Friday, August 4, 2023

July 2023 Doings!

Hello everyone! Questionably fun fact: I completely forgot that I was supposed to write a Doings! post this week until about 6:20 yesterday morning. In my defense, it's been a weird month and a weird week, and I am tired. July was a good month, but it was far from a restful one. And if you want to know what I mean, well, that's what this post is for, so let's get on with the Doings!


  • Well, this has definitely been an exciting month on the writing front! We started out with the release of the Fellowship of Fantasy Wags, Woofs, and Wonders anthology on July 6. I didn't end up doing as much as I wanted with that release, but thankfully the other authors were much more with it. It's currently available in both ebook and paperback formats, so if you'd like to enjoy some feel-good short stories featuring magical doggos and guaranteed happy endings, go ahead and pick that up.
  • The week after the anthology release was, of course, the Realm Makers writing conference. I had a great time at the conference, and I'll talk more about that in the Life! section, but there is one element of the conference that I want to mention here . . . which is, of course, the fact that Through a Shattered Glass won the novella category of the Realm Awards! I've said this a few times now, but I was thrilled and honored just to be on the finalist list, and actually winning is amazing. (I am also very proud of myself for managing to not embarrass myself when I went up to receive the award, as I sometimes get nervous around large crowds, and I definitely did not prepare as much as I intended.)
  • The last bit of exciting news: shortly after returning from Realm Makers, I announced my next book release: Song of the Selkies, a roleswap Little Mermaid retelling that will release September 19 as part of the Stolen Songs Arista Challenge group. If you want to learn more, click here and check out my cover reveal post! I also finished drafting this novel in July, the day after the cover reveal — yes, I'm cutting it closer than I normally do, but we'll be fine. Even the first draft of this book turned out really well and has gotten great feedback from betas so far, so I'm excited to get to release it into the world.
  • Even aside from all the exciting stuff, July has been a really good writing month for me. I ended up writing almost 43K words this month, spread out across three different projects. Finishing Song of the Selkies took most of those words — just over 32K — and involved a lot of 1K+ days. And my last two days of work on it both had a wordcount of around 5K, which is a lot for me! Additionally, I wrote another 4.6K words on the fourth Bastian Dennel, PI book, which isn't a ton but is respectable for the fact that I was only actively working on it for about a week. Finally, I wrote about 6K words in my D&D Feygate adventure, which has been so much fun to put together. The Middle Earth adventure was nice in that I had the storyline laid out, and I just had to translate it into D&D, but I've missed getting to do my own thing. I'm currently having a grand time coming up with potential scenarios, NPCs, and so forth, and I very much look forward to actually running them. We've already played two sessions of the adventure, and people seem to like it so far, so I'd call that a good sign.


  • July was also an excellent reading month, as you can probably see. Most of what I read continued my Ranger's Apprentice reread, which has been a lot of fun. As I said last month, rediscovering this series has been a lot of fun, and the books hold up impressively well. At this point, I'm done with the reread portion of it, and I'm in between the two Early Years books, which are new-to-me reads. Well, technically, Goodreads claims I read The Tournament at Gorlan back in 2015, but I have no memory of doing so, and that was before I did Doings! posts, so . . . who knows? I certainly don't.
  • We only have four new reads for the month. A Storm Grows is a book of poetry by Janeen Ippolito, which I primary read for purposes of a reading challenge. Power Through was my Realm Makers read — I like to read something by a Realmie author while I'm at the conference, and so far, that author has been H.L. Burke both years. Power Through is the third book in Burke's young adult superhero series, and I quite enjoyed it. Of course, it had Wildfyre in it, as well as peak dad!Fade, Voidling, and Jake and Marco both doing some growing, so the odds were very much in its favor. Finally, we have volumes 11 and 12 of Fullmetal Alchemist, both of which I really liked. I don't know why I enjoyed them more than I have previous installments? But they were both very good, especially Volume 12. (Speaking of things I can't explain: I somehow, in the space of approximately three books, got attached to Lanfan, who is very much a secondary character at this point, and I do not know how or why, other than I seriously respect both her courage and dedication.)
  • So, yes. The other few books I read are all rereads, and I have nothing much to say about any of them other than that Gothel and the Maiden Prince, like most of W.R. Gingell's work, stands up very well the second time around, as does the Ticket to Write anthology.


  • Not a lot to report here, since lots of writing, plus travel, means I don't have much time to watch things in the evenings. That said, I did watch How to Steal a Million and North by Northwest towards the start of the month. I very much enjoyed How to Steal a Million — I love a good heist story, and the setup for this one was so fun. Plus, the lead actors played off each other very well.
  • North by Northwest, I was a bit less of a fan of — conceptually, it was cool, with the whole "ordinary man gets mistaken for a spy and then has to go on the run" thing, and the action and adventure was great, but the romance elements weren't really my thing. Ah well.


Left to right: Wyn Estelle Owens as Breen from Mechanical Heart, me as a steampunk cowgirl (feat. my Realm Award!), and Kendra E. Ardnek as the Gardener from her Austen Fairy Tale (which is very good and you should read it).

  • July was, as already stated, a busy month, but it was still a very good month for many reasons. And reason number one, above and beyond anything else that happened, was that it was the first (and only) month this summer in which all my immediate family members were in the same place for the majority of the time. My mom came back from my grandpa's the first weekend of July, and it was so nice to have her home again.
  • We didn't end up doing anything much for Independence Day, even though we were all home. Usually, our Bible Study would get together, but so many people were out of town that it just didn't happen. That said, I'm not really complaining . . .
  • But now we come to the highlight of the month, which was, of course, REALM MAKERS! Though this was my second year attending, it still had a lot of firsts for me: first time flying solo, first time at the St. Louis location (which I'd heard so many good things about from friends), first formal book signing thing . . .
    • After the craziness of last year (amid which I almost missed the start of the conference), I opted to fly out on Wednesday before the conference. That was definitely the right choice, even though plane schedules meant I ended up arriving super early that day — 9am St. Louis Time. Thankfully, navigating the airport on both sides was much easier than I expected, especially since my dad ended up leaving on the same day and at roughly the same time for a business trip, so I wasn't trying to do everything myself on the way out. And the early arrival time gave me some good writing hours and plenty of time to catch up with friends (namely, Kendra E. Ardnek and Wyn Owens) before the conference proper.
    • It also gave me time to run the Realm Makers-themed one-page RPG one-shot I'd prepared, which was super fun. What happens when three wizards' creature companions — an octopus (who would like you to know that he's a totally normal human man, not an octopus, why would you think he's an octopus), a hyperactive weasel, and a prim and self-absorbed cat — have to defeat the mad inventor and his machines that have put their wizards to sleep? Much chaos, that's what — including, but not limited to, the weasel overdosing on coffee, the octopus using the weasel as a projectile weapon, and the cat deciding that she was, in fact, a god. They did successfully wake their wizards, though, so that's good.
    • Thursday, I helped out with the registration desk in the morning (which was nice because I got to meet some people and also felt like I could recognize people later), and then the conference officially opened in the afternoon. The keynote address with Steven Laube was excellent, focusing mostly on the idea and value of wonder. Also excellent was going to dinner with Wyn and Katie Hanna and chatting about our various books and ideas and tropes and whatnot. (Katie Hanna, by the way, is writing a Western fantasy series that sounds fabulous). Additionally, Thursday was when I finished writing the climax of Song of the Selkies, which was most exciting. 
    • Friday and Saturday were both very busy days, with lots of great sessions. For my continuing sessions, I attended Charlie Holmberg's "Speculative Worldbuilding" series, which was interesting. Some of it I felt like I already knew, but it was cool to see her process and hear her advice and thoughts. She tends to do map-first worldbuilding, which is not my usual approach, but I do see how effective it can be. I also attended a two-part elective by Donald Maass on writing series characters, which gave me some principles I think will be super helpful as I continue to write my Bastian Dennel books. My one complaint about that elective was that the two parts were scheduled right after lunch on Friday and Saturday, so I kept having to rush out of lunch to make it to the talks on time.
    • Friday was also the Awards Banquet, which was exciting for a multitude of reasons. There's the obvious one, of course — the fact that I was one of the people who received an award. I also had fun dressing up; I decided to go as a steampunk cowgirl at the last minute, and I had a grand time talking in an accent that would have done Quincy Morris proud. (As a bonus, I discovered that I actually look rather good in a cowboy hat, if I do say so myself!) Also, Wyn decided to dress up as my character Breen from Mechanical Heart, and I think I might have gotten just as excited about that as I did about the award. I'm not even joking. Additionally, we got to sit with a couple who we'd met at the 2022 Realm Makers, and it was nice to catch up with them. (I should probably go find and friend them on Facebook, but I . . . have not managed to do that yet.) And we ended the night with several rounds of Bring Your Own Book, which is always a delight.
    • The conference ended on Saturday with the book fair. The book fair includes an opportunity to get your books signed by Realm Makers faculty and Realm Awards winners, so that was kind of my first official author signing event! I will admit that I kind of missed being able to wander around the vendor hall like I did last year . . . but it was also nice to get to sit in a comparatively quiet area and meet people and actually have conversations without struggling to hear. And, let's be real, I spent way less money than I would have if I had nothing to do but walk around the vendors.
  • So, yes. All in all, Realm Makers 2023 was just as great as it was in 2022 — better, in some ways. The hotel was more comfortable, for one thing, and I didn't feel quite so perpetually overwhelmed. I will say that, contrary to what one might expect, the best and most exciting part wasn't the awards ceremony or the book fair or getting to meet authors I look up to or anything like that. Rather, it was the opportunity to see people like Kendra, Wyn, and Katie in person and the fact that I got to spend four days in the company of people who love the same things I love. That's the biggest reason I went back in 2023, and it's the biggest reason I hope to return again next year (Lord and finances willing).
  • The last big event of July was both sad and happy, as my little sister officially moved to another state for her first job out of college at the end of the month. I'm happy for her; I know she's going to be doing something that she enjoys and can get excited about the way I can get excited about my work. Plus, she'll be close to many of her friends, and she has a great church community up there. At the same time, though, having to say goodbye in the knowledge that she won't be back next summer was sad, and I miss having her around and being able to talk to her about stuff. I mean, we've done several video calls since she left, but it's not the same. (Plus, my mom went back to Pennsylvania for a few weeks at the same time, so . . . yeah.)
  • I think that about covers it. Work is work, crafting and baking have barely happened . . . My D&D group did get in a few sessions, which were intense. We're trying to take down one of our nemeses, and he's the literal worst, and two of the party members have lost NPCs who they were super close to. One of the party members actually retired over it, so that was doubly sad. The player is still in the group and made a new character, but still . . . sadness. Oh, and the DM said that we're probably only a couple levels away from the end of the campaign, which is . . . terrifying. Exciting! But terrifying! The group will continue with new adventures, though, so we can look forward to that.

August Plans

  • My number one plan for August is to do LOTS of edits on Song of the Selkies, plus formatting, tour prep, and all that good stuff. The fact that the book turned out way longer than I planned means I'm on a tight schedule now. I'm committed to making sure everything is done on time, but I do not expect it to be easy. 
  • And it will only be made more difficult by the fact that my next semester of grad school starts at the end of the month. I thought about delaying and having overlapping classes again like I did last year, or even about only doing one class this semester, but I know that if I delay grad school stuff every time I have a busy writing season, it'll take me ten years to finish this degree, and the goal is not to do that, thank you.
  • In between edits and class work, I'll continue working on Bastian Dennel, PI #4 and my D&D Feygate adventure. I'd like to finish the Feygate adventure this month, and I think that's a pretty reasonable goal, especially since I'm well over half done already.
  • I have no idea what will happen on the blogs. I have some regularly-scheduled posts that will need to go up, and I would prefer not to take too long of a hiatus (especially as I know I may take another semi-hiatus sometime in the fall), so hopefully we'll be back to the regularly-scheduled weekly stuff? Assumed I don't get slapped in the face by the need to do three million things?
  • Work will probably be busy, but I don't expect it to be notably busier than usual. I do have both the newsletter and Stewardship campaign materials this month, but those are usually pretty enjoyable projects, so I'm not super worried. I'm a little more worried about our directory project, but it'll probably be fine.
  • I also want to do some more bread-baking with my fresh herbs while I have fresh herbs to bake with, but we'll see how that works out.
  • I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but whatever. My basic goal for August is to survive, edit all the words, and not miss any deadlines. That should be doable, right?

How was your July? What are you looking forward to in August? Did you go to Realm Makers, or have you gone in the past? If so, what was YOUR most exciting part? Have you been doing more new-reading or rereading lately? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


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