Sponsored: Staying Organized and Creative

Note: I received a free notebook from ColoringNotebook in exchange for writing this review. Nevertheless, all opinions are my own.

I'm as obsessed with organization as I am creativity. Growing up, I was led to believe—for a while, at least—these two elements could never coexist. Everyone who told me this was wrong. You know how I know?

For one thing, I just got a ColoringNotebook, and I think I'm in love. I found out about this beautiful product through the company's Instagram account, and it was fascination at first like. According to the brand's website, the ColoringNotebook is a "paper notebook with coloring pages for adults." True to its word, the product features gorgeous, clean lined pages broken up with coloring spreads just begging to be filled.

I started bullet journaling not too long ago, and after running out of pages in my old notebook, decided to give this new notebook a shot. It's great because it has plenty of room for me to write out lists, story ideas, blog posts, and more—all while allowing me to unwind and destress by coloring the interesting patterns, shapes, and objects scattered throughout the pages.

After receiving this notebook, I found out it also comes in dot-grid format, which would be absolutely perfect for bullet journaling! With thick, high-quality paper, a sturdy cover and binding, a ribbon bookmark, and plenty of inspiring images to color, this notebook is everything I didn't know I wanted. The next notebook I get is going to be one of these. If you're in the market for a new notebook, pop over to the website and get a ColoringNotebook right away.

Special thanks again to the ColoringNotebook folks for sending me such a sweet product!

Why I Love Scrivener for iOS

I love Scrivener. I don't know how I got any writing done without it. I used to use Word to write my novels, and that was all right, but I had to write linearly and sometimes had a hard time keeping my thoughts organized. With Scrivener, 90 percent of my problems have been erased. The only thing I ever lamented was the inability to write via some kind of mobile app.

Then, Scrivener released Scrivener for iOS. I teared up. Finally! Next, I discovered you could sync projects between Mac and iOS via Dropbox. I wept tears of unbridled joy.

I do a fair amount of writing on the go and love the idea of not being tied to my computer. With Scrivener for iOS, I can (and am right now, in fact) write by the pool or at the beach. I can write in the car (if someone else is driving). I can even write at the dermatologist’s office.

Before this app, I had to write in either the Notes app or Evernote. Once I got back to my computer, I had to transfer whatever I’d written into the Scrivener project. And I couldn't access the whole project once I was out, which meant I could only really write one scene at a time. Annoying, to say the least. Scrivener changed all that, and I couldn't be more thrilled. Now, everything syncs via Dropbox and I can easily pick up right where I left off.

Scrivener for iOS also includes a nifty word count feature, which is great because word counts give me such life. It's nice to be able to look up and see how close I am to meeting my daily goals.

If you're on the fence about shelling out $19.99 for the Scrivener mobile app, go ahead and take the plunge. I'm one of the cheapest people in the world, and I'm glad I made the investment. I've only begun using the new app and I still think it's worth every dollar. I can't wait to see what other cool things I can do with it.

How Writing REFLECTIONS Changed My Life

As I edit, polish, and refine my manuscript for Pitch Wars (eep!), I can’t help marveling at how much this one book has changed my life. When I started out writing Reflections, I knew it was going to be important. It tackles several difficult issues that need to be addressed, and it has more than one personal connection to my own life. However, I never anticipated it becoming a kind of nourishment for me.

Writing this novel changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly. I learned so much while writing this book--about myself and the world around me--that it almost doesn’t matter to me if anyone else reads it. Of course, I do want someone to read it, and even better if they’re as effected by the novel as I have been so far. This book is more important to me than anything I’ve written. Writing Reflections changed my life because it allowed me to connect with victims, confront my own issues and experiences, and move through tough stuff toward positivity and acceptance.


I know a lot of women who have suffered various kinds of abuse--too many women who have been hurt in ways non-victims can never understand. While I was in college, I was lucky enough to participate in a production of The Vagina Monologues. One of my favorite parts of the show, and arguably the most profound, happened toward the end. After a brief video conveying sexual assault statistics, the show's director asked everyone who had ever been hurt or abused to stand up. The number of women rising to their feet was staggering. It hit me like a punch to the gut. These were women I saw on campus every day, women I had classes with, even women who had just performed onstage with me. It was heartbreaking, yes, but it was also powerful.

These women deserve to have their stories told. They deserve to know that what happened to them in the past does not define them. More than anything, they deserve to get a taste of what it's like to be the hero. No matter how broken they may feel, they are stronger than they know. Writing this book--writing Rama--not only allowed me to grasp the truths I most needed to hear, it also allowed me to connect with other victims of various kinds of abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual.


In the past, I've been betrayed by men. My trust has been destroyed more times than I can count. For the longest time, I thought I would never be happy. I had a hard time making peace with myself because of my extensive trust issues. After all, if I couldn't get over myself, nobody would love me, and if nobody would love me, I couldn't get married and then I wouldn't have kids and then andthenandthen--

But that isn't what matters. Ideally, I'd like to learn to trust the men I meet, but I recognize now that isn't necessary for my happiness. I can still be happy and comfortable with myself, flaws and all, by embracing my lack of perfection. Sure, I've been let down, but none of that was my fault. At the same time, the fact that I've been a victim doesn't mean I have no control of my life. Instead of focusing on the past, writing Reflections helped me forgive those who have hurt me and redirect my energy toward building the life I desire.

If I can be happy being alone--if I can accept myself fully for me--then and only then will I find any kind of peace.

Of course, this philosophy applies to physical features as much as it does emotional ones. Like everyone else, there are things about my body that I've often wished to change. As a teenager, I struggled to come to terms with my height, cystic acne, and the shape of my nose. I was even bullied because of the way I looked. Instead of considering all the things my body did for me and the aspects of it I actually liked, I dwelled only on the negative. My self-esteem eroded and dwindled down to nothing. Over the years, it has slowly improved, but while writing Reflections, it skyrocketed. I honestly can't remember the last time I've loved myself so fully. I adore and appreciate every part of my face and body. Sometimes I have off days, but for the most part, I am now able to drag myself out of the funk and smile at myself in the mirror.

This post might be the longest on my blog to date, but it's also the most important. While I am of course hopeful that Reflections will be picked up by someone someday, if nothing else, I can say it's made a difference in my life. I should be so lucky if it helps someone else.

Going Beyond the Bechdel Test

Most people nowadays have at least heard of the Bechdel Test. If you haven't, here's a primer: According to this website, the Bechdel test is a simple way of analyzing film, television, or literature using the following three criteria:

(1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.

The test was popularized by Alison Bechdel's comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule. For a nice video introduction to the subject please check out The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies onfeministfrequency.com.

The aforementioned website includes a list of several movies that pass the test—for example, Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, and Ghostbusters. Some books that past the test include The Hunger Games, The Book Thief, and The Fault in Our Stars. As for television shows, think Orphan Black, Scandal, and Parks and Recreation. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about the way women are represented in the media. The commercial and popular success of the Ghostbusters reboot, as well as that of female-led movies like the Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road, proves that people want to see women in more prominent roles. For decades, women have been shoehorned into one-dimensional, stereotypical roles that reinforce outdated perspectives and encourage sexism and misogyny. The Bechdel Test is arguably more relevant than ever.

But we should strive to write beyond the Bechdel Test. Instead of settling for the bare minimum—writing novels that meet these three criteria—we should work to surpass them. This means not only writing female characters that have conversations about subjects other than men, but writing female characters who are real, have hopes and dreams and goals and weaknesses and flaws; women with hobbies and careers and relationships and souls.

It's not enough to write to appease the Bechdel Test. We have to move forward, rise above, do better. More than anything, we have to go beyond the Bechdel Test. We owe it to not only future generations, but also to ourselves. That's what keeps me writing. How about you?

The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Writing (Take Breaks!)

No one who knows me will be surprised to hear that I frequently work too hard. I'm a perfectionist and have a serious type-A personality. Combine that with an insatiable curiosity and desire to achieve my goals no matter what, and you've got a recipe for burnout. I'm notoriously terrible about taking breaks. It's gotten me in trouble before. Still, I'm stubborn. I never learn.

Recently, I got sick. It was just a cold, but it absolutely drained me. I couldn't stop coughing, I had a fever, and I was exhausted all the time. It was all I could do to get dressed in the morning, let alone go to work and then come home and do housework and writing tasks. It got so bad that I even went to the doctor to get checked for mono (which I didn't have, thank God).

This bout of illness opened my eyes to a truth I'd been trying to ignore: I need to rest. I need to take breaks. Every once in a while, I need to make time for myself, spend a day on self-care, and things of that nature. I can't spend all my time working or I'll wear myself out. And if I'm worn out, I can't be productive. To me, a lack of productivity constitutes a death sentence. There were no bones about it: I had to scale back.

Since recovering from being sick, I've been working on a plan to reduce my stress levels. I'm scheduling blog posts and bills and things as much as I can, and the rest of the time, I'm setting limits on how much I can work outside of my day job. While it's still too early to have seen real results, I'm positive more breaks will make a difference in my writing.

Learn from my mistakes, people. Take more breaks. Go easy on yourself. Your writing will thank you.

What Ghostbusters Can Teach Us About Writing Female Characters

I am a massive Ghostbusters fan, and I have been for quite some time now. When news of the Paul-Feig-directed reboot came up in the world, I had fixed feelings about it. However, when I heard that the reboot would include a star-studded cast of powerful ladies, I got a little more excited. I was optimistic, if not cautiously so.

You see, for the longest time—and I'm sure you've noticed this—women haven't exactly had the most coveted roles in film and television. Maybe you've heard of the Sexy Lamp Test. Basically, what this "test" does is ascertain the strength and depth of the female characters in any given medium. If the character can be replaced by a sexy lamp with no real issues or effects on the plot, then the female character is considerably lacking in depth. Any women who do have some kind of depth are usually relegated to familiar, comfortable roles, such as the shopaholic, the ditz, the slut, the nerd, and the sexy sidekick.

Ghostbusters changes all of that. In the female-led, character-driven reboot, Feig puts Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones in positions of respect. Wiig, McCarthy, and McKinnon all play intelligent, capable scientists, while Jones's character puts in hours as a long-suffering  MTA employee who works hard to do her job no matter what—even if that means confronting some ghosts. These characters are not only women I could see walking down the street day after day but also most definitely worth looking up to. I kept thinking, I want to be her when I grow up, even though I'm already (technically) grown-up.

Another thing I love about the film is its depiction of female friendship. Throughout the movie, the Ghostbusters develop a close, familial bond built on trust and mutual admiration. There are no love triangles, no catfights, no betrayals or name-calling. Instead, the woman cheer each other on, utilize each other's strengths to work together as a team, and help each other out in every battle that takes place. I can't remember the last time I saw female characters in a movie getting along like this. It is such a refreshing change of pace.

Dear @paulfeig, I love you. That movie was everything I wanted and needed as a woman, and more. Thank you. ❤️ #Ghostbusters

— Briana Mae Morgan (@brianawrites) July 19, 2016

What I love most about Ghostbusters is its potential to change popular culture. If the film does as well as I hope it does commercially, it serves as a statement to Hollywood that people want female-led films. We want to be entertained, certainly, but we also want to see strong, capable female characters banding together to save the world. We want to see friendships, teamwork, and heroism. More than anything, we want to see women who are real.

When developing female characters, I hope to keep in mind the way I felt emerging from the theater after watching the new film, and that is triumphant. Ghostbusters succeeds not only at an entertainment level, but also from a cultural-critique perspective as well. It serves as the spark that could ignite the powder keg of traditional, male-driven filmmaking, and more than anything, I want to be around to witness that explosion.

How to Plot If You Hate Plotting

The other day, I started plotting my novel Smoke and Blood, the prequel to my debut novel Blood and Water. If you've known me longer than a few months, you know I've never been a big fan of plotting. Heck, while writing Blood and Water I even wrote a post detailing why I don't outline anymore. But that was quite some time ago, and a lot has changed since then.

The biggest change has been that I am now a fan of plotting. A few people have commented that it seems like I wrote the first draft of Reflections faster than they expected, and that's mostly due to that fact that I had the whole thing outlined. I used to be a die-hard pantser, and this strategy made a significant difference in my writing productivity. After Blood and Water, I was so sick of struggling and slogging through drafts. I needed a change. That's why I started plotting.

It all started when I read Libbie Hawker's book, Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Better, Faster WritingThis book changed my writing life. In a series of anecdotes and knowledge gleaned from personal experiences, Hawker provides tips for plotting a novel without losing your mind. That book, combined with this post by Rachel Aaron, made me view my process in an entirely different light. Based on what I learned from these wise ladies, here's how I'm plotting my books going forward:

  • Take note of what you know already. Whenever I get plot bunnies for a new book, I make sure to write them down in Evernote. That way, when it comes time to start plotting, I'm not starting from scratch.
  • Find your characters. Rachel Aaron recommends, at a minimum, knowing your main characters, antagonists, and power players. Don't get bogged down in character sheets right off the bat. All you need for now is names and some identifying details that are relevant to the story.
  • Figure out the end and the beginning. Try deciding them in that order. Once you've discovered the end, it's a lot easier to get there from the beginning. If you know the end, all you have to do is figure out how you're going to get there.
  • Determine the setting. Where and when will your novel take place? Consider some minor worldbuilding here, but like with the characters, make sure you don't get too wrapped up in the specifics of this part.
  • Fill in the gaps. If you have the beginning and the end of your novel down, all you have left to do is fill in the gaps. of course, this is much easier said than done. Focus on moving from one plot event to another, building a compelling, believable framework. Connect the major twists, scenes, and climaxes until you get to the conclusion. If you get stuck, don't panic. That's totally normal!

There you have it! Whether you're a full-fledged plotter or a pantser looking for a better way to write, consider giving some of these techniques a try. If you'd like more information, I wholeheartedly recommend reading Libbie Hawker's book. She goes into much more detail than I have in this post.

How I'm Preparing to Write a Series

How I'm Preparing to Write a Series | Briana Morgan As the time this post goes live, I'll hopefully have gotten through some of the plotting process for the Blood and Water prequel, titled Smoke and Blood. I've never written a series before--only standalone novels--but I'm optimistic. A lot of my readers have suggested I should make a series, and I do miss the virus-ridden kids in my debut book, so I thought it was a good idea.

Now, I'm a little anxious. I had no clue where to start. So, I sat down at my desk, drank some coffee, and make a plan. I felt better. I'm certain that part of this process will change, but it's nice to have at least some idea where I'm going. Without further ado, here's how I'm preparing to write a series.

    • Making timelines. I didn't make one of these bad boys before drafting Blood and Water, and it came back to bite me. When revising, I wanted to tear my hair out because I couldn't figure out what happened when and who knew what at what time. This time around, I'm making a complete timeline for the prequel and the sequel, as well as an overarching series timeline for all the big events in the trilogy. That way, I don't have to struggle so much with that nonsense when I go back and edit.
    • Rereading Blood and Water. This one is a no-brainer. There's so much information I dropped in that novel that I can use while drafting this one that it would be stupid not to go back and take some notes. While I am a little nervous (I haven't read the novel since publishing it), it's a necessary evil. It's probably not as awful as I imagine it might be.
    • Picking relevant scenes. While not having a timeline made the flashbacks in Blood and Water confusing for me at first, I'm so glad that I wrote them. Not only did they add depth to the world of they story; they also made it easier for me to outline some important scenes in the prequel. For example, I know I'm including the scene with Jay and Melanie at the museum that I mention in B&W.
    • Reading The Hot Zone. Chris Mahan, among others, recommended this book to me. It's about Ebola, which is fantastic, since that kind of hemorrhagic fever is what my virus is based on. I'm excited to dive in. I'm also taking notes, of course.
    • Outlining. In addition to making different timelines, I'm also going to make a loose outline for both the prequel and the sequel, so that I can ensure all my loose ends will be tied up in the sequel. Again, I'm doing everything I can now to make things easier on myself come revisions. I used to be terrified of outlines, but I used one while drafting Reflections, and it saved my life.
    • Drawing character maps. My writing is and has always been focused on my characters. With a series, one of the biggest challenges I'm facing is character growth. There's no doubt in my mind that many aspects of these characters will change as the series progresses; I'm just not sure how much, in what ways, or why. That's why mapping out some major changes in their personalities, goals, and relationships will help me so much moving forward.
    • Worldbuilding. Since nearly every part of the characters' lives is affected by the virus, I need to make sure that I fully understand it. In order to accomplish that, I need to come up with causes, symptoms, incubation periods, and things of that nature. Good thing I'm not squeamish.

Feel free to steal any of these ideas if you think they could help you in your writing process. Also, please let me know if you have any links/resources that could help me with this stuff. I'm slightly intimidated, but I love a good challenge. I'm ready now. Let's do this.

What do you think? What tips can you give me for planning a series?

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What tips do you have for planning a series? Take a look at @brianawrites' preparation process. (Click to tweet)

Giveaway: TOUCH Audiobook

Photo Credit: Cheryl on Flickr I've already shared this on Twitter and Facebook, but I'm giving away copies of the Touch: A One-Act Play audiobook. For those of you that don't know, the play takes place in a world in which deliberate physical touch has been outlawed. In the play, a woman called the Seeker strives to find out more about touch however she can, even if that involves taking some serious risks.

I knew right away that I wanted Touch to be an audiobook. Ideally, I'd like to see it staged, but I think an audiobook is a great first step. This version is narrated by Evan Harris, and although it's short, I couldn't be more thrilled with the way it turned out. As someone who watches plays and seldom listens to them in audio form, I was nervous to see how this would turn out. Thankfully, Evan took my direction and added his own narrative flair, and I'm pleased with the results.

I don't have many reviews on Touch, and I don't know how many of you have already read it, but I'm going to do this giveaway, anyway. Of course, you don't have to leave a review if you win a copy, but I would certainly appreciate it!

If you're interested in winning a free audiobook copy of Touch, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter widget below. I'm giving away five copies, so you have several chances to win. The winners will be announced about a week from now, July 19, 2016, at 11:59 EST. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

On Making Time to Read (And Why It Matters)

Photo credit: TheGiantVermin on Flickr I have a confession. I'm terrified to share this with you all, but I want to nonetheless.

I haven't been reading. Well, that's not quite true--I'm reading a lot at work, since I'm an editor, and I've been reading some essays and articles and things of that nature. I just haven't been reading fiction--not anything that's published, not outside of work.

I know that as a writer, I have to read often. Stephen King, one of my writing idols, said in his book On Writing, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."

According to King, reading helps you recognize the shape of good and bad prose. It helps you appreciate language and hunger to put magic down on the page. You can't be a good writer if you're not a good reader. Reading is the best thing you can to to improve your writing prowess.

And I wholeheartedly agree with him--reading is important. As much as life gets in the way, I'm well aware that I make a lot of excuses. I do have time to read. But I often fill that time with Netflix or iPhone games or just wasting time on the Internet. I don't put it toward furthering my writing career. I don't use my free time as productively as I could.

It should come as no surprise that I want to make a living from my writing. I want it to be my career. In order for me to realize that dream, I'm going to make every effort to improve as a writer. That means I have to learn to make better use of my time--which in turn means I have to make myself read more.

Recently, I read a post by the wonderful Lucy Flint in which she confessed a similar struggle. Like me, she wants to make it a point to read more, concentrating her efforts on reading more fiction in order to improve her writing. So I'm coming clean, too. I want to read more. And I need you all to help hold me accountable to that.

Also, that means I need more book recommendations. Feel free to leave some in the comments below!

What are your tips for reading more? What are some books that you couldn't put down?

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.@brianawrites hasn't been reading enough fiction, and she needs some advice. (Click to tweet)

REFLECTIONS Draft 1, Chapter 1 Excerpt

dressing-room I finished the first draft of my YA urban fantasy novel Reflections sometime last week. I can't remember the exact date right now, and I'm not too concerned about it, because I get to take a break now. I'm taking two weeks off from writing to rest, relax, and recover before diving into the second book in the Blood and Water series.

Since a lot of you have been asking me about Reflections, I wanted to take time to share a sizable excerpt with you. So, without any further ado, here's the first chapter of a (very) rough draft of the novel. Enjoy!

NOTE: General trigger warning for body dysmorphia, self-esteem issues, self-criticism. Onward.

CHAPTER 1. the dressing room

The dressing room was hot, but that wasn’t the reason Ramachandra “Rama” Ganeshan was sweating. She and her best friend Myra Hare had been at the mall for hours, and although Myra had a dozen outfits stuffed into bags on her arm, Rama hadn’t found a single thing she liked.

She never found anything she liked anymore.

The department-store dressing room was small, way smaller than it needed to be. Either the air conditioning had gone out in this part of the building, or Rama was really worse off than she thought. Sweat ran down the back of her neck and trailed along her spine. What’s worse, she could see the sweat beaded on her face as she cautiously assessed her reflection.

Standing in front of the dressing room mirror, Rama hated what she saw. The dress was as awful as all of the others—too tight in some places, too low in others, and too short around her thighs.


As she studied her reflection, she wanted to throw up. She prayed for the ground to open up and swallow her whole before Myra could ask her what was wrong, why she was taking so long, and whether she planned to buy the dress.

There were too many questions, and she didn’t feel like answering any of them. They were all too complicated, and she didn’t have the patience. Besides, she wasn’t sure she had all the answers, either.

Then again, she wasn’t sure that she had any of the answers.

Myra’s knuckles rapped against the door. “Hey, can I come in?”

“Just a second.” Rama smoothed the dress over her stomach. Too tight. She’d known it would be. Still, there was no way she’d ask Myra to go look for the next size. “I’m changing back into my street clothes. I don’t think I’m getting this one, either.”

“Rama,” Myra said, “that’s like, the eighteenth outfit.”

“I know. I’m sorry. Just give me a minute.”

Myra sighed, but she didn’t argue. Rama felt guilty for dragging her best friend into such a mess, but Myra had been the one to propose the shopping trip. They hadn’t been spending enough time together. Myra had just made the cheerleading team, and Rama was taking three AP courses, which meant her nose—as hooked as it was—was constantly buried in a book. She had so much homework that sometimes, she didn’t even leave the house on the weekends. She didn’t count that as a loss—it wasn’t as though she liked going anywhere now, anyway. She was far too busy to even help her parents with running the restaurant most nights, and that was an obligation. A social life? Forget it.

Her parents, like all of the others in town, must have been thrilled with this development. There had been a rash of unsolved murders of young girls in the past few months, and the mayor of Aldale, West Virginia had even gone so far as to establish a curfew for anyone under eighteen. It just wasn’t safe to be out alone at night. It wasn’t safe to be alone at all.

But Myra’s parents thought all the precautions were too strict. Sure, the children needed to be careful, but as long as they exercised common sense and good judgment, there was no need for them to take such drastic measures. They’d explained their point of view to their daughter, and it hadn’t taken much else for Myra to be convinced. Of late, she’d taken to trying to recruit Rama to her side of the debate.

“We should go to the mall today,” Myra had said at her house that afternoon. “It will do you good to get out.”

For some reason, Rama had gone along with the plan. She’d even, at one point, thought that Myra might be right. It probably would do her good to get out.

But now, in the dressing room, Rama wasn’t so convinced. She wasn’t sure what the worst part of the dress was—the way it scratched her skin, the way it dipped low enough in the front to expose the scar below her collarbone, or the way it clung to her hips and made her feel like a cow.

She didn't even need the dress, didn't she? It wasn't as though she actually went anywhere anymore, let alone somewhere that she would wear something so nice. It didn’t even cover her scar, which had been her biggest reason for wanting to buy new clothes, anyway. If it couldn’t even do that much, did it do her any good?

She ran her fingertips over the scar and winced as though it were fresh. Myra was the only one besides Rama who had seen the scar, and thankfully, she’d never asked Rama where it had come from. If she had, Rama would have had no idea what to tell her. There was absolutely no way she’d tell anyone the truth—if she said it aloud, she had to acknowledge that it had happened, and then she couldn’t pretend it was just a nightmare anymore.

Rama swallowed the lump in her throat. The walls of the dressing room were closing in around her, and the ceiling was going to cave in any minute. She would be crushed or suffocate and die in the middle of the mall and no one would miss her, that was the worst part, not even Myra who had dragged her to the mall try on the stupid dress in the first place.

“You okay?” Myra asked from the other side of the door.

“Fine,” Rama lied. “I'm just hungry is all.”

“It's making you cranky.”

“I know, and I'm sorry. Look, can we just go?”

Myra sighed again. “You said you needed new clothes, and you haven't gotten a single thing. I don't want to leave without you buying something.”

“I hate everything I try on.” Rama pulled the dress off over her head and tossed it onto the chair. The plastic hanger that had been there clattered to the ground. Rama stooped to pick it up. “I don't see the point in staying here when I don't want to even get anything now.”

“Let me see if I can find you something else then. Just let me try, okay?”

Rama looked at herself in the mirror again. Shiny white stretch marks pulled across her hips and thighs, dipping into the ragged waistband of her underwear. The under-wire of her bra was sticking out on one side. Her hair was disheveled, dull, and full of tangles.

She wanted, more than anything, to be someone else—anyone else.

Anyone that wasn’t her or anyone like her.

And she’d be willing to do almost anything to make that wish come true.

Rama was still thinking about how much she hated her body when Myra returned with an armful of clothing. She knocked on the door, and Rama paused a minute before opening it enough for Myra to shove the clothing in. Rama dropped the pile of clothes on the chair. None of them were to her taste—fit too tight; showed too much skin. Drew too much attention. What had Myra been thinking?

“Well?” Myra asked.

“Close the door,” Rama said. There was no way in hell she’d wear any of that stuff. But she couldn’t say that to Myra. She wouldn’t understand. She never could.

No one could.

And she wouldn’t try to make her understand where she was coming from.

“Something’s wrong,” Myra said. “I wish you’d just tell me what’s bothering you.”

Rama took in a shuddering breath.

“It’s not about clothes, is it?”

“It’s not about the clothes.” It was never about the clothes. She squeezed her eyes shut, willed away tears. In her mind’s eye, she saw him again—the man with the mustache. Chicken tikka masala. Her stomach churned.


She opened her eyes. Myra was still there, lips narrowed into a thin line.

She touched Rama’s arm. “You’ll never be happy until you learn to make peace with your body, you know.”

That was easy enough for her to say. Myra had long legs and curves in all the right places—that was one of the biggest reasons she’d made the cheerleading squad. As far as Rama knew, she’d never had a single pimple. Self-esteem issues? Forget it. Myra had absolutely nothing to complain about. And she certainly had never been attacked like Rama had, never hated her body as much as Rama hated hers now.

Rama sniffed and covered the scar on her chest. There was no way in hell she’d ever tell Myra what had happened that day in the restaurant.

Myra took the clothes from Rama and sighed. “Okay, you win. You don’t have to try this stuff on if you don’t want to. Shopping is supposed to be fun, not torture, you know.”

A smile quirked the corners of Rama’s lips. “I appreciate your help.”

“It’s nothing,” Myra said. “Why don’t we head back to the car? We can get milkshakes before I drop you off. I’ll grab your bike.”

In her battle with self-image, she’d almost forgotten—she’d ridden her bicycle to Myra’s house, and then they’d gone on to the mall. She needed her bike to get home. Sure, she could always hitch a ride with Myra, but Myra was asking for more quality time. Rama needed to be alone. And Myra wanted them to get milkshakes.

Rama chewed her lip. The last thing she needed was a milkshake. She kept saying she was going on a diet, but maybe she wasn’t serious. She couldn’t figure out how to make a diet work when she lived above a restaurant and had two chefs for parents. At any rate, she’d already done too much thinking about her body that day, and she needed a serious distraction. A milkshake wouldn’t cut it. Neither would her friend.

“I’m going to bike home, I think. I could use some fresh air.”

“Do you think that’s a good idea? You’d be alone.”

“I know. It’s all right, I promise. I’ve done it before.”

Myra cast a sidelong glance at her. “Have you done it since the murders?”

“Doesn’t matter. I’ll be fine.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Rama exhaled loudly. “I’m going straight home, no stops on the way. It isn’t even dark yet—won’t be dark for a while—and I really need to think. Come on, Myra. Just let me take my bike.”

She could tell that Myra wanted to press her for details, but somehow, she resisted. “Suit yourself. Let’s go, girl.”

What do you think? Are you excited for Reflections?

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"She wanted... to be someone else—anyone else. Anyone that wasn’t her or anyone like her." (Click to tweet)

Please, Don't Be Afraid by Harley Randy Green

Photo Credit: dryhead on Flickr Hello, this is Briana! I'm on vacation in West Virginia this week, so I'm publishing some wonderful guest posts. As soon as I'm back, we will return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Until then, enjoy!

I wrote my first novel back in 2004, which I put into a book with my other short stories from past years. I never really read it after I was done, so I had no clue how good it was or even if it was readable. I really didn’t want anyone to read it. I was more concerned with a short story I wrote being acceptable for publication.

Finally, I allowed my then wife to read my first novel, fix the words here and there, and maybe critique it for me. I found out the book was worse than I had imagined. Even today when I try to fix it with my own editing process, I realize how bad of a story I had previously written. However, if it were not for asking someone else to read it, I would not have learned from my experience, and my next novel would probably be just as bad as the first one.

You also can’t learn from mistakes if you are all afraid to have others read your work. Remember, your first rough draft is not an instant American classic, and you don’t have professional editors at the ready to fix the book so it’s ready to go; so the more insight from others, the better to learn. Find yourself alpha and beta readers, people you might know a little or others you just met with many different creeds and ages in their background. This is also a great way to learn about what demographics your work lands.

Find yourself an editor, please—specifically, an editor who you believe is reasonably priced and you can get along with. Now I know this may be difficult, but they are indispensable in the creation of your final draft. Like alpha readers, editors always find things you’ll miss. They fix them and make them better so you look like the smartest person in the room. I found mine by using a short story of mine that I knew was good but needed an editor’s touch. I find it’s a lot easier than just giving them your baby and “ripping it to shreds!” The right editor won’t do that.

Finally, you believe the book is done; now it’s time for the critiques. This is the hardest point because you have no idea you’ll get a good review. Amazon is a prime location, but not a perfect one, for this. Don’t be afraid to ask for those more established with widely read blogs or even columns to give your book a go.

But none of this happens unless you ask. Don’t be afraid to ask and find your thick skin. What people say, you should use constructively, not negatively unless they are just brutal and give you absolutely nothing to work with so you can fix the writing. Remember, you alone are the end all; be all to your story, but in order to get there, you cannot be afraid to ask.

The author was born in Port Huron, Michigan where he still resides. He has had a long time fascination with science fiction, fantasy, horror, and speculative fiction.  H.R. Green has written three novels, Daemon, Shifter, and Machete Mauler, and one compilation, Listen Like Fiends.  You can visit his website here. Thanks for writing this post!

When it comes to writing, what are you most afraid of?

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Bookish and Literary Uses for the Bullet Journal by Coryl o'Reilly

Photo Credit: flakyredhead on Flickr Hello, this is Briana! I'm on vacation in West Virginia this week, so I'm publishing some wonderful guest posts. As soon as I'm back, we will return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Until then, enjoy!

The bullet journal. It seemed to come out of nowhere. For some people, it may be too much flexibility and not enough structure. For others, the flexibility means freedom and creativity.

If you’re new, the official bullet journal website outlines the basics. Give it a quick read. I can wait.

Read it? You know what “Collections” and “Migration” are? Good.

The beauty about bullet journaling comes from the customisation. The basics really are the basics: there are no limits to what you can include. My system has changed often since I began at the end of March as a to-do list and day planner. I’m now rethinking what I include. My brainstorming led me to ideas for bookish spreads to re-focus on writing and reading!


Calendars can range from one month to multiple years, depending on your needs.

New release dates: Don’t forget that amazing book coming out in eight months! See at a glance when you need to start saving for those new books.

Deadlines and due dates: Mark your writing deadlines—from drafting to editing to marketing—so you can try to avoid procrastination and last-minute anxiety. Also avoid overdue fines from the library by writing books’ due dates.


Although I don’t use collections, I won’t discriminate!

Plotbunnies: Jot down your random ideas. Seeing them all in one place can help find ways to bundle them together. Expand to bits of dialogue or description.

Quotes: Inspiration, motivation, great lines… You name it, you write it.

Books read: Goodreads can feel so impersonal. Jazz up your reading history by doodling a bookshelf of empty book spines. Go simple with just the title, author, and date you started and finished.

Book statistics: How many female and male writers? How many indie authors? Make a chart to see your own reading habits and trends.


Trackers are a simple way to see how often you do something. The scope can range from daily to weekly to monthly. You can fill in boxes, use checkmarks for successful days and X’s unsuccessful days, or try the sticker method Briana raved about to encourage you!

Writing habits: See how often you’re writing. Daily? On weekends? In spurts? Track it!

Word counts: Set a word count for that day, or decide a minimum word count per day. Check it off when it’s reached.

Pages read: I can read a book in a day or go weeks without reading. I want to improve my reading habits by tracking a set number of pages or time spent reading each day.

If you’re afraid to commit to a notebook, use a sheet of paper to experiment. Pinterest and Instagram are fantastic places to inspire layout designs. I’ve definitely lost sleep admiring the creativity in the BuJo community. . .

So, have I converted you? Give it a shot—there’s nothing to lose but some ink and paper.

Coryl o'Reilly is a Canadian writer, artist, and LGBT and mental health advocate. She intensely loves lemons, Studio Ghibli, and poetic prose. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and her blog. Thanks so much for writing this post, Coryl!

What do you think about bullet journaling?

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If you're interested in bullet journaling, you NEED to read this post by @coryldork. (Click to tweet)

6 Tips for Defeating Writer's Block by Louise Matchett

Photo Credit: mikkime on Flickr Hello, this is Briana! I'm on vacation in West Virginia this week, so I'm publishing some wonderful guest posts. As soon as I'm back, we will return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Until then, enjoy!

You should be writing. And yet whenever you open your manuscript and write a sentence you delete it, rewrite it and delete it again. Just like that you’re stuck, your mind goes blank and your character voices that live in your mind, who have always been there whispering to you, have fallen silent. And whilst you sit there your deadlines are creeping up on you, getting ready to pounce.

Writer’s block. Hitting a wall. Falling out of sync. These are some of the many different names we writers come up with for one common problem and that problem is when you can’t make the words pour out onto a page, whether it’s a page in a notebook or a page on a computer screen.

So what can you do to get the juices flowing once more? (Aside from making a sacrifice to the muses)

  • Sometimes all it takes is a re-read of the last paragraph or chapter you wrote to remind yourself of what might happen next. Though the urge to re-write a whole chapter can be tempting try to focus on just reading and not editing.
  • Take a break from your current project and start something new, it could be a blog post or even a competition piece. Anything that can wipe your creative palate clean.
  • Take a scheduled break from writing altogether, spend time with friends and family. But fix a deadline so that you know when that day comes you have to return to your current project.
  • Do something new. Is there a place you’ve always wanted to go, a new sport you’ve been wanting to try or maybe it’s something else. Whether it’s crossing something off of your bucket list or just following an impulse, give it a go. Take photos. Make the occasional note. If it doesn’t spark your imagination it can always make a great blog post.
  • Pick up your favourite book and read the first page, just the first page though. Done it? Now ask yourself questions; what makes me want to turn the next page? What do I learn from this page? Why is this book my favourite? This helps you identify what you find important in a story and if you apply these elements into your book it might help you get back into your writing.
  • Change your location. No I don’t mean you have to move house, what I mean is identify where you normally do most of your writing, then change location. You do most of your writing sitting in the living room? Try the kitchen. You write whilst lying on your bed? Try sitting on the stairs.

I hope these tips can help you push through your writer’s block and get the words flowing once more.

Louise Matchett is an author and photographer. You can visit her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Thanks so much for writing this post, Louise!

What tips do you have for defeating writer's block?

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24th Birthday Giveaway

Photo Credit: Felix on Flickr Woohoo! It's Friday! Happy birthday to me! I can't believe I'm 24 now! I feel like I just had a birthday yesterday, but somehow, it was a whole year ago? Is that how birthdays work?

Anyway, I know my age may come as a surprise to some of you, and I'm aware that 24 is still pretty young, but it still feels strange, you know? This time last year, I was in a different, darker place. My position in life was pretty precarious for a while. I had some close calls, in terms of mental and emotional breakdowns. It was rough for me in Florida.

But I digress. Today should be happy, so let's do happy things. I know usually I'd be the one receiving presents today, but I'd much rather give you guys something. This past year has been amazing for me. I've overcome and accomplished so much, and there's no way I could have done it without your support, encouragement, and motivation. Seriously, people. I love you all so much. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world, and it's all because of you. So in honor of my gratitude, and of turning another year (hopefully) wiser, I thought I'd put together a little giveaway.

If you want to enter to win a $15 Barnes & Noble gift card, just fill out the widget below! You have until Friday, June 23, 2016 at 11:59 EST to enter! Once the giveaway closes, I'll announce the winner via another blog post. Good luck, everybody!

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How myWriteClub Helps Me Write More

Photo Credit: StephenMitchell on Flickr I've mentioned before that myWriteClub is one of my favorite writing resources. I first heard of it over on Ava Jae's blog, where she wrote a post about it. Since then, I've used mWriteClub to track my progress and keep myself motivated to finish my projects (follow me!).

If you're not using myWriteClub, you really should be. It has a commenting feature where people can provide encouragement and spur you onward, a nifty colored bar that fills up as you write, and an amazing new feature I never would have known about without Ava Jae--myWriteClub supports personal and global word sprints!

For those of you unfamiliar with the term word sprints, I'm talking about writing in short bursts, setting a timer for say, fifteen minutes, and writing as much as you can without stopping until the timer goes off. Word sprints are an excellent way to get through a first draft, and I never would have been able to finish writing Blood and Water without them. Before MyWriteClub, I used either a physical timer (which was okay) or Write or Die (which wasn't great, as I've since learned I don't do well with negative stiumli). For some reason, timed writing leads to serious productivity for me, so myWriteClub's word sprint feature is an absolute godsend.

Just this past week, I used myWriteClub's global sprinting feature to write 2K words in less than an hour each day. How amazing is that?? And the cool thing about myWriteClub (well, one of them) is that the program gives you a star for each 100 words you reach. Positive reinforcement! I love it.

It's free to sign up for myWriteClub, and it's only in the beta stage, but it looks promising! If you give it a try, let me know what you think! And feel free to add me. :)

How do you feel about writing sprints?

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Sunshine Blogger Award

Photo Credit: Andrew Partain on Flickr Hi hi hi, lovely people! Today's post should be an interesting one. We're changing things up a little bit. The bright and bubbly Lo-arna Green nominated me for this award! I haven't done a tag in a while, and the questions looked great, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Thanks so much for tagging me in this one, Lou!

The rules are as follows:

  • Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate up to eleven wonderful bloggers and write eleven (possibly fiendish) questions for them to answer.

That's it! Without further ado, here are the questions and answers.

1. Have you ever gotten in to trouble with the law? Nah. I'm a little too boring for that nonsense.
2. Can you wink successfully? Oh, yes.
3. What is your mantra when you feel like throwing in the writing towel? Don't get it right, get it written.
4. What is something random about you that not many people know? I don't know how to ride a bicycle. I've just never learned.
5. What is the earliest memory you have? Sitting in a sandbox in North Carolina, shoveling sand into a baby bottle.
6. What is your nickname? Bri, The Smoll, Mrs. Gatsby.

7. What food do you love the most? Chipotle, probably.
8. What food do you hate the most? Salad. Some vegetarian I am.

9. Can you give a rundown of your writing process or do you like to change it up? My "process" usually involves a whole lot of caffeine and crying. Lately, I'm all about self-doubt. Technically, I think I'm a plotter, though I haven't quite gotten the hang of it--you know what? Let's just say I change it up. That's so much easier.
10. What is your favourite season? Autumn. No contest.
11. Who is your favourite tv character, past or present and why? Rupert Giles from Buffy. He's smart, handsome, loyal, and fiercely protective. Also, he's kind of my dream man, okay?

I'm half-asleep right now and about to go to bed, so I'm not tagging anyone. Feel free to answer these same questions on your own blog if you'd like! And if you do decide to answer them, go ahead and link me to your answers in the comments. :)

Are you going to participate in the Sunshine Blogger tag? How would you answer some of these questions?

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Have you heard of the Sunshine Blogger Award? See @brianawrites' answers to @loarnagreen's questions. (Click to tweet)