What I Accomplished in 2019

2019 was a big year for me! I had a lot going on both personally and professionally in my writing life and science career. So today, I’d like to look back at what I hoped to accomplish this year as well as what I actually did accomplish.

Personal Stuff in 2019

So this year I did a bunch of pretty awesome things and/or had some awesome things happen:

  • Had my 1 year anniversary ❤
  • Visited Peru
  • Visited Minnesota
  • Met Nichelle Nichols
  • Earned a promotion to Senior Scientist at my day job
  • Gained a nephew!

Writing Accomplishments in 2019

Guess what? This was also a HUGE year for my writing career. All of these were resolutions last year, and guess what? I did them! Check it out!

  • Published my first novel ever!
  • Published another 2 novellas
  • Queried Sea of Broken Glass…and got a revise & resubmit!
  • Learned So. Much. Marketing.

Looking back on a decade

Yeah, so turns out we’re closing out the 2010s, and a lot of people are talking about what they did over the last 10 years. So let me outline my decade for you:

  • Graduated with my BA in Biology in 2011
  • Attended grad school and obtained my MS in Neuroscience in 2015
  • Learned how much I love to write…and that I wanted to publish
  • Began a job in biology where I get to work on the cutting edge of drug development
  • Earned an award at the day job for key work on a big project
  • Advanced from Scientist to Senior Scientist
  • Made huge strides in learning the industry of publishing and books
  • Became an indie author
  • Had my heart broken, then found the love of my life
  • Lost two grandparents and several pets
  • Fell in love with new pets
  • Married the love of my life
  • Started my own business
  • Visited Iceland and Peru
  • Went to my first conventions: Katsucon, Wizard World, Galaxy Con, and Book Con
  • Got a Revise & Resubmit on a book close to my heart
  • Learned who I want to be 🙂

I have come a long way over the last ten years, including a lot of heartache and struggle that helped me become a better, more compassionate person. I learned who I really am and who I want to be. I found the place in life that makes me happy, and I’m looking forward more than ever to what the next decade will bring us.

Final Thoughts on 2019

I don’t have as many things to list as last year, but I love my accomplishments all the same! I made some huge strides in my career, both writing and science, and I took some big steps in creating the writing life I want, including publishing and writing the stories I love and readers are loving, as well. I also had a great time with my husband on several trips, big and small, learned more about our big, wide world, and saw my extended family grow in exciting ways.

Though some sad and stressful things also happened this year, I choose to focus on these good things. And I love that I’m in a place where I can say the good outweighs the bad. I sincerely hope you can, too!

Be sure to come back next week to hear what my resolutions will be for next year (I’ve got some big things planned!), but until then, tell me all about your year! What did you do? What did you love? Let’s chat and celebrate the end of 2019 together!

Some Bookish Gratitude

The holidays are all about gratitude, at least to me. We get a time specifically set aside to reflect on the good that has been given to us in our lives, the people we surround ourselves with, the things we have been blessed with. And with Christmas just around the corner, we also get to feel the warmth of blessing others.

Today, I’d like to take a few moments to show some bookish gratitude. So here are my book- and writing-related blessings from the year.

A supportive husband

Yeah, yeah. Sappy, I know. But seriously, my husband is my muse and my biggest cheerleader. When I’m stuck on a plot or need to work through a story element, he’s right there to help me come up with ideas. And when I release something new or share some writing, he’s one of the first people to share it, yell in the streets (ok, Facebook), and invite everyone he knows to read it.

I couldn’t have been blessed with a better partner for my life.

Family and Friends who like my work

I have to also include this, because I know many writers don’t have family that supports their passions like I do. My parents buy everything I release and share it with everyone they know. My siblings and siblings-in-law have an interest in what I do. And my sister is one of my first, best, and favorite beta readers. What a blessing, to have family who supports my passion even when they don’t understand it all.

Good stories

This may seem a bit odd, but I am grateful for all the good books I’ve read this year. You’ll have to come back in a couple weeks to hear about them, but I truly found some gems this year, and it makes me happy to have read them.

Audiobooks

Another weird one, right? I didn’t used to be so into audiobooks, but ever since my grad school thesis, when I had to sit in the lab and do mindless work for hours on end, audiobooks have been my boredom killers and reading boosters. I get to hear awesome performances of good books, I get to read more books than I would be able to otherwise, and I get something fun to pass my commute times and mindless lab work.

Courage to share

I had enough courage to finally hit that publish button, with the support of my wonderful husband. It had originally been my dream to publish This Cursed Flame indie, but so much happened between when I finished it and this year, so many things changed, that I went back and forth for seven years.

I finally did it.

And I published two more.

I’m proud of what I accomplished, and I’m happy to share my work with you guys. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

You

That’s right, my final bookish gratitude is for you, my readers. Whether you’ve read my blog for only one or two posts, followed from the beginning, or have gotten your hands on all my books, I appreciate that you take time out of your day to come visit with me. Readers are the lifeblood of books, as I’ve said before. Without you, none of what I do would have life.

So thank you, so much. ❤

My wishes for you

In this holiday season, I sincerely hope you will find the people to support you, to build you up, to cheer you on and shout about your passions to everyone who will listen. I hope you have wonderful writing sessions. I hope you read wonderful books. I hope you find joy and warmth and love.

Keep writing, my friends. And please, share the bookish things you’re grateful for this year in the comments below!

3 Ways Food is Worldbuilding

I love food.

No, really. I know that a lot of people love food, but really. I. Love. Food. I love the cultural identity that comes with it, the bonding experiences with people over meals, and of course the delicious flavors. I love food in cartoons, I love it in books, I love it in movies.

But did you know that food can also be part of worldbuilding? And that how you use and present food can help to define your world and character relationships better to readers?

And what better topic to discuss right before the US’s Thanksgiving holiday? So let’s dig right in!

Food lends an idea of place and time.

One of the beautiful things about food is that it’s incredibly diverse. A simple meal can tell a reader what kinds of crops are grown, what foods are accepted, what cultures may be involved, and the cooking capabilities of the time and place.

For example, many fantasy authors like to include feasts (more of a discussion on this can be found on the podcast Writing Excuses, season 14 episode 30, “Eating Your Way to Better Worldbuilding”). The foods are often what we see in medieval works like Lord of the Rings, including breads, meats (maybe even a whole stuffed pig), and cheeses.

But utilizing cultural foods, like saurkraut and bratwurst for example, can help the reader ground your world in a culture they may recognize. With a simple inclusion of one of these dishes, you can set a tone for what the reader can expect without overexplaining the culture.

Likewise, if you’re writing contemporary, think of what things you eat on a regular basis. Do you go to a taco truck? The cupcake stand on the corner? The fancy Asian Fusion restaurant on the other side of town?

The types of foods, and their preparation and presentation, can help readers picture your world more completely and set a tone for your world in a way that is unique to food culture.

Food can indicate a character’s condition and status.

In the same vein as the points above, the types and presentation of foods can help to solidify the conditions and status of your character. If they feast, they are in a time of plenty or they are rich and/or generous. If they’re scraping through the garbage to find a few potato peels, they’re in a pretty dire situation. How the character sustains themselves tells a lot to the reader about them.

As an example, I have a section in my first chapter of the R&R story where the younger sister is smelling what the older sister is cooking: a stew with a healthy portion of meat. The younger sister can’t help but feel angry and bitter, as the older sister is preparing meat for no reason other than to impress her peers, and they have limited amounts until the rainy season ends, not to mention how expensive it has become to purchase. She comments that they should be saving it for a feast day.

Just by this exchange, I am showing that the family has limited supplies, as does the village, and that some foods are precious and reserved for important days. It helps me establish the status of the sisters (scraping to impress the rest of the village) and the setting, as in the first point (the rainy season, a season of famine, restricted access to expensive foods).

Food can be used to strengthen a relationship.

Just like setting the tone, setting, and character status, food can also be used for building relationships. Do your characters often cook together? Is it bonding time? Do they eat out together often? Is one of them responsible for the cooking? Do they eat alone in the living room or as a family in a formal dining room?

Here’s another example from my R&R book. In a tense time, when the younger sister suddenly has expanded magic, she worries that her sister has reported her to the village officials (magic is not okay to them). When her sister gets home, they cook together in a way that is natural, indicating they’ve worked together to keep the house for years, but is full of unspoken tension masked by everyday tasks. It’s a way to show the older sister’s real actions…and reveal that she also has magic. It builds on their normal by throwing in something unexpected, something they have to discuss.

Think of a romance. How many movies and books have scenes of the male love interest cooking the woman a meal or vice versa? Or of them cooking together? It shows the amount of care they have for being together and for each other, and it can be used as a cute moment to give readers all the feels.

Food is such a handy tool for relationships!

A final word of caution

As I mentioned above, I love food. And because of this, I tend to have a lot of comfort eating scenes or cooking etc. in my stories. IT IS POSSIBLE TO OVERUSE THIS TOOL. Instead of focusing just on food or having an overabundance, make sure that each scene involving food serves a purpose. Know what that purpose is, and consider if there are any better ways to show it. Ask your beta readers for input. Be intentional.

But also don’t be afraid to pig out now and then on this powerful worldbuilding element. 😉

And of course, keep writing. (And Happy Thanksgiving, friends!)

Warm Wishes and Ugly Sweaters

Books can be like ugly sweaters. Read on to find out why.

Hello reader and writer friends! Christmas is almost upon us! Merry Christmas! And for those of you who celebrate other holidays, happy holidays!

Today I was thinking about the idea of the Ugly Sweater, mostly because my job had an ugly sweater party this week. I remember growing up with these sweaters… and actually associating them with the whole idea of “uncool.” They were the kinds of sweaters worn by older people (let’s face it, as teens we think parents and grandparents are uncool) or the social outcasts. But as is the case with many things from my childhood (geek and nerd culture, for one), this “uncool” thing is now the “cool uncool thing.”

And you know what? I think this can apply to writing, too. Genres go through cycles of popularity, and books are ridiculed and lauded in the same breath. It just shows you that everything goes through cycles, and every book has its audience. A great example of this is Anne Rice and her vampire stories… she once talked about how her books go through cycles of sales that rise and fall every few years, as vampires go in and out of popularity.

Much the same can be said for many genres. They go in and out so quickly that if you miss one good release time, another will be coming.

So my wish for you this season is that you will find your cool uncool things and love them. That you will flaunt your love for them. And if you’re writing them, that readers will flock to it. Don’t be afraid to write (and read) the things you love, just because you love them.

And have a wonderful holiday season, friends. ❤