The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games #2)The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was cute. Not amazing. The love story felt forced. There were far fewer games or puzzles in this book than there were in the previous installment, which was disappointing, because without the puzzles and with a cringe-y love story, there simply wasn't a lot to keep readers wanting more. The characters showed very little growth or depth and the prose was just okay.

Overall, an adequate follow-up to the Inheritance Games.

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This Year I Resolve To...

Not make any writing goals.

I love New Year's Resolutions. I love the the hope that goes into them. I love sitting back and reflecting on something I'd really like to change then making a conscious decision to better myself. Yes, I know I can make those decisions any time of the year. And I know most resolutions get abandoned within the first month. Doesn't matter. It's the act of making a resolution that counts. There's just something about a new year that makes change feel so possible.

So, sure, I'll probably make some writing goals. I'll probably make a lot. Come November, there's a decent chance I'll sign up for NaNoWriMo. And I'll always feel a little guilty about not updating this blog regularly.

But I’m definitely taking pressure off myself when it comes to writing and publishing. No more goals about writing X number of new short stories every month or Y number of poems. No more, “I’m going to send out so many batches of ten queries every so many weeks.” No more pouring endless amounts of hope and hard work into a dream which feels further away every day.

One year ago, I was beginning to query a manuscript I was positive would land me an agent or a book deal. I sent batches of queries, tweaked the letter, tweaked the opening pages, sent new batches, all the advice the experts tell you.

I got over a hundred rejections or no-replies. Because, here’s the dirty little secret about querying advice. It’s all the same. And it’s not altogether that helpful. If you have the basics down, there’s nothing much else you can do except get really lucky. I haven’t been lucky.

Meanwhile, Twitter was exploding every week with new dire publishing news. Agents and editors left the business in droves. Large publishing firms angled to create monopolies over the business while refusing to pay their employees livable wages. And I kept thinking, “is this truly an industry I want to be successful in?”

I’m not here to complain about the industry or the agents. I understand how much an agent works for their existing clients, and how low on the list of priorities new queries can be. I know that agents can’t spend their time writing personalized rejections for every author who queries them (although, it should be noted that a short and kind form rejection can go a long way toward showing respect for authors.) No, I don’t want to complain. I’ve complained a lot this year.

What I want to do is be happy and grateful for what I can control.

I can control what I write about. I can choose to write what is “hot” in the market right now, or I can choose to write what makes me feel most connected with my work.

I choose connection.

I can control whether I decide to query again, the letters and first pages I send out. I can choose to check my inbox every five minutes and stress over every new inbox notification, or I can choose to close the email tab and focus on what’s right in front of me.

I choose the latter. (At least I’ll try. It’s so hard not to refresh that inbox.)

I can choose when I write, because my time is my own. I can choose how much to write, and if my heart isn’t with a project, I can choose to set it aside. I have no deadlines to worry about, no expiration date, no one telling me what I must work on, or even if I have to work. If I want to stop writing and crochet for several weeks, I will!

I’m a free author.

I used to think having that freedom meant I needed to work that much harder to keep advancing up the publishing ladder. But that’s a lie. Working harder hasn’t gotten me any closer to success. It did burn me out. It did leave me very angry and bitter for a long while, and I didn’t like who I was.

So, forget that. Forget trying to impress others with my writing. If they don’t like it, so be it. I’m just here to entertain myself. And if someday when I die, they find three dozen novels that have never been printed, well, it’ll give my future grandchildren some entertainment.

Or not. But it doesn’t matter to me either way.

Goodbye stressful 2022, hello low-pressure 2023!

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