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J. M. Butler Posts

Sharks, Edits, Maybe The Strangest Story I’ve Written…

It’s always fascinating to see stories take on a life of their own. For the most part with The Sorcerer Shark, I have kept Samson in check. As amusing as I find him, I don’t really have time for him to be as mischievous and difficult as he would like.

But as I am redrafting and editing, I can’t seem to hold him in as much. Not that that is a bad thing. This is a fascinating thing to observe. How a character starts off as this figment that you seek out in your imagination, introduce yourself to, and lead into your story. It is so often quite polite and quiet and small, and then it turns into utter chaos.

I think Samson may have to enter into other stories. There’s such an absurdist quality to him, and it is hard to keep my mind from becoming too logical. He refuses to be too logical. And that is part of his charm.

Bess is more inline with my way of thinking. Though she handles the entire problem of a talking sorcerer shark far better than I. She’d also like for me to take the story deeper. You know, perhaps answer some of the larger questions that this brings up.

For now, I’m afraid I must politely refuse. The story is absurd. The world is as well. And it must, absolutely must, remain a short story.

As for Wilderness Untamed, more on the Redan prince. I am 15,000 words into his added narrative and he has yet to give me his name. No name has thus far sounded right. I wonder how much longer he can avoid giving it to me?

Side note for other authors, when characters refuse to give me their names, I actually use a fun little technique to make sure I can fix it easily. I use a random noun that is easy to type and then just to a find and replace. The Redan prince is here known as the Shrew. (Just make sure if you do this that you select the “whole words only” in case the word you’re replacing can also be found in other words.). More than likely his name will wind up being a variation on the word Shrew. But not Schrewt or Schute anything like that. Too similar to some folks I actually like.

Side note from later in the day…this may be the oddest and stupidest story I have ever written.

Quiet Day of Writing, Editing, and Drafting

The snowstorm of the year was downgraded to little more than 2/10s of an inch of ice and a few inches of snow. Enough to make the power flicker and the Internet become unreliable. But nothing to keep us snowed in.

Humorously enough, being snowed in means relatively little to me these days. I do love the beautiful blanket of snow that envelops everything, and the cold is refreshing to me. While I enjoy spring and summer, winter is one a season I feel most free to breathe.

But today I got back on the treadmill and did a full workout for the first time in a long while. It felt so good even though I only ran about a half to two thirds of a mile interspersed with walking for the first mile and then walked another mile. The stretches and yoga I managed to mostly maintain throughout the sickness and book launch phase. But there’s really nothing like some decent cardio to open the lungs.

Writing and editingwise, I have much to complete. But it’s the exciting sort of completion.

I am continuing to tweak this Clown in the Water story. The rhythm of prose poetry has a lot more flexibility than poetry, but sometimes this story feels a little off. It’s haunting in its own way, and it is less than 500 words, which is an achievement for me. But I really need to wrap up the final edits on Enemy Known and polish The Sorcerer Shark. There are a few places where it could really use a little more finessing.

Loki is finally letting his guard down enough to admit that he likes snuggles. It used to be this whole song and dance of him finally accidentally winding up in my lap. Now he comes up, meows or nudges me, and I pick him up. He’s a handful of a cat, but he snuggles in for approximately 30 seconds. Then he wants my arms off him and his space on the seat so I can stroke him and give him perfect freedom to leave whenever he chooses. Considering that Thor, Maelona, and Sophie prefer the draping method (whether on backs, shoulders, or arms), this arrangement actually works fairly well.

However, it is a good day. The legal work is more administrative. More drafting and filing. And it’s easy to keep the rhythm of quiet productivity.

A Quiet Day and Identity Revealed is Live

It’s here. Identity Revealed is now live here.

And if that link doesn’t work try this one.

And I had planned to do a fair bit more today. A lively colorful blog post with lots of pictures.

But the day took a different turn. The videos did happen. Just a couple small ones. And it was pretty obvious I had been sick, lol. My face is all puffy and white (more so than usual), and it was clear I was exhausted. In fact, after posting the video, I got quite a few messages from family and friends wanting to make sure I was all right. The fact that the sound cut out and went extra soft on the one and was too loud on the other was a puzzling mystery and evidence I need to learn more about that process.

The marketing went off all right, and I got more scheduled for the upcoming days.

The rest of the day was mostly consumed with law firm activities.

In between all this and while waiting on clients, I got to work on Enemy Known and Wilderness Untamed as well as two short stories that are due.

All in all, it was a nice quiet day. Errand running. Document drafting. Case researching.

I’m planning to do more tomorrow.

And the big thing is I do feel happy. Happy, peaceful, ready.

  1. It has been a good day.

I am tired though. It’s time for bed. Much love to you, friends. I hope it’s been a good day for you as well. Feel free to share the best moment of the day.

Final Steps Before the Launch

Today is the last day before Identity Revealed hits the market. Today’s tasks are much smaller in general. The largest being doing a final proof, and, if I can, one more readthrough.

Deep down, I know that other little errors will likely make it through. It has now been proofed in total well over a dozen times from the final draft, but the book is over 165,000 words, not counting additional information. Additionally, it is a fantasy novel with fictional languages that appear from time to time.

But I am calm about that.

I’ve put it through more edits and proofs than I would have gotten from a traditional publishing house, and that puts my mind at ease.

Today I am also going through Enemy Known again, which is the sequel for Identity Revealed.  If all goes well, I’ll dig in and work on Wilderness Untamed, the third book.

I’m also going to go back through and analyze the keywords I’ve chosen for Identity Revealed. Still a little time to make changes before it goes live (and the great part of independent publishing is that I can make corrections and tweaks as I go).

Pumped and Excited After a Great Movie

There is something pretty incredible about going to see a movie and coming out feeling refreshed and eager to tackle life. In a sense, that’s one of the reasons I go to the movies. I want to see a great story, engaging characters, and if it’s a musical, great songs that advance the plot and tell us about the characters.

That is exactly what I got with The Greatest Showman.

And I am so happy because I needed it.

It’s not that this is a bad time, but it is a tiring time. So much is happening, and life as a creator is an incredible beautiful gift. But it takes a great deal of focus and energy, particularly when fighting off illness. Sometimes one just needs refreshment and a reminder that what is being done is worth it.

Part of it comes from seeing certain crafts performed with excellence, exuberance, and joy. In fact, that is probably what most captivated me in the movie. I adored the way that everyone threw themselves into the performance. Hugh Jackman and Keala Settle, in particular, left me ready and eager to take back on the creative challenges and do even better. (Keala Settle’s This is Me performance in particular made me wish that the movie featured far more of her. I absolutely loved her.)

It is so great to feel pumped. And in fairness, I’ve pretty much been trapped inside the house since about Christmas Day thanks to strep.

And now I am returning to working hard on Identity Revealed. Lots of long hours over the past weeks and this one, but it is all worth it. I am so excited t osee what happens.

My Weird Little Typing Tips

My Weird Little Tips for Typing Faster

Every weekday I start with the intent of writing a minimum of 500 words, but my true goal is actually 10,000 words. Now, while there are some phenomenal writers out there who can do 10,000 a day by hand, my hand starts cramping up after about 6,000. So I do most of my writing through typing. And words per minute help a great deal in making this a feasible goal. (For instance, 500 words in 15 minutes versus 1000 words per 15 minutes cuts the time in half to write 10,000 words. On average it takes me about 2 1/2 hours if I can hit that 1000 words per 15 minutes.)

So here are some of the little weird things I do that let me type faster.

Important Side Note: Writing fast is simply a tool. It does not necessarily make your work better or worse. Do not be ashamed if you cannot type this fast or if you need a slower pace to compose strong compositions.

Keep My Nails Trimmed

I do love long nails. Particularly when they’re painted glossy colors. However, long nails slow me down. So while I may grow them out a little bit, as soon as I hit a deadline, I pull out the nail clippers and immediately trim.

Keep My Desk Clutter Minimal

A friend sent me an article from Inc about how “a messy desk is a sign of genius.” If that’s the case, then I am the greatest of geniuses. Especially by the end of the project. Currently I have multiple stacks of paper, a metal box of colored pencils, two mugs, some ibuprofen, beeswax lip balm, over a dozen notebooks, a smattering of index cards, two pencil cups chock full of pens, pencils, rulers, and other utensils, a couple water bottles, and a jar of polished stones. There’s probably some cat toys up in here as well, given the number of times Loki and Thor have visited me.

So yes. It’s a mess.

But I work faster and better if my desk is clear.

It’s probably a good thing that I do because if I didn’t clear off my desk, I’d probably drown. However, what I do know is that if I am stumped or can’t figure out how to resolve something, cleaning up my desk and getting organized again works to get my mind back on track most times as well.

Set Regular Breaks

The regular breaks is something I do struggle with even though they help me. The problem is that it runs against being in the zone. One of the things that often develops is that I get deep into the zone while working on a story, and stopping is…inconvenient.

However, when I do take breaks and actually rest my mind, I actually work better and faster. When doing law firm work, prepping for a case or researching, I find it much easier to stop and rest my mind whether by getting up and walking or completing a simple mindless task. Because I enjoy writing or editing fiction so much, it’s far harder to stop.

In terms of number difference, my fastest writing speeds are generally within three hours of waking. I progressively slow throughout the day, until I hit my night owl burst. The writing during this time tends to be more emotionally focused and better for new starts rather than continuing on already started stories. If I take regular breaks, breathe deep, get water, and move around, I’ve noticed my productivity lasts longer.

Now how much of a break to set is up to you. I do vary mine, often basing it off the deadline. I try to keep it around 15 – 20 minutes of work per 5 minute break. It doesn’t always work out that way. On high deadline and high stress says, I sometimes push it to a 5 minute break once an hour, if that.

So these are just a couple little things that you can do. In addition to that, I do recommend taking a typing course if you’re able to. Building up accuracy and rhythm makes typing significantly easier.

Regardless though, what do you do to enhance your productivity as an author? Do you have any favorite tips?

One Thing I Would Explain to My Younger Self

I have attempted this exercise multiple times and find that there is too much for me to say in a single letter without it turning into a book (what a shock!). But I’ll focus on a single point I wish my younger self could understand.

The fear doesn’t go away.

It really doesn’t.

I know you think that the fear means that there is something wrong. That all of your worries and the thousands of rabbit trails what-iffing across your mind and taking you down dark and frightening paths require your attention. That somehow because they exist, you should respond in kind and be afraid.

But simply because you feel afraid does not mean you have to act afraid. And not every fear has to be resolved through mental examination.

In fact, I’ll just tell you upfront, you can’t.

The only thing you can do with fear is ground yourself and move forward.

If fear has its way, you will never do anything, and it gets progressively worse. Little by little, it will nickel and dime your time away. Don’t believe the whisper that it will let you live more in time.

Now it isn’t that fear is evil and wants to destroy you. It’s trying to keep you safe. And once you understand that, it helps. Because you aren’t up against the conquering dominating entity that wants to control your life but the suffocating force that whispers it just wants to protect you. It is so persuasive because it speaks some truth.

And the greatest lie it tells is that you have to wait until the fear is resolved, until it is satisfied, to move forward.

You will wait forever.

I’m sorry.

I know that’s not what you want to hear because fear can be so painful and uncomfortable. And when you take action, it may get worse.

But you have to take action.

Now, let me caveat. Sometimes your fear will tell you good things and important things (again this is why it is so persuasive). But unless you are literally in a jungle or a wilderness and there is literally something that wants to kill or eat you, inaction is generally not the right response (and even then that choice is sometimes deadly). Constantly living in your comfort zone is not going to get you where you want to be.

And deep down you know this. You don’t want to stagnate. You don’t want to hide. You want to reach your fullest potential.

So what do you do about the fear?

Well, you can suckerpunch it and jump in headfirst. I’ve found that that works pretty well for somethings. Sometimes you can even shock the fear and leave it behind. (This is my preferred method; not every situation allows such a response.)

But on those occasions when the fear grabs you and fills your vein with some sort of supervillain freezing fluid, you’ve got to take a subtler tactic. Outline what you’re going to do. Ground yourself in the present moment and counter the negative what-ifs with positive ones. Give yourself small actionable steps. Then make yourself take them.

If you’re really struggling, give yourself a reward for getting through the tasks. Something that you would like. (And for goodness’s sake, follow through on the reward. As your future self, I know good and well you don’t. You wouldn’t do that to a friend, so don’t do it to yourself. Reward and care for yourself for getting through the insane challenges you set. You’ll get even farther if you care for yourself.)

There will be a rush of adrenaline as you realize what you’re doing. That you are breaking free. That you’re moving toward your goals and not being suffocated by this friend on your back.

But more often than not, the questions are going to come. Now I know that you did press on in many cases, but you always thought there was something wrong with you because the questions and the fear didn’t go away.

It’s part of who you are. It’s part of the way your mind works. You are always questioning, and fear often speaks the loudest. And the fact that you have been pressing through the fear and pursuing your hopes and dreams is wonderful.

I just know you could go so much farther if you would stop questioning “why does my brain work this way?” and “is there something to this?” and “how can I fix myself so this isn’t part of me?”

The fear sticks around. One, five, even fifty victories won’t always remove it. In fact, fear is that frenemy who moves the goalposts all the time. Generally without much warning. But some part of it does get easier with practice. It’s not that the fear is silenced but rather that experience and your confidence grow as well, and they counter fear’s response.

What about the failures though?

Oh yes. They’ll try to encourage fear to be even more protective. And here is where you have to get even firmer.

Failure is as much a part of life as fear. If you can change your perspective to focus on the fact that failure comes and it brings with it the opportunity to learn, then that’s better. It makes the failure easier to stomach. Understand that it is part of life, do your best, learn what you can, stop beating yourself up ad nauseum.

You can do this. You know what you’ve got to do, and you’re doing it. I wish I could tell you that the fear went away. I can’t. But I can tell you that in the future you are more confident. You have so much more experience. And you have better discernment in determining whether something deserves your attention as well as the severity of a particular failure.

You’re still scared in the future. The difference is you don’t obsess quite as long before you act. And that is making a tremendous difference.

Finishing the Week Strong and Fast

What an intense week this has been!

The shortest workday this whole week was twelve hours. Other days have stretched into sixteen and eighteen hours, and one was twenty. That’s probably part of the reason I may be struggling to get over this secondary infection.

But it has been worth it.

This week has been full of law firm work, writing, proofing, editing, and preparation. The New Year kicked off big.

I’ve got to admit, I do feel the need to return to some of my quieter habits. I don’t like the way that deadlines come around and I lean into them, dropping the more refreshing parts of my routine. Some of that had to be set aside because I needed to build back up to my exercise after strep. So I was only planning to do light workouts throughout the week, and sometimes even with that, I only managed about five or ten minutes at different points throughout the day.

Now technically something is better than nothing. However, I always feel the lack of physical exercise. I miss my runs.

So since I will be done with the most important proofs and the documents mostly sent off, I should be able to spend more time in focused activities. A little more time spent cleaning and completing organizing tasks.

It is settled, unfortunately, that the print books are not going to go live on January 11 because I have not yet gotten those final alterations sent in. Which is all right. I’ve never done a full design with Ingram Spark before, and these have just needed some additional tweaks to get them just right.

The bright side of this is that the print books will be able to come out about the time of the book launch party. But I still get my special date for the ebook release. And it is going to be such a day of celebration.

True, I could probably go ahead and risk the print release. I mean multiple issues have already been worked out. But I want this to be the absolute best product I can. Besides, some of my writing friends have sent me some fascinating info on soft openings.

But this next week is going to be better. I completed most of my goals, most of which had to be done by the end of this week, so not much flex room there. However, this following week I’m going to continue to pursue my goals and do better on the little things that make me feel better and respond in a stronger way.

So what about you? How did your week go? Was it good or challenging or somewhere in between? And what do you hope to do this upcoming week?

Preparing for Release and Insecurity (Rambling)

The fatigue is heavy today. Just one of those days where it is difficult to keep the eyes open. These long, long days are starting to tell. Plus, for some reason, I’ve been having a rough time sleeping.

Today I also got hit with more panic and fear about the release of Tue-Rah Chronicles.

I know this struggle is not unique to me, so I’ll share what I would tell any other author and hopefully encourage you and perhaps myself. This will likely ramble.


All right. So you’re scared that people aren’t going to like your book? Yes. That’s true. A lot of people aren’t. But don’t let that upset you. You’re looking for your readers. Your tribe. The people who get what you want to talk about and share your passions.

As frightening as it is, putting yourself out there is part of the process. But let’s go through some of the positive what ifs, because you’re going down all the negatives.

Look at some of the terrible books that have been published. If you’re a reader, which you probably are, you’ve likely seen these. They don’t have good plots, good characters, good themes, or really much of anything. Some of them aren’t even entertaining for you, but they are for others. See, even bad stories can get followings and fans. So do you really think that your story is the only story out there that is going to be held to the standard of perfection?

Will you have haters or detractors? Probably. I’m sorry. But if you can let go of the fear that they are out there and just know that, yes, they are out there, maybe you can focus on the good things that will come. It’s not if. I’ve been there a lot of times, and it hurts. But knowing that these people weren’t among my readers helped because then it reminded me that, yes! I have readers out there.

And you do. You’re going to find them by being authentically you. If someone tells you that they hate your books or that they want your characters to die, know that this is just eliminating someone from your core readers, your target group, your tribe. You now know that this isn’t someone who belongs.

One of the challenges of course is that a lot of the positive readers and tribe members tend to be a little quieter. At least in my experience. So tying your validation to them is dangerous. Instead go back to why you are writing your stories (this isn’t to shame you, just to help you get rooted). Look at what you love about your stories even if it takes you awhile to figure that out. Take stock of everything that makes you want to write. And on this point, be as imaginative and grand or small as you like.

Put all of this into a list somewhere. Somewhere that you can see it. Add pictures if you want. And then remember that this is why you’re writing.

It’s going to get better. The fear doesn’t completely go away. But good things come. There’s also an intensely beautiful satisfaction of finishing a story. Starting a new one. So many good things are going to come to you.


Reading Aloud and Preparing for a Book Launch

Over the next few days, I have one goal: finish the proofreading for Identity Revealed. I go through multiple stages of proofing after stories have gone through editing (and I was blessed with a fantastic editor for this, the amazing Mary Iamandi).

Currently, I have two more set proofs to go through. I am waiting for the, hopefully, last set of physical proofs. Given the delays, I’m not sure that those will be done in time for January 11. We’ll see. Regardless, the eversion will go live on January 11, and then the print copies will go live as soon as possible. I might be able to risk it going out, but there were some problems with the margins again as well as some orphans and widows. Not to mention a little more tweaking with the visuals. So I want at least one more pass.

For the actual text, I am going through and reading the entire manuscript aloud again. At this point, I have read it out loud in its entirety at least six times for this draft alone. Each time I am amazed at what I find.

Once I finish that final proof, I will go over the formatting once more. And, knowing me, I’ll probably do at least more pen tap. I’m at a point where I am hardly finding any errors at all, but I always find at least one or two.

A reader asked me if I ever regretted how much time I spent proofing. Now, admittedly, I might spend too much time on the polishing and perfecting stage. But I haven’t regretted it. Not yet anyway. Sometimes I get frustrated by how slow it goes. When I find simple mistakes or slips though, I always feel better that I took that extra pass.

The story does have to be released though. And when that happens, I will probably be done. I don’t generally read my stories once they are completed and published because I will find unnecessary things to change most likely. Plus my focus needs to be kept elsewhere. There are other stories to finish.

Emotionally, I have not yet gotten to the point where I am sick of the manuscript. That has happened with other stories, particularly when I have so many other things to do. With Identity Revealed, and actually with all of the other associated manuscripts, I haven’t felt it. There’s something dear and familiar about it, and, so long as I make the deadlines with a quality product, I’m happy.

In all seriousness, I do need to wrap this up. There are many other tasks that must be completed. Cursed, for instance, is now on its tenth rewrite. One of these times I will get the sound and flow right. It is fun seeing the way that it improves and transforms.

So with that said, I should return to my reading aloud. What are you up to today? Hope that whatever it is, that it is good and you are doing well. Talk soon.

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