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Look back on Sophia's 2023!

(Prepare for a long blog post. This is what I get for not updating in over a year. My bad.) (Also, excuse the odd formatting. I spent 20 minutes trying to format.)


While I have been silent on my blog, I have been everywhere up on TikTok, occasionally on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. I recently got on to Tumblr, and we'll see about me on Threads. (Probably not. I can only talk into the abyss so much).


I also traveled with Susan Stradiotto (my coauthor for a number of projects) to Salem, Massachusetts, for the Getting Witchy with It book festival. (Pictured to the left. Careful of your eyes.) We sold out of the first book in the Macleod Trilogy (Fight for Darkness) and made a lot of new friends and fans. We also fangirled over other authors and readers. Susan brought home many books, but I tried to keep myself to a minimum. I only had so much space left in my suitcase.


Most of what I've been doing has been happening off camera. Writing and editing and being on a laptop day in and day out isn't exactly glamorous work, but I love it anyway. (Well, most of it.)

 

Published Books

In the last year, I have had four books published and one short story.


"Bloody Mary's Day Off" was published in the charity short story Twice Upon a Name anthology.


This is a young adult, clean anthology, which proved to be difficult for me. (LOL.)

"Blood Mary's Day Off" follows Neve Ravensblood from Castle of Skulls through a few days as a teenager navigating high school with stupid mortals.


The theme of the anthology was mistaken identities, so I used what Neve does best: skulls and ghosts, pretending to be Bloody Mary herself.


In September, I self-published Beneath the Surface, the first book in my Lake Superior Mermaid series. This Little Mermaid retelling takes on an urban fantasy twist as Waverly rises from the depths of Lake Superior to find the boy she once saved from drowning. Eric (I know, how original) is in college, taking full-time classes and having a job. I wove in my own experiences with Lake Superior, UW-Superior (where I went to college), and then--of course--mermaids. While there is romance, I did go into what I do best: some scary and gory bits. What can I say? Lake Superior doesn't give up Her dead.


In August and then also in September and October, Susan and I published the next books in the Macleod Trilogy and then a spin-off book: Hunger for Darkness, Conquer the Darkness, and Poisoned Darkness.



While Fight for Darkness followed Malin and Kane, Hunger for Darkness follows Kiera and Conri. (Malin and Kane are still around, trust me.) Hunger for Darkness dips deeper into dark romance while continuing the dark fantasy.


Conquer the Darkness is the finale to the Macleod Trilogy, preparing for the final fight against the semaphors. Malin, Kane, Kiera, and Conri work together to finally bring peace to the Penumbra.


Poisoned Darkness was published in the Realm of Midnight anthology. We follow Tierney and Torin. A fan-favorite couple from the Macleod Trilogy, we keep the Celtic mythology but go a little softer on the darkness. However, have the fantasy and the romance.


Of course, I have Susan to thank for much of this. She is a power horse to get all of this published and out into the world.

 

Pay

Next in 2023, I report my money metrics. (This amount accounts only for the money I've made from my personal books [Castle of the Skulls series and Beneath the Surface], specifically through ebook sales and Kindle Unlimited page reads.)


Drum roll, please! Grand total of $41.02 for 2023. (At least, I'll be getting a good tax return.)


Honestly, not bad. While I technically made more money in 2022, I also published three books on my own. I'm proud that this year, I made at least some cents (May brought me in $0.02) each month whereas in 2022, I had months with just zeros.


Writing isn't about the money (though it's a perk). I want to be realistic about the money I'm making. My actual money to pay my bills comes from my day job as a marketing communications specialist. I spend more money on advertising and paying for writing tools, editing, etc. than I do make money.


Someday, I hope to make writing my full-time job. At that time, I hope to make consistent income too. That is years off, though. I'm trying, though. (Very hard.)

 

Stories Finished

In 2023, I finished 15 stories, which is insane to me. (Don't ask me how I did it.) I really dabbled in novellas this year.


  • Ruler of the Realm (untitled fae series #6): 130,000+ words, fae, romantasy, new adult

  • Conquer the Darkness (Macleod Trilogy book #3) with Susan Stradiotto: 130,000+ words, dragons/ witches/ fae, romantasy/ urban fantasy/ dark fantasy, new adult/ adult.

  • Poisoned Darkness with Susan Stradiotto: 50,000+ words, dragons/witches/ mythology, romantasy/ urban fantasy, new adult/ adult

  • Untitled Gods Novella: ~25,000, mythology, gods, smut. (This is on hold. What was originally supposed to come out in in 2023 in the Realm of Midnight anthology was no longer necessary for the anthology. It will be published at a later date.)

  • Right on Track: 90,000+ words, sapphic contemporary romance and sports romance about roller derby. (Very excited for this and will most likely be writing more in this genre.) (This was very much out of my norm for writing (see fantasy), and I struggled with the internal conflict that comes from contemporary romance. I enjoy fantasy because my characters can ignore that they need to go to therapy.)

  • Untitled Brides of the Vampire Queen Novellas #1-8: 20,000-30,000 words each, sapphic romance and fantasy/ romantasy/ historical fiction, new adult/ adult, smut, why choose. (This started as a simple idea and bloomed into something much bigger.) (Also, very excited for these.)

  • "The Haunting of Neve Ravensblood" short story will be published in the Third Name's a Charm. This short story is about 4,000 words and follows Neve Ravensblood from Castle of Skulls (if you didn't get it from the title) through a couple days as a teenager, stealing skulls and talking to ghosts.

  • Returning to Work After a Zombie Apocalypse (working title): 90,000+ words, new adult, urban fantasy. (I've been working on this story off and on for a while.)


I'm currently working on a sapphic gothic romance horror and will be working on dark romance afterward (an exciting new project).

 

Editing

Writing is easy for me, but editing... uffda. That can take forever. Usually, I edit a work-in-progress (WIP) at least ten times, usually focusing on something different each time.


In 2023, I've been editing the following stories:

  • Beneath the Surface

  • Thaw the Heart (expected publish date May 2024)

  • Witches of the Waves

  • Untitled MW Book1 (expected publish date November 2024)

  • Untitled MW Book2

  • Right on Track


The untitled MW books are currently in the beta read segment of editing, so I'm taking feedback and will apply it.

 

Querying

In other news, I have been querying literary agents for Witches of the Waves. In 2022, I paid (nearly $5,000) to have it professionally manuscript edited and took a lot of that feedback to rewrite. As of 12/31/2023, I've queried to 14 literary agents, received 11 rejections (no response after allotted time counts toward rejections), and one manuscript request.


I was very surprised by the manuscript request. No literary agent has ever requested before, and I screamed. Now, I received the manuscript request and replied to the manuscript request on November 11. I haven't heard back from the literary agent. I don't know how long it takes or how the specific agent works. Querying is a waiting game. I'm just fortunate for the feedback and responses I have received, and I'm looking forward to any feedback from the literary agent who asked for the full manuscript.


At the same time, I knew my query letter and 20+ pages (aka, what's sent to the literary agent) needed help. I did pay for my query letter and the first 50 pages of Witches of the Waves to be edited, and then I paid for a 60-minute consultation. Total cost was around $260.00.


My query letter has now basically been rewritten. My previous query letter version took from different advice on the internet. There is no one right answer, I've realized, which is frustrating to me.


For the first 50 pages and beyond in the Witches of the Waves manuscript, I've taken notes from my editor when she did a first chapters feedback. (It was actually like first 52 pages with a cent per word that she was charging. Did not include line edits or deep dive like a manuscript edit does.) So I went on to break up sentences (removing a lot of "and") and added more "interiority." As well as I removed my prologue. (It had to be done. Killing your darlings at its finest.)


Interiority is something I struggle with--and many authors probably struggle with--because it's the fine line between showing and telling. In this case, I'm writing in 3rd person close POV, so I needed to make sure the word choice and actions while some internal thoughts meshed to bring out the voice and thought process of the character.


I haven't tried out the new query letter and 20 pages yet. I decided to wait until 2024 to try it out. I wanted to perfect my manuscript again. (Is Witches of the Waves perfect? No. 1) I'm not a perfectionist. 2) Writing, books, creativity is subjective. 3) Perfection does not exist.)

 

This has been a very long blog post for you and for me. I have been sitting at my desk for about three hours (give or take, took dogs outside, went on social media, etc.) to write this. (I'm awkward about myself and specifically my writing.)


I'm going to try to do more with my blog (promise the blog posts won't normally be this long) and with social media.


More coming in 2024!

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