Rethink the Way You View Pain: Fibromyalgia Edition

Rethink the Way You View Pain: Fibromyalgia Edition

Have fibromyalgia? Know someone who does? This post offers a familiar treatment option and another some may not know about.

Hello everyone! I am in my seventh term out of twelfth term in physical therapy school, so I have been concentrating all of my efforts into this program. One of those efforts was a research project comparing a few treatments for fibromyalgia, and I ultimately decided to narrow it down to two: pain neuroscience education and exercise.

The topic of fibromyalgia is personal to me because it is a condition I have. It’s relatively mild compared to what others have, but I have always found that exercise has helped to manage the bulk of my symptoms. However, I understand exercise can be painful for some with this condition, which is why I wanted to explore other treatments beyond exercise–hence, pain neuroscience education.

Before I talk about these treatments that could effectively help fibromyalgia sufferers, let me talk first about what fibromyalgia is:

Fibromyalgia syndrome, as it’s known as, consists of…

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Rethink the Way You View Pain: Fibromyalgia Edition

Rethink the Way You View Pain: Fibromyalgia Edition

Hello everyone! I am in my seventh term out of twelfth term in physical therapy school, so I have been concentrating all of my efforts into this program. One of those efforts was a research project comparing a few treatments for fibromyalgia, and I ultimately decided to narrow it down to two: pain neuroscience education and exercise.

The topic of fibromyalgia is personal to me because it is a condition I have. It’s relatively mild compared to what others have, but I have always found that exercise has helped to manage the bulk of my symptoms. However, I understand exercise can be painful for some with this condition, which is why I wanted to explore other treatments beyond exercise–hence, pain neuroscience education.

Before I talk about these treatments that could effectively help fibromyalgia sufferers, let me talk first about what fibromyalgia is:

Fibromyalgia syndrome, as it’s known as, consists of “chronic, widespread pain, unrefreshing sleep, physical exhaustion, and cognitive difficulties.”1

And here are some stats:

  1. 2-4% of the world’s population lives with this condition
  2. The United States contains the highest population of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia
  3. Various things can cause fibromyalgia to develop: emotional or physical trauma, other underlying conditions, neurobiologic abnormalities, environmental reasons, etc.
  4. More women than men have been diagnosed with this condition
  5. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome, meaning it is defined by multiple symptoms and not just one symptom alone
  6. There is no gold standard for diagnosis and the usage of tender points to diagnose this condition is outdated1

Now let’s discuss exactly what pain neuroscience education is. Pain neuroscience education essentially retrains your brain to think differently about your pain; thus, you move from not understanding the cause of your pain to understanding the cause of your pain and the science behind it, which makes it easier to both understand your pain and reduce it.2 People with fibromyalgia have this misconception that fibromyalgia pain has no underlying cause and occurs for no reason, when that is not the case at all. It was also once thought that this was not an inflammatory condition, but it in fact is, because there are low levels of inflammation in the tissue. This is where physical therapists can come in: they can provide that pain neuroscience education to help you re-frame your pain. Pain neuroscience education can improve your activities of daily living, reduce muscle tissue sensitivity, and reduce your fear of moving, as fibromyalgia pain, even with low levels of inflammation in muscle tissue, is not harmful pain.3

I myself have always been fascinated by pain science, and even when I was diagnosed with this condition, I took right away to trying to understand it. I believe doing so has led to a better quality of life for me.

Up next is exercise, which I believe a lot of fibromyalgia sufferers are very familiar with. I do not believe exercise should be used as a solo treatment but in conjunction with pain neuroscience education. If used as a solo intervention, a lot of sufferers with moderate to severe pain may not do it because of that fear of movement, which pain neuroscience education alleviates. That fear of movement generally stems from the knowledge that exercise can come with some soreness the next day, which can be tenfold in those with a chronic pain condition. I think pain neuroscience education will help to reduce this fear of pain, providing the necessary education to help patients understand the long-term outcomes of exercise.

One study by Arakaki et al4 actually looked into the use of a Swiss ball with weights and found that this particular combination reduced pain, improved activities of daily living, and actually resulted in reduced medication to manage fibromyalgia. They used a Swiss ball because it helps with both proprioception (knowing the positioning of your joints) and balance, which weights alone aren’t as effective with. In order to reduce the likelihood of a flare, you do want to start out with low intensity, low load strength training, meaning you want to do more repetitions with less weight (you could arguably start out with bands). Physical therapy is also useful for this, as physical therapists can monitor what you are doing, ensure correct form, and scale the exercises appropriately.4

If you want to learn more about these two forms of treatment for fibromyalgia, please e-mail me at!


  1. Häuser W, Fitzcharles MA. “Facts and myths pertaining to fibromyalgia.” Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2018;20(1):53-62. doi:10.31887/DCNS.2018.20.1/whauser
  2. Pain Neuroscience Education.
  3. Saracoglu I, Leblebicier MA, Yaman F, Kavuncu V. Pain neuroscience education combined with usual treatment for fibromyalgia syndrome: A randomized controlled trial. Int J Rheum Dis. 2021;24(11):1409-1418. doi:10.1111/1756-185X.14223
  4. Arakaki JS, Jennings F, Estrela GQ, Cruz Martinelli VDG, Natour J. “Strengthening exercises using swiss ball improve pain, health status, quality of life and muscle strength in patients with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial.” Reumatismo. 2021;73(1):15-23. Published 2021 Apr 19. doi:10.4081/reumatismo.2021.1357
Halfway There

Halfway There

I am halfway through physical therapy school, and PT school is pretty much the reason why I haven’t been blogging at all. It’s the reason for me not doing a lot of things, in fact. I’ve hardly been mountain biking because the trails are 45 minutes from where I live, I usually spend about 2-3 hours at the trails, and it’s another 45 minute drive back; therefore, that means less time to study or do schoolwork. I do bike in between terms, but obviously not enough to get me in any shape for races (which I REALLY miss doing).

I remember thinking before I even started PT school that I was going to continue doing everything that I was doing, from writing to biking to even working almost 30 hours a week. PT school has humbled me. When they tell you not to expect A’s in a doctorate program, they absolutely mean it. You’ll work the hardest you’ve ever worked only to sometimes pull a C on an exam. It’s so much more demanding than I ever could have imagined, and nothing would have been able to prepare me for this. The amount of material you’re required to learn is often quadruple what you were expected to know in your undergrad years. I’m in a flex program too, meaning I take less credit hours than the residential program–and it’s still a struggle! But it’s a struggle that at least allows me more breathing room than the residential program. And you do become more efficient with studying as your brain adapts to this influx of information.

This program is truly a lifestyle, one that demands only the most passionate students, one that demands sacrifices you never saw yourself making. I am simply too mentally drained by the end of the day to do any writing or anything at all that involves even half a brain cell. Even on days when I let myself have a break from studying, I’m still too drained to do anything demanding. (Painting is a different kind of demanding from writing.) So I game and I paint and I sometimes read. I work ten hours a week and no more.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my writing life. Recently I became inspired for a YA book that does draw inspiration from my time in PT school. I ordered a pack of notebooks so that I can use one of them to outline said novel. Perhaps I won’t start the novel itself during school, but I’ll at least have an outline ready because outlining is definitely less draining than actually sitting down and writing a story. In fact, I may just work on outlines to feed that writing bug–and by the time I graduate, I’ll have enough ideas for a decent amount of novels.

In the meantime, I’ll work on this blog a little bit before the break is over with to reflect what I’ve been doing.

Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About Not Writing

Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About Not Writing

BOOK UPDATE: I’m going to hold off on When Stars Die either until I feel comfortable during this summer term since it is supposed to be really difficult and where my cohort really hits the ground running, or right after when hopefully I will be completely, 100% comfortable with the physical therapy program. I just don’t want to add in trying to get a book ready for publication into the mix because I actually am having a very difficult time even re-outlining the third book. I have the time, but the problem is that I am so mentally drained that all I want to do is decompress and remove myself from anything stimulating. ADHD medication can only do so much, but I very much am neurodivergent when it comes to how often I need to decompress to prevent burnout and in turn succeed at my classes.


Some writers believe you need to write a little bit every day, even if it’s just 100 words. Those writers neither understand that not everyone has the same 24 hours in a day nor do they understand that not everyone has the same mental faculties.

I wrote a whole novel last summer. I haven’t really written anything since, and I don’t feel bad for it. Do I miss it? Absolutely! I would love to get back to revisions on the novel I did last summer, but physical therapy school has to take priority. It’s a doctorate and as such demands an incredible amount of discipline and mental energy that no one who has ever done a doctorate will understand. Frankly, writing a novel cannot compare because with writing a novel, you are doing it because you want to, 100%. You might not like every part of the process, but you are doing it knowing you have all the time in the world. Earning a doctorate means taking a few classes you may not enjoy, doing assignments you may absolutely despise, enduring practicals that are emotionally taxing and intensely stressful because you can’t get anything less than a B, studying things you find mind-numbingly dull but are necessary to progress in your degree, prepping for back-to-back exams, and bearing the weight of knowing that as each term progresses, it only gets harder, and as such you don’t want to slip up and fail and have to redo a class, putting you behind–and then, of course, let’s not forget clinicals and the looming boards in order to be licensed as a physical therapist. Oh, you also don’t have all the time in the world because you’re only allowed to fail so many times before you’re kicked out. At least with writing a novel, you can mess up an infinite number of times.

The stress is just different.

I also have ADHD. That adds another layer of what I’m able to tolerate. People with ADHD don’t have as high of a stress threshold as those without, so decompressing is absolutely crucial for us. We burnout more easily than neurotypicals do.

When I am done with hours of studying, I am mentally drained. I don’t want to do anything that requires mental effort, which is why I play video games and watch TV in my spare time. That is how I decompress. I read books as well and have taken up painting again. Even my job is an escape because it doesn’t require much mental effort. However much I love writing, writing a novel is mentally taxing and requires mental effort I do not have and cannot force. I don’t care what that one author said about how if we only wrote when we wanted to, we never would. That, frankly, is absolute bullshit. When I outline the third novel of The Stars Trilogy, I want to be at my semi-best so that this outline is something I can actually work with. I’ve already outlined the novel once, after all, and I want to change it entirely. If I tried to outline after I just got done studying for pathophysiology, it would be half-hearted, rushed, and garbage, to be frank. I even had a hard time fitting in a workout I was so drained.

Perhaps once I get more comfortable with school in general, with the idea that I can pass all of my classes without failing, I can begin to compartmentalize my days more and squeeze in writing before my brain has lost all of its energy. For now, I am fine with the idea I may not pick up the proverbial pen again until I graduate.

The Diagnosis That I Needed

The Diagnosis That I Needed

Recently I sought a diagnosis for ADHD from the psychiatrist I’ve been seeing for my bipolar disorder and anxiety. I’d been mulling on this possible diagnosis for months because I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t merely the difficulties of grad school flaring my anxiety and thus causing other issues. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to think about my childhood and how ADHD could have possibly affected it. Apparently boys and girls can express it differently, so I never struggled with staying still when I needed to (but I also do believe in elementary school we received plenty of movement). I was a well-behaved student who made good grades and never ended up in detention, ISS, or was ever suspended. I was very chatty and hyperactive when allowed to be and sometimes looked like I was paying attention but wasn’t and so daydreamed a lot and was a mess of anxiety and an absolute perfectionist, all things I never realized ADHD caused. No matter how many times my parents told me I just needed to do my best, my best was never good enough.

Sometimes you can go your whole life having this thing, slipping under the radar, because it doesn’t majorly affect your life just yet. But there were other things, too. I was messy as a child and still am. My desk would be crammed with garbage, as would my locker. I’d only clean it out when demanded, but I did love having a clean desk afterward. But it’d wind up messy again. My room was always a tornado. My mom would force me to clean it. Sometimes I’d be so sick of the mess I’d clean it, but it’d wind up messy again–and I tried so hard for it to not end up that way! I never had an explanation. I could sometimes be a little bit too much for my friends because of my hyperactivity, and I even had a boy dump me because he said I was too hyper. My handwriting is abysmal, and the one time I tried so hard to clean it up still wasn’t good enough when my teacher looked at me and asked, “Is this the best you can do?” Yes, that’s really the best I can do. Don’t even get me started on my childish cursive.

I’ve made peace with my terrible handwriting, but I do envy my peers with beautiful flourishes that I will never have no matter how hard I try. So I didn’t even know dysgraphia was a thing. I’m just grateful everything is typed now for the most part.

I have a temper, though I’m good at hiding it, and some things make me explosively impatient, like goniometry of the hand, anything to do with driving, sometimes video games. And of course my executive functioning is crap. The only thing that can force me to do boring tasks is stress, which isn’t fun. I can work well under stress, but I hate it. And the only reason I can think of as to why I did so well my first term of PT school unmedicated is stress and a combination of caffeine, which helps to mildly increase my focus, but is enough that I feel more in control of my attention span. I consumed caffeine every single day that I was studying for finals and didn’t struggle too much with staying still.

Let’s not even talk about anxiety. The reason I even started considering ADHD was because the anxiety was so atrocious/intense that my mind shut down, I disconnected from myself, and it took a while for me to feel connected to the world once again. My dad recommended PTA school instead, but the good thing about me is that despite seemingly unbeatable odds, I will never give up. It’s like I’m some sort of magical girl who made a wish to Kyubey about not wanting to give up, and bam! it’s neither mentally nor physically possible for me to do so. Plus, my brother received a diagnosis a few years ago, so my likelihood of having it shot up and he got through grad school. I know my breed of grad school is very different since it’s a clinical doctorate, meaning you’re taking more credit hours per term, but I put too much work in prior to starting. It’d be a failure on my part to give up.

This diagnosis greatly affected my ability to enjoy my first term, to enjoy the process of learning. It affected my marriage because I spent too much time studying because of my lack of focus, so I did not call my husband as much as I should have. It really began to mess things up, so I knew it was time to seek help and start medication. Plus, I took all screens available online, with the results being that I have a moderate case of it.

Thanks to my bipolar, my pdoc is hesitant starting me on stimulants, so I’m on a non-stimulant, which will take weeks to fully work.

I honestly can’t wait until it does. I have a co-worker with ADHD as well who told me that problems like anxiety can sometimes be taken care of through ADHD treatment. It makes me wonder if my anxiety is a separate thing or has been an ADHD thing this whole time. I know it doesn’t matter, of course. Anxiety is anxiety.

I know medication isn’t a quick fix, but I question who I really am now. I do like having more energy than the average person, as the type of energy people seek through coffee in energy drinks is something I naturally have. But it’s not that controlled. I want calm energy. How will I be under the influence of medication? Will the world start to make sense? Will I finally have more control over my emotions? Will I be able to tackle grad school with confidence rather than being terrified at the start of each new term? Will I want to stay on meds, or do I only need them at this point in my life?

I suppose we’ll see. I’m putting a lot of hope in this medication being the right one for me.

Writing Goals for 2021

Writing Goals for 2021

This is not a New Year’s Resolution for writers. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions for anything. These are simply things I hope to achieve by the end of this year, because I have dogged determination to be a writer/author despite being in physical therapy school. I pretty much could not balance a single thing, which is why WHEN STARS DIE has been on a bit of pause with my publisher. In any case, here are my plans:

  1. Have WHEN STARS DIE released. I don’t know how possible this is, not because I can’t manage it, but because I don’t know what the publishing schedule is like for this year for my publisher. Perhaps a more realistic goal would be to nail down a publication date. Once that’s nailed down, the true work begins, and I’ll have no choice but to get my writing chops in gear.
  2. Finish THE STARS ARE INFINITE copy edits. I lost a thumb drive over a year ago that contained the original, final manuscript from my last publisher. Thinking it’d be in my gmail, I started looking through everything mentioning TSAI, but unfortunately I could not find the final Word document manuscript that I sent off. However, I did find one containing copy edits, and I’ve been going through that and making the appropriate changes as well as changes that tighten the manuscript more, ones that did not exist in the published version. I’m actually almost done with this, so this is entirely feasible.
  3. Start re-outlining ALL STARS ALIGN. Originally Amelia from WHEN STARS DIE was going to be the main character for the final book in THE STARS TRILOGY, but I did write out an entire draft using her perspective, and she could not resonate with me the way she did the first time I introduced her in WSD. I felt her story had already been told, and that story is over with. There is nothing more to be said about her. In fact, her fixation is with her younger brother, Nathaniel, and it’s hard to create a story from that, even though I do give her a critical role that only she can play in ASA. Nathaniel, on the other hand, was introduced in WSD, played a major role in TSAI, and his perspective has not been told yet. The stakes are so much higher for him because of his love for Alice, the MC from TSAI. So I aim to re-do the outline with his perspective and change the story entirely. I hope by doing this, it’ll reinvigorate my passion for this trilogy.
  4. Start writing ALL STARS ALIGN. I hope to finish the outline before the year is out so that way I can get started on the first draft of ASA. After all, TSAI is ready for submission once WSD is out in the world again, so, if possible, I’d like to have ASA ready for the same once TSAI is back out in the world.

So what will I do after my trilogy? Well, I’ve already outlined the beginning of either a duology or trilogy that I hope my current publisher will be interested in later down the road. I have borrowed from the magical girl genre popularized in Japan (America does have its own magical girl genre, though it’s not explicitly called that). Obviously it’s going to have to make sense within the context of a novel because magical girl transformations only make sense in visual formats. I also have a contemporary LGBTQ+ novel that I started five years ago that I may try to seek an agent for–or just stick with the house I’m with. I’m not quite sure how I feel about traditional publishing anymore, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out once the time comes.

My Thoughts On My First Term of Physical Therapy School As a Flex Student

My Thoughts On My First Term of Physical Therapy School As a Flex Student

This term was tumultuous, not because of COVID (although that played a part in it), but because life loves getting in the way so much that sometimes you wonder how you’re going to make it through four full years. It seems absolutely nothing can go wrong in your personal life. Nothing, lest you wind up slipping and failing a test or two or three.

You’re constantly studying for something once you reach a certain point–and it’s not just a little studying that you can get away with. It’s a lot of studying that you must do. And oftentimes you are studying for a test at what seems the last minute because you were too busy preparing for a practical or a previous test that you had to put off that test. All of my finals I only had about two to three days each to study for, although I did get a head start on my applied anatomy final because the professor released the study guide two weeks in advance. I’m just not used to that, not when I was able to get weeks ahead of everything in all of my prerequisites.

Grad school is so difficult because you are learning far more information than you ever did in your undergrad, and it’s exceedingly so when you are working on a doctorate or a PhD. But I imagine things would be so much worse if I didn’t have my cohort; I know with a lot of other grad programs, you are very much working in isolation. We are all taking the same classes, doing the same assignments, striving for the same thing with no competition between us. We all chat on GroupMe, and we all feel the same things. It was never just me that felt like a test was too hard. It was never just me that was freaking out about a practical, not knowing if I’d pass or not.

Somehow I managed to come away with 4 A’s and a B+. How? I have no clue. I got a 70 on a midterm in soft tissue and didn’t think three A’s would be enough to pull that up to an A, but somehow it was enough. With gross anatomy, the second exam was tough as was the final–and I don’t guess well. But still, an A. Somehow. And I found the midterm and final for evidence informed practice to be a little challenging, so getting an A in that class was surprising. I also found the final for physical therapy practice to be a little challenging as well, even moreso because I threw luck to the wind and studied only quizlets I found online. But I wound up with an A in that class too. And applied anatomy? I think I got a B+ because all of my assignments were B’s. My very first practical I scraped by with an 84, and at the point of my testing, I had the highest score (don’t know if anyone who came after beat it, but I’m sure others did).

Despite these great grades, I am still very nervous for next term because I now know what’s in store. We were told our first term would be the hardest since it is a period of adjustment. You have to essentially learn how to study again. You have to get used to absorbing a great deal of information. You have to develop the mental stamina to be able to study all the time. My ocular muscles are so strong now that my eyes don’t jump around from studying anymore like they used to. And you have to make great sacrifices, sacrifices so great I had to center myself and figure out how to make my marriage work among all this as well as being able to keep my small part-time job because I just like making money.

It is so hard, and I’m just a flex student! I took five classes while the residential students took seven.

There were many times where I felt like I was crashing and burning out. There were many times where it was my anxiety keeping me going, even during the moments where my light had burned out. There were many times where I mulled over therapy, mulled over seeking a diagnosis for ADHD because my study habits are honestly crap despite my grades. It’s very possible I would not have needed to study all that time if I could just keep my butt down and study for two hours straight instead of being distracted by whatever flew into my mind. And I’m going to be honest and say I rarely did my readings.

Yet, somehow I did it.

We are told to not worry about grades, to learn the material. But the mindset that grades matter is frankly impossible to break when you’ve grown up being told that they are. After all, the only students who ever received actual awards during school were students with great grades. There were only ever A and A and B honor rolls, never B honor rolls or even a most improved honor roll or anything like that. And we all know that perfect attendance awards are classist/ableist jokes. So I want to keep the momentum going while ensuring I do learn the material so that I am the best physical therapist possible.

It’s so hard to separate proficient learning from that letter grade. Getting a C would make me feel like I haven’t learned the material at all. Getting a C would have me sailing into the arms of my success advisor. If I get a C next term, then I could fail the following term. Or so the thought process believes.

I know this sounds super bleak, but this is raw, this is honest. PT school is not for the faint of heart. You have to be truly passionate about this discipline to get through it despite the struggle. You have to understand that even when you’re being brought to your knees, you have to get back up and keep going. You also have to understand that PT school is hard. It is supposed to be. Even the smartest, even those who might have graduated valedictorian, are going to find it hard.

Despite being terrified of next term, I have hope that somehow I will cope better. Somehow I will manage my mind better. I will be used to it all.

Which Direction Should You Take In Publishing?

Which Direction Should You Take In Publishing?

I remember when I was a child and the only available avenue for legitimate publishing was the traditional route via securing an agent beforehand. I knew of self-publishing, but a lot of it was considered vanity publishing and even brushed off as a scam. And it was like this for quite some time until Amazon released an e-reader that rocketed into popularity. A lot of people didn’t think it was going to make it, arguing they preferred print instead, but it’s popular and the fact that it’s still around inspired writers to self-publish under their own names/companies. And other writers launched their own publishing companies that became known as independent presses (or indie). Of course, there are large publishers out there that you can argue are the traditional route that don’t require an agent (some would consider these independent), but the point I’m getting at is there are options now. No one has to worry about never being able to make their dreams come true.

With options now, I know there are writers out there struggling to figure out which route to take. So I’m going to outline the various paths along with the pros and cons to hopefully help you out with your publishing journey.

  1. Traditional Route. A lot of people take the traditional route because they want to see their books in bookstores (although you can get this with certain indie presses). You’re also more likely to net a movie deal this way. The marketing is also usually done 100% for you because traditional publishers tend to have much larger budgets for it. If you know your book has commercial appeal, this route is something to consider. Now a book without commercial appeal can still stand a chance, but when we talk about commercial appeal, the book can usually draw in a wide audience from many different backgrounds. For most of these publishers, you will have to secure an agent. Royalties are considerably smaller, and it’s anyone’s guess what your advance will be. You also most likely will not have control over your book cover–really, you’ll be giving up a lot of control in general. I think only big name authors are granted that privilege of having a say in what goes on. So if you want all or some control of your book, this route probably isn’t for you.
  2. Independent Press (Indie or Small Press). This route usually does not require an agent, although some indie publishers are open for them. This is the route I have taken with The Stars Trilogy. I chose this route for those books because to me they are more niche and don’t have commercial appeal. I have also loved being able to have some control in the process. I had a say in what the covers looked like (though these will be changing under my new publisher). Indie presses pretty much encourage you to fully take part in the process, even though if you’re like me, I don’t want 100% control because I do trust the experts and all writers have innate bias with their own works. You also get to see your book published sooner than you would for a larger press. Royalties are also at least 50%, which makes up for the lack of advance in a lot of indie presses–but mostly if you sell well. The downside, of course, is that the marketing budget is limited and you have to do some yourself, you usually won’t end up in bookstores (unless you’re lucky or approach independent bookstores), and some indie presses do e-book only. Your book may also struggle to sell depending on who you go with, which is why I recommend finding indie presses that have bestsellers.
  3. Self-publishing. This obviously allows you full, 100% control over everything, from editing to cover design. Some people use this as a last resort when other options have failed. Others use this as their only route because they want control and don’t want someone else dictating the direction of their manuscript. Self-publishing is great because it means your hard work still has a chance. Not only that, but you can still bring it to print and even get it into local bookstores with a little legwork. E-books are also, as far as we know, forever. Unlike with being with a publisher where your book is only signed on for a certain number of years unless you sell really well, you don’t have to worry about that with self-publishing. So if your book starts out slow, there’s always a chance it can gain traction. Of course, this option does involve needing to spend money. It is up to you how much you want to spend, like whether you’re going to create the cover yourself or have someone else do it. However, you absolutely need to hire an editor/copy editor/proofreader. Writers are too close to their work to be able to properly judge it. Marketing is also entirely on you, and that is its own skillset you have to learn if you want your book to be successful. But despite this, all profits are yours.

Whatever path you choose, make sure you are well-informed about these options before deciding. I’m likely going to keep my paranormal books with my current publisher and try to find a literary agent for any contemporary books I write.

My Philosophy on Criticism

My Philosophy on Criticism

Recently I’ve been offering criticism for other writers’ stories–mostly short stories or a chapter or two in a manuscript–in an effort to help keep my skills sharp. I’ve been enjoying it, and I realize how much I’ve missed it. It has also gotten me thinking about how I prefer to word my criticism versus how other writers might do it.

I prefer to be kind in my criticism. I am straightforward, but I am not mean- spirited, overly critical, or even unnecessarily tough. The way I view the world of writing is that writing as a craft is tough to master as it is, but it is an art that many do for enjoyment and self-fulfillment. Writing is not the military where it must be tough because soldiers might find themselves in a life-or-death situation. So I don’t see the point in being, well, mean. You never know what your criticism could do to someone.

I understand. You have to have thick skin, but to me that’s only insofar as understanding that your story IS NOT PERFECT. You cannot ever hope to get published without receiving criticism from someone else. You have to be open to changing your story, even going so far as to perhaps tearing the entire thing up and starting over again. But that thick skin should not extend to having to endure meanness. And unfortunately, I see a lot of it out there.

I can recall when The Stars Are Infinite was an entirely different story in its infancy. I put the prologue (when it had one) up on some writer’s website where people could read and rate it, and the whole idea of the website was that publishing professionals would be drawn to it and use it to request partials or fulls. My chapter had 4.5 stars despite being very amateurish and was actually on the front page, which meant it was popular. But I remember one commenter who was rather brutal–and they were the only one. It didn’t hurt my feelings, and I did take the criticism and run with it after thinking on it; however, I would have taken the criticism anyway, even if said person had worded it kindly.

It was just overall unnecessary, as though this person had a chip on their shoulder or was jealous. And when I see other writers commenting similarly, that’s what I think: you’re jaded and are tired of one too many rejections.

I actually did not grow as a writer from that person. I grew from Georgia McBridge, owner of Month9Books. When YALitChat was around, I was an intern for it. In exchange for helping out, she offered to critique TSAI. She was only able to help with the first five chapters, but never was she once harsh. She taught me how to write a good hook, how to write some solid first three chapters, and when I was struggling with chapters four and five, she told me to sit down and outline the whole book. And as I was outlining, that’s when I realized TSAI needed When Stars Die first.

Without her, I never would have gotten this trilogy off the ground. And again, she didn’t have to be mean at all! I feel like I learned many years worth of material under her than I ever would have learned without her. So ultimately I learned nothing from that harsh critic despite readily accepting their criticism.

Ultimately, I do not understand this idea that writers should just accept severe criticism as a part of doing this craft. So next time you’re critiquing a writer, perhaps think of how you’re approaching their piece and realize you can be thorough and even strict without being callous.

When Stars Die’s New Home!

When Stars Die’s New Home!

It’s no secret that my last publisher, Gnome on Pig Productions, folded after being around for quite some time. I wish I could say I was surprised, but COVID has been doing a number on a lot of people, including the new place I work at and one or two of its branches. Lots of businesses are going under, or having to cutting costs by cutting people. I have heard that even the medical field hasn’t been safe from the damage wrought by COVID.

It’s been both an exciting and admittedly rough time. I have just started physical therapy school amid the pandemic, and this means many of my labs, which are generally in person, are now mostly virtual, and that is challenging as I wrap up my first week. As you can imagine, physical therapy is a very hands-on profession, and it’s just not possible to be a good clinician without putting your hands on someone.

When my publisher let all of us know what was going to happen, I had no idea what I was going to do. I had initially thought of doing self-publishing, but that was before I lost my last job, which paid so much better than this new one does. I would have been able to afford it then. Now I have to squirrel away money purely for PT school.

So I decided to pound the pavement again, but I really only had one publisher in mind because they publish speculative fiction, have bestsellers, have several imprints, and overall have an impressive catalogue of books (with fabulous covers to boot). They’ve been around for eight years and also do accept previously published books. I was pining for them at this point. So I submitted and only had to wait a couple of weeks. And as you can guess at this point, I got the contract!

It is with Crushing Hearts Black Butterfly Publishing (or CHBB Publishing). So I think my Stars Trilogy has finally found its forever home, and I look forward to seeing what Mrs. Sarah Brandon has in store for these books. I feel confident When Stars Die is in good hands and am so, so, so beyond grateful it is being given yet another chance to thrive. For a brief, dark moment, I considered giving up on it because maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. But then I thought about how I started working on the trilogy when I was fourteen, and nine years later, it was first published. How could I let all of that work go to waste? I couldn’t. So at this point, I am grateful and relieved.

And in even more exciting news, because I’m obsessed with beautiful cover art, it has been decided between me and my publisher that my trilogy should have new covers. I still love the current covers and think they are beautiful, but unfortunately Viola Estrella, who created the first two, is no longer doing cover art. This trilogy also truly needs a fresh start, so I thought that would be the best course of action. It’s not that I don’t think someone couldn’t make a third cover and have it line up with the style of the first two. It’s simply more exciting to start anew. That means cover reveals!

There is no release date yet, but once I get it, I will let you all know. For now, I will end with the blurb.

When Amelia finds out her younger brother is a witch, they must flee-or die. The city of Malva is rife with puritanical hatred for witches, who are said to embody the Seven Deadly Sins of mankind. Amelia’s only chance of saving Nathaniel, her brother, is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims, but doing so means enduring a series of trials: near-starvation, intense isolation, beatings, and blood-sucking leeches. Escalating these are shadowy beings only Amelia can see. After harming her best friend with fire, a witch’s signature, she worries they are after her because she is a witch like her brother, who reveals he, too, can see them.

Oliver Cromwell, a dashing priest at Cathedral Reims, confirms her fears. He tells Amelia that these beings are Shadowmen: dead, unredeemed witches seeking others like Amelia to join their ranks. When this group of rebel Shadowmen begin planning to destroy those who slaughtered them, Oliver is the only one who can protect Amelia and save Malva. Yet, he may prove more dangerous than the shadows themselves–and his love for Amelia fatal.