Publishing, Writing

Does My Book Actually Suck? And Other January Woes

I blame this mostly on the dreariness of the month, but lately, I’ve been concerned that my current book-in-progress might actually be shit.

The jury’s still out on the feasibility of this concern, but I’m bringing it up because I’d bet hard cash that other authors go through the same thing.

I started seriously editing “A Fierce Debt” this month and the process is giving me a bad case of challenged self-esteem. I’m only about halfway through my first read-through and I am baffled by the number of common typos I’ve found. I’m not sure whether or not to be glad that most of my typos revolve around a slip of the keyboard rather than just bad grammar. I think my favorite typo so far has been when I typed “YouTube” instead of “you too.”

But I can power through that stuff easily. No, the stuff that is making me feel like a crap writer is all the plot holes and cheese I’ve found. The plot holes are frustrating because I have to go back, or forward, to figure out what I can change to fix them. It can take a long time.

By cheese, I mean that I apparently wrote a TON of cheesy dialogue, especially between my two MCs and now I’m left trying to FIX it so that they sound like ACTUAL people. Trust me, it’s not a fun time when your own book makes you cringe from time to time.

This isn’t all to say that I hate my book. I love my book. But it’s like when you start to care for someone and your expectations for them rise, so when they do something stupid, you’re extra disappointed. That’s how I feel about my book right now.

My mantra for the month has become something like, if people like Colleen Hover’s writing, they can surely tolerate yours. (No shame to Hoover fans out there, but like, maybe read It Ends With Us, skip Verity and move on to other authors.)

All in all, this month is proving a struggle and the email from NaNoWriMo about making the most of the month that just hit my inbox is giving me HIVES. But I am okay, I will power through and hopefully my book will be a much better one by February.

Pray for me.


3 Editing Tricks I’ve Learned from 6 Years of Being a Marketing Professional

The funny thing about most authors is that most of us aren’t writing full-time.

That might be the dream for some, but a lot of us have and enjoy regular daytime jobs that help support us and family.

For 6 years, I have worked as a marketing and communications professional in academia. I’ve held multiple job titles, from social media manager to convergence media manager. But what most of them boil down to is experience with writing and editing copy for lots of materials, including magazines, articles, video scripts, social media, and more.

Here are 3 tricks I’ve learned in that time that have helped me in the editing process for my books. Hopefully, they might help you out too, with your own books or works!

Read it aloud.

Reading a passage or work aloud helps you as an editor to imagine how the story flows when someone is reading it, either verbally or mentally. It’s a great way to catch grammatical errors or sentences that don’t flow well.

Read it more than once.

I’ve been told time and time again that it takes at least 3 rounds of editing to fully proof something. If your book is 50,000+ words, that takes a lot of time. That said, I think it’s time well spent.

Coming across a typo in an otherwise stellar book can dampen your fire quite a bit. Most readers will forgive small things, but multiple errors can turn a reader off quickly. No matter how gifted a writer you are, it will usually take more than one or two rounds of edits to catch the majority of mistakes in a manuscript.

Have somebody else read it.

I’ll be the first to admit that it can be downright embarrassing when somebody else reads your work and points out an obvious typo. But as long as they aren’t rude about it, they’re doing us a huge favor!

Sometimes we get so emotionally tied into the work that we gloss over things that might be problematic grammatically or thematically. This is why it really helps to have a neutral party read over it; a fresh pair of eyes can not only find errors but might provide additional valuable feedback on what makes sense or doesn’t to somebody who is unfamiliar with the subject.

Have you tried any of these tips before? What other editing tricks have you tried?

Publishing, Writing

My Writing Goals for 2023

  1. Drown myself in coffee.
  2. Write vampire on werewolf smut.
  3. Move to a small hut in Scotland and write full-time.

Just kidding on those, except for the drowning in coffee because I already do that.

I’d like to say I’m feeling excited about the New Year, but honestly, I think I’m still exhausted from the last few years. So for 2023, I’ll just say, please don’t suck. I’m happy with a chill and mediocre year, okay?

But to get down to brass tacks, here are my real writing goals for 2023 and my chances of actually pursuing them.

Goal 1: Publish ‘A Fierce Debt” Chance of Success: 75%

My short-term goal this month is to edit the heck out of my manuscript so I can spend the bulk of the year querying publishers. If I’m lucky, somebody awesome will snag it up. But even if I’m not lucky, I will still self-publish it, but probably not until 2024. I really want to give this one its chance.

Goal 2: Create a reading/writing nook or room in my future house. Chance of Success: 90%

This obviously relies pretty heavily on my fiance and I actually finding a home within the next 6 months but I have high hopes for us. If we do close on a home, then 100% I’m going to have some form of writing nook and I will 1000% share pictures when that day comes.

Goal 3: Participate in #NaNoWriMo23. Chance of Success: 30% maybe?

I liked doing NaNoWriMo this year but I am tired and realistic. My fiance and I are getting married in late September next year and we’re going on vacation right after. I will be a tired bride. The chances of me wanting to dedicate the month of November to writing another novel after all that are pretty slim.

Sneak Peeks

Check Out My New Fantasy Romance Novel on Inkitt!

If you are relatively new to my website or blog, welcome!

Since it’s the day after Christmas and smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, I thought I’d take this relatively chill moment to share a bit about myself and my latest work-in-progress, “A Fierce Debt.”

My latest book “A Fierce Debt,” is a new adult Robinhood-inspired fantasy romance taking place in a setting similar to the Scottish Highlands. Think if Robinhood was Gaelic and even more morally grey than he is already and if Maid Marian is a feminist. There’s a slow-burn romance, lots of adventure and wise-cracking bandits.

I wrote “A Fierce Debt” back in November for NaNoWriMo. It was my first time participating in the challenge. I hope to edit the work some more soon and eventually publish it, but right now, it is available for free to read on Inkitt.

About Me

My name is Cailin and I’ve been writing and reading since I was little. I “published” my first book in elementary school–a knock-off Harry Potter that was written on white copy paper and stapled together.

Being an author was, for a long time, a pipe dream that I revisited from time to time. I graduated from college with a dual degree in English and Journalism and went straight on to graduate school. From there, I went straight to full-time work. So slowing down and finding time to actually write was never really a thing…until it was.

I moved to Kansas in 2020, right before the start of the pandemic. While we all know how shitty that was, one silver lining was that I found myself with a lot more time to write. It took me one whole year to finish my first non-fiction book, “How to Become a Grown-Ass Woman.” It took another year and a half to query and eventually self-publish. My first book was published for ebook and paperback in October 2022.

Despite my first book being self-help, my true love has always been fantasy and romance. My dream is to have “A Fierce Debt” turn into a trilogy.

Some other fun facts about me:

  • My fiance and I are currently hunting for our first home.
  • I own three cats and an Arabian cross horse named Louie.
  • I grow my own peppers and usually have a few other vegetables and flowers going.
  • On weekends, I like baking yummy treats. On my to-bake list: chocolate orange banana bread, key lime pie, lemon drizzle cake, red velvet Yule log (I’m a Great British Baking Show fan!)
Bookish Things

My Top 8 Favorite Books From 2022 (And 2 I DNF’d!)

Not going to lie, 2022 had a lot of great new releases.

I surpassed my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal of 65 by a bit, which is nice, but this is the first year that the majority of the books on my list were new releases published in 2022. (By the way, you can follow me on Goodreads here!)

Without further ado, here are my top 8 favorite books published in 2022.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

I saw this book making the rounds but didn’t think much of it until it happened to come across the popular table at my public library. I thought I’d give it a shot and wow, was I impressed. It’s rare to find a book that balances humor with deeper meaning and I think Garmus did it masterfully.

The Maid by Nita Prose

You can’t help but love the main character, Molly Grey, in this book. I loved getting to know a character who is truly different from anybody else.

All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers

I feel like it’s getting harder these days to find a thriller or mystery with an ending that truly surprises me or throws me for a loop. The twists in this one actually work.

The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell

The sequel to “The Family Upstairs,” but equally as satisfying on its own. However, if you’ve read the first book, this one is an even more powerful read. I wouldn’t say it is as twisty as the first, but it definitely is worth reading to find out what happens to everybody.

More Than You”ll Ever Know by Katie Guiterrez

Although the plot in this book is interesting enough on its own, the real gem of this story is getting to know main characters Lore and Cassie.

Belladonna by Adalyn Grace

Ugh, it’s been too long since I’ve come across a young adult fantasy that does pining and slow-burn romance right. Read this, enjoy it immensely and then get your hands on the upcoming sequel, “Foxglove.”

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

TBH, I’ll read anything by Moreno-Garcia but her latest did not disappoint. The best thing about this book, besides another strong female lead, is how the author blends together, seamlessly, a realistic environment that supports fantastical creatures.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

I don’t usually go for pop-colored modern romance titles, but the nerdy love aspect of this book compelled me to pick it up. It was worth it. Nerdy, yet spicy. Very spicy, in fact.

Unfortunately, not all of the books I bought were winners in my eye. Here are two that I could not finish and why.

Court of the Vampire Queen by Katee Robert

Part of this was my own fault because I didn’t read the back cover before I invested–I simply heard about it, saw it getting popular, and thought, “Hey, I like steamy romances with fantasy-type lovers, let’s go.” Okay, well turns out that’s still true but I DON’T like books with dubious consent and reverse harem environments where the main MO is basically a race to see who can get the lady pregnant first. Not much makes me cringe, but that does.

Kingdom of the Feared by Kerri Maniscalco

Look, I loved the first two books in the series and I really wanted to love the heck out of this one. But I didn’t. The world-building got too confusing, I couldn’t keep motives straight and I even started to not enjoy the sexy scenes. Overall, I think Maniscalo aimed just a little too high with this final book.


11 Awards and Contests for New Authors to Enter!

Something that’s been on my mind since I finished #NaNoWriMo is the opportunity for authors to enter their works into a contest or consideration for an award.

As you might already know, Inkitt, a site that allows writers to share their work within the platform, has a contest specifically for authors who participate in #NaNoWriMo. This got me interested in looking at other contests I could enter my book into. I put a lot of work into those 50,000 words, so might as well make the most of it, right?

Surprisingly, there isn’t as much out there as I thought there would be. A lot of awards or contests are hyper-tailored to a specific genre; one award I found only considers novels set in the American South.

I thought it might be helpful to other authors and writers to aggregate a list of contests.

These contests/awards are open to authors 18+ who write fiction, including young adult/new adult. Be aware that some have fees to apply, so I’ve given those less priority.

Inkitt X NaNoWriMo Contest

  • Contest for fiction writers who submit their NaNoWriMo projects. Inkitt also offers other contests throughout the year.
  • Prize: $1,500 for first; $1,000 for second, and $500 for third. Various other prizes for those selected.
  • Fees: none

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

  • Recognizes works that contribute to an understanding of racism or diversity. Book must be published within the previous year; no self-published works.
  • Prize: $10,000
  • Fees: none

Bard Fiction Prize

  • Awarded to American citizen 39 or younger with at least one published work and an in-progress work.
  • Prize: $30,000 and appt as writer-in-residence at Bard College
  • Fees: none

Cabell First Novelist Award

  • Recognizes a rising talent who published their first novel within the last year. Self-published books not considered.
  • Prize: $5,000 and travel to VA for a reading
  • Fees: none mentioned

The Ernest J. Gaines Award

  • Awarded to an emerging Black author for a book of fiction published in the previous year.
  • Prize: $15,000
  • Fees: none

Hodder Fellowship

  • Seeks writers who demonstrate intellectual and literary gifts (vague, I know.)
  • Prize: $88,000 stipend and a residency at Princeton
  • Fees: none

Young Lions Fiction Award

  • Recognizes authors under 35 who published a book in the previous year. The book must be for adults.
  • Prize: $10,000
  • Fees: none

The PEN/Faulkner Award

  • Recognizes 3 authors of fiction.
  • Prize: $15,000 first place; two runner-ups get $5,000
  • Fees: unknown (2023 contest opens early next year)

Friends of American Writers Chicago Awards

  • Awards fiction and YA writers based in several midwestern states who have published a novel in the last year. No self-published. Must have less than 3 published books.
  • Prize: Cash
  • Fees: none

James Jones First Novel Fellowship

  • Awarded to an American author of a first novel-in-progress.
  • Prize: $10,000 first place; $1,000 runner up
  • Fees: $30; $33 online submission

William Saroyan International Prize

  • Awarded two times a year for newly published fiction and nonfiction. Self-published is eligible.
  • Prize: $5,000
  • Fees: $50
Bookish Things

9 Etsy Gifts to Get For Writers and Book Lovers

Trust from an actual author and book lover going on 30 years; this is what the people want.

TBR, everything I included on this list I would be 1000% happy to receive myself.

The Writer Tarot Card Sweatshirt or T-shirt

Don’t know who in their right mind would turn down this tarot card/writing mash-up.

“I’m With the Banned” Shirt

We support banned books and if you do too, this is a great gift.

One More Chapter Glass Mug

Tired of basic white mugs? Gift yourself this classy clear glass one.

Custom Book Stamp

Once you’ve felt the sweet sensation of *officially* making a book yours, you’ll never go back.

Vintage Typewriter Cutting Board

The perfect gift for the dual writer-cook in your life.

Old Books Soy Candle

Old books do have a very unique smell so if this candle matches up, I’m impressed.

Typewriter Totebag

Everybody has things to carry. Writers and readers even more so.

“Is That Smut?” Jesus Bookmark

Honestly, you can’t go wrong here. Religious, not religious, doesn’t matter what your giftee is, this belongs in their stocking.

Pen Nib Earrings

I too also like to wear weapon-like things as earrings.

Just an FYI that I’m not getting any money from sharing these items–I just really like Etsy and I like sharing cool gift ideas I come across. (But if an Etsy seller sees this and like, wants to throw cash my way, hit me up.)

Happy holidays, y’all!


I Survived #NaNoWriMo22!

Whew, what an insane month.

I had so many other blog posts planned but that fell by the wayside as I tried to keep up with my word count for my project.

AND. I’m happy to report that I finished my #NaNoWriMo novel two days ago at 52,745 words!!!

I’m fairly exhausted from writing now, as you can imagine; especially with having just come off of publishing my first non-fiction book. I’m more than ready to take a break over the holidays and just focus on family, food, and fun.

Although, I will say that I did really enjoy writing “A Fierce Debt,” my first fiction project. I’ve done a lot of creative fiction writing in the past and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy world-building and fleshing out characters.

I really grew to love the characters in my book throughout the month, especially Aislinn and Drystan, the two main protagonists.

Aislinn is a feminist living in a time and place where feminism is starting to sprout wings, but still is challenged by traditional, patriarchal society. She cares deeply for people, despite having a past that should have made her bitter and distrustful. She also has a bit of social anxiety.

Drystan is Robinhood 2.0. He’s a bit morally grey but his intentions are good. He’s a gentleman where it counts and has an understanding of consent in relationships. He’s a bit full of himself, a bit swaggy. But like most of the men I know personally in real life, deep down he’s a big softy who wants to learn and love.

“A Fierce Debt” has the potential, I believe, to become a trilogy but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

If you’d like to read or check out my story, you can view it on Inkitt here:


The Inspo Behind My #NaNoWriMo Project: “A Fierce Debt”

In honor of surpassing the halfway point of #NaNoWriMo this week, I’m sharing what inspired my in-progress novel.

My project, tentatively titled “A Fierce Debt,” is a new adult Robinhood-inspired fantasy romance taking place in a setting similar to the Scottish Highlands. Think if Robinhood was Gaelic and even more morally grey than he is already and if Maid Marian is a feminist. There’s a slow-burn romance, lots of adventure and wise-cracking bandits.

On to the inspo.

I chose a setting based off of the Scottish Highlands in honor of my Gaelic heritage. While I’ve yet to visit Scotland, I visited Ireland a few years back and loved it. One of my favorite book series of all time takes place in Dublin and the surrounding regions, and a lot of the lore included in the world-building for the series comes from Gaelic folklore. Think druids and fae.

I knew I wanted elements like that in my book, but I liked the idea of a world that teeters on the edge of fantasy. While “A Fierce Debt” takes place in an imagined world, the setting is a realistic one.

I also have always had a weak spot for Highland warrior-type romances (think muscles and kilts on the cover) but the insane Alpha-ness of the main men sometimes rubbed me the wrong way. I LOVE morally grey love interests, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted to write a romance and relationship that focuses on personality over lust. I also wanted to write a relationship that has obvious consent.

I am like 95% sure I actually read this one too.

Lastly, my MC, Aislinn, is meant to be a tribute to all the strong women I know, especially the women I met earlier this fall at the Kansas Outdoors Women conference. Like every woman I met there, Aislinn is curious, self-sufficient and full of depth. Using books, she taught herself how to forage and uses her knowledge to help others. She loves to teach and learn. Despite challenges from her town’s societal pressures, she adamantly pursues her own feminist agenda.

If this all sounds interesting to you, keep checking back here on the blog for my updates about my project in the coming months. I’m planning on taking a longer break from writing after this month ends.


Let’s Get Pumped! Why I’m Doing #NaNoWriMo

For those who don’t know, November is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.

It’s a fundraiser in part, but also a challenge for readers. The goal, if you want to enter the contest, is to write a 50,000-word novel within 30 days of the month. That amounts to writing a little over 1,600 words a day; that might sound do-able, but it’s actually a lot.

I’ve thought about doing #NaNoWriMo in the past, but I was always held back by time commitments and just generally being scared of it. That’s a big time commitment! But this year, I knew I wanted to commit.

With my first book, “How to Become a Grown-Ass Woman,” done and getting sales, I feel inspired enough to start my next “thing.” I’ve been sitting on a partially written fiction novel for some time now and I figured #NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to flesh it out and see if something could become of it.

I am a bit worried about staying on track with my writing, especially because I am traveling A LOT next month. Like, I’m out of state for the first 2 weeks and then later on for Thanksgiving again. That said, I plan on taking my laptop and trying to churn out a chapter or 2 every night when I can. Even if that means staying up a bit later than usual!

Me probably all next month, let’s be real.

If you’re interested in following my #NaNoWriMo journey, you can find my project, tentatively titled “A Fierce Debt,” on the NaNoWriMo site here.
And if you are a writer or author yourself and want to challenge yourself, you can learn more about #NaNoWriMo here!

There’s no time like the present to see what you’re capable of.