Sneak Peeks

SURPRISE Cover Reveal!

If you’re a follower of my blog, you’ll know that my second book has been in the works for a while now.

I am SO excited to share the final cover design with you! (Scroll down to see!)

“A Fierce Debt” will be officially released for Amazon Kindle on July 2, 2023. Yes, that’s this year. Yes, I feel crazy publishing books two years in a row. Absolutely bonkers.

This book will be my second one published but it will be my first foray into fiction writing. My first book, “How to Become a Grown-Ass Woman,” is a self-help book aimed toward women twenty-something and up.

Why the pivot? Well, fiction and fantasy/romance in particular has always been my true love. It’s what I read the most and where my favorite authors are. I’ve always dabbled in short-form creative writing but writing a full-length fiction novel is a different beast. I wrote the entirety of “A Fierce Debt” during #NaNoWriMo last year. (If you’d like to hear more about that crazy experience, check out some of my older posts.)

Book Summary/Teaser:

They arrive every spring. Since Aislinn arrived in the Reach as a young girl, she has witnessed the town’s panic when the Sionnaighs, a notorious group of bandits, come to raid. Kept as an unwanted ward,  Aislinn dreams of escaping the mountain-side town and exploring the rest of An Tsean-Tíre.

When fate leads her to strike a deal with the bandits’ fierce leader, she intends to use the opportunity to start her own adventure. But somewhere along the journey through mountain villages and deep caves, Aislinn finds her views on the Sionnaighs and her own agenda in question.

Is honoring the deal worth her freedom? And could the bandits’ mission be closer to her own than she could have possibly imagined?

Okay, okay…without further ado:

I am thrilled to share the start of Aislinn’s story with you in a few short months. (Yes, I said “start.” This is a planned trilogy.)

Keep checking this blog for further updates!


I Joined a Writer’s Circle and It’s Pretty Stinkin’ Cute

Have you ever heard of or participated in a writer’s circle?

I had heard of the concept before, kind of like a knitting or quilting circle, but had never participated in one until a few weeks ago.

I work at a midwestern academic library on a public university campus. As such, I work with a lot of librarians and it probably doesn’t surprise you to know that some of them are voracious readers and writers. The other week, I got invited to join a small group of our faculty and staff who had started a writing circle.

Every week, the group meets in a quiet and comfy conference room where we chat amongst ourselves until the circle’s host brings out her sound bath bowl.

Yes, there is a sound bath bowl. It’s legit.

At the start of the hour, she reads a quote from a famous author or writer and rings the bowl. The tone echoes through the room and for 15 minutes, we do nothing but write and focus. Every 15 minutes, we take a short break and then begin again at the sound of the bowl.

I won’t lie, it seemed a little woo-woo to me at first. But having a solid hour to focus on writing, with dedicated breaks spread throughout, has been a blessing. It can be really hard as a writer, in our busy day-to-day lives, to find time to truly immerse ourselves in our craft.

Some of the people in our circle use the time to focus on work-like writing; others use it to work on proposals, papers or other personal academic projects. I personally like to use the time to practice more creative writing or work on this blog.

I’m really looking forward to continuing to participate in the circle and I hope that we grow more members over time.

What do you think of the idea of a writer’s circle? Do you currently participate in one?

Bookish Things

Worth the Money? Kindle Unlimited & Book of the Month Club

If you’re a big reader (and I’m assuming you are since you’re reading this blog!) then you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program and book subscriptions such as Book of the Month and Litjoy Crate.

A big question I hear from many readers when it comes to these programs is if they are worth the money or not. It’s a good question, considering that KU currently runs at just under $10 a month and a typical book subscription box can run anywhere from $15-60 depending on the subscription type.

So here’s what I think:

Kindle Unlimited: Worth it, but with caveats

With KU, you get to read up to 20 ebook titles at a time for free. It can be a pretty sweet deal since many authors throw their books into the program. That said, you’re not likely to find a ton of new releases in the program. It’s also really only worth it if you’re a voracious reader and you cover at least 3-4 books a month. Your typical Amazon ebook will run about $3-6 so to make the price worth it, you’d need to read a few books at minimum.

Book of the Month Club: Worth it if you’re not picky

BOTM’s gimmick is that they pick 5-7 books every month that members can choose from. One book a month runs about $15-17 and you can add on more books if you want for similar prices. It’s not a bad price per se, considering it’s similar to what you would pay for a new release in-store or maybe slightly discounted. My issue with BOTM, and why I unsubscribed, is that you aren’t guaranteed to like any of the choices. You can skip a month without paying but I’d personally just rather buy books directly that I 1000% want to read.

Book boxes such as LitJoy Crate, OwlCrate: Save your money

I love a box of goodies as much as any person and for that reason, I was an enthusiastic member of OwlCrate for months. Unfortunately, they are not cheap, and many of them want you to pay for several months’ worth at a time (think quarterly or semi-annually.) In addition, a lot of these boxes include special items that revolve around a central theme for the month’s book. Sounds cool and it can be cool, but the problem is that not every item is going to be a winner.

With Owlcrate, I sometimes got candles that smelled awful to me, or really cheaply made jewelry. I didn’t really like getting items that were useless to me and it made the overall cost of the box not worth it.

Have you tried any of these subscriptions before? What do you think?


How to Support New Writers, Both Young and Old

If you’re reading this, chances are you aren’t new to writing yourself, whether that be as a reader, author, or blogger.

It’s easy to forget that writing doesn’t come easily and naturally to everyone. Like almost everything else, it’s a skill that can be improved over time and ties into many other skills and personality quirks. For example, I’ve found that voracious readers tend to be naturally good writers when they put pen to paper because they’ve absorbed aspects of writing like building plot, structure and good character development.

But if somebody isn’t a strong reader or doesn’t think of themselves as imaginative or creative, the writing process can be pretty daunting.

Here are a few ways to support new writers no matter their age.

Encourage them to just write, without fear of typos or grammatical errors.

Spelling errors can be fixed. That’s what Grammerly and spellcheck are for. New writers will find it easier if they just focus on getting their thoughts or story on paper without fear of “getting it wrong.”

I’ve always hated the prevalence of grammar policing in the writing world because it comes across as uppity and daunting to outsiders and newcomers. While those things do matter if you’re publishing or sharing your work, too many writers are shut down early in their attempts to write for fear of misspelling a word.

Focus on giving them positive feedback initially.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been writing for a day or your entire life; when you put part of yourself on paper, your ego gets tied up with it. New writers should be consistently given positive feedback about what they are doing right, with constructive feedback given in small doses. The goal isn’t to baby anyone, but build their confidence.

If they get stuck, ask questions instead of providing suggestions.

Only the writer knows the story or plan inside their head. I’ve tried the route of giving suggestions before and surprise, my suggestions are never “quite right” for what they have in mind.

Instead, ask the writer questions to help them move past a blockade: What do you think this character would do next in this situation? How do you imagine this scene going? Asking questions in this way can help the writer brainstorm but come up with solutions that they like.

Do you consider yourself new to writing or an old hat? What advice would you give someone new to writing?

Bookish Things

Sharing My Experience as a Little Free Library Steward: It’s All Gravy

If you’re not already familiar with Little Free Libraries, they are those cute birdhouse-looking things you see cropping up all over town and your neighborhood.

Little Free Library actually started as an organization that aims to increase reader access to books in communities, including underserved areas. The idea is that anyone can donate and drop off books at these locations, and anyone can pick up a book to read. Most LFLs contain a wide mix of nonfiction, fiction and children’s literature…I’ve even seen people put magazines and movies in them!

Here is the Little Free Library I am a steward for; it is located in Hale Library at Kansas State University. So basically a library in a library!

I became a steward of a LFL on K-State’s campus in 2021 when I helped start a LFL location in my place of work. I work in an academic library and even though the building is full of books, there isn’t a lot of popular literature, or the books that most people out there are reading. I wanted to offer students and patrons the option to pick up, for free, popular books for fun reading whenever they visited.

In the two-ish years since the LFL has been around, it’s overwhelmingly been a positive experience for me. I love seeing people browse the shelf and take books home with them.

I’ve been in touch with other LFL stewards and unfortunately, not everybody has had such a positive experience. It’s become more commonplace, especially for LFLs in outdoor public spaces, to hear about people taking books from LFLs just to sell them for cash. Some people have tried to combat this by putting by pleaing signs or stamping the books.

Thankfully, our LFL has never been cleaned out and even if it was, I work with a ton of librarians: I’m never hurting for books.

Overall, I greatly enjoy being a steward for our LFL and it makes me happy to help others read more, even in a small way. Anybody can start a LFL or become a steward; if you’re interested in learning more, check out the Little Free Library website!


Thinking of Self-Publishing? Read This First.

If you’re considering writing a book, or have already started one, you might eventually come to the Crossroads of Publishing.

At this crossroads in your journey as an author, you might feel the pressure to decide whether or not to pursue traditional publishing or go the sometimes wacky and wild route of self-publishing. In my own journey, I decided to self-publish and promote my first book. Though I don’t regret the decision by any means, I learned over time that both avenues have their merits and sticky points.

Here are 6 things you should know about self-publishing before you make the leap:

It’s a LOT of work.

This probably isn’t a huge surprise but yep, self-publishing takes time and effort. That’s because you are essentially doing everything yourself. No publisher is helping you out or taking on any of the designing, editing or marketing; it’s all you, baby.

If you outsource anything, be prepared to invest quite a bit of money.

If you don’t want to do everything yourself, you can opt for paying people to design your cover, do a thorough edit of your manuscript and blast it on social media…but it’s going to cost you. I paid about $50 for 2 cover options from a Fiverr designer, but that was the cheap option. Spending lots of money on self-publishing is also a big gamble because you never know how successful your book will be.

You get to decide how much money you make.

The good news is, when you self-publish, you get better royalties because you’re not giving a chunk away to your overlord. You also get to set the price on how much your book sells for.

Prepare yourself for never shutting up about your own book, ever.

A large part of selling a book is marketing. So I hope you’re comfortable with bringing your book up in every random conversation you have. You have to champion yourself as an author because, until you start getting positive reviews from readers, the only person who can hype your book up is you.

You make the final call on creative choices.

Want a dolphin wearing a party hat on the cover? Cool, you can do that. Want pictures in sepia? It’s your call. When you self-publish, you’re the boss so you get to make the rules when it comes to creative choices. That applies to the text too; you won’t have to cut things you don’t want to like a traditional publisher might request.

You can go as fast or as slow as you want.

You set the pace. You can write for 3 months straight and then take a year to chill before you publish because no publisher is hounding you for that final chapter. You’re not required to wait until a certain time of year if you want to go ahead and publish your fantasy sequel.

I think self-publishing is a great option for go-getter types that want more control over their writing and publishing process. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows but it’s a great way to feel inspired and hey, when your book is out there, you’ll know it was all thanks to you!

Bookish Things

My Top 3 Favorite Books of 2023 So Far (Plus 1 That Was 1000% Dumpster Fire)

It’s been an interesting year of books for me so far.

I won’t lie, I have been doing a lot more DNF-ing this year than I feel like is usual for me. I don’t know if that’s because the books I’m picking up are truly meh or if it’s just that, as I get older, I have less of a desire to push through things I’m not enjoying.

In either case, there have definitely been a few amazing, stand-out novels in the first quarter of 2023. Here are my top three:

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

This novel, centered on a woman being ostracized in her village because she’s thought to have killed her husband, seemed really out ofleft field for my usual taste. However, it is hilarious. The characters are simply just very good. The pacing of the book also keeps you entertained and reading.

A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon

If you read and enjoyed The Priory of the Orange Tree, this one was probably already on your list. However, I don’t think you have to have read Priory to “get” or enjoy this prequel. I actually thought the story and writing in this book were better than Priory. If you like reading high fantasy but want aspects of queer relationships and feminism, this is a great series to jump into.

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

This horror/drama/comedy surprised me a lot. It’s really rare to find a book that can weave horror and comedy together in a way that doesn’t come across as odd. There are some really awful, freaky parts to this book, but it’s laced with a sense of humor that doesn’t make the book too dark. I also really enjoyed the characters, their backstories, and how the book uses the plot to discuss family ties.

And now, one dumpster fire I feel obligated to tell the world to avoid:

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

I remember reading My Year of Rest and Relaxation and thinking that it was weird but palatable. This book, which shares the story of a poor sheep herder’s son turned wealthy lord’s court jester essentially, was beyond weird. It was disgusting. Think overly graphic depictions of violence, sexual assault, abuse by forcing servants to put various fruits in various orifices, etc.

I didn’t end up finishing the book because at halfway through, I couldn’t see the plot getting any better. It was the literary equivalent of finding yourself in a muddy pit filled with garbage. If there was a point to this book, I assume most people won’t stick around long enough to find it.

Bookish Things

How to Style Your Bookshelf

I’ve seen A LOT of posts lately on social media about people showing off their styled bookshelves and sharing ideas.

Since I just moved into a new home, I thought I’d share pictures of my own bookshelf and ideas for how to style one.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that your bookshelf should reflect you. You don’t have to follow certain trends, such as faerie lights and funko pops if they don’t appeal to you. Personally, I don’t want lights that give off heat anywhere near my books.

Sort your books in a way that works for you

There are so many ways to sort books on a shelf. You can sort by color and go full rainbow, sort by genre, author, series, or be crazy like me and turn your books spine-side in to give your shelf a neutral look.

Add items that add meaning

In my opinion, a bookshelf looks better when it has more than books on it. Add in knick knacks or items that remind you of your favorite characters or hobbies. You can also add plants (fake or real,) picture frames, and candles.

One of my favorite items on my shelf is a personalized book stamper that my sister gifted me.

However you style your shelf, make sure to put your bookshelf in a place that avoids direct sunlight, which can cause fading. The shelf should also be in a relatively dry place that won’t become too humid.

Bookish Things

The Rise of the Mega-Popular Author: Yes, I’m Talking Colleen Hoover

Before I was an author, I was a reader.

To this day, if I had to choose between identifying more as a writer or a reader, I would say reader. I wouldn’t have become the former if I hadn’t started out as the latter. As such, I still like to fully immerse myself in things like reading book blogs, Goodreads reviews and more.

Lately, I’ve been super surprised by the overwhelming presence of a few specific authors on my feeds. I’m not exaggerating when I say that on one Facebook group in one particular, one popular author was the subject of discussion on EVERY OTHER POST.

Yes, it was Colleen Hoover.

There were posts asking who had read which of her books. There were posts asking who else hated Verity. There were Instagram posts sharing artsy stylings of their copies. There were people sharing limited edition covers and seeking CoHo merch. There were posts debating about Hoover’s decision to create a coloring book based off of It Ends With Us.

One poor brave soul dared to post that they didn’t get the CoHo hype and could the group share other authors they enjoyed. They were promptly shredded to pieces as people clapped back that they are allowed to stan whatever authors they want and that her books got them through a tough time, thank you very much.

I totally get that people want to chat about culture and what’s ~trending~, but the idea of book chatter being mostly around a few mega-popular authors gets a little too echo-chamb-ery for me. If we’re all giving lip service to the same authors, who are already experiencing success, what does that mean for less well-known authors? What does that mean for us as readers?

And look, I don’t hate Colleen Hoover by any means. I’ve read most of her books and they kept me entertained. But they don’t blow me away and her mega-popularity surprises me. Did none of these people read Sarah Dessen’s emotional bombs as teens?!?

You like what you like. But when a very few authors become mega-popular because of BookTok and co., it can create an echo chamber where we all end up reading the same types of books. If we stick to only what people who are just like us suggest, we aren’t allowing ourselves to explore options that further challenge us.

And I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Promoting, Publishing

How Much Money Does a Self-Published Author Make? A Realistic Look.

I won’t lie, I worried about writing and sharing this post.

Since I’ve officially joined the world and community of self-published authors, I’ve gotten a very realistic view of the publishing industry and how it works. The unfortunate truth is that the grand majority of self-published authors make less than $1,000 from a single book in their lifetime. Breaking into traditional publishing is very tough because the market is overwhelmingly oversaturated with options.

All this to say, nobody here is getting rich, okay?

That said, I don’t want to put anybody off of writing and publishing their book just because they won’t make money off it. Leaving your mark on the world and putting your writing out there can be validating in and of itself, no matter the response.

So let’s crunch numbers.

As you can see, I have sold 154 total copies of my book, “How to Become a Grown-Ass Woman,” since I released the print and Kindle versions in fall 2022.

Now for the monies:

Since last September, I’ve made a little over $134 from my book. My print copy has been more successful than the ebook and I’ve made about $6 from KENP, which is Amazon’s payout-by-the-page program that you can enroll in when you sign your book up for Kindle Unlimited. You’ve probably noticed that as sales go down over time, so do your royalties.

Before we get too excited about that $134 of mine, let’s back up and look at the expenses I incurred in order to publish my book.

Not including the copious amounts of tea and coffee I drank while writing, I paid the following:

  • $50 for a cover design through Fiverr (2 options to choose from)
  • ~$300 for 10 ISBNs and barcodes
  • $30 for a few months subscriptions to a book review swap service

I did my own marketing, so I saved a bunch there, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. I work a full-time job and so promoting my book is usually not my first priority. I might get more sales and attention if I shelled out for a PR assistant, but I’m not willing to pay for that. Again, it’s another area where self-published authors have a harder time than those working with a publishing house.

I also chose to publish my book with Amazon, which is free. If I had wanted a larger reach, I could upload my book to other distributors, such as Ingram Spark, but that would cost an additional $50 or so.

$380 expenses incurred – $134 income = -$246 in the hole still

I would have to make another $246 before I could claim I’d made a profit on my book.

Again, I wanted to provide a realistic look at what a typical self-published author makes, but I don’t want this to dissuade anybody from pursuing publishing. I learned so much through the process and hearing positive feedback from friends, family and strangers alike made me happy more so than money ever could.

If you have a book in your heart and want to get it on a page, you should do so. Who says you have to make a living off being an author? Why can’t you just be one because you want to be?