Rest, Renewal, Reading, and a Short Post Series

Sea Lions attempting to teach humans how to rest on a California beach

RESTING

My husband and I recently went on vacation to Carlsbad, CA (not New Mexico), a middle city between San Diego and LA. We drove there and back, taking time to see some of the coastline in California and Oregon. I shared many photos on IG, but I’ll share a few here, too.

The first photo shows Big Sur with marine fog (there’s a photo later without it.)

The second photo is the Sleeping Tiger mural in Carlsbad, CA.

The beach photo is one I think I took on our 20-mile bike ride on Coronado Island.

THE VACATION WAS A MUCH-NEEDED REST

Photos: Morro Bay with sea otters, Big Sur highway trail without marine air, beach in Torrey Pines Park, the Oregon Dunes, Heceta Head Lighthouse with marine air in Oregon, and Cannon Beach, Oregon.

This vacation helped me check-in with how I was doing as an author, a teacher, a volunteer, and with all the “things” I do that keep me busy throughout each day and each week at home. I realized, I had started to over-do again.

I decided I need to take this “rest” and extend it into a vacation kind of mindset for everyday living.

READING IN AUDIO 

Part of the way I rest is through reading, although I didn’t do as much of that on the trip as I had intended.

My husband has been wanting to read more, but he doesn’t like to read paperback or ebooks because he stares at a screen all day for work, so we have been listening to audio book versions of The False Prince and The Runaway King, part of a series by Jennifer A. Nielsen for MG to YA readers. I’ve read those books as library books in the past, so it’s been interesting to hear them as audio books. 

I’ve discovered how rich the author’s language is, and how well she uses each word to create a compelling and fun narrative. I think I race past most of those rich-word moments when I’m reading for storyline and plot.

For this reason, I’ve decided to make one of my reading goals for 2023 to be about reading in audio. This year, I had the goal of reading 25% poetry books and 25% non-fiction and I’m far behind on both, but I have read far more of those genres than I normally do.

STARTING A NEW, SHORT SERIES OF BLOG AND SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS

Consider this all to be a pre-amble for a combined series of blog, newsletter, and social media posts. I’ve been discussing courage in some places, and I’ll continue to do that, but I’ll also be talking about rest and renewal as necessary parts of life, of gaining courage, and as a part of fiction. 

How is rest a part of storytelling in fiction? Well… stick around for the next several posts and you’ll see. 

Warning: this is a cliff hanger.

IWSG: Favorite Genre, Upcoming Book Release, and a Bit about TikTok

Check out all the IWSG has to offer and join the monthly blog hop at the website.

Link Here!

Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh 

and all of the co-hosts: 

Tonja Drecker, Victoria Marie Lees, Mary Aalgaard, and 

Sandra Cox!

IWSG: Favorite Genre

October 5 question – What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?

Speculative fiction can range from the outright, noticeably hard sci-fi and all-encompassing fantasy worlds to the somewhat subtle supernatural and sci-fi elements like those we see in the Indiana Jones movies.

The genre offers us a wonderfully, flexible landscape with blurry edges in which to ask tough questions about humanity and morality, go play in a field of unicorns and leprechauns, or attempt to do all of those. We can read The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Lord of the Rings, The Stand, and The Last Unicorn, and still be within the huge, welcoming space of speculative fiction.

In speculative fiction, we get to ask questions. What will someone do when faced with completely impossible odds? Calculate them like C-3PO, go full speed like Han Solo, get one with the force like Luke, attempt diplomacy like Leia? Or put shields on full and attempt diplomacy first with fingers ready on defensive weapons’ arrays like in many Star Trek scenarios?

Will the characters fight for survival and freedom or give into despair (Hunger Games), and if they fight, is there a right way and a wrong way, and who determines that? Can the characters beat the insurmountable odds, or is it too late (Divergent and 1984)? What makes us human, and can AI be “human” in the way we mean? (Blade Runner)

Upcoming Release

Recently, I assembled speculative fiction short stories I’ve written mostly over the last six years into a new book: 25 Impossible Tales of Survivors, Flawed Heroes, and Annoyed Villains, A Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection.

No matter how hard circumstances are, there is hope for survival, even if it means making one simple choice in the right direction or standing up in the face of impossible odds. But the question remains: What is the right direction and which way is up?

The find out more, head to the pre-order here.

Caution: This is NOT a YA book and has some heavier content in some stories.

A Bit About TikTok

As some may remember, I started a 100-Day experiment with TikTok in late June. It’s October, and… wait, I haven’t posted on TikTok in six weeks. That’s right, I let it fall by the wayside.

How did that happen?

It started innocently enough. I tried to create simple, short videos with visual book recommendations that were focused on the books. Then, I thought I probably should get on screen with face and audio. I started following authors whose content I liked and getting ideas. At one point, I posted videos every day of the week. And then, I got sick. And then, I realized I was spending far more time creating video content than I was writing, even when the videos were short, and that did it. I stopped. 

Honestly, I think TikTok has some bonuses for authors. I know it helped me prepare to give a talk because I practiced my talking points in a series of videos. I’ll probably do that again or use Instagram Reels in the same way. There are nice authory-readery people on TikTok and not everyone is age 13. It’s okay to be in your 50s or older on TikTok. 

However, one thing I will warn everyone I know about – TikTok has some awful content on there. Until you start following about 50 accounts you like, TikTok will fill your feed with random stuff and some of it is genuinely bad – like, I thought about calling CPS and PETA kind of bad. I really don’t like parenting videos that involve violence against children and TikTok has some content like that. Maybe it’s out there on IG Reels and Youtube as well, but I had never been subjected to it before TikTok.

For this reason, I am considering taking down my TikTok account, even though I did find over a 100 nice people to follow on there, and I am sure there are more cool authors and artists to see on TikTok. And once you start following enough accounts and the algorithm gets what you like, you see less random ick, but still, knowing the ick there… makes it less of a decent place to be.

So, that’s all for now. I might come up with some more marketing-related commentary, but for now, I find my strongest argument against TikTok is some of the content. 

Let’s keep the conversation going:

What’s your favorite genre?

Have any new books or stories coming out?

And, if you use TikTok, what do you think of it?

Pseudonyms

I have wrestled with the idea of pseudonyms for over a decade. I didn’t originally want one.

I love my name. I love the way it reads. I love the way it sounds. I love it as it is.

However, some readers find it off-putting for various reasons, sometimes because they can’t pronounce it easily.

Think of how you use the ‘ea’ vowel combination in words like read, lean, mean, freak, leak, teak, ease, sea, and you should have it right.

However, it’s still a conundrum on the front of a book cover.

Now, if you’re wondering what I’m doing with most of my existing series, well, I’ll keep my name there.

However, for some new projects, I’ll be going with one of a couple of pseudonyms.

Plural.

Yep.

It’s going to be a big of an experiment, but so far, I think it will go well.

For one of them, I’m just adding a page here at my website and my old blog. For the other, well, you’ll have to hunt for it. I’m not going to reveal it at the moment.

Ironically, the one I’m adding here is the one with which I’ll be publishing slightly more dicey material. My Captain Wrath stories have often surprised people who know me in the real world. It’s like I’m too “nice” in my regular life for friends to realize I actually can and do write some slightly grittier material.

So, for now, TA Thorne (yes, it’s obvious, right?), is my pseudonym for my Captain Wrath series, which is going live on Kindle Vella this month.

The page for TA Thorne is HERE.

More information about the pseudonym and the story are on that page.

IWSG August 2022 and a Massive Book Sale

IWSG

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments.

Sign Up HERE.

Started by Alex J. CavanaughThe awesome co-hosts for the August 3 posting of the IWSG are Tara Tyler,Lisa Buie Collard,Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery!

Optional Question for the month:

When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original, or do you try to give readers what they want?

I hope to do be both original and give readers something they want. However, I have often erred on the side of original, which can be a tough sell.

I have been writing a long, long time and I love to write original ideas, but I would also love to get “read” by readers. 

As a ponder this quandary this month, I have some stuff going on behind the scenes. 

Plus, I have a birthday this month, and to celebrate, most of my eBooks are on sale at Amazon for 99 cents. If you’ve ever been curious about reading my books, but haven’t yet, now is a good time to plunk down less than a dollar for one. 

MASSIVE BOOK SALE

These titles are all only 99 cents for Ebook for the month of August:

Liftoff into adventure with Amaya when her movie theater turns out to be a spaceship in disguise!

Liftoff for 99 cents!

Champion in the Darkness, my first publication with a new cover, at only 99 cents!
Faith matters in this fantasy world – Christian Fantasy YA Adventure.

Champion in the Darkness for only 99 cents!

Flicker is a collection of short stories and poetry. It’s on sale for only 99 cents at Amazon.

And there are more books for sale because nearly everything I could put on sale for Ebook, I did.

Hope you are having a good August! Write on!

Writing Productivity: Why celebrate every word and moment?

Do you track your writing productivity?

If so, do you give yourself credit for writing only for certain projects?

I realized, after ten years of pursuing the goal of writing professionally and often feeling like I had failed, that I was being too harsh on myself.

Read more to find out why I decided to celebrate my productivity and how this is helping me become a healthier, happier writer.

I spent nearly a decade without a good way of tracking my writing progress. I would check my word count at the end of each writing session and use a general writing rule I had to determine if it was a “good” writing day or a “bad” writing day, to discover if I had been productive or not.

Where did I find this writing rule?

A writing book I shall not name, but suffice to say, I thought I was having a good writing day if my word count was between 1500 and 3000 words per session on my main WIP. Anything else I deemed “bad.”

I was often unhappy with my productivity. This caused some stress, and no matter how many projects I finished or what I accomplished, I felt I had too many “bad” writing sessions to be a “good” writer.

So, I stopped making any progress on my main WIP’s all together. I froze when I sat down to write. I shelved projects I didn’t keep a continuous word count going on each day. I tried to figure out what I was going to do with my life if I wasn’t a writer. During this time, I was also struggling with health issues, so in all ways, I was very down.

I teach homeschool students and tutor individual students, so I had that to return to, and I do enjoy teaching, but I yearned to work on my WIPs, if only I could have “good” writing sessions and “productive” writing days.

One day while teaching, I told my students, “Any writing is writing practice.”

I went onto say, “A line of writing is still writing.” I quoted an ancient saying (I had to look up the original source) to say:

“Never a day without a line” or actually, “Nulla dies sine linea” which is a Latin phrase meaning “no day without a single line.”

Pliny the elder

It was a quote I had used to pluck myself up after having a “bad” word count day in the past, but I turned it around in my head again as I was saying it out loud.

What if I applied that quote to everything I wrote? What if I included all the non-WIP writing in my daily word count?

I write lists, lesson plans, emails, social media posts, blog posts, poems hidden in my desk on scattered notepaper, tiny story ideas, and reflections in my journal. I write hint fiction stories on my phone.

What if I counted all of my small writings AND writing I did on my WIP?

And what if I celebrated the writing I accomplished every day, every week, every month, even if the word count was less than 500 words, or even less than 50 a day? And what if I counted conversations about writing and research about writing?

There are many ways to track writing productivity. I choose to use an excel spreadsheet. Each day, I enter all the writing I do. I count everything. EVERYTHING. I track conversations about writing, my writing group meetings, my time researching, my lists, my stray poetry, my text messages.

And I started to celebrate all the writing time and words. I give myself writing rewards – extra time on social media or Pinterest, a book I want to read, more time to read, more time to walk, dance breaks, singing breaks, fancy coffee, a cup of tea sitting outside on the deck listening to the sounds of the neighborhood, etc.

The results so far from this experiment: I am happier, healthier, and more productive.

So, now I keep this reminder on my wall:

Celebrate each word. Celebrate each story, poem, phrase, or conversation about writing. With each celebration, become a healthier, happier writer.

Tyrean Martinson

Events and Appearances

In-Person 2022 Events

I plan to add to this page as events come up.

Gig Harbor Senior Center

Author Talk

July 6, 1-2 PM

GIG HARBOR ARTS FESTIVAL

Author Table

July 16th-17th

BBQ2U AUTHOR TABLE

Gig Harbor

August 15th-21st, 3-7pm

ATTENDING THE FOLLOWING EVENTS

I will be a general attendee at the following events, but not presenting as an author. If you would like to come and hang out with me, that would be great.

CREATIVE COLLOQUY READING AND OPEN MIC

May 16th at 7pm at Harmon Restaurant, Tacoma

I might read something for the open mic section, I might not. 

REALM MAKERS CONFERENCE

July 21st-23rd, Atlantic City, NJ 

Fiction Freebie, 4 Book Recommendations, and An Author Table

Freebie for April

I’ve decided to post a tiny bit of previously published writing each month. 

“Guidance Counseling”

Previously published at The Drabble in November 2016. 

“A Guide to Succeed in 100 Worlds!”

The pamphlets strewn across the table in front of Ghent had a dizzying array of colors and languages that flashed across their surfaces in a blinding cascade.

Ghent closed his four eyes against them. They didn’t have a track for his chosen profession at this back-planet secondary school.

His counselor, a blue-haired Wispan, leaned over him, “Ghent?”

Ghent mesmerized her, bribed the principal with information he found in the school network, and sauntered out, re-assured of his purpose.

Perhaps even future villains needed a boost in the right direction after all.

4 Late April Book Recommendations:

1. Whale Day and Other Poems by Billy Collins – an excellent and fun poetry read that I’m currently reading (haven’t finished it quite yet).

2. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – a hilarious, slightly dark, and excellent older YA Fantasy. Think Harry Potter, but with snark and high stakes danger lurking in every chapter. 

3. Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron – a fun, middle-grade super-powered story. 

4. The Business of Writing Short Stories: Writing, Submitting, Publishing, and Marketing by Shannon Lawrence. See full review below:

This book is the definitive work on the business of writing short stories. It has everything you need, from non-nonsense tips on writing short stories, publishing short stories, and marketing short stories. It is jammed full of information, and I recommend it for anyone who wants to write short stories successfully.

I have been writing short stories for over three decades and I wish someone had given me this book back in college, or ten years ago. I highly recommend it as a book for any student of writing, any writer who wants to make a go of it, and anyone who needs a little help going in the right direction with the business side of writing short stories. 

*Truly an excellent book and a must for any writer’s shelf. 5/5

Next month, I will be reviewing: Cassadark by Alex J. Cavanaugh, The Portal by Shana Dow, a non-fiction book, and a poetry book (TBA). I am trying to read about 50% non-fiction and poetry books this year.

An Author Table

This week, I am at BBQ2U in Gig Harbor, WA at the author table. The owner of the restaurant is a patron of local artists and authors, providing us with a place to sell our wares every week in a prominent spot by the front window. I had a shift at the author table last fall, and I’m back again this week. It’s good for me, since I find author events to fill me with a bit of author-social anxiety, which is akin to going to an interview when someone comes up and I need to figure out how to talk about books without being too pushy, but yet with bold confidence in the books I’ve written. Sitting at the author table for seven days in a row usually takes me from nervous to comfortable because it’s so daily. I’m thankful for the experience and thankful to be there. I hope I sell a few books, too, or at least garner enough interest for someone to pick up a business card and go search out my books online.

Four Sentence Stories Workshop Notes

Four-Sentence Stories

 If you viewed my Four-Sentence Stories Workshop with QuaranCon 2022, you might have seen me get a bit nervous a few times, but I kept going and taught the class mostly as I meant to. 

If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iH-v3YyGzM0

Either way, I thought I could reiterate some of the points of the class briefly here and add in a few extra writing prompts if you are interested.

What are 4-Sentence Stories?

  • Exactly what they say they are: stories in four sentences. 
  • Part poetic brevity, part fiction, these stories force focused word choices.
  • Always include a character, a problem, and an ending/hint of resolution
  • Yes, this can be done.
  • Yes, they can be fun to write.

Why write 4-Sentence Stories?

  • Explore characters
  • Explore ideas
  • Fill the creative well
  • Play with words
  • Focus on sensory words, active verbs, or another area you want to work on. 

Example of a 4-Sentence Story:

This is one of mine, but there are many more to be found in Jessa Forest’s newsletters and at online markets which I will link at the end of this post.

Solution by Tyrean Martinson

Gilly touched the railing of her childhood home.

Painful memories lodged like splinters under her skin.

She could change that.

The match caught easily on the gasoline-soaked wood.

What happens if you don’t follow the 4-Sentence Format EXACTLY?

If you have too few sentences, consider it a win. 

Consider rounding it out, or leave it as, if you are satisfied.

If you have one or two too many, consider it a win. 

You wrote. You finished a super short story. You conquered the blank page. 

OR you can play around with the words or grammar and try to tighten it to four sentences. 

The point is: enjoy the writing. Have fun with it. Overcome the blank page and play with words!

Writing Prompts to Use:

  • Put your character in a white room and show what they do there.
  • Put your character at the edge of a cliff, top of a castle tower, underwater, trapped in a spacesuit that’s running out of oxygen and show what they do there. 
  • Take away the sense of sight and make your character rely on sound, smell, taste, or touch for the duration of a four-sentence story. (This forces a focus on writing other sensory description.)
  • Take a character you already know and put them in a weird or impossible situation. Dump Athena into a modern fast-food chain and see what she does.
  • Something came over the horizon. 

Questions to ask yourself after writing the story:

  • What did I learn about this character?
  • What did I learn about this character’s dilemma?
  • What did I learn about the ending/hint of resolution in this story.

What can I do with a four-sentence story?

  • Query them. There are markets for four-sentence stories, markets for hint fiction, and markets for micro-fiction. 
  • It is true that most of these markets are non-paying markets, but you can build up your writing resume and your ability to query by starting with these.
  • Use them in a newsletter as a free giveaway.
  • Use them at an author table as a free giveaway. 
  • Collect them and print them in a collection.  

Markets for Four-Sentence Stories and Super Short Fiction:

Four Sentence Stories https://www.foursentencestories.com/

The Drabble http://thedrabble.com/

Nail Polish Stories (hint fiction of 25 words)

https://nailpolishstories.wordpress.com/

A Story in 100 Words http://entropy2.com/blogs/100words/ 

Make sure to read all of their submission guidelines first!

And please note, these editors are volunteering their time and they are all decent people. They don’t accept every story, but they will give yours good consideration.

More Uses and Examples

Four-Sentence Stories can be used by friends, families, and in classrooms for creative storytelling games out loud, for writing games on paper, or even as acting improv games. Try them, you just might like them. 🙂

On Medium:

Most of Jessa Forest’s newsletters: https://jessaforest.com/

Flicker: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry by me.

Many thanks to Quarancon for hosting my workshop!!! The wonderful creatives who are in charge of the con are awesome writers and artists!

What’s Next for this Workshop:

I’ll be teaching a Four-Sentence Stories Workshop again in May with Creative Colloquy! I’ll be sure to freshen up the material, use different examples and prompts, so if you did attend this one, there will be more to explore! Please join me there by going to here to sign up: https://www.creativecolloquy.com/all-events/four-sentence-exercises-to-boost-creativity-and-sensory-description

QUARANCON 2022

Quarancon started in 2020 as a free online fantasy and SF convention because we were not allowed to go out and have fun at in-person events. Now, two years on, the convention is still going, and it started on April 7th.

There are lots of panels with fantasy, horror and SF authors from all across the world. It runs from 7-11th April 2022. You can find the full schedule here, and all of the panels will be streamed via YouTube etc.

I have two events this year with Quarancon: a reading, and a workshop.

On April 9th, I’ll be reading from Liftoff, my sci-fi novella which I wrote, had professionally edited, and published in 2020. Imagine an American teen trapped inside a movie theater which turns out to be an alien spaceship during liftoff, add in a cute alien dude, a high stakes space-chase, and some fist fighting, and you have Liftoff, the first book in The Rayatana Series. If I have time, and there aren’t many questions, I might also share a bit from Dark Blade, my ongoing Kindle Vella series. The reading link for Youtube.

On April 11th, I’ll be teaching a workshop entitled originally Four Sentence Exercises to Boost Creativity and Sensory Description which the organizers cleverly renamed Four Sentence Stories to Boost Creativity, and I am hugely thankful for the rename. The workshop is essentially what it says it is. I’ll talk about micro-fiction and using it to keep the creative well full and to build writing skills. The workshop link on Youtube.

I highly encourage you to join me, but also join in by check out all of the events at the con. It’s free, fun, and I’ve already seen some panels I’ll be revisiting to watch again.