12 Pieces of Advice for College Writers: How I Wrote 2 Books in 2 Years as a Full-Time Student

Life Updates


I’m incredibly excited to announce that, after 4 years, I’ve finally graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, with a double-major in Statistics and Decision Science, and a minor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship! While I’m super excited for the journey ahead, it is bittersweet as I’ve had a lot of wonderful memories in Pittsburgh and met some wonderful people – I’m incredibly grateful for the rigorous education, the networking opportunities I’ve gotten, and the people I’ve met who have expanded my perspective and that I’ve learned a lot about. But at the same time, I’m even more excited to be taking the next step in my life.

What’s Next

While this is a huge in-between phase of my life with moving out of one place and making plans to move into another, I’ve been taking the time to spend with loved ones, read more in my spare time, and continue planning for the months ahead. I definitely do plan to start writing book #3 of the A Return to the Ashes series (Book 1 and Book 2 available on Amazon now!) and hope to attempt a similar timeline. I’m also blessed to say that later this summer, I will be starting as a Business Analyst at a phenomenal company that will allow me to balance my passions for writing and statistics.

12 Pieces of Advice

Now let’s get to the actual reason you clicked on this article. It’s not clickbait – I actually did write my first book during my junior year of college (publishing it in April 2021), and wrote the second book in my senior year of college, which was released earlier this month.

Yes, it was stressful. Yes, it took sacrifice. Nothing worthwhile is without its ups and downs. But this post is for those students who are like I was – thinking that you need to give up your love for writing in favor of classes. I want to let you know that it’s possible to pursue both, as a wonderful mentor of mine, Professor Eric Koester, helped me realize. It just takes the time and effort. And honestly, you have more time to spare than you think, if you become aware of your distractions and take control over them (for me, deleting Instagram and Facebook off my phone from time to time, and deleting my Snapchat account altogether, proved to be massive time-savers, but that’s for a later discussion).

So here’s my advice for what has helped me a lot, and I hope it helps you too!

1. Know what classes you don’t need to put 100% into

The unfortunate reality is that there are a lot of filler classes that we get thrown into for graduation requirements – “gen ed” classes that we know we don’t need or want to put much effort into.

This may sound anathema to many people (as it would to my past self). “What do you mean? Why are you saying that we should neglect our academic responsibilities?

Of course I’m not going to advocate for that, and to quote me as saying that would be a deliberate misread. After all, especially in the United States, you’re paying a pretty penny for the privilege of higher education. But as any student would recognize, not all classes are equal, and different classes and professors require different levels of commitment.

For CMU students especially, I used a lifesaving Google Chrome extension called “CMUnits” when signing up for classes. It shows, based on the compilation of past faculty course evaluations, how many hours per week each class took in the past on average, and I adjusted my expectations accordingly. For example, some classes that were labeled as “9-unit” (which, in theory, would be expected to take 9 hours of commitment per week) would take less than that on average, while other courses labeled as such or with 12 units would take more than twice as long.

(Again, this is not an indictment of classes and professors, but some material is harder than others, partly because of workload, and partly because we all have our strengths and weaknesses in what we intuitively understand better. For example, I always loved statistics, psychology, and philosophy, and found those subjects more appealing and easier to intuit, while I could not say the same for engineering and microbiology.)

Again, DO NOT just “BS” your way through classes – you’re paying to be there, and should take your education seriously. But you should know ahead of time what your strengths and weaknesses are, and ask other students who have taken your courses before what to expect, so you can have realistic expectations.

2. Plan out your busy weeks ahead of time

One of the beautiful things about college is the fact that you get syllabi, devoting the first day of classes (and sometimes the first week) with the setup expectations for what the class will be like for the rest of the semester.

I’ll repeat the advice that students get all the time, because it’s important: READ THE SYLLABUS. Take the time to highlight important dates and times for exams, quizzes, and project deadlines.

Personally, I found it easier to have a small index card on my wall with visualizations of what I would have to expect for each class, so I knew ahead of time when I would have my busiest weeks of school. Since I worked with a publisher, I knew my deadlines for that ahead of time as well, and could plan ahead when I would have more time for writing.

To the left you can see an example from the fall semester of my junior year – as mentioned, it’s a picture of the entire semester laid out on a tiny index card. I also color-coded based on class, and used different symbols based on the type of assignment (exam, project, homework) before placing it on the wall above my desk to see at-a-glance.

3. Have someone holding you accountable

I was fortunate enough to work with a hybrid publisher (which provides the best of both worlds in giving the structure of a traditional publisher, with the improved royalties and creative rights of a self-publisher – comment below if you want me to go more in-depth on what it’s like!).

This meant that I worked with a team of editors that held me accountable to deadlines. I also set up weekly meetings with my editors (shout-out to my developmental editor Ilia Epifanov and Marketing & Revising Editor Faiqa Zafar for their patience, encouragement and amazing work!) to keep me on track. Even if I had my busy periods that didn’t always allow me to stay perfectly consistent (see #2 above), they still kept me grounded and accountable.

If you decide to go the self-publishing route, you will still need that accountability, so still consider either hiring an editor, or have a close loved one or professor who is willing to put in the time to look over your work, and to give you honest and critical feedback. Make sure it’s someone who you respect, set up deadlines, and boom – you’ve got a “fan” that you can’t let down!

4. Have a good support system

In my case, I was lucky to have my parents, boyfriend, and friends supporting me, in addition to my publishing company. I’m incredibly grateful for my parents for their continual support of my goals, helping me by reading and revising my work, and giving me further familial historical background to help. My boyfriend rivals my parents for my biggest fan, and he also spent a lot of late nights helping me find the best ways to carry out my scenes. My friends, especially those who beta-read my work, have also given me a lot of good, constructive feedback.

From Unsplash via Helena Lopes

Thanks to these people in my life, who would often tell me how excited they would be to read the full book once it’s out, I felt that motivational push on the more difficult days, and I’d say that having such a support system made a huge difference!

5. Outsource!

Like I’ve mentioned, sometimes you need a team. I found working with a hybrid publisher particularly helpful because most people who go the non-traditional route may still not have the graphic design skills to work on cover design and layout to a level that looks professional, and you can only catch so many mistakes editing by yourself.

From Unsplash via Elisa Ventur

Acknowledge that sometimes, you can’t do everything yourself. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, or that you’re less than capable. It just means you’re human. And sometimes that’ll require a bit of financial sacrifice, which is up to you, but when considering this, also consider how much you value your time and the professionalism of your book (a better-looking and better-formatted book makes a HUGE difference in sales). You want to make sure you put out not only a manuscript, but a better manuscript than you could have done by yourself, and a book that you’re proud of.

So, if you can afford it, outsource these things to people who have worked professionally in this field, who you know can do it best. Look into hybrid publishers or connect with designers and editors on LinkedIn – of course, vet their work and make sure it looks as professional as the books you have on your bookshelf. If it looks legit, then work with them (while respectfully not holding back on what you want in terms of your book). It’ll save you a ton of time, and often give you better results than if you attempted to do everything yourself.

6. Get sleep and exercise!

Yes, everyone says this, and the platitude of “self-care” has been repeated so much that it almost feels meaningless at this point. But if I’m repeating this, that means that it’s some darn good advice.

You cannot function well if you’re not taking care of yourself!

Even if you need to take naps or go to the gym only twice a week, even this bare minimum helps. You may be like many people (including my past self) in saying “But I really don’t have the time – I need to get [insert impending project] done!!!”

Of course you shouldn’t neglect your projects. But when you neglect basic things like sleep and exercise, your body grows more lethargic and less productive. You will wonder why it’s so much harder to focus (and why binging on coffee alone won’t help – sometimes it’ll just up your heart rate and make you more anxious, without helping at all with focus and productivity).

From Unsplash via Lux Graves

You have more time than you think. That extra hour of work might have diminishing returns, and might be better spent sleeping or hitting the gym.

Try it out and you’ll see the difference – when refreshed, you may be more productive in less than an hour than in several hours of a sleep-deprived, mopey state of mind.

7. Realize there will be late nights and early mornings

I realize that I just said you need to take care of yourself, and I’ll stand by that. But even with all of these steps in place, sometimes thing pile up. Life happens. You might have the final deadline for your book line up right with your midterm week, or you might have procrastinated too much on one project in favor of another. Either way, don’t expect everything to flow perfectly.

From Unsplash via Beth Jnr

You should know ahead of time there’ll be weeks where you have almost nothing going on, and others where you’ll be wondering whether you can get your projects done in time. Sometimes you’ll need a cup of joe to make it through the day, and that’s why a support system is so necessary to get you through these harder times. There have been times even in the past year where I’ve gone to bed at 2am and woken up to work more at 6am in order to get everything done in time. I don’t endorse making this a habit, but it’ll happen from time to time.

As much of a platitude as this has become, remember: “This too shall pass.” Have a reward (like a cleared-out evening to relax, or a night out with friends). An end goal in sight with a reward afterwards gives you something to look forward to, and makes things more bearable in the moment knowing that there’s a break coming up.

8. Say no to parties sometimes

Friends are important, and your support system is, like I’ve mentioned, one of the strongest ways to keep going when it’s hard. Your friends, at least the right ones, will push you forward.

But book-writing is an entrepreneurial endeavor in its own right – it requires a lot of work. And that requires social sacrifices sometimes.

From Unsplash via Max Harlynking

This does NOT mean to cut off your friends – if anything, their insights of those around you might be a help, provided you’re surrounded by the right people. Thre will also be events you shouldn’t miss, like your best friend’s wedding or your niece’s baptism – these are big deals and events that you want to invest your time in, for the sake of your relationships with your loved ones.

On the other hand, you might have friends who do the bare minimum in their work and spend their free time drinking and partying. Or even just a party for one of your school clubs right before your deadline, while you still have 10 chapters to edit. It’ll be ok. You don’t have to go to every party you’re invited to.

As mentioned, there’ll be busy times when you’ll have to focus on meeting your deadlines. That sometimes means saying no to that Friday-night house party and having to overcome the FOMO that comes with that.

Not everyone will agree with what you’re doing, and some might even take it personally. I’ve surely had friends that took offense when I essentially dropped off the face of the planet for a couple weeks to focus on getting everything together. It’ll happen, but it’s not the end of the world. And your real friends will understand.

9. Be flexible!

Sometimes, life happens. Like I said, you shouldn’t be using your work as an excuse to neglect those around you (like you may see many “sigma male” circles glorifying).

At the same time, you need to make sure you have your priorities set and that you balance things out. For example, I planned ahead when I knew of weddings and holidays that I would want to attend, and my boyfriend and I prioritized Sunday liturgy, so I knew to block off Sunday mornings.

Google Calendar is a lifesaver, but not an end-all-be-all. It’s good to block out events in your weeks like church, classes, and meetings. Color-coding has helped me a lot in letting me know at-a-glance whether time would be blocked off for school, clubs, religious services, or social events, but I didn’t schedule it down to the minute, and I wouldn’t recommend it for others either.

I repeat: don’t schedule everything in your day by 15-minute increments. It won’t work – sometimes things come up that you need to make room for, like a family emergency or an urgent publishing complication you need to handle (or even a migraine that will stop you from being as productive as you want). You need to allow room for that potential, so only pencil in the events you need to go to or be aware of so you know when you’re free.

10. Edit, edit, edit – but don’t over-edit!

Writer’s block is common mainly because you’re worried about whether or not your material is good, and what you need to know is that the first time around, it won’t be good enough. But I’ll repeat this point:

Good books aren’t written, they’re re-written.

Michael Crichton

You will not be perfect – sometimes you have to get something down even if it’s not as brilliant as you want it to be. You’re supposed to edit it many times over anyways, and when the revision process comes around, you will be. I’ve had about 8-10 rounds of editing for each book I’ve published, and I’ll share with you another piece of advice that helps ward off against overediting:

When you’re done editing a chapter, DO NOT look over it again until you’ve finished editing the rest of the manuscript.

This prevents you from obsessing over one chapter and never being happy with it. Once you’re done with the chapter, move on, finish your round of editing for the rest of the book, and then go back over it in the next round. (This is essentially my publishing company’s policy, and it’s helped me immensely, especially being the perfectionist that I am.)

You may ask, “But what if it’s never good enough?” (That, my friend, I have also asked myself many times over.) Editing, however, also has diminishing returns. If you see that you’ve gotten to the point where your edits are not content-related anymore but just nitpicky one-word changes, that’s a sign you should leave the rest up to your editor and that you’re close to ready to publish.

That means that yes, there may be a typo or two at some point in your final draft that no one’s caught. But that’s no excuse to be an unnecessary time sink, and if you’ve gone through 10 rounds of editing with several different editors and beta readers looking at it, you can be assured you’ve captured 99% of the errors.

11. Make peace with the fact that you won’t see results for a while

Like I said before, writing a book is an entrepreneurial endeavor. This isn’t to say you’re making a pitch in front of a Shark Tank-like board or talking to venture capital firms about your epic fantasy novel – of course that makes no sense. I have friends who have done that for their tech or healthcare companies and there are major differences between that and writing content, so I will not say it’s exactly the same.

What I do mean, however, is that it is a large creative undertaking that isn’t instantly-gratifying. You won’t get rich quick off writing books, unless you already have a huge following (which most of us, myself included, don’t have quite yet). It requires not only commitment but also consistent effort and hard work put in, often with years passing before you get any huge amount of recognition.

From Unsplash via Nathan Dumlao

Writing (and finishing!) a book is far easier said than done, but it is possible. Even now, I’m still starting out and not necessarily making money consistently enough to call it an income. Quite honestly, if you’re writing a book, especially in fiction, and you’re doing it only for the money, you might be doing it for the wrong reasons – there’s no shortage of fiction books on the market, or books in general, and many people won’t reach bestselling status.

This should be something you do because you love what you’re writing about, you want to work to improve your craft, and you want to put something out into the world that people can enjoy and draw inspiration from. If you’re doing it for the clout and/or the money, you may get some, but your writing won’t be as motivating to you, and might not come across as authentic to your target audience the same way that your love for the content will.

12. Learn from more experienced authors and get a mentor

Finally, it’s hard to do this all as a new author, especially if you have trouble navigating the ins and outs. Heck, even after putting out two books I’m still learning new things, and I will still be learning new things decades from now.

There will always be something to learn, and you’ll never know everything.

You need to go in with a certain level of humility. So for those areas that you know less about, I would recommend that you connect to other authors who seem to be doing better than you in a certain aspect (for example, social media promotion) and ask them for advice. You might be surprised at how little you know and how much even a 5-minute call can help you.

If you haven’t yet, check out my books, A Return to the Ashes and In the Frigid Ruins, available now on Amazon! I’m also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you liked this content, follow me on there and keep up with my blog at nadinapopoviciu.com!


Publishing Announcement + More!

Book Now Available to Order

FINALLY, after another year of grinding, I’m happy to announce that the second book of my “A Return to the Ashes” series is out! Here’s the book description for a rough idea of what the book’s about in continuing this saga:

     As the sequel to her fantasy novel A Return to the Ashes, Nadina Popoviciu’s In the Frigid Ruins continues exploring the world of the Continent. After two of Lumina’s best operatives disappear, and a lost Princess falls into their hands, the Phoenix relocates to deal with security threats in hopes of starting fresh from a new base. In the meantime, the question of who will be the successor to the throne looms as several realms around the Continent worry about their next generation of royalty and the distresses to come from that, from Princes’ deaths to maintaining their legacy.
     Exploring the intersection of morality and humanity, Nadina Popoviciu’s In the Frigid Ruins will leave you with the realization that modern notions are not as original as we think, but hundreds — or even thousands — of years old.

Wondering where to purchase it? Keep reading!

Where to Find + Limited-Time 80% Discount

My book’s currently available for sale on Amazon, and will soon be available on Barnes & Noble (click the hyperlink to get to the product pages). Right now, it’s offered in both paperback and eBook formats (and yes, this is compatible with Kindle and Nook).

You may also be reading this section header and wondering if it’s clickbait — and the answer is nope! For the first 30 days (from today till June 5th) of my book’s availability, I will be selling the book for 99 CENTS ONLY, for you to enjoy! After that, the price will go back up to $4.99, so grab your copy while you can, and let me know what you think of it!

New RedBubble Merch!

To go along with the release of my book, I also have released a new design, with the same cover design as that on my book! (Fun fact: I designed the bird on the cover myself!) If you’re a fan of how it looks, check it out here on RedBubble and spoil yourself a little with the product, whether in a t-shirt, baseball cap, bag, or other merch. 🙂

How to Support/Where to Find Me

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING at this moment right now is to hear from YOU, especially through:

  • Amazon reviews (!!!)
  • Goodreads reviews
  • Comments on posts with what you like, what I could change, and what more you’d want to see

These all aren’t only good for the algorithm and promotion; they also give me the chance to hear what YOU like and what else I can do to improve and continue creating content you enjoy.

And finally, you can expect this not to be the final installment of the series — there’s still a lot more I have planned in terms of content, books, and products that you’ll want to keep in touch with. The easiest places you can find this is on my blog (already here!) and my Linktr.ee. But I’m also available on a ton of other platforms where you can hear from me:

As usual, comment below with what else you’d like to see me post or talk more about — I can’t wait to hear more of what you think!


One Day Left + Final Sneak Peek!

As you might know, there’s only ONE DAY LEFT until I officially release and publish my second book, In the Frigid Ruins! I’ve been so blessed to have so much support from the past few days on this, and I cannot wait to hear from you what you think!

With that and more exciting announcements coming soon, I wanted to share one more sneak peek with you before publication — this time from Jasper’s perspective (potential spoilers for A Return to the Ashes included). Read it below, comment what you think, and if you like what you see, stay tuned for updates and links to order the new book!

     “Spit it out boy, we do not have all night.”
     The former Lieutenant took another breath, pausing before continuing. “Lady Atora has not been around the castle. I thought she was mourning her betrothed, but I noticed that she was not at the funeral, either.”
     Miran furrowed his eyebrows. “Now that you mention that, I have not seen her either.”
     “She has gone missing, sir. None of the attendants have seen her for a few days.”
     “What?” The Duke erupted from his calm demeanor, standing up in disbelief. The King’s eyes widened and the room fell entirely silent, as if the three Sergeants were holding their breaths, waiting for whatever would happen next. “How could we have let this happen?”
     “I do not know, Your Grace,” Jasper admitted, speaking a bit faster as his palms started sweating, especially with the eyes of both noblemen trained on him. “We should have taken note sooner, but I suppose the funerary arrangements had left us too preoccupied.”
     “When was the last time anyone had seen her? Did you investigate that?” Miran stood up, mimicking the Duke’s motions, his hands on the table with that desperate look back in his eyes, one that Jasper now regretted inducing in the both of them.
     “Of course, sir.” Jasper took a breath and tried to remain calm. “It was the day after Anghel was found...” His palms grew even more clammy. “The attendants reported that she went to see a play. The guards in attendance had offered to accompany her, but she turned that down and has not been seen since.”
     The Duke’s bushy, scarlet eyebrows furrowed, and he looked down for a moment incredulously before looking at Jasper. “So she has been gone since before I arrived?”
     Jasper, his heart heavy, could only say: “Apparently so, Your Grace.”
     “And it took you three days to realize it?” The fury burned in his eyes. “My gods, the way you handle your women, I am not surprised our Queens do not last long in the Capital.” The entire room went silent, and Jasper’s heart hammered in his chest. Not even Anghel, in his rebellious moods, spoke to Miran that way.
     Miran stood back up, moving close to the Duke. “You may want to be careful with your words, Aurel. Remember to whom you speak.”
     The Duke, although Miran stood slightly taller than him, did not cower. He turned and stood with a thinly-veiled surface of calm on his face. “You remember, Your Majesty, to whom I also entrusted my little girl. Measure my words accordingly.”

If you liked this excerpt and want to read more, stay tuned for the next day when I’ll release the info about where and how to order my new book, In the Frigid Ruins!


Book Launch This Friday!

Book Launch & Release Date Announcement

I’ve been off-the-grid from Pascha and finals, and pre-sales have officially ended, but I’m determined not to leave you hanging — I’m PSYCHED to announce that I will be publishing In the Frigid Ruins THIS WEEK on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and any other place you can find and buy books online!

Officially, the publication date is THIS Friday, May 6th — releasing at 5pm EST!

eBook SALE!

Not only that, but to go with it, I’ll be having a 30-day-ONLY sale of 99 CENTS for my eBook, from the publication date of May 6th to June 5th, before the eBook price goes up to $4.99, so get it for an 80% discount while you can, and leave a review!

I’ve been working a lot behind the scenes on this, and I cannot wait to share the second part of this series with you, and to hear what you all think!

How to Support / New Social Media

Leave a comment or review – every single review on Amazon and Goodreads helps IMMENSELY, not only with the algorithm, but also in letting me know what you like and what you’d want to see in book number 3!

I also recently joined Twitter and Pinterest, so feel free to follow me on there!


In the Frigid Ruins Excerpt – A Sneak Peek through Dragan’s Eyes!

For the first time ever, I’ll be sharing a piece from my upcoming book, In the Frigid Ruins — for free! Read it below, comment what you think, and if you like what you see, go to nadinapopoviciu.com/shop to pre-order your copy to get next month!

WARNING: This excerpt includes gore and violence. (It’s medieval times, what can you expect?)

     Opening a door to his right, he accessed the places where his parents and Codrin, among other invited royal families, would sit to spectate on benches of polished dark wood with velvet seats and corners lined in gold, facing the field below.
     He wondered what their reactions would be. Would they watch in horror? No, this was a once-in-a-generation spectacle to behold! Some might watch with boredom, others intently and giddily. From his guess, most of the men would place their bets and criticize the fighting form of the Marestran royal brothers while the women would gossip and put their hands over their eyes, pretending not to peek through their fingers.
     Dragan sat down in one of the front seats, looking out through the four-foot-tall opening that acted as a large window. The field looked the same as always, a large ellipse four hundred feet across one way and two hundred the other. Surrounding it were rising benches that could seat over ten thousand spectators, and all had a clear view of the sand-covered stage, which now hosted...his younger brother?
     Ludevit’s curly, bronze hair shone in the sun, his golden baby face scrunched up in concentration as he gnashed his teeth and swung two scimitars, cutting through the air as gracefully as if it were a dance. It would have been beautiful had it not been for the blood that spotted and stained the field below, along with the lacerated bodies of a couple of slaves. The last one standing held a cheaper, smaller sword, holding his side as if trying to hold in the blood spilling out through his fingers.
     “Put up a real fight,” Ludevit snarled at the slave, whose ivory-colored skin was half-covered in dark, wet blood. To his credit, the slave tightened his hand on his wound and tried to swing toward the youngest Prince, but sadly met his fate when the curves of those two swords wrapped around his neck and swiped his head off cleanly and effortlessly.
     As the only living man on the field, Ludevit raised his hands in victory, the blood on those blades glistening in the sunlight that bore down on him. Dragan watched his brother, not sure whether to be impressed or horrified. He knew from a young age that his father valued strength more than anything in a man and had educated them on the importance of maintaining that status in their kingdom, but it was another thing to see the implications for himself outside of a formal fighting circumstance.
     It sank in even further when Ludevit surveyed the stadium and met his brother’s gaze. Dragan could not even recognize his half-brother anymore. Those large eyes in which he had always seen innocence and wonder were now dark with bloodthirst and malice, paired with a cruel smile.

If you liked this excerpt and want to read more, go to nadinapopoviciu.com/shop and pre-order your signed copy of In the Frigid Ruins, and to be the first to find out what happens next! Pre-ordering will close on April 30th, so get it while you can!


What’s In This Next Book?

Now, as administrative tasks continue behind-the-scenes, I’m more than happy to share that my manuscript is in fact finalized, and to share not only excerpts (coming next week!), but pieces of what you can expect as the lore expands and continues in this sequel, In the Frigid Ruins! Most importantly, we get a few new and fresh perspectives brought into the picture — some by supporting characters in A Return to the Ashes that you know and love (or not) that you’ll get to dive deeper with, and others by new or Easter egg’ed characters you’ll get to explore different corners of the Continent with!

Speaking of the Continent, we’ve only really focused on a few areas. Is there more? Of course! We’ve got:

Read on for more!

WARNING: SPOILERS for A Return to the Ashes included here!

New Kingdoms

Romanian village road taken from Bostan Florin Catalin @bostanflorin on Unsplash

In the first book, I hinted at about 11 kingdoms on the Continent, but mainly focused on three nations — Apasia and Padaure in the Northwest, and the Allied Cities of Lebiros in the South. In this sequel, I’ll still be keeping them in mind — you hear of them through some characters, and travel with Lumina and her subordinates through the mountains as they relocate their Phoenix camps.

However, you’ll also get a good look at the world of Marestra — a kingdom taking up the entire southeastern block of the Continent, it’s one of the most powerful realms, and definitely the most ambitious. Its military might is rivaled only by another Southern kingdom, Inecor, a large southwestern kingdom known mostly for its agricultural exports and wide swaths of farmland, but with enough people that, combined with the other three nations in the South (Nocenia, the Allied Cities of Lebiros, and the Ports of the South) have balanced out Marestra’s power and held them back from taking more territory.

New POVs

Edited from Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

With these new kingdoms, we’ve got to expect new perspectives too! Here’s where we bring in some new royalty.

  • Prince Dragan of Marestra — the middle child of the Princes of Marestra, who has to face the prospect of killing both his beefy older brother and his once-innocent younger brother, who is about to turn eighteen in the Festival of the Fights, a fight-to-the-death that determines the kingdom’s next heir. (More on that in a later post!) His life is on the line, but he questions whether or not it’s worth it to even try — as he carries on a longtime relationship with his father’s advisor, finds no interest in power and dominance over others, and knows he will not be able to bring himself to find women appealing despite the tradition of harems that surround the Marestran Kings to help create heirs. On the other hand, he faces the love of his mother, and uses that as his motivation to push forward and prepare for the festival.
  • New Anonymous Character — this time, rather than the dear Phoenix leader, we get a direct insight into what it’s like to grow up in royal life, and the difficulties that even women of royal status were not immune to as their men headed off to war. It also tells the beautiful friends-to-lovebirds story of a Southern Princess and the complications that come up as she faces womanhood, and the question of whether she will balance her father’s wishes for continued national peace, or her own wish for a loving marriage.

You’ll also get to pick the brains of some familiar characters as well:

  • Prince Kenric of Apasia — you know him. You may not love him. But he’s the late Prince Merek’s stuttering, awkward younger brother, who killed Merek as the latter’s monster form approached Letta, before she ran off. We’ll dive in to the psyche of the Prince as he faces the potential inheritance of the crown, and as his family tries to navigate such arrangements while trying to find the missing Padaurean-Apasian Princess.
  • Vitor — an ambitious, bright-eyed young man who knows his way with the ladies, Vitor joined the City Council for his hometown Midstad, the largest of the Allied Cities of Lebiros. Having never left the place, and previously only seeing the good that the Council has brought, he finds himself disturbed as he faces not only the darker side of the politics involved in upward movement, but also the darker side he didn’t realize he had, as he tries to come to terms with the ugly actions of his recent past.

Easter Egg’ed Characters

Red Pascha eggs, by Σελήνη @bobysbk on Unsplash

In honor of one of my favorite holidays of the year coming up — Pascha — I figured I’d also share some Easter eggs, in the form of subtle characters mentioned in the first book that you can learn more about in this sequel! Even if we don’t see their perspective directly, we get the chance to further explore them through the story, and learn to love — or hate — them.

  • Tomila — the most sadistic of the Phoenix scouts, she’s been tasked with essentially babysitting Letta and learning how to deal with a Princess in her presence. Needless to say, it takes a lot of patience, especially for a no-nonsense assassin like her.
  • Osbert — our favorite farmer’s boy, he’s the best friend of Jasper and Anghel, and does what he can to help his friends navigate the chaos left behind by the Prince’s death, even to his own detriment.
  • Alut — cynical and sarcastic, this Phoenix scout is thrown into handling the Princess as well, and his patience with her is even shorter than that of Tomila, leaving not much room for sympathy for either party.
  • Codrin — a charming and cunning Advisor to the King of Marestra, this man came from humble origins in northern Marestra (what was once southern Eputer) and has done all he could to keep climbing up the ladder of success, and he is more than willing to bend his moral code to keep his now-high status locked in.

Final Words

Hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek — and there’ll be a couple of excerpts coming soon for you to get an even closer look before I officially publish next month! If there’s any other kind of content you’d be interested to see, or any characters you want me to dive deeper in, comment below and let me know!

AND if you haven’t yet, go pre-order In the Frigid Ruins from nadinapopoviciu.com/shop before it’s too late — pre-orders will close on April 30th!


Cover Reveal!

Here’s an exciting next step that we’ve all been waiting for – I’ve finally gotten my cover design confirmed for my upcoming book, In the Frigid Ruins! For those of you who remember, I had the Phoenix’s emblem for the first book. For the sequel, I decided to keep the theme and include the blackbird sigil of Padaure — hope you like it!

Stay tuned for further updates and sneak peeks, as I continue to share bits of lore and what to expect next in this sequel. In the meantime, if you haven’t yet – preorder this book at nadinapopoviciu.com/shop – only 18 days left!


March Updates!

What I’ve Been Up To

I realize there has been a bit of silence on my website and social media the past few months. Truth be told, there’s been a lot going on, from school to writing to administrative book things:

  • January + Early February

    I started my last semester of college, while also going through several iterations of content for this upcoming sequel. I have a ton of people to thank for bearing with me and giving me feedback through this process:

    • My awesome Marketing and Revising Editor, Faiqa Zafar, who has been incredible in feedback and helping me stay on track with all of my edits and administrative tasks.
    • My wonderful boyfriend, for spending many late nights to help me refine the details and narrative of this book, and the patience he had with me along the way.
    • My supportive parents, for reading it over and helping me make sure the book would accurately represent aspects of history and the old country, as my ancestors would have lived it.
    • My stellar beta readers and all of the helpful insights they have given me: Alice, Benny, Bradley, Polina, Kayla, Shreya, Leah, and Nika.
  • February

    Most of February was dedicated to the little things: going over my manuscript several times over to ensure that every single detail was intentional and made sense, as well as to iron out grammatical details, in between sending and receiving edits from my publishing company’s copyediting and proofreading departments. The manuscript writing has been finished and is out of my hands now – so it’s all layout and administrative things going forward!

  • March

    This month, in addition to the midterms before and after my spring break, has been spent catching a break from edits, while also handling several administrative things for this book and my brand:

    • Updating my website to make it more user-friendly
    • Coming up with new merch designs (see later in this post)
    • Working on my cover design
      • I’m psyched to be working with the same team I did last year, who I credit with the amazing cover of the first book. I can’t wait to see and share the final product!

New Merchandise Alert!

As previously mentioned, since I had a bit of time for creative endeavors over my spring break, I’ve come up with a new design that I recently added to my RedBubble shop – a quote from one of Otra’s chapters in the first book, where the femme fatale trope meets her match – click here to check out more products with this design!

I hope you like it, and I am planning to make more designs like these in the future – if you have any requests or feedback, I would love to hear it: email me at nadina@nadinapopoviciu.com!

What To Expect Next

As previously mentioned, I’m currently working with my team on administrative things, while doing what I can (in the time I’m not spending studying) to prepare for this next round of content:

  • The cover design for this sequel, In the Frigid Ruins, is currently in progress – it looks great so far, and as soon as my team and I finish refining and finalizing it, I’ll be sure to share it with you!
  • Books are still available for pre-order, and will be until April 30th – head over to my shop on this website to put in your orders for this sequel now, before it’s too late! Some things to keep in mind:
    • Since I will be publishing with Amazon Direct Publishing, and sending it to myself to sign personally, there will be a delay, and those who pre-order signed paperbacks will be expected to receive those in mid-to-late May.
    • Given that this is the first year I’m using WooCommerce, there have been a few technical difficulties. If you have any trouble at all with navigating the shop or checkout pages, let me know via the feedback button or email me at nadina@nadinapopoviciu.com with your concerns!
      • In particular, make sure you get an email confirming your pre-order – if not, the order might not have gone through.
    • One lucky person who pre-orders in paperback will be randomly selected to win a goody bag, filled with A Return to the Ashes merchandise, to be delivered with their pre-ordered book!
    • All proceeds go to cover shipping and publishing costs – which involve editors and cover designers to make sure my book is the best quality it can be for you!
    • After the release in early May, my book will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and any online retailer!
  • New merchandise that you can use in your everyday life, with cool new designs!
  • New characters and kingdoms in this sequel, as well as new perspectives, including those of:
    • Vitor, Assistant to Midstad, the central Allied City of Lebiros
    • Kenric, Prince of Apasia
    • Dragan, Second Prince of Marestra
    • An anonymous Princess, to be fleshed out more as you read on 🙂

If you have any questions, or if you would like me to elaborate more on the process behind writing, publishing, or designing, or on the characters and themes I continue to explore in this series, comment below and let me know!

How To Support!

As previously mentioned, you can support this broke college student through:

  • Buying my first book, A Return to the Ashes, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local retailer, as a paperback or eBook
  • Pre-ordering the sequel, In the Frigid Ruins, on my website
  • Subscribing to my blog for updates
  • Following my pages on Facebook and Instagram
  • Buying merchandise from my RedBubble shop
  • Giving me feedback on how I can better my content or website for your consumption!

Thanks for all the support you’ve shown so far, and I look forward to giving you more updates!


Honest Reflections on the Lows of Book-Writing

Writing my sequel has led to a lot of reflection on what I’ve done as an author, what I still have yet to do, and how I can improve on the way. I’ve been lucky enough to have the spare time to do this reflection and independently learn how to better myself as a writer, blogger, and general content creator as well.

As I enter this new round of revisions and try to pull together the funds, I’m also looking ahead at the difficulties that await – not in a dreadful sense so much as the Stoic sense of premeditatio malorum.

Premeditatio malorum = “premeditating the bad” in Latin, or anticipating what challenges lie ahead of you to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

The main issue coming up that’s been on my mind has been costs – publishing isn’t cheap, especially if you decide to go the non-traditional route, and even more so as a college student. I’ve pursued that path to maintain the rights to my creative work and ideas, as well as for better royalties, but this comes with the need to front the costs myself (which have gotten $2,000 more expensive since last year) and to get sales as a still-little-known author, even with college payments and unexpected expenses that have come up this year. (This is part of the reason I have the presales and the merch shop – all funds go towards publishing costs, and I hope to gather the money to pay for it by my February deadline so I don’t disappoint the incredible readers who have supported me by having to push the deadline back.)

There are other obstacles to writing, of course – most are internal. Motivation may be the first thing that comes to your mind – and you wouldn’t be wrong! It’s one perk of working with a team, and why I’m so thankful for the Creator Institute program and having the privilege of working with New Degree Press – they’ve been nothing but wonderful to work with, and have provided a support system that’s held me accountable to my deadlines. They’ve also taught me how to look ahead to potential obstacles, particularly by helping me reflect on the sort of author I was – that’s how I learned of the term sporadic writer.

Sporadic writer = a writer that prefers to write in random bursts of inspiration, rather than sticking to a routine.

(This may seem surprising to those who know that I live and breathe by my Google Calendar, but as much as I’ve tried to change it, I have a hard time writing in a routine.) There’s also the deadline writer:

Deadline writer = a writer that is most motivated by deadlines in getting their writing done.

After realizing that I’m a bit of both, my Marketing and Revising Editor helped me create a system of setting deadlines ahead of the actual deadlines to ensure everything gets in early. With the help of my publishing company and supportive friends, I’m lucky to have such an accountability system.

As I move forward, I’m also looking into how I can improve as a writer, how I can better communicate my ideas through my characters and their arcs. I’m grateful to publish my second book and to see so many around me enjoying the first. But with that comes the fear of a “sophomore slump,” or having my second book be worse.

Ironically enough, that seems to be balanced out by the fact that I’m looking back at what I wish I could change in my previous book, and letting that inform my second as well. My perfectionism had to be halted with A Return to the Ashes (and thank goodness for that, otherwise I would have never published it in the first place), especially when we got to the point in writing where all of my edits were getting more nitpicky than valuable.

As I go into this next round of edits in my sequel with new content, however, it helps to keep in mind the mantra that I was taught when I started my first book:

“Good books aren’t written, they’re re-written.”

Although there’s a lot I’m unhappy with in the first draft of the sequel, it helps to know I’ve started with some direction, and that I can now edit it into something beautiful, with feedback from several editors and friends I am lucky to have as beta readers – all people who I have asked not to hold back on their criticism, and who I can count on for that. My perfectionism still comes up, of course, when I re-read my first book and find one small mistake or thing that I would want to change – but I’ve learned to throw my hands up and use that as an opportunity to fill a gap or better my writing in the future.

The last piece that really bothered me, as I’ve mentioned in my previous writings, has been the aspect of content creation and failing to make a consistent content schedule, especially in an age where no social media marketing means certain death. Despite this, I had still found several excuses:

  • No time – I’m already juggling book-writing with my last semester of school and clubs, while staying in shape, keeping a social life, and maintaining a committed relationship;
  • I didn’t really have a break between summer internships, trips to visit family in Romania, and school – just a weekend between each, and that’s not enough time to prepare everything;
  • I’ve endlessly scrolled on social media apps when they’re on my phone – wasting my own time and affecting my mental health;
  • I had little a reach beyond friends, family, and acquaintances, and I don’t want to spam the timelines of others with constant self-promotion;
  • I’m a private person and I don’t like to post about personal things the way that my teenage self would probably have been fine with, so it’s less motivating for me.

Most might see these as valid. But we all have the same 24 hours in a day to accomplish anything we want. Writing down these “excuses’ helped me find solutions, just as the Creator Institute helped me in tackling my writer’s block. All it takes are the right questions:

  • Are there any idle activities that you know are uselessly sapping your time (i.e. bringing neither enjoyment nor rest nor productivity)?
  • How can you better prepare for the times when you’re busy and jumping from one event to another in the future?
  • How can you use social media for business reasons without falling back into the endless scrolling?
  • Are you really spamming, or is it insecurity fueling this?
  • How can you balance out privacy with a more public persona, while remaining authentic?

It took me a while, but forcing myself to rationalize through these ideas led me to the right answers, and a mindset shift to fuel my motivation, and also guide me when motivation runs out and discipline needs to step in. It’s helped me come up with a list of solutions to try out:

  • Deleting useless apps that keep me prone to idle scrolling and deleting my Snapchat account.
  • Taking a course on how to blog and write more consistently through “batching” – writing and editing posts (with accompanying pictures and copy) ahead of time, while planning out topics ahead of time (for now, you can expect Tuesday and Thursday morning posts – hold me to it!)
  • Re-downloading the apps I use on my phone for marketing (Facebook and Instagram) only to post content, bring traffic to my page, indulge in a couple of memes sent to me by friends, check on how my loved ones are doing, then delete for the next 2-5 days until I need to post again.
  • Realizing that if I don’t use the channels I have to post, I’ll reach no one outside of my immediate network (and those that are annoyed are free to mute or unfollow me – no harm, no foul!)
  • Drawing specific boundaries about what I would/would not post online – i.e. details about familial and romantic relationships – but still ensuring that each post has my voice in it, not the voice of a milquetoast people-pleaser.

Having a supportive system of loved ones is something that I don’t take for granted, especially those holding me accountable to my word(s) and to the authentic person I put out and want to continue being.

There’s still a lot to figure out as I try to make it – it’ll be a while before I can make a reliably steady income on this, as an author still mostly unknown outside her network. Still, I’m optimistic for the future, and strangely enough, for the obstacles I have yet to overcome, in true premeditatio malorum fashion.

In the meantime, you can support by liking and sharing this post, commenting on what sort of content you’d like to see more of, and most importantly: buying my current book on Amazon, pre-ordering the sequel as a signed paperback, or ordering from my RedBubble shop!


To Christmas, With Love

It can be hard to find meaning as we find ourselves trapped behind our screens. Here’s how we bring that Christmas spirit back.

Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve! I don’t know about you all, but it has to be my favorite time of year. Even with everything going on, I’ve been trying to enjoy the little things: making peppermint hot chocolate for my family, counting down the days with advent calendars, learning from my mother and grandmother how to make cozonac (Romanian sweet bread with poppy seed fillings) – it’s not Christmas otherwise!

It also fills me with joy to see the Christmas spirit around – whether in buying gifts for loved ones, or driving around to see the string lights that people put up. On the other hand, I’ve been disappointed to see fewer houses each year choose to decorate for the holidays. I’m not sure if parents are less motivated to decorate as their kids grow older, if more people are tired of the pandemic and its accompanying panic porn, or if they value Christmas less. Maybe it’s a combination, and all three of those are incredibly sad to see.

I’ve often heard people complain about the increasingly consumerist view of Christmas in America, with stores selling Christmas decorations before Halloween to “get ahead” as the main example, or empty posts that many people and companies make on social media as an attempt to get likes or engagement with their content.

While that could be true, I think they’re missing the point. Of course, companies’ marketing departments and any content creator will take advantage of the holidays and any trend. Anyone who has ever had to sell anything, especially in an increasingly Internet-dependent age, will tell you that (myself included!) – otherwise, we can’t even pretend to be relevant.

On the other hand, I can agree that people have still been forgetting about the true value of Christmas.

You probably rolled your eyes at that last sentence. Everyone’s heard about the “true value of Christmas” ad nauseam, probably to the point where we tune it out because it sounds corny at this point.

But even though we’ve heard it so much, what can we really say it is? Giving to others? Being nice to a stranger on the street? Spending time with family?

Of course! But it’s far easier said than done.

We can say we give to other people, but how intentional and thoughtful are we in doing so? Do we give a few donations for tax breaks? Do we gift our friends and family with a generic gift card (or a present that we actually would have wanted for ourselves)?

We can say that we’re kind to strangers, but how often have we really put our phones down and given a random compliment or warm smile to the grocery store cashier?

We can say we’ve spent time with our family, but how much of that time is spent actually sitting around on our phones and computers?

See what I mean?

I will admit, I am no exception to any of these. You may think, “then what the heck are you doing about this? Doesn’t that make you a hypocrite?”

The short answer: yes. These realizations are what convinced me to start deleting the social media apps off my phone that kept me hooked. For some, I even went so far as to delete my account – I still find myself checking my phone when I feel even a hint of boredom, and that’s something I want to continue working on.

While there may be a hole that social media left in me, I’ve used this period to reflect more on my values and shortcomings, and how I can use those to brainstorm ways to become a better Christian, and as a result, a better person.

Christmas, as we know, is a time to celebrate Christ’s Nativity, and also to recognize what it really meant to us. The most-quoted verse in the Bible is John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Greeks have a word for this sort of love: agape (αγάπη), or the unconditional love that God has for us. We didn’t have Him come into this world to hang out, affirm our whims, or enable whatever we think makes us feel good, but to love us by correcting us where we go wrong.

We aren’t always good or gracious in receiving it, but we’re lucky to have that kind of unconditional love, where He gives us the space and opportunity for forgiveness and doing better in the future. It’s why Orthodox Christians, among those of other denominations, place such a huge emphasis on regular confessions. Admitting where we went wrong is only the first step in repentance – not just saying you’re sorry, but actively making a change in our ways to be closer to God, and striving to be the better version of ourselves that He asks for, as a result.

We didn’t have Him come into this world to hang out, affirm our whims, or enable whatever we think makes us feel good, but to love us by correcting us where we go wrong.

In that spirit, let’s take this holiday season as an opportunity to get an honest look at how we’ve been falling short. Have we paid enough attention to how our loved ones are really doing? Have we been afraid to reach out to that person we haven’t spoken to in a while? Have we neglected those we have limited time with, in favor of whatever funny thing we see on our phones? Have we used Netflix and YouTube videos to distract us from taking an honest look at ourselves, afraid of what we might find?

Let’s find enough strength to take that honest look and humble ourselves. Let’s use this season to appreciate those around us while we have them. Let’s take that first step in bettering ourselves for their sake. In that way, we can do our best to try to use God’s love as our strength, and spread the Christmas spirit without relying on what we see in our screens and stores.

What does Christmas mean to you? What are some fun traditions that you’d like to start up again with your family? Or even, what aspects of yourself can you admit you need to work on? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!



There’s been a lot going on lately: finishing final projects, spending time with family, buying gifts for loved ones while hoping someone doesn’t open the wrong Amazon package, developing my creative skills, and trying to budget time for this upcoming round of edits for In the Frigid Ruins.

Despite growing up with social media, I’m still getting used to using it for personal content creation and promotion of my work. I’ve had to work through imposter syndrome and my natural inclination to avoid self-promotion, out of fear of my brand feeling inauthentic. On the other hand, I love my creative pursuits, and want to continue putting my work and my voice out there – although I’m still currently experimenting with ways to do that.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below on the sorts of content you’d like to see – comment below what you’d like to see more of from me. Podcasts? Videos? Blog posts? Designs and merch?

If you’re unfamiliar with my work, check out my book, A Return to the Ashes, on Amazon, and my Redbubble merchandise store linked here. If you’re already familiar with my work and want some more, pre-order the sequel to my book, In the Frigid Ruins (coming out in May 2022), here at nadinapopoviciu.com/shop – and apply coupon code: XMAS21 for a 20% discount at checkout from now till December 31st!

In the Frigid Ruins is now available for sale in both paperback and eBook formats at http://www.nadinapopoviciu.com/shop/


Thanksgiving Blessings and Black Friday Announcements!

This past week, I had the privilege of spending time in the tranquil atmosphere of rural Pennsylvania — working on digital strategy and next steps for my book series, while reflecting on my journey so far. I am incredibly thankful for the family, friends, and colleagues who have supported and advised me along the way. I must thank God especially, for the blessings and lessons He has sent me through people, opportunities, and tribulations. Hopefully, I can continue serving others in the best way I can, according to His will, and I wish for everyone to feel this sort of love at least at one point or another in their lifetime.

I’ve been so happy to see the positive reaction to my work so far, and I am blessed by the friends and family asking how they can support me. Besides buying the book, the best way is engagement!

You can support me by following my Instagram page (@nadinapopoviciu), subscribing to my website, liking the “A Return to the Ashes” Facebook page, or by shopping through the new merchandise on the RedBubble shop I opened up!

If you’re looking for something to gift a friend or family member for the holidays, (especially if they’re a fan of the book), you can get 20-60% off merchandise with the code “CYBER5” from November 26th through the 30th! And if you have any requests, send them through the links above — I’d be more than happy to hear from you!

Happy Thanksgiving — I wish you a wonderful holiday season!