2017 Retrospective

It’s been a while! Let’s not waste time over that fact. I have a toddler and a four-year-old. Enough said.

Where did my year go? Well. A good 40% was caring for children. At least 50% of it went down a terrifying dark spiral into a new hellscape bizarro America where Donald Trump is president and we all have to find our own ways of mentally dealing with that fact. On top of that, I have been postpartum and I recently weaned my second son which is, for some reason, even harder on my hormones than postpartum–luckily, I have been in therapy so I have been using all my mental tools and working through my anxiety.

But what about that last 10%? There had to be more than just political unrest and hormonal imbalances along the way.

10434679What I Read

I knew going in that I wouldn’t be able to read a ton this year, but I finished 31 books (32 if I finish my current read by Sunday, which I have to or else the library will yank the copy off my ereader). I’ve actually read several more if you include the wonderful works by my super-talented CPs, but they’re not on Goodreads so I haven’t been tracking them.

One thing that helped is joining a book club! I’m the most awkward person in the world, but I’ve really enjoyed meeting up regularly to discuss a book we all read (or most of us read) (or a few of us read, anyway). It’s also opened me up to trying books I would not have picked, like A Man Called Ove. I didn’t love that book as a whole, but it had some beautiful writing and it was interesting to stray so far from my comfort zone.

Favorite of 2017: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley. Hands down. There’s a little bit of Howling Books stuck in my head forever now, and I don’t ever want to be rid of it. This book is so beautifully written and atmospheric. I’m a sucker for the BFFs in love trope, and this one totally did me in.

19023367_10104245362311946_4131360215165443592_oWhere I Went

This year was not big for travel, mostly because of having a baby in tow, but we did manage a trip down to Nags Head, NC. I’d never been to the Outer Banks, despite being surrounded in OBX bumper stickers all over Virginia for nearly my entire life. We rented a house near the beach and it was a very calm vacation, even with the kids in tow! I may have broken a record for most chocolate malts consumed within a single week, but I’m not willing to admit to the number so I can’t call Guinness to make it official.

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EDIT: I forgot about perhaps the most AWESOME place I went this past year since it was way, way, way back in February: HAMILTON! My husband and I celebrated our ten year anniversary by flying to Chicago, eating dinner at the Saved by the Bell pop-up restaurant, and seeing the greatest American history musical of all time. It was every bit as fantastic as I could have hoped.

What I Wrote

For such an emotionally overwhelming year, I managed to write quite a bit! I got my most recent WIP finished, polished, sent to my agent, and I am now working on edits. I also started a new WIP in the meantime, which is about halfway drafted. It’s a total departure from anything I’ve written before–alternate history, third person, multi-POV. Tons of research so far. Not sure what I’m thinking or if I can pull it off, but I’m gonna give it my best shot!

Other Stuff

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One of my most exciting accomplishments this year has been my Etsy shop! I opened an Etsy shop (bookwormmamaco.etsy.com) in February with the goal of making 100 sales by the end of the year, and I am currently at 249! The 2016 election results wrecked me, as I am sure they wrecked most people I know, and for a while I couldn’t even bear to look at the news. Getting on Twitter and Facebook was stressing me out. So I used all that time to teach myself graphic design! It’s been so fun to learn, and I am still learning quite a bit, but I had all these fun projects I’d created and nothing to do with them–so I put them up for sale. AND PEOPLE BOUGHT THEM. This is still the most amazing thing to me. It doesn’t get old. I’m being carried in three indie bookshops, I got my bookmarks into a subscription box–it’s all been a lot of fun and a lot of work, but I’m really proud of how far my little shop has come in less than a year!

Also! Late in the year I accepted a position as an editorial intern at Entangled Publishing, so I’ve been working with them and writing reader reports and generally seeing the other side of the publishing coin which has been really enlightening.

What’s On for 2018?

I’ve decided that this year will be very intentional. My word of the year is not even a word:

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There are so many things that I have felt held back from doing, or worried about, or been too exhausted to contemplate. But this year? Execute. All. The. Programs.

Both sons are currently sleeping through the night, so if it’s on my To Do list? I want to do it. Not in a week. Not in a month. Not five years from now. I want to do it now. I want to open that file and start that program running–OK. It’s clear I am married to a software engineer, but my point is, I want to stop procrastinating and holding myself back and making excuses for why I am not doing exactly what I want to be doing.

There’s not a lot I can control in this current hellscape, but I can try to control that.

How was your 2017? Do you have any goals or words you plan to focus on in the new year? 

COVER REVEAL: BROKEN CHORDS by Jessica Bayliss

I met Jessica when we were working on our stories for the Leap Books BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT anthology, and I am thrilled that I did because I get to read some of her awesome work (like her forthcoming BROKEN CHORDS from Leap Books) before it hits the shelves. I consider myself very lucky.

And you guys. BROKEN CHORDS is SO great and creepy! I loved it. I can’t wait to show you her new book cover… and I don’t have to, because it’s here! In this post! Along with a giveaway! (I’m digging the spooky tree vibes.)

BC600

Broken Chords

by Jessica Bayliss

Genre: YA Horror (novella)

Release date: October 2nd 2017

Leap Books

Summary:

They rip, they tear, they FEED, and you never come back again.

 

Here’s how last year’s Gypsy Cob Music Festival should have gone. Lenora “Lenny” Ragno was supposed to rock her duet with her long-time crush, Jeb, during the open-mic competition. Then, swept up in the glow of success, he’d finally kiss her. Instead, Lenny choked on stage and spent the whole year dodging him online. And avoiding playing her fiddle in public. She thought her worst nightmare was behind her, but she was way wrong.

 

Now, she’s back at Gypsy Cob where avoiding a public performance is about as impossible as hiding from Jeb. She thinks facing him will be the scariest part of the festival, but when one of their friends talks everyone into trying astral projection, Lenny catches the eye of a demonic entity that marks her as its own.

 

Now, whenever it wants, the demon can pluck Lenny from her reality and transport her to a hellish between-world, haunted by its countless, gruesome victims. If she doesn’t want to become one of them, she must discover the nature of the demon’s hold on her and remove it. But how can she defeat a literal demon when she can’t even get over her personal ones?

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jessicaAbout the Author

Jessica Bayliss is a fiction author who loves all things reading and writing. Her genre-bending fiction holds a little something for everyone. A lover of ghost tales and horror since her days scanning VHS rental shelves–admittedly with eyes half-averted from the gory covers–a touch of the mysterious always finds a home in Jessica’s work. Romance with a dash of supernatural. Horror with a bit of humor. You get the gist. Jessica also writes across age groups and is a firm believer in the motto, there is a new reader born every day, whether young or not-so-youngBecause one cannot live on writing alone, Jessica also spends a great deal of time with friends and family. She is a lover of all animals especially one very special Havanese and one extremely ornery cockatiel. She also loves to eat, cook, and exercise–in that order–and is a firm believer that coffee makes the world a better place.

Jessica also has stories in several of Leap Books anthologies: Beware the Little White Rabbit and Fright Before Christmas.

Author Links:

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook
GIVEAWAY:

 

Cover Reveal Organized by:

 

Welcome to the World, Teddy!

So I’ve been pretty absent from blogging, mostly since I was busy building this guy from scratch! He was due September 4th, but when I woke up on September 2nd, older brother Jack tapped on my belly and said, “Baby Teddy, you can come out now!” And lo, I went into labor almost immediately. For real. Big brother Jack FTW!

Born 9/2/2016 at 4:28 pm, weighing 8 lbs. 10 oz. and 21 inches long. <3

Reading Challenge – Update #2

OK, super behind on reading right now, but here’s where I’m at:

Five Books by Women

1. OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

2. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (woman and man still counts, right?)

3. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

4. The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

5. The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

Five Books Set in Foreign Countries

Five Adult Category Books

1. When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

2. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Five 2016 Debut Books

1. When We Collided by Emery Lord

2. The Love the Split the World by Emily Henry

Five Award-Winning Books

1. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (Printz Award)

Five Middle Grade Books

Five Poetry Books/Books Written in Verse

Five Graphic Novels/Manga

1. Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral 

2. Will and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Five Books Already on my Shelf

1. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Five Classics

Other Non-Conforming Books

1. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

 

Battle of Shelf Space

Been a while, how’ve YOU been? I’m the worst at blogging, I know. Moving on.

So, I’m currently battling a problem that is likely familiar to my fellow book-loving friends: the Battle of Shelf Space. Ugh. If I had a Beauty and the Beast library (or that library from Game of Thrones on Sunday–YOWZA!), I would keep every book ever, because I am totally a sentimental hoarder. Unfortunately, even after moving to a house with more space, I still have too many books. But how do I whittle down? Do I just give in and buy more shelves? We don’t really have the space for more shelves. Do I store some away until I can make more space? But then what’s the point of keeping them?

I’m not really a re-reader, but I like having books around. They feel like memories to me. And I like being able to push them on my friends and family. I like the idea of my kid (soon to be kidS) growing up around lots of books–I grew up with only a couple weird Bibles, an Encyclopedia Brittanica set, and a Dictionary that I used to read for fun. We used the library for any other books. But on the other hand, I do know my favorite books could find new homes with other readers and it might be nice to spread the joy and simultaneously de-clutter our office.

My instinct is to maybe create a cap on how many books I keep. Anything over the cap has to go. But honestly, I don’t know the right answer. How do you control your book piles? Are they cluttering your house in unsafe towers that promise to bury unsuspecting toddlers at the slightest provocation? Are they given away as soon as they’re read? Or you know, something in between?

Reading Challenge – Update #1

Five Books by Women

1. OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

2. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (woman and man still counts, right?)

Five Books Set in Foreign Countries

Five Adult Category Books

1. When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare

Five 2016 Debut Books

Five Award-Winning Books

Five Middle Grade Books

Five Poetry Books or Books Written in Verse

Five Graphic Novels/Manga

1. Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral 

Five Books Already on my Shelf

Five Classics

Deja Vu

Hey, blog! It’s been a while! And I will tell you why: I’m pregnant, again!

So, apparently, pregnancy does this thing to me where I can’t find motivation for ANYTHING. This happened when I was pregnant with my first son, and is happening again now that I’m pregnant with my second son. I’m currently using a pretty effective shame-based system to keep me writing during this time (thanks to check-ins with one of my beloved critique partners!), but everything else has been impossible. Reading? Snail’s pace. Unpacking the boxes at my new house? LOL. Parenting my toddler? <3 Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood <3. I know this funk will likely get better upon birthing my new baby bundle, but ughhh it’s really hard to get around it.

What’s been going on with you? Have you read anything great lately? Written anything you’re excited about?

 

 

Reading Challenge 2016

book-759873_1920New year, new reading challenge! I’ve sifted through a gaggle of book challenges on other blogs, and none of them were quite right for my reading goals this year. So I’m creating my own!

Only about a quarter of my 2015 reads were diverse*, so my challenge within this challenge is for about half of my 2016 reads to be written by diverse authors or prominently featuring diverse heroes/heroines.

 

Five Books by Women

Five Books Set in Foreign Countries

Five Adult Category Books

Five 2016 Debut Books

Five Award-Winning Books

Five Middle Grade Books

Five Poetry Books or Books Written in Verse

Five Graphic Novels/Manga

Five Books Already on my Shelf

Five Classics

 

*For the purposes of this reading challenge, I am defining diversity with the same definition used over at WeNeedDiverseBooks.com:

“We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

*We subscribe to a broad definition of disability, which includes but is not limited to physical, sensory, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, chronic conditions, and mental illnesses (this may also include addiction). Furthermore, we subscribe to a social model of disability, which presents disability as created by barriers in the social environment, due to lack of equal access, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization.”

2016 Resolutions

light-person-woman-fireFor 2015, instead of a resolution, I chose focus words. It worked for me, because I was so unfocused. I felt like the embodiment of Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot–miniscule and impotent in the face of the wide open universe.

But so far, 2016 looks slightly less intimidating, so I’m going to make a list of some more solid goals this year.

1. Be healthier by the end of the year. I don’t want to put any numerical parameters on what this will look like for me, because there are certain mitigating factors that might come into play. So I think, overall, my goal here is to be happy with how I treated my body in 2016. Particularly, I want to move my body more, find a way to get around my son’s objections to gym child care so I can do yoga, and eat more meals at home.

2. Write at least two manuscripts. I currently have one mostly written that needs a MAJOR re-write (like, basically from scratch), and one draft that is about 40% written.

3. Read 50 books. I was only two books shy of that this year, so this seems doable!

4. Go on a trip out of state.

5. Volunteer with Jack. I signed up for a local service that provides rides for seniors, so that’s my plan for now. We’re going on our first trial run in January, and I’m hoping my son will be chill enough for this to work out. If he’s too much of a handful and annoying for the clients, we might have to find a different volunteering opportunity.

6. Take an online class. Graphic design? Excel?

7. Sign-up for music lessons, or take lessons via YouTube. I’ve always wanted to learn guitar, and I used to play violin in school, so I’d like to work on either this year.

8. Learn French. So, this is something I already started doing via Duolingo, because I was planning a summer trip to Paris with one of my besties. Circumstances have indefinitely postponed our trip, though, and I have fallen completely off the French-learning wagon. Time to get back on, whether we’re going to Paris this year or not!

9. Go to three plays. I love theater and I need to make more time for it.

10. Dress up and go to a fancy local restaurant.

11. Take over my husband’s wood burner and try to burn something (preferably wood and not any parts of myself).

12. Learn to cross-stitch.

13. Grow veggies or herbs on my balcony this summer.

14. Go to some kind of live sporting event (hockey?).

15. Take several vacations from electronics.

2015 Wrap-Up

2014-12-31 12.06.40In January, 2015, I wrote this post. Instead of resolutions, I chose three focus words:

Peace. Keeping anxieties at bay and being thankful for my crazy, beautiful life.

Courage. Putting myself out on a limb. Facing down fear.

Diligence. Working steadfastly toward achieving my goals. Carving out time to care for myself and others and to do the things I love.

How’d I do?

Peace: I started seeing a therapist, which was step one on my road to feeling better. What I didn’t say in the 2015 post was that I was in the midst of an insane hormonal crash after weaning my son and was having constant panic attacks. There is this picture of me riding on a train with my son back in January, and from the outside, I look happy-ish. But I remember that picture and I remember thinking, “I better smile. This is probably going to be the last picture my son has of his mother.” I thought that about every picture from January until at least March or April. I constantly checked my pulse. I sincerely believed my heart would just stop in my chest. I worried how my son would fare when his mom inevitably collapsed in the middle of the day. Would he survive until his dad came home?

Peace was a codeword for finding some semblance of normalcy again. I started attending more yoga classes, which was helpful until my son suddenly decided he HATED the gym child care around August. I also started taking magnesium supplements, which helped keep my brain from spinning out of control. But honestly? Time has been the biggest help, along with my hormones becoming *mostly* normal again. It’s hard to believe, in the moment, that all this anxiety could be attributed to something as simple as hormones. I read a lot about postpartum anxiety–but I didn’t get postpartum anxiety. Anxiety after weaning was much harder to find on the internet, and the stories I did find were about women who went straight back to normal within a matter of weeks. My issues didn’t disappear after a couple wonky weeks. My hormones were still screwing with me well into the summer, as evidenced by a resurgence of migraines and abnormal cycles. I felt so broken and scared back in January. It sounds overdramatic, but I felt doomed. You know that stomach drop you get on tall roller coasters–like, “oh shit?” I had that feeling in my stomach over and over, all day long. Every. Damn. Day.

Thankfully, things have gradually eased. As fall scooted in, I realized I’ve spent less and less of my time worrying. I wasn’t checking my pulse anymore. I wasn’t convinced every day was my last. And now it’s the end of 2016. I made it another year. Obviously, I can’t say I no longer experience anxiety, but I can say that right now, it’s a side note in my life. And that’s enormous progress.

Courage: With all my anxiety problems, I knew I had to take measures to keep that anxiety from making my decisions for me. Courage, in 2015, didn’t look like it might have in other years. It wasn’t about taking grand leaps, but about making my own choices without listening to my anxiety screaming in the background “THIS IS TOO SCARY AND YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!”

Therapy, again, was the first step here. (Can you tell I’m super proud of myself for taking this step? Because it was one of the hardest/smartest calls I’ve ever made, so yes, I am goddamn proud.) I also went on a family vacation to a lodge that had no cell service or WiFi (it was an hour from the nearest well-equipped hospital, I checked). I made time for friends, new and old. And I defiantly continued writing (you all know how much courage that takes).

Dilligence: Since I had a baby in late 2013, most of my hobbies took a big hit in 2014. I didn’t write or read nearly as much as I wanted to, and I felt like I wasn’t making enough real progress toward my goals. When I had time to sit down and write, I was logging on to social media and reading click-baity articles instead. Being more diligent in 2015 meant that I worked harder at keeping my writing time sacred, and I carved out more time for reading by eliminating electronics in bed. (This also helped my sleep!) My husband gave me some “Mommy Days” for Mother’s Day, which allowed me to run off to a cafe and write all day without feeling guilty. (I always felt guilty anyway, but it was nice of him to try alleviating it for me.)

And my diligence paid off! I’ve written and revised SO MUCH more in 2015, I’ve read over three times as much, and I signed with my agent, Caitlin McDonald at Donald Maass Literary Agency, back in late September! All while dealing with crippling anxiety!

Overall: 2015 was a quieter year. No big moves. No new additions. No far-flung adventures. But as quiet as it was, it was also a year full of internal accomplishment. It was a year that helped rewire my brain and nurtured my creativity. It was a year I survived and came out a little bit brighter.

So, enough about me. How was your 2015?