Calling All Beta Readers

As many of you know, I finished my YA fantasy Nightfire a while ago. While my other MS is out on submissions, I want to get Nightfire ready for querying. Which means edits, but at this point I really need a fresh set of eyes.

Life is great and busy for my CPs which is awesome but means I don’t have my usual people to go to. So I need your help! I’m looking to you, #amwriting community, for a few great beta readers that can give me focused, honest feedback that will help set me on the right path for edits. Are you a fan of YA fantasy? Have you read some of my snippets and want to see more? Or maybe you’re just a super awesome person who wants to help a fellow writer out 🙂 Please let me know! If you want to but don’t have much time to commit, I’ll gladly take more general feedback, or send a partial instead.

If you’re interested, you can read more about Nightfire under the My Books tab, or read some snippets from the Weekend Writing Warriors category. If you want to be a beta reader please comment below, message me on Twitter, or email me at vdavenportwrite@gmail.com.

Thank yall so much!

Vicious Cycle

Hey all, I know I’ve pretty absent lately and I’m sorry about that. I’d hoped to be more involved over the break, but actually the opposite happened. I know I haven’t kept up with things or been as engaged, but it has nothing to do with you lovely people. So I thought I owed y’all a bit of an explanation and a little look into the other side of my life, that unfortunately has very little to do with writing.

If you’ve been around for a while, you probably know that I’m chronically ill, including a heart condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. I’ve been lucky enough the past year or so to be doing really well, with mostly good days with a few scattered bad ones, versus bad days with a few scattered good ones. I’d hoped that meant my condition was improving, or at least I was able to manage it enough to live a relatively healthy and full life.

Well, lately that’s been changing. I’ve had more and more episodes, more sick days, more days trapped in bed. The worst part is always missing out. I missed out on a lot of family time over the holidays, I missed out on parties and a lot of my social life, and now I’m starting to miss out on school and am dreading the semester ahead.

I wanted to spend the break writing, but honestly in two months, I haven’t even written enough to fill a page.

The problem is there’s a lot of times that I’m too sick to be writing, but then the rest of the time I don’t feel like writing. I feel frustrated, helpless, trapped, alone. It’s like having this big, heavy leech on my back all the time, sucking everything out of me.

It’s scary to think that I’m getting worse, that I might even relapse to the severity that I was before. I don’t want to be stuck in bed for three months again. I have huge plans and goals for this year. I don’t want to lose all of the things I love, especially not writing, and especially not this amazing writing community. This is when my body reminds what it really means, and what it really costs, to live with chronic illness.

I’m trying to turn to writing to help me through this, but sometimes it’s just hard. It’s hard to break this cycle of feeling sick then feeling down, with no space for writing in between. I’m hoping I can shake this soon, but I also know things don’t always work out the way we want them to, something I’ve been learning the hard way lately.

Thank you all for sticking around, even though I haven’t been the most present and engaged. Please be patient with me. I’ll do my best to post and respond to all of you, but know that I read and value every single response I get, whether I’m able to respond or not. Sometimes your comments are the highlight of an otherwise dark day.

I hope I can get through this soon, at least get back to writing, but with chronic illness you really never know. Either way I’d really appreciate prayer, positive writing vibes, whatever you can spare right now 🙂 Thanks, and hope to see more of y’all! You really are all the best.

Writing as a Superpower

Superhero movies are everywhere right now. Spiderman, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, you name it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch stories about often ordinary people becoming larger than life and saving the world? They capture our inner child, and the part in every one of us that wants to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Which superpower would you want to have? Flying, super strength, x-ray vision? I’ve always thought that flying would be the best superpower. I could go anywhere I wanted in the world, anytime. Not to mention I’d never have to deal with traffic again.

But while those are all great superpowers and would be so super cool to have, I think we have a pretty great superpower of our own.

Writing.

How could writing be a superpower? You couldn’t stand in Godzilla’s path of destruction, hold up your pen, and command him to stop. Well, you could but you’d just end up a little human bug squashed on the bottom of his foot. You couldn’t do much of anything in a big screen superhero world except be one of the many citizens running for their lives.

But off the big screen, in our real world, writing has a lot of power. A lot more than we realize, sometimes. I bet every one of us can name the book or author who sparked our love for words, or who inspired us to change in some other way. For me, it was Tamora Pierce. I’d always loved reading, but her books started a fire in me that I couldn’t put out, and haven’t been able to, to this day. Not only did she inspire me to write, but she taught me so much about myself and life at a time when I was so young and trying to figure everything out.

Writing has the power to change lives. Books can inspire a new generation of writers. They can shape or even redefine someone’s perception of themselves, or the world. Books can open eyes, and call people to action to change the wrong in our world.

I’ve heard countless stories and have friends who say that books saved their lives. I myself am one of them. You can read my full story here, but writing is what got me through my illness, and through the absolute darkest moments of my life. Writing was that one beam of light, when everything seemed hopeless. It has given me strength, motivation, and hope.

Sometimes I am just so amazed at the power books can have to truly change lives. Isn’t it beautiful, how words and stories are one of the few things that can affect us all, no matter age, race, country, or language? And by affecting all of us, they bring us together, unite us, in a way that nothing else can? Stories are the world’s most powerful tools.

By changing each of these lives, by affecting us and uniting us, writing has the power to change the world.

Just look at the Hunger Games series. While they are undeniably brilliant, I doubt that Suzanne Collins expected to create real-world impact when she wrote those books. Real-life protesters in Thailand adopted the three-finger salute to challenge a military coup in their country. I got chills seeing some of the images from those protests. And very recently, the Ferguson protests, which happened to be the same week as the Mockingjay release, I kept thinking of the movie when watching news coverage. Katniss’ words to Snow replayed in my mind: “If we burn, you burn with us.” And then, those exact words appeared tagged on a wall during the protests.

This is one of the many things I love about books. There really is nothing else that can have so much power. But this is also something we have to consider as writers, the same way superheroes have to consider how to use their powers. How will we use writing for good? How will we use it to change lives, or even the world?

Your writing doesn’t have to be epic or grand, with some sort of deep, lasting, philosophical message. Even if your writing is just a scary story for a thrill, or a love story, or just for fun, your writing will still influence someone. You have the power to change a life, even if it’s as seemingly simple as falling for a new genre, or learning about relationships and love, or finding a passion for writing. Because if every single one of us changes just one life, together we have changed the world.

So writers, assemble! The word signal is lit, our writing senses are tingling, and it’s time to save the world, one word at a time 🙂

6 Month Blog-a-versary and Thank YOU

Six months ago to the day (minus one) I started this whole adventure. I’d been writing my whole life, but finally decided to dive into the writing community. I had no idea what to expect, and no idea that it would ever become something that truly has a piece of my heart.

Six months ago, I was just another blogger, sharing her love of writing, and talking to an empty room.

I started this because it was what I was supposed to do. I wanted to build myself as a professional, get involved and plugged in, and learn about the industry. Which I did, and it’s been great, but I didn’t plan on meeting people who were genuinely kind and went out of their way to help me, or just talk about life. I didn’t plan on really making connections over the internet, because that seemed like such a strange concept to me, but I also didn’t know the writing community then.

Oh, I had no idea. 🙂

Six months later, I have over 1,000 total followers and have made true connections, relationships, and even friendships in that. I think that is the biggest thing that surprised me; how close the online writing community feels. We are separated by miles, countries, and even languages, but you have become a part of my life.

Some of you have helped me with professional questions, or writing dilemmas, or finding inspiration. Some of you have debated opinions with me, or talked about life, or supported me in my illness even though most of you have no idea what it is like. When I am having a bad day, I can always count on words and the writing community. No matter what, there is always a smile there for me.

Six months ago, I couldn’t imagine what this would be like. Now I can’t imagine what it would be like without all of this.

Really, I couldn’t do this without you.

So, here I am, sending 1,022 virtual hugs to each and every one of you.

I have learned and grown so much, and gained so much happiness since I started. You have made these six months amazing, and so worth it.

So thank YOU.

 

Worthy of the Week

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Hey all! Here is this Friday’s Worthy of the Week, a weekly breakdown of things worth sharing. If you like what you see, feel free to join in! Just post your link in the comments, and I’ll stop by 🙂 Check out the others here. 

Inspiration

I don’t usually do a video for inspiration, but thought this video was so powerful, and had so much story in it. Something about the little boy in a doctor’s coat, treating battle-torn adults not only tugged my heartstrings, but made my writer’s brain churn. Definitely worth the watch, though be warned it is about the Syria conflict and is rather violent and graphic.

Issues

Though I really have no connection to it, Ferguson really affected me. So much so that I wrote an entire post about it. But I recently found this post which highlights the issue around the Ferguson events, and that this is not just a one-time tragedy, it is a pattern. And clearly, a large part of it is about race, whether we want to admit it or not.

Words of Wisdom

You’ve probably heard this quote before, but I think this is important for writers. This is part of what I love about books and what I try to do through my writing. Everything else will fade, but words and their feelings remain. Despite time, distance, and language, words never cease their ability to connect us.

This Week's Quote: Maya Angelou

 

From The Outside Looking In

You have probably heard of the recent chaos that is Ferguson. If you haven’t, I suggest you read this post. If you have, I suggest you read it anyways. I know this is totally non-book related, but I just had to get this out. Since I first heard of it more than a week ago, I keep reading bits and pieces of each side of the story, usually conflicting and confusing. I have yet to read something that breaks the whole situation down, and looks at both sides. I hope to do that here, and in the process sort out this tangle of thoughts and feelings I have about Ferguson. I am in no way an expert in any of this, but both sides of each point are taken from real arguments and points I have seen made.

Side 1: Michael Brown was a criminal and thug. He stole cigars from a convenience store and matched the description of the criminal. The cop who shot him feared for his life, and shot in self defense. 

Side 2: Michael Brown was a 17-year-old boy who was about to be the first in his family to attend college. The security footage which is pointed to as evidence of him robbing the store has also been used to show he paid for them, or that it’s difficult to identify him in the video at all. Even if he had stolen the cigars, the penalty for theft is not death. Self defense is understandable, but Michael Brown was unarmed at the time, and was shot six times. According to one of the autopsies, one of those bullets entered the top of his head, indicating he was already face-down on the ground. Autopsies also showed he was not at close range (read: not dangerous) when he was shot. Also, why six potentially fatal bullets? A tazer or shot to the leg would have stopped him, without having to kill him.

Side 1: People started riots and looting after his death, and many used it as an excuse for violence. Force is necessary in return to keep order and protect the people.

Side 2: The majority of protesters were entirely peaceful, with only a handful who were violent in any way. Yet, SWAT and military trucks, assault rifles, and tear gas was brought out in full, threatening force. Many were held at gunpoint and arrested including media, and both tear gas and rubber bullets were fired on peaceful protesters. Also, some looting was out of need–such as protesters who broke into a McDonalds to get milk for those who had been hit with tear gas.

Side 1: They are trying to make everything about race. Why does no one care when it is black-on-white crime? 

Side 2: Missouri, and specifically Ferguson, apparently has racism deeply embedded in its history. Many witnesses and protesters reported police officers and dispatchers calling them racial slurs when they tried to get information, or to talk peacefully. There is also a long precedent of police officers discriminating against those of color, and that has sometimes ended in tragedy, such as the recent death of Eric Garner who was choked to death by a police officer. They are making it about race because at least some part about it is, the world just doesn’t want to see it. (Also, have you noticed how few of the police officers are not white? I have only seen one man of color in the entire force.)

Side 1: Why don’t the media and protesters just go home? They are just stirring the pot. They want the attention and excitement.

Side 2: Yes, they could go home, but their problems wouldn’t go away. Maybe for the media–but it is the media’s job to show the world these things, especially the things that people try so hard to hide and keep from the public (such as the lies about tear gas and corralling media away from action). They have every right to protest, and they are angry. They want to be seen and heard, because they are tired of the way things are and they want change.

 

So far, I think those are the main controversies that I have observed (please point out anything I might have missed). From someone who is relatively detached from the situation and conflict, I find myself siding with the protesters. The police have lied, kept secrets, used unnecessary violence, shot rubber bullets at protesters, violated first amendment rights, and shot tear gas at peaceful protesters including children (and lied about it). For me, there are too many tallies against them that I have a hard time seeing their side, even when I look at the facts. And I did try to weigh both sides, and see how they might be justified.

But the truth is, none of this is. Even if Michael Brown had been a criminal who robbed a store and been shot by a cop acting in self defense, even if there were looters and rioters, even if they’re making this about race and trying to stir the pot, does not justify a police force that looks too much like an occupying army in an oppressive regime. Attacking unarmed and peaceful civilians? Taking away rights, violating the first amendment, and enforcing their rules with an iron fist?

Really, it makes me angry. How could we as humans do this? How could we let this happen? It makes me want to get there on the front lines and chant for justice right along with them.

It is shocking that this could ever happen, that it is still happening, and that we haven’t really done anything about it. And honestly, it is terrifying. To see how easily this did happen, how fragile our system and our little world is, and just how close we are to real life dystopia.

My thoughts and prayers are with those in Ferguson this week, and I really hope this gets resolved soon, for all of our sakes.

 

 

This video is a quick, factual, and clear breakdown of the situation and some of the factors behind it.

Also worth checking out: This news interview, these pictures, and this article. 

 

What’s Up Wednesday

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Hey all! It’s been a little while, but I’m back for this week! 🙂 What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, to help connect writers on this writing journey. If you’d like to join us, check out the blogs each week, get to know some of the other writers taking part, and spread some writerly love! 

What I’m Reading

Just finished Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo and LOVED (of course). Ruin and Rising is next, but I think I’m procrastinating because I don’t want it to be over yet. If I could only be half of a fraction of her amazing, I would be content.

What I’m Writing

Between leftover CampNaNo burnout (yes, still) and having an illness relapse (you can read more here and here), the words haven’t happened much lately. They’ve happened somewhat, but still not anywhere near my normal. I did get a couple good 1ks in, so I’m not too bad, but I was hoping to get this draft finished by the end of summer–and seeing as classes start on Monday, that’s not going to happen. I’m about 15k short, so hopefully I can knock it out pretty soon 🙂

What Inspires Me

Lately, my CPs have been especially brilliant (impossible, I know). We’ve had some amazing brain babies (brain storming sessions) lately and not only have we made some great progress on my own WIP, but listening to and working on their projects can be just as helpful and inspiring.

What Else I’m Up To

I am all moved in! I have been staying in my first apartment for a couple weeks now, and am loving it. Of course, being close to my CPs now helps too 🙂 I will probably regret this in a week, but I am actually looking forward to classes starting. Now that I am in my third year, my classes are all related to my major and career and I find them interesting and even enjoy them (shocking, I know).

Hope everyone has a great start to the new school year, and have a great week!

Spoons

Wow, I cannot thank y’all enough for your amazing response and support to my last post about my chronic illness. It really, really means a lot to me. But I also realized how little some people understand or realize about chronic illness, so I thought it would be important to talk a little more about what it is really like.

First, it is unpredictable. I may feel relatively “normal” for a week or so, then the next week because unable to even get out of bed (like this week). It hits without warning, and without reason. I might take all the precautions to be healthy, avoid certain things, stay hydrated, etc. but that can never stop it from happening anyways.

Second, it is nothing like normal illness. If any of you have ever had a bad case of strep, you may know that feeling of being completely drained, where your whole body aches and all you can do is sleep. That is kind of what it can be like having chronic illness, only all the time, in varying degrees. Chronic means chronic. It isn’t going to go away, or even get better. There is no cure in most cases. I can’t get healthy by working out more or juicing or meditating two hours a day. Making healthy choices can help my symptoms, but it will never truly go away.

Third, everyone is different, and no one can judge someone else’s experience or illness. One person might look relatively healthy or normal on a day-to-day basis, like me. Another might have visible symptoms such as bruising, hair loss, or need for a wheelchair or walker. Just because I can look healthy, doesn’t mean I am or even am feeling well. On the other hand, just because they look sick doesn’t mean they are useless or less than anyone else. Oh, and not judging someone else also means no advice or solutions, even if they are well-intentioned. Instead, they usually come off more condescending and hurtful than helpful. “Why don’t you try working out more?” sounds more like “If you weren’t out of shape, you wouldn’t be sick.” Not to mention, see last line above.

The Paper Butterfly showed me this great explanation of chronic illness, called the spoon theory, written by Christine Miserandino of the But You Don’t Look Sick blog. You can read the full post here, but here is an excerpt that really breaks it down. It is a little long, but absolutely worth the time.

I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon.

When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning…I quickly took away a spoon and she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair and shaving her legs…Getting dressed was worth another spoon.

I stopped her and broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about…I think she was starting to understand when she theoretically didn’t even get to work, and she was left with 6 spoons. I then explained to her that she needed to choose the rest of her day wisely, since when your “spoons” are gone, they are gone. Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s “spoons”, but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less “spoons”. I also needed to explain that a person who is sick always lives with the looming thought that tomorrow may be the day that a cold comes, or an infection, or any number of things that could be very dangerous. So you do not want to run low on “spoons”, because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn’t want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, and unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.

We went through the rest of the day, and she slowly learned that skipping lunch would cost her a spoon, as well as standing on a train, or even typing at her computer too long. She was forced to make choices and think about things differently. Hypothetically, she had to choose not to run errands, so that she could eat dinner that night.

When we got to the end of her pretend day, she said she was hungry. I summarized that she had to eat dinner but she only had one spoon left. If she cooked, she wouldn’t have enough energy to clean the pots. If she went out for dinner, she might be too tired to drive home safely. Then I also explained, that I didn’t even bother to add into this game, that she was so nauseous, that cooking was probably out of the question anyway. So she decided to make soup, it was easy. I then said it is only 7pm, you have the rest of the night but maybe end up with one spoon, so you can do something fun, or clean your apartment, or do chores, but you can’t do it all.

I rarely see her emotional, so when I saw her upset I knew maybe I was getting through to her. I didn’t want my friend to be upset, but at the same time I was happy to think finally maybe someone understood me a little bit. She had tears in her eyes and asked quietly “Christine, How do you do it? Do you really do this everyday?”

I explained that some days were worse then others; some days I have more spoons then most. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, “I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared.”

Its hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything. I fight this to this day. I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to. I wanted her to feel that frustration. I wanted her to understand, that everything everyone else does comes so easy, but for me it is one hundred little jobs in one. I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it and make a plan like I am strategizing a war.

It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick and healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think and just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count “spoons”.

If you are healthy, you can never truly understand what it is like to be chronically ill, and I am really glad you don’t have to. But having an open mind and being educated can be a step towards understanding what someone goes through, and being able to better support them. It really does mean a lot.

Worthy of the Week

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Hey all! Sorry I missed the post last week, as you may know I’ve been sick lately. But here is this Friday’s Worthy of the Week, a weekly breakdown of things worth sharing. If you like what you see, feel free to join in! Just post your link in the comments, and I’ll stop by 🙂 Check out the others here. 

Inspiration

These beautiful, haunting, surreal photographs.

   

The second two are by Kyle Thompson, who is a phenomenal photographer and artist, and more than worth looking up.

Issues

This week has been one of tragedies. Two huge celebrity deaths, Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, and the ongoing violence in Ferguson. I think it is so important that we let Robin William’s death and suicide bring to light an often avoided topic–mental illness, depression, and suicide. I have heard many different reactions to this, varying from celebration to damnation, saying he made a weak, selfish choice and left his family behind. But I think a lot of people with that reaction have never experienced anything close to what it is like to wrestle with depression. For them, and everyone else, I have this video. I’ve also heard it compared to those who jump out of burning buildings–they don’t want to jump, but it feels like the only alternative to being burned alive, but the people on the ground don’t understand unless they have been in a burning building themselves. And this video captures something I think is so hugely important for how we deal with and talk about his death. Regardless of how you feel, he was an amazing man who touched so many lives, and it hurts my heart that he was in so much pain he saw no other option.

Words of Wisdom

Being sick and stuck in bed this week, I really felt this next one. I love books because they give me freedom, even if I feel stuck in this sick body.

INSTANT DOWNLOAD Mason Cooley Reading Quote by artkeptsimple

The Fog

It’s inescapable and suffocating, a fog that consumes me entirely.

No, I’m not talking about that fog–the killer horror movie kind–but the kind that is always inside of me, all the time. Its name is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and today it came out with a vengeance.

If you know me or are familiar with this blog at all, you’ve likely heard me mention it before. Honestly, I don’t talk about it very often because I try not to focus on it. I refuse to let my illness win, become a part of every aspect of my life, and suck the joy out of everything that I enjoy.

But today, it did just that.

Sorry for the past few days of relative silence, but I’ve had a good reason I promise. Normally, I’m good about “powering through” my bad days. I’ve been living with my illness for more than seven years, so I’ve gotten pretty good at managing it. But if you are one of my unfortunate comrades who have chronic illness yourselves, you are all too familiar with the fog.

I’ve been reading the Shadow and Bone trilogy, so I am comparing it to the Fold. A lot of days, I am able to summon enough light to pierce through the fog, just like Alina, but others, I don’t have the strength, or it’s just not enough.

Today was one of those days. After I was up all night being physically ill, my body is completely wiped. I slept for twelve hours, then napped, and still didn’t have the energy or strength to get out of bed. I haven’t been able to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time without feeling dizzy, let alone make it out of room or down a single flight of stairs. I didn’t even have energy to hold a conversation with my boyfriend or family, and spent the day more or less in isolation, but for my ever present cuddle buddy and sick day companion.

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It has been a long time since I have had such a bad day as far as my illness. But I am reminded, even now, when it is difficult to summon enough strength to write this post, that no matter how bad things are in this body, I can escape to a hundred others.

Being trapped in this bed can feel an awful lot like sitting in a jail cell–but books and writing are a portal to an endless possibility of worlds, and freedom.

This is why I love writing, and why I will never, ever stop being a writer. I can’t. Words and ink are like oxygen and blood to me. They are my light, to pierce through the fog and the muck of this life, no matter how dark it seems.

Reading Siege and Storm got me through today. For a few hours at least, I could forget the pain and discomfort of this body, and become someone else entirely, lost in a rich, vivid, fantasy world. What could be better than that?

The reality of my illness means that I cannot always push through, and I will have to miss out on things, sometimes things that I love. I’ve missed staying connected with the writing community, work, a party, and interacting with friends and family. Please be patient with me in times like this, and know that I have not forgotten about all you lovely people, I am trying my best 🙂

I will have this illness for the rest of my life, and nothing can change that until there is a cure.  In the mean time, though, books make life a whole lot better.

And with that, I am going to finish this book, and then nap for the third time today.