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 Unsplash.com
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!)

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.
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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.
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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.
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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!)
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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.
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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
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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.
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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!
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Missed one of our Humor & Inspiration featured authors? No problem! Click away my darlings and happy reading!