A Punch from the Brain, Retaliation from the Heart

If someone has a magical solution to help a person stop overthinking things, I, personally, would love to learn more about said solution.

Because it’s exhausting, friends.

I overthink to the point where I only focus on the negative outcomes. My immediate reaction is to assume the worst, because my mind easily twists and warps things to fit into that equation, where the only solution is the one my overthinking brain creates. Until that worst case scenario is proven false or doesn’t come true, I just assume that’s the reality, the truth of what’s to come. And then once it doesn’t, I feel like a fool, because everything obviously pointed to things being okay or things working out, yet my brain couldn’t help but distort those signs, those facts. I tell myself, See, you didn’t need to worry? Don’t put yourself through that again.

I’m sure you’re not hard-pressed to figure out what happens next.

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I’ve been doing this a lot lately in terms of my evolving friendships and undefinable love life. It can be the simplest things, from not receiving a text for a while to not being called a pet name to putting in all the effort to being left out of a hang out session. I over-analyze, I replay conversations, trying to pick up meanings from inflections and word choice and things left unspoken. I become hyper-focused, always worried that my reality is actually going to become what my brain tells me it will–and it’s never good. And life is good, right now, and who am I to deserve that? How long can it last before I mess it up; then, once doing so, how long will I spend regretting that one confession, that one crying session, that one time where I admitted too much or became too vulnerable and fucked everything up?

These thoughts and fears and scenarios birth in my brain and then worm their way into my emotions, twisting me into a sour mood where I either don’t want to talk to anyone at all or I become needy, desperate for affirmation and confirmation that these fears are heedless and merely vicious to my own subconscious. Suddenly, my desire to be productive diminishes, and even writing and reading become chores when they should be exciting. If it’s really bad, the emotions will manifest into physical pain, in my chest or my stomach, a throbbing pain in my temple.

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And all the while, the scenarios don’t stop replaying in my head, pointing out exactly what went wrong and how I caused it.

This sucks. It makes me seem like my brain isn’t exactly all there. That I’m emotionally imbalanced or the most needy human. It makes me seem like…a bit much, maybe too much to handle or perhaps not even worth the trouble, even for the good times; for the times when I have my brain under control and I don’t give into every seed of doubt, every change, every fear. How can the good times be worth it, for my family and friends and partner, when they also come with moments of the bad, which occur more often than I like to admit?

I can’t make a case for why, but I like to believe I’m worth it, anyway. Even though it’s not the most enjoyable part of my personality, being an overthinking worrywart is a part of my personality. A part I’d like to lessen, a part I’d like to be more in control of, but it’s a part of me nonetheless. So yeah, I have a lot of anxiety and I overthink way too much. But that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to me. That doesn’t mean that those demons are right and I’m going to ruin every aspect of my life, to my family to my friends to my love life to my writing career.

So thanks to those of you who stick by me, despite of this.

And also? A little note to that overthinking brain of mine?

Yeah, I’m in a point in my life right now where I have a lot less friends than I used to, so the few I’ve held onto, I’m suddenly so paranoid I’m going to lose them for good and my life will become nothing but working and coming home to an empty house; a routine never broken up by coffee dates to catch up, weekly 1-1 sessions, long conversations or tears caused by laughter. I’m at a point where I am falling hard for a man who is scared of commitment, so we might never have the type of relationship I’ve always dreamed about, and he’s become so important to me, I’m so nervous he’s going to disappear from my life and not only will I be alone again, but I’ll also no longer have him as a constant presence, support and light. I don’t want to lose him. I’m at a point where I’ve been struggling to write and I’m scared I’ll never get over that, but I’m also scared of the books I have written never going anywhere, never being loved the way I love them. I’m at a point where I feel like my financial status is dominated by bills and I’ll never catch up and feel ahead or financially comfortable, so of course I’ll either always live paycheck-to-paycheck….or worse.

But you know what, my lovely, over-energized, never-ceasing brain? All of those things could happen, all of those fears could come true, and I will still be okay. 

I could lose every friend I have and see no one. I could get my heart shattered by this man. I could have every book I write get rejected. I could lose my job or live paycheck-to-paycheck forever. One or all of these things could happen and yet I will still make it. You wanna know why?

That’s calling living.

That’s life.

If I didn’t have these fears; if I wasn’t putting myself out there and risking my heart, risking my hopes, risking my dreams; if I wasn’t so attached to people and passions and things; is that the kind of life I want to live? Sheltered, comfortable, safe, complacent, routine?

No, I don’t think so.

Some days, you win. You make the inside of my head a living nightmare. You exhaust my friends when they have to remind me, again, that they aren’t going anywhere. You make my family’s foreheads meet their palms when I repeat the same mantra of, “But what if X? Can’t you see Z?” You give me anxiety, you make me fear, you add unnecessary stress, you steal sleep, you absorb will, you cause pain. And I hate you for it.

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But other days, I win. I take risks. I follow my heart. I create art. I enjoy the little things. I run miles. I laugh with friends. I get overly excited about dogs. I nerd out. I go on adventures. I work. I live as a hopeless romantic. I do whatever I can to break up the monotony and mundane aspects of life.

No matter how hard you hit, no matter how many punches you throw, I’ll come back swinging just as hard. It may take hours, days, weeks, before I retaliate. Before my positivity can make a comeback and prove more powerful than my anxiety. But know this, anxiety. Know this, my overthinking, over-analytic, obsessive, cynical, hopeless mind.

I will never stop fighting.

And I will conquer you.

Cheers.


Quest for Happiness: Week Twenty Eight

Fitness:

  • Long-term Goal: Shape the body I want and become healthier.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Workout 4x and eat well.
    • Status: Success! Somehow, I managed to work out 5x and eat pretty well, aside from Saturday. But I’m not even going to count Saturday as a mishap, because that food was damn good and sometimes, you just gotta treat yourself.
  • This Week’s GoalKeep up fitness routine.

Writing:

  • Long-term Goal: Edit all previously written works. Query one.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Finish ARTEMIS.
    • Status: Success! I finished another round of ARTEMIS!! *throws celebratory balloons* I still want to do a little bit of tidying up and double checking before I enter my MS into Pitch Wars next week, but I’m really stoked of where this draft is at.
  • This Week’s Goal: Complete last minute revisions.

Reading:

  • Long-term Goal: Read 60 books.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Finish Dark Immolation and write review.
    • Status: Success! That book was so good, friends. So, so good.
  • This Week’s Goal: Finish Invasive.

Relaxation:

  • Long-term Goal: Create and maintain a mindset that taking care of yourself is just as important as everything else.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Swim 3x.
    • Status: Success! I actually found time to swim this week, which was awesome. It was really freakin’ hot, but there’s only two more weeks until I won’t be able to swim anymore, so I’m trying to get in as much time at the pool as I can.
  • This Week’s Goal: Swim 3x.

Blogging:

  • Long-term Goal: Increase output over all three blogs, i.e., post more consistently.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Blog twice on both personal and book review blog.
    • Status: Success! 
  • This Week’s Goal: Read through all of the Pitch War mentor wishlists and #PimpMyBio participants posts.

Financial:

  • Long-term Goal: Manage money with more awareness, start retirement fund and build savings.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Don’t spend any more unnecessary money the rest of the month.
    • Status: Success! Aside from going to the grocery store, I think I’ll be able to stay frugal and keep this up. Hopefully.
  • This Week’s Goal: Stop stressing so much about money.

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Friends. Whoa, that was a stellar week. It’s crazy what happens when you actually focus on what you want to accomplish, instead of letting it sit in the back of your mind and then suddenly it’s Sunday and you didn’t accomplish a thing. I know not every week will be that amazing, but for now, I’m staying stoked.

Cheers.


So Much More

Remember this rant? About how I’m floored at how average humans afford to live, even when they are working full-time jobs that make above minimum wage (with the reality that most of them can’t afford to live, aside from being paycheck-to-paycheck, finding another job or splitting incomes with a partner or friend)?

That hopelessness and the overwhelming, “What the freak am I supposed to do?” feeling has only increased in the past week.

First off, though, there was a surprise: I actually got a raise. (I know, I’m just as shocked as you are.) Though the budget library wide made that impossible to happen, which is why I was so convinced that wasn’t an option, the university pulled through and gave eligible employees a raise! Sure, it’s only .45 cents for this kid, but this kid isn’t complaining at all. She’ll take it.

And then, within a span of 24 hours, I learned of two additional things. First was that Kansas state taxes are increasing not only this month, but in January of 2018, as well. So not only are they taking more out of my paycheck each month, but the amount I owe the government come April will most likely increase. Worse, the bracket of incomes that are projected to be effected the most are “single households fresh out of college making $30,000 a year.” Sound familiar? So that’s going to be fun.

Then, secondly, my retirement options email came through today and I have a month to figure that shit out. Talk about adulting slapping you in the face and making sure you’re well aware that you’re no kid anymore. I’m just overwhelmed trying to begin to discern which provider to choose, let alone all the nuances that go with retirement I’m not even sure about. I wish I would have learned a bit more when I was younger about how to navigate these waters. Granted, I knew retirement would be taken out come September and even if it wasn’t mandatory by my employer (which it is) I still would have opted into it, because I recognize how important it is to start saving as early as you can. That said, that doesn’t make the process any less daunting, nor the pay-cut any less painful for me now, even if I’m looking out for little old lady me in the future.

So yeah, I’m just a tad bit stressed financially. What else is new?

It’s taken up a lot of my thoughts, recently. So much so that I keep forgetting what really matters.

There is so much more to life than money.

Granted, that is easy to say and a lot harder to believe, let alone live by. Because money dictates a lot of things. Bills have to be paid and in order to make money, you gotta work, which makes up for a lot of the time you spend in your life. Yet you can’t let it be everything, even if it is a major part of your life. Recently, that’s all I’ve really been able to think about.

Yet I’ve been reading some really good books lately. I actually made it to the first (free!) Mythgard class over The Treason of Isengard last night and nerded out over Tolkien with individuals all across the globe, and that was invigorating in and of itself. I think I’ve finally found a running routine that I enjoy and is both feasible and productive. It’s the summer time, so even though it’s hot as everything else, swimming has been amazing. I’ve been editing my favorite story and love the progress of this draft. PitchWars starts in a few weeks and I’m really stoked to enter into that contest and continue to learn from and get to know such a supportive community. I’ve started a D&D campaign with some friends and learning the ropes alongside them has been wonderful. I have a couple of coffee dates in the future that I’m super jazzed about. I’m doing well at work and excited for the new semester to start. I’m getting new ink the first week of August and cannot wait to see what my new artist has come up with. Plus, only 36 days until I’m on a plane and heading to freakin’ London.

Yeah, life is stressful, right now. Money is stressful and I feel like I can never get caught up, that I’m always behind paying this bill or trying to get away from this debt. But at the same time, there are a lot of good things going on in life and a lot of good things ahead. Just like there are a lot of trying times and a lot of difficult things ahead.

You can’t just focus on all the negative things. You’ll drive yourself into a depressed spiral that’s really hard to get out of, if you do that. You gotta remember to focus on the good, including the little things (like hearing your favorite song on the radio, getting to hit snooze on the weekend or crossing something off of your To-Do list) to the rare things (like seeing a friend from out of town or spending an entire day doing nothing) to the grand, exciting things (like traveling abroad or achieving your dreams). That’s what I’m trying to do: focus on the good and remembering that I can handle the bad, no matter what’s thrown at me.

And so can you.

Cheers.


Just Breathe

Sometimes, I just put way too much pressure on myself.

Losing weight is definitely one of those areas.

It’s been a really exciting feeling, seeing the pounds slowly slip off the scale. A first, for sure, especially of this magnitude. I’ve finally find a rhythm, though I’m still figuring out a few kinks. Testing different workout routines and stretching exercises, resetting my set point and hunger levels, adjusting to my constantly changing summer work schedule and still trying to figure out how to not go over my calorie goal on the weekends, are a few of those kinks I’m still hoping to hammer out.

Oh and not putting so much pressure on myself to continue losing weight.

I didn’t really realize how much pressure was weighing me down until I noticed a pattern, these past few weeks. If I miss a run, I immediately feel guilt. If I eat some mozzarella sticks at Sonic, I instantly feel like a cow. Every Monday morning, I have a sick feeling in my gut when I go to weigh myself. I’m constantly nervous that I’m going to gain the weight that I’ve lost back or that the progress I’ve made isn’t real.

And I’m not really sure why I’m feeling that way. Why I’m so scared if I gain a little weight back or if it takes me a while to drop down to 160 pounds. I’m putting so much pressure on myself to keep up this success, acting like if I experience one hiccup or one bump in the road, I’ll completely derail any forward progress and go back to hating the way I look instead of learning to love myself as I have these past six months.

But here’s the thing: my weight is going to fluctuate all the time. One day I could be two pounds heavier than I was yesterday and the next day, I could be a pound lighter than I was when I last weighed. That’s okay. That’s normal. So I shouldn’t be freaking out that it has taken me three weeks to lose one pound when I was averaging two-three pounds. I shouldn’t be so concerned or panicked that I’m going to gain a couple pounds back. I shouldn’t feel like, if I do, I’ve suddenly “lost” and it will be impossible to get back on track.

Because I’m smarter than I was before. I know about portion control and eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full. I’ve come to love running again and enjoy the sensation of pushing myself to run a little faster or jog that extra mile (literally). I have a lot more control of what goes into my body and how active I am and I know how to live a healthy lifestyle. So even if every day isn’t the best example of implementing that knowledge doesn’t mean I’m not working towards creating healthy habits and choices for life.

Also, I need to take a step back and look at my real goal, here. Is it a number on the scale or is it living a healthy lifestyle? Is it losing X amount of pounds or is it working hard to sculpt a body I’m proud of and love in the mirror, regardless of that number? Though reaching 160 pounds would be nice, at this point, I’m just happy to be living a healthy lifestyle. If I continue living healthier and stay at 179 like I am right now, then that’s totally fine. Because I’m starting to love my body and the way it looks, even if there are still some things I’d change. And that’s an amazing feeling, too.

So a reminder to me, from me: just breathe. Focus every day on doing what makes you happy and keeping that happiness flowing. Stop focusing so much on weight and numbers and miles and steps and calories. While all those things are important, living life is ever more so. You’ll find the balance you need between the two. For now, just breathe.

Cheers.


Quest for Happiness: Week Twenty Seven

Fitness:

  • Long-term Goal: Shape the body I want and become healthier.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Workout 4x and actually log food every day.
    • Status: Almost! I did workout four times (woot!) and kept up a food diary until (you guessed it) the weekend, where I fell off the bandwagon. Again. Slow and steady, friends. I’ll figure this out.
  • This Week’s GoalWorkout 4x and eat well.

Writing:

  • Long-term Goal: Edit all previously written works. Query one.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Edit last three chapters, run-through looking for overused words and email draft to final beta reader. Write synopsis.
    • Status: Almost! Edited two chapters, so only have one more chapter to go, plus a round of searching for overused words. So close to the end of this draft!
  • This Week’s Goal: Finish ARTEMIS.

Reading:

  • Long-term Goal: Read 60 books.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Finish Dark Immolation.
    • Status: Halfway. Literally, I’m halfway done with this book. And considering it’s due in a few days, I’ll be cranking it out this week.
  • This Week’s Goal: Finish Dark Immolation and write review.

Relaxation:

  • Long-term Goal: Create and maintain a mindset that taking care of yourself is just as important as everything else.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Swim 3x.
    • Status: Nada. Damn periods.
  • This Week’s Goal: Swim 3x.

Blogging:

  • Long-term Goal: Increase output over all three blogs, i.e., post more consistently.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Blog twice on both personal and book review blog.
    • Status: Almost! I blogged twice here and once on the book review blog (which would have been twice if I’d finished reading Dark Immolation and wrote the review. Funny how the goals tie together like that).
  • This Week’s Goal: Blog twice on both personal and book review blog.

Financial:

  • Long-term Goal: Manage money with more awareness, start retirement fund and build savings.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Update budget and finances. Cancel gym membership.
    • Status: Success! Made for a depressing evening after I figured out how poor I’ll always be with student loans tying me down, but I do feel better that I’m aware of that status.
  • This Week’s Goal: Don’t spend any more unnecessary money the rest of the month.

Definitely a week where I had a lot of “almost” reaching my goals, yet still made progress on all of them, so I’m still counting it as a successful week–though all last week, I just kept feeling like I was running out of time and like a failure, for not reaching these goals but getting so close.

Yet I still have almost three weeks before Pitch Wars starts (which is the competition I want to enter ARTEMIS into), so I have plenty of time to edit that last chapter and go through it one more time to tighten up the prose. I think I’m getting into a rhythm, working out wise, so that’s really exciting. And aside from the weekends, I’m doing really well eating healthier-sized portions. As for the weekends, I just need to have some potentially awkward conversations with the people closest to me about helping me stay on track. I’m hopeful they’ll be understanding and supportive and not think me to be a health-snob, now. Still a couple weeks left of summer to swim and relax (and get my reading on). Now to tighten the reins on my spending and stay frugal before the trip and continue pushing forward with a positive mindset.

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I got this.

Cheers.


Another Rant On Adulting

Let me start off by saying I’m really freakin’ lucky.

I have a good job (that’s now full-time *throws balloons*). I have a reliable car. A cute apartment. I can afford groceries, utilities and Internet. I have good health and am in a pretty good mental state. For the most part, I’m completely independent when it comes to bills and taking care of myself, which is really important to me.

And yet.

*cue rant*

I’m a pretty frugal person, much to the annoyance to most of my friends and family. I have a budget spreadsheet of all of my bills each month, all the bills that I have to pay once a year (e.g., women’s clinic visit, eye exam, that sort of thing), the amount I’d like to save and a wishlist of things I’d like to own, from a toaster to a coffee table to new clothes to books to tattoos.

Every so often, I update that budget to try and stay in line with my spending or reevaluate my goals of how much money I want to spend/save. Recently, I got moved to full-time, which definitely requires a budget change. And as my first full-time paycheck comes in tomorrow, I was really, really jazzed about it. No more living paycheck-to-paycheck like I have been. No more need for a second job. I could actually afford to live and be able to go to the movies without guilt, actually start crossing off things from my To-Buy Wishlist.

Oh, how naive I was.

Earlier, I said I was completely independent financially, “for the most part.” It wasn’t until this year that I realized that my parents have been paying for my car insurance and my tag renewal every year since I was 16. So next year, I’m going to be taking that over. As I should. My parents have been awesome and supportive, but I’ll be 25 this year. High time I start lessening their burden a little bit. Next year is also the same year I get kicked off their health insurance, so that will start coming out of my paycheck. In September, retirement starts coming out, so that’s another cut. And then you have all those one-time expenses I always forget about: doctors’ visits and new contacts and oil changes and parking permits. Those add up really quickly. If I want to have any savings account at all, that’s another cut.

Looking at all of those expenses, by this time next year, I’ll be back living paycheck-to-paycheck again.

And that just…floors me.

I make very decent money. And like I said, I’m super frugal. Occasionally, I’ll splurge, but that occasion is more rare than common. I’ve already canceled my gym membership to try and cut back on expenses, but every other bill I have is necessary.

I just…don’t know what to do.

My job isn’t going to give me a raise. We’re suffering from budget cuts as it is and, if the trend continues, that cut is only going to increase as the years pass. Yet I work 40 hours a week, 3pm-12am. When would I have time to add in a second job, again? Do I just give up on ever crossing off anything on that To-Buy Wishlist? Do I let this one trip to London I saved up for this year (with the hope that I could save up and travel abroad to a new place once every year) be the only trip of that nature? Do I just accept that I’ll always have this feeling that I’m trying to catch the money I earn up with the money I owe, without ever having any extra money to spend?

I just don’t know, friends. Again, I’m very lucky, to have what I have and live the life I live. But I’m also so dang tired of being so stressed out financially and being that one person in the group that always orders a water or refuses to meet for coffee or is known for being the person who “doesn’t spend money.” It’s selfish, I know, but I’d like to be able to buy that cute sweatshirt without feeling guilt. I’d like to be able to go out to dinner with friends and not stress over how to shave off that money I just spent somewhere else. I’d like to get a new tattoo and not have to wait over a year to save up to get another one.

Like I said: selfish, I know. But goodness me, a person should be able to make 30K a year like I do and not live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Cheers.


A Change in Plans

Last year, I was on an amazing writing streak, writing four books between one November and the next. It was…mental, to be honest.

So when the new year started, my plan–my vision–was to do the exact same thing again. I had a sequel in one series to write, three new series to start, not to mention all the editing I needed to do with everything I’d written so far. The creativity was kicking, the productivity flowing. Books were going to be written, people. So many new books.

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As you may have intuitively guessed (or figured out, if you follow this blog), I haven’t written a single new book this year.

I even tried to write one. Got 50 pages in before I started over, deleting most of it. Then, got to 60 pages before I tabled a book for the first time. The words were just not flowing and even though I haven’t written it yet, I knew that story is too important to half-ass just to finish it. It deserve the best I can offer and I wasn’t giving that.

So I went and started editing ARTEMIS, my favorite book I wrote last year. And I wrote this post about some of the fears and roadblocks I had surrounding writing and how I’d been in a rut for so long. One of the points I made was that I felt like turning to editing when writing something new wasn’t working felt like cheating. Like I wasn’t actually writing, because I was simply revising words I’d already written.

Then, the lovely, inspiring and talented Melissa Caruso (who’s debut, THE TETHERED MAGE, comes out THIS OCTOBER *squee*) commented on that post and said this:

If it helps with the “Editing is not writing” mindset, I think editing is not only writing, it is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. I did the very first draft of TTM in like 2 months and then spent… uh… a year editing it, on and off? Something like that. And there’s not much left of that first draft. It had to be done to get to the final, but it was the editing where I did most of my best work on it. I would be embarrassed to show you some of the crappy first try scenes! I used to hate revising, but now I see it as what it is—writing—and I kind of love it.

And if it helps you not give up… I can tell you FOR SURE that every book, every page, is getting you more XP to level up. I had to write, um, let’s go with “several” books before Naomi rescued me from the slush pile, and one more for good luck before getting a publisher. It’s worth the wait! The more books you write before The Book, the better The Book will be when you get there. You got this!

And friends, that has stuck with me.

I’m only 20 pages away from finishing this round of edits on ARTEMIS (and let me tell you, those last 20 pages are going to make me earn it). So many times, I have rewritten entire paragraphs, if not entire chapters.

That’s most certainly counts as writing.

Not only that, but I like to believe that a lot of the changes I’ve made have been improvements. There were entire scenes I skimmed over which, now that I’ve fleshed them out, makes the story so much stronger, so much more in-scene. I’ve given my characters more depth, made them more realistic. Even though I haven’t finished it yet, I feel like this third draft of ARTEMIS is so much stronger than what I started out with. And I actually was really proud of that first draft.

It made me wonder: how could I improve my other stories; stories which were the stepping stones that enabled me to have the tools, the courage and the gumption to write ARTEMIS in the first place? How could I use what I’ve learned editing ARTEMIS–not to mention the knowledge I’ve obtained and soaked in from other writers, editors and professionals in the field these past two years, becoming more involved in the writing community–to improve the stories that have sat on the back burner for so long?

My original plan was to try and write four new books this year. Now, I’ve decided to spend the rest of 2017 editing the books I’ve already written. After I finish ARTEMIS, I’m going to enter that manuscript into Pitch Wars. Then, I think I’m going to (*cough*finally*cough*) look at some beta feedback I got over THE RESISTANCE and give that book some desperate attention. Then, if I’m feeling really brave, I’ll return to Darryn and his story, told through the DESTINY OF THE DRAGON trilogy. I know that trilogy has a lot of work and while it’s a troped story that will probably never see the light of day, traditional-publication wise, I still want to make it the best story I can. I just love it too much.

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Of course, plans can change. Maybe I’ll win Pitch Wars and spend the rest of 2017 fervently working on ARTEMIS (wouldn’t that be a dream?). Maybe I’ll finally figure out how to work around the blocks in Natanni’s story and return to have another crack at that. Maybe I’ll flesh out one of the other books I planned to write and get caught up in the excitement of a new story. I have no idea. But for now, I hope to continue to learn and appreciate the process that is editing, so that I can keep leveling up and writing the best stories I can in that given moment.

Because I really want to take up a spot on your bookshelf, one day.

Cheers.