Monthly Archives: April 2011

Thor’s day

Hello! It’s been a busy week or so, so I haven’t had much time to sit down and write out my thoughts like I’d like to. So today is a post of random updates:

A Lover and its Ghosts is now available on Amazon.com. This is kind of awesome, mostly because HOLY CRAP I HAVE SOMETHING PUBLISHED AT THE BIGGEST BOOK STORE IN THE WORLD. Also because now people who don’t know how to/want to transfer files to their e-readers after download from Smashwords can just pay $.99 for the convenience of whispernet delivery ;D So, if you’ve had the chance to read A Lover and its Ghosts and you’d like to leave a review, I would be ever so grateful for your feedback!

I’ve basically been using this short story as a test-run publication so that when I release The Poppet and the Lune in May I can do it without any hitches (hopefully). I’ve only had a few so far with the short, mostly things I forgot to put in the extraneous pages like author’s notes, etc. Also, I now know it takes about 2 weeks to approved for the Premium Distribution catalog on Smashwords, and at least 48 hours for your book to appear on Amazon when you publish through Kindle Direct. Now I need to get the short on PubIt!, the Barnes and Nobles publishing site.

In the weeks to come, there should be a lot more activity on here. I’m going to be thinking of a contest to win a print copy of The Poppet and the Lune, so keep an eye out for that. Also, I’ve got some old sketches from my hand-written first draft that I’ll be posting here, along with a bit of background about the story and how it was written. Hopefully, by Monday I’ll also have a book trailer up : )

Happy Thursday one and all!

Remembering, for what it’s worth

I didn’t realize until I read someone else’s blog this morning that it was the 12 year anniversary of Columbine today. This day/week in history for me has had several deeply life-changing events attached to it. That particular year it was the week that my best friend’s father passed away, the Columbine shootings happened, our teachers fell victim to mass hysteria, and my friends and I were betrayed by people we had always been taught to trust.

It might not surprise you to hear that I was an odd kid. In high school and middle school I dyed my hair bright colors, got parts of my face pierced, did (relatively soft) drugs, and skipped pep-rallies. I wasn’t a great kid, but I wasn’t bad. I didn’t hurt anyone, and I didn’t want to hurt anyone.

In middle school though, all I did was dress funny, make interesting art, and write humorous essays in study hall. In middle school, when I was 13-going-on-14, I was already of the “freak” crowd. But in middle school, that was still okay- people hadn’t yet decided that we were “bad.” Freaks mingled. My friends and I weren’t haters, and people didn’t hate us, yet.

 

I'm like that guy from "Clarissa Explains it All"!

Yes, this is me. Age 14.

 

Then Columbine happened- a tragedy that changed our nation forever. And that same week, my best friend’s father was hospitalized in a self-induced coma caused by alcohol poisoning. He had Alzheimer’s disease, and in a rare moment of lucidity he tried to take his own life. And then later that week, at school, our beloved social studies teacher singled myself and my closest friends out in front of each and every class he taught and told them explicitly to “not be like them,” with our sometimes colored hair, our clothes that weren’t bought at the mall, our embrace of our own creativity, and refusal to conform.

I remember sitting in that classroom, dumbfounded at first. I remember cold, cold realization: This was my favorite teacher. He was funny and reasonable and smart. He sang lessons to us, let us watch movies on Fridays, made us interested in parts of history that were more dull than others. And he was standing at the front of the classroom telling my peers that my friends and I were “the next Columbine.”

Thankfully, though this was a time where figures we’d been taught to trust decided to betray us out of their own fear, it was also a time when our parents were actually and immediately there for us. Usually in cases of school versus student, parents side with the school. But in the years since Columbine, public schools have lost a lot of… well, sanity, at least when it comes to trusting their students. Our parents came to our defense immediately and called out our teacher’s behavior before the principal. A public apology was ordered.

Unfortunately, my friends and I never got to hear it because my best friend’s father passed away the night before.  She was out of school all week, and we spent all day in the guidance counselor’s office the day our teacher apologized to us before our entire class in the school auditorium.

Did it help? Yeah. I mean, people didn’t (for the most part) bully us or tease us for the rest of high school. But they didn’t go out of their way to be friendly to us, either. I think in their minds we were segregated forever, even if it was no longer for a negative reason.

Ultimately, I can pinpoint this event as what caused me to become a highly cynical person in regards to any kind of authority. The way our teachers handled Columbine, and continued to handle it in high school, was ludicrous and irrational. The lack of trust in students caused them to treat us so poorly, with such mistrust… how in the world could we, who already had a pesky tendency to think for ourselves, ever learn to respect these people?

Columbine was a tragedy. There’s no question about it. What was also tragic was the way it was handled by the rest of the country. No one listened to the shooters before that day came, and no one listened to the students of our nation after. They plugged their ears and tuned it out, looked at us with suspicion, and showed us what it was to be cowards in the face of adversity.

Cynical, I know. But that was my experience.

On a positive side, I can also say that my disrespect for authority has made me more self-empowered than your average bear. I could even say it ultimately helped me to decide to self-publish. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves- we haven’t seen if that was actually a good decision, yet ;)

I Am Not a Brand

 

Last Friday Maureen Johnson shared with us her concern that she might have annoyed her followers on Twitter by promoting the fact that 13 Little Blue Envelopes was now available for free for a limited time. Then she linked to a wonderful blog entry about her experience on a panel for “social media experts.” I suggest you read that. It made me want to cheer.

Meanwhile, it all brought up some interesting questions. What is the “right” way to use social media (for this instance, Twitter) as a person with something to sell (in this case, as an author)? That’s obviously not all you are, but when you are a person (let’s say an interesting person, one that might have THINGS to say in 140 characters… for argument’s sake) and you have a career or something else that you’re passionate about, it’s understandable that you’ll want to share news and information and links that have to do with your product. And as long as your product is not the only thing you have to offer your followers, I think that’s fine.

Twitter, like a great deal of socia media/networking developments in the past 10 years, is an inherently narcissistic creature. You talk about yourself all day long, and it makes sense that something that is a huge part of your life will be mentioned now and then. But you also read about other people’s lives all day, don’t you? So you’ve put yourself willingly in a position of listening to other people’s narcissism. But isn’t that what we do in person? We want to share, and we want to be shared with. Humans are social creatures, and that’s a very good thing.

I’ve read a lot recently about how to network via social media, how to get your name out there, how to create a web presence. A lot of what they tell me makes my skin crawl and my stomach knot. I don’t want to sell myself. I want to share things I’m excited about, and I’m ecstatic when people are interested in what I’m doing or when they’re excited too and want to share my news. But it’s not all that I am. I am a writer, yes, and I want people to buy what I write because my dream is to make a decent living from telling stories. But I don’t want to write just because I want people to buy it. I don’t want to do anything because I want people to buy things from me. It takes the love out of it, and doing anything without love, especially writing, is not a part of my plan.

I’ve heard a lot (a LOT) of talk about “personal branding” and how important it is and yadda yadda yadda. And you know what? I am not a brand, just like the people who will read my books are not a crowd. They are not just an audience. They are people. The point of social networking is to connect with other people, and not solely for personal gain. I know I can tell when you don’t care about me, or when I’m being sold to, or integrated into some kind of super-twitter-marketing plan, and you know what? I really don’t like it. I don’t like commercials on television or radio, and I don’t like obnoxious and often misspelled, grammatically incorrect Facebook advertisements, and I certainly don’t plan on following anyone on Twitter who only ever updates about new sales, blogs, or articles featuring them or their product.

And I firmly believe that the people I connect with on the internet, and the people who will be reading my books, are just as smart if not smarter than me, and will be able to tell just as easily when they’re being sold to. I have self respect enough not to slog through advertisements, so I sure as hell am not about to make my twitter followers do that.

So what is the “right” way to use twitter to your advantage without disrespecting your followers? As in all things, my answer is “balance.” But here’s a more practical method: you want to get to know a lot of your new followers, sure, but you’ve probably got a lot of close friends on there too. So when you make an update, ask yourself: “Does my friend want to hear about this?” Ok, maybe they won’t care about the picture of Canadian geese chasing someone across the street (true story, but I wasn’t fast enough with the camera), but they probably won’t feel manipulated if they decide to scroll past it.

 

 

What about you, what do you think is the “right” or “wrong” way to social network when you’ve got something to sell?

The Author

“Tell them stories. They need the truth. You must tell them true stories, and everything will be well, just tell them stories.” -Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass

 

Short version: I have been writing, making movies, telling lies, and otherwise creating stories pretty much since conception. Seriously.

Long version: I was born (two weeks late) in Buffalo, New York during the exciting time in American history known as “The 80s.” It was the decade that gave us such things as the mullet, the moonwalk, and the unfortunately not-well-thought-out hypercolor clothing, among other wonders. I don’t remember much of it, and most of what I think I remember usually ends up being from “The Early 90s.”

This is seriously the first image that comes up when I google "the early 90s"

I had two older brothers growing up*, which means not only was the one Barbie doll I ever owned used as a hockey puck, but I was the one who suggested using it. Despite the fact that my parents met while in a religious cult, my childhood and family life was pretty normal and uneventful. I mean, in terms of what some other people consider normal. I had a nuclear family and attended public school. But my mother is also a doctor of holistic medicine (which means I haven’t used fluoridated toothpaste since 1995), and my father owns an organic lawn care company (which means when other kids were writing essays on recycling during Outdoor Education Week, I was writing about the horrifying effects of pesticides and herbicides on the environment.)

Hipster says: we were buying organic before it was cool.

I spent most of middle school and high school hanging out with my friends in the woods, sneaking into abandoned places, sneaking out of school early, sneaking into our parents liquor cabinets, having sneaky 2 am tea parties in the middle of the road, sneakily convincing our parents to let us dye our hair fun colors, and generally being very sneaky. I did a lot of things I won’t approve of my children doing if I ever become a parent, too, but I turned out pretty all right.

My college experience was pretty weird. I didn’t really want to go to college because I hated school, but I do love to learn. I tried out a distance learning program for two years, but it was awful, so eventually I bit the bullet and transferred to the local university. That meant I never had to dorm, and actually had my own apartment for most of those years. I majored in Anthropology for a while, which was actually really awesome, except that all of the reading was incredibly dry. So, I switched from the interesting but unlikely major of Anthropology, to the even-more-useless major of Media Study, where we watched movies, made sweet videos and animations, and had every Friday off from classes.

I love to travel, and being in school somehow made that cheaper and more likely to happen. When I was 22 I spent a month in Costa Rica doing a little volunteer work but mostly hanging out at a new discoteque in a new city every night, salsa dancing, hanging with capuchins, and eating freshly picked mangos. When I was 23/24 and in my last stretch of college, I spent the spring semester abroad studying in Oxford, England, where I was given to opportunity to also travel to Wales, Scotland, Spain, and Morocco. Spending a night in the Sahara desert (and waking to watch the sun rise over the sand dunes) was one of the greatest things to ever happen to me.

The year I went to England was also the year I met my husband by accident (long story) when I came back home. We got engaged in November after knowing each other for about 6 weeks, flying in the face of all my very-long-term relationships that came before. We got married that August beside the Erie Canal. He passed out at the altar cause it was too hot. I dove to catch him, and it was actually kind of romantic I guess (according to our guests). There was also a boat ride involved. I’m not sure which was the more exciting part.

The next year, this year actually, my first novel The Poppet and the Lune came out (on my 26th birthday). My second novel, The Hierophant, Book I in the Arcana series, is coming out before the end of this year. Lord knows what will happen next.

This $#!%’s Gettin’ Real, Yo

If you haven’t seen it yet, I got my first official non-friend-or-relative-review! It’s for the short story I released on Monday (for freeeeee!), A Lover and its Ghosts. You can read the review at Crescent Suns e-Books. It made me giddy all week : D

Also, my friend and former roommate the FABULOUS Laura Diemer did a photo shoot with me yesterday evening! These are the cream of the crop if you’d like to help me pick the best. Personally my favorite is the one where I’m staring into your soul but I don’t know if that would put off potential readers… ; D Comment on the photos or comment here, all help is greatly appreciated! (Seriously, I have a really hard time making decisions like this… indecisive is my other middle name).

And last but not least, as of SUNDAY it will be EXACTLY ONE MONTH to the official release of The Poppet and the Lune. My baby will be going out into the world! I have a lot to do before then, namely of the formatting and WAITING variety, but I hope to be able to get it all done and have my author’s copies in hand by the release date: Tuesday, May 17th (which is also my 26th birthday!).

Speaking of copies of TPaL that can be held in your hands… while I would love to be able to sign and ship every print book you guys order, it’s unfortunately not something I can afford to do. BUT! If you DO plan on ordering a print copy from Amazon (I’m not entirely certain what the price will be just yet, probably about $15) I’m going to be offering FREE SIGNED BOOKPLATES! I haven’t picked one out yet, in fact I might just make one myself… but I’ll keep you all updated!

In the meantime, keep on keepin’ on, and have a great weekend!

The Lover, The Ghosts

So I posted briefly Monday about my short story A Lover and its Ghosts which is available now through Smashwords.com. I thought I owed the piece a bit of exposition. So, this:

I began writing the story during NaNoWriMo, the year I met my future-husband and the month we became engaged. (If you don’t know the story of our marriage, here’s the long and short of it: we met online accidentally in September, met up two weeks later, were engaged 6 weeks later, and were married in August) It started with a question he asked me one night- we were actally out lying on a blanket watching the stars. Convinced we’ve met before, either in life or pastlives, he asked me Where do I know you from?

I dreamed that night. And every night after, until the story was finished. It stopped me from finishing NaNoWriMo that year, but that was okay. Words were pouring out of me like a song, and I delighted in every moment of it, though some of it was very emotional.

I don’t know if what I dreamed was real- I don’t know if we have spent other lives together, unable to stay together because of whatever circumstance. Part of me believes it, and part of me doesn’t.

But I do believe with all my heart that we are soul mates.

So I wrote A Lover and its Ghosts for my husband for our first Christmas together (and also his birthday which is the 27th). It’s the only gift writing I’ve ever done.

And now, it’s also my free gift to the word-one of many to come, I hope. : )

A Lover and its Ghosts

The short story I wrote for my husband the first Christmas we were together is now available on Smashwords for free or pay-what-you-want : )

A Lover and its Ghosts

I’d be eternally grateful if you could spread the word to anyone you think would enjoy a short, romantic, spiritual, slightly experimental work of possible fiction : D

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Freedom

The desire for happiness and freedom is at the root of everything we do as human beings. This is something I’ve been lucky enough to always know on a distinctly conscious level–something that has admittedly caused me great angst over the years. But angst was never caused by my desire for freedom and happiness–it was caused by a pervasive belief that attainment of those things was very difficult, if not impossible.

If (god forbid) one were to find an old notebook of mine from high school, one would read endless pages of verbose rejection of (or on a worse day, resignation to) the status quo. I was obsessed with the fact that my life seemed predetermined, even in “the land of opportunity,” with teachers saying I had “such promise!” and that if I went to college I could be anything I wanted to be… anything, of course, except for a professional writer (feel free to substitute “artist,” “actress,” “dancer,” or any other difficult-to-break-into creative field. Teachers, parents, and even some “friends” all had the same thing to say). It seemed to me that in order to survive as an independent adult (have food, clothes, shelter, etc.) it was inevitable that I would have to go to school for four more years (and I really can’t express to you how much I dislike the current educational system), then eventually find myself a job that would be wholly unsatisfying, take up 8+ hours of my day and monopolize my week, where I would either submit to management or end up twisting myself to achieve a position of slight authority. 1

I’ve always had a problem with authority. Not in the sense of “don’t tell me what to do, bitch!” but the concept itself. Who gives who authority? In the case of public (and really, also private) education, some bunch of adults get together and decide who’s in charge of what, then they run a few hundred children through the system and tell them “show some respect, you must obey her, she’s your teacher/parent/principal!” And lo, the attempt at conditioning begins.

That’s not kosher. No, I can’t offer a better idea of how school should happen (especially in a society where more money is spent on the thus-far unsuccessful war on drugs every DAY than on education in a YEAR), but one suggestion is to show more respect to the children we’re trying to serve. Maybe adults should try earning respect instead of demanding it? I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve met or heard about who were less responsible, more selfish, and utterly unfit to raise children compared to their ten-year-old kid. And adults wonder why teens are so disrespectful and combustive.

But, back to freedom and happiness. Not only is everything we do motivated by the desire for those things, but every single person on this planet has a right to them, so long as they are not trampling the freedom or happiness of another person (and those things should never depend upon another person… but that’s for another discourse). In the past few years I’ve come to understand this on deeper and deeper levels, until finally, a few years ago, I stopped believing in my sealed fate of status quo, and started believing in myself.

Slowly unfolding, from plateau to plateau, I’ve become empowered. I’m twenty five years old–I’ll be twenty six in May, the day I launch my first officially published novel. And it saddens me to say that I’m one of the lucky ones. I didn’t wake up when I was forty, or fifty, or sixty, or DEAD, and realize that I didn’t have to play by their rules–that their rules are arbitrary, that we’re all just humans, living our lives and shaping our world, and most importantly, that I am equal–we are equal, to all.

It saddens me, also, that it took me 25 years to realize those things, but looking at where I’ve been has never helped me get to where I want to go.

If I could say one thing to the angry, hurting girl I was back then who felt so trapped by a world I hadn’t made, and to all the children bristling under confines of other people’s will, it would be this:

The only thing that matters is what you think and feel. Make the most of that. Believe in yourself, love yourself, trust your instincts. They will never, ever lead you astray. On an adventure, maybe, but never astray. Look for the beauty in others, and try to forgive those who do not see the strength and wisdom and beauty of who and what you are. When they cannot see it in you, they are not seeing it in themselves, and that is something to be healed, not punished.

What would you say to your younger self if you had the chance?

_________________________

1. Ugh, just repeating that here makes me sick to my stomach. I can forgive myself now, as a relative adult, for the what-seems-like-maudlin despair I entertained as a teen. If I still believed what I just wrote above, I would have given up a long time ago and probably lost my mind.

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