxative (I shit you not — poor Thomas!), Daniel and I made an unplanned stop. We went to Target to find me a Wonder Woman shirt, because I wanted to emblazon her logo across my chest. If you knew my “thrifty” self, you’d know that a $20 impulse buy is a BIG financial upset in our household. We didn’t find one I liked. The search continues but the fact remains …

Wonder Woman blew away my expectations. As a movie, it was fast-paced, charming, funny, packed with intense action (that trench warfare scene!), and satisfying (except for, perhaps, the final battle … but I promised no spoilers). But more than that, it tapped into a subconscious need that I didn’t even know I held. While other strong women have held the stage and Hollywood still has a long way to go towards equality, Wonder Woman was a step in the right direction and meant so much to me. If I can write just one character or one book that gives someone a modicum of that joy and pride, then I will be thrilled with my author career.


How did you feel about the new Wonder Woman movie? What other movies or books have held special meaning for you? Know where I can find a bad ass Wonder Woman shirt (seriously!)? Share it all in the comments.