It’s strange to realize this is the fifth time I’ve written a “year in review” post, which has become an annual tradition. I started this website in 2016, and wow, what a journey it’s been over these last five (going on six) years. My 2016 self wouldn’t believe how far I’ve come.
Now, here we are on the cusp of the new year greeting 2022, which I predict is going to be a big year for me. With the release of my first audiobook and my third novel, how can it not be?
Here is how I spent 2021…
Saturday, January 02, 2021
I started the year with a new way to share my photography. 2021 began with a beautiful (but dangerous) ice storm that caused a lot of damage to trees on our property but presented an opportunity to trek outside with my camera in hand for a photoshoot.
I animated some of my favorite images from the shoot and set them to peaceful relaxation music, then uploaded them to YouTube for people to enjoy.
Monday, January 04, 2021
Sunday, January 10, 2021
Monday, January 11, 2021
Monday, February 01, 2021
After a full week of working on this piece (I grossly underestimated the amount of time-consuming, painstaking detail work), I completed “Snowy Flight.”
This drawing, created using a mechanical pencil and a whiteout pen, quickly became one of my most popular pieces.
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Friday, March 05, 2021
I made a major (and to be honest, terrifying) career move in 2021. I said goodbye to my steady 40-hour work week with healthcare benefits and became a contracted writer working remotely for a writing agency.
This wasn’t exactly a preplanned, calculated move. After working from home for a year, I realized just how much I hated the daily commute and hassles of office life. I was so much happier working at home! No makeup, no scrambling out the door trying not to be late, no fighting with traffic and wasting an hour every day in the car, no waiting for the microwave while my 30-minute lunch time ticked away, no sitting at a desk all day… it suited me well. I took naps or walks on my breaks and sang out loud while I worked. It was a good change for me.
But it couldn’t last. When my employer decided that workers within driving distance could no longer continue working from home, despite my request to get the COVID vaccine before returning (my age group wasn’t eligible yet) and to compromise with a hybrid arrangement to work from home at least part time, I decided it was time to move on and find 100% remote work.
And yeah, it was scary letting go of that safety net! As a contracted writer, I had no guarantee of steady work, plus I lost my healthcare benefits. The first company I worked with didn’t pan out as well as I’d hoped, but after a couple of months, I transitioned to a new writing agency that was a better fit.
It ended up being exactly what I needed. I was no longer tied to a clock anymore — I’m paid based on project completion instead. Which meant, for the first time in my life, I had the freedom of a completely flexible schedule that fit my natural rhythm. I’m a night owl, so I had always struggled to wake up early with the alarm clock and get to work on time. Now, I can be working at 2 a.m. if I so choose. I’m basically on a grave shift by choice since that’s my body’s normal cycle. I can take time off whenever I need it, whether it’s a day, a week, a month… whatever I need.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. I still get stressed when deadlines pile up on certain days, and my income depends on the number of projects available. But that’s okay, because this flexible arrangement gives me more time to work on building my own business so I can hopefully sustain myself in the near future. I still dream of the day when I can be a full-time author, and I needed this push out of my comfort zone. I’m now officially a full-time writer at least, and I’m closer to making it on my own than I ever have been before!
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
My total contribution ended up providing 5,000 meals to families in need!
And it gets even better — that number was at least doubled thanks to supporters making their own donations through my website. Because I have no way of tracking other people’s contributions, I don’t know the grand total, but it was at least an extra 5,000 meals on top of my donation.
It was such a good feeling to make a difference, and I thank everyone who helped to support my giveback initiative!
Friday, March 26, 2021
On The Cobblestone Road had its five-year anniversary!
To celebrate, I released a special sneak peek at Book III: Blood of the Enemy along with a short Q&A.
Saturday, April 03, 2021
I had a pleasant phone interview with local reporter and radio host Liam Hobbs. Hometown News published an article about my giveback initiative and personal contribution to Feeding America.
Rumor had it there was also a shout-out on radio!
Saturday, April 17, 2021
Surprise! I crashed a live WEFM broadcast at Bennett’s Uptown Shoppes in La Porte!
If you’re going to shop local, be sure to check out these locations!
Friday, May 28, 2021
This was an intensive three-day course that brought together creative entrepreneurs from across Indiana. Authors, artists, dancers, musicians, poets, sculptors, glassblowers, etc. learned how to turn artistic hobbies and side hustles into a sustainable business model.
Upon completion of the course, participants became eligible for a state fellowship of up to $2,000 for a business project. My fellowship is currently being used to fund the audiobook for A Fallen Hero!
June 08, 2021
I announced the launch of my new Patreon community. This move came after an artist I met at On-Ramp recommended Patreon as a way to build a supportive community and offer exclusive content to subscribers. Ultimately, here is why I decided to create my own Patreon community:
1.) I’m focusing more on turning my writing and art into a full-time, self-sustaining business that can someday survive without the support of a day job. Patreon is an extra revenue stream that brings me one step closer to making that a reality so I can spend more of my time creating content and writing books (and publish faster!).
2.) I’m still sharing plenty of free content on my website and social media pages so I can continue to engage with my audience. Patreon subscribers just get more. For example, I often post images of completed artwork on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, plus my newsletter. But Patreon subscribers get a chance to go behind the scenes and see the creation of the art, not just the finished product. It’s like subscribing to get a backstage pass rather than sitting in the audience.
3.) My tiers are only $3, $7, or $15 a month. Basically, it’s like having subscribers treat their favorite creators to a cup of hot chocolate or lunch once a month to support the artist and help them keep going. (If you know me, you know I hate coffee, which is why I said hot chocolate instead!)
4.) In addition to the exclusive content, I have extra perks for my Patreon subscribers as a way of saying thank you for your support! Any tier will get your name listed in the acknowledgments of my future books for as long as you’re a subscriber. Higher tiers also get promo codes and gifts, including a free autographed copy of Book 3 at the highest tier (and 4… and 5… and so on for however long you’re a subscriber and I keep releasing books!)
5.) The revenue I earn from Patreon goes right into a business savings account and contributes to the costs of publishing the next book (paying a line editor and ebook formatter, buying ISBNs, ordering proof copies, etc.), plus other business-related costs including audiobook production, website hosting, vendor fees, office supplies, and more. Because I’m independently published, I don’t have a publishing house footing any of those costs for me. It all comes out of my own pocket. These subscriptions help me save up to release the next big project and meet fans at events!
Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey and continues to support me! If you’re interested in joining my community of subscribers, take a look at my three tiers (and the perks that come with each one):
Wednesday, June 09, 2021
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
I had quite the surprise! While driving in Michigan City, I accidentally stumbled across a SECOND piece of artwork on display!
In 2019, I found my charcoal drawing “The Raven” on a light pole banner at the corner of Washington and Pine. Long story short, I’d entered several submissions into a local contest in 2018 but never heard any news, so I had (mistakenly) assumed that my artwork didn’t make the cut.
Apparently “Dapple Gray” was also accepted, and I never knew until lucky happenstance brought me down Washington Street!
Saturday, July 03, 2021
The Independence Day Festival in Mishawaka, IN was my first event of 2021! I’d originally had this festival on my calendar in 2020, but COVID postponed it by a year.
Up until this point, all of my previous events had been strictly related to books. Individual signings, author fairs, joint signings, author panels, etc. The Independence Day Fest was my first time participating in a festival-style event with a wide variety of vendors. Would people even be interested in books and artwork when there was clothing and jewelry and food and home goods and holiday items and so many other things to browse?
I had no idea what to expect…
It was a phenomenal success! To my surprise and delight, I SOLD OUT of AFH paperbacks! That had never happened before! And I came very close to selling out of PM paperbacks as well!
I also had the chance to exhibit more of my artwork and photography, plus I cosplayed as Cato from the series.
Cosplaying was something I started in 2020 when I had a couple of outdoor events for Book II’s release. Since vaccines weren’t available yet and I had to wear a mask, I figured I’d completely embrace it as a marketing tactic and go all-out as Cato since he wears a mask in the book. It was also a good way to market Phantom’s Mask since I wore the same mask I had Photoshopped onto the back of the cover.
The response at the festival was astounding! At Barnes & Noble events when I had been dressed in normal clothes, I’d say the people interested in the books were 50/50. Readers would approach to chat with me and learn more, but about half of them would lose interest as soon as they learned that the genre was fantasy. Catching the attention of the right readers was a game of chance.
But when I cosplay, it’s pretty obvious that I’m not advertising a nonfiction book! The percentage of interested readers jumped to more like 90% because I was attracting the right crowd.
The Independence Day Festival proved to be a successful trial. It was a miserably hot day, and I was overheated by the end (especially since I was dressed in all black), but it was so worth it!
Thursday, July 08, 2021
Phantom’s Mask celebrated its first book birthday!
The series sequel was originally published on 07.08.20.
(If you noticed… AFH was published on 08.07.18. Notice a pattern with the numbers? I intentionally chose 7/8 and 8/7.)
Saturday, August 07, 2021
A Fallen Hero turned three years old, and I celebrated with my second event of the year!
The Taste of Michigan City was another hot, humid day to be cosplaying, but it was a good day. I had a great time meeting local fans of all ages and sampling food!
Happy book birthday, AFH!
Friday, August 13, 2021
The Indiana Arts Commission accepted my fellowship proposal after being reviewed by a panel of volunteers! The grant brought me one critical step closer to producing the audiobook for AFH.
I’ve had many people ask me about the audiobook over the last few years since the first book was released in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. While I’ve wanted to produce an audiobook for a while, it’s been too far out of my budget.
To give you some perspective, the estimated cost based the novel’s word count and the current union minimum of audiobook narrators is going to be in the $4,500 to $5,000 range.
People often follow up with, “Why don’t you just read it yourself to save money?”
To that, I have a long list of reasons why that isn’t a great idea:
- I have no training or experience. I wouldn’t be able to easily change my voice for different characters or use appropriate inflections, pauses, volume changes, etc. There’s more to narration than simply reading lines.
- I don’t like the sound of my voice when I read.
- I don’t have a soundproof place to record. I also lack proper recording equipment.
- I have no experience editing audio to remove background noises, lip smacks, swallows, and other annoying sounds I guarantee you don’t want to hear while trying to enjoy an audiobook.
- I don’t have time! It can take a professional half an hour to get five minutes of audio. My time is spent writing/editing Book III, marketing Book I, managing my two blogs, creating content for social media and Patreon, designing BOTE’s cover and other graphics, attending events, working a day job to pay the bills, and trying to have a semblance of a life. There’s no room to fit audiobook production in there… not unless I dropped Book III and went dark for quite a while.
- I want the audiobook to be professional. I’ve been able to handle a lot of work for the novels, including the cover designs and print layouts, but when it comes to creating an audiobook that doesn’t sound like amateur hour, I’m way out of my league.
All of those reasons are why I opted to wait until I could afford to pay a professional narrator and produce a high-quality audiobook. Thanks to saving profits from book sales, Patreon subscriptions, donations, revenue from my Spring store and my collaboration with Old Soul Artisan, and the IAC funding a portion of the cost, it’s finally happening!
Saturday, August 14, 2021
Harmony Todd, the founder of Old Soul Artisan and mastermind behind the intoxicating fragrance of the Avilésor mystical forest candle inspired by the series, featured a Q&A interview with me on her website. Check it out!
Psst… I also interviewed Harmony on my website to find out what it’s like being a candlesmith, entrepreneur, and wolf conservation supporter. Read it here!
Sunday, August 15, 2021
Event #3! I set up shop at the La Porte Pop Warner event on a beautiful summer day (that was mercifully cooler than the other two events had been).
What really amazed me at this event was not the volume of books that I sold, but the number of people who immediately recognized the cover and said they’d either already read the books or they’d seen them on social media or around town!
Saturday, September 18, 2021
Event #4: The La Porte Sunflower Fair was yet another successful (albeit HOT) event.
Initially, I had reservations about doing two events in my hometown. I felt that I had already tapped into the local market and needed to be focusing on new locations.
I’m happy to say I was wrong! Lots of excitement about the books and enthusiasm about me being a local author. I even had a fan who had purchased both novels at the Taste of Michigan City come say hi and tell me how much she loved them and couldn’t wait for BOTE! Plus, one of my biggest longtime fans came to show me his new A6 T-shirt!
On Patreon, I took my subscribers behind the scenes to show the prep work that went into the Sunflower Fair. You can watch the highlight reel below, but the full version with audio is available only on Patreon.
Saturday, October 02, 2021
Welcome to the Westville Pumpkin Festival! By this point, I’d pretty much figured out that larger, festival-type events work well for me.
The Pumpkin Fest was no different.
However… I had to contend with rain for the first time! The event started with a mad scramble to hang clear shower curtains on the sides of my tent and rescue the artwork. Luckily, the rain didn’t last too long, and there was a good turnout after the skies cleared.
I met lots of fantasy-lovers and bookworms who were excited to give the series a try. I also connected with a librarian from the Westville – New Durham Public Library and talked to her about how to get the books on library shelves since each branch is different.
Saturday, October 05, 2021
After connecting with the Westville librarian at the Pumpkin Festival, I started reaching out to other libraries in the region. Driving through rural Indiana during harvest season to visit the various branches was a welcome adventure! (I’ve sort of become a hermit now that I’m working from home and staying low-key with COVID.)
Library outreach is something that had been on my to-do list for a while, but the pandemic derailed those plans.
When I started my outreach with the LaPorte branch, I had an AMAZING surprise…
I waited patiently by the front desk with both books in my hands. When the woman in charge of collections came out to speak with me, she saw AFH on top and said, “Oh, I know that book! We have the first one, and I just ordered the second one about an hour ago.”
How’s that for timing?! No need for the introduction and elevator pitch. As it turns out, somebody local had recently reached out to the library after reading my interview on Hometown News Now and requested the second book.
To whoever that stranger is, THANK YOU! That is exactly the kind of support indie authors need to help spread the word and get their books into readers’ hands. I’m also humbled and delighted to know that there’s genuine demand for the books outside of my own personal outreach.
Valparaiso was TBD with no official confirmation… but you can try asking for it! If they didn’t order copies, they might if there’s demand!
October 23, 2021
Lisa Misch from the Wanatah Public Library brought me in for an interview and published this wonderful article in the Westville Indicator and The Regional News!
What was particularly exciting about this article was that it went much deeper than most of my previous interviews that focused on the books and upcoming signings. Lisa delved into my career and education from before I was an author and wanted to know how those experiences influenced my current course.
Chatting with Lisa felt like catching up with an old friend over lunch, and her article was definitely a highlight of 2021!
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
I connected with Jess, the founder and owner of Audiobook Empire. We talked on the phone for over an hour and half while she graciously discussed the ins and outs of audiobook production, distribution, and marketing. I had been doing my own online research and was feeling completely overwhelmed and behind schedule (I have to submit a final report by September 2022 since this is partially funded by the IAC grant).
Audiobook Empire is a production house that facilitates connections between authors, narrators, and distributors. It also helps with marketing and guides the author through every step. This kind of all-in-one approach seemed to be exactly what I needed, and I opted to move forward with this company to produce my audiobook.
How I connected with Jess in the first place… I think think it was fate. Or pure, dumb luck.
On LinkedIn, I had posted a photo of Taysha helped me sort inventory. Someone commented, “Awww.”
That someone, I noticed, happened to have voiceover and audiobook narration listed in her LinkedIn headline below her name. On a whim, I reached out to her and asked if she could give me a little guidance about the different audiobook platforms. I was wary about being exclusive to ACX, but I’d seen mixed reviews about other options and wanted to know what she recommended from the perspective of a narrator.
One thing led to another, and she ended up sending an introductory email to connect me with Jess and Audiobook Empire. All thanks to a picture of a cute dog and a comment of “Awww.”
The universe works in mysterious ways…
Saturday, November 20, 2021
The Wanatah Public Library welcomed me for a meet and greet!
In the bottom photo, I’m standing with Lisa Misch, who interviewed me and wrote the wonderful article, and Don Parker, the library director.
It ended up being a beautiful fall day for an event! The support I’ve received from this library has absolutely blown me away!
Friday, November 26, 2021 | Saturday, November 27, 2021 | Sunday, November 28, 2021
2021 was a year of firsts! Up until this year, most of my events were book signings that typically lasted 2-4 hours.
The Independence Day Fest was not only my first festival event, but also my first one that was a full day.
8+ hour days for events are challenging enough, but the LaPorte Christkindlmarkt upped the ante by being a THREE-DAY event. This was my first time ever being a vendor for a multi-day festival, which came with new challenges (like trying to figure out how many books to order).
Day 1 was cold but still had a good turnout. Day 2 was windy, which resulted in my canvases being knocked over and caused us to reconfigure our normal setup.
Day 3… was rough. Early that morning, before dawn, severe wind gusts blew through and destroyed a lot of tents. Luckily, mine survived more or less intact. Other vendors weren’t so lucky. One had $500+ damage done to her merchandise. Some had tents that were warped sculptures of metal and canvas.
I’m so glad that I insisted on taking my books and art home every night instead of leaving them! That resulted in more time and effort loading and unloading each day, but spared me in the long run.
With the high winds, we couldn’t fully raise the tent. We set out a table with books, candles, and gift boxes. By the end of the day, we were frozen solid! That biting wind tore right through our multiple layers of clothes, and we were shivering.
But I’m glad I stuck it out! I had been on the fence about staying since about 2/3 of the other vendors opted to pack it in and give up after they assessed the damage. I turned a good profit by staying, and I’m thankful to the people who braved the elements and came out to support those of us who powered through!
Sunday, December 05, 2021
I FINALLY completed the manuscript for Book III: Blood of the Enemy!
Although I had been hoping to finish before Thanksgiving, my overall goal had been to complete the manuscript by the end of the year, and I made it!
The first draft weighed in at a hefty 206,609 words. But it’s normal for the word count to decrease during editing as the manuscript gets a healthy trim.
My goal is to get it below 200k at a minimum. In comparison to the other two books, AFH is about 154k and PM is around 194k.
Honestly, I’m not as concerned about word count as a lot of other authors. I like big books, and I feel that a story should be however many words it needs to be, whether that falls into the “acceptable range” for a genre or not. My concerns relating to word count mostly tie into the print cost to produce the book (more pages = more $) since that affects my retail price points and royalty margins.
Wednesday, December 08, 2021
I heard the first narrator auditions! Naturally, I made the not-so-wise decision to listen to them late at night (technically, early in the morning), so I had a hard time falling asleep!
I have to say, it’s really weird to hear people reading my book. But then again, it was also strange when the first novel was published and I heard people saying words I’d made up (like Avilésor) that, until that point, had existed only in my head. Saying the words aloud myself was also a weird feeling!
But I got used to that, so I’m sure I’ll get used to hearing the audiobook!
Thursday, December 16, 2021
To celebrate finishing the manuscript for BOTE, I launched three new specialty hoodies on my Spring store! On each hoodie, the left sleeve reads “War of the Realms” and the right reads “Chronicles of Avilésor.”
Saturday, December 18, 2021
My final event of 2021 was a joint book signing with M.C. Beeler, the author of Sacred. We met up at FLUID Coffee Roasters in Michigan City to sign books for last-minute Christmas presents and greet locals coming in for gourmet coffee and tea.
It was a fun way to finish up my event season! With omicron tearing through this winter, I don’t expect to be doing any more events until spring. I have plenty of work with editing Book III and overseeing the audiobook production of Book I to keep me busy, anyway!
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
As I wrapped up the year diving into the editing phase of Book III, I decided to share some extra chapters.
What will 2022 bring?
Hopefully good things! I’m not going to lie… 2021 ended on a sour note for me, despite all of the progress and accomplishments. I hit an unexpected setback that made me question my abilities and infected my thoughts with self-doubt.
I have challenges ahead, and I’m still in the process of healing so I can face them head-on and prove the naysayers wrong. There’s no doubt 2022 is going to be a BIG year as I venture into uncharted territory with an audiobook and publish the third book in the Chronicles of Avilésor series. I’ve been cultivating these seeds for a while, and I’m ready to watch them bloom.
But there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to make that happen!
(I created a Buy Me a Coffee page if you want to help out by treating me to a virtual drink. I’m going to need all the caffeine I can get!)
2021 Blog Posts
- Feeding America | An Author’s Pledge to Give Back
- Boost Web Traffic: SEO Tips + How to Search a Keyword
- New Designs! The A6 Collection & Alpha Deluxe Hoodie
- Feeding America Donation | Author Sara A. Noë
- Sneak Peek at Book III: Blood of the Enemy
- Author’s 10 Tricks to Help Beat Writer’s Block
- Spring Photography | April Through the Photographer’s Lens
- Review: Spring for Creators (Formerly Teespring)
- Pros & Cons: Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
- Red (Sandcastle 16.02)
- Artwork by Sara A. Noë on Display in Michigan City, IN
- 10 Mind-Blowing Statistics on Blogging to Know for 2021
- 5 Easy, FREE Ways to Support Your Favorite Indie Authors
- Q&A: Harmony Todd, Founder of Old Soul Artisan Literary Candles
- Imposter Syndrome: Why Do Artists Feel Like They’re Not Good Enough?
- Fantasy Worldbuilding: Tolkien’s Primary and Secondary Worlds
- Personal Resume Website: What Is It and Do You Need One?
- Should Authors Publish Under Their Real Name or a Pseudonym?
- A Writer’s Song: Why You Should “Write What You Know”
- Chronicles of Avilésor Cosplay | Project Alpha Costumes
- The “Theory of Omission” in Writing | Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory
- The Bookworm’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Gifts for Readers & Writers
- Redbubble vs. Spring Review: Which POD Apparel Site is Better?
- Author Q&A: What Are You Excited About for Book 3?
Did you miss any of 2021’s newsletters? Catch up with all of my newsletters from 2021 below, and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter list if you aren’t already on it!
I wish everyone a happy, healthy, positive 2022!