A Writing Update

Things are happening!

We pause the usual book reviews, for a writing update! It seems like there’s a lot going on lately, so here’s the quick scoop on my upcoming releases and works-in-progress (WIPs)!

The Biggest News:

🥳🥳🥳 I SIGNED MY FIRST BOOK DEAL! 🥳🥳🥳

I’m so thrilled to announce first young adult science fiction is coming to Whimsical Publishing in Summer (ish) 2023! If you’re interested in updates, definitely keep an eye on my Instagram and Twitter for more developments!

Writing Contest News:

In the NYC Microfiction Challenge, I made it to the final round! 🥳 Winners will be announced in September, and I’ll be sure to post my final entry and feedback here!

I submitted Odriel’s Heirs in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off! This contest is still in the early stages, but I’m excited to see the review of Odriel’s Heirs from Booknest.

I submitted The Gatekeeper of Pericael in the Book Blogger Novel of the Year Contest, and it made it into the semifinals! 🥳 Finalists are announced in September, but the competition is crazy steep this year, so my fingers are crossed tight!

What’s going on with Codename: CNDRLA?

I know this WIP is a favorite of many of my Betas and CPs, and it probably seems like it’s been in the query trenches forever! And yes, reader, it does feel that way sometimes! But, seriously it’s a good thing! I still have a handful of full requests I’m waiting to hear back on from agents and publishers. The process just takes a really long time! I’m hoping I’ll have an update by the end of the year, but we’ll just have to wait and see. 😊

When’s the last book of the Odriel’s Heirs series coming out?

Time’s Orphan (Odriel’s Heirs #3) is with my Critique Partners for revision this month, and I’m hoping to release ARCs this Fall for a February release. If that seems too far away, you can check out Night of Ash (Odriel’s Heirs #2.5) in the meantime! Night of Ash is the follow-on sequel novella to Idriel’s Children, and ARCs are available now before the 27 Sep release. If you’d like one, just give a shout.

Also, I’m in the process of creating paperback versions of Burning Shadows and Night of Ash, so if you’re interested in having the whole series on your shelf, you can! I’m hoping the paperback versions should be ready in time for Night of Ash’s release.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below! As always, thanks for reading!

NYC Midnight Challenge Entry: Unplanned

Unplanned

June 2022 (Round Two)
Genre: Romance
Word: Mine
Action: Hanging Wet Clothes to Dry
Time Constraint: 24 hours
Length: 100 words

Emmy’s newborn mewl rattles my sleep-deprived brain as I hang her soiled, wet pajamas on the shower rod. This was never part of my plan—the fling turned unexpected pregnancy turned—

Emmy falls silent, and I freeze, ears straining. Did she smother? I rush from the bathroom and find Jake stretched on the carpet, humming “Baby Mine” with our tiny daughter curled on his bare chest. He peeks at me with a soft smile before inviting me in with an outstretched arm.

I slide into his warm, solid embrace, and everything else melts away in this perfection I never could’ve planned.

JUDGe’s Feedback

This one placed second in my group and got me to the final round! The feedback is below!

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY

{1943}  Oh my gosh, this was a lovely romance! I loved the unexpected nature of the ending, after you set up our anticipation of a bittersweet outcome from a “fling turned unexpected pregnancy”. The image of Jake on the floor with the baby was delightful. My heart melted at the end, as he invited her to join the embrace with the baby. Wonderful!

{1963}  This piece subtly explores the theme of life’s unpredictability, and whether it ultimately is a positive or negative thing. The unplanned pregnancy, the fear of a spontaneous death — the gloomy atmosphere gives way to the realisation that things worked out well quite by accident; perhaps fate is not so cruel after all?

{2121}  Despite the narrator’s doubts and stress at the beginning of the story, revealing that none of the following events or situation she finds herself in was planned, she realizes by the end that some of the best things in life are entirely unplanned, precisely because they never would’ve happened had they been.  

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK

{1943}  I thought your story was beautifully written. I would think about maybe adding some more sensory details to your narrative. You might also think about how to show the  mother’s panic, rather than telling us with “I freeze, ears straining”. I loved “did she smother?” but maybe this could stand alone, perhaps even using italics? I think there was more scope to create a very dramatic, heart stopping moment here?    

{1963}  The wording of the opening takes a couple of reads to understand that Emmy is the newborn, not that Emmy has a newborn. Additionally the hyphenation seems to artificially reduce the word count. Avoid risky tricks like these! You might be able to cut “Did she smother” to make room for small adjustments, since this doesn’t add anything not already implied by the rest of the story. 

{2121}  Instead of dwelling on how this was unplanned, the narrator could potentially express some conflicted feelings on new motherhood, another level of challenging because it was unplanned. Doing so would make her realization at the end that much more satisfying and coming full circle.

NYC Midnight Challenge Entry: Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

Nothing Good Happens after midnight

April 2022 (Round One)
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Word: Think
Action: Borrowing a Tool
Time Constraint: 24 hours
Length: 100 words

The doorbell rings again as I stumble through my dark apartment. Bleary-eyed, I open the door to find Nate in a dripping windbreaker.

Weird, I didn’t hear the rain.

“Dude, it’s three a.m.” I squeeze my temples, barely able to think after our boozy night. “Weren’t you staying at Mia’s? Did you fight?”

His gaze darkens. “Dylan, we’re friends, right?”

“Yeah.” I stifle a yawn. “You can crash on the—”

“I need to borrow something.”

My skin prickles in the balmy night. “What?”

“A shovel.”

My eyes finally focus, and I realize it’s not rain on his jacket.

It’s blood.

JUDGe’s Feedback

This one placed third in my group and got me to the next round! The feedback is below!

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY

{2195}  The word choice in this is precise, each description carrying weight to further the story. Moving plot onward using conversation can be challenging but it’s done effectively here.

{1936}  This story had me riveted. The first line shows us the urgency of the doorbell as it’s clearly not the first time it’s rung. The dripping windbreaker and the fact that it’s not raining – again, eerie clues that something is not quite right.

{2230}  What a compelling read! I must say, I love this title — very clever, and it offers great foreshadowing as to what kind of events may unfold. I like how descriptive this story is; I could easily envision this playing out in my head while I read it, almost like a scene from a spooky short film. It’s very visual, and that reveal at the end is great: the jacket was wet with blood, and not from the rain.  

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK

{2195}  Suspense thrives on what is left unsaid, and in this case I might prefer to leave out the last two words and leave the reader’s mind to figure out. Instead of using italics for thought, it may do double duty to have Dylan, for example, look up the cloudless sky and also let the reader make that inference.  

{1936}  I honestly don’t think that last line is needed (the age-old “show don’t tell” rule). Possibly consider ending it with the line just before it (“My eyes finally focus, and I realize it’s not rain on his jacket”). Trust the readers to draw their own grisly conclusion.  

{2230}  While I love this clever use of the prompts — particularly, “borrowing a tool” — perhaps there could be a quick line buttoning everything up at the end. Maybe something almost comedic, like: “And, uh, mind if I use your washer, too?” (Referring to his blood-soaked clothes.) Also, any chance there could be some foreshadowing earlier on? I like Dylan’s dialogue; however, instead of asking if there had been a fight last night, perhaps he could experience a brief flashback revealing that there in fact was one. It could all come flooding back to him. This is just some food for thought — excellent work on this story!

NYC Midnight Challenge Entry: A Ghost at the End of the World

A Ghost at the end of the world

December 2021 (Round Two)
Genre: Ghost Story
Word: Agree
Action: Pulling a String
Time Constraint: 24 hours
Length: 250 words

Tara woke slowly in her bedroom, the oppressive air silent and thick on her damp skin. She placed her bare feet on the rough wooden floor and considered the peeling floral wallpaper marked with rows of neat tallies.

Today was the day.

She rose and glided through the creaking farmhouse to the decrepit kitchen where her parents awaited. Her mother bustled between the sink, oven, and refrigerator—not at all bothered that they’d ceased to work years ago. The rocking chair swayed in the corner where her father gazed out the broken bay windows, surveying their overgrown lawn, forlorn without his attentions. In death, they orbited the house as they had in life, like a black and white photograph that refused to fade.

Here, at the end of times, Tara wasn’t sure what to make of them. After all, in an emptied world, perhaps Tara was just another unwitting phantom.

“Today’s the day.” She pulled at a rogue string on her fraying t-shirt, the line of pills waiting on the table. “I can’t do this anymore.”

No reaction. If her parents disagreed with her choice, they didn’t show it.

Tara picked up the first capsule and raised it to her mouth.

The screen door banged open, and Tara nearly leapt out of her skin. She turned to find a wide-eyed stranger standing at her door. Trembling, he fell to his knees. “Are you… a ghost?”

Tara squeezed her hand around the pill, a slow smile curving her lips. “I guess not.”

JUDGe’s Feedback

This one didn’t place, but the feedback is below!

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY

{2104}  You successfully created a setting that was evocative and ghostlike. The line about the end of times combined with the reference to an emptied world gave your story a feeling of loneliness that came across very clearly.

{2086}  This story creates a superb sense of atmosphere, in a setup that is equally original. From the non-functional appliances to the overgrown lawn, and the dark decision that Tara has reached, the narrative exudes presence and mood.

{2035}  I loved the repetition in Tara’s life with the ghosts that surrounded her. The paragraph about her family going through orbits was particularly compelling, drawing us into Tara’s reality.

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK

{2104}  I found myself confused about Tara and her place and role in the house. You wrote some things that suggested that she is also a ghost:

#1 – she glided through the farmhouse,

#2 – the appliances were not working so if she were alive, how would she be able to feed herself,

#3 – you suggest that she might be an “unwilling phantom”.

At the same time, you make suggestions that she is corporeal:

#1 – her skin is damp,

#2 – she is about to take some pills suggesting suicide, however this could be just the repetition of her death,

#3 – the stranger at the door asking if she were a ghost, yet he might be a recent ghost not realizing that he is also dead.

Was this house real or was it a stopping off place for the newly dead? Is Tara’s role to meet them?

These were all questions that went through my head as I read. I think your story would have been made even stronger if the ending were more clear.

{2086}  It might be interesting to consider whether there is some specific reason the stranger shows up at the moment Tara is about to take the line of pills she has set up for herself. This coincidence creates a compelling twist, but with even more context or catalytic purpose, it might land just that much more effectively.

{2035}  To me, it was a little too unclear who the man was that bounded through her front door. I think that trimming back some of the detailed description in the first paragraph would free up six or so words you could utilize in the ending to clarify the man’s sudden appearance.

Ups and downs with your friendly neighborhood small potatoes writer (2021 in review: Part Two)

So, in my last post, I talked about the numbers. But of course, the year is more than just numbers! Now, I want to talk about the highlights! New things I tried. Things I learned. Things I’d do again, and things I won’t. Mostly this review is a reminder for me on how to improve for next year, but hopefully others might find it useful as well.

New things I tried!

  • This weird writing/reading blog I’ve got going on! Since I often reach out to book-bloggers with review requests before I publish, I figured I should also open for review requests and try to give back to the writing community a little bit. This year, I reviewed 78 books! And honestly, thinking critically about what I enjoy and don’t enjoy in stories has been a great help to my own writing. Overall, it’s been fun and it’s a great way to support other writers and also get myself out there. So I think I’ll continue into 2022.
  • The NYC midnight challenge! This year I tried the 250 word, 100 word, and short story NYC midnight challenge. The short story one was a little more of a commitment than I think I wanted, but I made it to the final round of the 100 word challenge 🥳, and I’ve really enjoyed the feedback from all the contests. (You can see my feedback here) Will definitely continue the 100 & 250 word contests in 2022.
  • I also entered Odriel’s Heirs in the Book Blogger’s Novel of the Year Award, and it came in 5th! 🥳 The blog highlights they do as part of this contest are really cool and I would totally enter again in 2022.
  • The Page Turner awards! So, this one was a little bit of a lark. The more MS’s you submit, the cheaper the entry fee for each is, and I was able to submit five! Idriel’s Children and The Gatekeeper of Pericael were both finalists for the book award (full disclosure… there were a *ton* of finalists). And Codename: CNDRLA made the longlist for the writing award! 🥳 No luck for Odriel’s Heirs or The Belethea Race Royale (entered in the writing mentorship award), but I got a cool little finalist badge for Gatekeeper & Idriel’s. Still, it’s pretty light on the perks so I’d probably pass on this contest in the future.
The badge is cute though!

Realizations

  • Although I love Burning Shadows and Idriel’s Children. After I finish the Odriel’s Heirs series, I will not be self-publishing any other sequels. I missed the prospect of querying (I know, weird right?!), and even though Idriel’s is a stand-alone, I found the sequel harder to market.
  • On a similar note, I don’t plan to write any more middle grade. Although I love writing for younger readers, getting a self-pubbed book into an actual middle-grader’s hands is super tough! And there aren’t as many book bloggers that are into middle grade. So YA all the way!
  • In 2020 I definitely rushed through the querying process for Gatekeeper. This year, I’ve gotten better at juggling multiple projects and realized just how silly that was. I started querying CNDRLA in November 2020. Currently, CNDRLA has three full requests out, and querytracker is telling me one of them will probably take until June to (let’s be real) get rejected.😂 Last year I probably would’ve been antsy… this year, it’s happily on the backburner as I work on other stuff.
  • I need one or two reliable SFF beta reading services in my life. I love beta read-swapping, but I have a terrible habit of taking on too much and gobbling up a lot of my time. So, I’m currently in the process of finding some affordable go-to’s. When I find them, I’ll let you know, but if you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them!
  • Social Media! Can be a great way to market your books… and it can also be time-consuming and draining. At one point, I got so caught up in doing daily prompts on Twitter and Instagram, it was taking up a lot of my time, and also piling on a lot of needless self-pressure. So this year, I realized I could give myself permission to step back from social media a little bit. Sure, my engagement’s not as good as it was, and I’m sure I’m missing out on marketing opportunities… but honestly I’m much happier when I don’t feel like I have to post, and it gives me extra time to focus on my WIPs!

refining the process!

  • This year, I made some huge strides in figuring out what my writing process is, and how to juggle multiple projects at once.
  • Alphas, CPs, Betas, Editor, Cover Artist, ACX narrator, ARC readers.
  • I now have go-to CPs (shout out to Caleb & Kayleigh!), an editor (MK editing) and a cover artist (100 covers.) I know where to go for ARC readers (Book Sirens), and I also know that audiobooks are totally not profitable for me 😅 (but they’re so amazing that I probably still won’t be able to stop myself.) Also, the Microsoft Word read-aloud function is a proofreading miracle!
  • I’m still searching for go-to Beta services, but with the process nailed down, it takes a lot of guesswork out, so I can focus on other things.

Still working on it

  • Getting a BookBub deal for Odriel’s Heirs. UGH! One of these days!!!
  • Querying! I will probably forever be working on this. But Codename: CNDRLA got the most full requests of all my works so far, so I feel like I might be getting better at it.
  • Marketing! This one is still super tough for me… but I’ve kind of made peace with it. I’m much happier spending less time on social media and more time writing, even if it means less sales. I’m also still trying to figure out which ebook newsletter promo’s work best too, so maybe I’ll try to be more methodical about it in 2022. I do think it works better to do 1 or 2 at a time and stretch them out rather than concentrating them all at once.
  • Also, I took the jump and went wide this year with Draft2Digital! That decision probably deserves its own post. But I think with future books I’ll stick with the Amazon/KDP situation… mostly because it’s easier to give away free books. 😅

wrapping up the year

So, I learned a TON this year! …And I still have a lot to work on… 😅 But there are couple things I’m super pumped about for 2022.

  • Codename: CNDRLA has gotten the most requests of any of my works so far, and I can’t wait to get it out there!
  • The Belethea Race Royale (working title) is my first sci-fi, my first dual POV, and my strongest side of romance yet. I’m so excited to query in 2022! Now… if only I could come up with a better title…🤔
  • 2022 will be the year I finish my first trilogy. And although I’m sure I’ll be a little sad to close the book on Okarria and Odriel’s Heirs, the epic conclusion is going to be so much fun to write!

That’s all I got for this year. As always, if you have any questions, suggestions, or recommendations please feel free to reach out! It’s been a blast, and I’ll see you all in 2022! 🥳

Thanks for reading!

Ups and downs with your friendly neighborhood small potatoes writer (2021 in review: Part One)


Well, it’s that time again! Time to look back on the year and see what worked, what didn’t, and how this whole writing thing is going. The review is important to me to make sure I’m still enjoying the process and see where I can do better.

In most of these self-publishing posts, I often mention how important it is to define what success means to us, measure ourselves in growth, and shooting for obtainable goals. But I also want to be transparent about my experience as a small-time self-pubbed writer.

So in this post, I’ll give a quick snapshot of my numbers, and and then in part two, I’ll talk more about the specific highlights and lessons learned.

The cold hard Numbers

Not much to write home about here. I sold:
15 hardcovers
93 ebooks
73 paperbacks
3,988 pages in KU
20ish* audiobooks
Total: 214ish copies

I’ve given away:
4,545 ebooks
38 paperbacks
179 audiobook promo codes
Total: 4,762 copies (not counting eARCs)

And my Goodreads review counts are currently at:
Odriel’s Heirs: 4.36 stars, 134 ratings / 109 reviews
The Gatekeeper of Pericael: 4.07 stars, 82 ratings / 75 reviews
Burning Shadows: 5 stars, 11 ratings / 8 reviews
Idriel’s Children: 4.29 stars, 42 ratings / 36 reviews
Total: 4.29 stars / 273 ratings / 228 reviews
(Thanks so much to everyone who took time to read and review—this means SO much to me!)

Which brings me to a whopping:
$183.82(ish)
(Thank goodness for a solid day job! 😅)

So, yeah. Like I said—small potatoes writer over here just trying to grow and have a good time. 😂 So I try to keep my expectations low and look on the bright side. I put three more books out in the world this year, got more sales and reviews in 2021 than I did in 2020, I learned a lot, and I had a good time doing it. There’s still obviously a lot to learn, but I’d still call it a good year. 😊

But I also wanted to measure the year in another way…

*This is so hard to measure, because ACX lumps in your redeemed promo codes as ‘sales’ so this is purely a guess based on royalties…which are also counted in a variety of ways. Honestly it could be anywhere from 6-50 copies.

The warmer, fuzzier numbers

So, I’m constantly thinking about how to measure writing growth and goals, but it wasn’t until I was trying to estimate what I could accomplish in 2022, that a very simplistic idea dawned on me.

Successful authors often give some version of the advice that the best way to get better at writing, is to just keep writing. So, of course, the answer should have been obvious. I should measure my growth in words.

There are a lot of you who are probably looking at the screen like: 🙄 well duh, girl.

But I think this is trickier than it seems, because I’m not just talking about the words we write. I can usually write a book in 3 months, but it takes another 9 months (and countless rereads) to revise, edit, and polish…not to mention querying.

So, I think we need to not only count the words we write but also those that we revise, query, and publish (and if you have more steps in your process, then count those too!). Add them all together, and then we can get a feel for what we really accomplished in this writing year.

For comparison. I’m also adding 2020, since I didn’t do this last year. (Also… I’m not adding flash fiction – it’s too hard to keep track of.)

2020:
Words written: 10,000(ish) + 10,000(ish) + 78,242 = 98,242 (1 complete, 2 partials)
Words revised: 50,581 + 74,948 = 125,529 (2 books)
Words published: 74,083 (1 book)
Words queried: 50,581 (1 book)
Total: 348,435 words

2021:
Words Written: 20,828+94,328+21,013 = 136,016 (2 books, 1 WIP)
Words Revised: 20,828+78,242+94,328 = 193,398 (3 books)
Words Published: 20,828+50,581+78,242 = 149,651 (3 books)
Books Queried: 74,948 (1 book)
Total: 554,013 words

Now, that’s an interesting comparison! I really didn’t know 2021 was more productive than 2020. And while I’m sure there are a lot of reasons behind this, I know it’s in part because I made some important realizations as a writer this year that have really helped me grow and become more purposeful and efficient in my process. (Which I’ll take on in the next post.)

Of course, however the numbers are tallied, our writing year is not just a number. And, we can’t realistically increase that word count every year. Eventually we’re going to cap out. Even looking forward to my goals for next year, I don’t think I’ll get anywhere close to this year.

  • Finish Ninth Circle (50K words left)
  • Write Time’s Orphan (70K words)
  • Revise Time’s Orphan (70K)
  • Publish Codename: CNDRLA (75K)
  • Query The Belethea Race Royale (94K)

Total: 359K

But, that’s a goal I can really wrap my head around, one that’s completely in my control, and one that I’ll enjoy working toward.

My goal is words. My goal is writing. My goal is growth.

And it was a pretty awesome year. 😊

More to come!