What’s a writer to do when the well starts to run dry? Spend hours googling writing prompts, it seems.

This whole writing well running dry thing has been a huge problem with at least two of my projects during #onemillionwords 2021. These projects are made up of several short stories. For my Keeper Chronicles project, it’s supposed to be all episodic short stories or novella. The other, Chained Heaven, has been planned out in a way that there are two, possibly three short story compilations before the first series of novels are to be released. That’s a lot of short stories and a lot of different story ideas needed. Ones a mix of magical realism and urban fantasy while the other is your stereotypical high fantasy with various magical races and epic battles.

There are only so many story ideas I can pluck from my own mind within a certain timeframe. After a while, I just start going in circles. Luckily, I’ve been finding some amazing prompts online to refresh the well, so to speak. For every ten I find though, only one fits in with my existing worlds and my characters. I have so many saved that are not usable or not usable at this time so I figured I would share the wealth. Might even do this a few times a month just to help others keep those creative energies going. Let me know in the comments if you’d like biweekly or monthly prompt round-ups in different genres.

Here are my top ten fantasy prompts. Maybe, other aspiring writers out there could give them a good home.

  1. Write about a mysterious person who meets with the ghost of an old friend for tea every so often.
  2. Your main character is walking in a snowy wood. They realize after a while, they’re not leaving any footprints.
  3. Your character is already having a bad day. To make it worse, they run into someone from their past that at one time they cared for very deeply. Can that person undo the bad they had done?
  4. Local gravestones begin to disappear.
  5. The ever classic: Body swap but this time with a person they grew up with but haven’t seen in years.
  6. The queen’s son finds there are ghosts in the castle, and they have been passing along messages to him.
  7. A curse of silence is placed on the main or one of the main characters and the only way to break it is by capturing a banshee’s scream.
  8. Every new moon, the townsfolk can hear laughter echo out from the old mine that has been closed for a hundred years.
  9. A new housekeeper for a prominent wealthy family gets hired on and soon family members are starting to disappear and a dark family secret is about to be revealed.
  10. “I saw what was in his mind. I know what he’s planning.”

If you use one of these prompts and feel comfortable sharing, please do. I’d love to see what people make of them. Or if you have some prompt ideas that you’d like to send forth into the world let us know.

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A white sign with a black border against a wooden wall. The sign reads in black letters #DONOTDISTURB

11 weeks in and I am still very beyond on my word count as well as these updates. My word count and productivity levels look like a rollercoaster if they were charted out and I’ve been wondering why.

I guess the ‘why’ probably goes back to the pandemic, like most things do these days. After just about a year of quarantines, lockdowns, and general stay-in-place orders, I have found every single possible distraction present in my house. Some are relatively easy to put aside while others are nightmares that can derail a whole day of productivity.

I, like many creatives, used to be able to go and sit in libraries and coffee shops. A change of scenery or getting together with a writing group always helped me immensely. It took me away from the distractions of my daily life and allowed me to fully focus on my work.

With the global pandemic, not looking to be subsiding anytime soon I’ve had time to reflect on my biggest distractions and have learned to keep them from impacting my work as much as any one person possibly can.

Here are my top three worse distractions and how I deal with them, ordered least to greatest.

A stylized shot of a phone with all the social media apps together.

Social media. I think this goes for a lot of people but as a small business owner and an author, there’s a fine line between ‘mindlessly scrolling’ and networking. It’s hard to balance especially since mindlessly scrolling is perfect for my executive dysfunction to latch on to.

One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with over scrolling is using apps and chrome extensions like Forest that block off all unwanted websites for however long you want. I used another one for a little while that I can’t remember the name of anymore but I stopped after only six months of use. The reason I stopped was that there was no way to turn the timer off, no safeguards. Even if you uninstalled it and had thirty minutes left on the clock, it’d still block everything for thirty minutes. All great in theory but there had been a few times that I needed to stop the timer early and the inability to do so led to some bad situations.

With Forest, you can stop it whenever you want but there is a catch. How Forest works is that with every period of productivity you gain coins that can be used to buy more virtual plants or save up to buy real trees, meaning they partner with organizations to plant real trees in the world. So, with the timer, you can cancel it but if you do you’ll be ‘killing’ the virtual tree and won’t get the coins. This makes it so unless I have to, I do not want to kill that virtual tree and will keep it going. It’s been a useful tool. I even have it on my phone.

A man in a stripped shirt looking at a full wall of pinned papers with various graphs and notes on them. The man is in focus while the wall is slightly blurred.

Over researching or wiki rabbit holes. These are deadly in my opinion since at the end of it all you learn stuff and learning stuff is awesome but it’s been three hours and you’ve completed nothing. Earlier today I went down a rabbit hole starting with American football player Dave Duerson, then moved to WWE’s Chris Benoit which then gave way to Christopher Nowinski before landing somewhere in wiki pages on brain trauma. Wikipedia is the worst but I’ve done similar things with just google. This also goes for over planning. I can spend weeks planning something out only to just fizzle out afterwards.

How I’ve learned to fix this? I’ve been making a list of things I want to look up and why. If it has to do with a part that I’m writing then I put something there and move on. Usually, it’s a random word I would expect to ever be in whatever I’m writing. My last one used was ‘bumfuzzle’, to confuse or fluster. It’s not 100% fixed and never will be. My ADHD also means I have horrible impulse control so sometimes my brain just tells me to do the thing Right. Now. When it does work, I can then dedicate time to my lookup list and not have it impede on productivity time. The most important ones get researched first.

As with the whole using up my creative energies planning and having none left to actually write it out, I’m still learning a balance between the two. If I ever achieve it, I’ll report back.

Two cats cuddled together close in a white Monster Energy box. One cat is all black with a paw out and hugging the other cat, with their head on top of the other cat. The other cat is an orange tiger cat with their head tucked under the black cat's head.
They may look innocent here but it’s a lie. The ginger’s name is Vax’ildan or Vax for short and the void cat is Percival or Percy for short.

My cats. My extremely loud, extremely co-dependent, and extremely mischievous cats. I have two and they don’t even have a brain cell to share between them but the trouble they get up to is legendary. Some days they alternate between who bugs me. Sometimes, Percy, our void cat bugs me in the morning, and Vax, our ginger, bugs me throughout the afternoon. Both yowl, cry, and chirp constantly as well as having no reservations about getting into my face. Sometimes they bug me together which you’d think would be the better days. That way I get to tire them out at the same time then back to work I go. I wish. They hype each other up. If they are both hyper and want attention then it’s never-ending. Vax has a habit of literally climbing the walls if he wants attention and gets into everything. Percy just zooms around yelling and using me as a wall to parkour off of. If Vax gets into something, Percy is right behind him.

How do I deal with this? Well, not as well as I’d like, for starters. Some days when I have the spoons, I try to wear them down. Vax LOVES being chased but only if you say on repeat ‘gimme, gimme, gimme.’ I can say it without moving and he’ll start trotting. His whole walk changes but if you don’t follow through with the chase he will let you know his displeasure.

Percy loves toys, springs especially, and will drop them on my keyboard if he wants me to play with him which consists of tugging, throwing, and getting them out from under the couch.

They’re still young. Vax will be three in May and Percy is a little over 18 months old. There’s a chance that they might mellow out with age. I’m holding on to that hope but for now, wearing them out isn’t an option. Some days I’m able to ignore them until they figure out that I have to get work done. On those lucky days, they come into my office and nap in the boxes we have on the bookcase next to my desk until my husband comes home. Those days are rare.

What are your common distractions and why are they your animals?

Two cats wedged into a destroyed Monster Energy drink box. The black cat has both front paws around the orange tiger cat's neck and shoulders. They have their faces pressed together.

While editing this article and readying it to be published, this is how my cats are at this very moment. They are aggressively cleaning each other and fighting over this box. I have saved them from flipping that box three times in the past twenty minutes. Top distractions right there. If anyone is curious, there is another box three inches to their left, two on the bed behind me, and a full cat tree to my right.

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Nothing gets me hooked faster than a fully envisioned urban fantasy world with a societal structure outside the human norm. J.P. Jackson’s soon-to-be-published novel SUMMONED has just that. SUMMONED is slated to be published on Monday, April 19th by NineStar Press and we were lucky enough to grab ourselves an ARC while we could.

SUMMONED follows the magical awakening of one Devid Khandelwal, a frankly exhausted university student who is just weeks away from graduation. Devid, Dev for short, is obsessed with the occult and the Shadow Realm. His only wish in his world is to be a part of the Shadow Realm. He has spent thousands of his hard-earned wages working for his parents on crystals, tarot cards, and the like. Dev though has had his eye on a Desire summoning board for quite some time until the start of the story when he finally has saved up enough for it. After performing the summoning spell with his best friend Cam, Dev will soon begin to realize just how in over his head he truly is when witches, werewolves, and Fae alike come a-knocking.

Add in a full cast of extremely attractive men, great worldbuilding, and well fleshed out characters and you’ve got a great M/M paranormal romance novel.

From start to finish this book delivers exactly what it promises to; a great urban fantasy story and a lot of great erotica and lust. If this is your genre, it’s definitely worth picking up. It’s an enjoyable read that after the first chapter or two is extremely well-paced to the point you could plow through about 60 pages without really noticing. Just one chapter does not happen here so I caution all to not read it before bed. In bed yes, before, not so much.

The first two chapters are a little shaky with pacing while trying to establish the main character and best friend and it would have honestly, in my opinion, been better with one last revision aimed at just those first two chapters but even without it, the rest of the book completely makes up for the slow start. Even so, the beginning like the rest of the book is an extremely easy read. The language is witty but still accessible. It read like it knew exactly the type of book it was. The explanations of the world were simple yet fascinating enough that even exhausted I did not miss any information being thrown at me. Not too common that a book can say that when it’s not the third or more book in a series.

Jackson does a great job of interweaving all the supernatural races that are introduced and present in this world. All are straight from myth but have great and interesting twists that are strictly from the mind of Jackson himself that really keeps a reader going. It’s a rich and well-thought-out world, one of the better ones I’ve come across in recent years. If you find no love for any of the characters there is still a good chance you’ll devour this book just to learn about the world of the Shadow Realm.

That being said, we should talk about the characters. From the start, each character stands solidly on their own. The interactions are extremely fluid all except for a few instances. When Dev interacts with his family, it’s a bit too much for me. I get that he’s supposed to be at the end of his rope with them for various believable reasons but as a reader and having that happen extremely early, it feels sort of sudden and over the top. Other than that though, I loved almost every character within this book but that being said, I would have liked to see a bit more of a rounded outcast. Almost every character is of the same make, an extremely attractive Bear. It works for the story but I feel like the world would have felt more whole with a few characters dropped in that weren’t of the same variety. For the characters present, no complaints, and maybe, if Jackson wanted to, he could write a sequel of sorts and explore this world in even more depth. I for one would not be angry at a sequel like that.

When it comes to the romance and erotica aspect of this book, it hits just right for those that love Bears of all kinds. For those of us who don’t share in the love of Bears, it’s still very enjoyable. Well-written consensual sex is always welcomed here. None of the sex scenes felt forced in, having just remembered that it’s supposed to also be erotica nor are there any ‘porn just for porn sake’ sort of scenes. This book is equal parts urban fantasy and erotica.

Overall, a great read and definitely worth the price of the eBook. We’d probably rate this a rounded up 4/5. Jackson, you can have your other points if you promise to write a sequel.

You can pre-order SUMMONED now from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and more.

Everyone has their own unique rituals when it comes to writing. Some start with a meticulous outline while others laugh in the face of a writer’s block while pantsing it all as they go. Some even lie somewhere in between.

My whole writing career and even when I was in school, I was a pantser. It was easy with the fact that I could sort of fracture my attention, write as I go while listening to lectures. Then when I was in the last few years of college I got an iPhone which I used to just record my lectures. Most of my professors were fine with this so I’d just spend the whole of the classes writing, going back later to listen and transcribe my lectures. I even made a good chunk of spending change by selling the transcribes for $5 a pop, $10 for that one professor that went on a lot of tangents. No one complained about that.

I didn’t need to plan anything out because, especially in my last three semesters where I was taking 7-9 classes a semester, I had hours of structured time to just write. I’d go back to figure out what I liked and rewrote what I didn’t. It was easy and exactly what I needed to do to get through classes. I have ADHD and sitting still just to listen to someone was out of the question most days. Especially since we had switched meds for me right before I went away to school. The new meds didn’t have as much of a punch as the others but also didn’t have the crash that made me grouchy and anti-social. The worst thing to be when going off to share a room for nine months with a stranger.

Then I graduated college and my structure was gone as well as my meds because I was an idiot. The meds I was on had to be built up in your bloodstream for a minimum of 14 days to work optimally and I had been horrible at taking them regularly yet I still succeeded. Got Dean’s List a few semesters in a row even. I hadn’t realized that the concrete structured schedules of my days were what allowed me to take 7-9 classes (course overload because I had 4 majors) and get As in all of them.

So, I graduated and started working. I worked changing shifts so my structure was gone. All except for NaNoWriMo, I barely wrote the rest of the year. It’s taken me years to figure out the factors that worked in my factors in college and the factors that have worked against me out of college. I realized that without structure, I needed to go back on meds. It took a while but I’ve not been back on ADHD meds for about 2 weeks and let me tell you. It’s helped a lot.

Now, for the structure, that I’m still working on. Slowly I’m building a support network but it’s not where I need it to be yet.

That all being said, even if in a very long-winded way, I can’t be a pantser anymore. I’m no longer forced to sit at a desk with no phone, no computer, no distraction, and just write and rewrite until the plot is what I want it to be. My writing rituals and methods need to evolve. It’s taken me up until this past month to realize that. I need to figure out how to plot. How to write up an outline in a way that works for me.

I tried, kind of, the snowflake method and I know I need to give it another shot but the first attempt failed. I got so hung up on fitting the exact structure of the snowflake method and burned myself out fast. It’s hard for me to write about a story without actually writing the story.

My writing rituals are constantly in flux as I’m trying to figure out the best method for myself. It’s frustrating, especially on days that I have the whole day to write and yet I don’t get anywhere near my word count goal. Or when I have no idea where I’ll be going next in my story. An outline would be amazing helpful at that point but instead, I start doing what I call ‘meandering writing’. Meandering writing is when you write in a way to get words on a page but nothing advances. No character development, no plotlines, nothing. It was a method I used in college to get through a block but again, I had the time to break through the block. Get to where I wanted and then rewrite the whole thing. Now, I have neither the time, the focus, nor the energy. Self-motivation is hard when one has executive dysfunction.

From here on out, I’ll be trying a slew of different techniques, programs, workshops, and whatever else I think could help to get me to where I need to be. Everything I try I’ll report back here. Some might find it helpful. Some might not because everyone is different but if there are even a few out there that are struggling like I am and have the same type of ADHD as I, maybe I can help them out as well.

So, next week, I’m planning on doing a deep dive into a program called Aeon which is supposed to help authors keep track of their timelines. Let’s see if it helps.

A quick update of my #onemillionwords projects. My total word count for the year is 140,529 words. I’m 111,551 words behind but my goal for April and Camp NaNoWriMo is to write 100k words this month so I can start trying to catch up. Wish me luck!

April is right around the corner and with that Spring. Officially Spring was the 20th of March but here at VeL live in New England. We’re lucky if it shows itself at all before May. With the changing of the seasons comes a slew of new releases in the book world. No longer do we need our comfortable stories to carry us through the cold harsh winters. Spring is the best time for some adventures. Here are the top four* titles we’re most excited to devour this spring.

DIAL A FOR AUNTIES by Jesse Q. Sutanto

We don’t usually stray from the SciFi/Fantasy genre but this book, by title alone, hooked us. It’s a murder mystery and rom-com all in one with a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture. This book is about what happens when one accidentally kills their blind date like Meddelin Chan does at the beginning of DIAL A FOR AUNTIES, who then calls her meddlesome mom who in turns called Meddelin’s even more meddlesome aunties all to get rid of the body. Sound interesting enough right there but author Sutanto then goes on to add even more chaos to the mix with the dead body accidentally being shipped in a cake cooler to a billionaire’s two thousand guest wedding. 

Then Meddelin’s long-lost love from college shows up in the middle of the wedding fiasco.

The chaos and hilarity this novel promises to bring have us counting the days down until it’s on shelves. DIAL A FOR AUNTIES will be released on April 27th. 

THE INFINITY COURTS by Akemi Dawn Bowman

What if Siri or Alexa even grew to full sentience and took over our afterlife? That’s kind of what happens in Bowman’s THE INFINITY COURTS. 

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is suddenly murdered on her way to a party. A very important party that her whole recently graduated class is planning on attending. Most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years is planning on attending. Once dead, she finds herself in a place called Infinity. Infinity is where the human consciousness goes when their physical bodies die. Sounds pretty cool, all except the fact that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used on Earth, has taken over Infinity and declared herself queen. Ophelia, if Alexa and GLaDOS had an AI love child. My guess is the cake would still be a lie in Infinity. 

Like GLaDOS, Ophelia has grand plans of eradicating human existence one and for all. 

Nami soon joins a team of rebels aimed at bringing Ophelia down, saving the humans imprisoned under her, and forcing her to reckon with her past. That line right there is so intriguing. What past does an AI need to reckon with? We’re hooked! THE INFINITY COURTS #1 will hit shelves on April 6th.

IN DEEPER WATERS by F.T. Lukens

IN DEEPER WATERS what happens when someone asks the question, “Could Pirates of the Caribbean could be gayer?” and the answer is yes. 

A young prince relies on a mysterious stranger to save him when he gets kidnapped during his coming-of-age tour. Prince Tal is a sheltered prince with forbidden magic that hasn’t been allowed to see the kingdom until now. All he wanted was a bit of adventure and two days into the tour, adventure finds them in the form of a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel. This mysterious prisoner, Athlen, forges a fast bond with the prince before leaping overboard and disappearing into the water of the open ocean. Tal thought that was the end of that but days later runs into Athlen on dry land right before Prince Tal finds himself kidnapped. His captors are held for ransom with the idea to reveal his rumored powers and start a war. Tal, with the help of Athlen, must escape in hopes of saving his family and the kingdom.

IN DEEPER WATERS is set to be published on the 20th of April and we can not wait to devour this one. 

WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD by Ciannon Smart

First, the cover of Smart’s debut novel is downright gorgeous. It’s both eye-catching and breathtaking all in one. It is the perfect cover for this Jamaican-inspired YA Fantasy novel about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy. Iraya and Jazmyne are exact opposites. Iraya has spent her whole life in a cell while Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter. One dreams of freedom and vengeance while the other is dead set on not giving her life to strengthen her mother’s power. Like her sister had done. They band together to eliminate a mutual threat but soon find that the power is intoxicating.

Judging from all the great reviews on Goodreads from those who were lucky enough to get advanced reader copies, Smarts does an amazing job from start to finish. We can not wait to get our hands on a copy of this and devour it ourselves.

Come for the cover. Stay for the amazing world and characters of Smart’s debut novel WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD, released April 20th. Between this and IN DEEPER WATERS, it might be a good idea to take the 21st off because there’s a high chance of binge-reading until dawn with both these books.

If any of these titles interest you, remember to get your preordering game on. 

*In lieu of recent news about one of the authors, we have decided to no longer endorse their books and themselves in any way.

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