Skip to content

Tag: writing

Writing with a Migraine: A Few Tips on Coping

Over the past two months, I’ve had many visits from a friend I really wish would leave: the good old migraine.

Now, as I have discovered from my fellow migraine sufferers, each migraine is just a little bit different. Whether vision gets stripy or nausea roils the stomach or simple shafts of yellow-white light induce agonizing beats, the pain is the one constant. And boy…is it constant.

Since about the middle of December, I’ve averaged about one migraine a week. They have been lasting about three days, but the last one stretched on for almost an entire week. So, in between migraines, I did research into what I could do to minimize the pain.

Here are some of the tricks I’ve learned that help me cope when the migraines strike.

As Much Water As You Can

glass with cola and ice  in water splash
glass with cola and ice in water splash

A couple friends told me that for every painful spasm, I should take three good-sized gulps of water. That helped somewhat for obvious reasons. It was temping at the worst movements to just lie motionless and not drink because I knew if I drank, I would have to go to the bathroom.

But you must drink the water. You absolutely must. On the one time when I skipped it out of sheer exhaustion, I paid so dearly. It absolutely wasn’t worth it.

Add Lemon and a Little Salt to Your Water

I discovered this one by accident. Most mornings, I try to start my day with a large glass of ice water with a generous tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt. To my surprise, I got some more intensive relief from my migraine with this. Before I had just chosen pure water.

Much to my surprise, I also discovered that this is supposed to be a cure-all though some offer cautions. Now, in my case, this didn’t cure the migraine, but it sanded the edges off. It also seems key that you use Himalayan or sea salt rather than table salt.

Avoid Bright Screens or Blue-Light Screens

The majority of tech devices utilize blue-light. In addition to causing problems with sleep cycle, I have found that looking at any screen with a blue-light intensifies my pain even more than the soft yellow bathroom light. The one exception was if I had the screen turned down to the absolute lowest, I could be on my phone for about 5, 10 minutes at most. Then it would cut through.

On the days when I avoided those screens entirely, the pain receded to a more manageable rate.

Have a Soothing Hobby to Fall Back On

Balls of wool on wooden table background
Balls of wool on wooden table background

Perhaps what stresses me most about migraine days is the horrible inactivity. I have found great comfort in curling up on the couch and knitting with the lights way down. Crocheting is a tad more challenging for me though others love it, and I’ve chatted with some friends who also enjoy sketching and coloring. I imagine that that soft shoosh shoosh of pencil on paper is quite soothing.

Embroidery, tatting, and other close eyed needlework may not be the best choice for obvious reasons.

Reading surprisingly works best for me is when I do it on my Kindle. The screen is sufficiently darkened and the contrast low enough that it doesn’t hurt. As for audiobooks, I’ve found that it is the voice of the narrator that makes all the difference there. Shrill or high voices can be unbearable. And I suspect my preference for deeper voices may be just as much because they don’t hurt my head.

Sadly, I did not find cooking to be as useful of a soothing hobby at the worst of migraines though at other times it is one of my passions. The smells of the cooking foods can sometimes turn me to vomiting. Same with baking. But it might be different for you. (Same goes for sniffing peppermint which is soothing for some people with migraines.)

Write on Yellow or Green Paper

Perhaps it’s the glare of the light on the paper, but writing on white paper made it even more difficult for me to focus because the pain worsened. However, I found that when I wrote in my steno pads (sunglasses placed firmly over my eyes), it wasn’t nearly so bad. In fact, I was able to write long enough to get most of the required tasks done and even some of my stories, and whenever I can sink into my stories, I disappear into another world entirely and leave all but the faintest traces behind.

Sunglasses, All the Time

This is an old one, but it’s worth mentioning here: sunglasses help protect against light sensitivity. But do watch out how tightly they fit your face. I’ve had some that hit those pressure points just above my ears so perfectly that they managed to intensify the migraine with awful accuracy. But you don’t have to invest in an expensive pair of sunglasses to get the benefits. I just use a pair of cheap wraparounds that I got at a gas station in an emergency (of course I got a migraine after I lost mine and we were on the road and headed into snow).

I even wear them indoors and just around the house. And yes, sometimes people will comment and try to make jokes about it or oddly try to get me to remove them, but if I explain, “it’s for a migraine,” they usually accept that.

As an aside, I have found that if I must be on the computer or my phone for longer than a few minutes, then a pair of sunglasses can make a tremendous difference. I still can’t work as I normally do, but I can do some of it.

The sunglasses are often enough to let me get through most of the cleaning and tidying.

Meditation and Prayer with Measured Breaths

Focusing one’s thoughts elsewhere can be greatly soothing, but getting there when in the middle of a lot of pain is so hard. One would think that having dealt with chronic pain for years that it would be easier, and I suppose, in a sense, it is. But sometimes, in the grips of a horrid migraine, all I can do is grip my head and think about what shapes the pain looks like stabbing my brain.

I’ve found that it does help me to pray and meditate though it is admittedly difficult to get started. I don’t have a particular favorite verse. Each day I find a new one or a particular thought to focus on. And sometimes my prayers are just “Oh God, please let it stop hurting. Please let it stop hurting.”

Digitally generated Take a deep breath vector

I have also found that focusing on my breathing helps too. I tend to breathe shallowly as the pain intensifies. But as the pain strikes, if I focus on slowing my breaths, keeping them deep and steady, and going over verses and prayers, it can help significantly.

Cold Showers and Cold Presses

The hot/cold debate is one a lot of migraine fighters discuss, and I think it’s a matter of preference.

If I can, and sometimes that’s a big if, a cold shower can help a great deal. I can’t get into frigid water straight away. But lukewarm and gradually turning to cold with the water driving down on the back of my neck works best for me. Cold washcloths to the forehead and neck are also soothing. But sometimes this can make me chill so badly that it creates other issues.

However, hot water makes mine much, much worse, so I must avoid that. I have one friend whose migraines are relieved by super hot showers, and I must confess, I’m envious.

Another friend recommended putting an ice pack on the back of the neck and then sticking one’s hands and feet in warm water. This didn’t work for me, but it might work for you.

Yoga, Pilates, and Strength Training

The older I get, the more I love exercising. Even when I can only do it in short batches and it doesn’t lead to the weight loss I want. And I have found that even on migraine days, if I can get up and do some stretches and even more advanced moves, that that makes it easier to get through the day.

This may have something to do with redirecting blood flow. Or it might be the endorphin release. Some professionals have suggested both. I usually don’t run on migraine days or even attempt the barre workouts. If I get particularly brave, I might.

But, for me, I look at these migraine days as being similar to the days when the pain from the fibro and so on becomes incredibly intense. As much as possible, I try to keep some semblance of normalcy and take care of my body. Exercising has so many other benefits that it is worth it to fight through the pain as much as possible.

And obviously I should conclude this saying that you should go to a doctor if you have continued migraines. Sometimes migraines are a symptom of something else, and it’s important to get that looked at.

So these are some of the things that I’ve found do work for me. There are many other techniques, and if you are a chronic migraine sufferer, I’m sure you have your own. Feel free to share some of your own tips if you’d like.

And hopefully you won’t have to use any of these tips any time soon. Have a beautiful day, my friends. Talk to you again soon.

My Actual Writing Goals for November 2016

So I have already discussed that my goal during Nanowrimo is to post actual content rather than just writing it. And I won’t be counting my Wattpad chapters as contributing to this total. (It’s rather interesting that posting to Wattpad is not at all difficult for me. I get at least two chapters published there at a minimum each week.) 

But I am, of course, also working on various projects this month. And, as usual, I have one main one and several that I want to complete. (Some of these titles contain links to where the stories are posted.)

where-gryphons-mournWhere Gryphons Mourn — this is another dream story that I have been meaning to get out there for quite some time. So I am finally getting it done. In fact, my darling and wonderful friend, Stef, created a cover for me, so it looks like I will be writing it and posting it on Wattpad. Isn’t she massively talented? (Seriously, this woman is amazing! Check her out on her website, at Deviant Art, and Wattpad.)

Through the Paintings Dimly — this one is actually almost entirely done so I won’t be increasing my word count much through this, but there is probably about another 3 – 5k that needs to be added in addition to the overall editing. But it will be done and off by the end of the week.

The Insurgent Queen — another book in the Tue-Rah Chronicles, and so, of course, it will get a substantial portion of the word count. I write about 5 – 10k on the main series once a week. In a sense, this is my easiest and most difficult project, but it is the one I adore the most. My soul is always in this series no matter what else I am working on. I really hope that Amelia gets her voice back before the end of this month’s writing. It’s been a good long time, and the poor girl needs to start talking again. (Note: if you haven’t started this series and would like to, you should probably start with Identity Revealed.) 

In Darkness, Cower — now, once again, this story is mostly completed. In fact, it appeared in the Tenebris Somnia anthology on Wattpad. I plan to enter it into the TNT competition, but I want to expand it a little more to reach the 10k word limit. I had to trim it a bit to make it meet the anthology’s criteria. So that will be about 4k. It’s due by the end of the month.

thecelebrityThe Celebrity — this story is mostly completed, but I want to enter it into a competition on November 15 (can’t remember the name of the competition right now). It’s just about 8 k too short though and then it will be up to the required standards.

Untitled Story — I have been tossing around some titles for this story, but I haven’t settled on one. Cruel Frost, Frost Wolf, and Frost Strain are possibilities, but none of them really hit the horror genre nail on the head. The proper title will come eventually. This story is going to be approximately 8k. Another dream/nightmare story that I just want to have done. I may submit it to the TNT competition as well. It may also expand beyond the anticipated 8k.

Just a Kiss — a sweet romance for an anthology. It’s probably going to be about 5k, and it is due by the end of the month. I just have the ideas down for this one, and, in fairness, if another sweet romance story presents itself that fits in with the Christmas season, I will likely go with that. I’ll consider this goal satisfied so long as I have a sweet romance story down.

The Nameless One’s Plea —  This is another story for an anthology, and it’s great because this is part of the Ragnarok Undone novel or perhaps Ragnarok Untold, depending on where the end of the novel comes. It’ll be about 8 k. It’s going to contain some spoilers for the story but nothing too major, and hopefully it will help to draw additional readers to the Ragnarok series.

The Nightwalker Before Christmas —  a dark holiday/horror story that will hopefully stay short and sweet. (I’m really hoping that with this short story focus this month I will be able to do a much better job of keeping stories short and tight.) Hopefully about 3k. The title is a little off for me, but I’ll find a better one later.

Serpent’s Kiss — a fantasy adventure for another anthology that will be approximately 5k. It has to be done before the end of the month, but I have a fairly solid idea of where I want to take it. And if that idea doesn’t work, I’ve got another one that can work for the same title, which is good because I like having a good title.

Aquanos Feratu — a tight short story in the horror genre utilizing the breath vampire concept among other aquatic horrors. Probably about 10 k. If I have to prioritize and run out of time to finish projects, then this is going to be set aside until next month. (If I’m not careful with this one, it’s going to get a lot bigger a lot faster.)

Escaping Nowhere I started this novel last year for Nanowrimo, got to the required word count, and it was all quite great. But I didn’t finish it. I’d like to wrap it up, which will probably take about another 20 k. On the high end. It’s fairly easy to write though, and I have good notes to pull me the rest of the way along.

Parnimo’s Prize — oh yes, please, please, let me finally find the right ending for this novella. I have written the ending so many times, but it never quite seems right. I think I’m going to be done with this one within about five chapters at the most.

Now if I get to have my druthers this month, I would also add these. I’d love to also complete 5k SoulMates Pendanteach on The Red Dragon, Cursed, and Ragnarok Undone. 10k on Of Cruelty, Elves, and Sorcery would be fantastic along with completion of Of Course Not, Silas, I Know Best.

I’m also planning to send off my application for the SFWA, query letters for Lunar Realms, and send off a couple other short stories to some other professional markets.

These aren’t all my goals for the month, and I doubt that I’ll make them all. I make my goals difficult to reach and usually almost impossible, so don’t worry. We’ll just see how far I get on this.

In terms of my actual Nanowrimo writing, I’m doing all right. It has been a bit slow because I’ve had to do more editing and legal work than usual, so as of yesterday, I only wrote about 14k. I’m getting ready to settle in for a batch of fiction writing here after dinner. Hopefully that goes way.

My One Little Habit That Banishes Writer’s Block

Recently I attended a teleseminar put on by Jeff Goins, “Four Critical Keys to Making a Living as a Writer.” As per usual, there was lots of good advice woven throughout as well as some points I am still mulling over and determining how to apply. One point that has stuck with me most consistently though is the question, “what is obvious to me that may not be so obvious to others?”

Obviously the basic concept behind this question is that we are all knowledgeable in something that we can share with the world. Bill Nye said “everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Sometimes the biggest challenge is to see what that is.

In light of this month’s challenge, I decided to look at the questions I am most often sent. Short of actual story questions, the one I hear most often is “how do you avoid writer’s block?” and “how can you write so fast?”

Now I haven’t had writer’s block as most people would define it (i.e. inability to write for days at a time, no desire to write, no ideas to write about, and so on) . I’ve had periods where the words didn’t come as easily or they weren’t good or when they felt soulless and wooden or when particular stories wouldn’t work. But ultimately there have always been words.

And maybe this is part of how I am wired. Or maybe it’s because of one of my rituals.

The tyranny of the blank page stops many writers from moving forward for a number of reasons. And while I am often able to push past it, I push past it because of one thing that I do. As soon as the words flee my mind, I write or type this:

I have a story to tell, and I am the only one who can tell it just like me. This is the story I must tell…

Then I move into writing the actual story. Just the sight of those words on the page encourages me. It does two things for me:

  1. It reminds me why I am doing what I am doing and the act of writing that drives that point deeper into my subconscious
  2. It keeps the page from being utterly blank, and you can transition into any story from that point.

You can make up whatever phrase you would like to write out or you can use mine. The point is that you just start getting the words out there. You can revise it later. For many writers, it seems easier to revise than it is to write that initial draft.

Hopefully that helps. How is Nanowrimo going for you if you’re participating, and, if not, how is life? (Those in Nanowrimo generally don’t get to have much of a life outside of writing. 😉 )

The Tendency Toward Silence (The Quagmire of Mental Questioning and Self Paralysis)

cropped-Old-Typewriter1.jpgI wonder how many people silence themselves because they think their words have no value.

Some might say not enough people consider this possibility. The world is certainly a chaotic place, particularly in certain locations. Twitter and Youtube come to mind along with almost every site that includes politics and social commentary. In some places, a bit of silence would be more than welcome. It would be a great blessing. And there is certainly much benefit to choosing words, tempering responses, and sometimes simply allowing the silence to sit.

But the need for silence in one place does not mean that silence is needed in all places at all times.

Perhaps less anger. Perhaps more listening. And perhaps silence while gathering thoughts. Perhaps silence while contemplating the next step. Perhaps silence while choosing. And certainly not every thought must be spoken or every idea followed.

But those unspoken words and unfollowed ideas can swell inside us. They come to mind, and when we swallow them down, they lodge in our chests and smolder. Sometimes they choke us. Other times they vanish.

And there can be, I think, just as much a regret for not saying certain things as there can be for saying the wrong things.

I might be projecting.

Despite my recognizing that I have a bad habit of pouring out words and then locking them away, I have made limited progress in dealing with this bad habit (recognizing there’s a problem may be the first step, but it cannot be the only step). It’s difficult because so often I find myself holding back, and within minutes, I become mired in an intensive cycle of questioning.

keyboard-909156The same series of questions runs through my mind. “What value is this bringing?” “Are you really the right person to say this?” “Why should you say something?” “Are you sure this is the best way to say that?” “Is this really important to say right now?” “What if it comes across the wrong way?” “What if it’s misinterpreted?” “What if there’re errors that you missed even though you keep going over it?” “What if I’m showing off?” “What if I could do it better?” “Is this Christian enough?” “Is this anti Christian in some way?” “Am I Jesus juking?” “What if this comes across as insincere or inauthentic?” “Is this cliché?” “Does this really have any value?” “What if someone else has covered this and done it better?” “Is this taking away from someone else?” “What right do I have to say anything?” (Humorously enough, I go through the same agonizing cycle of questions when it comes to sharing posts, pictures, memes, and the like though sharing often adds a few additional questions to make the process even more fun.)

Add to that the people who police language and parse out what is acceptable and what isn’t and how wrong it is for some people to speak at all and how self indulgent the culture as a whole is. (Sometimes I can just hear the teeth sucking and tongue clicking.) And then I wind up with a massive slop of paralysis that typically results in abandonment.

The funny thing is that these questions and even an awareness of these individuals are not bad in and of themselves. In some cases, these matters can actually make the project stronger.

This sort of introspection becomes problematic when it results in paralysis and projects cast aside, particularly when those projects are finished in all but the finishing touches or the publication.

It is a sucking silencing spiral. As soon as I finish a post or a tweet or a story or a video, these questions form in my mind in rapid succession if I don’t send or publish fast enough. Wattpad has proven to be an anomaly but perhaps it also has the answer. I, for some reason, feel fairly free to post stories there.

Part of that is also driven by my fans and the fact that I know I would let them down if I didn’t finish the stories. But I am amazed that I was able to start writing on there at all. The fact that people are waiting for updates to the stories helps silence the questions and make me realize my mind’s foolishness when I get bogged into this mental quagmire.

Still I often find myself wondering who I am to speak. Particularly in the larger world or even on social media. Constantly measuring the value of what is to be said and then often dropping it for one reason or another.

It becomes easier to see how negative this is when I look at other people. When speaking with fellow heart-792179writers, students, artists, creators, and the like, I find encouragement falls from my lips easily because what I want so deeply is for them to create and share. To pour out and expand. To hone their skills and ply their trades. I want to hear their voices even when I don’t agree with them and even when it isn’t the best. It’s quite hard to have a conversation if they don’t speak because, even when silence speaks volumes, words and creations still have value, and it’s easier to connect when there is a combination of words, actions, and pauses.

I can’t think of anyone I would tell to be quiet forever. (Maybe a few whom I might ask to calm down or at least stop screaming.) Yet so often I shunt my own work into a drawer and decide what I have to say is irrelevant.

Silence can be a choice. It can be beautiful, beneficial, and much can be revealed within it, but we are not meant to always be silent.

No one has stolen my voice except those to whom I gave the power. Far too many times, I am the one who steals my own voice with incessant questions about my own value. I am my cruelest enemy. The harshest things my enemies have said of me reflect the worst fears of myself, and because I fear that it might be true, the words sting and have their power.

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter much. It’s only in the moment that it seems so massive. Despite all the questions I inflict upon myself, I want to speak and to write. It’s easier when I have a justification, but sometimes the desire alone may be sufficient justification. (Perhaps desire paired with recognition that people are free to respond and further dialogue may be necessary and that no one is required to listen or participate.)

We will never be perfect, but for some of us, there is a need to release our works to the world. And, more importantly, you are the only you that exists, and while you should strive to be your best, you cannot wait until you feel ready or perfect to share that voice with the world.

The fact is that I will always be able to find a few thousand reasons why I shouldn’t do something. Whatever that might be. I had hoped that my other habits and tasks would make it easier. But it hasn’t. What can be done I suppose is to recognize when the questions become irrelevant and then refuse to be silent when silence is not actually the best or necessary course. How well that works, we shall see.

#WriteWeMay May 02 Favorite Dedication

So the second challenge requires that we share our favorite dedications. There’s so many good ones out there. Rick Riordan’s false apology for the cliffhanger and J.K. Rowling’s beautiful commemoration to her readers and C.S. Lewis’s sweet letter to the real Lucy are among the ones I find most inspiring.

But when it comes to favorite dedications, I must confess…I love this one. Funny DedicationIt makes me laugh every time. A dear friend sent it to me, and it is just the perfect dedication, don’t you think?

 

As for whether I will use such a dedication one day, I’m not sure. Somehow I can hear my mother saying, “Oh, honey…I’m sure you don’t have any enemies.” (She sincerely believes that enemies are just people to learn to love. If I brought my theoretical enemies over,  it would go something like this, “Oh, it’s so nice to meet you. Would you like a cup of tea and maybe a cookie? Some banana bread? Maybe a sandwich?”

“Momma…you’re supposed to be giving them the silent treatment.”

“They’re probably hungry, honey. We can give them the silent treatment later. But don’t you think that might hurt their feelings?”

“Momma…”

“Do you know if they have any food allergies? What do they like?”

“They take their tea with tacks and arsenic.”

“No, they don’t. Now,” slipping away from me to stand in front of my enemy. “Do you want anything to eat or drink? If you’re staying for awhile, I’d be glad to make something else if nothing sounds good. What’s your favorite food? And remember if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.” 

“Oh,” enemy says, “I wouldn’t –”

“It’s no trouble. Now have a seat, and let me put the kettle on. It’ll just be a minute.” Then off she goes to the kitchen while enemy looks at me with confusion. I follow my mother to the kitchen and she says, “could you find out whether they’re staying for dinner?”

“Momma, I’m trying to be intimidating. These are my enemies.”

“I think you’re very intimidating, sweetheart.” Of course she says this with the most motherly tender smile and then frowns slightly. “I hope I didn’t embarrass you. Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you. Do you want me to ask them to leave?”

“No, Momma. Just…don’t hug them when they leave.” )

 

Anyway, point being, I’m sure that if I were to dedicate a book to my enemies and threaten destruction, my dear mother would probably want to do something to make sure that everything was all right. (Seriously, she’s pretty incredible. She doesn’t have a vindictive bone in her body, so I don’t know how she wound up with me for a daughter, lol. Aside from the biological explanation, of course.)

What about you then? What’s your favorite dedication? What’s a dedication that you’d like to write in one of your future books?

#WriteWeMay May 01 First Works

2016-04-29 18.58.39#writewemay If you’re a writer, you should consider doing this. I’d love to see what you are all up to, so feel free to share in the comments and even include links to your work if you like. The first question is “your first work.”

Well, on the subject of first works, it all depends. Below is the notebook where I wrote my first stories. My mother made the notebook for me and filled it again and again with reams of lined paper. As you can see, I had a deep affection for cats.
 
When I finished my first draft of the Portal (now Identity Revealed in the Tue-Rah series), I put it in this notebook. So I printed off that front sheet of the story and included it with the rough draft. I may share that first page in full text later.
2016-04-29 18.58.54For the record, this draft was never submitted for publication. As much as my parents loved me, they knew that my writing was nowhere near the quality needed to actually write a good story though they were encouraging in other ways.
2016-04-29 19.01.44My first published in a physical book story was “For Your Eyes Only,” an exceptionally sentimental story involving a wealthy young man, a poor young woman, the unfortunate societal influences trying to keep them apart, and a vindictive dragon who wasn’t as bad as he seemed. Oh and some curse that turns people blind when they get near dragon gold. I wrote the story when I was 13 or 14, I believe. But the story was published when I was a little older.
 2016-04-29 19.02.06
I have debated whether to include this one, but perhaps it does count. My theoretically first published book was actually Darys: A Vampire’s Trial. A limited number were printed as part of my honors thesis project (yes, I actually managed to get my advisors to let me write a historical fiction) and it is part of the university’s collection. I think my sister may have my copy of it (I’m having her work up illustrations for a republication). So I have no picture of that one, but it is a hard cover in a rather odd shade of beige with white lettering.
There were a number of other publications in online magazines as well as ezines and a couple newspapers. But I didn’t print any of them out, and the newspapers are stashed in a box in the attic. I think…I can sometimes get a little careless with my proofs unfortunately.
So anyway, those are my first publications. What about yours? And if you haven’t yet reached that, what would be your dream publication and for which story? And what would the cover look like?
All the best to you, my friends! Let’s write wondrous stories in May! (Please excuse the funky formatting. I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it.)

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.

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!

 

Short Story on the Run: Thoughts on Beauteous Intentions

Short stories have always been my bane. With my mind leaning toward epic fantasies and tales that span the years, the shorter forms often elude me. Which is part of the reason I pursue them.

But here’s a surprising reality: the short stories can be just as shocking and have as many twists for the writer as novels.

The WattVampires announced their competition at the start of October. Competitors needed to write a short story between 1000 and 5000 words. It had to involve vampires, candy, and Halloween. Pretty open ended?

Well, I had just recently had a bit of a story dream that I decided to base this story on. Initially, I thought it would have to be a novel to adequately deal with one of the themes: living ethically and fully even at great cost and how far should one go with that cost and is it ever too much? And can it be dangerous?

The shorter length forced me to condense it. I decided to have three sections, each one focusing on the last couple hours of a Halloween night. What surprised me was how the most crucial scenes came into focus. And I finished the rough draft with 612 words to spare.

After a short break, I then edited it, polished it, summarized it, and shipped it off. A complete short story within eight hours more or less. Beauteous Intent is off to the contest!

This story will take place in a world where I’ve been developing a number of short stories. Don’t have an official name for it yet. But I’ll come up with something.

I can’t stop laughing though because Beauteous Intent is not at all what I intended. It was supposed to be spooky, chilling, much darker. But Aestan turned out to be a far more passive and gentle character than I expected and that changed everything. Despite the danger underlying his and Summer’s relationship, there was an idealism and romance that insisted on pressing through.

During the writing process, I did feel cold though. Sometimes I just don’t write with a lot of feeling, and I know that that shows through. It becomes far too intellectual (what a shock coming from the lawyer). I know what I want to feel just as I know what I should feel. And though I put myself in the character’s shoes and imagine myself in his position, there are times when it still doesn’t hold up.

However, instead of stepping away from this story and digging in later (after the deadline passed), I pushed through. And it represents one of the core questions I find myself mulling over more and more while always addressing the perpetual question of balance and too much.

I won’t win with this story (and that’s not a problem). Even though it meets the guidelines, I’m all but certain this isn’t what the judges are looking for. After all, who reads vampire stories for a story on ethical living, sacrifice, hard choices, and bad decisions? Not many. It’s more of the romantic sort of story that fits a darker Valentine theme, and it’s lacking the sensuality of most vampire romances. The other stories in this competition are spectacular and precisely what I imagine the judges are looking for without being cliché.

But there is one thing I remind myself of: let each story be what it is. There are so many stories to write. Struggling to force one story into something it is not will often just weaken it.

While I started off writing The Celebrity in the hopes of writing a story my mother could enjoy, Beauteous Intent turned out to be the better option for her. It’s funny that at a time when I feel in the most turmoil and the most frustrated something so sweet (and dangerous) would come out. But ah, such is writing. Such is storytelling.

 

The First Annual Story Fair Write Up

Story FairSo September 19 was quite a busy day. In addition to having some legal work that needed to be tended, I also had the privilege of participating in the First Annual Story Fair. This event was a joint project, created by Rebecca Sky, Malice Authors, Dilyana Kyoseva, and the Wattpad4. This kind of project takes a lot of hard work, so a very hearty thanks to everyone involved.

I was actually able to be involved multiple times, and the fair was what most fairs are: chaos and chatter with plenty of tasty options. Here are some of the highlights for me.

Fun Treasures I Came Away With

While I got to feature one of my own stories (a couple if you count the WPC2014 booth), I wanted to keep my eyes open for new authors whose stories I wanted to read. Qualifications: any author who wasn’t a fellow member of the WPC2014, lol. While there was a lot of competition, I narrowed it down to these authors of whom I had never heard:

Priestess and Dragon

 

The Priestess and the Dragon by Nicolette Andrews. This is to be released on Amazon October 17. Check it out here. If all goes well, I’m planning to read and review this book quite soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost

 

Lost By J.S. Nox. This is a short story of travels available for free on Wattpad. Quite looking forward to reading this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catwalk

 

Catwalk by Nicole N. Gabor. While the farthest from my usual reading style, I love pushing myself to things, and this one fits the bill. It’s available for free on Wattpad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Honorary Fourth Treasure

HelNow, I am adding a fourth, but it doesn’t seem entirely honest: Frost by E. Latimer. And it’s not because it isn’t a stunning book (because it is) or that the cover isn’t gripping (because it is).

It’s because I actually already planned to read this book, and I have already bought a copy (yet another upcoming entry to review!). But I do want to give Frost a shoutout.
It involves Norse mythology; and Latimer understands the agony of writing about mythology, making it your own and customizing it, and people assuming you’re trying to rip off Marvel (I have actually had some readers argue with me that Stan Lee created Thor and Loki.

So while the fair made me more intrigued about Frost, it didn’t convince me to read it anymore than E. Latimer’s launch, blurb, and spiel. But that’s more because you can’t convince someone who is already convinced. You can pick your copy up here if you like.

Tardis
If Stan Lee did create Norse mythology, then he must have hijacked the Tardis (or perhaps the Doctor wanted to take part) and gone back a thousand plus years to create the myths. Now there’s a story waiting to be written! Which incarnation of the Doctor do you think Stan Lee teamed up with?

The Corner Booth

Nat, the amazing host of The Corner Booth, decided to host an impromptu episode of The Corner Booth, and I had the privilege of participating in it. It’s been incredible to see how The Corner Booth has grown over these past couple months. I started off watching it, but then I had to stop because small groups met at that time, and I had a house full of hungry teenagers. I also ran into problems with watching the videos (nothing on their end; it The Corner Boothwas an outdated driver). So I went from watching the first couple episodes to watching the last ones, and wow, I liked it before, and I love it even more now.

Personally, I was quite nervous doing it. Just as I was on Episode [#]. But that’s part of the reason I do it, and what makes me even more grateful that Nat has allowed me to participate. He has always been so kind and encouraging, and he pours his heart into that program just as he does with his own story (Chlorine Halos: if you haven’t checked it out yet, try it now). It’s one of the most fun online writing programs I’ve ever participated in or listened to.

He gave some previews for what’s coming up on The Corner Booth. There’s going to be poetry coming up next time around, which I can’t wait to see. And as always, Nat sounds like he’s going to be pushing everyone to excel and become stronger. So make sure that you subscribe.

WPC2014 Banner

WPC2014

And then, at two different times, the WPC2014 members and I gathered together to host a booth. It was chaotic and fun, and the responses were great. The best part of it was seeing how well we actually worked together as a team. Generally speaking, I’m not fond of working with teams. But I found with this that there’s such a thing as a good team, and that’s what those who were able to make it accomplished.

One of our most popular attractions turned out to be this little game. So if you haven’t played yet or you just want to let me know what you are, feel free to comment.Quiz

We took advantage of this time to make several announcements. Here’s what you’ll want to know:

Weekly Twitter Chats with WPC2014 starting on October 13 at 8 pm (follow @amberkbryant for more details)

A Quarterly Wattpad Profile Makeover Contest (details announced on Twitter and on our Wattpad profile October 13 at 8 pm)

We offered some great prizes. In fact, you can still sign up for this if you want. It’s open until Wednesday at midnight here! (And make sure you pick up Sarah Benson’s fantastic case study on Wattpad. It’s to the right on that page.)WPC2014 There’s books from our members plus critiques, shoutouts, and swag.

The Celebrity

At the start of the day, I had the privilege of hosting my own little booth for The Celebrity. I have a bad habit of speaking of that story almost disparagingly, but that’s not because I don’t love it. I do. It’s just that it was such a divergence from my usual writing that it really challenged me, and I’m not confident I told a good story. I did the best I could. But it was this story that really convinced me that writing good contemporary romance does take great skill. I won’t get into this too much here because I think it deserves a post of its own.

The Celebrity Story Fair Submission 03Reading the responses and seeing folks add my little romance to their shelves delighted me. It won’t be the best romance they ever read, but if it helps them escape for a time and warms their hearts, I’ll be happy.

It still has some additional edits before it gets officially released. On the plus side, the Story Fair forced me to get promotional materials prepared in advance. (Once Parnimo’s Prize is done and Ragnarok Unravels, Little Scapegoat, The Celebrity, and Of Blood and Teeth and Magic are edited and published, I will be pushing hard on marketing. Up until then, Mermaid Bride will continue to float in the Amazon waters [though if anyone wants to write a review for it, it would be greatly appreciated].)

I’ll be announcing my prize winners tomorrow. Keep your eyes open. You might be one of the lucky winners!

Brief Update on the Competition

Now as some of you may know, I was pouring heart and soul into finishing one of my romance paranormals or romance fantasies in time for Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write 2015. I’ll go into more details on this tomorrow, but short summary: in two weeks, I wrote over 120,000 words, but I only got one book done. Blessed? Battle for the Lunar Realms is now complete. It will need to be edited, revised, and then professionally edited, but I have arrived at the competition.

%d bloggers like this: