2021 Year in Review, 2022 Resolutions

Hello all! In lieu of my usual monthly goal recap, or pestering people for interviews over the holidays, I wanted to take this 5th Friday of December to do a year in review. I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas last week, if you celebrate, and a Happy New Years tonight! Strangely enough, I don’t actually remember last New Years. It’s like I set up my bullet journal for 2020, making jokes with my friends about how if last century was the roaring twenties, this century would have the screaming twenties, then I blinked and here we are. Oops. But there’s proof that the past year did, in fact, exist, so let’s see if I met any of the resolutions that I don’t remember setting for myself.

2021 Resolution Review

Finish editing Storge: I half finished this and hit the 50K mark, but paused because my priorities changed. I’m still very proud of what I’ve done with this story so far, and I think the changes I’m making are for the better, however long and tedious they are to implement.

Starting beta readers for Storge: This did not happen, as the 2nd (and 3rd) draft wasn’t complete, however I did start the beta reading process for a different WIP, which I’ll talk about in a bit.

Finish Outline for Laoche Chronicles: Yet again, I did not completely finish this goal, ambitious as it was, but I overhauled my magic system, developed new backstories for several main characters, and fleshed out my world’s politics. This is an ambitious story that’s constantly evolving as I improve my craft, but I realized I would have to focus on some smaller-scale projects first to solidify my skill-set before tackling this titan.

Read 24 books: I read 34 books this year, counting beta reading Siarven’s Dreams Shadow twice which isn’t included in Goodreads (yet). You can read our interview here if you haven’t yet.

Get my act together with this Author Platform business: Last year at this time, I had next to no organized workflow for maintaining this website, and still needed to find my footing as a blogger, as well as an author and student. Since then, I’ve posted almost every Friday this year, maintained a biweekly posting schedule on my Instagram, launched a mailing list, reached my 1st year anniversary of starting this site, and hit a bunch of follower goals. I’m incredibly proud of my progress and beyond grateful for all of your immense support.

Other Accomplishments

Filled a whole sketchbook: I’m so proud of how far my art has come. Though it still doesn’t come close to the moving pictures in my head, I’m pleased to see the progress towards making my ideas a reality and conveying them to other people.

Outlined, Drafted, Edited (x2) my Middle Grade Fantasy novel, Runaways, recruited beta readers, and sent off the draft, in under 6 months.

Wrote, edited, and published two Stormlight Archive fan-fictions: Four Hours for Bridge Four is an lyric anthology of short stories during the Way of Kings timeline. Three Brothers is a one-shot “deleted scene” from Rhythm of War.

Did a TON of research on publishing and website updates: Undoubtedly, the publishing landscape will change significantly between when I did this research, and when I do start publishing, but it was a valuable learning experience and left me better equipped to approach this site and my future plans. You can find my findings compiled here and here.

Came up with a nifty new pen name: This shall stay a secret for now, as I don’t have the time/energy/money to dedicate to building up an all-new author’s persona and platform, but I will be keeping it in my back pocket for future use.

Participated in Jean’s OC Authtober: For those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram: My friend Jean, who I met in the Newsies fanfic space, organized a month long challenge with prompts to help us participants better develop our OCs. She is an incredible writer and a wonderfully kind human being, and I was so happy to learn from her process and fine tune Hannah’s voice as I worked on Runaways. My entries to the challenge are all still available to see on my page and I made a highlight so you can still find them!

Participated in the Inklings Challenge: For those of you who don’t follow the Christian Writeblr community: this was another month long challenge inspired by the real-life writing group called the Inklings, which included literary greats such as Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Chesterton. Participants were sorted into three teams and given prompts for science fiction and fantasy stories based on which author they modeled and some common Christian themes and theology.

I was on Team Lewis, and the prompts for Portal Fantasy and Stewardship fit really well for a short story I wanted to write for the Runaways universe! Around the same time at the beginning of the month, I also put up a poll asking what you wanted to see for my annual Halloween Special – and you chose an in-universe spooky short story, which worked out perfectly! These two ideas combined to create The Replacement, which you can read here! The rest of the Inklings stories can be found on the blog, and I’m slowly working through the backlog of stories. It’s been wonderful to see the creativity, thoughtfulness, and care each and every writer put into their work, and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re interested in learning more about Christian culture and creativity, or if you just want to read some really cool stories!

2022 Resolutions

I think the last section goes to show that we can’t always predict what will capture our attention in the scope of a whole year. Priorities can easily change as you realize what you had planned wasn’t working for you, or real world obligations get in the way. This is why I enjoy doing the monthly goals, because it lets me refocus and record my other accomplishments. Keeping this in mind, I know the next year and a half-ish is going to be insanely busy for me. I have an internship and move to a new far-away city this upcoming summer, and three semesters left until I finish my chemical engineering degree and graduate, which means I have to find a Real Job and be a Real Adult. That’s CRAZY. I know my writing may have to take back-burner, so I’m trying to set incremental resolutions for each of my projects, in the hopes that any forward progress will be working towards at least one of them.

  1. Complete beta reading and personal copy-edits for Runaways, then shop for a professional editor and cover artist so I can prepare it for publication.
  2. Read 50 Books – including my writing nonfiction backlog, and some beta reading assignments
  3. Finish my Storge analysis and read-through, complete 2nd draft.
  4. Maintain, and improve my author’s platform by maintaining/modifying this site, sending out four quarterly newsletters to my mailing list, and growing my Instagram presence with reels and better photos.

Wish me luck, my friends! This being said, I want this blog to be more than me shouting into the void, and so if I can use this platform to help boost other creators, I’d love to see your work too. If you want to have your recommendations and/or your own writing featured in a Resource Rec post, or if you want to collaborate with me, you can leave a comment below for both of those, or contact me on either tumblr or IG! Also feel free to tell me some of your accomplishments and what you’re excited to be working on in the future. I hope you all have a wonderful start to your new year and a happy 2022!

Best Ways to Support Indie Authors and Booksellers

With holiday season coming up, I know many of us are frantically scrambling to put our lists together. But there’s no time like Christmas to spread a little cheer in the book community! Holiday season means survival time for many small businesses, who both rely on the shopping spree to make their sales for the year, and are forced to compete with huge retailers for people’s business. If you’re buying for a bookish friend or family member, or you are the friend or family member receiving books as gifts (because lets be real, if you’re reading this that’s probably the case), here are some ideas on how to support your favorite indie authors and local bookstores!

Buy their books! (or art, or merch, if they have it)

Search the author’s name and try to find a personal website: if they maintain it well, it should be at the top of the search results. Find out if they have a personal store on their site, or if they offer copies of their book in a PDF or EPUB format for being paid directly through a service like PayPal. If you buy the book this way, 100% of the profits go to the author, except maybe a small (10%) transaction fee.

If they don’t have the option to buy their book on their website, next check your local bookstore. If they don’t have it, you can almost always request the book, and they’ll order it in, or maybe even start carrying stock. This goes a long way to support both the local bookstore with your patronage and the author, who will receive closer to 70% royalties on each purchase. If you don’t have a local independent bookstore, most major retailers like Barnes and Nobles, Kobo, Apple books, Google books, etc. also offer better royalty rates than Amazon.

Amazon is the largest book retailer out there. Full stop. Unfortunately, they only give authors 35% royalties, unless they publish exclusively through kindle unlimited. If you can’t find the book you’re looking for on any other platform, it may be because the author opted for a limited distribution plan. For indie authors, it’s difficult to persuade physical stores to carry their books, or they may not have set up the other channels during the publication process. In this case, it’s totally fair to buy the book from Amazon! A sale is better than no sale after all, and they will appreciate your support.

Other ways to support the book community monetarily are to donate to their Kofi pages, signing up for their Patreon groups. Many indie authors don’t make a living off book sales alone and supplement their income with donations/tips. Some bookstores will run holiday fundraisers or charity events. If you like the work that they’re doing, consider tossing a coin to your author.

Don’t have a big gift budget? That’s ok, me neither. There are still plenty of ways to support authors and small bookstores without spending a cent!

Talk about it! Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool for small creators who don’t have a huge marketing fund or a full social battery. It’s also the avenue they have the least control over. If you really enjoyed a book, but you can’t afford to buy a copy for a friend, maybe you could do a book swap instead, and include a homemade bookmark. If other people are asking for your wishlist, give them your TBR. Mention your favorite reads from the year when you meet up with friends and relatives, and it might persuade them to go check it out. Post a quick review on your social media. Every small bit of visibility helps because you never know who will be interested enough to check it out, and pass on the word.

Request the book at your local library! Not only do you get to make friends with the librarians (who are objectively the coolest people in the world), you also get to read the book for free! Meanwhile, the author gets both a sale, and exposure as they land on the “new” shelf with a shiny new barcode, and the library may receive better funding from the footfall and check-out data. More funding = better book buying budget and fun programming for next year. Rinse and repeat.

Leave reviews! Once a listing hits 50 relatively good reviews on Amazon, the site begins free promotion for the author, because they recognize that if enough people liked it enough to leave a review, it’s worth showing to other people in the recommendations list. Once it hits 75 reviews, it’ll also be included in email promotions. Both advertising feats normally cost a ridiculous amount of money, but hitting this threshold is one of the most important landmarks for an indie author.

It also ties into word of mouth, because how will people know if the book is good enough to buy if there aren’t reviews? It’s important to emphasise that these should be honest reviews, so don’t feel you can’t leave one just because you didn’t feel it was 5 stars. Truthful, detailed, 3 and 4 star reviews also help hit that threshold, and won’t be as likely to be marked as spam. If you especially liked the story, every 5-star helps a ton. Also review it on platforms like BookBub and Goodreads if possible! You can copy and paste your thoughts, and it doesn’t have to take long, but it goes a long way.

Join their mailing lists/newsletters: Remember what I said earlier about how most of us don’t have huge marketing budgets? In the realm of social media algorithms, promoting your book is pay-to-play, and even then, your chances of being seen are slim as the posts get swept down the feed. The most reliable way to get news about an author’s sales, new releases, and other events is to join their newsletter. Emails are much less likely to get lost in the internet’s void, and they allow authors to say more than what would get caught in a short post. They also usually come with free reader magnets, which is always a fun treat.

Bookstores and libraries also host events like book signings, giveaways, and holiday programs alllllll the time but might not have the best social media presence. Unless you’re following their mailing list, you’ll miss them. I know nobody wants an inbox over-flooding with promotional material, so it makes sense you’d be picky about which you choose to follow. You can check release schedules if you’re concerned about being overwhelmed, and always unsubscribe if it’s not what you’re looking for anymore. But this is seriously one of the best ways to support authors and small bookstores, though following them on social media doesn’t hurt either.

Flaaawwwless transition into shameless self promotion: I have a new edition of my newsletter coming out next week! This one includes a short story told from the POV of the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future. You should sign up now, so you get the newsletter when it comes out, but in case you miss it, you can still read the backlog of stories later! That list currently includes a narrative poem about Jack of Fables, and a magical realism/sci-fi short story called “Matter.” If you’re looking for something fun and short to read while you’re curled up by the fire this winter break, this is your chance to get three free pdfs. I send out new emails (and new stories) quarterly, so I’ll only be spamming you every three months. I think that’s a fair trade, if I say so myself. Here’s the link to sign up if you’re interested!

I think I’ve rambled enough for today, so now it’s your turn! Tell me about a book you read recently, and I’ll be sure to check it out! Happy reading. 🙂

How To Write Siblings

(This is a republished version of a guide I wrote on Tumblr a while ago that many people seemed to write. I’m posting it here for the benefit of the wider blogging community and for ease of searching because tumblr’s tagging system is notoriously trash.)

There are a few key aspects of the family dynamic you’ll want to keep in mind that will influence how the different relationships form! Siblings can have such a complex relationship that becomes fascinating to see in larger families: they can be best friends and worst enemies, and it’s a criminally underrated dynamic in fiction. Speaking as someone with 4 younger siblings, I’m here today to show you how to build accurate and compelling relationships for your characters.

Parental Roles:

(I’m using the term “parent” loosely, since it may vary depending on the story, but “legal guardian” sounded weird. Y’know what I mean)

Good parents will encourage mutually respectful relationships between their kids, avoid playing favorites, and work to settle bickering quickly and fairly. Siblings might get on each other’s nerves, but they’ll also be friends and whacky in-jokes abound.

Poor parents will either create an incredibly tight bond between siblings (to compensate for the lack of a reliable/safe adult support structure) or will drive siblings apart (probably by playing favorites, creating a bitter rivalry).

Another thing to consider is if both a mother and father figure are present. Kids being raised by a single parent or a grandparent will have a different dynamic than if both were around. Divorce or parental death can be a major traumatic early life event, and will affect how each child relates to their parent and to each other. I can’t really speak to this because I didn’t grow up in a separated family, but research by reading first-hand experiences. If the kids are orphans, or both parents are neglectful, a sibling might step up into the parenting role, creating a complex, co-dependent relationship.

Birth Order:

People will argue about this for aaaaagggess, but broadly speaking, the following personality traits are accurate:

Oldest/Oldest available (when the actual eldest isn’t around)/Oldest Daughter (when the older brothers are useless around the house):

  • Strengths: organized, responsible, leader, probably half-decent at babysitting, cooking, and cleaning, may be a peacemaker between younger siblings.
  • Weaknesses: bossy/opinionated, default center of attention OR invisible depending on the situation, may bully younger siblings
  • With great privilege comes great responsibility

Middle (depending on place in the middle and age gaps, may lean more towards oldest/youngest behaviors in the family dynamic):

  • Strengths: flexible, independent, more laid-back attitude, probably makes friends outside of the family easily
  • Weaknesses: flighty, deliberately annoying, might feel inadequate or looked over in an older sibling’s “shadow”

Youngest:

  • Strengths: “Go-get-em” attitude. They want to run with the older kids, and parents are too exhausted to stop them, so they learn a lot young. If the eldest could stay at home alone overnight at 16, the youngest is probably doing that at 14. Confident. The other default center of attention.
  • Weaknesses: Tag-along, loud/obnoxious, used to getting their way.

When someone only has one sibling, it’s only the oldest/youngest dynamic, and it’s more likely for both to act independently. The parent’s attention isn’t split so many ways, like it would be in a large family, so carefully consider all the interactions and personalities and how they would affect the dynamic between the two. Specifically, if there’s a large age gap, they may function more like only children that live in the same house.

When you have a large family, pretty much everything in your life rotates around the family’s schedule. When are your parents available to take you to X event? Do you have to be present at Y event, who’s babysitting tonight? Each person has a defined role within the family and the relationships reflect that. More people = more chores to be done around the house and everyone would be expected to pitch in, though the elder siblings might share more of the work.

Shared Life Experiences:

How much time did they spend together growing up, and was that a positive or negative experience? Did their family experience a traumatic event? (probably in the protagonist backstory). How did they react and support each other through that? If there’s common ground, they might not talk about it because nothing needs to be said: they lived through it together. Would they hold grudges for old fights, or keep score or favors? What fond memories can they bond over?

Personality Dynamics/Clashes:

Depending on how you built your characters from the above questions, this can be a highly story-specific question to answer, but I’m just going to throw some generic dynamic ideas together inspired by my own siblings and stories:

  • Oldest and 2nd Oldest sisters are mistaken as twins because they’re on the same mental wavelength 80% of the time. Lots of affectionate exasperation and mutual complaining/info dumping.
  • Middle was the youngest for years until a younger sibling was born. Finds themselves caught between youngest “immaturity” and new expectations to be a good example of an older sibling.
  • Two middle kids (2 years apart) bicker as small children but grow into being chill friends as teenagers once they both mature a little.
  • Younger middle has different favored older siblings to go to for different problems when they can’t get mom or dad’s attention (asking oldest for help with school, older middle for help with friends, etc.)
  • The impartial sibiling mediating arguments between overly concerned but justifiably frustrated parents and overly defensive but justifiably irritated sibling.
  • Parents mediating arguments between overly concerned but justifiably frustrated older sibling and overly defensive but justifiably irritated younger sibling.
  • Younger middle and youngest siblings being absolute agents of chaos together, and that insanity factor growing exponentially for each added person involved.
  • The house is just TOO NOISY with all of this chatter, you’re banished outside until dinner time. Go play.
  • The dynamic of: “oh my gosh they’re such a dumbass, but I love them too much to let them get away with this bad decision.
  • Protective of each other against outsiders, even if they bicker a lot: “The only one allowed to punch my sibling is me.”
  • Complaining with each other about their parents
  • So many dumb in-jokes

Communication

If you’re writing a large family, communication is SUPER important. (communication is always important, but especially when there’s a lot of people in the mix). It’s likely the parents have some sort of tracking system in place so they can keep tabs on where their kids are – not to be controlling (though that’s possible if the parents are especially authoritative) but practically, to coordinate rides, and tell when people are going to be home, and figure out what time is dinner going to be (if they eat together), and who’s in the area to do errands, and to check if the kid got to the place safely.

The kids will also learn patience, because they might have to wait around their school for an hour until someone can pick them up. Middle and younger kids are more likely to find friends to catch a ride, whereas oldest kids might just opt to sit in the cafeteria and get ahead on homework, for example. Any older sibling will inevitably help with taxi duties.

In modern settings, that could be a location sharing app or a groupchat where parents say “text us when you get to school!”, or in fantasy settings you could worldbuild a different solution that accomplishes the same goal. The Weasley’s Clock is a great example of this, but you might also have synchronized charms or beacon bracelets or something else that works within your world!

Culture

How does the world treat families and sibling relationships? Do people live in generational households, growing up with dozens of cousins as pseudo-siblings? How much are children expected to respect and defer to their elders, and would you ever find the oldest sibling play wrestling with their baby brother? What kind of coming of age rituals might affect how older or younger siblings are perceived? Do you maintain ties to your family throughout adulthood or are found families common and accepted by law? Family is the most fundamental building block of a society, so once you design how that dynamic works, it can inform other aspects of your world’s philosophy and cultural practices.

I hope this helped you develop the families in your WIP! Before you go, I’d love some feedback on the site and how it’s working for you. Please take a minute to fill out my form and let me know how I can improve. Happy writing!

November Goals

Is anyone else shocked (SHOCKED I tell you!) that it’s already December? As much as I love autumn smells and colors, I cannot say I love the cold or dark that comes with it. At home I’d at least have the stars and wildlife to keep me company through the winter nights but here in the city it’s dreary and makes me want to curl up in bed with a book and hot chocolate. Alas, that’s not an option with midterms, and the seasonal exhaustion hit me hard. I knew I needed a lighter load this month to recover from the whirlwind that was October and the Thanksgiving travels, and my plans this month reflected that. I completed most of the goals, so I’ll take the small wins where I can get them, and keep the gloom at bay.

Before we get onto the goals, I’m gathering some feedback for how this website should work in the new year! I talk about my thought process in the 2nd to last point if you want to read more, but I’m curious to see what you all think of the site! I’ve got a google form linked here with some general questions and a designated space for you to leave recommendations, so please fill it out if you want to contribute to this blog! Thank you so much! 🙂

Won by 4 points – 9/11

Creative Free Space – Art, Embroidery: Normally I have a goal of “Draw # things” but I wanted to leave my options open for this month, hence the free space option. I drew a bunch of character sketches and started on holiday gifts for my college friends! I got a 12 pack of four-inch embroidery rings and started stitching personalized designs. It’s a nice relaxing thing to do during study sessions. It’s satisfying to see the physical progress, and quickly finish a small project which gives me motivation to do the next one. The designs are also fun, a bunch of them are fandom and dnd themed, and I can see myself improving as I draw up patterns. Who knows? Maybe my next magic system will be string-centric!

Creative “Free Space” – Laoche Development: Another fill in block because I cannot control when or why the inspiration comes for certain projects – I developed more of Madelyn and Seth’s character arcs, as well as elaborating on the mechanics of the magic system! I’m quite pleased with the simple but elegant set of rules I’ve put together.

Make edit spreadsheet for Storge and finish chapter 11: I explained my edit spreadsheet in this post, but I’m quite pleased with the developmental changes I’ve made. I only filled the sheet through chapter 9 because I ran out of time to finish, but there was quite a lot of character development work done. I’m trying very hard not to be intimidated by the scope of this story, and I’m afraid my skills aren’t quite up to par, but this exercise has helped put the work into perspective. The plan is to finish the read through for the end of the book, then keep editing from where I left off, taking into consideration the more detailed notes I’ve made. Then I’ll take a 3rd pass on it to focus on fixing anything that might have slipped through the cracks and do a simple style edit. After I’ve got the content in shape, and the prose in a passable state, I’ll send it off to beta readers to see if it makes any sense, and see what happens from there! It’s slow going, but I’m learning a lot.

Research how WordPress tags work and fix: This was a goal last month I didn’t mark off and carried over to this month, but it just didn’t happen with all the other obligations. It would be an afternoon, or 2-day project, so maybe I’ll finish over winter break. Maybe.

Back up computer: This barely counts as a creative goal but I’m adding it anyhow because it took literally eight hours for my poor laptop to process all of my files from 2016, make copies to an external hard drive, and transfer them to Google drive. Don’t lose your work!

Catch up on Something Worth Winning and Inklings Challenge Stories: If you remember the OCAuthtober challenge I did in October, my wonderful friend Jean put together the prompts! SWW is her incredible story, and she posts about once a week. The Inklings Challenge was another October event, in which Christian writers on Tumblr were sorted into three teams, assigned prompts based on the writing styles of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and G.K. Chesterton, and wrote short stories fitting the Christian philosophy. I had fallen behind on reading both of these, and my goal for this month was to catch up, which I did! You can read Jean’s work here and find an index of all the Inklings stories here.

Finish reading RoW: Binging this 400+K book in less than a week during midterms season was probably not my brightest idea but I have no regrets.

Instagram & website scheduling: Cutting it close this month but I didn’t miss a day!

Finish reading Order Of The Sun: This is a draft my friend Lila gave me, and I’m enjoying the story so far! I’m about halfway through but just ran out of time to finish it this month.

Refine plans for the new year: So, back in September, when there was still daylight and motivation galore, I had lofty plans of finishing two drafts of Runaways, going through the beta reading process, line editing, redesigning my website, branding a new pen name to publish my MG and Catholic fiction, setting up new social media accounts, creating a stack of promotional designs, and releasing the book as a serial novel on this site in the new year. This was a gross underestimation of how much time holiday prep, travelling, midterms, and finals would consume. I realized that if I don’t want to burn myself out, and still create a quality story that I’m happy with publishing, I would have to take my time.

In the new year, I’ll keep posting as usual with the name Etta Grace, and keep working on all these grand schemes in the background. There are so many logistics and uncertainties associated with publishing that I don’t want to mess up. I love writing but this isn’t my full-time job yet, and I need to focus on not failing all my ChemE classes. Perhaps you’ll see the announcements in a couple months, as opposed to next month. In the meantime, thank you for your patience! I hope you’ll enjoy the story when it’s ready to share. If you missed it at the top of the post, here’s the link for my feedback form again.

Collect beta feedback and make Runaways edit plan: Because of the changes mentioned in the last point, this goals had to slightly change, as I’m also giving my beta readers more time to finish the story. I have a file system set up to bring together all my feedback and I’m very thankful for the lovely people taking the time to help me with this. 🙂

Thank you for reading! I hope you all have a wonderful winter and holiday season. Happy writing! 🙂