Self-Care When Life is Exhausting

Photo credit: hsingy on Flickr
Life since November 9th has been pretty exhausting and disheartening, but I think it's all starting to catch up with me. Or just piling into something overwhelming. Or something.

Stuff with my chronic illness has kind of taken the spotlight for me this month. I've been flaring multiple times a week—probably at least partially due to stress—and I just started a new medication I'd been avoiding for years for various reasons (one of them being it's injected weekly), which in theory should help significantly, but it's been emotionally exhausting. Combine that with watching the GOP dismantle ACA and knowing there's a very real possibility I may not be able to get insurance at all once I turn 26 in just over a year, and thus may not be able to treat the disease upending my life—

It's just. It's a lot.

Monday supposedly will be the day the GOP reveals their replacement plan, so I should know—soon—how much this is going to affect my future. But between this and other exhausting things happening in my life, I've become intensely aware I need to take care of myself right now.

So. Here are some self-care tips for when life is exhausting. Tips that I will be trying to implement myself.

  • Take as many breaks as you need. Breaks are important, and especially when you're dealing with A Lot and it starts to feel overwhelming, it's important to give yourself permission to take the breaks you need. After all, you're not going to do your best work if you burn yourself out.

  • Step away from social media when needed. Social media can be great sometimes for various reasons, but sometimes it can be stressful. And some days, you just don't have the energy, or emotional space, etc. to handle whatever is being discussed. And that's okay. You don't have to be there for everything.

  • Comfort food is delicious. I'm thinking I might make (low sugar, because sugar triggers my anxiety) brownies or something because it's been a rough week and dammit, I deserve brownies. But seriously, don't underestimate the power of comfort food, whether that's tea, soup, your favorite meal, or your some kind of dessert.

  • Baths and showers are good for de-stressing. And relaxing. Basically, they're nice if you let them be.

  • So are candles. I love candles, especially ones that smell like sweets. You are probably noticing a theme here. That's okay. Candles can be very relaxing.

  • Also reading. Bonus—you can work toward your reading goal! Just don't stress out about that part, because that sort of defeats the purpose of reading to relax. 

  • Talk to uplifting friends. I can't stress enough how much it helps to have supportive people to talk to. Whether those friends are online, local, or something else, make sure you take time to talk to uplifting people in your life when you need it. 

  • You don't have to fight every day. This has been especially important for me to remember. Especially with everything going on politically, it feels like there's always a dozen things to fight everyday—and unfortunately right now that's not really far from the truth. But you don't have to tackle everything every day. You're allowed to take breaks as long as you need. You can't fight if you've run yourself into the ground, so whenever you need to take a day or week or whatever off—do it knowing it's okay.

So that's what I've got—now I want to hear from you. What self-care tips do you have? 

Twitter-sized bite:
In stressful times, self-care is essential. @Ava_Jae shares some self-care suggestions and things to remember. (Click to tweet)

The Final Polish Round-Up

Photo credit: atomicShed on Flickr
So you've finished your major revisions, which means your major plot, character, world building, pacing, etc. issues have been fully addressed and resolved. The heavy lifting is over, but you're not quite done yet, because next comes the detail work. 

That's right, I'm talking about line edits. 

Line edits are my favorite part of editing other people's manuscripts, but I do tend to find it a little more difficult for my own work, mostly because by the time the stage comes to work on line edits rolls around, I've already read my work a ton. Which means sometimes noticing the details can be a little challenging. 

I've done a couple posts covering things to look for when doing line edits and/or trying to cut, but as I don't yet have all of those related posts in one place, I figured now was as good a time as any to put them together. Partially because I haven't done it yet and partially because I need them all together as I start my own line edits. So. ;)

Without further ado, here are a couple posts to peruse as you prepare to do that final polish and/or line edits. Because sometimes it helps to have a list of things to look for when you've read your words so many times they all start to blur together:

Twitter-sized bite: 
Getting ready to polish your MS but not sure where to start? @Ava_Jae rounds up some posts focused on line edits. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How Do You Know When You're Done Revising?

You asked, I answered. Today I'm talking about how to know when you're done revising your manuscript.


How do you know when you're done revising?

Twitter-sized bites: 
How do you know when you're done revising? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. #vlog (Click to tweet
Not sure when to declare your WIP done? @Ava_Jae vlogs on how to know you're done revising. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #31!

Photo credit: handcoding on Flickr
It's that time again! For the first time in 2017, we're halfway through the month, and on Writability it's time for the thirty-first Fixing the First Page feature.

For those who’ve missed before, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a public (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the thirty-first public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below. You have until Sunday, January 22nd at 11:59 PM EST to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

On Clearing Out Your TBR List

Photo credit: Au Kirk on Flickr
I currently have 275 books on my TBR list. This is actually a pretty decent improvement—not too long ago I had over 320, and while scrolling through my list it occurred to me many of those books had been on that list for years.

For some of the books, that's okay—when I opened the summaries again I found I still wanted to read them, so I'll probably pick them up from my library sometime. Others, however, while looking at the summaries I realized I...probably wasn't going to get to them.

The truth was, my enormous TBR list was starting to feel a little overwhelming. So I went through my list and started removing books for these reasons:

  • Reviews of poor representation. While this isn't an automatic no for me, especially if there's multiple groups represented and only one has an issue, if I was already iffy about the book, this made it easy for me to remove. At this point, I've decided I honestly just have too much to read to make time for super problematic books. If an issue is small, and I'm still really interested in the book, then I may very well read with the criticism in mind—but if it was a huge problem, or an issue I'm sick of seeing, then this made it easy for me to pull a book off my TBR.

  • Sequels for books I haven't read yet. I suppose I originally added sequels for books I haven't read so I wouldn't forget about them—but it occurred to me that especially for a series longer than three books, it really didn't make sense for sequels to take up space on my shelf when I wasn't sure how much I'd like the previous books.

  • Books I'd added years ago that I'm not enthusiastic about anymore. I mean, this happens—and I had to remind myself it's okay that my tastes have changed over the years.

  • Books I own...but don't really want to read anymore. I'll admit I felt bad about this one—I have ARCs from a conference in 2014 that I'd 100% intended to read and review when I got them, but I ended up not getting around to. Some of them I still plan to read, but some of them I've lost interest, so I've decided to donate them so someone will still get some enjoyment out of them. 

Between the four I was able to trim down my TBR a pretty sizable amount. And while it likely won't last because I stumble on new books that sound amazing every day, it did provide a useful refresh to more accurately represent when I'm currently interested in reading. 

Have you cleared out your TBR list recently?

Twitter-sized bite:
Is your TBR list overwhelming? @Ava_Jae shares how she recently helped trim hers down. (Click to tweet)

Comics I've Enjoyed Available on Hoopla

So here's a post I never would have guessed in early 2016 that I'd write. I've mentioned in a few posts that last year I expanded my reading with graphic novels and comics—a decision I've been very happy with, both because it saved my yearly reading challenge and because it turns out I really enjoy comics. Which shouldn't surprise me given my love of art and nerdy things but you know. 

Last year I also finally got myself a library card for my local library, which lead to my discovery of Hoopla, a service that provides digital comics, audiobooks, ebooks, television, music, and movies to library patrons whose libraries have paired up with the service. Hoopla lets you borrow up to eight titles a month, and while I haven't really perused the other categories yet, I can say the comics selection is actually pretty decent.

Because I've been enjoying so many comics of late, I thought I'd share some of the series I've especially enjoyed over the last couple months, all of which are available for free on Hoopla (so I recommend finding out if your local library partners with them!).

Without further ado, here are some really great reads:

Photo credit: Goodreads

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Goodreads summary:
"When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults."
Technically I discovered Saga in print through a college assignment—and then I loved it so much I bought the first hardcover collection and am now eagerly waiting for the second hardcover version to publish before I keep reading. But Saga is available on Hoopla, even if I don't read it there.

Anyway, I love this series. It's super diverse, the art is gorgeous, it's incredibly imaginative, exciting, raw, and it touches on really important topics like racism, sex trafficking, the violence of war and more. Saga is one of my favorite discoveries of 2016 and I can't recommend it more. 

Photo credit: Goodreads

Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma

Goodreads summary:
"One of the most prestigious prep schools in the country...But behind it's hallowed doors something sinister and deadly lurks. When six brilliant but troubled new students arrive, they find themselves trapped and desperately seeking answers...and escape from a place where nothing is what it seems to be!"
Honestly that summary really doesn't do it justice. I'm in the middle of reading this series right now and I'm devouring it because it's super addictive. This is a creepy af series about this twisted school where students die or disappear on the reg and the staff is hosting this weird psychologically torturous experiment on the students for...reasons? It's somewhat confusing so far, but it involves time travel and murderous ghosts and while I still haven't really worked out what the hell is going on, the clues are starting to come together and I am fascinated. Also a couple volumes in there's some queer rep and I really like the art in this one too. 

Photo credit: Goodreads

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley, Mia Goodwin, Jung-Ha Kim and Dave Dwonch

Goodreads summary: 
"Princeless is the story of Princess Adrienne, one princess who's tired of waiting to be rescued. Join Adrienne, her guardian dragon, Sparky, and their plucky friend Bedelia as they begin their own quest in this one of a kind, action packed, all-ages adventure!"
Princeless has very quickly become one of my favorites. First of all, it's hilarious and ridiculously cute, and second it's about a princess who decides to leave her tower with her guardian dragon and become the knight rescuing other princesses from their towers, which is every bit of adorably awesome as it sounds. Also, it has panels like this, like when a knight says he's arrived to save the fair maiden and she calls him out on what he means by "fair": 

I loved seeing a black girl lead in a fantasy and if you're looking for something really fun that's also kid friendly (I'd rate this as Middle Grade), then you should definitely check the Princeless series out.

Photo credit: Goodreads

Giant Days by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Whitney Cogar

Goodreads summary:
"Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of handwringing boys, 'personal experimentation,' influenza, mystery-mold, nu-chauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of 'academia,' they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive. Going off to university is always a time of change and growth, but for Esther, Susan, and Daisy, things are about to get a little weird."

Giant Days is the comic I read when I want a pick-me-up. This is a contemporary series that takes place in England, focusing on three girls who've just started university. It's a cute series that never fails to make me smile, is also pretty funny, and has (a little) queer rep, though I forget what volume that starts in. Either way I've really enjoyed the series so far and can't wait for Hoopla to upload the next volume.

Photo credit: Goodreads

Rat Queens
 by Kurtis J. Wiebe, and John "Roc" Upchurch

Goodreads summary:
"Who are the Rat Queens? A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they're in the business of killing all god's creatures for profit. It's also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. "
Rat Queens is another really fun and nicely diverse series. I really enjoyed the trippy, dangerous, and dark, and funny adventures Dee, Hannah, Violet and Betty had throughout the series—it absolutely did not disappoint.

Photo credit: Goodreads

Kaptara by Chip Zdarsky, Kagan McLeod, Becka Kinzie, and Drew Gill

Goodreads summary:
"Keith Kanga crash lands on KAPTARA, a world filled with danger and weird danger and dangerous weirdos! And if he can't survive, then Earth, the place where you live, is doomed! 
Come check out this sci-fi comedy from Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals) and Kagan McLeod (Infinite Kung-Fu)."
This series is weird but in a good way. It's another funny one (I guess I'm just into humorous comics) with some really out-there characters, but I found the first volume really enjoyable. This one also has some great representation, including a queer, black lead, which was super great to see.

Photo credit: Goodreads

The Midas Flesh by Ryan North, Braden Lamb, Shelli Paroline, and Steve Wands

Goodreads summary:
"Dang, King Midas 
We've all heard of the Midas Touch. You know, the Greek myth about the man who did a number on himself by wishing everything he touched to turn to gold? Well, you haven't heard everything.

Joey and her space crew have decided to return to Earth--a planet completely sectioned off, abandoned, and covered in gold--to find out exactly what happened to this once thriving planet and see if they can use that knowledge against the evil empire that's tracking them down. As luck would have it, they just landed the most powerful weapon in the universe: some ancient dead guy's body."
This is a really interesting one. I really enjoyed the sci-fi/Midas mash-up, and it was also super great to see a hijabi girl in a major role. I've only read the first volume so far, but I'm definitely going to check out more because the premise is super interesting and I'm curious to see what happens.

Photo credit: Goodreads

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke A. Allen

Goodreads summary:
At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together... And they're not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here."
Lumberjanes is another strange and funny one I enjoyed. It's super quirky, a lot of fun, and 100% girl-powered which is awesome. I'd heard a lot about this one and this band of friends battling monsters and creepy things while being endlessly fun and funny lived up to all the goods things everyone said about it.

Have you checked out any comics or graphic novels? What are your favorites? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Interested in a selection of diverse, fun comics to read? @Ava_Jae shares her favorites available on @HooplaDigital. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: On Plotting a Sequel/Series

In which I talk about an integral part of working on a series: plotting sequels and tips for series development.


Have you ever worked on a series?

Twitter-sized bite: 
From plotting sequels to development over a series, author @Ava_Jae vlogs series-writing tips. (Click to tweet)
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