Friday, July 6, 2018

Conquering Self-Doubt

"Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong." ~Peter T. Mcintyre

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."  ~William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, 1604

"Once you become self-conscious, there is no end to it; once you start to doubt, there is no room   for anything else."  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

I recently found myself feeling the need to resurrect this old post, namely because it was one of my more popular posts and, even several years later, it still rings true. Writers often deal with crippling self-doubt, whether from a biting review or lack of confidence. Most of the time, the feeling is fleeting, and we're able to shake it off. But sometimes, it's not, and I hope this post will serve as a catalyst to help pull anyone finding themselves creatively disabled out of the self-doubt rut. 

 Self-doubt: the bane of any writer's existence.  It's the dark cloud looming on the horizon, threatening to rain down self-loathing, inferiority and regret.  In short, it's the one thing that can end a writer's career before it even has a chance to take flight.  With its uncanny knack for stifling one's creativity, self-doubt renders its sufferer an empty shell. 

I don't believe there has ever been an author who--at one point in time--has never suffered from a minuscule amount of self-doubt.  Recently, I've had my own bouts with this affliction and the symptomotology has been enough to render me virtually useless.  In going through my manuscript and some of my former blogs, I've noticed glaring typos and grammatical errors--I should, at times, be locked away for comma abuse--as well other cringe-inducing faux pas.   As my blogs are being shared and re-tweeted (of which I'm extremely appreciative of), I often find myself critiquing the hell out of what has been passed around and fear I may not be living up to the high standards I try to set for myself.  This stems partly from sheer fear; fear of being rejected by those in the community I'm striving to gain acceptance in.  The other part is being exposed to those who write so flawlessly and so seemingly effortlessly that I often wonder if they have the same fears and self-doubts that I do.  The answer to that is, I'm certain, a resounding YES. 

The question is how do you prevent it from consuming you and your writing?   I believe the answer to that is through lots of practice, support and self-motivation.  Now let's analyze some techniques, shall we?  (Too bad, we're going to anyway...)

Find a writing partner--A writing partner or support group of fellow writers is invaluable to any word- crafter.  It's imperative to receive both good and bad feedback (constructive criticism) and to have mini cheerleaders, motivational speakers and drill sergeants by your side at a moment’s notice to both encourage your pursuits, celebrate your victories, tell you what works and what doesn't, and most importantly, to prevent the storm clouds from rolling in. Before I started involving myself in social networks, I had a small group comprised of family, friends and co-workers who would read my work and provide me with the encouragement I needed when I wanted to chuck my laptop across the room (because a bad writing day is all that blasted computer's fault, don't cha' know).  After I joined social networking sites for writers (or ones that just harbor a substantial writing community such as Twitter, Blogger, Absolute Write, Query Tracker, Tumblr, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.), I felt as though I'd arrived home.  These communities offer a seemingly unlimited amount of talented aspiring authors and published authors, alike willing to dispense a plethora of advice and support.  After all, we're all in the same boat so why not travel together?

Quit standing in your own way--I know there are famous quotes out there that roughly state something about being your own worst enemy and creating the barriers that block your own path to success.  Well, they're all completely true. The human mind is a beautiful oddity with the ability to both propel a person into greatness or cast them aside in the gutter at the slightest twist in thought. However, it's when one allows those negative twists in thought to consume them that the problems really begin to erupt, and minor problems such as grammatical errors and the writer's own fickleness in wording forces them to question their abilities. It's one thing to be critical of your work with the intent to make it the best it can be, it's a completely different story to beat yourself up over a misplaced comma.  Have faith in yourself, your errors aren't as glaring as you believe them to be.  And when you feel like giving up, take a walk, watch a movie, or do the moonwalk to take your mind away from the negativity. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how much a break and a set of fresh eyes will vastly improve your disposition.

Not everything you write is going to be bestseller--Wouldn't that be great, though?  You, sitting at home and typing away, knowing there are a whole slew of famished individuals out there ready to feed upon your every word.  Alas, for most of us it's time to wake up from this dream, for we know it takes work--lots and lots of agonizing, frustrating work--before we even see a tenth of that kind of success.  That is, if we ever see any success at all.  To be a writer, you must remove the stars from your eyes and humble yourself with the sobering truth that writing isn't going to make you rich and famous.  With that truth, thankfully, also comes the equally as truthful statement that that's pretty much the norm for most writers and it isn't because your work isn't up to snuff that you aren't a multi-millionaire.  Write because you love it; because it makes you happy.  Don't write because you believe it to be your meal ticket or that success equals validation of your abilities.

Comparing apples to elephants--The worst thing you can do as a writer is to compare your work to that of others because, unless they're absolutely terrible or you have a slightly inflated ego, you're probably going to surmise their work as being on a level much higher than yours. I'm insanely guilty of this.  Whether it be friends, fellow bloggers, writers, or published novels, I'm constantly critiquing my work against that of others.  Where does this get me?  A night without a single word written, a woe-is-me state of mind and a chocolate massacre on my hands (and face, and probably somewhere in my hair, as well).  Your novel is yours and no one else's.  Your writing style is unique to you. How you write and what you write is a mark of your true identity, setting you apart from the rest of the pack.  To compare your work to the work of another is like trying to compare your DNA with theirs.  In the end, the strands will never match and to tinker with one to make it comport with the other will only result in a contrived, mutated product.  Different is good; variety is the spice of life; Pepsi is way better than Coke...oops wrong blog.  The point is, your style is unique, special, something to be proud of and chances are the person you're relentlessly comparing yourself to thinks the same way about their work when compared to yours.

You possess the same tools as the next person-The beauty with fiction writing is there isn't a single person out there who is more qualified or who possesses a clear advantage over you (unless they're a celebrity, but that's a topic for another day).  We all come equipped with a brain comprised of creative, technical threads, enabling us to put sentences together to create characters and worlds beyond the scope of reality. Although some naturally have more than others, all of us come off the biologic assembly line with drive and determination ingrained deep within our souls. Our collective brains, drive and determination, though differentiated by thoughts, execution and persistence are the tools every writer needs to succeed.  It's how one chooses to use them and how one lets their self-doubt affect their potency that makes all the difference in the world. 

Great expectations--If you're like me, you tend to set the bar at the peak of the mountain. Some days you're able to clear it so effortlessly you think your writing will ascend into orbit.  Other days, you're barely able to hurdle over a blade of grass and you feel your writing is on par with that of your toddler's (my daughter can blow me out to water most days with her creativity).  At the risk of ripping off Charles Dickens, setting great expectations for yourself is both healthy and necessary if you plan on succeeding at anything you set out to do in life. Yet those same expectations--if left to run rampant--can also be your undoing.  Don't make your great expectations impossible ones.  Instead of trying to clear hurdles in the sky, concentrate on those down here on Earth first.  Not to be cliché, but Rome wasn't built in a day.  Like your literary dreams, it takes time for empires to emerge. 

Creativity is key--For a writer, creativity is second nature. Telling a writer to be creative is like telling a kid to play at Chuck-E-Cheese; it's just going to happen.  When you write and you get stuck on the way your dialogue, sentence structure, narrative, or overall thought process is panning out, don't think to yourself, well, I'm not going to be the next Sara Gruen, keep writing. Allow your creativity to flow until you've either worked out your problems or completely replaced them with new, even better ideas.  Perhaps open a different document to draft alternative scenarios or move on to a completely different chapter in your book and come back to the section that's plaguing you when you feel you're better able to tackle it.  After all, the world doesn't need another Sara Gruen, it needs to be introduced to you.

Be positive--I know it's hard to do every day and I'm not saying that it's not healthy to have a good cry from time to time to clear your head.  It's just that, after you dry those tears and finally leave the pillow you were beating the hell out of alone, you need to move on.  Don't dwell on your problems and frustrations. Fix them.  Even the longest, darkest tunnel ends eventually, and so will the sudden resurgence of negativity encapsulating you.  This is where the writing group mentioned earlier comes particularly in handy. If you're stuck on a plot point or a grammatical dilemma, they may be able to supply you with the ideas and information needed to fix said dilemmas and reign in your self-doubt before it breaks you. 

A final tool I've found particularly helpful when I'm in a slump is to read positive remarks I've received on past projects.  Those kind comments and helpful suggestions have a way of rejuvenating me like emotional coffee, giving me the drive to carry on and the ability to leave those negative thoughts in the dust.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

My Battle with Stage 1 Melanoma

Not the story I usually like to tell, but I think it needs to be told regardless. Obviously, since learning of my diagnosis, I haven't done any work on When Time Stands Still, but hope to get back in the saddle soon.

Did you know that melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death in young women ages 25-30 and the second leading cause of cancer death in women ages 30-35? Did you also know that the incidence of people under 30 developing melanoma is increasing faster than any other demographic group? I didn’t either, until I received my own melanoma diagnosis on July 21st (via a pathology report that was sent to me by email while I was at work).

No one wants to have a cancer story, yet they have a way of finding some of us, demanding to be told. And I feel compelled to tell mine, particularly because of all the “What’s melanoma?” and “Oh, it’s just skin cancer.” responses I received from people when I was diagnosed. While it’s true that melanoma is a form of skin cancer, calling it JUST skin cancer grossly underestimates the magnitude of this disease. It’s a disease where only a mere millimeter in depth can make the difference between receiving a good prognosis and a poor one. It’s a disease where, had I waited another six months, my story may have had an entirely different ending.

Over the winter, I did a double take in the mirror after noticing a mole on my back. It was a mole I’d had my entire life, and it had always been on the bigger side. However, there was something odd about the way the mole looked now. It appeared to be slightly larger, but what was most striking about it was it’s color.

If you Google melanoma images, you’ll be presented with conspicuous, big black lesions that are so obviously cancerous that it’s a wonder they weren’t discovered well before they got to that point. That’s NOT what my melanoma looked like, which is why I feel it important to raise awareness on this potentially lethal condition.

For the most part, my melanoma was the same shade of brown as all the other moles and freckles on my body, except that it had developed a reddish/pinkish hue in the center of it. Knowing that melanomas are usually black (or so I thought), I didn’t think too much of it. After all, I’d had that particular mole looked at some years prior, and all was good then. Yet, over the next few months, I’d catch glimpses of it in the mirror every now and then and think to myself that I probably should get it checked out, if only for my own peace of mind. I finally did in June while I was at my primary care physician’s office for a completely unrelated matter. It was an afterthought then, the mole, and it was only at the end of the appointment that I remembered it, sheepishly asking the nurse practitioner to take a look at it, as I figured doing so would probably just turn out to be a giant waste of her time. After spending an inordinate amount of time looking at it she said that, although she thought the lesion to be benign, she wanted to have one of the doctors in the practice take a look at it. That should have been clue #1.

When the doctor came in, it was clear he expected to be able to take one look at the mole, pacify my concerns, and send me on my merry way. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. You know something’s not right when a medical professional lets out a genuinely surprised, “Oh!” when looking at something on your body. That should have been clue #2, but sheer denial had prevented me from piecing everything together. After all, according to Google, my mole looked nothing like melanoma. It was decided then that the mole should be removed.

After three separate pathology reports from Bronson (who weren’t entirely certain, but strongly suspected the mole to be melanoma, so they deferred it to Mayo Clinic to deliver the bad news) and then, finally, U of M, my diagnosis was confirmed: Superficial Spreading Melanoma (which, if you’re going to get melanoma, that’s the type you want to have) with no ulceration (another good characteristic), and a low mitotic rate (meaning it was slower growing). However, remember when I said just a millimeter can make the difference between a good prognosis and a poor one? Well, the kicker for me was the depth of my tumor. At 1.5 mm, my melanoma was considered invasive (a depth of only 1 mm dramatically increases the risk of the cancer having spread to the lymph nodes). I was tentatively staged at a Stage 1b (with a 93% likelihood of being alive in 5 years). Had my tumor been ulcerated, my depth would have put me at a Stage 2a (with an 81% chance of surviving 5 years). But I was assured by the U of M Melanoma Clinic and my oncologist (I’ll never get used to saying “my oncologist”) that my melanoma was an early catch and the odds that it had spread were only 15-20% (which, when it pertains to you, may as well be 80-90%).

If the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes (Stage 3), my odds of survival in the next 5 years would be reduced down to 40-78%, depending on how many nodes were affected. Because, as it turns out, this JUST skin cancer is a tricky SOB with the capability of traveling ANYWHERE in the body it pleases, often landing in organs such as the lungs, liver, and brain. It can also remain dormant in a person’s body for months, years, even decades before reappearing again. In order to figure out whether or not my melanoma had spread, I was scheduled for a wide excision and a sentinel lymph node biopsy on September 21st (two agonizing months after my initial diagnosis).

For two months, I waited, unsure whether I would remain at a Stage 1 or become a Stage 3 (I didn’t even want to consider Stage 4). Would I be able to make plans for next year? Would I get to see my girls grow up? There was so much uncertainty and the not knowing whether I still had cancer in my body and where it had traveled was, at times, unbearable. It seemed like September 21st would never arrive, but arrive it eventually did.

After my surgery, my husband was shocked to see the 15 staples that closed the incision on my back, an incision that runs from one shoulder blade to (almost) the other. Such an incision is standard for melanoma to ensure that they get any remaining cancer cells that may have been left behind from the initial biopsy. Along with the incision on my back, I have another two inch incision underneath my arm from where six lymph nodes were removed and biopsied to see whether the melanoma had made its way down there. Approximately 99% of the time, melanoma, if it has spread, will travel to the nearest lymph nodes. These lymph nodes are found during a painful procedure called a lymphoscintigraphy, where a radioactive dye is injected at the site of the melanoma and is tracked to see which lymph nodes it travels to.

The week following my surgery, I was a nervous wreck waiting for the pathology results, knowing that with each day that passed, the more likely it was that the call coming in would be from my oncologist’s office with results that could undoubtedly change my life forever once again. That call finally came on September 28th and the results were that there was no residual melanoma found in my back and all six lymph nodes came back negative for cancer cells. I would remain a Stage 1b.

I feel as though I dodged a bullet and am unbelievably blessed that my cancer hadn’t spread, considering I allowed a mole that so obviously had changed go for at least six months before finally getting it checked out. Had I gone in as soon as I initially noticed it, I may never have progressed to a Stage 1 and could have spared myself two months of torture. Now, I will forever be looking over my shoulders (both figuratively and literally) as there is always a chance (albeit a small one) of a recurrence, and I’m also at an increased risk of developing another primary lesion (as are members of my family). This is why I implore anyone who may not be going in for regular skin checks to get your skin checked. Don’t ignore any new moles or freckles that have suddenly appeared on your body (no matter how small), and in particular, never ignore one that has changed in any way (whether shape, color or size). Above all, please quit using tanning beds. I have no doubt that the use of them in my late teens and early twenties helped contribute to my development of melanoma at the age of 35. In the cancer world, tanning beds are considered a level one carcinogen and are on the same level as cigarettes in terms of the damage they do to your body.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cover Reveal: The Living and The Dead

Thank you, Mia Hoddell, fellow author and creative mind behind M Designs, for creating the perfect book cover for The Living and The Dead. Anyone looking for beautiful cover art for their books may want to check out Mia's website:

I've taken a little break from finishing The Living and The Dead, somewhat due to personal circumstances out of my control and partially because I've been working on the summary for the book. ...I think you will find that most writers would agree that writing a summary can be even more challenging, more frustrating, and almost as time-consuming as writing the book itself. However, I am still planning for a summer release.

For now, here is the summary for The Living and The Dead:

Dying is optional.
Living is forbidden.

The year is 2111, and scientists have discovered how to cheat death by extracting memories, thoughts, and personality traits from the dying, methodically implanting them into artificial bodies. At the time, it seemed too good to be true, never having to lose anyone to illness or time, and maybe it was.

Rejected as being nothing more than imposters of the living, the dead are shunned by society. Their families, friends, and neighbors, having grown to fear them, erected walls around their cities to keep them out. Over time, those cities were replaced with colonies overseen by governors to keep order.
At seventeen, Zaila Lockhart has only known isolation. Isolation from the world that extends both outside and inside her colony. As the daughter of the unpopular governor, she is the target of resentment, especially now that resources are becoming more scarce, since all trade between the colonies has been interrupted by a group marauders. Starvation seems imminent, and a war between the living and the dead over much-needed provisions looms on the horizon.

In search of food and other supplies, Zaila takes it upon herself to secretly venture outside her colony’s walls. Joined by Pax Muldoon, her only friend, the pair are ambushed by a group of scavengers. Identified as being the governor’s daughter, Zaila is brought back to the scavenger’s base in a city occupied by both the dead and their living sympathizers.

Zaila thought she knew everything there was to know about her captors, that the history being taught in the colonies was rooted in fact. But some lessons are better learned outside the classroom, where the living have grown to fear life, and the dead are the only ones truly living.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dystopian Authors Collide Facebook Event: Featuring The Legacy Series By Ellery Kane


Happy November, Readers!

Whether you love or dread thoughts of the end of the world, there's no denying, this is one hot genre! This week, I'm joining Ellery Kane and some of the best of the best for fun, prizes, and most awesome of all, books! Some of these authors may be familiar, some may be new, but they are all amazingly talented and ready to party! And if you're wondering about that amazing giveaway, read on to the end of this newsletter on how to win a Kindle!

So what are we doing?

A Facebook Party!

Join us from 5:30-10PM EST on November 13th. There will be games, giveaways, and great discussions so don't miss out. Join the Dystopian Authors Collide Facebook Event:

Book Sales and Spotlights!

Dystopian Authors Collide Covers

Check out the books of our authors! Some are free, some $0.99, but they are all spectacular. Authors Include: Sara Furlong Burr, Christine Redding Manzari, Cameo Renae, Chrystalla Thoma, David Litwack, Kim Wells, SJ Pajonas, Angela Cavanaugh, Grace Hudson

You can see them all here:

And the Giveaway!


In addition, we've pooled together to bring you a mega giveaway, including a Kindle!

Enter here:

And don't forget to come hang out with us on Friday!

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Excerpt from One Crazy Night: "Reanimator" by Sharon Stevenson


 Up next from the upcoming One Crazy Night anthology, here is a short excerpt from “Reanimator” by Sharon Stevenson:

“The cat hissed and batted one paw full of razor sharp claws at my hand.  The cut drew blood that burbled up thickly enough to run and stain the cuff of my new shirt, but that wasn’t what made me want to throw up inside my mouth.  I straightened and tried to breathe more deeply.  It didn’t help.  I’d just brought my sister’s beloved fur-baby back from the dead.”
Learn more about Sharon Stevenson and her books here:
Pre-Order One Crazy Night here: 

If you haven’t joined the release party for One Crazy Night, join it here:


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Excerpt of Elements by M.H. Soars from One Crazy Night

With the release of One Crazy Night just days away (on March 10), I thought it would be fun to share excerpts from some of the other authors who contributed stories to the anthology.

First up is the very talented M.H. Soars with an excerpt from “Elements”:

"The lights on the yacht began to flicker, and a moment later, they went out completely. I called out to Tammara and Amber until I lost my voice. My heart hammered in my chest and tears mingled with the salt water. I pictured Mom, Dad, and Camille, hoping that I would be able to see them once more.

I looked up at the sky, expecting to see angry, stormy clouds that would explain such a drastic change in the sea. The sky was blessedly clear, the full moon now mocking me with its beauty.

All at once, the yacht dipped down at an impossibly steep angle, pointing almost straight down. An ominous, rogue wave advanced toward the boat. I had seen The Perfect Storm. I knew there was no surviving that. I braced myself for the impact, aware I would have to let go once the boat capsized. The wave curled over the top of the bridge and came crashing down. I was ripped from my safe spot and it was all darkness and unbearable pressure for a moment. I was inside a vortex of foam and didn't know which way the surface was. Water filled my lungs and panic began to overtake me.

Through the gloom I saw the fluorescent blue light again. It hovered only a few feet from me and it wasn't a fish. It had the shape of a man. Impossible. He raised his hand as if reaching out and the whirlpool around me stopped. I stood paralyzed, not knowing if I was hallucinating or if I was already dead. The apparition vanished a second later and my body screamed for air. No, I wasn't dead. Not yet."

Check out M.H. Soars’ other books here:

Pre-Order One Crazy Night here:

If you haven’t joined our giveaway bash, what are you waiting for? Come on over, if you love books and want the chance to win swag, ebooks and giftcards all you need to do is join the fun:


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cover Reveal For One Crazy Night!


Book Info:

Title: One Crazy Night
Release date: March 10, 2015
Genre: YA/NA Paranormal Short Stories
Authors: Sara Furlong Burr, Teshelle Combs, Emma Faragher, R. Holland, Louise Nicks, Aoife Marie Sheridan, M. H. Soars, Sharon Stevenson
Format: Ebook

Pre-Order Links:

Amazon | Amazon UK

Add One Crazy Night to your TBR on Goodreads.


Nightshade Reads presents their debut fantasy anthology, featuring nine of the genre’s freshest up-and-coming independent authors. Get ready for One Crazy Night, packed full of magical encounters, dark secrets and shocking revelations.

Get a glimpse into a powerful queen’s dark and brutal backstory in Aoife Marie Sheridan’s Bellona.

In Louise Nick’s Love Magic, a homemade love spell goes disastrously wrong for two amateur teen witches.

A young woman is captured by beautiful, dangerous creatures in M.H. Soars Elements.

A teenage boy falls in love, but things quickly become complicated in R. Holland’s Lady in Black.

Sara Furlong Burr brings a broken man’s troubles to light as he is offered a solution by a mysterious stranger in The Recruit.

Emma Faragher spins a dark origin tale of sisterhood and magic in Necromancer Origins.

The kindness of a stranger takes a homeless young man by surprise in The Keymaker by Teshelle Combs.

Sharon Stevenson’s Reanimator brings death and magic together to change the fate of one young man’s life.

All proceeds from this Anthology's sale will go to The Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Organisation.

About Nightshade Reads:

Nightshade logo 2Nightshade Reads is a group of YA and NA authors who love to spin Paranormal and Fantasy stories. The group is composed by Sara Furlong Burr, Teshelle Combs, Emma Faragher, R. Holland, Louise Nicks, Aoife Marie Sheridan, M. H. Soars, and Sharon Stevenson.

Connect with the Nightshade Reads Authors:

Sara Furlong Burr | Teshelle Combs | Emma Faragher | R. Holland | Louise Nicks | Aoife Marie Sheridan | M. H. Soars | Sharon Stevenson

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