Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Inbetween Land

All writers inhabit the Inbetween Land at some point. Wedged between first drafts and last drafts, finished manuscripts and fresh plots, beta readers and editors. It's a truly bewildering place.

It kind of feels like this...
Alice in Wonderland, 2010
And take it from me, it takes careful maneuvering to escape it.

Develop a Game Plan:
Writers have to learn how to use their time wisely. As a part-time writer, I split my time and energy between teaching and writing. The challenge is creating a schedule that works. 

This fall that means getting the school year underway and setting a date to publish Book Two. Then, between now and then, I need to set up a Blog Tour, put the finishing touches on the cover, and plan how and when to format the manuscript. You know, after I finish editing everything up. 

I've had several conversations like this lately:

He's so fluffy, I could die!
Alice in Wonderland, 2010
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Learn Who To Trust:
Experts materialize when anyone lays claim to the title of Writer. Marketers, editors, proofreaders, social media specialists, etc. are dying to give you their pitch and take your money. That's why it's crucial that writers learn to trust their own voice. We're responsible for researching things properly and cleaning up timelines, grammar, and character quirkiness. 

People in positions of power may be professionals,
but they may also be professionally bonkers.
Alice in Wonderland, 2010
Our expertise will be called into question. When that happens, we must carefully consider the counsel given as well as the source, especially if it comes from someone who is strong in areas where we are weak. We aren't infallible, but neither are our editors and readers. We must trust our hearts and swallow our egos. We must keep our minds open but pay attention to our own intuition. 

Get to Work:
Unlike the noble turtle who leaves her eggs in the sand and trots back to her day job, we can't abandon our manuscripts to nature and expect them to thrive. And unless you're rolling in money, the lion's share of the work will fall to you. Just like I have, you're bound to make mistakes, but you're bound to have fun as well. As frustrating as it may be, being a published author is awesome.

So pitch in! Do all you're able to do and then call in as many favors as you can. Among all those experts who emerge from the depths when they smell fresh writer blood are those who care more about helping other writers than they do about draining your bank account. They don't mind giving free advice, sending you in the right direction, or swapping favors.

That one time I dressed up as Alice...
Halloween 2015
So my dears, now that I've got my game plan, know who I can lean on, and know what's ahead, I'd better stop playing dress up and get working! Wish me luck!

And please, share your tips and horror stories about the dreaded Inbetween Land in the comments!

Monday, October 3, 2016

My Inner Beauty

Sarah E. Boucher:
 Adorable Author, Awesome Educator
I've always been a plumpy girl. Curvaceous. Zaftig. Full-figured. Whatever you'd like to call it.

Except Big Boned. Referring to the author as Big Boned will result in a beating. Or a timeout.

This summer, at the height of my squishiness, I hit my 40th birthday. The word hit is strategically selected. In July, one might say a Titanic's worth of emotions collided with an iceberg of drama which spewed over into the sea of my soul. Thoughts of what I've done with my life and who I've become have plagued me all year.

My inner dialogue went something like this:

The critic: 
Fourty. FOUR-TY. Sheesh, that seems old. And still single eh? That's not at all depressing, is it?

The optimist:
Whatever. I've done AMAZING things in my singleton years. And I'm not miserable. I've been a teacher for the better part of 15 years, which means hundreds of kids have been mothered and loved and disciplined, and taught cool stuff like Rhombus and Arachnid. I did that. Also, I write good books man.

The critic: 
Well that's true. So, basically, I'm awesome, right?

The optimist: 

How did I get from squishy to awesome? I changed the label I was living under, something I learned from a cranky kindergartner.

See, I carried the title of Mean Teacher for a year before I realized I'd allowed a cranky kindergartner to determine how I felt about myself  as a human. One day I realized that the only one still referring to me as Mean Teacher was me. So, I began looking myself in the mirror and calling myself Awesome. It took longer than accepting the negative label, but it stuck. 

Somewhere along the way, I began to see my own Beauty. I started using words like cute, pretty, and adorable to describe myself. Occasionally my inner critic has a thing to say about that. But I just tell it to shut up and focus on not poking myself in the eye with the eyeliner. Because really, how can a woman with red hair and dimples not be adorable? 

Every girl wants to be the hero of her own story. The Beauty to her Beast. The leading lady in her own romantic comedy. Good stories hinge on a character's journey. That's my story so far. I feel like Belle stepping into that amazing library for the first time. There's still so much to see and do. So many more stories left to discover.
Image result for beauty and the beast library
I'm pretty sure I want to set up camp there. Learn more on the Disney Wiki.
I encourage you, my dear friends, to discover your Inner Awesome. It's not ego and entitlement, but that spark of amazing we all carry within us that drives us to work harder and become better.

And if you need a bit more empowerment, allow me to help you out:
The Making of a Woman
Sassy Pants: Be Your Own Wonder Woman
Plot Twist: Learning to Laugh at Yourself

Thanks for dropping by! I'd love to hear about your journeys! Leave me a comment!

Monday, September 19, 2016


The Utah Shakespeare Festival is one of my favorite summer getaways. Short of purchasing a ticket across the pond, there's no better way to dip your toes in Shakespeare and/or get thoroughly #Shakepeared.
This summer, Henry V, wasn't enough. It wet my appetite but didn't satisfy. A thick volume in the gift shop called The Friendly Shakespeare piqued my interest and set me on the path to discovery. 

As a source for inspiration, there nothing better than Shakespeare. The plays, from comedy to history, are a superb mix of drama and humor, truth and fiction, prose and poetry, romance and tragedy. Reading or viewing Shakespeare will expose you to:

Heroes who act like villains and villains who act heroically. Prince Hal from Henry IV exemplifies debauchery and heroism as he treads the path from from ale house to throne and prince to king.

So when this loose behavior I throw off,
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My refomation, glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.

Real emotion woven throughout the tales make hundreds of years old feel familiar and relatable. Jealousy, fierce loyalty, true love, infatuation, self-interest, humility, hopelessness. Duke Orsino from Twelfth Night drowns in melancholy due to unrequited love, and like many of us, he wallow in it.

If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die...

Relationships of all types--both healthy and unhealthy--are explored. Fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, husbands and wives, sovereigns and subjects, siblings, and the best and worst of friends. Prospero, the magician and one time duke in The Tempest, does much to ensure the happiness of his daughter Miranda.

I have done nothing but in care of thee,
Of thee, my dear one, thee, my daughter, who
Art ignorant of what thou art, nought knowing
Of whence I am, nor that I am more better
Than Prospero, master of a full poor cell,
And thy no greater father.

Some of the most delicious banter ever written. Like a tennis match where each hit is efficiently lobbed back. Petruchio and Catherine in The Taming of the Shrew and Benedick and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing come to mind. I'd love to gift my lovers such wonderful dialogue.

Beatrice: I wonder you will still be talking, Signor 
Benedick, nobody marks you.
Benedick: What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?
Beatrice: Is it possible disdain should die while she hath 
such meet food to feed as Signor Benedick?

Shakespeare is timeless. His plots, intrigues, epic romances, and tragedies draw us into another world. From Romeo, Romeo to Out damned spot! he captures our imaginations and feeds our need for both beautiful language and wonderful storytelling.
* * *
If you need a bit o' inspiration, there's always some new interpretation to explore. Here are a few of my new and old favorites (complete with links to Amazon):
The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard, by Norrie Esptein.
The Tempest, featuring Helen Mirren as Prospera
The Hollow Crown: The Complete Series, featuring Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal/Henry V
Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Kenneth Branagh
A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring Rupert Everett as Oberon & Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania
Twelfth Night, featuring Imogen Stubbs & Helena Bonham Carter
* * * 
What are your favorites? Leave me a comment and tell me your true feelings about the Bard. (Be warned that if you loathe him entirely, there may be mocking...) I've also embedded links to my own posts on being #Shakespeared through the post. Happy clicking!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Making of a Woman

Misconceptions about womanhood are played out in books and on the big and small screen all the time.  To believe that emphasizing the attractiveness of a woman's face or the firmness of her thighs will have no effect on how men view women or how young women see themselves is a lie.

Writers who perpetuate such misconceptions do a disservice to womankind.

Lately, I've been editing my version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses featuring a dozen distinct female characters. The journey from character sketch to final scene taught me a great deal about what makes a woman.

Let me tell you, it ain't those size 0 jeans. (Especially if the lady in question happens to be fond of chocolate. Or human.)

And it certainly isn't a blemish-free face. We earned those wrinkles with years of laughter and tears, didn't we? 
Could it be the sweet, patient woman who holds her tongue when perturbed? Perhaps.

But it could just as easily be the sharp-tongued lass who gives as good as she gets.

Might it be the glowing wit that leaves a room rolling with laughter? Maybe.

But it might also be she who delivers speeches that inspire, uplift, and move a room to tears and brave acts.

Being a woman may include a heart worn on a sleeve for all to see and abuse. It may include a tough skin built to guard a soft heart from hurt.

True womanhood encompasses a number of human foibles, mistakes and missteps that make a character human, lovable, and more understanding of others.
The women featured in literature should be a reflection of the mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and wonderful aunties in our lives. Good, bad, interesting, bland. Real. And more than a pretty face and an itty bitty dress size or a big bottom and a penchant for donuts.

Because that doesn't define us.

Real women are driven by love, pain, anger, jealousy, protectiveness, loyalty, and a myriad of other things. Shouldn't they have a place in literature? Shouldn't they have a chance to shape the way men think about us or what young women learn to value in themselves?

The more complex, intriguing woman I transform from  fairytales princesses who suck up the abuse only to become trophy wivee into complex, intriguing women, the better I feel. Isn't it time to stand up for real women with saddle bags, rings under their eyes, and no energy? Isn't it time to celebrate motherhood and dirty diapers and potty training? Isn't it time to celebrate women who work their butts off to make a difference in the world?
* * *
Thanks for dropping by! Feel free to leave me a comment and share your tips on crafting female characters. And if you'd love to read more about writing awesome heroes, peruse away!
Develop Sassy Heroes by Being One
Barbie's Dream Boat
Classic Heroines: Anne of Green Gables
The Power of Fairytales
Fairytales & Fancy Footwear
Diva Depressed
Funny Girls: Hostile Makeover

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Hazards of Dealing with Writers

It must be peculiar when someone argues with imaginary characters and invents new ways to torture them.
Today we embark on a frank discussion about the hazards of dealing with writers. Hopefully our efforts will encourage our loved ones to rant and rave less when dealing with our nutcase behavior. 

The Blink and Stare 
owl animals bird blinking staring
They do: Writers get lost in daydreams. Occasionally that means we stare into space while filling plot holes and imagining horribly wonderful things to do to characters.

You do: When we zone out, just hand us frosty beverages and snacks! (It's important to keep writers sufficiently nourished in this state.)

The Overuse of Extraordinarily Long Words 
They do: After writing and rewriting, adding and deleting descriptions, adverbs, and adjectives, writers' brains are overflowing with sesquipadelian words. 

You do: If these words emerge in ordinary conversation, smile and nod, my dears. (Feel free to dive for the dictionary later.)

Prolonged Periods of Quiet
They do: While writers work, it may become uncomfortably quiet. Remember that the writer in question is carrying on various conversations in her/his head and/or dealing with everything from grammar issues to problematic plot twists. 

You do: Avoid interrupting the writer at all costs. An irritated writer is capable of adding you to their cast of characters and using those long periods of silence to plot your death. 

Intermittent Laughter 
They do: Writerly silence may be interrupted by giggles and/or maniacal laughter. Yes, we giggle at our own stories. (Sorry.) And when we add something particularly evil that will make readers yell out loud and throw their Kindles across the room, the maniacal laughter comes out.

You do: It's best not to interfere. Unless you want an ear full of whatever we're cackling about. We'll behave normally later. (Probably.)

Intermittent Tears 
black and white sad jennifer lawrence crying upset
They do: At some point, all writers believe that their talents are CRAP and their stories aren't worth publishing. This may result in tears, tears, and more tears. 

You do: Keep the tissue on hand, pass out hugs as needed, and prepare several supportive statements like: 
  • My, your butt looks amazing in those sweatpants! 
  • Your natural scent is beautifully musky!
  • How about another round of hot chocolate and Downton Abbey?

Odd Expressions/Gestures
friends lisa kudrow phoebe buffay phoebe friends tv
They do: Writers may run into trouble describing a character's facial expressions or gestures. Sometimes, we practice the very things they're trying to describe, which will probably resemble some sort of bizarre mating ritual. (Again, sorry.)

You do: Just pretend like you didn't see anything. And think about how funny it will be to mock us later...much later.

Odd Research Questions and Google Searches
They do: Certain projects require writers to research bizarre subjects. We may ask you about how to stab someone fatally or poison a coworker. 

You do: Don't worry. It's all in the name of literature. Just delete the browser history regularly and keep 911 on speed dial just in case.

* * *
Writers are a pack of weirdos. There's no arguing with that. But because of their creative bend, they do keep life interesting!

What other writer hazards have you encountered? Leave me a comment!

Friday, July 22, 2016

California Dreams: The Cover Shoot

The decision to self-publish my twist on The Twelve Dancing Princesses wasn't made overnight. After I submitted it to the publisher and played the Waiting Game, my back-up plan (i.e. self publishing) began to form. Part of that plan was an amazing cover.
When Plan B came into play I contacted my cousin, Cindy. She's the artist, photographer and graphic designer behind my website. Because of that, I know Cindy can catch my vision the first time. In my mind there was no one better to create my cover art.

Since it's been two years since my last trip to California, I thought it would be a great time to turn a summer getaway into a business trip. Cindy was completely on board.

Then, as always happens, nothing went according to plan. We had a model, but hair, makeup, and wardrobe were still up in the air. We had a location I didn't remember and we had to shoot a night scene in the afternoon. Luckily, my cousin Jill dug into her supply of costume pieces and found a cream and gold dress sewed by her mother in the 70's. A few alterations, a pair of silver flats, and elbow-length gloves, and we had the makings of a vintage ensemble. For a whopping $16.

The fateful day arrived. Model Cammi, over-excited author (me!), and photographer Cindy and hubby/assistant Brent piled into the car for a trip to Golden Gate Park. When we unloaded and made our way to the Rose Garden, I remembered the location. Two years earlier, Cindy and I had visited it to snap photos. On our way out, I pointed out a shadowy grove of trees and sketched out the idea for my twist on The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
As soon as we stepped from bright afternoon into the shaded dell beside the Rose Garden, I knew it was right. The dress was donned, curls were rearranged, and makeup retouched. Within 30 minutes, I knew we had the shot. And as usual, Cindy has produced the exact image I've been dreaming about for years, right down to a dreamy color scheme and an air of mystery. My first impression: I could get used to this indie author thing!

Don't get me wrong. Receiving an email with the first draft of Becoming Beauty's cover was so exciting I almost threw my iPad across the room. But the process of developing custom cover art is infinitely more fun.
So, when will this cover reach the light of day? Soon, my dears. Very soon. I'm putting the final touches on my manuscript and am preparing to send it out to editors and proofreaders shortly. Stay tuned! And feel free to peruse the embedded links to look at related posts!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The How-To Princess

It may be the big sister in me. Or the educator. But somehow all of it works together to form a MEGA amount of advice.
Photo Courtesy of
I'll be the first to tell you that I don't know everything. But opening up, sharing what I've learned, and getting your input makes us all a little more awesome at what we do.

Since my website's birth, I've tackled subjects from growing your following on Twitter to the rules of writing and how to successfully flout them. So if there's an area you'd like to learn more, peruse the links below, follow those that pique your interest, and leave me comments to pass along your take on things.
That's right! I've tacked all these subjects and more!

How to Conquer Twitterland Managing your following seemed so easy when you created an account right? If you're like me, those 17 followers didn't become thousands without work. And they certainly didn't get there without a few sound practices.

How to Become a Better Writer Just like musicians and actors, writers have to practice their craft.
There are three areas that need to be addressed: writing, connection, and promotion.

How to Not Tick Off Your Readers Some writers consider annoying their audience their primary occupation. But how do you walk the fine line between stirring a reader's interest and causing them to write poor reviews?

How to Make Stories Your Own Some delightful human once asked me when I would start writing original stories. I gritted my teeth, stewed over it for a long time, and then I wrote this.

How to Behave on Social Media You can say whatever you want on Social Media and irritate anyone on your path to fame. right? Well, if you'd like to make friends and influence people, perhaps you should visit Ms. Etiquette.

How to Break the Rules Without Getting Yelled At...Much The rules of writing are vast. Some of them make no sense at all. The trick is knowing the why behind the rule and having a legitimate reason for making the literary choice you do.

How to Build Worlds: for the Literary Challenged Scene setting has always been a thorn in my side. Who cares if that bush just popped into existence or if my main character is suddenly holding an ax you didn't know she had? Readers, that's who.

How to Stay Sane and Upbeat in the Writing World Writing is a rollercoaster and entering the publishing world makes the ride more intense. How do you make it through alive? Don't lose your sense of humor!

How to Write Blog Posts Others Want to Read We do it with our books, right? Seems normal to expect people to be pulled into reading our shorter works as well. A few tricks of the trade will put you right on track.

How to Sell Stuff Without Annoying People Is it just me or does the pervading sales technique seem to be Hey! Buy my STUFF! I think we can do better than that. I've poured my best knowledge as a consumer, Social Media lover, and educator into this one.

Now, go forth and be awesome! (Also, feel free to leave me your ideas and tips in the comments!)