Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Writing Retreat

This spring I came to my beloved Writing Group with a plan. I wanted a Summer Writing Retreat.
My thought process was something like:

Ooh, it's going to be amazing! There will be time to work all the kinks out of my manuscript and interact with some of my favorite people! 

Can you tell I've never been to one of these before?

Sometimes it's best to create your own plan instead of following someone's tried and true method. (Plus tried and true sounds boring, while my plan centered around writing, playing, good food, a bit of shopping, and laughter. Lots of laughter.)

So, the ladies and I reserved a hotel near Park City, UT and began to plan. I'm mid-edit on Book Two and my goal was to make it much closer to the end. And hey, getting in several quiet hours of writing was very productive.
To my way of thinking, there have to be some givens in holding/attending a Writing Retreat:

Come to work. Bring your project(s) and have a personal goal in mind. (In case you're wondering, my goal was to make progress on my WIP and not to make everyone crazy.) If you don't think you can engage that long, have a back up plan like blogging, editing, world building, character development, etc.

Be prepared for distractions. My lovely friend Jo Ann Schneider informed me early on that she'd be bringing earplugs. She knows me way too well...but hey, I was quiet and well-behaved for so long! (For the Chatty Patties like me, bring earbuds so you can block out the other humans in the room you desperately need to chat up. For example, I edited to Glee on Netflix for two days.)

Leave time for fun. This may not seem important when you're on a business trip, but when you hit your goal--whether it's a time goal or a word count--you need to hit the town, hit the restaurant, or hey, hit the sack. I don't know about you, but I need a brain break after a long day of intense focusing.

If the above picture doesn't express how well our weekend went, I don't know what will. We had an amazing time! It may not have been the most productive I've ever been--traveling all over for several weeks takes a toll--but I'm proud of the work I did. It's set me firmly on the path to polishing up Book Two for publishing later this year. And we're already thinking of what we want to do next year.

Bear Lake for Writing Retreat 2017, anyone? Don't forget to pack your swimsuits and be ready for a Raspberry Shake break. Because that's totally happening.
* * *
What are your thoughts? What type of Writing Retreats have you attended? Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, June 17, 2016

California Dreams: Just Breath

When I planned my trip to California, I didn't care what happened or didn't happen as long as I got my beach day.
Beach day selfie. (Not excited at all!)
In June alone I finished the school year (i.e. testing five-year-olds, something akin to teaching cats the polka), spent several days cleaning my classroom, flew to California for a whirlwind trip, and returned for an arts training, a roadtrip, birthday party planning for a friend, and finalizing the details for our upcoming Writing Retreat.

That's a recipe for a big girl tizzy fit right there. Unless you figure a brain break into the scenario.

With the understanding that many of you are also dealing with your share of life's craziness, I invite you along on an afternoon trip to the California Coast.
Happy place reached!
Our journey starts with a meandering trip down coast-hugging Highway 1. Only the daring--and those not prone to motion sickness--will follow it that far. 

But if you do, this is what you'll find:
Stinson Beach
Stinson Beach is a public beach in Northern California. But because it's located well off the beaten path, it's rarely teaming with crowds. Feel free to dip your toes in the water, sit on the rocks, sunbathe, or simply drink in its beauty.
Breathe in the peace, quiet, and joy. And just relax.
 It's not only a physical vacation, but a mental break a well. Couldn't we all use that?
No shoes required.
There's nothing but the smiling faces and pleasant greetings of other explorers disguised as daytrippers. (And they won't pass judgement if you walk around with your flip-flops in hand.)
The gentle push and pull of the ocean as it rushes up and hurries off.
Whether you're in inland beach girl or and outdoorsy introvert, no one will judge you for excessive selfies, taking pictures of your feet, or just perching on the rocks and matching your breath to that of the ocean.

Just breathe.

Remember that no matter how ridiculous or stressful life becomes, we are a part of something bigger, grander, and more beautiful than we can comprehend. Because of that, we can survive all the ridiculous nonsense life throws at us. And live in quiet moments like these.
I'm an inland beach girl. However that works...
Headed anywhere wonderful this year? I'd love to hear all about it. Leave me a message. And feel free to share what helps you live in the moment.
* * *
Would you like to read more of my travels?
Sun, Surf, & Solace
Unexpected Sweetness
Author on Vacation

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Humor & Inspiration: All The Awesomeness

It's been a pleasure hosting so many writers this year. I've learned from each and every one. And I will certainly be doing this again!
For your viewing pleasure, I present, the Humor & Inspiration Features in their entirety:

Author, editor, and overall amazing human being Lydia Thomas explains why there is no way on this green planet that she will write your memoirs. And why you should just walk away when someone says, “I have this amazing idea for a book! You’ll make millions!”
Brilliant mommy blogger Cathy from Prairie Wife in Heels shows there's no such thing as The Idyllic Country Life. (Especially with a houseful of little ones.) But when you're a City Girl turned Country Mama, there are ways to inspire and spread understanding in the world of women.

Annoyed with autocorrect? Gifted author and blogger Anne Goodwin
shares the fun (or outright challenge and frustration) of dealing with words that behave like toddlers. Anne inspires and causes laughing fits in equal measure. And she'll only make you slightly worried about double-checking your posts before you publish them...
Rockstar Terry Tyler, who's an author, blogger, book reviewer, and about seven other super cool things, gives us a crash course on inspiration. And yes, when you write character-driven novels, you draw inspiration from life. Nutty strangers on the bus beware!
Wise words from blogger and massage therapist Kaley Tallman! Kaley urges us to abandon the comfort zone in favor of pursuing the good life. So get comfortable, grab your favorite beverage, settle in for a spot of inspiration, and get ready to make your life amazing!
Avid readers turned writers? Yes please! If you need a good read, this is the one to peruse! Heidi Doxey, editor, writer, and blogger, shares her favorite reads, which all happen to be by British writers. Like they do for her, they'll inspire you and keep the laughter flowing. 
Carol J. Hedges is one of my favorite people, even though we've never met. Mentor, author, and fashion savvy super gran Carol takes on the subject of the comments people make when they find out you're a writer/author. Carol will train you to handle it with grace and humor.
Awesome author, blogger, and mama Allison Maruska takes on the subject of Quit Days. (You know, those days when you want to throw in the towel and drown your sorrow in a package of Oreos?) How do you deal? Allison walks us through the steps back to sanity.
Colleen M. Story, author, editor, and ghost writer takes on the subject of writers with (and without) personalities. 
Are writers with personality a dying breed? (Don't worry, Colleen's got plenty of personality and she urges all of us to strut our stuff as well.)
Tamara Copley has been writing and illustrating since the dawn of time. She shares her opinion on the importance of humor in writing. And the issues when humor is mishandled and/or badly done. Also, STAR WARS!
Sarah E. Boucher (that'd be writerly, authory, bloggery me) chats candidly about the ups and downs of the writing world. It's all about finding the funny, my friends! And developing a sense of humor so we can laughing in life's face instead of crying into a carton of Ben and Jerry's.

Our caboose Jenniffer Wardell brings up the rear! An accomplished fairytale romance writer, Jenniffer talks about humor, life, everyday heroes, and a new type of story that doesn't feature heroines with superhuman abilities. Sounds amazing. right?

There you have it, friends! All the awesomeness in one handy place! Thanks for participating, ladies! Nothing but love for you! If you'd like to follow any of my featurees on social media, follow the link their posts. Happy internet stalking!

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Power of The Share II

A while back, I waxed poetic on the topic of sharing. (Imagine a kindergarten teacher who encourages people to share. Why yes, I am a walking cliche.)
A few years ago, I realized that everything in life revolves around connecting with others. Being there for them, doing your best to understand, carrying part of the burden they feel, and striving to not check out on a relationship. Lessons for life, right? Working for a purpose and all that.

It wasn't until I entered the big, bad world of publishing and marketing that I had another epiphany. Business is all about connecting.

Of course it is!

In the business world everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated. And SURPRISE, they don't only want to feel heard during the sales pitch. They want to feel as if you are making an effort the entire time.

What does this have to do with the Power of the Share? The gist of that previous post was that sharing others (their content and what they do) lifts us as well. Have you ever had a truly horrible day and instead of cocooning yourself at home with the remote and a pint of Ben & Jerry's, you reached out to someone else and lifted them instead? Same basic principle.

In lifting others, we lift ourselves.

Each month the Humor & Inspiration posts ran, the following occurred:
  • Increased page views. The degree of increase depended on the featured author and their popularity, how well written the post was, and how well the authors and I promoted the post on social media. Officially, the highest viewed posts to date are Humor & Inspiration featured authors, Terry Tyler and Carol J. Hedges. (Follow the links if you haven't already. Such funny gals!) Additionally, my posts written during the same period received move views than those of last fall. And that's just awesome.
  • Better overall engagement. Post comments, and sharing and commenting via social media has more than tripled over last fall. Yes, tripled! That's pretty amazing. Drawing people to your website is one thing, but having them interact is another step entirely. It's that heightened interaction that makes me really excited.
I think the reason for these trends is fresh content and writers promoting within their circles to engage new readers. I noted the same phenomenon in working with the Cedar Fort team to edit my first book, Becoming Beauty. The quality of the work increased as skilled writers collaborated and offered the best they could to the project. 

And for this reason, I'll continue to invite authors to collaborate here in Twisted Fairytaleland, to share their stories, tips, and unique perspectives. Because, in addition to the increased engagement and page views, I always learn something from them. And I love that best.
* * *
The Humor & Inspiration Features are at an end, but if you're interesting in being a future guest or you have an absolutely smashing idea for a new feature, please leave me a comment.
Also, I'd love to hear how collaboration has helped you in your writerly endeavors. Tell me what you've learned on your journey!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Humor & Inspiration: All The Best Jokes

Jenniffer Wardell:
Author, blogger, Fairytale Aficionado
You know when you think the train has passed but it just keeps going instead? Well, I wrapped up the Humor & Inspiration Features and began preparing my sum-up post when I received Jenniffer Wardell's email. So, meet our surprise caboose!

Earlier this year, Jenniffer approached me about featuring her new release Dreamless. And since it's a fairytale romance I couldn't be more pleased to introduce it (and her) to you! FYI Jenniffer is an author, blogger, and fairytale writer. A huge thanks to JoAnn Schneider for connecting Jenniffer and me. I have a feeling we're going to have a gooooood time! (And Dreamless is already on my TBR list!)
* * *
Life is pretty funny.

How it's funny, of course, depends on circumstances. Sometimes it's slapstick comedy, a whole routine that unfolds while you're trying to get ready for work in the morning, wash a dog, or find your keys. Sometimes it's satire, something so absurd a part of you is amazed it's actually happening (the current presidential election is a good example of this). Sometimes it's a sly, carefully executed joke, a subtle plan that you get to watch unfold with a smile. And sometimes, it's one of those days where you laugh because the only other option is to hit something.

It's one of the things I love most about life, how even when things seem to be at their worst there will be some small thing that will always come along and make me laugh. Even if it's just me, laughing at how melodramatic my despairing thoughts have gotten, there's always a moment that breaks through the bubble of stress or sadness and lets in just a little bit of light. It's not terribly dignified, no – humor works best when you're not trying to hold onto your pride – but it's enough to keep me going. 
I look for that humor in stories just as much as I do in life, and even when I can't find it I know it must just be lurking around a corner somewhere. If my utterly average, mundane world is enough to keep me entertained, then your average fictional world must be absolutely bubbling with it. Imagine a knight without enough time to get ready in the morning, tripping over a bucket and waking up the entire castle as he crashes to the ground with a metallic clang. Or a witch who just needs one, simple little ingredient for this very important spell, but the only place she can get it is from her neighbor who's held a decade-long grudge over a cookie exchange that went horribly, horribly wrong.

Those are the stories I always wanted to hear about. There are plenty of books about dignified heroes doing serious, important things, and many of them tell very good stories. But I wanted the characters who knew what it was like to embarrass themselves in front of the worst possible person and somehow survive the experience, or have to do battle with something as mundane as paperwork or not being able to find a spot to park their horse.

(Speaking of horses, can you imagine what it would be like having to go into work on something that can actually argue with you? And literally throw you onto the road if you annoy it too much?)
So when I couldn't find the stories, I wrote them. Because if life can be funny, then fiction should be, too.
* * * 
Jenniffer Wardell is a fantasy author and general fairy godmother-at-large. She's always on the lookout for witty dialogue and a well-earned happily-ever after.

Jenniffer Wardell's Blog
* * *
A word about Dreamless, Jenniffer's newest release:

For most princesses, a sleeping curse means a few inconvenient weeks unconscious followed by a happily-ever-after with their true love. Seventeen-year-old Elena's curse, however, was designed without a cure, which means that she's getting a century-long nap for her 18th birthday whether she wants it or not. After years of study she's still no closer to finding a cure, even with the help of an undead godfather and an enchanted mirror-turned-therapist. With only a year until the deadline she's learned to accept her fate. Sadly, there's one prince who doesn't seem to have gotten the memo and who’s continually trying to activate the curse so he can be the one to wake her up again. Only slightly less annoying is Cam, her new bodyguard and former childhood acquaintance who disagrees with Elena at pretty much every turn. When the curse threatens to come early, however, they both realize that fate is a lot more complicated than they'd ever imagined.

Dreamless is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
* * *
Just imagine I'd appreciate a gal who enjoys twisting fairytales...oh yeah! Thanks for dropping in, Jenniffer, and best of luck with Dreamless. Sounds amazing!

A big hug and a sloppy smooch for all my readers who've stuck with me this year. It's been such fun! Stay tuned for the promised sum-up post where I reveal the ins and outs of running author features and explain why I am definitely doing this again!
* * *
Missed one of our Humor & Inspiration featured authors? No problem! Click away my darlings and happy reading!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Humor & Inspiration in Writing: Beating the Blaaaaahs

Not Mary Poppins...
Practically Perfect anyway!
Hello, faithful readers! Welcome to the final installment of the Humor &Inspiration Features. Over the course of several months, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried (ish), and we’ve learned together. I have loved sharing the stage with writers, bloggers, and authors and discovering what inspires, uplifts, and keeps them going.

But today I’m taking back the reins! That’s right, it’s my turn to talk about what keeps me from calling it quits, chucking my laptop off the balcony, and heading out bar hopping dressed like a nun. (I don’t have a nun costume. Will my trusty Mary Poppins get up do?)

In case you didn’t know, I’m an educator by trade and a writer just for the fun of it. I’m equally passionate about both careers. (Also chocolate and Chris Evans. But that’s another post...) I’ve spent 13 years in the classroom and have been a writer forever. Fairytales are a special weakness of mine. I read them, watch them, write them, and freak out when they’re done well. But enough backstory, on with the show!
* * * 
My life is a beautiful mess. I won’t be brave and wax on about how I LOVE everything about my life and I NEVER have meltdowns. Because I don’t. And I do. (Imagine the big, messy, snot-faced meltdowns that make your eyes feel like sandpaper. Yep, that happens.)

And guess what? It happens to all of us!
Even Britney...
Life isn’t easy for anyone. And certainly not for writers.

Because who likes rejection? Especially rejection piled on top of rejection? It’s definitely not the group of folks who claim to be more introverted than any other group on the planet. (Except maybe hermits.) Incidentally, it’s the same introverted group (not hermits) that’s expected to peddle their wares in person. Like at book launches, signings, books sales, and other author events. Where other people will be.
Anyone else see the flaw here?

I rectify the situation (and save my sanity) by Finding the Funny in life. Like a pearl in an oyster or a rainbow after a spring shower, it's always there. Like a kindergartner in an enormous mess he created himself.
Finding the Funny in Life, Love, & Whatnot

Look for the funny in your career. My job is hysterical, annoying, and uplifting all in the same five-minute period. My students are BRILLIANT at making me bust a gut. And yes, I can’t think about my pathetic life or problematic manuscript when children are being funny in my world. It just ain’t possible, my friends. (P.S. If your working life is completely tragic and regularly makes you feel like pitching yourself off the balcony, it’s time to choose another path. Be brave. You deserve the best.)
Actual shoes. Actual kindergartner. Good times.
 Look for the funny in your love life. I never date. (Seriously, I’m THIS awesome and still on the market.) It’s probably because I find men completely baffling. But man, I have some good stories because of my itty bitty love life (or lack thereof). I choose to laugh at the crazy things that have happened rather than blubbering over what hasn't happened. (And yes, those crazy things will find a home in my novels someday. Also, Oreos are a balm to my soul.)
Boys are weird. We like them anyway.
Look for the funny in your writing life. There are always funny things about being a writer. People treat you like a weirdo, or worse, once they hear you’re a writer, they give you the “oh, I should have known” look or the “I always knew there was something off about you” look. We can be offended or choose to turn our less than savory experiences into really good books and blog posts. 

And whether it’s intentional or not, every writer has penned something completely ludicrous while trying to be lyrical. Those gems, like “her eyes rolled to the ceiling” can really lighten up a bit o’ bland writing session. Laugh and then fix it, my friends. (Please, in the name of all that is holy, fix it before I'm forced to mock you!)
My sense of humor continues to save me in the writing world. 
Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself, my friends. (Also, don't be afraid to laugh at other people and the ridiculous situations they put themselves into. Just don't do it in front of them.) And yes, keep those laptop and mobile devices from becoming airborne. You'll need them to document all the funny you find.
* * *
Sarah E Boucher:
Author, Blogger, Educator
Sarah E. Boucher is obsessed with fiction, romance, and all things fairytale. Her first novel, Becoming Beauty is available at AmazonBarnes & NobleiTunes, or books & things. (And these days it's only $4.99 on Kindle!) 

Sarah's second novel, a twist on The Twelve Dancing Princesses, will be released later this year. 

Sarah can be found practically anywhere if you look hard enough!
* * *
Thanks for reading my friends! It's been a pleasure to share the stage with so many gifted writers. And I plan to do it again soon. For the time being, my time will be sucked up with end-of-the-schoolyear doings and editing my second novel. Stay tuned for behind-the-scenes coverage of the self-publishing process (snippets of the photo shoot for my cover, editing gems, etc.).

If you missed any of the Humor & Inspiration Features, feel free to check them out:
And a hearty thank you to all my amazing participants! You're amazing, ladies! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Humor & Inspiration: The Magic of Humor

Tamara Copley:
Writer, Educator, Blogger
Welcome to the last stretch of the Humor & Inspiration Features! We've had laughter, wisdom, plenty of inspiration, and a fair amount of snark. (You're welcome, my darlings.)

I'm pleased to introduce today's guest, Tamara Copley. Not only is Tamara an accomplished writer, educator, and blogger, but she has been my friend since the Dawn of Time. (I remember an illustrated version of Superhero Cats in Funkalicious Space Suits she created in the early 90's.) Tamara possesses a rare blend of highbrow humor (think puns, lots of puns), amazing writing talent, and a sweet nature. Basically, there's no one better to tackle the topic of bringing the funny to your manuscript.
* * *
A good story requires great characterization with clear motivation, and a meaningful plot. A stellar story requires all that plus humor. I compared good books I’ve loved over the years to the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter series. These series have a sparkle many others lack because of humor.
Ting! Pearly whites aren't enough though...
Unfunny vs Funny
Let’s look at the Star Wars series. Movies 1-3 flop in part because all humor is focused in Jar Jar Binks, a buffoonish character who frustrates because he is a cheap shot for the kids and because he’s not funny to many adults. Meanwhile, dialogue and banter are often absent throughout the rest of the trilogy. Therefore, the only humor distracts from rather than enhances the storyline. Lacking their comedy relief, the other two movies don’t try to be funny. The lack of humor makes them fall flat and feel untrue to the original trilogy.  As with many movies, we watch them once and walk away.  
Somebody order a moody broody hero?
Entertainment should be fun. It should not feel like work to read a novel or watch a movie. 

What works in the Star Wars series? Movies 4-7 work because of humor. The Ewoks and the comedy duo straight man and chubby funny man, C3PO and R2D2, provide comic relief, but others provide humor as well. Even the simple, ubiquitous line, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” becomes humorous when handled right. Han Solo and Leia are both serious throughout the series, but they exchange banter and zingers on a regular basis that carry the movies with their humor and charm. Audiences still chuckle over, “You stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder!” and Han’s winning response, “Who’s scruffy-looking?” These lines are funny because they’re a combination of familiar and unexpected. 
Beep bo beeeeeeep! (So adorable, right?)
Dialogue with humor provides magic for the original trilogy, and Force Awakens recaptures that, both with BB8, the quirky droid, and others.  [Spoiler alert]. Audiences see an entire village massacred then we get Poe Dameron’s line, “You speak first or I speak first?” to relieve the tension. One of the funnier scenes is the one in which Rey rescues herself using the force for the first time on a storm trooper played by James Bond’s Daniel Craig. Two serious characters make a funny scene while being serious because what happens there is so unexpected and straight-faced. Humor arises from fresh dialogue between intriguing characters with no “comedy relief” characters required. 

Your Turn
In most writing, humor is critical to the enjoyment of the reader. Humor doesn’t have to be constant or laugh-out-loud, but it should be present. It adds sparkle and fun. 
Boom, baby! Go forth and make it sparkle!
Entertainment is why most writers write and most readers read. Adding humor to a situation can make an otherwise somber story more enjoyable. Humor makes a reader care and helps carry the message into the reader’s mind and heart. 

Everyone’s brand of humor is different. Find yours, and your story will take on more magic and charm. 
* * *
Tamara Copley has been writing since grade school. She has several published works in the academic realm and has garnered awards for short stories, children's books, and poetry. Currently, Tamara teaches English for Brigham Young University Idaho and is preparing her first novel After the Dream for publication. She lives in northern Utah with her husband, children, and too many pets to count.

Connect with Tamara Copley online:
Author Tamara Copley Facebook Page
Author Tamara Copley on Twitter
A Writer's Reflections: Author Blog
* * * 
Thanks for sticking with me friends! The finish line is in sight. If you'd like to revisit the other Humor & Inspiration posts, please do so!
Happy reading!