Creatives

Build it before Ellen DeGeneres shows up

You get stuck in an elevator with Ellen DeGeneres. This sounds like one of her pranks waiting to happen, but it’s really not. You’re just stuck there. And you start talking about your dream.

  • the book you have in you
  • the music you’re making
  • the product you present to the world
  • the nonprofit you’re creating
  • the community you’re building
  • the art you create

All of the sudden, she buys in. She’s totally sold on YOUR IDEA! How awesome is that, right?

Then she invites you to talk on her show, give a pitch, sell your idea to the world. But right now, she’s walking on stage as you’re rescued from the elevator, “My audience is your audience. Invite them to your dream.” Except, oops:

  • you haven’t written the book
  • you have no music prepared
  • you don’t have a website to direct traffic to
  • you have only 5 pieces to sell and no pictures to show

You now have millions of people ready to buy into your dream, but you have nothing to show for it. Nothing.


Okay, I have not yet been trapped in an elevator with Ellen, and that’s good because I’m not prepared for that either.

But I can on a very very small scale relate. Very very small.
  • Strangers liking my public Facebook posts, but I hadn’t thought to add the Follow button
  • A blogpost that brought 1k+ viewers, but there was no way for non-WordPress users to stay in the loop
  • A free $30 Facebook coupon, but I didn’t have a product to advertise

Sometimes we buy into the lie that if we just had luck on our side, if we could just get the audience that someone else has, then we’d make it. But we can’t wait for opportunity – we have to prepare for it.

I don’t want you to be like me. I mean, in the above ways at least 🙂 When Ellen buys into your idea, I want you to be ready! And I want to be ready.

Here’s how I prepared and am preparing:

  • You can now follow my Facebook profile AND like my Facebook page AND follow me on Twitter
  • You can follow this blog through email (see the sidebar) as well as through WordPress, and I’m working on an email newsletter (you can pre-join the list now, but have grace for my MailChimp stumblings.)
  • I finished the first draft of my quirky meta murder mystery. In the editing process, then finding a way to get it out to all my lovely readers (YOU!)

To introduce your dream to others, make sure you get working on the following:

  • Something tangible to offer: the product, the idea, the work, whatever they need to buy into, get it out of your head and into the real world.
  • A public place for your dream: whether that’s a Facebook page, website, Etsy, blog, email newsletter – your audience needs a place to go once they buy in.
  • An action for your audience to take: buy the product, donate to a cause, follow your blog, spread word to their community….don’t let them just show up and leave.

I’m still a work in progress. But we all are 🙂 We’ll never be entirely ready for the big moment. But let’s do what we can to get there. Build it before they come. And by “they” I mean your audience in general, but especially Ellen 😉

Work-in-Progress, Writing

I murdered for you & I’m not okay

in my book. I should probably clarify that.

But isn’t that a beautiful blogpost title? 😉

I finished the first draft of my quirky meta murder mystery!

Honestly, it happened so fast. I thought I’d be agonizing over the last couple scenes for days. And I just whipped them out and suddenly that was the last sentence and I felt like there should be so much more time in it, but nope, that was definitely my last sentence of the story.

Murder doesn’t take as long as you’d expect.

So I was on a celebratory high. For about 2 hours.

Then came the pits. It wasn’t the murder part. I can kill off characters okay, with maybe a teardrop if I’m super attached. It was the writing part though. Suddenly I wasn’t sure I could ever make my writing what I wanted it to be.

I was worried I would be the writer that wrote but never got good enough to publish.

Or worse, I published and everyone would hate it and I’d regret having that in my publication history.

Or worse, I published and think it’s awesome and people are too nice to tell me that I just added to the public slushpile.

I’m discouraged. Kinda terrified really.

I’m thinking of edits and beta readers and ways to put my story out there in the world for all you lovelies, and it’s like THE REAL DEAL.

So if you could send some encouragement my way, I would be so appreciative.

Now back to editing so you all can enjoy the fruits of murder 😉

Writing

DNA of a writer: how my reading affects my writing

Last week I shared my top 10 books and their commonalities. Now you get to see the top 3 elements that are in more than half of my favorite books.

*Props to Maggie Schoepke guessing there’s a supernatural element in my fav books.
I don’t specify it that way here, but that’s definitely related to these.*

Are you ready? 🙂

The halfway point: Huge cast of characters forced together towards a common goal

  • 6 instances in 5 books

A slew of characters stories intersecting towards one common goal. Often by force, involuntarily, or unwittingly. Often that means multiple protagonists, multiple storylines (see above), etc. If you like stories that span many different characters and their own stories being intertwined, half of my reading list is for you 🙂

 

Very prevalent: Two different worlds

  • 8 instances in 6 books

This element ties in well with the above one, so it’s no surprise that it pops up again and again. Two different worlds doesn’t necessarily mean fantasy (although there is that in my list.) I have so many different genres in my list of favorites, but this theme came into play in different ways: fantastical world, parallel universe of the real world, psychological world versus real world, dual timelines, two perspectives of the same story, etc. If you want to see things from more than one lens, you might like some of my favorite books 🙂

 

The most common element {brace yourself…}: Blurred line between what is real & what is not

  • 11 instances in 7 books

If you choose to read one of the books from my list, you will statistically speaking likely see this element in play in some way 🙂

 

Though I have so many different genres represented in my favorites, there is a blurred line between real-world and not-real-world in many of these. Sometimes it’s a magical universe or an alternate reality. Sometimes the reader is unsure if it’s all in the character’s head: dream, imagination, or madness. Sometimes the story leaves the reader questioning if something magical is going on or if there’s a logical explanation that’s hidden. Sometimes there’s 2 different realities and no idea as to which one is real. Many of my favorite stories leave the reader unsure – sometimes until the end of the story, and sometimes the question is never even answered. If you want to question reality, my favorite books list might be for you 🙂

 

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This reminds me:

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Did any of the above sound familiar?

Three of my favorite TV shows share the above elements to some degree:

  • LOST
  • Heroes
  • Vampire Diaries

 

 So I think I’m onto something here 🙂 

 

Now that I have my list of all the things that I really love in books (and also apparently TV shows) and how that may affect my writing style…

What I tend to write – #MyWriteDNA if you will:

I write quirks, obsession, madness, misfits, strangers, and unbelonging. I write bigger than life stories….where small nuances change everything. I write community. I write to connect: characters to each other, disparaging ideas, and narrator to reader. I write awe and surprise and emotion and detachment. I write stories of questioning realities. I write lies and truth. I write the horror between the lines. I write unease and tension. I walk the line between reality and enchantment. Magical realism. Hope, crushed and fulfilled.

 

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Reading

DNA of a writer: My top 10 books

Ahh, the dreaded question: “What’s your favorite book?”

Rachel Giesel was kind enough to expand it to “What’s your top 5 favorite books?”

I’m taking part in a free online course to figure out my writerly DNA – analyzing who I am, what I read, and what I write to come up with who I am as a writer. #MyWriteDNA if you will. And because I have a website for such a time as this, I thought I’d share with you my favorite books and their themes that contribute to my writing style.

Top 5 favorite books:

  1. The Map of Time (sci-fi series by Felix J Palma)
  2. Arena (speculative fiction by Karen Hancock)
  3. Night Garden (magical realism by Lisa Van Allen)
  4. Then and Always (romantic suspense by Dani Atkins)
  5. Inkheart Trilogy (fantasy YA series by Cornelia Funke)

Because I had a top 10 and somewhat-arbitrarily decided on a top 5 from that list, I give you….

The runners-up:

  1. The 13th Tale (gothic suspense by Diane Setterfield)
  2. Sinner (spiritual thriller by Ted Dekker)
  3. Godmother: the Secret Cinderella Story (modern fairytale retelling by Carolyn Turgeon)
  4. The Shadow Children series (dystopian YA series by Margaret Peterson Haddix)
  5. The Book of Lost Things (fantasy quest by John Connolly)

 

After I picked my favorite books, I analyzed them. I wrote down any elements of the story that immediately popped to mind, be it themes, style, characterization, plot points, etc. These are elements so prevalent that I remembered them off the top of my head, so there may be even more commonalities I’ve forgotten 🙂

 (Note in regard to spoilers: To avoid blatant spoilers, this section will not call out specifically which books have which elements. Of course if you read this section, you will know that any of the above books have some of these elements, but you won’t know which ones. None of these elements are along the lines of “The main character dies at the end” or something hugely spoiler-y. If a main character dies at the end of one of these books, well, I won’t be the one to tell you, muahaha.)

 

The small stuff:

Okay, so this isn’t very small. That more than one of my favoritest of favorite books has these elements probably makes it noteworthy, but it’s still less noteable than what you’ll see in my next blogpost. Anyway, here’s a snapshot of some commonalities:

  • 1 book has an investigative reporter. This is just one book, but that’s a key part of my work-in-progress, so I thought I’d include it in this list 🙂
  • 2 books involve a quest
  • 2 books have the theme of the power of words or story
  • 2 books have a small political change that greatly alters everything
  • 2 books are allegorical, but not preachy
  • 3 books have a noteable narrator – unreliable and/or chats directly with the reader
  • 3 books have romance as a prevalent sideplot – not the main deal, but still a deal
  • 4 books break the 4th wall (haha, 4 & 4)
  • 5 books are of epic proportions, involving an entire world
  • 5 books have changing alliances and deal with the question of who to trust

 

So there’s a snapshot of what I like in my reading and my writing. My next blogpost shows the top 3 elements that were in over half of the books on my favorites list, and then I also include what that actually looks like in my writing.

Any guesses as to the top 3 common elements? First to guess correctly in the comments gets major kudos from me and a shout-out in next week’s post 🙂

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Work-in-Progress, Writing

When a character stalks an author…

Julia. I have neglected Julia far too long and she’s appearing everywhere. Haunting me in the people I meet, the clothes I wear, the stories I hear.  It’s funny how the pieces of a person just fall into your lap when you’re busy attending to other things.

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Photo courtesy of Maggie Schoepke. You can follow her anime blog at teatimewithsenpai.wordpress.com

 


 

It started with Julia. No, not my character, a real person. She was sitting just a couple rows in front of me and I wanted to take a picture, because it was her, it looked just like my Julia. But it’d be weird to sneak a picture of a stranger in such a small room where it’d be noticed, even weirder to explain my stalkerish tendency. So I resolved to simply catch her full name during introductions and look her up on Facebook or Instagram because all the modern teens have those. And then it happened: she introduced herself as Julia. This really was my girl! Scarless, no blemishes to be seen, but a Julia that looked exactly like my Julia nonetheless.

Then the moment of truth came: Julia had left the building and I went to look at the sign-in sheet (which was available for all attendees to email each other. I wasn’t a total stalker. Others were copying the list as well.) And darn it! this girl’s name may as well have been Julia Smith. I searched Facebook and Twitter fruitlessly, for there were thousands of results and no mutual friends to bump the right one to the top. I’d lost her!

As a side note, I totally hope I encounter her again this year at the same lecture, and then I will fiercely force my friendship on her by taking interest in her work or something. And hope I don’t get a restraining order as I all too quickly ask for a group selfie 😉 I’m not a creeper really!

Sigh. This is what happens when a writer encounters their character in the real world. As if I’m not mad enough without this pull towards insanity…


 

Next came the story. There’s a book already out that sounds scary like my character, only with real life happenings and not paranormal urban fantasy. Some sort of teen angst Julia drama book. And I suddenly worry that I’m losing my chance, that someone will take her story from me and publish it so much faster than I ever could. Sure, every story has been told and it’s just a retelling, but Julia’s story is all mine and I don’t want to share.


 

Then came the Julia. Not my Julia or the Julia lookalike, but another Julia, one looking to join our writer’s group. How would this Julia take it when I read a story about her namesake falling to little bits in front of her? I don’t quite know, but she shockingly seemed okay with it when I summed up the story in forewarning. But with the name Julia semi-regularly on my tongue and referring to someone other than my character, it hearkens me back, back to the Julia I’m supposed to be living life with, or writing life with I suppose. Julia doesn’t like to share my attention, and her name is her name and my lips can’t utter it without regarding her specifically. My stories don’t deal in the most self-denying characters.


julia-dress-lularoe

Most recently, it’s shown up in clothes. What would clothes have to do with Julia? But then there was the LuLaRoe craze. The outfits with names of people – Carly, Joy, Irma, Randy, Cassie, Ana, Nicole, Mimi, and – you knew it was coming – Julia. And suddenly the Julia is covering my newsfeed, as if my real-world encounters weren’t enough. Social media brings up Julia like the plague, only a plague of fashionable comfy clothes (Woot woot!).

And once again, I feel the beckoning. I could wear her clothes in honor of her. But I have to sit with her too. I can’t just have her in my everyday life without taking the time to chat and tinker and understand what’s going on in her head and in her world. Her story needs to be out there for the world to see, like all the other Julias that are invading my life. I have to share this space with my Julia, the one and only most important Julia. Characters don’t want to share with the real world. Authors are demanded to live in the fictional universe until the character releases their grip, and balance is not something my characters will understand. Would yours? Does anybody understand balance when it comes to someone else’s life?


 

writing

 

So on that note… World, meet Julia. My Julia. You have all your Julia’s out there, and they’re just wonderful and I like encountering them. But there’s my Julia too.

 

She’s a little broken, a little unsure. But she’s got a story she’s ready to tell. And I’m busy writing it.

 

 


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Creatives, Life

Sometimes to-do lists aren’t boring

I certainly don’t want a boring to-do list. Granted, I do have a to-do list probably similar to yours, piled high with the following:

  • laundry
  • schedule eye exam
  • speak with IRA investment advisor
  • taxes
  • change banking contact info

I know. You don’t want to read anymore of that list. I don’t either 😉 but let’s have more than the boring to-do’s. Let’s liven our lives up with fun to-do’s. Creative to-do’s. Goals and dreams and making life beautiful to live.

I have a FUN to-do list you have forever access to! On my Trello board, you can see what creative projects I’m working on and how I’m tracking with each goal. You can comment and tell me what you wanna see or what I need to move up in priority.

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See what I’ve been up to? 🙂

On your Trello, you can create your own boards, keep them private or public for creative projects or the boring to-do’s. I’m not getting paid to say this unfortunately 😉

Do you use Trello? have a public board to share? I’d love to see how you use it. And drop by my Trello board to join the conversation on my upcoming projects 🙂

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Creatives, Fashion

Superhero divas need a cape

Unless you’re in the Incredibles of course 🙂

When my sister said it was superhero day for my Lil Niece (world, meet niece 1 of 3), it was way past halloween and she was just going to drop by the store and look for a cape the night before. Of course they don’t have a pink batman cape readily available year-round.

Auntie to the rescue! …see, some superheroes don’t wear capes 🙂 hehe.

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We found the following quite quickly:

  • shimmery pink cloth
  • a batman birthday card with a huge batman symbol to stencil
  • fabric glue (I’m not much of a seamstress)
  • black fabric paint

Then it was just a night of cutting, gluing the seams, and painting the batman symbol. Now Lil Niece is off to the rescue!

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She didn’t win for best costume because some girl wore a cop costume and said her daddy was her superhero (yeah, sweet, cheesy, and heroic, but not superheroism…mehh…) Still Lil Niece won life with a determined mama, creative auntie, and rockin’ diva cape!  She swooped around the house to save the day and loved her cape. And I have leftover material to make a matching one for Baby Niece when she gets older. Squeal! 🙂

I love finding a creative solution in everyday life. I’m no seamstress, I’m no painter, but it doesn’t turn out bad if you try.

 

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