5 Minute Fiction: Brave

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My writing style of choice tends to lean toward contemporary, yet in most of my latest 5 Minute Fiction exercises, I have found myself wavering toward fantasy and darker, more adventurous plots.

While I don’t see myself becoming a fantastical author anytime soon, this change has been a refreshing way to step back and gain new perspective on a genre so different than what I am used to.

Without further ado, here is one of my latest 5MF pieces:

Brave

She’d never felt brave before, but here in this moment, facing the darkness that lay ahead, she knew she had to be.

This wasn’t an ordinary day with ordinary circumstances. She couldn’t just walk away and decide that she had had enough. No, she must keep moving forward, no matter how badly her hands shook.

Tasting the musty air engulfing her, she took slow, careful steps, furthering herself down the hallway. The only semblance of light in the castle was provided by yellowing candles, all flicking their last breaths in shallow pools of wax.

The king didn’t know where she was, but she knew he was lurking behind his closed bedroom door, a mere 20 feet ahead. His hand had started this raging war, but he’d never expect to be taken down by hers.

Approaching his quarters, she could feel his presence, heavy and deliberate, through the thick inch of wood making up his door.

With a silent prayer for strength, she turned the knob, meeting the king’s surprised eye as the last candle burned out, leaving them both to stand in the black.

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How to Start Editing Your Novel

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You did it.

You typed that last word in that final pesky chapter, and your manuscript is complete. After what feels like months of intense labor, your book is done, and all of that hard work is behind you.

Or is it?

While it is a great feeling to finish the initial draft of a book, it’s important to remember that no book is ever complete without first being edited.

*Insert Groans Here*

Yes, editing can be a tiresome task, but it is an essential piece to the publishing puzzle. In fact, having a well edited book often means the difference between landing an agent and a book deal, or a sea of rejection emails.

So how do you get started editing your novel?

Take a Break
It can be tempting to start editing your work right after finishing the first draft, but taking a break from your story is for the best when it comes to editing. After finishing up your manuscript, step away from it for a few weeks, that way, when you do return to start editing, you can look at the book through new eyes that are able to catch more mistakes.

Do a Read Through
Before you begin editing even a single sentence, do a complete read through of your first draft. This reading will allow for you to take in the story as a whole before making changes, and give you the perspective that you need to fill in any missing pieces.

Make Comments
As you are reading through your first draft, keep a notebook nearby to write down any and all thoughts that pop into your head. Mark down where tenses are inaccurate, plot holes are creeping up, or dialogue is lacking depth. These comments that you make for yourself will be the backbone of the editing process as you dive deeper into your work.

Be Precise
While a book is a massive piece of work, it is necessary to keep a watchful eye on all of the little parts that make up the whole as you work through the initial steps of editing. Take the time in the beginning stages of edits to iron out any grammatical problems, spelling errors, and formatting issues so that your focus can be given to bigger, more complex editing needs later on.

The hardest part of editing your manuscript is simply getting started. By beginning with these small steps, you will be able to take ownership of your story, and prepare for the rest of your novel’s rewrites and revisions.

What are your best tips when it comes to the editing process?

13 Ways to Make a Difference this Earth Day

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Earth day is one of my favorite holidays.

No, there aren’t any presents wrapped in sparkling bows, big feasts with family, and chances are, you don’t get the day off from work, but Earth Day should still be celebrated with enthusiasm regardless. Earth Day is a time set aside each year to remember the importance of caring for the nature around us, and to encourage us to continually treat the world with respect.

Earth Day is a special 24 hours that reminds us how we should be conserving throughout the other 364 days of the year.

Sure, saving the planet and those who inhabit it may seem like a daunting task, but in reality, everyone can lend a helping hand when it comes to the environment. In fact, you can make a difference on Earth Day simply be choosing to:

  1. Ride your bike instead of the bus.
  2. Opt for a reusable water bottle instead of plastic.
  3. Organize a recycling drive for your neighborhood.
  4. Transform a corner of your backyard into a garden.
  5. Turn off the lights in rooms of your house that are not in use.
  6. Compost your fruit and veggie scraps.
  7. Plant a tree.
  8. Use fabric reusable bags when you go shopping.
  9. Cut your shower time down by 3 minutes.
  10. Reuse newspaper as gift wrap.
  11. Recycle old cell phones and laptops at a local electronics store.
  12. Plant bulbs and other flower seeds in your front yard.
  13. Turn off your A/C, open a window, and let fresh air cool your home.

By turning off a few light switches, reducing the amount of plastic you use, or even planting a new tree, you will be able to make a difference in just a matter of seconds. Get started on making the world a better place this Earth Day, and every day after.

Gifted: Movie Review

 

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Hollywood’s latest masterpiece opened nationwide on April 7th, and is taking the movie community by storm. The movie, Gifted, is being held to high acclaim by critics and fans everywhere, and thanks to a stellar cast mixed with an impeccable script, the film has become an instant sensation.

Starring Chris Evans and newcomer Mckenna Grace, Gifted tells the story of an uncle who is fighting to give his genius of a niece a shot at a normal childhood. Mary is a math expert at only the age of 7, and was left to live with her uncle (Frank) as a baby. However, once word gets out about her gifted abilities, Mary’s long estranged grandmother arrives to help push Mary on the academic research path that Frank has worked so hard to keep her away from. Full of heartache, laughter, and twists, this movie is much more than just another Oscar contending tearjerker.

Focusing on the battle between personal potential and the craving for normalcy, Gifted paints a picture of two forces trying to do what they genuinely think is right for the math prodigy little girl whose whole life path is at stake. What makes this movie so brilliant is that, even though each side paints the other to be the bad guy, both Mary’s uncle as well as her grandmother are doing everything they can to give her what they truly think is best.

The standout performance of Gifted is Jenny Slate, who is most commonly known for her obnoxiously brilliant character on Parks and Rec, and does an outstanding job of bringing a third party perspective to the battle.

However, what really sets this movie apart from any other new release is the honest humor portrayed by Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, and Octavia Spencer. In such a loaded story line, it is refreshing to laugh along with ample doses of smart comedy. Not to mention, a special shout out needs to be given to Fred, the one-eyed cat, who steals the show with his tabby charm.

Gifted is one of the year’s best films. Even with some slow court scenes, this movie captures an audience like no other summer blockbuster, and is a definite do not miss. Grab your ticket today, and experience the gift that is Gifted.

 

Why Authors Need to be on Social Media

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Whether you are a New York Times accomplished writer or simply have a half finished manuscript sitting in Google Docs, being on social media is vital to your career as an author. Gone are the days of traditional literary marketing where a publishing house would do the dirty work of getting your book noticed by potential readers. Instead, authors are now having to rely heavily on digital content creation and marketing to jump start their sales and overall readership.

In fact, having an active social media presence as an author is so important that many agents and publishing houses won’t even consider working with you and your book unless you are actively engaging with your online audience.

As an author, social media can help you:

Join a Community
By regularly posting and replying to other writers and readers via social media, you will be able to join a community of like minded authors from all over the world with just a few taps on your smartphone. Joining in on conversations using literary hashtags (#WIP , #AmReading , #AmWriting , etc.) will not only help you to find fellow authors to follow and support, but will also get your name and ideas out there for others to explore. The relationships that you build through online communities will be some of the best, most long-lasting support systems for your future literary work.

Build a Platform
The social media channels that you use automatically become a part of your author platform as soon as you press “Post”. Your platform is the way that you connect to potential readers, and social media allows for you to gain new audiences quickly and relatively painlessly. The bigger your platform, the more people your posts will reach, leading to more people reading your novel.

Get Discovered
While not always the most common path to getting published, social media has a knack for connecting aspiring authors with agents, and even book deals. Top agents with connections to all of the big publishing houses are always scrolling through social media looking for the next great writer. By being active on social media, joining communities, and building your online platform, agents will have a better chance of finding your work, connecting with your writing, and reaching out to learn more. You can even join in on organized contests like #PitMad to get your query in front of eager agents and editors quickly.

Are you an author on social media? What are your favorite hashtags to browse?

The Best Bookish Places in Kansas City

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There’s more to Kansas City than BBQ and baseball. In fact, Kansas City is one of the fastest evolving art communities in the country, including when it comes to literature.

Want to explore the bookish side of town? Grab your favorite paperback and head to:

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Prospero’s Books
Located in the up-and-coming 39th Street district, Prospero’s Books is the ideal hangout for any bookworm. Specializing in unique, hard to find prints, this bookstore is a massive three stories tall and filled to the brim with used novels, CD’s and vinyl records.

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Kansas City Public Library
Libraries are the place where bookish dreams come true, and the Kansas City Public Library is no exception. Each corner of this space is loaded with literary finds, including the parking lot, which is decorated with larger-than-life spines from classic novels, voted on and chosen by the city. Sign up for a card at the front desk, and you will have the freedom to discover the magic that the building holds, including a one-of-a-kind bank vault turned movie theater in the basement.

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The Rabbit Hole
An interactive experience, The Rabbit Hole is a traveling pop-up installment that helps readers to connect to different literary worlds. Celebrating a wide range of classic storybooks, this bookish playground helps audiences to view their favorite characters in new artistic ways.

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Rainy Day Books
Averaging over 300 author events per year, Rainy Day Books is one of the best indie bookstore in Kansas City. With regular signings, readings, and meet and greets featuring all of the latest bestsellers, Rainy Day Books has been a thriving piece of the Kansas City bookish community for over 40 years.

What are your favorite literary locations in Kansas City?

 

The Secrets to Reading More

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It’s that time of the year – the time when many people sign into Goodreads only to be shamed for how far behind they are on their reading goal for 2017.

If you are like a majority of readers, chances are, life has just gotten in between you and those pages you vowed you would read back on January 1st. It’s a sad truth that books are often the first thing to be eliminated from a busy schedule. However, time doesn’t have to be such a scarcity when you know how to sneak reading into your daily routine.

Need help increasing your book count this year? Consider these proven secrets to squeezing in more reading:

Be Prepared
The best way to ensure that you are reading more is to make a point of carrying a book with you everywhere. If you don’t have the space or shoulder strength to pack a hardcover in your purse every day, invest in a Kindle, or simply download your local library’s app. When you have words that are easily accessible, you will be able to whip out your book for some quick reading whenever you are standing in line, or waiting for an appointment to start.

Set Goals
Sure, your behind-schedule Goodreads challenge may be intimidating, but consider setting smaller goals for yourself to help kick start your reading. Decide that you will read for 20 minutes before bed, or declare that you will read 2 books within the next month. By setting smaller, more achievable goals, you will be able to accomplish them faster and be left feeling empowered to tackle bigger literary dreams.

Be Social
After you set your reading goals, tell someone! By publicly voicing your reading intentions, you can be held accountable by your friends and followers. Get other people to join in by setting their own goals, and encourage them along their journey as well. While normally a solitary activity, making books social will help you to get and stay excited about reading.

Reevaluate
Do you really need to binge watch Friends for the seventh time on Netflix? Is scrolling through your high school classmates’ Facebook pages really worthwhile? Reevaluate where you are spending your downtime, and swap some of those hours with reading. Sure, you may miss out on a heated Twitter debate, but in the end you will be the only true winner, having read 100 pages instead of arguing over another political scandal.

Are you caught up on your Goodreads goal? What are your favorite ways to read more?

 

The Best Things About Baseball

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In honor of the Kansas City Royals’ Home Opener today, I thought it’d only be appropriate to bask in the glory that is baseball.

Appropriately coined America’s Favorite Pastime, baseball is a classic summertime activity that millions of fans flock to each year. At just the mention of the sport, many start dreaming of Cracker Jacks, hot dogs, and catching fly balls while humming Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

But what makes baseball so great?

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Fan Enthusiasm
No other sport promotes fan enthusiasm quite like baseball. One of the most family friendly outings your group can go on, baseball games are fun for all ages, without the overbearing rowdiness (and drunkenness) of other sports.

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Passionate Pitchers
It wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s that I realized some pitchers intentionally hit other players on purpose. While that may not be very great sportsmanship, the anticipation makes for one entertaining game.

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Eric Hosmer
Enough said.

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Unpredictability
One of the best things about baseball is how unpredictable the game can be. Sure, there are 9 innings to keep everything on track, but you never know when the home team will score 8 runs in the bottom of the extra 12th, or if a foul ball will give you a nosebleed.

What are you looking forward to the most this MLB season?

The Best Binge Worthy Netflix Series

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No matter your age, location, or occupation, one thing everyone can agree on is the magic known as Netflix. With this online video subscription, a world of procrastination potential is unleashed in the form of commercial free streaming, 24/7.

Whether you like hour long dramas or thirty minute comedies, Netflix has a series that will keep you glued to your tv or laptop for days at a time.

Some of the best binge worthy series currently available on Netflix include:

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Gilmore Girls
A heart-warming classic, Gilmore Girls is easily the best show available on Netflix to stream. With the full series documenting from Chilton to Yale to yacht stealing to Yale again, it is all too easy to let this show auto-play for hours on end. Just do yourself a favor and skip out on the Year in the Life bonus episodes – not worth the hype or the character demolition.

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Fuller House
One of the best things that Netflix does is bring new life to old (read: cancelled) shows. The greatest example of this is Fuller House. Catching up with the Tanners decades after they left the air, this refreshed comedy brings back that 90’s nostalgia we all crave, even if they can’t get the Olsen Twins to make a guest appearance.

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Bloodline
While not the most popular Netflix Original, Bloodline is an American Thriller that tells the story of a troubled family, and the consequences they endure from each other’s actions. Perfect for fans of Dexter, this show will keep you on the edge of your couch.

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The Office
No explanation is needed when it comes to why you should be watching The Office on Netflix. This show is a masterclass in the art of comedy, and the only reason you will want to press pause is to go to Chili’s.

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Parenthood
Sure, network tv may be trying to resurrect the much needed family drama genre with This is Us, but nothing will ever beat the prematurely cancelled Parenthood. Every season of this incredible show is filled with addicting storylines, as well as relatable humor thanks to the brilliance of Mae Whitman. Don’t believe me? I’ll bet that after just three episodes, you won’t be able to turn the tv off.

What are your favorite shows to binge watch?

4 Ways to Improve Your Writing Today

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Whether you write copy as a marketing executive or want to pen the next New York Times Best Seller, everyone can benefit from improving their writing. Each person that puts pen to paper or finger to key can stand to work on their writing skills, but sometimes the idea of becoming better can be overwhelming.

Improving your writing doesn’t have to mean enrolling in a lengthy college class (although sometimes that can help). In fact, you can improve your writing almost instantly with these 4 tactics:

Research
A surefire way to become a better writer is to do your research. Learn what it means for your work to have the proper story structure, and go back through your old basic high school grammar notes to make sure you are using prepositions correctly. When you start to put effort behind the technical aspects of your craft, your writing will instantly reach new levels.

Edit
Editing your work can be time consuming and frustrating, but it is also the number one way to improve your writing. When you edit, you are able to tweak and transform first drafts into works of art, all while learning about your bad habits as an author and how to fix them. Editing your writing helps you to realize plot holes that you didn’t know existed, and to polish the way you deliver your thoughts in an efficient, artistic manner.

Share
Sharing your work with trusted peers is another great way to gain insight on your writing in order for you to help it improve. By having a fresh pair of eyes read your novel, you will gain a new perspective that will give you the tools you need to write like a pro. Beta-readers will be able to supply you with invaluable feedback to help improve your writing, that you otherwise would have never discovered sitting alone at your desk.

Practice
The most effective way that you can start improving your writing today is simply to keep writing. Writing is a muscle, and like any muscle, needs to be exercised regularly to reach peak condition. The more you write – whether blog posts, opinion articles, short stories, or manuscript chapters – the more cohesive your style will become. The practice you gain by writing consistently will help to give your final pieces the boost they need to succeed.

Whether you are just beginning your writing career or about to pen your tenth novel, your writing always has room to grow. What are your favorite ways to work on your writing skills?