ASMR Might Help With Your Depression or Anxiety, and It Can Probably Help You Sleep

ASMR Might Help With Your Depression or Anxiety, and It Can Probably Help You Sleep #what is ASMR #ASMR for depression #ASMR for sleep #best ASMR

I’ve written some in the past about my recovery from serious depression to excellent mental health. One thing that helped me a lot was discovering ASMR videos.

What is ASMR? The term is an acronym for a recently coined phrase, “autonomous sensory meridian response.” It describes a pleasant sensation of tingling in the scalp that often moves down the neck and the spine. (Personally, I sometimes experience it as the classic “brain tingles,” but most often as tingling warmth in my chest that sometimes travels all the way down to my toes.)

Auditory stimuli such as soft voices or whispers, tapping, or crinkling can trigger it, along with many other sounds. So can any situation that suggests close personal attention. Some visual cues and some tactile sensations, such as light touches or hair brushing, can also stimulate ASMR.

These triggers are very personal. I find videos in which an ASMR artist shines a beam of light at me super irritating, and to me, open-mouth gum chewing is revolting. Some people like those things, though.

 

 

It seems like some people experience ASMR, and some don’t. Frustratingly, there’s been almost no scientific study of the phenomenon. Is it increasing levels of a neurotransmitter, such as oxytocin or dopamine? Is it triggering a primal, latent response from infancy and early childhood that helps babies and children bond to their parents? (This is my own guess, and I have zero proof.)

I discovered ASMR videos on youtube a few years ago, and I soon figured out that it was a fast and powerful antidote to depression. I would experience depression as a physical feeling, and ASMR would flood it out. The two sensations weren’t compatible, and ASMR won. I’m not especially prone to anxiety, but I’ve heard people say it helps a lot with that, too. ASMR also helps me and millions of people get to sleep. The great thing about ASMR, of course, is that it doesn’t have side effects like many drugs do.

I’m not sure how ASMR videos seem to someone who doesn’t experience the physiological response. They might seem boring, weird, or even creepy. On the other hand, they might still work for relaxing and falling asleep.

If you’ve never given it a try before and you want to, here are a bunch of ASMR videos that I like! For all of these, you won’t really get the effect without headphones.

 

This first one is from Maria, probably the most popular ASMR artist on youtube, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the most watched ASMR video of all time.

 

This one was made way back in 2011! It’s one of the first ones I ever watched. Only nine minutes long, and very soothing.

 

I’ve never had an actual reiki session, but I love what Joanne’s done here. This one is great for putting me to sleep.

 

This is an maginative one with high production values and a high-tech feel. It’s a collaboration between Brainwave Hub and the very popular Olivia. This may sound weird, but Olivia has my favorite hand movements of any ASMR artists I’ve seen.

 

This one is part of a whole series based on taking a cruise.

 

Chelsea is one of my very favorites. She uses a lot of real whispering, and she does a lot of girly role plays (shoes, makeup, spa, jewelry), which I really like.

 

Dmitri has made about ten thousand videos. While I was getting the link for this one, he was in the middle of doing a Reddit AMA! I didn’t check it out because I was in the middle of blogging, but I hope it went well.

 

I usually use ASMR before bed, but this one is actually nice for the morning, since it’s about coffee.

 

Fred’s done several videos about AMSR immunity. Basically, some people who watch ASMR videos all the time lose the tingle sensation temporarily, and he’s trying to address that. This video has a bunch of triggers, so you might figure out what, if anything, works for you.

 

Ally is a real pro with imaginative role plays, like this memory erasure one inspired by the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

 

Emma just seems like the nicest person in the world.

 

 

Had you heard of ASMR before? Are you familiar with the “brain tingles” sensation? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments! And if you’re an ASMR aficionado, tell us about your favorite ASMR artists. Thanks for reading, and have a relaxing day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why So Many People Like the “Chosen One” Story

Why So Many People Like the "Chosen One" Story #fiction tropes #finding your life's purpose

The “Chosen One” trope refers to a plot in a novel, a movie, or a TV show in which some regular person finds out that s/he, and only s/he, can save the world or carry out some other grand task. Whether their role was foretold by ancient prophecy, determined by their bloodline, or what have you, s/he is destined to be the hero.

Several fantasy and science fiction editors in the past several years have specifically said that they do not want books with “Chosen One” narratives.

(An aside here: whenever editors walk away from beloved tropes, or even beloved genres such as “sword and sorcery fantasy,” I think it opens up a great opportunity for self-published authors.)

 

 

The “Chosen One” storyline goes way back. It’s all over in the Bible. “Hey Mary, guess what? You’re going to have the most important baby ever!” “Hey friend, guess who’s the new prophet? That’s right, it’s you.” King Arthur is the only one who pull the sword from the stone, because he’s destined to rule. Neo in The Matrix and Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer are other examples of the trope.

If you hate the storyline because it’s overdone, that’s totally understandable. Personally, I’m open to most plot lines, assuming they’re handled in a compelling way.

Whether you love the Chosen One trope or you can’t stand it, though, it’s been around and been popular for centuries. Stories don’t take hold of civilizations like that for no reason. So why have people liked it so much?

The easy and obvious answer is that it’s wish fulfillment. People feel ordinary and obscure, and they like to imagine a situation in which they have talents or intrinsic value that was overlooked before.

Wish fulfillment stories serve some good purposes. They can remind us of our desires and goals, and they can give us hope when we’re experiencing a shortage. But I think stories about Chosen Ones appeal to people for another reason as well.

They’re true.

Every person, no matter how ordinary, has a unique blend of talents and life experiences that nobody else has. There’s work they could do, art they could make, or ways they could help others that is perfectly suited for the individual they are. There’s no one, or okay, at least not very many people, that could do it as well as they could.

The fantasy of the Chosen One is really the fantasy of finding one’s individual purpose.

This is why I encourage people to focus on their strengths. If you only focus on improving your weaknesses, you’ll get better at things you’re bad at, though you’ll probably never be fantastic at them. But if you focus on your strengths, you’ll discover more and more what you were really meant to do.

As you go through this week, I hope you’ll think a lot about your talents and positive qualities — the ones you often take for granted. Whether it’s patience, a vivid imagination, a fascination with history, or the ability to perfectly accessorize, they may all be a part of your destiny.

 

Why So Many People Like the "Chosen One" Story #fiction tropes #finding your life's purpose

 

Do you have thoughts about the “chosen one” trope in stories, or about your real-life superpowers and your destiny? Please share them in the comments! Thanks so much for reading, and have a great week!

 

 

Turning It Up to 11: Breaking My Social Media Addiction in 2017

Turning It Up to 11: Breaking My Social Media Addiction #internet addiction #Facebook addiction

I started 2017 with 10 Resolutions. As of now — February 10 — 9 of them are on track, and I need to get going with the Spanish lessons.

I also started 2017 with a determination to make 2017 my Best Year Ever. And I really believe it can be… but one thing has got to change. I’ve got to break my social media addiction.

I am a gregarious person on social media. I participate in dozens of secret Facebook groups. I chat on Twitter. I encourage people, get into long philosophical discussions, and join in on long strings of jokes or idle chatter.

I can do it for hours a day. But those are hours a day that I need for other stuff. I also think it’s bad for my concentration when I’m working, reading, or writing.

I’ve known for years that it’s a problem. (Sheesh, breaking my internet addiction is on my list of 101 Life Goals. And by the way, no, I’m not going to break my addiction to list-making, ever.)

 

 

I’ve gone through periods where my social media addiction was less of a problem, and also periods of downright denial. From what I’ve heard, those experiences are common with lots of addictions.

Addictions always have their rewards, and that’s especially true of this one. I love feeling connected to people. I learn a lot from them. And honestly, I feel gratified when my comments are liked, responded to in a positive way, or retweeted. It’s probably a little dopamine rush for my brain, reinforcing the habit.

I really believe that breaking my social media addiction is the key to reaching my other goals and to making 2017 my Best Year Yet.

So how am I going to do it? This isn’t a case where I tell Facebook I’m taking a long break. (I’ve tried that before, and I keep peeking anyway.)

I’m going to keep track of my time on social media using the Eternity app. (Sometimes I use the Eternity app to track how much time I spend on everything, which I’m going to be doing for the rest of the month. It gives you pretty pie charts showing how your day was spent, and it’s enlightening, to say the least. This sample chart is from the app developer.)

 

Turning It Up to 11: Breaking My Social Media Addiction

 

I’m going to limit my social media time to 30 minutes a day. To some people, that might sound like a lot. To me, it’s nothing. But I think it will still be enough time to at least stay caught up with the hundreds of people I like and care about.

(Blogging doesn’t count toward that 30 minutes a day. I want to write 2 blog posts a week, and blogging is a concentrated effort, not a constant distraction taking over my life.)

So that’s my 11th resolution, the one that I think will make a profound difference in my life and possibly even in my brain chemistry.

Is it easy for you not to overdose on social media? Or does it wind up being a time suck for you, too? Have you had the experience of cutting back? Let me know in the comments! And thanks for spending some of your precious time reading my blog!

50 Great Details For the Setting Of Your Victorian Novel

50 Great Details For the Setting Of Your Victorian Novel #historical research #how to write setting

Creating a convincing setting in a story, or a sense of time and place, helps readers escape to a whole new dimension. There are a lot of articles out there with advice on how to research a historical novel, and different writers approach it differently. If you’re writing a Victorian novel, this is just one quick way to get inspired.

Victorian romances are popular, and it’s also a common setting for mystery novels. Victorian details can also help with many steampunk novels. My first published novel was set in Victorian England, and I remember how much time it took to think about and research small details.

I’m breaking this list down into images, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations. These details are focused on England and particularly on London, and to a lesser extent on the United States of America. Pin it for future inspiration!

 

50 Great Details For the Setting Of Your Victorian Novel #historical research #how to write setting

 

 

SIGHTS

Streets filled with pedestrians and carriages… Here’s what that looked like in several European cities late in the Victorian era.

In late Victorian London, the traffic could get pretty congested.

Bicycles… For much of the Victorian era, most bicycles had those huge front wheels. Women rarely rode them, because with their big skirts, it was too hard to mount and dismount. In the 1880s, they began manufacturing bicycles with equal size tires and adult-size tricycles, which women and children could easily ride. Bicycling became hugely popular before the turn of the century.

Soot… Everyone knows about the famous fog in Victorian London, but it might have been more accurately referred to as “smog.” In industrial cities, there was a lot of soot in the air from factory chimneys and coal-burning homes. In Bleak House, Charles Dickens wrote of “Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun…”

Whitened front steps… A maid in a nicer house would scrub and whiten the front steps every single morning.

Ladies’ fans… In a hot, crowded ballroom, you might see many of these waving back and forth. They were often made of silk, but sometimes made of paper, with hand-painted or printed scenes. Here’s an article about the secret language of fans.

Flies… In general, there were more flies indoors back then because they didn’t have good screens.

Rooms full of framed pictures… And other decorative objects. This wasn’t a time for minimalism.

 

Terrariums… These were first known as “Wardian cases,” named after a guy named Ward who came up with the idea, and they were pretty popular, especially for ferns. You can read a little more about them here.

Christmas trees… Christmas was not a big deal at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and a huge celebration by its close. Christmas trees were often put in a tub with sand or rocks to hold it up, and smaller ones could be attached to flat boards for display. I’ve seen lots of Victorian illustrations of smaller trees set on tabletops. Victorians decorated Christmas trees with gilded apples and walnuts, popcorn strings, dolls, paper cones filled with candy or almonds, and of course, lighted candles, which seems like a huge fire hazard.

 

50 Great Details For the Setting Of Your Victorian Novel #historical research #how to write setting

 

Scrapbooks… People used these to collect greeting cards and pictures, sometimes with a particular theme. Here’s a great gallery of Victorian scrapbooks.

Handbills… On Victorian city streets, people would hand out flyers advertising performances, restaurants, and sales. Sometimes they also invited people to political meetings, praised or condemned politicians or laws, or conveyed general announcements, such as news about a cholera outbreak or a wanted criminal on the loose. Putting “Victorian handbills” into Google images will pull up hundreds of examples.

 

 

 

Little dogs… Victorian ladies loved their lap dogs, and some of them took the little beasts everywhere they went. (I can relate, although my three little rescue terriers aren’t nearly as posh as fashionable Victorian pets were.) This article has a bunch of great portraits of Victorian women with their dogs.

Extravagant hats for ladies… These were a big deal. You can learn all about them throughout the decades here.

Top hats… These were popular for decades. Read more about them here. You can check out men’s 1840s fashion here, 1860s fashion here, and 1880s fashion here.

 

50 Great Details For the Setting Of Your Victorian Novel #historical research #how to write setting

 

Hair receivers… Many Victorian ladies had little porcelain containers on their dressers where they put the hair that collected on their hairbrush. They’d use the hair to stuff pincushions or to make a “ratt,” which sounds a lot like a early version of a Bumpit. I have to say this completely grosses me out. You can read more about hair receivers here.

Sentiment rings… These rings were gifts from men to women they loved. They had several gemstones, and the first letter of each spelled out a message. The most common message would be “regard,” with a ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, another ruby, and a diamond lined up.

Open caskets at home… Many funeral services in the home, with an open coffin so people could see the body. If the funeral was at a church, the casket would often be closed. You can read more about Victorian funeral customs here.

Flocks of sheep… Still a familiar sight in the countryside for many people, though I never see them in my part of the U.S. For details about a Victorian farm, this BBC show is a great resource.

 

 

SOUNDS

Street musicians… In London, musicians played all kinds of instruments on the street, including the accordion, the fiddle, the clarinet, the cello, the harp, the hurdy-gurdy, and the barrel organ. There were a lot of Italian street musicians in particular.

50 Great Details For the Setting Of Your Victorian Novel #historical research #how to write setting

 

Factory whistles… Telling people it was time to go to work.

McCutcheon’s Apple Products in Frederick, Maryland, got this steam whistle from an older steel mill. I’m not sure how old it is, but I think it’s probably similar to the sound of steam whistles used by Victorian era factories.

 

Church bells.

Household bells or gongs… In many houses, these would tell you it was time for a meal, or even time to dress for dinner. In David Copperfield, there’s a warning bell that that rings a half hour before the actual bell for breakfast.

Coaches… The rattling of coaches and carriages, along with horse hooves clopping on streets, was so loud in some cities that people had a hard time hearing sermons in church on Sunday mornings. Here’s the sound of a rattling stage coach. I’m not sure why this video and the next one are so long, but maybe it’s for people who want to fall asleep to it.

Steam locomotives… the railroad industry exploded during the Victorian era.

 

Crowing roosters… These would have likely woken you up in the country.

Street sellers… In a city, men, women, boys, and girls selling watercress, oranges, fish, fruits, vegetables, flowers, walnuts, newspapers, and all kinds of other things would shout or even sing about their wares. Tradespeople would do the same about the services they offered. You can read a little more about it here.

Sewing machines… By the late Victorian era, many households had these, allowing women to make and mend clothes more quickly. The early Singer machines sounded somewhat similar to modern ones.

 

 

SMELLS

Otto of roses… This expensive and popular perfume was made from the petals of rosa centifolia. You can read more about it and other Victorian perfumes here.

Excrement… The Thames in London smelled of human waste. Any city full of horses and carriages would have smelled of horse dung.

Fresh hay… A stable or barn would have also smelled of this.

Tallow candles… These were the cheapest candles, made from animal fat, and they didn’t smell great. Beeswax candles, which were more expensive, smelled better.

Tobacco smoke… Lots of Victorian men smoked pipes and cigars, particularly in gentlemen’s clubs. Sometimes after a dinner, the men would go in a different room from the women to smoke. Smoking around women or on the street, and reeking of smoke, were generally considered bad manners. You can read more about smoking in the Victorian era here.

Pears soap… This transparent soap was popular in 19th century England, and the formula of modern-day Pears is somewhat similar to the original. Hints of rosemary, thyme, and pine rosin were part of that formula until recently, and it had a delicate, spicy herbal scent.

Scented ink… A company called J. Herbin produced inks with rose, violet, and other scents in the late 19th century. There may have been other companies who did, too, but I’m not sure. You can still buy scented ink from them today (scroll down to take a look.) 

Vinegar… Victorians used vinegar for a lot of cleaning jobs: floors, after they’d been scrubbed with soapy water; brass and copper, which were cleaned with vinegar plus salt; and mirrors and windows (I use vinegar for these, too.)

 

TASTES

Mutton… Also known as sheep. We don’t eat it much at all in the United States today, but in the Victorian era, people ate it all the time.

Hot elder wine… People made this from elderberries, and the Regency period recipe I’ve seen calls for cloves, ginger, and plenty of sugar, among other things. Sometimes a dash of raspberry vinegar or other flavorings were added, so I imagine you’d have a sweet, slightly spicy, and slightly tart drink. Vendors on the streets sold this in cold weather, usually with a small piece of toasted bread that you could dunk in it.

Roasted (or baked) chestnuts… These were also popular with street vendors in the wintertime. Here’s a picture of a vendor.

Ice cream… I always think of ice cream as a modern treat, but it’s been around for centuries. Ice cream was a common thing to buy from a street vendor in the summertime. Here’s a picture!

 

 

Comfits… These are usually nuts or sometimes dried fruit, covered with a sugar shell (think of modern-day Jordan almonds.)

Corn pone… This was a specialty of the American South, made out of corn meal, milk or buttermilk, and eggs. Here’s an article about the difference between corn pone and cornbread.

Boiled calf’s head… Putting this on the table would disgust a lot of modern-day diners, but this was popular on both sides of the pond. I know that in the United States people cooked the whole head at least through the Depression era (and probably beyond), at least in rural areas.

Turtle soup, and mock turtle soup… Victorians ate so much turtle soup that they almost made turtles extinct, which is why mock turtle soup became a thing. Here are old recipes for both. From the accounts I’ve read, turtle is closer to beef than chicken in taste.  If you’ve got a fancy dinner scene, this is a good choice for a first course.

Roast goose… I’ve never understood the expression “Your goose is cooked!” That’s a bad thing? Victorians loved this at Christmas especially. Roast goose is fattier than roast chicken or roast turkey.

Deviled kidneys… These lambs’ kidneys were cooked in a sauce that might contain mustard, vinegar, sherry, brandy, spices, anchovy ketchup, and even tomato ketchup (though that was a rare ingredient back then). I’ve seen a lot of variation among original recipes. They were popular with toast for breakfast for upper-class and maybe some middle-class people. I’ve read the kidneys can smell a bit like urine, which doesn’t surprise me, and it sounds like this is less of a problem when they’re very fresh.

 

SENSATIONS

Washing up with cold water… A pitcher and a big bowl were often in bedrooms so people could wash their face in the morning. In the winter, though, this water might be pretty cold.

 

50 Great Details For the Setting Of Your Victorian Novel #historical research #how to write setting

 

Taking off a corset… Some people maintain that Victorian corsets were all tight-laced torture devices, and tell stories of organs being malformed and ribs surgically removed to create a tinier figure. Other people say these are exaggerations fed by vintage erotic fiction. Even if a corset wasn’t laced so tightly that a woman could barely breathe, it must have been a relief to take it off at the end of the day, just like it is for many women when they take off their bra in the evening. The corset might have left red marks in the skin, and a woman might be able to take deeper breaths without the corset.

Riding an omnibus… An omnibus was a large horse-drawn vehicle. Only men sat in the uncovered seats on top. An omnibus passenger was likely to be squished up against other people or poked with somebody’s umbrella or parasol. You can read more about them here.

Shaving with a straight razor… A man might have done this at home, or if he were middle class, he might have gone to the barber regularly. A rich man’s valet would often do this for him. You can read more about the sensations of a straight razor shave here.

Being hot on one side and cold on the other… Because that’s how stoves and fireplaces worked.

 

 

For more intensive research, I strongly recommend the following books: Inside the Victorian Home by Judith Flanders, Everyday Life in the 1800s by Marc McCutcheon, and Victorian London: The Tale of a City, 1840 – 1870, by Liza Picard. For a wonderful online resource, check out Lee Jackson’s victorianlondon.org (and tip him a pound if you use his huge site — I can’t imagine how long it took to put it all together! I made a donation because I used his site for this post.)

If there’s another setting you’d like me to do, or you have suggestions about Victorian settings in novels, please let me know in the comments! And if you aren’t doing so already, follow the blog so you don’t miss future posts like this — there’s a place to sign up on the lefthand side of the page. Happy writing!

 

WIP Wednesday — Share What YOU Are Up To!

WIP Wednesday -- Bryn Donovan, The Equinox Stone

Hey friends! Welcome or welcome back to WIP Wednesday, the first Wednesday of the month! This is where I share a snippet of a work in progress, and if you feel like it, you do the same. It’s okay if your work is raw, because what I post always is. We don’t do critiquing here, just sharing (though encouraging words on other people’s work are always welcome.)

Today I’m sharing the first few paragraphs of The Equinox Stone, the second book in my paranormal romance trilogy.

 

 

 

He was naked in the wilderness at night, shivering in the cold. How long had he been out here? He must’ve staggered away from some accident that had left him dazed… although that didn’t explain the lack of clothing. As he walked, he felt over the surface of his head and found no soreness or injury. As far as he could tell, he wasn’t hurt in any way, although he might literally freeze his dick off if he didn’t find help or shelter soon.

Rocks cut into the numbing soles of his feet. He could barely distinguish the ridges of the short mountains on the horizon from the sky. The wind kicked up and he hunched over, trying in vain to cover himself with his icy hands, utterly bereft of dignity. Maybe he should just curl up in a ball on the ground — but no, that could mean death. He kept moving, looking for a house, a road, something. If he’d had a phone, and if there were any kind of signal here, he could’ve called 911. He couldn’t think of the name of a friend. Loneliness and a deep sense of abandonment engulfed him like the darkness.

Light in the distance. Headlights. He broke out into a run, his heart thudding hard in his chest. “Hey!” His voice sounded strange to his ears, deeper and more growly than he’d expected. “Over here!”

The vehicle came straight at him, bumping over the rocky terrain. He stopped still in his tracks. It pulled up close enough that he took a step back, shielding his eyes from the blinding glare of the headlights. Two figures exited the black SUV, leaving the engine running. and one of the back car doors opened as they advanced.

Both men held guns. Shit.

 

WIP Wednesday -- Bryn Donovan, The Equinox Stone

 

I can’t wait to see what you’re up to! (I work full-time, so sometimes I don’t get a chance to look until after work, but sometimes I can check in at lunch. 🙂 ) And whether you feel like sharing this month or not, thanks for reading, and happy writing!

 

 

 

 

Fanatics and First Dates — January 2017 Recommended Reads!

January 2017 Recommended Reads #chick lit romance #most successful self-published novels #books about mormons #mormon pioneers

Hi, everyone! My reading choices are always eclectic, and that was definitely true this month. Here are three books I enjoyed!

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, by John Krakauer.

January 2017 Recommended Reads #books about Mormons

This is a meticulously researched book about Dan and Ron Lafferty’s murder of their sister-in-law and her baby daughter, and about the early Mormon church and contemporary fundamentalist Mormonism. It’s a book full of monsters, depicting men who used religion as an excuse for theft, fraud, beating women and children, raping women and children, incest, and butchering men, women, and children in cold blood (look up Mormon pioneers and the Mountain Meadows Massacre for more about this last one).

Even as it illustrates how charismatic people can be when they hold strong convictions, it’s a strong warning against extremism and fanaticism of all kinds. In many religions, as well as many ideological and political movements, lofty ideals have been used as an excuse to commit atrocities.

I’d recommend this to anyone who liked Going Clear, Lawrence Wright’s book about Scientology, and wants to read something about a hundred times more horrifying. It’s also a good choice for writers who want to create a well-rounded, motivated fanatical villain.

 

The Last Single Girl, Bria Quinlan

January 2017 Recommended Reads #chick lit books #sweet romance

A lot of this romance takes place in a charming coffee shop. Our heroine, Sarah, is meeting guys there for first dates, in hopes of finding one that would be suitable for a New Year’s Eve party. The romance is slow-brewing (couldn’t resist) and it’s narrated in the first person with warmth, wit, and sparkle. The dates were both realistic and hilarious. This definitely has that chick lit feel that I really miss sometimes. It’s a quick read and I breezed right through it. I definitely recommend this one for a feel-good break in a tough week. It’s the first in a series!

 

The Atlantis Gene, A.G. Riddle

January 2017 Recommended Reads #scifi thrillers #most popular self-published novels of all time

This was our book club pick, and I was really interested in it because Riddle is a mind-bogglingly successful self-published author. His self-published novels sold millions of copies and led to a huge deal with HarperCollins. This book is getting made into a movie, which doesn’t surprise me at all — like Andy Weir’s The Martian, it has a distinct cinematic vibe.

Mr. Donovan and I wound up buying both the print and the ebook version, and the ebook is really impressive from a self-publishing production standpoint — great interior design and full-color illustrations. It’s a scifi thriller with a huge scope, beginning with the discovery of a Nazi submarine in Antartica. The pace is frenetic, with short cliffhanger chapters and a plethora of point-of-view characters. I do think a little bit of character development may have been sacrificed for the sake of adrenaline, but thrillers are supposed to thrill, and I felt like the author was completely committed and uninhibited in telling a big, crazy story.

 

What have you been reading? What’s on your TBR pile? Let us know in the comments, if you feel like it. Thanks for stopping by!

11 Signs That You’re a Romance Writer

11 Signs That You're a Romance Writer #writer life

All writing genres have their own quirks, and the romance genre probably has more than most. I was thinking about things that a lot of romance writers have in common, and I thought it would be fun to share.

If you’re a romance writer, see if any of these sound familiar!

 

11 Signs That You're a Romance Writer #writing life

 

1. You point out that some things are not real romance.

No happy ending?

Cary Grant GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

2. Your vacation plans: RWA conference.

An organization called Romance Writers of America holds a national conference every year, and it’s a big deal.

 

 

 

3. You use a lot of acronyms.

“I’m almost done with this PNR WIP and I’m still not sure if it’s going to have a HEA or a HFN, and I need to figure it out before I go to RWA.”

 

4. You can’t stand inaccuracies in historical dramas.

Nobody wants to watch them with you, because you keep saying things like, “Oh my God, they did not wear dresses like that, and don’t even get me started on the hair.”

11 Signs You're a Romance Writer #writer problems #amwriting
Are you kidding me.

 

5. You don’t even care any more if people say romance novels aren’t “real books.”

The Comeback Hbo GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

You used to get mad, but you’ve heard it so often that now you’re immune.

 

6. You spend a lot of time thinking about whether your characters kiss too soon, or not soon enough.

Or about when they should say “I love you,” or consummate their relationship. Timing is a tricky thing.

 

 

7. You have a lot of saved pictures to help remind you that you should be writing.

 

11 Signs You're a Romance Writer #writer problems #amwriting   11 Signs You're a Romance Writer #writer problems #amwriting   11 Signs You're a Romance Writer #writer problems #amwriting

 

8. You would think nothing of having three or four pen names.

“I use Victoria Cresswell for historical romance, and I think I’m going to use Allie Hayes for young adult romance and Elara Nyx for my space opera romance trilogy.”

 

9. You’ve gotten at least one one-star review because your romance novel had sex scenes in it…

Or you’ve gotten a one-star review because your romance novel didn’t have sex scenes in it.

 

10. Some male models on covers are so familiar to you, they almost seem like friends.

 

11 Signs You're a Romance Writer #writer problems
Oh hi, Jason! Good to see you again.

 

11. You cheer on other romance writers… and you get advice from them, too.

Romance writers may be more supportive of one another than any other kind of writer. I think it’s one of the reasons the genre does so well. Most romance writers are happy to share their secrets to success.

 

If you’re a romance writer, what did I leave out? I bet you can think of a lot more! And if you work in another genre, what are some quirks that go along with that? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for stopping by!

How to Be Chill and Positive in Facebook Groups and Other Online Communities

Also I can be introverted “in real life,” online, I’m a social butterfly. I’ve been involved in many online communities over the years, and I’m in bunches of secret and private Facebook groups now. It’s a great way to connect to people in different corners of the world and people whose lives are very different than mine, as well as people who share my weird interests and passions. For this reason, I’ve seen a lot of drama, I’ve made bunches of mistakes, and I’ve learned from at least some of them. Here’s some of my advice!

 

1. When you first join a group, take time to understand the rules — written and unwritten.

Every online community develops its own traditions, in-jokes, and taboos over time. Take a week or two to comment on other people’s posts and get a feel for the group. That will help you avoid making a faux pas.

 

2. If you don’t like a post, ignoring it is usually the best policy.

Of course, there are exceptions. For the most part, though, railing against someone’s negative or offensive message just gives their message more importance. You see this play out in politics and other social spheres all the time.

In the case of Facebook groups, when you comment to say “I disagree!” or “How dare you?”, you are literally ensuring that the post gets bumped up and read by everyone. Comment on positive posts instead, so the negative one sinks to the bottom of the page.

 

 

 

3. Don’t get involved in every fight.

Every community has fights. You’re not required to weigh in on everything, and it’s often not worth it. Only get involved if it’s of vital importance to you.

In the middle of writing this post, something terrible went down in one of my online groups. I did feel like I had to speak up. But fighting on the internet often wouldn’t make me happy or help the communities. Even if someone takes issue with a post of mine, I avoid back-and-forth fighting most of the time. It’s easy to say, “Well, we just disagree on this one, and that’s okay.”

 

4. Be clear about when you’re being sarcastic or ironic.

Here’s an example of what can happen. Let’s say it’s a wedding planning group, and Amanda says, “I want royal blue and gold for my colors, but my mother thinks it’s tacky. Help!” Kayla says jokingly, “Oh my God, Amanda, royal blue and gold? What are you thinking?! Those are colors for losers! Hahaha.”

Now Kayla thinks she’s showing support. She thinks it’s obvious that she’s kidding. After all, how could anyone object to royal blue and gold?

Amanda reads the comment and thinks Kayla is trashing her wedding theme. She expresses her hurt in a reply. And since Kayla is at her job and not checking in, Amanda goes a whole day feeling terrible, and when Kayla realizes what’s happened, she feels terrible, too.

We don’t like writing “/sarcasm” or “(KIDDING! I agree with you!)” after a comment, because it does kill the joke a little. It’s more important to look out for other people’s feelings than to be hilarious, though. In a group where everyone knows each other very well, sometimes it’s not necessary, but usually, it is.

 

5. Don’t try to dictate what people talk about in general.

I will never understand why this happens, and it happens all the time. Someone writes a post to say, “You guys need to stop posting about politics, this is a knitting group!” — even though it’s been decided that the knitting group can talk about every topic under the sun. Or someone says, “I wish everyone would stop talking about the intimate details of their sex lives, because I think it’s gross.”

It’s absurd to try to control what a group of people, especially those you don’t know well or at all, will discuss. It will never work. “You guys suck” isn’t a particularly fun conversational topic, either. The best way to control the content of the group is to post things that interest you.

If people often say things that offend you or hurt your feelings, you can bring that up if you think it’s just thoughtless. It’s like this: “Hey, I get that you all like to make fun of the romance genre in this writing group, but it’s my genre, so do you think we could ease up on talking about that?” (This is a fictional example, pun intended. This hasn’t happened to me in a writing group.) But even if people are aware that they’re making you uncomfortable, they might not care, and there’s nothing you can do about that.

If no one else is interested in things you’re interested in, that’s not their fault, and if people repeatedly say things that upset or offend you, you’re not going to change them. You’re just in the wrong group. It happens! Go find one that suits you better. There are millions of them out there. Which brings me to my last thing…

 

6. Don’t flounce.

Quietly leaving a group is fine. I’ve done it a few times. Under some circumstances, leaving a group with a non-heated post of explanation is fine, too.

A flounce is when someone posts a self-righteous screed about how the group has failed to meet their expectations, how they’re all terrible, and so on. Why do people do this? I think in part it’s just venting anger, which is unlikely to make them really feel better.

Secretly, I think a person who flounces hopes that the group will say, “You know… they’re right! We need to change!” and beg him or her to stay. This never happens.

 

Do you have advice about Facebook groups or online communities, or would you just like to share some of your experiences? Let us know in the comments section! Thanks so much for reading!

 

Self-Publishing: Book Cover Design Mistakes to Watch Out For

Self-Publishing: Book Cover Design Mistakes to Watch Out For #bad book cover designs #how to design a book cover

One of the things I loved about self-publishing after being traditionally published was the fact that I had control over my own book cover design. I think a lot of indie authors enjoy that!

Although I have strong opinions about covers, I’m not a designer. I hired a professional to design my self-published book cover, and I’ll do that again in the future. Unless you have strong design skills, I think this is the way to go if you can afford it. (Here’s a breakdown of self-publishing costs, in case that’s helpful.)

Some writers have zero dollars in the budget for book cover design, and I’ve seen some covers created by authors who weren’t designers but who did a really good job. I also see writers fall into some common mistakes when they design a book cover, so I’m hoping this will help.

I’m not going to show real-life examples of bad book cover designs, because that would be mean. I did mock up a couple of fake bad examples, though!

Here are some common problems with indie book covers — and just to be clear, major book publishers also run with bad book cover designs now and again.

 

 

Self-Publishing: Book Cover Design Mistakes to Watch Out For #bad book cover designs #how to design a book cover

 

 

1. The type is too small.

 

Self-Publishing: Book Cover Design Mistakes to Watch Out For #bad book cover designs #how to design a book cover

 

This is the #1 problem I see with indie covers. Remember that most of your sales are going to go through Amazon, and shoppers will be scrolling past small thumbnails of books. If your title isn’t in large type, it’s not going to get noticed. Don’t be shy about your author name, either.

When I contracted the cover for my Master Lists for Writers book, I told the designer I wanted to be able to read the title from outer space. The cover really pops in a search of writing guides. You probably won’t do anything so extreme for your book, but you do want the title to show up.

 

2. There are two many layers of messages.

It’s fine to have one line that explains a book is part of a series. For instance, you could have:

 

ROLLING IN THE DEEP

A Mermaid Kingdom Novel

 

However, if you have more than one line explaining where it is in a series, like this:

 

A Mermaid Kingdom Novel

ROLLING IN THE DEEP

Book 1, the Golden Pearl Trilogy of Novellas

 

That’s probably too much going on.

There are a lot of extra phrases you can put on a book cover. A short quote from a reviewer, such as “Bryn Donovan is a master storyteller.” A tagline, like “She’s his worst enemy… and his only hope.” Don’t layer too many messages.

Make sure that taglines, quotes, and subtitles are small compared to your title and author name. Nothing else should compete with those two things. Advertising people call this “hierarchy of messaging.”

Don’t put a paragraph explaining what your book is about on the cover. That goes in the blurb, or on the back cover of a print version.

 

3. The fonts are gimmicky.

It’s totally understandable: a horror author finds a font made out of blood spatters, or someone writing a paranormal historical about Nikola Tesla discovers a font that looks like it’s made out of lightning, and they want to use it. Get a second opinion, at least. Novelty fonts can be difficult to read and can look amateurish.

 

 

4. The design doesn’t tell you what the genre is.

For instance, let’s say you have a thriller that looks like this:

 

Self-Publishing: Book Cover Design Mistakes to Watch Out For #bad book cover designs #how to design a book cover

 

The sunny wheat field image does not scream “thriller.” Even if the author puts this book in the thriller section, people are going to be confused.

Shoppers only take a couple of seconds to decide whether they’re interested in a book. You want the cover to say to them, “Hey, here’s one of those books that you like.”

As an example: soon, I’m going to be contracting a cover for a paranormal romance. There’s a good chance that it’s going to have a shirtless man as part of the cover design. This isn’t because I love covers with shirtless men — I don’t have strong feelings either way — but because it’s a quick way to let potential readers know that it’s a steamy romance (the title, The Phoenix Codex, will tip them off that it’s paranormal.)

 

 

5. There are too many images.

Again, because shoppers are scrolling through thumbnails, simpler is often better. For a novice designer, incorporating several images can also be tricky.

 

6. The artwork or photography is stolen.

Whatever you do, don’t just grab an image from a Google search and use it for your cover. This is theft. You could get sued for a lot of money, and it’s terrible behavior. I’m sure you wouldn’t do this! But I had to mention it for other people reading this post.

 

Do you have some advice on designing book covers, or about other things to avoid? Please share them in the comments! (Do not link to bad examples, however!) Thanks for reading, and happy writing!

Every Day Is New Year’s Day

Every Day is New Year's Day #how to stick to New Year's resolutions #motivational quotes #inspirational quotes #encouragement

When I was in high school, high school kids could go to dance clubs. You just got a stamp on your hand that told the bartender not to give you alcohol. Many nights, after I finished my evening shift at the library, my friends and I went to a place called Confetti’s. Every night of the year, they did a countdown at midnight and confetti came down while everyone yelled, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

I’ve written before about how much I love New Year’s and making resolutions. At New Year’s I make plans to make it the Best Year Ever.

 

 

 

I’m like most people. It’s mid-January, and not all of my resolutions are working out perfectly… yet. Icy weather ruined this month’s travel plans and hindered us from going out this past weekend. I’m tempted to to tell myself, “Bryn, you’ve gained two pounds in the past two weeks, and you’re spending way too much time on Facebook — just like every other year. You’re not changing.”

But I don’t do that, because I know that transformation takes time. When I plant seeds in the spring, for instance, I don’t go out the very next day, notice the absence of zinnia and sunflower blooms, and say, “This garden sucks!”

We rarely make progress at a perfectly steady pace toward anything. Setbacks are normal — big ones, small ones. It’s when I change my attitude toward setbacks, regarding them as minor obstacles I will overcome rather than final pronouncements of my character or my fate, that real change happens.

Every day is a fresh start. One of the cards from my Hallmark collection is about this:

 

Every Day is New Year's Day #how to stick to New Year's resolutions #motivational quotes #inspirational quotes #encouragement

 

Every single day is our chance to act like that ideal self we want to be. Regardless of what’s happening in the news — or even in our own lives, barring great tragedy — we can be that person, whoever s/he is. Diligent. Creative. Healthy. Active. Kind. Loving. A badass. Filled with fun and laughter and joie de vivre. A true original.

Imagine today is the day they begin filming your reality show. It’s not based on fake drama, but about how fantastic you are. Everyone’s going to watch it and tell each other how much they just love you and want to be more like you. The cameras are rolling, so ahead and start being that person. Go ahead and start living that way.

The hell with winter blues, and the hell with falling short. In terms of being the person you want to be, yesterday is  irrelevant. You create your self and your life right now, from where you are.