Some Updates on Writing, Publishing … Life

I’m sorry for the lame post today. Honestly, I’ve been so busy as a Municipal Liaison (ML) for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Writing has kept me busy since the last post. I’m 60,000 words into my latest manuscript, which is book #4 of The Sound Series: The Kylie Bell Chronicles. I’m actually quite pleased with how the first draft is turning out (despite my meticulous planning and plotting for this book). I am in need of alpha readers for the second book in the series, titled The Sound of Color and Light, and if you’d be interested in alpha reading for me, please shoot me an email at allisonwilliford@icloud.com or message me on Twitter (username @AllisonWwrites). I’ve already written a third book in the series, but as of right now, it’s just a first draft and needs major editing.

I’m toying with the idea of rereleasing The Days Without You under my real name, since it’s still published under my old pseudonym, Skylar Wilson. But this time, I want to rework it for Kindle Vella, which is for serials. Not quite 100% sold on the idea, though. So … yeah.

Thanksgiving is this coming week. My sister usually hosts it, mainly because she’s the one with kids and has a house big enough to seat everyone. There are ten of us total, including my parents, my husband and myself, and my sister’s in-laws. This year we’re doing a sort-of potluck. Sister is making most of the main dishes; I’m bringing homemade mashed potatoes; Mom’s bringing her homemade sweet potatoes with a brown sugar glaze, and sister’s in-laws are bringing a pie.

I’m picking back up with The Lithium Writer podcast. Just recorded a new episode this morning with my rendition of the prologue from The Sound of Snap Dragons. Trust me; I’m not a voice over artist. I hate my own voice. I do have another author interview that I’ll be recording tomorrow with author Christina Vourcos.

As far as my editing services go, they are on hold right now. I’m taking some classes in the editing field, as I’d like to step up my game, so to speak.

I finally had to find a primary care doctor. I went well over a year with never having to use my albuterol inhaler, and now, suddenly, I’m using it almost everyday, which is really annoying and sucky.

Well, that’s it for me! Sorry for the lack of posts lately; writing has consumed my time.

The Hyphen, The En Dash, and The Em Dash

I have had a lot of people tell me they don’t know the difference between a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash, so here’s my first post in a while. (And I apologize for not posting lately. I’ve been so focused on writing my books and freelancing that I’ve barely had time to tend to my blog and my podcast.) And yes, there are distinct differences in the usage of these three dashes, and they are not to be used interchangeably. After telling me I singlehandedly taught him how to use an em dash, I told someone at the company I freelance for, “I have a love for the em dash the way some writers swoon over the Oxford comma.” And don’t get me wrong—I’m a sucker for the Oxford comma—but I love my em dashes.

In short, a hyphen (-) is used to join words or parts of a word. For example: father-in-law. The hyphen is the shortest of the dashes.

The en dash (–) is the second shortest dash, and it is used to show ranges of numbers or as a “super” hyphen in words that are not easily hyphenated. To type an en dash on a Mac, hold down the Option button and hit the hyphen button. If you’re on a PC, hold down the Alt button and type 0150 on your numeric keypad.

The em dash (—) is used to connect thoughts or show a pause in thought. It’s a highly versatile dash, and you’ll see it a lot in fiction. Think of it as stronger than a comma, but not as strong as a period or semicolon. (“She was wearing a blouse—the blue one that I loved on her—and she tugged at the hem while inspecting her reflection in the mirror.”) To type an em dash on a Mac, hold down Option, Shift, and press the hyphen key. If you’re on a PC, hold down Alt while typing 0151 on a numeric keypad.

The hyphen and the en dash are fairly straightforward, but there tends to be some confusion over how to properly utilize the em dash in fiction.

In Chicago Manual of Style, the em dash has no spaces around it. There is, however, some confusion over how to properly use em dashes around dialogue. Here are a couple of examples to show you how it’s done:

Example 1 (Showing someone’s speech as being interrupted by another speaker)

“No, you don’t understand. I—”
“I understand perfectly,” she snapped, her face flushed. “You just want to sleep with other women.”

Example 2 (Showing action within dialogue)

“It’s fine. It’s all fine. It’s perfectly”—he wiped a hand over his face, which was damp with sweat—”fine. All fine.”

In Example 2, notice that the action in between the dialogue is not capitalized or punctuated in any way other than the em dashes. Note that if you have a straight dialogue tag in between your dialogue, it’s fine to use commas. Example:

“That’s not,” she said, “what we agreed on.”

I apologize for the short post, but I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), so if anyone wants to be buddies on nanowrimo.org, feel free to add me (AlliWill). Also, just a reminder that my latest release, The Sound of Snap Dragons (Book 1 in The Sound Series: The Kylie Bell Chronicles), is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

New Podcast Episode!

Quick post here just to announce that a new episode of The Lithium Writer podcast is up! It’s currently available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Episode Two is all about my life with bipolar disorder. (But, I promise, I keep it quick in a ten-minute show!) I truly hope you’ll check it out.

Again, I’m looking for authors, writers, and bloggers to interview on my podcast, so if you’re interested in being featured, feel free to email me at lithiumskylar@yahoo.com, or comment on any of my posts and I’ll reach out to you.

New Podcast!

I’m excited to announce that The Lithium Writer is now a podcast! You can currently listen on Buzzsprout or Spotify. Episode 1 is currently up and available for download and streaming.

The Lithium Writer Podcast, cover art by guavanaboy on Fiverr

This is a huge step for me, as I’ve been wanting to start a podcast for some time, and I’m thrilled to announce its arrival. I hope you’ll stay tuned for the upcoming weekly episodes and bear with me while I figure out the technical setup.

I’m also looking to interview authors and fellow bloggers, so if you’re interested in joining me on my podcast, email me at lithiumskylar@yahoo.com. Or, if you have any topics regarding the craft of writing or mental health that you’d like me to talk about, email me or comment on this post!

UPDATE: You can now find it on Apple Podcasts!

An Ode to Wilson

My house is awfully quiet now. There’s no little nose nudging my leg as I sit on the sofa, wanting to join me. There’s no little creature pacing the kitchen floor when it’s time to eat. I don’t ear the click click click of toenails on the vinyl floor.

This past weekend, I had to put down my dog, Wilson, of thirteen years. He’d been having seizures since November, and he suddenly took a turn for the worse last week. I knew it was time, and I knew he was suffering. But I was still devastated. I cried and bawled until my throat was sore. I’d never had to put down a pet before.

Yes, Wilson was a good dog in some respects, but overall he could be naughty. Before he developed cataracts and went deaf, he liked to steal dirty socks out of the laundry basket. One time, he stole my sister’s underwear while she was visiting and hid them under the spare bed for six months. As a puppy, he ate colored pencils and chewed a hole in the drywall. He liked to chase squirrels and picked fights with pit bulls. (Wilson was a West Highland White Terrier, and around 20 lbs.) He liked to take naps with me, and he enjoyed going for rides in the car and being wrapped up in a hot blanket straight out of the dryer.

Wilson helped me through a lot of tough times. He knew when I was feeling bad and would try to comfort me with snuggles or kisses.

It’s only been a couple of days, but as I write this, I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to go home to an empty house, with no furry little thing to greet me, wagging his tail because he’s happy to see me. I miss his snoring when he was curled up in his kennel. I miss our naps together. I miss when he would raise his front paw for belly rubs. I miss how he instinctively knew when I was on FaceTime and would want attention, right then and there.

If Wilson taught me anything, it was that my heart is capable of infinite love. I loved him more than anything in the world, and he has definitely left an imprint on my heart. I know he’s in puppy heaven, chasing squirrels and picking fights, getting zoomies and running free.

To Wilson: I miss you, and I love you forever.

Vanilla Ice Cream and Rainbow Sprinkles

Before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I was misdiagnosed with Major Depression when I was 16. It was my very first episode, and it lasted for months. I started self-harming and began to have suicidal thoughts.

Let me back up a bit. I was a varsity swimmer. Breaststroke was my specialty. I made the Varsity team by the time I was in eighth grade, and when it wasn’t summer training or the fall swim season, I was on the local YMCA competitive team. Between competitive swimming and playing violin in our school’s chamber orchestra, which involved traveling for musical performances, I stayed busy. I loved what I did. I loved swimming. I loved performing Saint-Saëns and Bach and Mozart. I was happy.

But something happened the summer before 10th grade. It was early on during summer vacation; summer swim training had just started. My best friend’s older sister was having a graduation party. I was in a rush; I’d just gotten out of swim practice, and I was rushing through the house to get changed so I could head to the party. I had a bad habit of walking over my bed, as it took up most of my small bedroom. Being in flip-flops, I tripped. My foot or sandal got caught in the sheets of the unmade bed, and I went flying across the room and out the door. I broke my right ankle and sprained my left.

I missed the entire summer training season. My cast was taken off at the end of the summer. I swam the fall varsity season, but I was so incredibly behind. My competition times were terrible. No matter how hard I trained, I couldn’t swim as fast as I used to. Frustration and the first signs of depression began to creep in. The season ended, and as the weeks passed, I grew depressed more and more. I gave up on swimming.

Finally, after months of cutting, I was contemplating suicide one night. I had a bowl of vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles and was sitting on the floor in my bedroom. As I was thinking about different ways to kill myself, I took a bite of my dessert. “This ice cream is good,” I thought to myself. Breaking down into tears, I realized that if I died, I’d never be able to enjoy ice cream again. At that moment, I chose to live.

I didn’t have another episode until college, when I had my first manic episode. Sadly, I ended up attempting suicide for the first time at 21. July 25th, 2020 was the one-year anniversary of my second suicide attempt. I celebrated being alive with ice cream and sprinkles. I’ve learned to appreciate all the amazingly wonderful things in life that I get to enjoy because I’m still alive. Live music. Cooking a delicious meal. Watching a favorite movie. I’m happy to be alive.