Judging A Book By Its Cover

You know the phrase. We all know it.

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Yet, I absolutely, totally do it

It’s not always in a bad way, like being automatically turned off by a book if the cover isn’t up to what I believe the standard to be (and how did I create this mental standard? Who bloody knows). Like, if I hear about a book and it sounds really promising and has a really awesome premise, I’m definitely going to read it, even if the cover ends up looking like shit. I am guilty of, however, perusing through books and looking at the covers to grab me and if it doesn’t, then there’s a pretty good chance that I won’t pick up a book unless I already have a connection to it, i.e., I’ve read the author before, I’ve heard about it, etc.

Oops.

I know this is a bad thing to do, but…yeah, still totally guilty.

I am, also, totally guilty of the opposite. If a book has a phenomenal cover that completely catches my eye, half of the time, I’ll be tempted to check out/buy the book without even reading the back blurb to see if it’s interesting. I’ve actually found some really awesome books this way (can I remember any of them off the top of my head? No, of course not, that would be too convenient and make too much sense). So maybe that erases my sin of being so judgmental towards book covers? Maybe?

I’m not really sure why I equate good book cover art to good writing, because that’s certainly not always the case. It definitely does a disservice to books that might not have had the opportunity or the funds to make super quality art and I know I’m probably missing out on some gems (not that my To-Read list needs to get any longer, by any means, but still). It’s just an interesting quirk I’ve noticed I have and probably a sin in the book lover’s world.

I’m curious: any of you suffer from the same fault as me? If you used to, were you ever able to break that habit (and if you did, how)?

Cheers.

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Do More Than Dare to Dream

Have you ever had a dream for so long that you can’t remember a time when you weren’t wishing for it to come true? Where it reaches a point that, since you can’t remember never wanting that dream, that sometimes, you forget what exactly it is that you really want?

It’s not a surprise that I really want to an author, with my books out in the world and published, homed on the shelves of your local bookstore.

But what does that look like, exactly?

In my mind, it looks a little something like this:

If my dream came true, I’d know what it feels like to experience not only a request for a full manuscript, but also the infamous “Call” from an agent offering representation, where we squee about my book and our shared vision for it, and then I promptly go make a plethora of other phone calls to my parents and my siblings, best friends and my man, probably a crying mess of emotions, telling them that I’ve found my advocate, my partner in crime, who has the means and the methods to make my dream finally come true, and together, we’re going to make it happen.

I’d also eat a lot of celebratory ice cream.

I’d know work; hard work. I’d meet other individuals who believed in my book, like editors and publishing houses, who’d instruct me how to make my book reach that next level required before publication and I’d go back to the editing board. Again, as many times as necessary. I’d experience working under a deadline, sending frantic emails to my agent at 3am and then texting them the next morning and apologizing for my freakout, but could they please tell me that latest scene that’s been plaguing me since day one is finally there?

I’d know waiting. Waiting for my agent to read my manuscript and offer feedback. Waiting for editors and publishing reps to respond, after my manuscript is finally ready and sent out into the publishing world, hoping to be snatched up. I’d know rejection, when we have to cross a hopeful house off the list–potentially all of them, forcing me to go back to the drawing board. I’d know elation–alongside more tears and more ice cream–when a deal has been made between my agent and a publishing house, and my dream really becomes a reality, when a publication date is set. I’d know excitement, as I have to keep that news under wraps for weeks, if not longer, before it can be announced. I’d learn about every step in the process, taking a book from manuscript to print, and I’d make a lot of friends along the way.

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Then, it will all be a whirlwind that takes ages to complete, but hopefully I don’t focus on the wait too much, because I’m too busy working on the next book, building my platform and meeting my agent in person for the first time to spend staring at a calendar, counting down to my book’s birthday (though we all know that’s going to happen anyway). My book will debut and I’ll get to do my first ever book signing, full of awkwardness, sweaty palms and blushing red nerves on my part (plus, a really shite signature). I’ll go on a book tour. I’ll be torn between looking up reviews on Goodreads and avoiding them like the plague. I’ll stay up late at night, crying both tears of happiness and tears of pain, when readers both love and hate my book.

I’ll keep writing.

I’ll no longer be a debut author. Now, working under deadlines and dealing with contracts will become more familiar than foreign. Maybe I’ll make enough to quit my day job so I can work part-time at something I really love, instead. I’ll get chances to meet agents, editors, authors and industry professionals I’ve always admired and, hopefully, turn some of those idols into friends. I’ll randomly sign books whenever I go to a bookstore and fill up my Instagram with too many shots of the same cover that I probably collapsed on the ground and cried over, when I first saw it and held my ARC copies of my own book in my hands. I’ll start speaking at book shops, after getting established, talking with readers and aspiring authors about my own journey, desperate to hear about theirs and hopefully, ideally, inspire them to go forward and write the next book that obsess over.

There’ll be fanmail, both with love and hate. When fan art appears, that’s when I’ll truly know I’ve made it (please, ship all my characters). Selling foreign or cinematic rights to any of my works would be incredible and beyond the scope of what I could imagine possible.

Yet, at the end of the day, I’d be doing the same thing I’ve been doing since before I can really remember: sitting down and writing word after word, attempting to tell the stories that somehow snuck into my head coherently onto paper.

But instead of hoping people will one day read them, I’ll look at my bookshelf, see an actual, physical copies of books I wrote sitting there, beside all my favorites; and I’ll know, that if I keep on putting in the work, readers can, and will, continue to read my stories.

Cheers.

PS: I just started revising the book (again) that I hope kicks off making this dream–every element of this dream, the good, the difficult, the surreal and the challenging–a reality. It’s been a struggle, so I just needed to remind myself the life I hope to live, one day. My stories will continue to get written, no matter if this dream comes true or not. But, for me, I want to do more than dare to dream this dream will become a reality.

I’m going to work to make it so.


Quest for Happiness: Week Forty Four

Fitness:

  • Long-term Goal: Shape the body I want and become healthier.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Workout 3x and stay positive about my body, no matter what the scale says.
    • Status: Success! 
  • This Week’s Goal: Walk 3x.

Writing:

  • Long-term Goal: Edit all previously written works. Query one.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Write 4x and stay on WC track.
    • Status: In a sense? So, I changed projects in the middle of last week, so I didn’t meet the WC for the first WIP, because I wasn’t writing it. But I did work on the other novel, so I’m counting that.
  • This Week’s Goal: Figure out plot of Book Two and begin editing first 50 pages.

Reading:

  • Long-term Goal: Read 60 books.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Read every day.
    • Status: Success! And I got in the review, to boot.
  • This Week’s Goal: Try not to read Communication Failure too quickly.

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: Have a blast with Marie’s visit, a little time off of work and tattoo appointment.
    • Status: Success! I love this time of year, because it’s always so busy with the holidays. ❤
  • This Week’s Goal: Watch my ‘Hawks kick some Wildcat ass. Maybe even start Christmas shopping.

Blogging:

  • Long-term Goal: Increase output over all three blogs, i.e., post more consistently.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Keep up blogging output. Catch up reading blogs.
    • Status: Success!
  • This Week’s Goal: Blog at least once and write review.

Financial:

  • Long-term Goal: Manage money with more awareness, start retirement fund and build savings.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Look up car insurance quotes, reevaluate budget, investigate second sources of income.
    • Status: Success! I (finally) found an insurance plan that works and, though I’m still stressing pretty hard, I think I’m doing okay. Hopefully I’ll be able to get all the Christmas presents I want to for everyone, but we’ll see!
  • This Week’s Goal: Stay frugal on everything but Christmas presents.

Balancing progress and flexibility have been really key, I think–not being afraid to be adaptable when the time comes (like walking a mile when you don’t have time to run or changing a writing project because the muse calls to you) yet still calling it moving forward and accomplishing your goals. Hoping to keep it up as the holidays really begin to get underway!

Cheers.


My Most Recent Writing Mind Suck

Writing has been a…really interesting endeavor, recently.

A lot of battling back and forth with my own mind, trying to decide whether I’m actually shit or if I’m borderline brilliant (because my brain doesn’t have any go-between, apparently). A lot of questioning whether the story I’m writing is one I should be writing at all and if I’m ever going to make a career out of my passion. A lot of days where I only get 100 words written, only to be followed up the next day with 3,000.

This afternoon, I was introduced to an interesting complication to further complicate my mind suck, of sorts.

You see, I’ve been working on my rewrite of THE RESISTANCE, tentatively titled in this new draft as THE CLEANSING. I’ve never experienced so much back and forth with a book before, so much questioning surrounding it. There’s been plenty of times where I wanted to give it up all together, to work on something else, but I kept pushing. I’m on track to finish the first draft (if it falls in the 80,000 word range) by the end of December. I’d love to just get a draft done and then I can focus on, you know, actually making this story good in the next round. That’s what the first draft is for, right? Plus, this book is also meant to solidify my writing habits again, which is another reason I don’t want to table it.

Not to mention that I tabled a different project earlier this year and that was really hard. It made me feel like a failure (which I know isn’t true). If I were to table two projects in one year, what does that mean? My confidence as a writer has already been shaky enough, as late. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that, especially as I’m just getting into the groove of rebuilding it.

And yet.

Let me describe that glorious complication.

I got some feedback on my novel, ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST. A novel that I wrote last year and have slowly been editing away. The novel that I really want to query, after this latest rounds of revisions. I’ve just been waiting on some feedback from my latest round of beta readers before I started the next round of edits. So far, ARTEMIS has received the same type of feedback, but always with the same problem.

A problem that, based on a discussion with my critique partner this afternoon, I might–finally–have a solution for.

She also might have told me that Angry Robots put out an open call for unsolicited SFF manuscripts, due by December 31st.

And my book fits exactly into what they want (I hope).

*cue glorious excitement and utter terror*

So, now I have a choice: do I switch to editing this novel and getting it ready to send to Angry Robot, as well as to query agents when most of them reopen in January (thus tabling the sci-fi novel that’s been giving me so much trouble and not meeting that self-given deadline and “not winning” NaNoWriMo)? Do I continue to work on the sci-fi manuscript and edit ARTEMIS when I get done? Or do I try to work on both projects at once, meeting my self-set deadline and not (albeit falsely) feel like a failure for tabling two books in one year, while also meeting the Angry Robot deadline?

Honestly?

After writing those choices out, my gut leans towards working on Artemis and making it shine for Angry Robots and agents.

Sure, I’d be setting aside my sci-fi novel, for now, and that makes my insides twist for reasons I’m not really sure I understand, i.e., why do I equate tabling a project to work on later as failure?* It’s something I’ve been struggling to write, beyond the point of just your typical writing struggles, I think. Whereas Artemis…Artemis, I’m passionate about. I’m excited about that story and I’m so excited to finally have a potential solution to this problem that’s been nagging at me for almost a year.

So why does switching to work on my passion project, my project that’s *just this close* to querying, make me feel so guilty?

I’m not entirely sure, at the moment, where that guilt comes from. I’m sure another blog post will show up, sometime, to try and flesh this mindset out. But I do know this: I’m excited about Artemis and where this story is heading and I’m really damn hopeful about his future. I’m ready to put in the work and see what happens next.

Cheers.

* I’d really love to get some feedback from you, if you have some time, on your thoughts about this idea. Do you have similar struggles? What are your opinions of this mindset? Any advice you have to combat it?


The Never-Ending Cycle of Learning Lessons

This freakin’ brain of mine, friends.

This freakin’ brain.

So, as you (might) know, my birthday was last week. *throws celebratory balloons* As such, it was a lot of eating really good food. Including cake. Like, Oreo Blizzard Cake from Dairy Queen (because my family is awesome). Plus, homemade strawberry pretzel salad (because my family is awesome). And letting me choose the restaurants, so places like Olive Garden (because, hello pasta) and Texas Roadhouse (can I have another basket of rolls, please?) were both consumed. It was a glorious weekend.

You know what didn’t happen?

Running.

Or working out of any capacity.

Monday’s are my weigh-in days. Which, in retrospect, makes me wonder why I picked that day, out of any day of the week, because it’s always after the weekend, which is when I usually fall off my eating plan and don’t work out at all, so it’s probably my “worst” weight of the week (as compared to Fridays, after I’ve worked out all week and ate well). Yet it’s also probably the most accurate, so I’m sticking with it.

Anyway, this morning, I was terrified to weigh myself. In my mind, since I went a little overboard with the birthday shenanigans, obviously I’d gained five, ten pounds back and I was going to lose all motivation I had to keep up this lifestyle I’ve now officially kept up with for a year and suddenly I’ve become the cow I always thought I used to be, before.

Dramatic, right?

Everyone told me to skip weighing, do well this week and then weigh next week. And I wanted to do just that, but I couldn’t. I wanted to be honest with myself.

So I weighed.

And gained 0.08 pounds.

Then, I ran three miles and weighed again, just for shits and grins.

And was right back where I was last week, perfectly maintaining.

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I know.

know.

You gotta love that overactive imagination, right? That over-thinking part of my brain that just so happens to be more powerful than other part of my brain? Yeah, it definitely took over this weekend, being so nervous that a couple days of not eating the best was going to ruin a year’s worth of progress. But I don’t believe that was the main factor, the main influence, for my over-thinking.

It was fear.

You see, the most amazing part about this lifestyle change; about losing 30 pounds of my 40 pound goal; about figuring out eating habits that are healthy yet aren’t restrictive; about incorporating working out as part of a routine (and a main part, at that); the most amazing part about all of this has been the self-love I’ve finally experienced, after so many years searching for it and failing to find it.

Ever since 7th grade and I first slipped into the 180 pound range, I’ve hated myself, physically. And that hatred manifested, through depression, into practically every area of my life.

For years.

Until this past year.

As I’ve discovered my strength, I’ve discovered a pause to look in the mirror when I usually stared at the ground. As I’ve discovered my control, I’ve discovered the excitement to go shopping for a new pair of jeans instead of dreading it. As I’ve discovered a healthy lifestyle, I’ve discovered the joy of releasing endorphins, actually creating the way my body looks, enjoying foods that I make myself and eating a healthy amount, all alongside discovering a love for me, and my body.

It’s an incredible feeling. Addictive, really.

I never want to go back to what I used to feel. I never want to hate myself again.

So when I mess up, I get scared. Because I’ve messed up before. Over and over again, I’ve messed up, which is how I got to 200 pounds in the first place, being labeled as in the “obese” category at the doctor’s office. And though realistically in my mind, I know that a few days of poor eating, or a week of not exercising, isn’t going to kill me. Hell, gaining a pound or two back isn’t failure. If nothing else, I should be confident that I can conquer any obstacle, now that I’ve already done what used to feel like an impossibility, so whatever I gain back, I know I can lose it again.

Yet the fear remains.

And that’s the next thing to conquer.

It’s especially prevalent now, that winter is here. Because I know I’m not going to run as much as I’ll want to. It’ll get cold or the weather will get bad and I’ll have no desire to run at all, let alone leave the warmth of my bed. I’ll want to eat warm, filling food and play video games. Plus, we got Thanksgiving coming up, not to mention Christmas. And all that Halloween candy still to eat. It’s the holiday season, paired with the worst weather to run in, basically setting me up to not lose weight. Or maintain, which is my goal. And potentially gain.

I know that, if I set my mind to something, I can achieve it. I know that, if I focus on the unrealistic roots and unfairness of this fear, I can overcome it. I know that, if I learn to embrace forgiveness on the times when I mess up or the weeks that I don’t do very well, this fear will quietly become silent. I know that.

Now, it’s time to learn it.

Cheers.


Quest for Happiness: Week Forty Three

Fitness:

  • Long-term Goal: Shape the body I want and become healthier.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Keep running despite the cold weather (3x is the goal, this week). Be forgiving if your food intake isn’t the best, especially considering this week officially begins the holiday season.
    • Status: Halfway, I’ll say. I went on two walks last week (including an almost five mile walk that kicked my ass), so almost hit the workout goal. And I definitely kicked off the holiday season with my birthday celebrations over the weekend, which meant a lot of really delicious food that makes me terrified to check the scale on Monday. Stressing a bit about how that’s going to affect my weight loss goals, so trying to work on being a little more forgiving and a little less panicky.
  • This Week’s Goal: Workout 3x and stay positive about my body, no matter what the scale says.

Writing:

  • Long-term Goal: Edit all previously written works. Query one.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Keep up writing (3x, this week, 4x if time allows) progress and remember that this first draft is all about getting the words down, even if they’re shit.
    • Status: Success! Though they weren’t always the best writing sessions, I did write 4x last week and am still on track to finish a draft of this book by the year’s end.
  • This Week’s Goal: Write 4x and stay on WC track.

Reading:

  • Long-term Goal: Read 60 books.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Read The Tethered Mage and write review.
    • Status: Success!
  • This Week’s Goal: Read every day.

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: Enjoy Halloween and my birthday!
    • Status: Success! 
  • This Week’s Goal: Have a blast with Marie’s visit, a little time off of work and tattoo appointment.

Blogging:

  • Long-term Goal: Increase output over all three blogs, i.e., post more consistently.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Write two personal blog posts and one review.
    • Status: Success!
  • This Week’s Goal: Keep up blogging output. Catch up reading blogs.

Financial:

  • Long-term Goal: Manage money with more awareness, start retirement fund and build savings.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Continue to stay frugal and be aware of my finances
    • Status: Eh. With birthday shenanigans and the need for new running shoes, money is a little tight. Plus, with getting the rest of my tattoo outline done this weekend and the need to start Christmas shopping, I really need to stay aware of my finances.
  • This Week’s Goal: Look up car insurance quotes, reevaluate budget, investigate second sources of income.

Not a bad week, goals wise. It’s crazy to me, though, how much one area can take up my entire mind and every spare thought (which, this week, is my finances and working out/weight). So much so that I’m pretty positive you’ll be seeing blog posts about those very topics this week, so stay tuned for more in-depth thoughts surrounding those areas. Otherwise, I love that I’m keeping up most of my goals!

Cheers.


25: Or, The In-Between Birthday

Today is my 25th birthday!

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I may not be 111, but boy do I feel the age this year.

Twenty Five. Two-Five. 25.

That’s a…really crazy number, to me.

I’m sure plenty of people will look at that and say, Wow Nicole, you’re really not that old or respond with, Everyone thinks they’re super old on their birthday, it’s typical. Yet this one is both special and yet sad, I think, because, in my mind, I feel like it’s the last special birthday I’ll really have.

To me, 25 is one of those ages where you’re stuck in the in-between, yet it’s also more than that. It’s a birthday that really solidifies that I’m an adult, yet it’s one of the last milestone birthdays I have before I start wishing I wasn’t counting milestones (you know, when my next special birthday is my 30th and then every decade after that). Ever since I turned 18, every birthday after that has felt a little less special, compared to when I was a kid, yet this one really feels like that, to me.

I’m not really sure why.

Maybe that’s all just inside my head, yet that’s sorta what I’ve associated with my birthday, this year. It’s this weird, in-between age where I’m definitely no longer a kid, yet I’m still struggle staying afloat in the adulting waters (at least, I feel like I’m drowning more often than smooth sailing), so I don’t think I can confidently claim that I’m killing this adult life thing, yet. But I’m trying. It’s a cool age to be at, though, where all my bosses at work (who are in the 40-60 age range) think I’m really young, yet all my students (18-22) think I’m ancient. I think it’s also a really cool age because so many different people that I know that are my age are in a lot of different stages in their lives. I know people who are married with kids, those in school, those who have awesome jobs and those who are struggling to figure themselves out. The best part? All of those paths are okay to be on.

It’s all about where you want to go and what you do to get there.

Regardless of how you view it, old or young, I’m still really excited about my birthday. It’s corny, but I always get really excited about them. One, unabashedly, I love presents, so getting a couple presents randomly the start of every November is always a plus. Two, it’s an excuse to make my family and friends hang out with me, and I automatically get dibs on where we eat or what we do, without guilt or worrying (too much, because, yeah, I’m still me) about what everyone else wants, and instead can just pick my favorites, yet I’m not being an asshat in doing soth (this year, it’s bowling and Texas Roadhouse with the friends on my actual birthday tonight, then seeing Thor: Ragnarok and eating at Olive Garden with the fam and my man tomorrow). Three, being the lovely, over-thinker that I am, it’s just one of those days that you can’t help thinking back on the year you had and then getting excited about the year ahead.

Wanna reminiscence and dream with me?

A Glimpse at 24

  • Started running and caring about my body more.
  • Lost 30 pounds out of my 40 pound goal.
  • Got two new tattoos, including (most) of the outline of my sleeve.
  • Fought to get promoted to full-time at my job.
  • Tried out a dating website.
  • Open up a retirement plan.
  • Traveled back to England with mi madre, my traveling companion.
  • Worked two jobs for seven months.
  • Binge-played Mass Effect: Andromeda and felt no regrets.
  • Amped up my blogging output.
  • Fell into a writing rut.
  • Went to my second St. Louis Blues hockey game.
  • Got ghosted on during my 24th birthday.
  • Expanded my comfort zone. Like, a lot.
  • Started playing DnD!
  • Watched my ‘Hawks clench 13 straight Big 12 titles.
  • Gave my heart away to someone else (and I want him to keep it).
  • Started an amazing internship with Naomi Davis.
  • Read a ton of really great books (a lot of which came from Jabberwocky Literary Agency authors).
  • Meet OLAN freakin’ ROGERS.
  • Started writing short stories (and became a collaborator of a short story blog!).
  • Participated (and kept up with, more impressively) in Mythgard Academy’s “Treason of Isengard” class.
  • Was the Maid-of-Honor at my best friend’s wedding!
  • Got (slightly) better at cooking.
  • Participated in RevPit, P2p17 and PitchWars (and didn’t get into any of them).

A Hope for 25

  • Get a puppy and name her Dovahkiin.
  • Reestablish my writing habits and start writing books again.
  • Return to the querying trenches.
  • Keep up new lifestyle and lose those last 10 pounds.
  • Finish and fill in my sleeve.
  • Move into a house, maybe?
  • Stop putting work before everything.
  • Try to balance the few important groups of people in my life better.
  • Become completely financially independent (so, so close).
  • Continue to stay vulnerable with my heart.
  • Build up my savings account.
  • Travel somewhere neat (even if it’s in the States).
  • Attempt to teach myself Spanish.
  • Become less judgmental.
  • Find my voice and the courage to use it.
  • Continue becoming the woman I want to be and be proud of her.

24 was certainly not a bad year, at all. In fact, it was probably one of the happier years of my life, considering I actually made some changes I’ve always wanted to make and took self-care and self-love seriously. Sure, it had plenty of hiccups–the main one being my novel writing rut most of the year–and there were days where the tears definitely outweighed the smiles, but looking ahead to 25, I’m nothing but jazzed at the opportunities ahead of me and all the life that is left to live; both the good and the bad.

So…yeah, it’s my birthday today. Thanks for being a part of my life. I appreciate you and look forward to all the adventures being 25 brings!

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Cheers.