Progress: Mercy Hospital

I have to add two more chapters in order to tie in some of the story. The work is coming along nicely.

As of January 3, 2018, I’m up to 68000 words and growing. In that time, however, the manuscript will inflate and deflate as I write and edit. Such is the ebb and flow of a writer’s work.

2018-01-03 Mercy Hospital Progress

This is about 2,000 words greater than what I had in September. I’ve subtracted a lot so the net gain isn’t by much, but we’ll see how that turns out in the final edit. It could be less, or more. Whatever makes the work its best.

I’ll post more soon. Right now, I’ve got to get back to writing.

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The Biggest Mistake Readers Make (and How Writers can Handle It)

I’ll just cut right to the chase here. The biggest mistake readers make is assuming the writer doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we have to take creative license in order to make for a better story or get it to fit into our universe.

As I was writing today, I thought about something funny that happened when a reader assumed I didn’t know what I was talking about when it came to exploding rounds from a shotgun. Jay Willison is one of my major consultants on firearms and ammunition. He knows his stuff and has the US Army experience to back him up. Usually what I do is I watch or read an article and then take it to him and ask about the points I don’t understand.

I had done a ton of research with his help, and could write with confidence that there are things such as incendiary rounds (Dragon’s Breath) and hollow-point slugs that can and do make flesh go boom. Yet the reader assumed I just made it up and didn’t bother to research firearms or ammo.

How I handled it: I explained to the reader that while there’s always room for improvement in writing, there is little room to explain every single detail about the ammunition my character was using as it makes for dry reading for most people. The majority of readers don’t really care about Doctor Cross using exotic ammunition or even if she’s using a 12-gauge or 20-gauge. The only readers who will care about it are the ones who are firearms enthusiasts; and that’s okay. I showed the reader a couple of videos about exotic ammo and we wound up having an interesting conversation about what makes the best testing dummy. (We concluded pig cadavers are probably the most reliable, but that’s open to debate.)

Lesson for readers: Don’t assume the writer didn’t do research. There are a variety of reasons for leaving out minutiae or taking creative license. Instead, do your research and see if there are things you didn’t know about.

Lesson for writers: Don’t get mad at a reader for calling you out. You can learn something sometimes. If you did your research, you can sit back and relax knowing you did your part and maybe you’ll have a chance to share with the reader.

Finally, remember it’s your universe. Curve the bullet if you want.

Happy New Year!

The Darkness

into the darkness

Into the Darkness – Collage by Anne Hogue-Boucher

Violet’s worst fear is coming true before her eyes and she is powerless to stop it.

The fear that she could die and it would mean nothing to the person she loves the most. If she lost this person, she would be devastated.

How awful to find out this love is not reciprocated.

She looks at the empty box of chocolates and wonders why he doesn’t buy them for her anymore. The little things have all but vanished. The romantic cards, the little gestures of love…

She sees it all slipping away. What does he need her around for, anyway? He has his own life, separate from hers.

She has no one. The last one no longer shares their friendship with her. The body has become an island underwater and the villagers are fleeing in droves. Some die. Some just give up on themselves, on her. They leave. They grow disinterested.

She doesn’t know how to build her own life. She has to learn. This is shameful to her. She covers her mouth instead of speaking.

The woman turns back to the darkness for the familiar. For what she knows. He gabs endlessly with his friends and she wonders why he doesn’t gab with her anymore. Not like he used to. Others are shiny and new. She is dull and uninteresting.

Why they don’t share friends like they used to? Why did they seem to separate?

She wonders if it’s all in her head—the creeping tentacles of doubt stroking her brain. Does she imagine this? Her fitful dreams tell her yes, she is right to be doubtful. She is wrong to question his loyalty to her.

The shame drives her further down into the darkness. This is the place she doesn’t want to be, but she knows no other way now.

It’s temporary, she hopes. It is not real. The illusions are just that, and she wants to rip back the curtain to reveal the petty magician pulling her strings.

Where to begin?

The knife. It will cut away at the growing film and grime of rejection and loneliness, perhaps. Perhaps it will just cut.

She tosses it aside. No, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t help. The only thing that will help is embracing the darkness. Let it wash over her like the familiar heat of a warm tub.

Only then will the light, so foreign, become her beacon. Only then will she be able to find her way out once more. But it must be her light. Her path.

Then, perhaps, he will remember what he’s missing, and embrace her again.

October Frights – Day Three – Midnight

“So that’s it?” Sabine pushed her empty plate aside and focused on her coffee. “That sucks, John. I’m sorry for the bad pun and for your loss. Best friends are harder to lose than lovers in some ways.”

John shook his head. “I don’t know about that. I mean, she was never my lover, but she was definitely the best friend I ever had. And they killed her. Done with her. Like she was nothing. All because of what? They needed to feed and she was convenient?”

He fell silent as the server wandered over to refill their mugs. Sabine watched her from the corner of her eye, then resumed talking.

“She uncovered their secret. Was gonna make it public. So yeah, she was convenient and they got a free meal off it. But you can’t just bust in there thinking about Hannah, all emotional and limp-dicked. You know better than that.”

“I won’t. I’m good at shutting it off to do what I need to do. Maybe they don’t teach you that in the Marines.” He smirked at her. “Kidding.”

“You better be. It’d be pretty embarrassing for you to get knocked on your ass by a hundred-pound woman.”

“I’d laugh at you for that, but I saw you take down that Faraj-his-face whatever his name was. Fucker was bigger than me.”

Sabine shook her head. “Size doesn’t matter when you’ve got Aikido on your side. Aikido and Krav. You just can’t afford a hit from someone as big as you are. So the trick is, don’t get hit.”

“Heh.”

Plates cleared and coffee diminished to droplets, Sabine paid the bill and put her beanie back on. “Come on, Big Guy. We’re gonna walk this off a bit, then wait till the Rhapsody is together. Got a nice plan in mind.”

to be continued…


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October Frights – Day Two – Before Midnight

“I told you, don’t be stupid, John.” Sabine shook her head, dark eyes disapproving. “You don’t just waltz into a Rhapsody and start shoving stakes in hearts. Well, you do, but carefully.”

She handed her flask to him, his hand folding over hers as he took it. “This holy water?”

Sabine scoffed. “Vodka. Holy water is a bunch of bullshit. Crosses, Stars of David, any holy symbol? Chuck it out the window. It’s worth about that much. Vampires aren’t the Children of Cain, and they didn’t come from Vlad the Impaler forsaking God. Forget all that. Vampires are parasites that evolved over time, plain and simple.”

“God … so none of that works?” He took a sip off the flask and handed it back to her.

“Did I fucking stutter? Fuck’s sake, John. There are three ways to kill a vampire. Stake through the heart, decapitation, and setting it on fire. Fire kills everything.” Sabine put her flask away.

John sighed. “Yeah, fine. Got it.” He looked down at her, a smirk rising to his face. “Sabine?”

“What?”

“Why do you have to be a bitch all the time?”

“Fuck you. That a good enough explanation?”

John laughed. “Okay. So why’s it called a Rhapsody? Why not a coven or something?”

“You ask way too many questions for a man your age,” Sabine said. “Come on, I’ll buy you a coffee. You went through all the trouble to find me over a month. It’s the least I could do.”

They walked against a stinging wind, pulling their jackets tighter to their bodies. Grace City offered little protection from the gusts despite its towering buildings.

The dinging of bells signaled their entrance to Ted’s Diner, and the two sat down on red pleather, the squishing of butts to booths audible in the quiet stretch of bar stools. Clattering from the kitchen seemed to respond.

Sabine ran a hand through her hair as she removed her beanie and set it aside, placing her phone on top of it. John did the same, reminding Sabine a bit of a toddler copying his parent.

“Two coffees and two of your Big Ass Burger plates,” she said when the server approached.

John waited till the old woman went away to speak again. “Thanks, by the way. I’m starved.”

“Yeah, I can tell,” Sabine said. “Heard your stomach ask you for food. Anyway, you can’t go into a Rhapsody hungry. You’re hungry means your blood sugar’s low. Adrenaline rush will make you weak instead of strong. You can’t fight in a Rhapsody while you’re fighting hunger or fatigue. You tired?”

“Nope. I’m used to working nights. Was in the Army. Used to four hours sleep, too.”

Sabine shrugged. “Good. I was a Marine. Used to three hours, myself.” She grinned at him, then laughed. “Kidding. Why the hell are you interested in this, anyway?”

to be continued…


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October Frights – Day One – Nightfall

“Dawn is far more frightening than nightfall if you think about it, John,” she said, flicking the ash of her cigarette onto the ground. “I mean, look around. The dark keeps our secrets. The dark lets us really be free. People say if you shed light on the monsters, the monsters aren’t so frightening. Maybe that’s true, in a way, but what’s more frightening is that the monsters actually exist. When dawn comes, you see how ugly and twisted they are.”

Sabine held the cigarette between her fingers as a flash of silver came out of her jacket. “Don’t worry. Just a flask.”

She could see his body tense for a moment. “If I was going to kill you, you’d be dead already.”

John said nothing. Hadn’t spoken the whole night except to say how nightfall was creepy as the sun slipped down past the tall buildings to make its escape.

“I guess,” John’s voice was thick and gruff from disuse. “But how do you know I’m not a monster, and I’ve got you fooled into thinking I’m just this normal guy?”

Sabine shrugged. “Don’t be stupid. You’re not normal and you don’t have me fooled, but you’re not a monster, either.”

“How do you know?”

“Most monsters don’t ask that question. That’s how I know.” She pinched her cigarette out between her fingers and let the hot cinder flip to the ground, bouncing away on the concrete. “Besides, I can smell them a mile away.”

John made a noise in his throat, somewhere between a laugh and a grunt.

Sabine kept talking. “So you’re in this with me? You’re not gonna back out and break your promise?”

“Yeah, yeah. I didn’t believe in vampires till a month ago, but sure. Let’s go kill some.”

to be continued …


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Update – Mercy Hospital

I thought this week I’d let you know my progress on the sequel to Now Entering Silver Hollow. We’ll get back to The Editor’s Corner pretty soon. But since I’ve had a few people ask how it’s going …

I’d say it’s going pretty well for an indie author with a full-time job. While I can’t give out any timelines just yet, I’ve had an opportunity to pick away at editing and have added a chapter so far.

Here’s a little taste of my progress. Keep in mind this is still going to have massive editing done to it, so the finished product may or may not have this in it:

2017-09-17 progress

So yes, I’m over 66,000 words now, and I still have a couple of chapters that need to be added. Now I’ve been writing this for some time, and I’ve recovered from two data failures, the death of my dog, and a new job that currently takes up to 14 hours of my days (including the commute). But I still pick away at the manuscript when I have a chance.

Once this second draft is finished, I will go through and do a third draft which is the developmental edit. I’ll look for consistency, continuity, make sure the story cycles aren’t too far out of whack, and then make sure my plot makes sense (somewhat, at least).

Then, the fourth draft will be a copy edit. Clarity, grammar, spelling, etc. All that good stuff. After that, I send the cleaned up copy “out” for a professional edit which is both developmental and copy. When it gets back to me, I’ll accept or reject the edits as needed and create my fifth draft.

The fifth one gets sent to my new proofreader, Jay Willison, for scrutinizing. I will also proofread it myself and let my editor take a final look at it. Three sets of eyes typically catch all the proofreading errors.

Then, the sixth draft will get a final coat of varnish, and I will set it up for publishing using the Pronoun platform. Print and eBooks will be available for your eager eyes and hot little hands.

I’m going to take advantage of NaNoWriMo 2017 to help me stay on track and get this process staying in motion, and I will update you periodically.

Until then, catch up on my weird world through Exit 1042 and Now Entering Silver Hollow. Happy reading!

-Anne

» 9 Famous Authors Who Didn’t Get Published Until Their Fifties (Or Older)

I actually do hear a lot of people complain that they’re too old to begin a writing career. But the fact of the matter is, you’re never too old to do anything career wise unless you’re dead or have developed a form of amnestic disorder/dementia.

Considering I’ve read about and met people in their 50s and 60s going to medical school, sitting down to write every day isn’t a challenge by comparison.

So don’t get discouraged. You have a chance to write and get published. Now, you can even choose to go indie and publish on your own with a platform like Pronoun. There’s really no excuse for not sitting down in front of the keyboard.

Even if you have arthritis, you can use a speech-to-text program to aid you in your endeavors.

Below are nine examples of authors who weren’t published till they hit the big 5-0 or later. Write a lot, improve your craft, and don’t give up.

Source: » 9 Famous Authors Who Didn’t Get Published Until Their Fifties (Or Older)

I’ll be back with The Psych Writer soon, going back to tackling personality disorders and how to write them well.

What to Write When You Don’t Know What to Write

This week, I’m taking a break from The Psych Writer to discuss writing.

Writing is my bread and butter. I have some posts I’ve written about writer’s block, and facing the terror of the blank page. In fact, I’ve written about the blank page twice, at least. But writer’s block still seems to be one of the biggest complaints I’ve seen among young writers or writers who are just starting out.

Recently, I got this in the form of a question. “What am I supposed to write when I don’t know what to write?”

Since I am trained as a therapist, I tend to want to pick apart problems and either reframe them or otherwise deconstruct them in order to help.

So when you don’t know what to write, it could be for a variety of reasons.

  • You may be afraid of failing and not completing a project.
  • You may be afraid of succeeding and not knowing what to do next.
  • You may think your writing will never be good enough, so part of you feels it’s not even worth starting.

There are obviously many more reasons for keeping that page blank, but for this post, let’s just focus on these three. If you have one or two you’d like me to address, please shoot me a message on Facebook if you’d like, and I’ll address them in future posts.

  1. You’re afraid of failing and not completing a project.
    It happens. I have a few manuscripts I’ve abandoned about 3/4 of the way through because the idea wasn’t panning out, I couldn’t write the characters in a way that satisfied me, or a variety of other reasons. It happens to everyone. Think of your favorite writer, living or dead, and I could almost guarantee you they have abandoned and unfinished work.

    The best way to get around this is the “fuck it” philosophy. Say to yourself that you’re going to start a project and if it doesn’t pan out, fuck it. Start over, change direction, whatever. You can also just keep going even if you know it sucks, because the first draft of everything sucks. So go until you’re finished. Write until there’s no story left. You can revise it later.

  2. You may be afraid of succeeding and not knowing what to do next.
    This is one I’ve heard a few times now, so it’s not terribly uncommon. In this case, you’re fortune-telling. Can you really see the future and know you’ll be devoid of further ideas? Well, so what? One book that’s finished beats the hell out of one half-finished story that never got off the ground. Preventing yourself from succeeding because of what might be next cheats you out of the satisfaction of a finished project.
  3. You may think your writing will never be good enough, so part of you feels it’s not even worth starting.
    There’s one thing I’ve learned, and I’ve said it above–the first draft of everything is a steaming pile of crap. Some of it has potential, but every first draft needs to be reworked. You will learn to kill your darling manuscript with a hatchet at first, then come back with fine, surgical editing tools to improve it. Tell the part of you that tells you it’s not worth starting to shut up,  because that part of you cannot know what it feels like to finish a project. You have to get to the end to know what that’s like.

When you sit down to the keyboard, or sit with a pen and paper, block out the future. Block out expectations. Block out everything but you and that page, and tell it your passions, your fears, your world.

Get writing.


I am Anne Hogue-Boucher, and I write books. You can read them here.

The Psych Writer: Exploring Borderline Personality Disorder

I had an idea for introducing the personality disorders after I went through some of the others, but I also take requests, as I said in one of my previous posts. Via Facebook, a request came in for me to write about Borderline Personality Disorder. So I’ll be moving into the Personality Disorders a little earlier than I expected.

That having been said, personality disorders are what we consider “bigger” in therapy. Personality disorders are deeply ingrained into the personality of the client. They are invasive, pervasive, and ever-present.

I live in Georgia. Here in Georgia we have an invasive plant called kudzu. It’s everywhere. It grows all over the place and it can’t just be cut down or even burned (burning is illegal anyway because duh, we’re in a drought most of the time and the place would go up in flames faster than Michael Jackson’s hair in that Pepsi commercial). It has to be uprooted from the ground by its root crown.

That’s exactly what personality disorders are–they’re the kudzu of our personalities. They strangle the existing plant and take over completely. They become the plant itself.

So when we’re dealing with a personality disorder, it takes a long time to get to that root crown and eliminate it so that the person can be less miserable and learn to function better so that the people around them can have improved relationships with them. With several of the personality disorders, close relatives and friends grow weary of the “antics.” It makes it difficult to sustain and maintain relationships.

Personality disorders can also interfere with work relationships and productivity, as well as the general day-to-day functioning of the patient. While the same can be said for any disorder in the DSM-5, with a personality disorder, it is much  more treatment resistant, prone to severe relapse, and is lifelong.

A patient has a personality disorder for life. They are never cured. But they can manage it, find relief, improve their relationships, and even help themselves hold down steady employment. They can work towards stability if they work hard enough. It takes a demanding amount of work.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) falls into “cluster B” of the personality disorders. If you don’t count Personality Change due to Another Medical Condition or Other Specified Personalty Disorder and Unspecified Personality Disorder (which we don’t), you have ten personality disorders in three clusters:

  • Cluster A: This is know as the odd or eccentric cluster. It includes Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personalty Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorder.
  • Cluster B: This is the dramatic, emotional, erratic cluster. It includes Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
  • Cluster C: This is the anxious and fearful cluster. It includes Avoidant Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (which is not the same as OCD).

Borderline is considered to be in the dramatic, emotional, erratic cluster. It is characterized by a lifelong pattern of of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, and marked impulse control issues (DSM-5, p. 645).

So what the hell does that mean? That means the patient has little to no stability in their relationships with others (professional and personal), erratic behavior and lack of self-control to the point where self or others are harmed.

According to the DSM-5, the signs and symptoms of BPD are a pervasive pattern (as stated above)–but what makes up these patterns? The DSM-5 reports that for a person to be diagnosed with BPD, they must have five (or more) of the following (which I will give in plain English):

  • Frantic efforts to keep from being abandoned, whether that threat of abandonment is real or imaginary. This does not include suicidal behavior or self-mutilation as that is a separate criterion.
  • Repeated unstable and intense relationships that alternate between extremes of idealization and devaluation. Going from “you’re perfect” to “you’re the scum of the earth.”
  • Unstable sense of self. This instability is marked and persistent and goes to extremes. Not only does the love-hate relationship apply to other people, it applies to themselves and their self-image.
  • Recklessness/lack of impulse control in at least two areas of life that will cause them harm, such as unprotected sex with strangers that could result in STIs, overspending, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating, etc.). This still doesn’t include suicidal behavior or self-harm.
  • Recurrent suicide attempts, threats, gestures and behavior, or self-mutilation.
  • ‘Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood.’ This one’s a bit hard to explain. Imagine the worst overreacting you’ve ever seen. Now imagine it could happen at any time for any reason. You run out of cotton balls and the person has a massive anxiety attack and the anxiety affect lasts for a few hours. It’s a bit like that.
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness. (Exact words from the DSM. Self-explanatory.)
  • Difficulty controlling anger. Intense anger fits. Inappropriate anger to the stimulus. Imagine telling the person you’re out of donuts and they smash a table in response, demand to see your manager, threaten to sue, and threaten to kill you. While that might be funny and unbelievable, yes, it is that extreme.
  • Stress-related paranoia or severe dissociative symptoms that are transient. In other words, it doesn’t last, but the person will abruptly become paranoid, or they’ll dissociate (the world isn’t real, people are inhuman or automatons, etc.).

Now, writing a character with BPD is actually a challenge. Sure, you can go through all nine of the criteria, but I could almost guarantee you that you’ll create a caricature instead of a character. Even with black-and-white perceptions that many people with BPD have, they are still human beings. Avoid making a cookie cutter. You’ll want to add lines of sympathy to that character. He or she didn’t get there on their own. In many cases of BPD, there is not just a genetic component–there is often a history of abuse–sexual, physical, etc.

The person with BPD does not mean to do these things. They cannot help it. That’s why Dialectical Behavior Therapy helps so much. Patients learn from a system of mindfulness and awareness. DBT was developed by Marsha M. Linehan, who has successfully managed the disorder herself. Bear in mind that if you are writing someone with BPD, remember, they cannot help themselves when they do these things. Yes, some of the behaviors are purposefully manipulative, but they are not malingering. Until they get professional help, they are often unaware that these things are not acceptable, because even though people tell them so, they are often focused on assigning blame to others for their reactions.

Always remember, you are still writing a human being, though these are the extremes of the human condition.

If you came here looking for help with BPD, know that it’s out there. Start with this article here and then search for a therapist in your area who specializes in DBT.


Anne is a former supervised therapist and current author. You can read her books, stare at her Twitter, or stalk her on Facebook if you want.