Articles

B&Q Writer’s Haven Word Crawl

What are Word Crawls?
World Crawls are a set of writing challenges–usually set to a storyline–meant to make writing a bit more fun and entertaining.

We hope you enjoy our very first Books & Quills Magazine Word Crawl! We’re excited to release it, and we hope it will help you write “ALL TEH WURDZ!” This crawl is based on our Writer’s Haven, an online global community of writers. All are welcome! Visit http://baqm.co/writershaven to join!

NOTE: THIS CRAWL IS APPROPRIATE FOR AGES 15+

It’s almost NaNoWriMo and somehow you’ve found yourself on Books and Quills Magazine’s Writer’s Haven server on discord. “What is this strange place?” you wonder. You’re welcomed warmly and led on a tour. You’re promised a sticker at the end of the tour, but the B&Q sticker stash is gone. Seems B&Q has a sticker swiping pirate aboard! Word war for five minutes while you wait for a new shipment of stickers to arrive.

You’ve completed the tour, you finally got your sticker… there’s just one more thing you’ll have to do before you’re fully initiated. Learn the chant: ALL TEH WURDZ!! FIX IT IN EDITING!! Do a three-digit challenge while you memorize the chant.

Congratulations, you’re one of us now. You’ll get used to the shenanigans eventually. Sprint to 100 words while you settle into your new home.

Speaking of shenanigans, what’s with all the people dressed up like sexy polar bears? Sprint to 300 words as you stare at them with a combination of confusion, concern, mild amusement, and fascinated attraction.

Oh no… Tara, the resident sticker stealing pirate, just popped in! “Overly affectionate greeting,” she says with a smile and walks off mumbling something about living to amuse. What? Is that a reference to something? Perhaps to the show that she seems to be “mildly” addicted to? If you understood the reference, sprint to a leisurely 150 words and then take a short break. If you didn’t get the reference, do a 10-minute sprint and then go binge watch Person of Interest.

Somebody hands out snacks. Bananas for everyone! Now that you’re refueled, word war for 15 minutes.

Turns out you need to refuel again after that word war. You head to the break room to get a cup of coffee and find that a knot of toads has gotten into the B&Q caffeine stash. That won’t do. Sprint to 100 words as you chase them out of the break room.

You report back to the staff about the toads. Turns out they knew about them and they aren’t really toads at all. They’re a group of bad students turned into toads by B&Q’s resident witch. You notice Tara slip down in her chair, trying to hide. Word war for ten minutes while you try to convince her to tell you how to turn them back into humans.

If you wrote more than 300 words, congratulations, now you can go help those poor students turn back into humans. If you wrote less than 300 words, roll a die and multiply the number you rolled by 100 and write that many words so she’ll finally tell you how to help the poor students.

Well, that was rather strange. But you’re starting to get used to the shenanigans now and by now you know that every time something strange happens, Dani is sure to have a song for it. Head over to the jukebox channel and listen to the most recently posted song. Write for the duration of the song.

Somebody asked what those striped things outside barber shops are called. The answer is right on the tip of your tongue. Was it stripper poles? Sprint to 200 words while you try to remember.

Barber poles, that’s it. Reward yourself with a short break for remembering.

Everybody is distracted by barber poles now. Did you know barbers used to perform bloodletting, surgeries, and tooth extractions as well? And that the stripes on a barber pole are symbolic of the blood and bandages. Fascinating! Now stop procrastinating. Write 300 words in five minutes to make up for the time you spent researching barber poles instead of writing.

Now that you’re back on track, head over to “if-you-see-this” and do the last challenge posted.

You decide it’s time for another quick break. You head to the break room. There’s some bot named Clay there. He wants you to play a game, but you just want a little love that he can’t or won’t seem to give. Word war for 15 minutes while you mourn the lack of love from Clay.

Finally over Clay, you move on from the break room and find yourself in the midst of a meme war. Sprint to 300 words while you search for the perfect meme to post.

The meme war finally comes to an end and you head to the break room again, in need of some (preferably not-toad-infested) coffee. On your way back, you hear somebody running around screaming something about somebody, or maybe a volleyball, named Wilson. What in the world? Sprint to the nearest thousand as you shake your head and laugh quietly.

You hear something in the distance, coming from another room. What is that? “Aye aye Cap’n.” Is… is someone here singing the Spongebob theme song? You can’t resist the urge to sing along and the song will undoubtedly be stuck in your head now. Write for the duration of the song.

While you’re in the middle of typing away and working toward meeting you word count for the day, four individuals approach you. They say their names are Christina, Steve, Troy, and Lionel and they tell you they work for Fenix Corporation and insist that the building is on fire and that everyone has to evacuate. Sprint for 20 minutes while you listen to them argue amongst themselves and babble on about time travel and the “TEMPEST Machine”… whatever that is.

You finish your sprint only to find that the four strange individuals are still there and still arguing. You shoo them away, because you have a feeling if you don’t then you’ll be listening to them for hours. Once they’re gone, you notice all the staplers have gone missing from the virtual B&Q office. You’re informed by the B&Q staff that there’s no need to be alarmed, Steve probably just stole them all… again. Do a 10-minute word war to get the staplers back.

It’s late and you’re tired and it seems all the coffee and snacks are gone. You’re in desperate need of boosting your word count a bit before you finally curl up in the nap room. You arrive at the B&Q crawl room and the first thing you see is “get a wife” and the word “felon.” You find yourself suddenly questioning everything. Sprint to 500 words while you try to sort it all out in your head.

A couple people run by shooting Nerf darts at each other, one of them dressed as the devil. You wonder where the funsanity ends and find yourself a target of the darts. “This is a no procrastination zone,” May and Tara tell you. Quickly write 100 words to save yourself.

It’s been a rather long day and there’s sure to be plenty more shenanigans tomorrow. Wrap up with an easy 5-minute sprint before packing in and calling it a night. You’re going to need your rest in preparation for another fun and crazy day in the Writer’s Haven.

Articles

NaNoWriMo Prepping

My NaNoWriMo prep usually starts in September. I take any one of the handful of ideas floating around in my head at any given time and begin to flesh it out into as much detail as I can. I start with a basic plot that grows and develops as I build my world and give birth to my cast of characters.

I never go at it alone. I always surround myself with my fellow writers, asking them for advice and help when I need it and offering the same in return. It’s with their assistance that my world takes shape into something more than just a tiny pebble of an idea and forms into something greater that I can work with, in which I can give my characters and my plot a home.

The characters are the most important part of my stories. Without them I’d have an empty and boring world devoid of life and the action intended to keep readers turning the pages, hungry for more. It’s on my characters that I spend the most time. I always start with my main character, giving them just enough life that they can begin to talk to me and tell me about themselves: their mannerisms and flaws, their qualities, their motives and how they intend to reach their goals. I develop my other characters around my main character so when it’s time to start writing they can support and help or, in some cases as with an antagonist, hinder the main character on their journey to accomplish their main goal. I treat my supporting characters the same way I do my main character, letting them shape themselves. In a way, my characters write their own story.

I also spend a lot of time doing research. In my experience, there isn’t any story that couldn’t benefit from some research. Sometimes it’s in-depth historical research, or researching a bit of science I’m not already well enough acquainted with or need to brush up on. Other times my research consists of studying works by other authors who’ve “mastered” the genre(s) I intend to write in to become more familiar with the styles and methods they use to become successful writers and produce best selling works. On the occasion that I set something in a place I’m not familiar with, I take quite a bit of time to research the setting of my story. Sometimes even setting a story in my hometown requires a bit of research.

And then, of course, there’s taking time to put together a playlist that helps to keep the words flowing. Sometimes I’ll seek out help from a few artistic friends who help me to more clearly see my main characters by doing sketches based on the info I share about those characters with them. There’s also the search for a cover, even just a temporary stand-in during NaNo season to keep me motivated. And I never seem to be able to really get going once November 1st rolls around unless I’ve got even just a temporary working title for my project.

By the end of October, I’m always anxious and ready to roll, eagerly counting down the seconds to midnight on November 1st when I can finally put my pen to paper or fingers to my keyboard and start my 30-day marathon of writing to hit my 50,000 words.

Articles

22 LGBTQA+ Authors

If you’re looking for a few LGBTQA+ authors to read, here is a list of authors, ranging from well-known to indie, and a few notable works to get you started.  

Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky


J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan


Imogen Binnie

Nevada


Jennifer Finney Boylan

Long Black Veil

You Are You


Zac Brewer (published under Heather Brewer)

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

The Slayer Chronicles


Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

Breakfast at Tiffany’s


E.M. Forester

Maurice

A Room With a View

A Passage to India


Edward Gorey

The Gashlycrumb Tinies


Radclyffe Hall

The Well of Loneliness


Violette Leduc

La Bâtarde

Therese and Isabelle


Audre Lorde

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name


Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway

Rosemary and Rue


Marcel Proust

In Search of Lost Time


Jane Rule

Desert of the Heart


Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are


Sarah Waters

Fingersmith

Affinity

The Night Watch

Tipping the Velvet


Walt Whitman

Leaves of Grass


Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Importance of Being Earnest


Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof


Jeanette Winterson

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit


Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway

Orlando

Moments of Being


RoAnna Sylver

Chameleon Moon

Articles, Features

Keep Fighting

Trigger Warning: Physical, Emotiona, & Verbal Abuse

My parents divorced shortly before I turned eight. Despite a history of alcoholism and a history of abuse against my father, the court granted my mother primary custody of me. That was the start of 13 years of constant physical, verbal, and emotional abuse at the hands of my mother. I was punched, slapped in the face, and had my hair pulled. I was told numerous times that I would never amount to anything, that I was a failure, and that I would never be good enough. More than once my mother threatened to kill herself in front of both me and my younger sister and told us that it was our fault. As if my mother wasn’t bad enough, I was also dealing with a stepfather who didn’t know how to keep his hands to himself.

At the start of seventh grade, after we moved from Western New York to Greensboro, North Carolina, I found myself not only struggling to deal with the abuse I was suffering at home, but also struggling to come to terms with being a lesbian. I saw others in the LGBTQA+ community being mistreated at school and as a result I feared that my orientation would get out and I too would become a victim of homophobic harassment. So I did my best to hide, going so far as to lie to myself and making a few poor decisions in an attempt to prove to myself and to others that I wasn’t gay. At home I feared my mother’s wrath and as a result would frequently lock myself away in my room. I was also struggling with being so far away from my dad.

As a result of the situation I was in and the things I was struggling with, I ended falling into a deep depression and eventually began self harming. The self harming started more out of a desire to punish myself than anything. I’d heard so many times from my mother that I wasn’t good enough and that I was a screw up that I began to believe it. That combined with my orientation made me believe that there really was something wrong with me, that I was bad, and that I deserved to be punished in some way. When my mother caught me one night, she dragged me into her bathroom to clean me up and lectured me about how much of an embarrassment I was.

I felt like I had no one to turn to and nowhere to go. I felt trapped and I felt lost. The people who did offer to help and who were there for me I ended up pushing away, or I would lie to them and tell them I was fine, including my dad. I put up walls and told myself that I could deal with everything on my own, even when I knew I couldn’t. Truth is, we aren’t built to deal with these sorts of things alone. But I was ashamed, and maybe even in a bit of denial, so instead of asking for help I hid myself away. The only thing that stopped me from self harming and helped me to combat my suicidal thoughts was the idea that by hurting myself I was letting the people who were tearing me down win and I refused to let them be victorious over me.

By the end of eighth grade, despite feeling alone because of homophobia and due to a lack of representation, I managed to accept myself for who I was. I wasn’t ready for anyone, aside from a select few close friends, to know about my orientation, but at least I’d come to accept myself and to accept that there was nothing wrong with me for being a lesbian, and that it wasn’t something that I could change but rather something that I should embrace. A few bad relationships after I learned to accept myself made it hard to embrace sometimes, but now it’s a part of me that I do embrace wholly, something that I celebrate, and one of the only things I’ve actually come to love about myself.

I didn’t come out to my family and the rest of my friends until shortly after I turned 21. That was when I decided that I couldn’t keep sacrificing who I was. I couldn’t keep sacrificing my own happiness for the benefit of others, because I was hurting myself too much while trying to pretend to be someone I wasn’t to appease those I thought wouldn’t accept me. I realized that it was my life, not theirs, and that I needed to live for myself and in such a way that made me happy, not them. Making that choice lifted a huge weight off my shoulders and made me feel a heck of a lot better. Since then, I’ve also started using my writing to try and help combat the lack of LGBTQA+ representation. Of course, that’s getting better now; there’s certainly more representation now than there was 12 years ago when I was learning who I was, but it’s still not nearly enough, and the more representation there is the easier it will be for others to accept themselves and see that they are not alone, and perhaps for those outside the community to see that we are not the monsters and criminals we are sometimes made out to be and learn to be more accepting.

The option to escape was offered to me a number of times. I always knew that I could turn to my dad, that he would be there and that I would always have some place to go. I simply couldn’t work up the courage. I feared what my mother would do or say if I tried to tell her that I was leaving. It wasn’t until a week before I turned 21 that I did manage to find the courage to call my mother one night, while I was visiting my dad over the summer, and tell her that I wouldn’t be returning to Tennessee, where we’d moved after I graduated high school.

It was a difficult phone call to make, partially because I was afraid of my mother’s reaction, but also because I was afraid of such a big change. I’d also gotten so used to the abuse and came to believe the negative things that I’d been told (not only by my mother at that point but also by a few “friends” and a few girlfriends) so much that I wasn’t sure I deserved a life that was better than the one I’d been living.

It took me finally managing to escape from the constant abuse to realize and accept that I did deserve better, and sometimes I still have times when I wonder if maybe I don’t. I still struggle with depression as well as anxiety, and I struggle everyday with my self-esteem. The effects of the emotional and physical abuse that I’ve suffered are still present and though I have begun to heal now, I know it will still take more time. The important thing, not only for me but for anyone who has been through similar situations, or is currently going through a similar situation, and for anyone who struggles with any form of depression or anxiety, is that we all keep fighting. The healing that I have done so far would have been impossible on my own. It was hard, but I knew I needed help and I eventually found the strength to ask for it and I’m glad I did. I’ve also learned to use my writing as an outlet when I feel myself getting down and I’m more willing to reach out to friends, family, and my counselor now. Some days it’s hard; I’ve had relapses and sometimes I still have days when I want to give up, but no matter how hard it gets I will keep fighting.

Interviews

Interview: Shannon L. Miller

Author Shannon L. Miller recently released her new Sci-Fi novel, Orphans of War.   

Tara Nóra Éirinn: To start off, could you tell us a little about your book, “Orphans of War”?

Miller: “Orphans of War” is a science fiction I have been working on since 2007, back when I lived in China. At its roots, it is the story of trying to find oneself, of not being able to fit in, always sticking out. Being a foreigner in another country, these ideas were always in the front of my mind. The names of the 2 main human characters come from those of some of my ancestors roughly 300 years ago. It was a way to explore myself, while still maintaining my roots.

Éirinn: That sounds really intriguing. Is there anything else that inspired you to write “Orphans of War”?

Miller: I have always loved science fiction since as far back as I can remember. Before I ever got into fantasy, Sci-Fi was the genre I lived in. I think I put off finishing a work of Sci-Fi because I was waiting for the right idea that fit me.

Éirinn: I love sci-fi too, and fantasy; it’s fascinating as both a writer and a reader to be able to explore all the different worlds offered to us in books or our own imaginations. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Miller: I remember wanting to be an author as far back as elementary school. I actually used to write all kinds of nonsense stories back in kindergarten. When I was in 1st grade, I wanted to be one. I think I really contemplated it as a profession as early as 4th grade. Back in elementary school though, some adults tried to stomp out my creativity, and so I would hide anything I wrote, even writing under my bed sheets so I wouldn’t feel ashamed. A 7th grade English teacher brought me out of my shell, and my 11th grade English teacher helped me realize it isn’t crazy to want to be an author. Since then, I have never looked back on or questioned my decision.

Éirinn: I love when teachers step up and encourage their students to follow their dreams and to let their creativity shine. Those sorts of teachers truly are the best. Who or what would you say has inspired you most in your writing?

Miller: My mom and dad reading me stories as a kid really made me fall in love with the written word. My brother and I had a massive book collection. My favorite part was never the pictures but the words. My mom also used to babysit older kids, and I used to be jealous, watching them write. I put a lot of effort as a kid into learning how to read and write, learning new words, and reading up on how to become a better writer.

Éirinn: Just one more question. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Miller: Never let anyone’s doubts get to you, and especially your own.

Éirinn: That is great advice. Thank you so much for your time and for answering my questions. I can’t wait to read “Orphans of War.” It sounds really interesting.

Miller: Thank you very much!

Shannon L. Miller’s Orphans of War can be purchased in paperback from Amazon or on Kindle.

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