Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Writing Habits and Work-Life Balance


This week at the SFF Seven, we’re discussing work ethic and asking each other what we do to keep balanced and writing regularly?

Many of you already know I’m kind of a fiend for building a writing habit. That’s because, once I stopped resisting the idea and starting doing it – by writing every day at the same time every day – that habit carried me through all sorts of difficulties.

It still does.

For example, I’m on a plane as I type this, heading to WorldCon in Chicago. I was reading a novel (Lisa Klepas, Marrying Winterborne, highly recommend!) as the plane taxied and took off. Once we reached cruising altitude, I began to feel the prodding of habit. “Time to write!” it urges. So, I pulled out the laptop to write this blog post. Then I’ll turn to my draft of Shadow Wizard, which I need to get done.

Yes, I write every (weekday) morning. That’s how I can count on getting the book done.

Last week I visited family and there were many family goings on. There was some emotional stuff to deal with, aging parents and all that involves, and it threw me for the remainder of the week. I wasn’t productive. I was feeling stressed. I’d been knocked out of my routine by life, which is the way of life. It would be nice (in theory) if I lived in some hermitage or remote villa where all days flowed by as serene as my view of the Mediterranean Sea, but I don’t. I live in a beautiful place (no ocean) and my life is relatively even and peaceful, but I’m connected to people and life happens.

By the following Monday, I was able to slide back into my writing habit like a pair of comfortable yoga pants. Morning writing was waiting for me, restoring the necessary balance. It felt good. That’s the beauty of habit – it does all the hard work for you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Regularity and Writing

 Work Ethic: What Do I Do To Keep Myself Balanced and Writing Regularly?


I am a hardcore creature of habit. I get instantly pissy if the ritual of my day is disrupted. According to my astrology report, my Ruling House is the 6th House of Routine. Clearly, the Universe supports my dedication to Constancy. SSDD is such a profound part of my life that the rare instances of deviation send my dog into fits of anxiety. I am that committed to regularity.

Possibly to the point of detriment. 

Before this deviates too far into sounding like a fiber supplement commercial, I reluctantly confess the rut of being too regimented is real. Sadly, it shows up as epic Work Avoidance that shatters any hope of hitting milestones on schedule. Ironic, no? A person of routine not being able to stick to a schedule? Thus, it's imperative that I set aside time to be atypical. It's one part refilling the well of creativity and another part reconnecting to relationships that matter. For me, a day here or there isn't sufficient to achieve balance. I have to take a long break. Usually a month, sometimes two, of stepping fully away from writing. 

Yes, I schedule my breaks in big chunks because when I am playing in the creative morass, it is for months at a time. Thus, balance for me, cannot be achieved in hours or days. After all, I am a very delicate flower...

...full of fiber. 



Saturday, August 27, 2022

Many. Many Hobbies


People often ask me what I do when I’m not writing. The short answer is, a lot! I have a hundred-plus year old house to maintain, the Wonder Twins to feed, clothe, and educate, and a lovable rescue pup who wants all the attention. Oh, and I have a husband, but he’s self-sufficient these days. Mostly.

However, a life of only drudgery and writing would lead to drudgery in my writing, which is exactly what I try to avoid. For me, writing has always been a joy, and even though I earn an income from it I don’t ever want to see writing as work. Is that they best way to approach my writing business? Maybe not, but it’s worked for the past fifteen years.

Therefore, I have hobbies. Many, many hobbies. Some of them, like jewelry making, predate my writing career (although not my actual writing, since I’ve been recording my make believe adventures since grade school). Other hobbies are relatively new. For instance, last year’s birthday present to myself was a Cricut machine, and I haven’t looked back. Go ahead. Google all the things you can do with one of those babies.

Add to jewelry making and Cricut-ing all of my other diversions—baking, gardening, painting; you get the picture—and I have one packed hobby room. Okay, the art and craft supplies long ago escaped the confines of one room, and are in danger of creeping up to the second floor. But what does any of this have to do with writing?

Both everything, and nothing.

When I make a set of keychains, or a shadowbox, or a custom birthday card, those items don’t affect my stories one bit… Except that they do. Over the years I’ve learned that one of the best ways to recharge my brain for writing—some call this refilling the well—is to do something creative with my hands. Therefore, kneading dough, wire-wrapping baubles, and planting petunias all become part of my writing process. Although, I haven’t written any stories about baubles or petunias… yet.

Diving into a new non-writing project never fails to stimulate story ideas. A few years ago, I redid my raised vegetable beds, and came out of the project with a character whose father runs a farm-to-table restaurant, where all the vegetables are grown on their family’s ancestral land. A few months later I made dozens of custom holiday cards for my kids’ schools, and began writing a trilogy about the Scottish queen of winter. And after a month long trial and error bake fest, during which I tried to create the ultimate homemade brownie recipe, I realized that my stressed out, ghost hunting character probably relieves stress with chocolate. I know I do!

As you can see, these hobbies don’t just feed my soul. They feed my writing, by forcing me to be creative in a different, sometimes unconventional manner. I can’t wait to see which hobby I pick up next.

Jennifer Allis Provost writes books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies, too. She grew up in the wilds of Western Massachusetts and had read every book in the local library by age twelve. (It was a small library.) An early love of mythology and folklore led to her epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Parthalan, and her day job as a cubicle monkey helped shape her urban fantasy, Copper Girl. When she’s not writing about things that go bump in the night (and sometimes during the day) she’s working on her MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Get to know Jenn at

Jenn’s latest release, Oleander, is available here:

Friday, August 26, 2022

Just for the Fun of It

 Creativity is rarely sticks to a single track. Writing may be my major means of processing the world and my experiences of it, but once you start getting paid for a creative endeavor, it's vital to have other creative outlets. It's especially vital to have have creative outlets that have zero pressure on them. We all need space to for Beginner's Mind. We all need space to experiment and try things without any expectations around the outcome. It's necessary to do things where you've given yourself permission to do them simply because you enjoy them - even and especially if you do them badly. I think it's super important to do things where enjoyment and outcome are divorced from one another. Most of us who write started writing simply because we enjoyed it. We enjoyed the process of telling a story, even if the story we told was riddled with errors or lacked conflict or a character arc. We just wrote because it was fun.

Then one day, someone sat up and said, hey, I'll pay you for that story! Also, I want to pay you to write it again! Exactly like this one, only different! But I need  you to do it three days! GO!

The pressure to Get It Right (TM) is real and it's heavy. So yes. Having other creative places to go for rest and fun matter. When it comes to creative activity other than writing, I'm a bit of a dilettante.

Most of the time, I cook or bake. This morning, it was a thrown-together, totally made up vegan buckwheat pancake batter. Hit out of the park, too. Usually, preference is given to recipes I haven't tried before, and I like the complicated ones with a reasonable chance of failure. Yeah, I don't know why. I like the experimental nature of it, I guess. I like going into the process knowing there's a chance it will be inedible at the end - or I'm going to end up with something tasty. Either way, it weirdly takes a lot of pressure off. I cop to having a tic about NEW. I crave new. Given a choice between something I've done or eaten before and something new, I will almost always go with the new thing just for the dopamine hit of new experience.

I'm not entirely sure this is a creative pursuit, but I garden. I like painting with flowers and getting my

hands in the dirt. I'm trying to build something aesthetically pleasing (to me) and that feeds to pollinators. Failure is definitely a thing here because Florida's planting and growing season is reversed from just about every place else in the US. Summer is when everything dies. Or rots because of the combination of heat and humidity. I'm still learning the vagaries. But at the moment, the front yard looks pretty good. 

I paint. Pictures. Rooms. Rescued furniture. Unicorn Spit is my friend. Yes, it's a paint brand. I'm also fond of Dixie Belle paints. Also let me note that while I'm pretty darned good at painting a room, all other painting is done poorly. There's a reason I only rehab rescued furniture. I need cheap canvases so I can try things and make mistakes and learn without destroying something that cost actual money. I've tried paint pours and while I love the results, it's expensive from a paint standpoint. It's a resource intensive method and I'm not to the point where I can justify that kind of outgo for experiments and learning curve.

On low spoon days, I might take pictures. They won't be anything special usually and if they are something special it's a complete accident. Yes, I look for perspectives and shots that intrigue me, but I utterly lack the gene that could make me care about F-stops and Apertures.

When I need something more active, I dance. Badly. But the point of dancing isn't to be good. Or beautiful. It's not ballet. Modern, maybe. Anything I feel like, definitely. It's good therapy. I find it particularly useful for handling anger. It's cleansing in a way other activities might not always be. I have to be in a spiteful mental space for dance though, because I have to not care at all what anyone else thinks or says. And I have to not care that my music might not be to everyone's taste. There are days that the Too bad, so sad energy is a nice, healthy reset. (I mean, obviously not when someone is ill or trying to sleep - this is why the gods created noise cancelling headphones.)

All of these creative pursuits feed my main creative drive to write. They keep me from going too crazy when writing isn't going the way I want. Occasionally, I'll be in the middle of one of them and unbidden, some story tidbit will poke its head up and volunteer a story snippet. But whether that happens or not, each of these activities are worth spending time on in their own right. Just don't ask me to sew. I really, really suck at that.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Making Things Grow

Alexia, wearing a pink and cream sundress, standing in the middle of a blooming garden with a large, green watermelon in her arms and her black and white Siberian husky at her feet looking up at her

Jeffe had a great post yesterday, check it out. She talked about the need to have a creative outlet not connected to the job of writing—and I completely agree with that! 

Writing started out as my creative outlet, but when it morphed into a job I began gardening. 

In a way, gardening is a lot like writing. I love starting plants from seeds. Itty bitty ones, curvy pods, large seeds, sharp seeds, and everything in between! Much like the first story idea transforms into a full grown novel, the seeds look nothing like the plants they make. 

a yellow petaled okra flower surrounded by burgundy leaves
Gardening has become quite the obsession actually. I pour over seed catalogues and want to try all of the new varieties and plants I see. I’ll never have enough plants and am happily noting what I like and what I’ll pass on growing again…at least for now. And as I’m gardening, hands deep in the soil, my brain meanders and explores new worlds. I can’t tell you how many plot hole epiphanies I’ve had in the middle of my garden! 

So when I can’t make words, I go check on my plants. When my brain is fried from stringing together too many words, I watch the bees buzz around my flowers. And when an idea strikes me, I reach into my garden bag and grab my notebook. 

A match made in heaven. 

What do you make when you’re not making words?

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Preventing Burnout with Non-Monetized Creativity

 If you missed it, SHADOW WIZARD is now available for preorder! It releases September 29, 2022. This is Book One in my new trilogy, Renegades of Magic, and continues the story begun in the Bonds of Magic trilogy. Preorder links below!

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven involves our non-writing hobbies.
In various discussions around burn-out and sustainably productive writing habits, I've discovered that many professional authors (as in, getting paid to do it) have another creative outlet that is non-monetized. Ted Kooser, a U.S. Poet Laureate (1004-1006), told me that he painted as a hobby. His paintings were apparently glorious and much-sought, but he'd made the decision to only give them away. It was important to him to have a creative outlet that wasn't connected to money. This was a startling thought to me at the time, and one I've come back to often. 
Other authors I've talked with in various scenarios have also discovered that approach: that having a non-monetized creative outlet not only refills the well, but prevents burnout (or allows a creator to recover from it).
What happens to many of us - and I'm speaking of authors, but I imagine it happens with all creatives - is that we begin with writing as the hobby. It's the passion, the special something that we do because we LOVE it. Eventually, with persistence, hard work, and luck, we make that hobby into the profession. Then it's no longer the alternative to the day job and other responsibilities. It's become work.
Which, let me be clear, is good and natural. I'm a big believer in treating writing like my job. That's how I support myself and my family.
Still, to manage the creative self, I've found I need other outlets to refill the well and take the place of that other, special, and relaxing Thing. Keeping it non-monetized is the challenge. Especially since the pandemic began, I think we've all become adept at casting about for side-gigs. In fact, the gig-culture was going strong before that. It's tempting to take that successful hobby - I imagine Ted Kooser's friends admiring a painting, offering money for it, and him turning it down with a slight smile and shake of his head - and begin to dream of taking that art viral and making an avalanche of comforting money from it. 
I sometimes think there's a certain magic in refusing that temptation, in enjoying creativity for its own sake. 
And magic is precious.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The Hobby of Mess Making

 The Hobby: What Do I Make When Not Making Words?

Messes. Lots of messes. Usually in a quest to reorganize All The Things. I will go through short-lived frenzies of purging the basura accumulated with crafting or upcycling intentions but zero executions (both my own intentions and the intentions of previous generations). Now and again, I'll repaint rooms and refresh furnishings as part of clearing the clutter. 

Why would I make messes (then clean them up)? Satisfaction. Visual satisfaction. Writing is such a long process with a small 5"x8" end result that sometimes the excitement of releasing the book isn't as WHEEEE as the soul needs it to be. Lightening my physical presence in the world is calming. I'm past the life stage of accumulation and am ruefully paying consequences in the minimizing phase. I must say, I was excellent at accumulating stuff. Damnit. So, I've got plenty of soul-lifting opportunities whenever I'm not writing. 

Ignores sounds of eldritch spawning coming from the basement.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Creative Outlets


Happy Sunday, all! Today's topic on the SFF Seven is The Hobby: What do you make when you aren't making words?

In all honesty, there hasn't been much time lately for my creativity to flourish anywhere but with writing. However, I have quite a few creative outlets, and I dip into them when I'm not writing. It's just that writing is all I've done this year *insert OMG face.* 

I've never met a house I couldn't decorate, or a used piece of furniture or artwork I couldn't refinish or repurpose. I've made a lot of things by hand, everything from clothes to fancy shower curtains to bedspreads to lampshades to headboards. I'm not too shabby with a power tool either. 

This winter, I'm determined to take a break and do some home decorating. I have a couple pieces of furniture I want to paint and try some gold leafing on, and I need to finish my office design and redecorate a hall bath. Maybe I'll share pictures here when I'm done.

I also love to cook, and I toy with photography. Cooking sprees seem to be most prominent when I have writer's block. Photography is more of a relaxing hobby than anything. I get very focused on the framing within the lens, and then I love the editing process too. Some of my photographs are hanging in my home, and I've taken headshots, engagement pictures, and graduation pics for several people. It's a lot of fun, and something I wish I had more time to work on.

How about you? What are some of your hobbies?

Saturday, August 20, 2022

What hill will you die on, even if your copy editor insists otherwise?


If I have one weakness as a reader, and as a writer, it is the mystery, the rollercoaster, the silent scourge of the. . .




Editors would much rather we not overuse this literary device, and I believe I know why.


Consider what, exactly, is an ellipsis in formal understanding. states, “the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues.”

I disagree, in particular, with the latter half of the statement: “. . . superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues.”


To me those three dots in between one word and another represent . . . universes. An abyss of unspoken thought, reserved emotion, joyous and painful history both known and unknown between two characters embarking in the muddy waters of a conversation in which such pauses are necessary, demanded even. Because there are simply some things that cannot, and should not, be put into beggared words. Some emotions, history and experiences eclipse the containment of spoken speech.


Context is quite often in the eye of the beholder—how do a mortal girl and an immortal demi-god share context? How does Hades elucidate his ancient pain to a young Persephone? He cannot . . . not in its entirety. Understanding the whole of his life and circumstances that led to a particular point are beyond her, except in the abstract. That abstract is the ellipsis. In the forced pause where she must set aside the immediacy of her thoughts and biases and . . . what? Consider what she does not know.


All of the above renders the term “superfluous,” well . . . superfluous. Nothing which is too big for words is unnecessary. Rather, it is the antithesis of unnecessary.


As a reader and writer of fantasy romance, I find ellipsis especially necessary when a character has neither the time nor the words to express a complicated concept, or they refuse to expose themselves to the weakness of doing so. As a writer, I utilize that trio of dots to hone the reader’s focus on the possibility that there is subtext and context on which I would like them to pause, close the book for a moment, and unravel.


What is your dragon Lord or your God of the Underworld avoiding? Why? What is their hidden agenda? The story would be ruined, robbed of wonder, if we put every thought and feeling into ink and pixels. If we leave nothing for imagination, we deprive the reader and characters of the journey of discovery.


As a reader, I particularly love these opportunities to close my eyes and delve into the inner workings of what a brooding Fae lord, or an immortal wizard, or a fractured heroine may be thinking or feeling. What they are admitting, and why. They point to the consequences should they put into inadequate words the whole of their hopes, their intentions, their scheming.


No . . . by denying the reader an ellipsis, we deprive them of the joy of deep reading. The joy of interpretation, of discovery. The joy of embarking on a journey in tandem with the author and characters in which the story the reader is imbibing comes alive in their head with nuance particular to them. Because, after all, no reader reads the same story like another. And in those three tiny universes are where stories morph into . . . epics.


That being said, I do have a rule. In drafting, I allow myself as many ellipses as I want. When I reread my story, I begin a new conversation with my characters. Is this ellipsis a time to hold back, or is it a time for plain speech? Will closing the gap of understanding sacrifice the communication (because some things need to be left unsaid) or is there greater benefit in showing one's verbal cards? Should you continue to veil your pain, or unleash it?


However, I err on the side of letting ellipses rein. Of allowing imagination to hold sway rather than boxing stories into claustrophobic cubes of singular understanding.

Emma Alysin is a 40 mumble mumble bi-racial American Muslim mom of five who writes SFR, PNR & Fantasy Romance.
Her dragons, fae, and bears will most interest readers who like their alphas strong, protective, and smokin’ hot; their heroines feisty, brainy, too grown to give a *uck, and over the age of 30.
Her stories feature men and women of diverse backgrounds.

Friday, August 19, 2022

My Hill to Die On

Were I to choose a hill to die upon, it would be something like this neolithic stone circle atop a green, grassy hill with a likely burial mound in the middle of it. 

However. If we're talking about copy edits. Well. I'm kind of a pain in the grass. 

Like Jeffe, I've had run ins with copy editors who've never met a metaphor they've liked. Most of the time, I can look at the suggested changes, raise my eye brows, snort and say, "You can fuck right off" to my inanimate computer screen at the same time I'm typing "Stet." 99.5% of the time, my copy editors save my backside - one caught an eye color change on a hero that both my editor and I had missed. So copy editors get big benefits of lots of doubts from me. And even if I disagree with copy edit, for most things, it just doesn't matter and I accept the change.

Where it does matter is when a copy editor harps on and on and on (usually about a metaphor, occasionally a genre trope) in a way that would change the voice of the story, the character, or me, then I get cranky. Really, really cranky. Cranky to the point that I once went to my editor and asked if I could never have that copy editor again. I felt like I was being childish or, worse, a diva. But she just laughed and said, "Absolutely. You aren't the first author to mention it. It won't be a problem going forward." That was a relief.

The only problem I have - and this is 100% a me thing - I'm stuck on subbing each other (3+ people) for one another (2 people). I just don't like the way one another sounds. I do like the way each other sounds. It's something I should probably get over. Probably. Mainly because I'm not sure it's really worth being on a hill for. Much less dying on that hill for.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Fighting the Good Fight for the Metaphor of It All

The Covenant is complete! Book 3 in A Covenant of Thorns, ROGUE'S PARADISE, is now out in the wild, walking its wild ways. Thanks to all for supporting this re-release of my very first dark fantasy romance trilogy. It's beyond wonderful to see these books finding a new audience after all these years. 

This week at the SFF Seven, we're talking about copyeditors and the arguments we have with them. We all have grammatical hills we'll die on - wisely or not - and we want to know what yours is! On what point will you refuse to give way, regardless of how the copyeditor might argue?

(I feel I should note at this point that the author/editor/copyeditor relationship is a symbiotic one. Even in traditional publishing - all rumor to the contrary of authors being "forced" to do x, y, z - seldom will anyone INSIST on a change. Almost always the author has final say, because it is their book, and they also bear final responsibility. It's in the contract. If an author commits slander or other blunders, the ultimate responsibility - financial, legal, and moral - rests with them.)

I, like most authors, have a love/hate relationship with copyeditors. On the one hand, they catch potentially horrifying errors. In fact, in the book above, the copyeditor corrected a character "peeing at her face" to "peering at her face" - something my editor and I had both missed and were hysterically relieved to have fixed.

We love them. We need them. As with all love/hate relationships, copyeditors drive us crazy. 

I won't fight about commas, as a rule. I really even don't care about the Oxford comma. I know people like to make jokes showing how important that Oxford comma is, but in most cases the context makes it clear. I don't get why copyeditors hate m-dashes so much, but I'll concede in many cases. I personally find semi-colons archaic and not all that useful, but whatever. 

You know what gets me, what I'll really fight for? 

Metaphorical language.

That's what kills me (yes, LITERALLY KILLS ME) about many copyeditors is that they can be so freaking literal. Some examples.

"His eyes can't really crawl over her. Imagine eyeballs rolling over her. Gross."

"Can a cloud really look sad?"

"I don't think this is a word."

I could go on. The thing is, as writers, we're often expanding the use of language. Dictionary definitions often include citations of first usage of a "new" word or expression. That's because language is our medium and we are the ones shaping it. Copyeditors are on the side of enforcing the status quo. So a writer ends up walking the line between bending to the regulatory insistence of correctness as the rules currently stand and being the iconoclast who breaks those rules to open up new worlds.

Guess which side I'm on?

Yeah, copyeditors hate me right back. 

But, I believe this push-pull is a part of our jobs, on both sides. We all want to produce the best book possible. We all love language and what it can do. I will say, however, to all the writers out there: believe in yourself and defend your words, because you are the fount of change. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Hill of Pedantry vs Copy Edits

This Week's Topic:
What hill will I die on, even if my copy editor insists otherwise?

On what hill will I perish for pedantry? 

The Oxford Comma.
Use it. Love it. Never relinquish it. No excuses.

In all fairness, my current copy editor is #TeamOxford too. When I worked in online publishing--where character count is king--the copy editors were not on this team. Ack. Wince. Grargh.

I love, love, love the copy editor I have now. She is worth every penny. 99.6% of the time I don't argue with her. It's "Accept Changes" all the way down the manuscript. I even surrendered to the idiom over the nominative use of "to be." (e.g. idiom = It's me. Grammatically correct = It is I.) She knows my style, works within it, and never tries to change my voice for the sake of AP or Chicago. Usually, if I ignore one of her edits it's because I've co-opted a "real" word for a fantastical definition. 

We won't discuss the gray hairs I've given her over my Use of Capping All The Things.

Or my love of ellipses.

Or my abuse of hyphens.

One day, I'll win the "keeping semicolons in dialogue" disagreement, though.  

Once I muster the courage. 😅

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Book Club Author Chat with Charissa Weaks

Hey all! I will be chatting with Liz @LittleBoneLibrary and Emily @EmilyintheArchives on Tuesday at 5pm EST | 7pm CST | 8pm EST. This chat is via Zoom, so Zoom links will be sent by the hosts on Tuesday. I would love to chat with you about my books, writing, and author life in general!

To register, just fill out this form. You can even submit your questions via the form.

I hope to see you there!!

Happy Reading,



Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Drive to Develop a Writing Practice

Look for the cover reveal for SHADOW WIZARD, book one in Renegades of Magic, the new trilogy continuing the Bonds of Magic epic tale! I'm getting the preorders set up today and plan to do the cover reveal on Instagram tomorrow, August 11, 2022. Members of my private Facebook group, Jeffe's Closet, may get a sneak peek ;-)

This week at the SFF Seven, we're asking: how has your writing practice changed over time?

It's interesting because the topic-suggester framed it as "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" - my college French demanded I get the saying correct - which is a French saying that acknowledges that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In other words, that surface details may alter over time, but the essence of the thing, the recognizable cycle of events, is fundamentally inalterable. Often it's applied to history. So this suggests that our writing practice may change over time, but it also stays the same. Is this this case?

I'm saying no, at least for me. My writing practice has changed considerably since my newbie days. I was reflecting recently that, as a teen and young woman, I didn't really know how to apply myself to improving at a task. This largely came from the fact that, in school all the way through high school, I could get by without really trying. I had a good auditory and visual memory, and I tested well, so I didn't need to work hard to get A's. (Except in math, which I thought I wasn't good at, even though they put me in accelerated math classes. Turns out I likely wasn't good at it because I didn't like math, so I didn't listen in class. Oops.) In college and grad school, a number of professors began riding me to apply myself, to study and do the practice problems. I kind of tried to - especially when I had to retake Immunology for my biology major and really didn't want to have to retake second semester of organic chemistry - but there was a major problem: I didn't know how to study.

I remember thinking I needed to learn how to study, but I was mostly flailing about. It was only when I had novel deadlines to meet that I got very good at refining my ability to work in concentrated ways, incrementally, day after day. I don't often think of messages I'd like to give to my younger self, but I now wish I could advise that college student, that graduate student, to develop the habit of working for a couple of hours every morning. This is my best brain time. If I had done that in school, if I had spent just that much time working practice problems and reviewing the material, I likely would have done much better.

Of course, then I might have ended up as a research scientist after all, when I'm so happy as a novelist. Maybe it took working on something I truly cared about to inspire me to develop the practice to do it. Que sera, sera!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Ever-Evolving Process of Writing

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose:
How has my writing practice changed over time?

For those who aren't French speakers (like me), Merriam-Webster defines the translation as The more things change, the more they stay the same. It's a quote attributed to French novelist Karr. Now that I'm momentarily smart(er), I'll tell you what has changed in my writing process over the last two decades.

I plot. Not too deeply. Skeleton. Too much info winds up killing my joy of exploration as the story unfolds. Also, I plot to make sure I have one strong throughline, a general sense of character dev, and the foundation of world rules. More than that, and I'm wasting time on things that won't make it into the draft because the fullness of storytelling inevitably reveals surprises and twists that obliterate the details in an overplotted outline.

I've discovered I have a particular style in which--if a new chapter occurs in a setting different from the last chapter--I will open the chapter by setting the stage. I can't mentally progress with the scene if I don't have the staging clear in my head, thus clearly described on the page. To me, establishing the sensory experience for the reader is important for them to continue the journey with the POV character. It's by no means a "rule" of writing. It's purely my personal quirk. If I don't do it, I will stare at a blank page wondering why the hell the words won't flow. 

I've also learned that when I suffer Work Avoidance it's because I've fucked up something in a recent chapter that's preventing the story from continuing as it should. Events may fit within the scope of the plot but something, something, is amiss. It could be the way the Protag approaches the issue is wrong for the character--it fails to consider trauma, personality, or relationships. Or it could be that I've gone overboard with the conflict and left myself no room for escalation of risk later in the book. Or it could be that actions and consequences aren't suitably balanced. I have to return to the last two or three chapters I've written to find the glitch and repair it so I can get back on the train to Donesville. 

Most of all, I've learned not to fight my process. It is what it is...and it is continually evolving.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Listen! You Smell Something? A Sensory Exercise


While “Listen! You smell something?” is a brilliant comedic line in the 1984 film Ghostbusters, it also hits a home run in the way lines like that engage our brain. Confusion is king. I’ll talk about that at the end. 

Engaging all five senses is a powerful tool in writing, but today I’ll talk about the benefits of using them to calm anxiety.

Writers? Anxious? Nah . . .

Let’s start with 5-5-5 breath. Pick a spot ahead of you, ideally just above your comfortable line of sight but no neck craning, just slightly above straight ahead. Focus on that spot. Breathe in for five, hold for five, exhale for five. Repeat until your body is calm and relaxed. Then return to normal relaxed breathing for this next section. 

Keep looking ahead and use your senses to pick out:

5 things you see (either in your mind or peripheral vision)

4 things you feel (your feet on the ground, pillow underneath your head)

3 things you hear (electronics, or maybe just ringing in your ears)

2 things you smell (hmm, what did the cat just do?)

1 thing you taste (thinking of a taste may be simpler)

It may be more comfortable to close your eyes after you’ve picked out things you see. That’s perfectly fine. It can help you tune in more to the other senses.

Warning, you may doze off before you finish. Still, if you don’t, those heart palpitations caused by your nerves will have stopped by the time you get to the end.


If not, try 7-11 breathing to start. In for seven, out for eleven. It’s another terrific breathing technique that calms the body. 

Once you’ve found yourself in that super relaxed state, allow yourself to stay there a while. Make note of what else you’re sensing. Tune into your body and your surroundings. 

When you are ready to come out, simply wiggle your fingers or toes to bring your body back to a more conscious state. Get up, stretch if it feels good and move on with your day. 

Try that any time you feel anxious or simply want to tune into yourself and relax. What you come away with may surprise you.

You can also use a modified version of the above to do self-hypnosis. 

First, set an intention. What are you asking of your subconscious mind? Are you re-programming your mind to overcome a bad habit? A feeling? Pain? Our minds are powerful, you’d be amazed what you can accomplish. 

Set that intention and then a time frame. Tell yourself to come out of it in, say 15 minutes, or whatever works for you. 

Instead of 5-4-3-2-1 with the sense we’ll focus on three of them.

3 things you can see

3 things you can hear

3 things you can feel

Next repeat with 2 of each and then one of each. If more is needed, then repeat, this time from the bottom up--all the while focusing on that spot in front of you. Your eyes should feel tired. Do it until your eyelids just can’t stay open any longer. Then relax and enjoy the trance while your unconscious mind makes all the necessary changes.

Can you make lasting change in one session? Yes. 

Does it often take multiple sessions? Also yes.

Each one of us is different, so there is no “perfect” way. 

Whether self hypnosis or a simple few moments to calm an anxious mind, both techniques will help shift your mindset and leave you in a better frame of mind.

So what about the confusion I mentioned earlier? 

Confusion stops someone in their tracks. The downward spiral is interrupted. My hypnosis instructor told a story of confusing a client by pretending to smell his own watch every time she started her downward self-loathing spiral. She’d stop, ask him what he was doing. It would start a conversation that redirected her thinking. 

So, say you feel okay but you’re dealing with someone who is on edge, obsessing about something and heading into a spiral. Try “Listen! You smell that?” and see what happens. 

If they don’t laugh, they’ll still stop the downward spiral with a “What?” which may be enough to get them to stop.

You’re welcome.

Vee R. Paxton, your friendly neighborhood paranormal romance author and certified hypnotist.

Vee R. Paxton is a transplanted Midwesterner living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Portland and New York City are her two favorite places she's lived (although she loves her hometown in Missouri too!) 
She's passionate about storytelling and reading amazing stories. She's guardian to a sweet Bengal kitty cat, she worked in NYC theater, taught martial arts and also is trained in Reiki and hypnosis.

Friday, August 5, 2022

All Systems Go

 I'm wicked late to the game this week. It's been a week. Layoffs at work. Drama. DRAMA. But I can finally breathe again. And I came here simply to tell you that I managed to catch a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral yesterday. I geeked all the way out. Maybe you can hear it in my voice in this video: 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

A Process to Everything


Green stalks of salmon-pink hollyhocks stretching up to a blue sky with sun shining through the blossoms

There is so much, and at the same time, so little on my mind. 

Today I sat in my garden and watched the sunshine peek through my hollyhocks. I planted these stalks from seed. Watered them. Weeded around them. Dreamt of how lovely the blossoms would be. And, at long last, admire them. 

But one thing I didn’t plan for was the variety of life buzzing around the flowers. There are more types of bees in this flower bed than I knew existed! There are hoverflies and butterflies, beetles and moths, fliers and crawlers I can’t name. It’s amazing!

And all of that is like writing a book.

It starts off by cultivating an idea. Then you weed out the bad details so the good stuff has room to spread. You dream about the plot and characters. And then you type The End. But the real magic happens after that when your book is out in the world, surrounded by life, interacting with life. And it’s amazing.

Happy daydreaming, friends!

What’s on your mind this week?

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

LONEN'S WAR Now in Audio!

 On my mind this week is the audiobook release of LONEN'S WAR

A little while back, I sold the audio rights for this self-published series, Sorcerous Moons, to Scribd. Megan Frampton is my editor there and she's been great to work with. Many thanks to Agent Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency for negotiating the deal. I feel like I should give Sarah a special shout-out because it's really great to have an agent who supports the indie side of my career, too. She invested a lot of time and energy into getting me the best possible contract with Scribd. Another plus: Scribd gave me a free subscription for a year! This is pretty amazing since other audiobook publishers of my books have refused to provide me with copies of my audiobooks. If I want to listen to my own freaking book on audio, I have to buy it. 


Not so with Scribd! I've been super pleased with the process of working with them. There was a SNAFU in the original recording and they fixed it by re-recording the first three books. It set the production schedule back but they did it without complaint and I was impressed by their professionalism. 

The ensuing five books will be out on the following (tentative) schedule:

#2 ORIA'S GAMBIT August 16
#3 THE TIDES OF BARA September 13
#4 THE FORESTS OF DRU September 27
#6 LONEN'S REIGN October 25

Also, LONEN'S WAR is now wide and should be available on all retailer platforms. Print is coming any day now and just wait to see how super cool the set is together with the new covers! 
Very exciting to see this rejuvenation of my first entirely self-pubbed series. 

In other news...

Look for the cover reveal and preorder link for SHADOW WIZARD, Book #1 in Renegades of Magic, the trilogy that picks up after  Bonds of Magic! Look for SHADOW WIZARD coming September 29, 20222! Here's a sneak peek of the cover:

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Dear WiP: I Don't Love You Anymore

On My Mind This Week: Falling Out of Love w/ the WiP

I'm breaking up with my WiP. Tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that. Soon, for sure. You see, I don't love it anymore. Our interactions are contentious. We spend a lot of time glaring and snarling at each other. Words written are words erased. Progress is ephemeral. We're not gaining anything from this relationship. When we started this adventure, we had shared goals, attainable milestones, and bright dreams of success. Now, key dates have flown past in silent swiftness as we endure another day of each other's presence. Outlines have burned to ashes, their mocking laughter drowned out by our mutual derision. I've given you space to work out your issues, yet you insist the fault is solely mine. 

I can't continue like this. 

We're breaking up.

Once we finish this chapter.

We're through after this.

Or maybe the next one. 

I mean it. 

Just one more chapter.

No, really.