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J. M. Butler Posts

Talk Story to Me: Episode 010: I Saw the Light

Saturday was a great day out with James, and we had the pleasure of watching two movies. I Saw the Light was one of them. Here are my thoughts.

 

Now unlike most of my reviews, this one wasn’t a single take. I had to go back and redo it because of my cats and some technical difficulties. Thor and Loki are usually mischievous, but they were particularly ornery for this review. Perhaps because we have been gone so much. Perhaps just because.

Talk Story to Me Episode 008: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

If there was ever a movie I wanted to like, it would be Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The movie did have some good points, but overall, there was a lot of wasted potential. Which makes me quite sad. Not that I’m willing to give up on the DC cinematic universe just yet. But they do need to get things together.

The Things I Love Most About Serial Fiction

The Things I Love Most About Serialized Fiction

Serialized fiction has been around for quite awhile. It was exceptionally popular during the Victorian era, and it is becoming increasingly popular now. People don’t have as much time for leisure reading as they once did, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have time for stories. While books like the Mysteries of Udolpho reveled in long drawn out descriptions, modern readers want their storytellers to get to the point. Even those who enjoy

immersive worlds such as Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Shannara Chronicles, and so on still need stories that can fit into their day. And the time spent on reading is no longer a long leisurely afternoon (though honestly I still look forward to those), but rather 10 – 15 minute intervals scattered throughout the day.

Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite serial writers. He sometimes wrote several at once, crafting intricate storylines and complex characters simultaneously.
Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite serial writers. He sometimes wrote several at once, crafting intricate storylines and complex characters simultaneously.

Serial fiction allegedly began in the west during the 1600s in response to the Stamp Act. To save on the tax and cost, writers and publishers started selling smaller sections of stories. And serials became even more popular during the Victorian era with renowned authors such as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Alexandre Dumas, Gustave Flaubert, Leo Tolstoy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. For Dickens and Dumas, most of their livelihood was based on these serials.

When I read many of these stories, I had no idea that they were serials to begin with. After all, I had the final copies. One thing that they share though are flowing narratives and often large casts as well as multiple story lines. But there are a few other things that stand out from serialized fiction that I love just as much.

Serials Offer Opportunities for More Surprises

In this case, I’m starting with the biggest reason I love serials: they are more surprising. The traditional novel is often structured with three acts and set to fulfill certain expectations and beats, similar to the traditional movie. That can, unfortunately, lead to a certain level of predictability. Stories that follow this must hit certain beats, and once you have read more than a few, you know what’s coming unless the author leaps off the beaten path. For instance, in most chick flicks, you know that there will be a misunderstanding, and if the misunderstanding happens around the 2/3 mark, it’s fairly likely that the couple will be back together. Similarly, if a villain is unmasked too early in a movie or book and other factors are present, you can bet that it’s a red herring and the real baddie has yet to be revealed.

But with serials, it’s harder to do because you don’t know how long the series is going to go or what all it will cover. The covering of the beats may or may not happen. A serial is placed in the main genre that fits it, but the narrative itself will continue to grow and adapt along with the characters, and that may change. As such, you can always guess what you think will happen, but it isn’t quite so easy.

Serials Change the Reading Experience

Confession time. I’m a speed reader, and I retain what I read. I read Game of Thrones in a day. On the one hand, this is great because it means I get to read more books. But on the other, it is quite saddening because I get through the book so quickly I can’t savor the experience. (And please don’t

A hot cup of tea, a good book, a cool place to read...and I am a happy woman.
A hot cup of tea, a good book, a cool place to read…and I am a happy woman.

suggest that I slow down. I’m afraid I’ve tried that, and that doesn’t work.) It’s just a part of me that I have accepted.

But serials do change that up a bit. See, with a serial, I do not have the whole book in front of me. Instead, I have to wait as it is released chapter by chapter. It whets my excitement for the story, and it forces me to continue to come back, wondering what is going to happen and concocting exciting new theories. It only takes me a couple minutes to read most of the modern serial chapters, so I can fit it in at various points throughout the day whether I’m waiting for a representative to take me off hold or a client to show up for his legal consultation. And though it takes only minutes to read, a good serial segment keeps my mind engaged for quite some time.

Serials Are Great Rewards

Maybe it’s just my because I’m a bit cantankerous, but I do need rewards to keep at my highest productivity levels. Having something to look forward to makes it so much easier to deal with a trying client or push through a rough day. And let me tell you, when you have found a great serial, opening up that new chapter is the perfect reward.

Books take us on wonderful new journeys and introduce us to incredible people. It's my favorite way to travel.
Books take us on wonderful new journeys and introduce us to incredible people. It’s my favorite way to travel.

My favorite way to enjoy this reward is curled up in the corner of the couch or in the back corner of a room. (It’s very important to have walls to your

back and sides so that people can’t sneak up on you while you’re engrossed in that fictional world.) Sometimes I brew myself a cup of peppermint tea and other times I just kick off my shoes and start reading.

And while it’s true that you can do this with a traditional book that requires a bit of will power that I don’t have. If I have the whole book in front of me, I will probably binge on as many chapters as I can cram in.  And it’s also quite likely that dinner will be whatever I can whip up or is left in the fridge.

 

A New Player Has Arrived in Serial Storytelling

There are already some great platforms out there for serial storytelling. One of my favorites is Wattpad, which has been the home to some of my best writing friendships. And now there’s a new one called Radish.

Radish is similar to Wattpad in that it offers serialized stories through an app, but it also allows readers to purchase stories through the app and read chapters early. In some cases, the stories are even exclusive to Radish. And I am writing some of those stories! (I’ll tell you about the serials I’m doing and what you can expect in another post, and you can sign up for updates about my work on Radish here: radishfiction.com/?a=JMButler.)

This must be turned into a plushie! It is adorable.
How can you refuse the Radish? He’s got so many great stories to share with you! You should stop by and see if you find a new favorite!

The app is brand new, and it just rolled out into the iOS market first. Now if you can’t find it, you may have to look under the iPhone only option in the app store. You can use it on an iPad and so forth, but it seems to only be showing up under that category. You can go here to check it out.

I’m so excited to see this project take off, and I know that the folks at Radish have been working hard. You can view their landing page as well to see some of what they are offering. While most of the stories on there are romance, I promise that it’s not only romance. There are great non romantic stories on there as well ranging from fantasies to mysteries to horror stories.

As time passes, I look forward to seeing the Radish Team further develop this, including additional rollouts to the Android platform and web app as well as commenting and interaction features. And I am even more excited because I get to read some wonderful new serials. Just in time too because it’s tax season, and lawyer life gets a lot more stressful right about now.

Talk Story to Me Episode 007 and Radish Blurb 01

Talk Story to Me is now back up and running. I’ll get into reviews once more. But today I’m going to talk about an exciting new serialization app and a little bit about the surprise I’ve been promising you. I’m now practicing embedding videos into WordPress. The guide makes it look easy, but I’m not holding my breath until I see the final product after I click “publish.”

 

The first blurb promo is up now as well. This one is for Carole McDonnell’s new serialized novel, Daughters of Men

 

Thanks so much for stopping by! Keep stopping by for more surprises. It’s going to be a fun ride.

P.S. It worked the first time! Oh my goodness! This is wonderful! Do you know how often that happens for me? Hardly ever! This month is closing out beautifully.

A Quiet Weekend And Thoughts on What is Shared

For once, it looks as if this will be a quiet weekend. It has been so long since I have been able to say that. James and I are going to try to slip down to the civic theater and watch Our Town. It should be great.

Of course, there will be the usual events. Grocery shopping. Church. Small group with the youth on Sunday nights. I really miss having them over for dinner beforehand, but I am trying to be relatively obedient. We never did get around to the Hobbit movie party. Perhaps we can do that later on. The students are such dears, even though some of them would claim to be otherwise. Oh well, I am grateful God has given me the time with them that He has.

I’ll also be working on stories of course. There is not a day yet when I haven’t written almost as far back as I can remember. Ray Bradbury’s advice, I think it was him, was particularly compelling in this. Some days the words do not come out as easily. Lately I have been going through a relative dry spell. I’ve only been writing between 5000 and 7000 words. And those have been hard words to reach.

I suspect it is just because I am healing. And that seems to do a number on the inspiration. Some have suggested that I should just take a break from writing. But I don’t want to. I am at a point now where to go without writing for more than a few hours is quite stressful. I don’t want to do anything to add to that, so instead I am just making sure that I don’t stress about how far I get. It is very enjoyable to write without the pleasure of deadlines.

One other thing that has occurred to me is the need to potentially put up a disclaimer on my blog. It shouldn’t be necessary, but you know, lawyer and the need for disclaimers. But there does seem to be done sort of miscommunication and even misunderstandings.

It is not my intention to deceive, but just so that my readers are on notice, I do not write about everything happening in my life. In general, I tend to focus on the positive and the interesting. Certain aspects of my life are not discussed and others are glossed over.

This isn’t because I am ashamed, but rather because I don’t want to talk about them. It is not deceitful to not mention that one of in relatively little pain for what one is usually in. Sometimes I just want to say that I am doing well without a lot of disclaimers.

Everything that is put out there is part of the story that we tell about our lives. Very few people decide to share everything. What is shared should be up to the individual except in a few situations. For some, that is fine. But for me, that just doesn’t work. Some parts of my story are such I only share it with those who are closest to me. Not because I am trying to pretend I have a perfect life, but because I just don’t want to talk about it or know that it’s for the best if I remain silent.

That’s also why I don’t talk about the law firm except in general terms.

Anyway, given some emails I have received (sorry that commenting isn’t working; I’m still working that out), it seemed that this clarification is necessary.

Returning to the weekend, I am so grateful for this relative calm. It doesn’t look like we’ll get much of the big snowfall, if any. Which is rather sad. I do love a good snow.  But even so, there will be hot cups of tea, good books, and time with family. So all in all, there’s much to be grateful for. 

A Brief Update

So the doctor has insisted that I start taking more rest. Adrenal glands among other things. Insomnia and pain management makes this difficult, but I am hoping that there will be an improvement after a few more days.

This does mean that I might have to reduce my writing goals for the year. Particularly before my birthday. It’s bothersome. But I’d rather get back to full health than destroy my health in an attempt to reach my goals.

So I haven’t given up the 30 stories by 30 published through Amazon. But I think I might allow myself to the end of the year or so to get it done. And I’ll do a special release for my birthday.

On the positive side, I’ve been learning about the formatting of print books and more of the in-depth details of ebook formatting.

I’ve also been learning a lot about Photoshop. Currently, my computer can only handle three actions before I have to shut it down and start it again. At some point, I’m going to have to get another computer. For now, this works as both an opportunity for patience and precision.

Faceplanting into Concrete

Have you ever been running along and then suddenly faceplanted into freshly laid cement? While I’ve only faceplanted into slightly hardened cement (it was no less fun, let me tell you), I feel as if I’ve been metaphorically faceplanting for the past couple months.

I suppose that it’s just the way that things go. Technical errors caused a number of problems. The live Nanowrimo writing went fine so long as I didn’t try to put it up on the Internet. Currently, my Internet speed is so low that a five minute video takes almost a full day to upload. We’re trying to get that fixed. And the software I was using to record the writing process crashed my computer on November 30. I didn’t lose more than one chapter and one video, thankfully. Eventually I’ll get everything processed and uploaded, but for now, it’s fallen to a back burner.

Other writing goals and activities have not gone as planned. Formatting difficulties as well as disappointed expectations have been at play. And chronic illnesses love worsening at times like these. I recognize that many of these issues could be resolved by hiring people to do them, but that requires money or bartering. And I don’t have the funds for anything else, and I am fairly tapped on time as well.

So I have plugged along, doing the best I can. One of the more odd recent developments is that sleep is not restful, and the insomnia has worsened. For now, I’m trying to make the most of it. I spend a lot of time in prayer and meditation as well as plotting out different stories and working on projects. But I also know that this can’t continue like this.

Hopefully as several projects draw to a close, I’ll be able to rest again. In the meanwhile, I am still trying to take time to enjoy life. The time I have doesn’t change based on whether I enjoy it.

Now it may sound like this isn’t a good start to the new year, but…I still believe it will be a great one. Hard starts don’t mean hard roads all the way through. And perhaps this is necessary. I never really learned how to rest. I’ve always been so focused on my stories and other projects that I struggled to take time for myself or to relax. (In fact, I actually don’t know how to relax very well.) So perhaps the purpose of this is to teach me what that means. Eventually exhaustion will claim me, and then I will rest. (And if it doesn’t, I’ll be contacting some medical institutions to see if they’d like to conduct a few studies. Provided they fund my writing, of course. ;))

There’s lots of writing news on the horizon. I’m participating in more events and have many more stories about to be released. I’ve decided that 2016 is the year that I move through my backlist and see what is a good fit for traditional publishing and what is a good fit for indie. But more on that later. For now…blessings and joy to you all. Have a wonderful night, and may your sleep be sweet and restful.

Nanowrimo 2015 Day 01

Today is the first day of Nanowrimo as well as the first of a new month. New beginnings always excite me. They hold so much potential. November 1 is a particular favorite because of Nanowrimo.

I’ve been doing Nanowrimo since I was 11 though my parents didn’t give me permission to sign up on the official site till I was a fair bit older. It was a great experience with lots of fun along the way, and it stretched me. That first book was less than ideal, of course. It had so many holes and tons of problems. (I think one character’s name even changed halfway through, and many other details spontaneously changed or became contradictory, lol.) But I was glad that I did it.

I’d encourage all writers to give it a shot. While it is a great challenge to complete 50,000 words during one of the busiest months of the year, that isn’t the only reason to do it. There’s a spirit of camaraderie throughout this month as thousands of writers support one another in this endeavor. It’s about shutting off that inner critic, dig into the stories that you have inside you, and start exploring them. You can’t fail in this. You won’t do it perfectly. In fact, you’re going to miss some days. You’re going to fall behind. But that’s okay. The point is to get as far as you can and get as much of the story down as you can. Every year I have found material that I can use.

Now some of my tutees, students, and friends have asked me to consider doing an additional challenge this year: write my Nanowrimo novel live. I’ve received a lot of questions about my process as well as what it looks like when I write. And since I’m not comfortable with people sitting next to me and watching what I write, recording it through a screen capture along with commentary on what I’m doing and how I’m doing it seems like a better choice.

I finished conducting some tests, and it looks like I can do this. I’m a little concerned about the upload speeds because the Internet is often slow. It can take an hour to upload 15 minutes. So there may be some delays. My other concern is how long a video with an actual writing session is going to run. After all, writing a novel takes a lot of time. (Not really sure how long, but I guess we’ll find out.)

What I’ll do to offset this is doing a brief recap that details what I did, how it’s going, and what tools I used. That way if you don’t want to slog through the whole video, you can get the highlights.

To help facilitate this, I’ve come up with some rules for myself.

  • All the writing will take place in front of the camera. This is going to be the hardest thing for me. But when I’m not writing on the screen capture, I won’t be working on the story.
  • I’m starting entirely from scratch, and I will document the whole process.
  • If I use a notebook while on camera, I’ll be sure to show you what I’m writing if I can.
  • I will be doing minimal editing before uploading to Wattpad. I’ll include that as well.

Since I’m trying to document the whole process, I’m starting with a fresh story. I’ve had this title and cover rattling around for awhile, potentially going to one or four stories. But I’m not going to use a story that I have already started. The story will be based in part off a dream I had, but that’s more for the general premise. I don’t even have character names yet or the Scrivener files prepped.

Frankly, I’m rather nervous, but I’m also excited. This is going to be a great month. I hope that I don’t fall flat on my face. I imagine there will be a fair bit of dead space and staring at the screen because that camera is going to add loads of pressure, lol.

So what about you? Are you doing Nanowrimo this year? Feel free to let me know what your project is and leave a link if you like either here or on the Youtube video. Have a wonderful night!

 

Musings on What I Fear, Good and Bad

Tuesday night on the Wattpadres chat on Twitter, we all had a great time talking about horror and the things that terrify us. (A number of people also met an untimely end at the tiny jaws of vicious dust mites…who would have thought the dust mites would end more people in the haunted house than the zombies, vampires, and werewolves combined!)

One of the questions was what terrifies us most. Personally, I find the subject of fear intriguing especially since fear can limit and shape us in ways we don’t anticipate. For quite awhile now, I’ve practiced the Month of Fear, which has become the Year of Fear. I try to do at least one thing that makes me uncomfortable or afraid or at least pushes me out of my comfort zone every day. On the whole living in fear is something that I don’t believe to be biblical, healthy, or wise. So, since I am trying to live consciously and fully, I attack my fears and discomfort when I can.

Initially in my challenges, I chose fears that I could confront and that negatively impacted me in some way. My fear of cameras and having my picture taken was connected unfortunate incidents, bullying, and more. In confronting that fear, I attempted to tackle something that held me back and to not be hypocritical when I tell my amazing students and mentees to be bold and courageous.

Then I started to wonder about other fears. The deeper fears. The ones that really shaped me. True, my uneasiness around spiders and men with blue eyes have shaped part of who I am and came from specific incidents. My camera and mirror avoidance has resulted in certain consequences. But there are other fears…the kind that truly send chills through me and that actually change my behavior in more meaningful ways.

So what do I fear…deep down…it isn’t death. I know where I’m going and that it is but a transition. But a living death of the mind, whether my own or of others, that is horrifying. Particularly when it is multiplied.

I am terrified of being delusional, of losing my capacity to think or respond, and of being trapped in mass hysteria (doesn’t matter whether I’m part of it or am someone aware of it, it’s all terrifying). I value my mind and my independence. I love being able to think and break things apart to see how they work and understand them better. I hate being wrong, but I will take being wrong if I can still think, reason, and understand.

So…should I be tackling those fears? Targeting these core fears seems far more difficult. In fact, I don’t even know how one would begin to put oneself in those situations or whether those are fears that one necessarily wants to lose.

Fear can serve a purpose and be valuable. My fear of losing my own mind and mental capacity as well as being caught up in mass hysteria propels me to take care of my mind, conduct my own research, and remain aware. In this case, the fear is not so much crippling as it is cautionary. True, sometimes it takes unhealthy forms. When I go into a room, I’m almost always considering an escape route of some time. And if I’m stuck in a hall with lots of people or waiting in a long line (like at an amusement park), I do sometimes wonder about what would happen if some catastrophe struck such as the zombie apocalypse or a rabid wolf or a fire. It’s the same thing that happens when I’m sitting in a tunnel in my car, waiting for traffic to move along and wondering what the solution would be if water started spraying through the bricks. (Social etiquette point here: don’t share these thoughts with anyone around you unless you’re certain they’ll find it just as intriguing as you.)

Perhaps this is why I enjoy psychological horror stories as opposed to straight up monster movies as well as my general preference for complex strategizing villains. Maybe in a small way I am confronting that fear.

Regardless, I don’t plan on confronting my fear of losing my mind or being trapped in a violent mob or hysterical crowd. I think I can live with those fears. But I may see about researching possible survival methods and strategies, and I’ll continue to do what I can to keep my own mind healthy and aware.

 

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