Resetting Expectations & What’s Next

First, thanks so much for your warmth and understanding last night. Sarah, I had completely forgotten I owned a diffuser, so I dug it out and found my peppermint oil. Thanks for that reminder! That actually helped a lot last night and I’m using it this morning as well. I went out this morning to get Excedrin Migraine because that has helped in the past, but I had ran out of it and didn’t have the energy to get yesterday. I feel a lot better this morning, which I had hoped for.

What follows is a little bit of explanation about my history with TMJ so you can see why it flaring up like this is a cause for concern. If you want to skip to the part about FMT, feel free to do so.


Last night, I canceled Flash Fiction Friday because I had a screaming migraine — something that indicated to me my TMJ was back in full force.  I knew my TMJ was creating issues thanks to the diagnosis from my specialist on Thursday on what’s causing my ear problems, but I was really hoping that some of the worst parts would spare me this time.

When I was a sophomore in college back in fall 2010, I took six classes, including two foreign languages classes, and had to write 16 papers in 15 weeks. By the end of the semester, I had these pains in my jaw and could barely sleep. I went to the doctor, then to a specialist and spent about a year on a variety of meds that barely controlled the pain. I was on low-grade anti depressants and taking a combination of like six pills a day, including pills to help me sleep.

In early 2012, I was on a trip to London with friends, and I was so tired and worn out from the flu that I wasn’t paying attention to my meds. Instead of taking the anti-depressants (in low dosages treats TMJ), I took five of the sleeping pills. I realized almost immediately what I’d done, but my best friend and I were freaking out, and I had to force myself to throw up — but I was TERRIFIED to sleep, and so was Lauren.

It was at that point that I knew I didn’t want to control TMJ through medication anymore.  For my last year in class (I graduated in 2013), I really focused on learning to relax and manage stress better, and that mostly worked. I’ve had some flare-ups, mostly during the 2018 semester at grad school when I was doing two grad classes, full time student teaching, working a part-time job, and then lost my grandmother in April.

As you might imagine, this last year really tested my stress levels. I live alone, a lot of my best friends live more than ten minutes away, so we didn’t form a quarantine pod with one another. I’ve struggled in my new job, and the world around us has just made it harder to concentrate on self-care even when I know knew it was important.

To find out that the ear problems I’ve been having is just another symptom of this stress condition I’ve dealt with for ten years — it was kind of my wake up call that I need to take a good look at the things that cause my stress and do what I can to manage, reduce, or even eliminate the stress.

FMT & Stress

I really love the idea of writing and releasing an entire novel at once, then moving on to the next project, but I also have to accept it’s not going to happen with Fool Me Twice. And it’s so disappointing because of all my projects, this should have been the story that made that system work.

Zero percent of my problems have been with the story itself. It’s not like Broken Girl which I had to start three times or Mad World which needed a reset and additional chapters (and a whole extra book). I did a complete discovery for Fool Me Twice, wrote the alpha draft in ten weeks despite working a full-time job, and the edits are not insane. They’re typical — strengthening beats, rewriting/adding a few scenes, and cleaning up inconsistencies. My schedule should have worked. But between the world, my job, and my physical health, it’s just been impossible to keep a schedule with this project. Basically, what this boils down to is that I spent some time thinking about what is creating the stress with FMT and how can I deal with that.

Writing is, unfortunately, the one place in my world, where I have complete control. I have to go to my job, I have to pay my bills, and I need to clean my house and do basic stuff to be a functional adult. In the past, when life has overwhelmed me, when I’ve been in grad school and juggling two jobs, I put writing off. I didn’t write a lot between 2016-2018, I’m sure you guys remember.

But writing is also one of the few spaces that gives me joy. Writing, reading, and my students. These are the things that make the stress worth living through.  Sometimes I thrive on deadlines, and sometimes they make me miserable. Right now, it’s making me miserable.

I don’t want to delay releasing Fool Me Twice to the general public. I love this story. I am so proud of it. I don’t want to wait 2-3 months to publish just so I can drop it in one or two parts.

FMT – Release Updates

Feb 16 – I was originally going to publish the first chapter as a preview before dropping 2-20 on Feb 23. What I’ll publish is the opening scene as an excerpt.

Feb 23 – Chapter 1

Feb 25 – Chapter 2

And then I’ll be publishing on Tues & Thurs for the next few weeks. I have my notes for the first ten chapters and it’s just a clean up situation on those chapters which I can actually finish in a few days. I anticipate having those full ten chapters complete cleaned up and scheduled by this Friday, if not earlier.

That gives me five weeks to get more chapters together. At the end of that five weeks, I’ll reassess. If I’ve finished the full 38 chapter edit after the first five weeks, I’ll drop the whole book. If I don’t, I’ll keep the 2 a week until that full edit is done. I think that’s the best way forward to give me space and time to relax, to focus, and to put out quality work.

Thank you so much for your continued support and understanding. I generally thrive under deadlines, but I have to reset the deadlines right now so I can concentrate on my real life, my health, and still maintaining the parts of writing that gives me joy. I love the creation of my stories, and I love watching you guys read it.

Flash Fiction

At the moment, I plan to be back tonight with Not Knowing When, and back tomorrow with King’s Command. I have Monday off from work, and I’m contemplating doing A King’s Command that evening, but I am not committing to that at this point. I’m going to be relaxing this weekend, and getting ready to return to the building on Feb 16, so I’ve got a lot on my plate this weekend. I also anticipate maintaining my Weekend schedule with Flash Fiction as long as my health improves.


  • I understand completely.and I hope you feel better. Take the time you need because we all love your stories. Take care.

    According to Carolyn Grandchamp on February 13, 2021
  • Yay!! I’m so happy that helped! I always forget I have my peppermint rub on stick (like MigraT or something) but I’m glad I remembered last night! 🙂
    Your plan sounds great- a mix of doing something you love while meeting a goal! Hope you can meet it, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t- I’m sure your writing will be amazing as it has always been!

    I actually think I found your site during your hiatus in ‘16-‘18. So happy you’re back and will be around, so take care of yourself! 🙂

    According to Sarah on February 13, 2021
  • Glad to hear you are feeling a bit better!!! Make sure to take care of yourself and rest!!!

    According to GoldenGirl on February 13, 2021
  • Your health and your stress level should always come first. As someone who has lived with chronic disease, lupus, RA and a few others I completely understand. You need to find joy where you can but also keep a balance. There will always be days that you can’t cope and that’s completely acceptable. I have tried a more holistic approach recently and have found success. I stopped the pills, diet, vitamins and lifestyle changes do help. Hugs honey, it does get better.

    According to Sandra on February 13, 2021
  • Melissa, you absolutely come first! I love your writing and your updates, but the bottom line is – I’ll wait forever to read your stories as long as you feel good. Take care of you first and I guarantee all your readers will still be here to read whatever, whenever you post. Be well.

    According to Jo-Ann Rae on February 13, 2021
  • I’m glad you are feeling a better. Like everyone else, I say your health comes first so even though you tend to thrive under deadlines, tweak them as you need to. We aren’t going anywhere. For tomorrow if you want to do flash fiction that is great but if not then take the whole day and just do nothing that isn’t completely necessary to getting you through the day and rest. I however, will likely be shoveling snow….Yipee. Take care of yourself and as far as posting, you can’t shake us loose, so do what feels right to you.

    According to nanci on February 14, 2021