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Category: Writing Life

A Non Ideal Start to the New Year But Hope Remains

This new year’s start may be one of the more frustrating starts that I have had in quite a long while. It will get better. No doubt.

But what all has happened?

Well, I am leading into a book release, one that I have been excited and preparing for a long time. I have been working on a version of Identity Revealed (Tue-Rah Chronicles) for approximately twenty-six years. It’s been a long journey with so much learning. But our finances took a hit and required shrinking the budgeting plan significantly (in all seriousness, this is not a big deal because, as I am publishing independently, I can build on the marketing, and this will strongly encourage me to explore free options and create my own solutions).

Then on Christmas Eve’s Eve, my poor dear husband fell sick. We weren’t sure whether it was tonsillitis or strep throat. I joked that we would find out which it was based on whether I got it. It was strep. I got it. I also found out firsthand that nausea and vomiting can accompany a robust case of strep. On the bright side, at least now, once I get over this secondary infection, I will be through with being sick for awhile. I hope.

Follow that up with two key clients deciding they were not going to pay us, and the season got a little tighter.  (More opportunities for creative solutions.) Then we found out that paperwork we had filed four years ago was not perfectly accepted. It was mostly accepted. There was enough of a holdover with the government to trigger additional fees.

Heater problems, leaks, and an unfortunate incident with cats and an overdry Christmas tree later, and the Internet also decided to stop working. Intermittently. During business hours and at night. Which put plans and work further behind but gave us some stories that will hopefully, in retrospect, be amusing.

This and so much more has made the start of the year and the past few days rather frustrating. But I still believe it’s going to be a good year. Partially because I plan to try to make each day better if I can.

There are lots of rough points that show up. And feeling frustrated isn’t the problem. I know that a lot of you are also going through rough times. I think half my friends are sick between strep and flu and some upper respiratory, not to mention chronic illnesses, and some have had tragedies that will take quite some time to recover from.

But each day is a new opportunity. Each moment is a new opportunity. No matter how hard it is, if you can pick yourself up and keep trying, you are winning more than you stopped. And if you need to stop for a bit, regroup and regain your strength, that’s all right too. Not everything has to be done today (thank goodness!). So do what you can. Look for and celebrate the good. And rest.

May your year get better and better from here on out, regardless of how it started.

Pushing On Through the Discomfort

One of the key points that Jeff Goins makes in his book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, is that practicing in public is essential. He uses Picasso as his primary example, featuring his association with the esteemed Gertrude Stein and other magnificent creators of the time. While I don’t seriously want to live in another time period (pretty sure, I’d get myself killed in record time), I would have loved to be around such creativity and expression. (If I ever get to time travel and go meet people, I have a ranked list. Come on, science! I have the best adventure planned!)

Anyway practicing in public has been one of the hardest elements for me. Part of it is because I struggle with marketing. I am getting better with it. In fact, I am miles ahead of where I once was.

For the most part, this is a head struggle. An unfortunate belief that I have to be invited to participate as well as exposure to individuals who are exceptionally annoying with their self-promotion hangs on. My mind went to extremes in its assessment of what an author had to do, even though I had examples of creators who did it well. I suspect that the desire to be asked (because that means one is wanted) is the most deeply rooted.

Ultimately that is rooted in fear or pride. I suspect mine is a mix. I mean, it’s nice to be asked and wanted, but it also means that there isn’t as much risk.

So yes, I have been pushing forward with addressing this fear, unease, and discomfort. It’s annoying that it has taken this long. I would like to see faster progress. But, for anyone who is still in the early stages of the journey, it does get better. It’s not a fast process. And it requires intentionality.

That’s probably the most frustrating and yet encouraging part of all this. It’s a process. It doesn’t get overcome with a single win, but neither is it destroyed with a single loss. Each day, it has to be addressed (or at least most days; it is a faster process if you do it more regularly). One of my tools is a to do list that breaks down what all needs to happen with set deadlines.

In addition to this, I am doing the “write 500, practice in public” challenge.

Now, as I mentioned, I’ve been writing every single day for years now. Over twenty-five years at this point. It’s almost always been in a fairly quiet way. A lot of days, no one sees anything I write. But for a time, I wrote and posted every day on Wattpad. Some good did come from that, but I need to do better about focused practicing in public.

See, where I always dropped the ball (often knowingly) was in not advertising what I was doing. I’d promote other people, but not my own stories. And it literally only takes seconds to customize a link and prep a tweet or post for the various social media platforms. Writing the chapter or blog post takes far more time.

So to get better in this regard, these are the simple tasks that I am going to take to make my practicing in public more meaningful.

  • Post at least once a day
  • Promote at least one piece I have completed
  • Invest time in choosing good keywords
  • Correct my categories (blog specific)
  • Choose tags for better focus (includes research)
  • Use the customized hashtags I started branding

There is more that I can do and will do in the future to make this more meaningful and effective. It will also be in conjunction with my other advertising and marketing journeys as I continue to learn more about Facebook and AMS and so forth.

So what about you? What is your most persistent challenge with succeeding in your writing dream?

Jeff Goins’s Challenge for 500 Words a Day in Public

Every month brings with it new challenges, some intentional, some not. In November, I intended to participate in Jeff Goins’s Practice in Public for a month challenge. It’s a fantastic idea, and it is certainly one that I need to improve on.

But, some serious problems developed within the course of the month that led to my being able to compete the writing with ease but not all the posting.

So when Jeff Goins posted a new challenge, which is the 500 Words a Day Writing Challenge. The goal is simple. Write at least 500 words a day, and do it publicly.

Now technically, I have been writing every day for years. Ever since I was a little girl actually. When I was a kid, my grandfather, father, and mother all told me that the only way to get better was to do it every day. And, for whatever reason, that but not flossing connected. In fact, if I don’t write, I start to get nervous. Hitting 10,000 words a day is not nearly the challenge it used to be. It’s something of an addiction.

What I do struggle with is doing my art in public and talking more freely about my projects.

I tend to write and write and write, do some editing, and then put off the marketing and audience building because it is the part I am least comfortable with. Over the years, I have become more comfortable with the various aspects of this. Releasing multiple books and allowing for a slow marketing build has worked to my advantage. I’ve made enough to pay some bills, read a lot, and tried out some techniques. But I haven’t sunk a great deal into it because, well, financial challenges and because most of the stories I am releasing are directly connected (the other series with a couple exceptions are indirectly related and will come together). I have told myself that I will significantly increase all marketing activities once I have more stories published. On January 11, I reach the critical point for the marketing push, and actually things have shifted already. All of the remaining head baggage and excuses have to be jettisoned.

So my primary reason for accepting the 500 Word a Day Challenge is for the public practicing. And also because I love discovering new writers, and where better to find them than when they are just starting off and could especially use that little bit of extra encouragement and love?

It’s going to be a great event. I really do want to see what would happen if I became significantly more regular in posting online. I used to post daily on Wattpad, but, after Wattpad’s handling of certain situations relating to author protection as well as miscommunication and arguable lies from the HQ, I chose to step down and away. Whether I will return, I don’t know.

However, I am going to make sure that I practice in public and do it in a more targeted fashion. I’ll share more about my plan for that tomorrow.

Now if you’re also a writer and you’re interested in this challenge, definitely stop on by. You can find more information here: https://goinswriter.com/my500words-ty/?inf_contact_key=2c819b6f31e6aa896f8bad86b3eef06f4682ec067d2b28e10a3202d6dc070e39

Until the next time, have a great day and much love!

How to Protect Yourself When Writing Stories Online

So now let’s talk about what you can do to protect yourselves when posting your stories online.

First, a key distinction (and I only make this again because in conversations, some keep trying to sidetrack the conversation and wrongly conflate the terms). All authors have to deal with piracy at some point. Piracy is where they take your story with your name attached and upload it to a site. It may be a mirror site, it may be a separate site. They tend to target well-known authors because that draws the readers to their site.

Plagiarism and theft is when they take your words and your story and take your name off. They may change some small details, but the vast majority of the story is the same. These individuals typically focus on unknown and smaller authors because it’s more likely that they can get away with it.

Authors never benefit from having their works plagiarized. There may be some who will argue that piracy is not much of a detriment to authors. But the reason that it is difference is because the author’s name remains on the manuscript. They can still potentially gain new fans. It is not a great argument as authors should maintain control of the manner and method of their distribution. In fact, it is deeply flawed. But victims of plagiarism/theft do not receive even this.

Understand What Most Thieves Want

For the most part, thieves want an easy buck. They are not the same as pirates. Pirates typically make their revenue through ads and phishing schemes and viruses on the sites. Thieves/plagiarists typically make their money off the royalties. Because this is hit or miss, they are inclined to do a lot all at once.

In most of my dealings with thieves, they grab multiple stories and do mass uploads or they stuff a single book with stolen items to maximize per page revenue payments. Generally the stories bring in small amounts that then accumulate over time. These thieves are not in it for the big money. Most don’t want to be noticed. It’s about accumulation. (Also in my dealings, most of these thieves are in countries where a US dollar will go a lot farther.)

Determine if You Can Risk Theft

When you post online, you run the risk that someone may steal it. I do not say this to absolve any of the writing platforms from their duty to their writers. It is simply something to bear in mind. Do not buy into any of the promises that they give you that they are different or that they will protect you. And even the best security may not keep out some thieves. (I do expect a good platform to keep it from being as easy as the click of a button, but I won’t move into that rant right now.)

If your project is such that you can absolutely not risk it being stolen, don’t put it online. (And let me be clear that there is nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean that you are cowardly or somehow stuck in the dark ages. It is recognizing the nature of each writing project, and what works for one may not work for another.)

You need to make sure that you take time to search for your stories and check to see if you have been robbed. Or you need to not care if someone takes your story without giving you attribution.

Don’t Post the Full Story in One Place

Remember that most thieves want a quick and easy buck. So if a story is explicitly declared as not finished, it is less likely to be targeted. (Please note that by finishing, I don’t mean editing. I mean it literally does not have an ending. Thieves don’t seem to care much about grammar.)

The other benefit to not posting the full story is that if someone steals it up and uploads it, the ending will be missing. You will have the ending. That may not be prima facie evidence, but it is quite solid, nearing Big Eyes territory.

Now again, this is not foolproof. Some intrepid thieves may be willing to add an ending. In the Rachel Nunes case, the thief added some sex scenes.

So what about your readers? What if they want the ending and you want to share it with them?

Well, you’ve got a couple options here.

First, if you do choose to not post a full story, make sure to note this at the beginning, particularly if you are on a site like Tablo or Inkitt or Wattpad where serials are common. This way you can temper your readers’ expectations. You could choose to not publish the ending at all until formal publication. Readers can then purchase your story. But please give your readers notice. They want to support you, and they need to be fully informed as well.

You can also time out your upload of the chapters to coincide with the release of your book. This way the final chapters go up online after the book is formally published and registered with the copyright.

If you don’t care for either of those options or perhaps don’t want to pursue formal publication, the other option is to upload the final chapters elsewhere. Say in a different book or on a different profile or on a different platform altogether. Now, please note that this is not much of a protection. It relies essentially on the speed and ease with which thieves want to take your story. It throws up a roadblock. If they do some research and find it, it is simple enough to join the files together.

Register the Copyright

Now personally I don’t recommend doing this before the work is done or filing for preregistration (also there are some other restrictions for preregistration.) However, it is your call, and you will need to consider your situation and possibly talk to an attorney. (Yes, I am an attorney, but I am not giving specific advice here.)

Also please note that I will be doing a followup post on how to do an Unpublished Collection through the Copyright Office, but that will take a little more research to confirm some details.

If your country allows for this like the US, it’s just a much simpler way to prove ownership. In the US, it costs about $30 – $40 ($35 for me the last time I paid). And it is relatively simple to go through.

Also foreigners can register their copyright in the US. You can check out what the Copyright Office has to say on this and limitations. But for my readers who have asked most about UK residents specifically, yes, you can register with the US Copyright Office.

To register in the United States, you can go through here.

Note that their completion times vary significantly, but if you do everything properly, the date of copyright is the date that the application is received in full.

Officially Publish Before Posting

Now, let’s get something straight…officially publishing does not mean you are golden in terms of copyright registration. Most traditional publishers, including small, will register your copyright for you. If you are indie, you will need to register your copyright (and I do encourage this even though copyright belongs to you once you create; copyright registration opens additional options and creates prima facie evidence). But even if all you have is the finished book, it is a little more persuasive than a time stamped web page if it comes first in time because you also have sales and release data, usually from more than one site, which leads to the next point.

When you publish, go wide. Again time stamps and dates like this are not foolproof or guaranteed, but they help to build a stronger case. It also makes it more likely that your story will be seen and known.

Utilize a Copyright Registration/Index Service

Copyright registration services are something of a misnomer in that they are not exactly copyright registration unless they are affiliated with the government (and even then depending on your country, you’ve got to doublecheck). It’s actually more accurate to refer to these as indexes, which is what some call themselves. (It depends on your country what the most common terminology is, but an official service will have a .gov ending.)

Essentially for a fee you submit your work to them, and they receive it, date it, and secure it. They can then be used as a business record of note and provide data. It is harder to fake this, and so it is generally more persuasive than a website time stamp as those can be easily faked.

Now bear in mind that some of these may be more expensive than the actual copyright registration service. It also does not create prima facie evidence. But it is not worthless.

Full disclosure though, I have never used one of these services.

Be Precise, Unique, Connected, and Descriptive

In looking over books that have been stolen and uploaded under another author’s name, I have noticed that stories that are more generic tend to be more common targets. To date, most of the targets I have spoken with wrote romance, contemporary, or thrillers. I suspect that this is because the settings tend to be more generic and the general arena quite heavily populated, making it easy for them to blend in.

So add in unusual descriptions and features that are often present in your other stories. In other words, develop a vivid voice, which is great for your writing anyway.

Now this is not always the case. In the case of my Tundra Queen, it was a high fantasy science fiction story with a lot of elements that, even if the thief had changed the names (she did not), it would have been easy enough to prove my ownership. I also failed to note that the story was part of a larger series (another factor, other than the copyright that worked in my defense).

Standalones also seem more likely to be targeted. In most of the cases I’ve dealt with, the story stolen is on its lonesome. Not part of an interconnected world. I would recommend prominently advertising that it is part of an interconnected world if it is (and that will also be good for your readers).

If you have parts of the interconnected world/series officially published, it makes it that much easier to prove that the other one is part of your catalogue and not the thieves. Particularly if you have registered the copyright or taken other steps to secure your property.

Regularly Check For Thieves/Plagiarists

You need to make it a regular part of your routine to check for your stories if it bothers you that someone might take them without giving attribution and you want to stop them.

Now admittedly, this is sometimes hard to do. Particularly when you have a lot of stories up. But take some time to set up Google Alerts. Also take the time to search paragraphs from your story. Personally I take certain key passages with descriptive language. I don’t focus as much on names because names are easily changed. Characters’ physical descriptions and setting descriptions as well as unique bits of dialogue are some of my favorites for this.

Go through Amazon and check for your titles. Bear in mind that the word search that works for most websites will not work on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, etc. You’ll want to check for title matches. It isn’t often that thieves are foolish enough to use the same title, but sometimes they do. Also check in keywords. Focus on elements that are not likely to be changed such as the character’s occupation, setting if it is essential and not easily changed, and the core conflict. One friend found her story on Barnes and Noble by searching for New Orleans nurse high school reunion romance.

Read in your genre. Most of the time, thieves publish their stolen goods in the same primary genre because that is what the story is set for and it is hard to change that much.

Prioritize checking for stand alones and books that are the first in their series and from time to time check the others.

Note: Have your author friends’ backs. If you see something suspicious, let them know. Don’t attack the person you think might be a thief. Your friend will know better if it is actual theft.

Make Your Story Tumblr Style

Tumblr, as you know, is not a text based site but rather employs images and blocks of color with text in them. Photographs of words are harder to scab. Now, people can still right click and save these, but it would take more effort to get the text into a publishable form.

If you really want to mess with thieves, then you can do a mixture of text and text on images. This is a little bit of a pain to do, and I am not inclined to do it myself. But who knows? If it gets much worse, I might give it a try.

If you need options for how to do it, you can either use a service like Canva to create images with the story. Or you could upload it to a story platform site, take a screenshot, and then upload it. Just make sure that if you do this that a single image does not hold the entirety of the story.

Do Not Leave Stories Up For an Indeterminate Amount of Time Without Protection

Now this is playing more against the law of averages and the odds of your work being stolen rather than actual protection. However, if you leave a story up without protection and don’t check up on it, the longer it is out there, the more you risk theft.

A thief just has to come by at the right time and the right place to rob you, but if you never lock your door, you make it easier.

Personally I like the solution of putting up stories for a brief time and then removing them. You may want to inform your readers that you will be doing this. The appropriate time frame varies based on how comfortable you feel.

It will also likely depend on what you have experienced. Right now I am more cautious because I have been targeted by thieves. I am on some of their radar (hopefully someone not to tangle with).

Stay Open to New Ideas And Know That What Works May Change

There are likely lots of other ways to inhibit thieves. We just have to come up with them. The image idea was one I got after a conversation with a site that allows people to download stories without the author’s permission. The developer mentioned that currently there was no way to download images along with stories but that wasn’t a problem because the images weren’t important. For me, that was a lightbulb moment.

Again all this might change. Tech and coding alike change regularly, which is why we rely on the experts to help protect us, and it is important to keep up with it as much as you can.

Remain Involved in the Writing Community

Some writing platforms will not let you know when the game changes and your work becomes vulnerable. Regardless of how much they claim to care about their users, their ultimate concern is to protect themselves. Do not believe otherwise.

With that said, being in touch with other writers is often your quickest route to knowing what’s going on even if the platform does let you know what is happening. It also goes back to the having one another’s back, and if someone sees your story stolen or if you see someone else’s stolen, you can pass that information on along.

Additionally, you can hopefully keep up with new techniques and new ideas to protect your work.

The Revenge Thief

Okay, there is one other type of thief that needs to be addressed here. This is the thief who is out to ruin you personally. This has nothing to do with the bottom line or business. It is personal. I have run into a few cases of this. This occurs when an individual is determined to target you and destroy your stories.

Now for the most part, this individual isn’t going to come out of the blue. They will harass you and do other things to make you as miserable as you can. Stealing your stories is only one aspect of that. In this case, you need to document everything and look into other charges that can be filed other than plagiarism. You’ll want to check into your state or nation’s laws if there is cyberharassment or intentional infliction of emotional distress or something similar that you can pursue. These may be easier causes of action to prove with greater available damages.

In this case, you will generally know who your thief is. You need to save everything and get legal counsel from someone who handles this sort of case as soon as you can. Evidence, particularly online evidence, can be difficult to obtain, so you will need professional counsel. Until then do not exacerbate the situation or make threats. Just collect the evidence and go get help.

Concluding Thoughts

Thieves are a reality of writing and publishing now, and there are no benefits to the authors. We have to be prepared.

When you post online, make sure you post informed. If you find your work stolen, take action. You don’t have to hide your work away. You just have to be vigilant.

What This Week May Hold 01 23 – 01 30, 2017

Whale Breaching Whale Hello There

So starts a new week.

That’s one of my favorite things about Monday, you know. The fact that it is the beginning of a new week. I suppose I could say that my week actually starts on Sunday. Sundays are one of the busiest days out of the week for me and my family because of church and church activities.  So I prefer to look at Monday as my start with Sunday as something of an in between.

These are some of the things this week will hold.

Announcement of the 2016 TNT Horror Contest Grand Prize Winner

In fairness, this was supposed to be announced on the 18th. But they needed more time to figure this out. So it’s very much a hope that they will make the announcement this week, not a guarantee.

*phew Cue the rattling of xylophonic nerves clanging up and down my back. I’m vacillating between happy thoughts and worst case scenarios.

House in the RainOn the bright side, all nine of my competitors are lovely people. I’m not going to pretend I don’t want to win (I do), but there is comfort in knowing that no matter who wins, the grand prize is going to someone I like. (One of the downsides of competing too much with your enemies is that if you lose, it smarts doubly.)

But hopefully they will release the details and make the formal announcement soon. And hopefully they will let us know.

Either way…it’s going to be all right. More great opportunities to practice patience, trust, and think with joy.

Another Short Story

I hadn’t done it intentionally but I have drafted a short story each week this month. Actually I’m up to five at this point.

For the longest time, writing short stories was almost impossible for me. They kept growing and expanding, and over the past few months, it has suddenly become much easier. It’s always been true that short stories are capsules of a larger tale. They are a window that we use to look in on a small bit of a character’s life. But, perhaps it was greed or ignorance or both, I always struggled to get this into my stories.

I would start off with a short and then, as I reached the main points, it expanded. Sometimes writing is like wrestling an anaconda that’s in the middle of a growth spurt. I have realized that I am dreadful when it comes to accurately estimating how many words are needed in a story.

But I am getting better at cutting a story off and saying, “no, no, it’s enough to look at this point. I don’t have to catch it all. Just this portion.” And when I find myself resisting this, I remind myself that I can always come back and reveal more of the story later. Setting many of these shorts in the same world has also reduced pressure.

Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories.Ray Bradbury once said, “It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” I can be a bit of a contrarian. But I’m hoping in this case, he’s correct.

Catch Up With the Paperwork

Maybe I’ll never really be caught up. Each day I try to take five minutes and clear off my work space, file the papers I have, and prep for the next day. The key word here is try.

If you could see my desk right now. I have three mugs, two water bottles, a stack of five notebooks, the checkbook register, and a mass of loose leaf papers. Not to mention a dozen or so pens and pencils clattering around my laptop and probably four or five cat toys I can’t even see.

Paperwork, particularly on the law firm side of things, always backs up. Not that it’s so good on the writing side of things. I have a whole box of notebooks that need to be transcribed. A few of my novels are hand drafted in there, and they have no backups. Prince of the Waters Below, Phoenix Shattered, Why Am I On a Quest with a Minotaur, String of Pearls, and a couple others are hopefully in that bin. I’m not entirely certain.

Anyway I’d like to get the mountains under control. All the loose leaf paper is probably the highest priority, particularly given that my cats like skiing through the mounds of paper.

For Mercy’s Sake, Woman, Promote Something

I abhor promotions, and there’s really no good reason. They don’t have to be intrusive. They aren’t bad. But it’s easier for me to find excuses not to promote one of my stories than it is for me to find excuses not to run.

I am actually taking a couple courses that help with promotions and advertisings. And I just have to get over this hump. It’s utterly psychological, and even though I don’t feel like other authors who do this are horrible, some secret part of me must believe that I will become some greasy haired, mustachio twirling troll (and trust me, I don’t look particularly fetching in a mustache).Octopus Running Nope 2

So I figure I’ll tackle this the same way I tackled running and spiders. One little step at a time. Scream. Flail. One more step. Repeat.

Wrapping Up Projects

I thrive having multiple projects to work on. When I get stuck on one, I slide over to the next one. The one downside to this is that I have many projects open, and I would like to get some of them done.

Sometimes having multiple projects open like this makes me feel overwhelmed when combined with other situations. So…it’d be nice to wrap some of these up more.

Anyway, it’s going to be a great week. I have many more goals, but these are just some of the highlights. What about you? What are you looking forward to in this next week for you?

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.

The Thrilling Ride Continues

Life often seems like the world’s most terrifying rollercoaster ride. Sometimes when I look ahead, I cannot see how all of the moves will complete without severing limbs or chopping heads. Yet somehow, each time, all that must be done gets done.

Why Yes, Bluebeard, I’d Love To was completed on time. Those last 500 words (which ironically were scattered throughout to connect the scenes rather than in a single spot) were among the hardest, but after I got feedback on it, I wound up having to revise the ending almost entirely. But it became much stronger. Between my friend, Debbie, and my husband, James, I realized that the ending needed a stronger tie in with the beginning.

Having those trusted people whom you can rely on to give their honest opinion are invaluable. I am so grateful for them.

In the revision process, I realized that I have at least two other stories that will come from this. The first is what happens from Silas’s perspective with his djinn friend, Hupomone. The second is what happens when Hupomone intervenes and what happens to Peter after she finishes with him.

Until then though, I need to locate the final draft of Parnimo’s Prize. I wrote it in a notebook while in Reno, but I can’t find the notebook now. It’s somewhere. It has to be. Worst case scenario though, I’ll just rewrite it again. I’ve rewritten this ending almost twenty times. Only seven chapters. How many times can it be rewritten? Apparently at least twenty-one.

The time isn’t wasted though. Multiple rewrites used to frustrate me. Each one has value. And each draft gets saved. There are many ways to end this story, and I can’t use all the ideas. Playing with them to see which one works and which one has the best flow has been time consuming but invaluable. The ones I don’t use will get woven into another story. Or perhaps they’ll get their own spin off.

On the bright side though, I am nearly done with my Wattpad Block Party Summer Edition II. This will be my fourth party, and  my readers, once again, have given me insight into what they want. Diamond Dust also went live on Sun Kissed Romance today, and I can’t wait to wrap up that novel. It’s different writing a spy novel, but I’ve always wanted to, and I’m finding it delightful. Now, in addition to the other novels, I’ll need to find time to finish my fantasy story for the Sun Kissed Fantasy anthology.

Anyway, I hope to have an exciting announcement soon. We shall see. Have a beautiful day regardless!

#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.

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