Year in Review: 2019

I am sure you guys have been wondering where I’ve been. It’s been a while since my last post – even longer since I was posting regularly. I’m finally here to explain why.

2019 was a really tough year for me, for a variety of reasons.

In June, I parted ways with my literary agent. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. Coming so, so close to your dream, only to watch it fizzle out is absolutely devastating. I don’t think I can adequately put that kind of heartbreak into words. My writing confidence took a huge hit as the thought of diving back into the query trenches has been incredibly daunting and the fear of people seeing me as a failure couldn’t be more defeating.

Then in July, I accepted a new job. It was a huge opportunity for me to write for a living with a giant pay increase and great team. But it didn’t turn out exactly like I’d thought. I wasn’t actually writing and was killing myself working a 60 hour week in a hardcore environment. While I loved my teammates, between the lack of balance and the crazy levels of stress, things started to fall apart.

I fell behind on my writing – fiction and blogging. My physical health took a hit with little to no time to exercise or do my normal self-care – which for someone with a chronic illness can cause a major flare up. My mental health went with it as my anxiety spiraled into a very unhealthy space. My dog had to go live with my parents as I couldn’t properly take care of him. I moved into a new house to be closer to work, but it wasn’t financially sustainable, leaving me in a precarious position despite the pay increase.

After many sleepless nights, fits of tears, panic attacks, and bottles of wine, I finally took a look in the mirror and decided to change my life. Why was I working myself to death climbing a corporate ladder that just distanced myself from my dream?

So I quit. I found a new job with an amazing boss who supports my writing, a flexible schedule and less stress. This new job pays about half of what the old one did – which comes with stressors of its own, the biggest of which is moving again and finding additional streams of income – but I feel a weight lifted from my shoulders. I can prioritize my writing again, I can get my dog back, I can get my health under control.

It wasn’t easy to make such a big change. In fact, it was outright terrifying (and still is) but I am excited to see where it takes me and proud of myself for taking a step back, reevaluating my life, and fighting for the dream.

Or as Lizzo says, bossing up and changing my life.

Now – back to regularly scheduled programming.

What I Read

GRAND TOTAL: 42

Womp womp. My goal was to read 60 books in 2019. As you can tell – due to reasons already stated above – I failed spectacularly. But despite the lower number, I had a higher average rating. Which means I read some really awesome books – so I think that makes up for it. I was also able to beta read a few manuscripts from fellow writing friends and re-read my all-time favorite series. Always a win!

You can see the full list of 2019 reads as well as reviews here, but check out November and December’s below:

November and December Reads:

American Royals by Katharine McGee ★★★
What if America had a royal family? McGee rewrites history in her newest YA novel – a dramatic saga of the life of the American royal family. I thought the concept was strong, and per usual the author’s writing style is clear and captivating, her character’s compelling, and her pacing on point. But there was just so much drama… and not a ton of plot. Plus the ending was left wide open with not much (if any) resolution. I will likely pick up the sequel but it wasn’t my favorite read of the year.

Queen of Nothing by Holly Black ★★
I think I am one of the few people who hasn’t fallen head over heels for this series, and the final installment was even more disappointing for such stellar world building and initial character development – I say initial because a few totally unraveled in this book (cough* Taryn and Cardan* cough). The pacing was much better in this book – maybe because it was so much shorter, almost too short. But the plot fell super flat. To name a few, we undermine the amazing tension of the second book’s exile for just a misunderstanding. Then there’s this giant snake that seems to serve no purpose. And a battle scene that never actually happened. I just wanted so much more.

Only Ashes Remain by Rebecca Schaeffer ★★★★
I loved the first book in this series and loved the second just as much! A dark (really dark guys) fantasy about supernatural beings in the real world, hunted to be sold on the black market. My only complaint in the first book was that I wanted more emotional spark. Well we get that in spades in the sequel! The romance is superrrr slow burn but delicious. Nina gets added depth – although her inner monologue could’ve probably been cut down a bit. Definitely pick this one up!

Fumbled by Alexa Martin ★★★★★
Second chance romances aren’t easy to pull off, but Martin does it effortlessly! Just like with her first novel, I read this one in one sitting. But it doesn’t suffer from second book syndrome. The characters are just as entertaining but nuanced in different ways, the plot and setting are familiar but fresh and she tackles the important issue of CTE in football with such care and grace. Another great sports romance!

Blitzed by Alexa Martin ★★★★
As you can see above, I am a huge fan of the Playbook series and have been anxiously awaiting Brynn’s story. And dare I say it, I think Maxwell is my favorite of the love interests, and I ADORED Brynn. All the great things about Martin’s writing and storytelling are back here. But unfortunately, I had a bit of an issue with the ending. Brynn accuses Maxwell of something pretty terrible. No spoilers, but like an awful, character-questioning, life-ruining thing. And when she realizes she’s wrong and goes rushing back, he just accepts it. No groveling, no anger, nothing!!! I guess it’s because Maxwell’s a better person, but it just didn’t seem realistic or fair. Overall, this is still one of my favorite romance series though, and it’s definitely worth a read!

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What I Wrote

2019 was probably my least productive writing year. At least that’s how it felt although I think I did okay with everything else I had going on.

I ended up with approximately 40K blog views over the course of the year versus 2018’s 60K, but considering I deprioritized posting new blogs (only 29) and publicizing in the second half of the year, that makes total sense.

From a fiction perspective, I didn’t write anything new which I was pretty disappointed about. But I survived being on submission and completed two GIANT revisions which definitely counts for something.

In the first quarter of 2019, I revised my contemporary fantasy, The Blood Between Us, transforming the first draft into something relatively readable. This draft came in at about 138K words… My goal was 115K, so some major cutting still needed to happen. I also had a dilemma in regards to the age group: is it YA or adult? If only New Adult was still a thing! So when I sent this draft out to my wonderful beta readers and critique partners, I asked them to really zone in on these two issues (in addition to my typical questions for beta readers which you can find here).

I got some truly great and helpful feedback, so it was back to the grindstone for me. I decided to go out for Pitch Wars which left me crazed to get ready –  at least 22,000 words needed cutting, five or six overarching plot points that needed adding/enhancing, a final read to get through, and a query and synopsis to write. I also had to narrow down the list of Pitch Wars mentors to the four who were a best fit for my novel – an almost impossible task!

But I did it. I got my word count down from 137K to 109K and sent my manuscript off into the world. Unfortunately I didn’t get in to Pitch Wars, but one of the mentors sent me the sweetest note that she felt my novel was agent-ready as is. It gave me the confidence I need to dive back into the query trenches in 2020. Wish me luck!

Coming Up in 2020

There are some really big life changes coming up for me this year, and while I’m absolutely terrified, I’m also really excited. Dialing back my “day job” career will allow me more time and energy to focus on what’s really important: pursuing my dream life. Here’s the plan.

  • Query The Blood Between Us and sign with a new agent
  • Draft my Bachelorette-inspired contemporary romance
  • Research and outline TBBU’s sequel.
  • Write 2-3 blog posts per month.
  • Read 36 books.
  • Move into a smaller/cheaper apartment.
  • Relearn to play the guitar.
  • Take tennis lessons.
  • Become a certified Pilates instructor.

Last year, I listed several less tangible goals that I wanted to accomplish. Unfortunately I wasn’t super successful. But it’s a brand new year with a brand new outlook so I am reusing them here in the hopes that I can manifest them into my life.

  • Sign my first book deal.
  • Fall in love.
  • Get my physical pain under my control.
  • Learn to manage my anxiety better.
  • Create new streams of income.
  • Find like-minded friends.
  • Take more risks (which I guess I am already doing!)
  • Stop apologizing.

I am looking forward to a fresh start in 2020, although I am sure it won’t happen without its bumps or like I’ve planned. But this year is all about creating the life I want. And I feel amazing about that.

Happy New Year!

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