Blanket Forts.

Sure, I suck at blogging. I can’t stick to a blog schedule…but that’s because I’m revising my third  (and longest) book while managing a table top game store part time. I am also putting together a kickstarter campaign for my dress project…AND doing freelance photography. In the words of Ruby Rhod: BUT WHO CARES? Because…

Blanket Forts.

They’re a necessity, even in grownupville. One of my editors created the most epic of blanket forts for herself a few months back, and since then I have been wanting to do it. Problem is, I’m in the middle of moving my office and so my much needed space is IMG_9114chaos right now. So…I went to my friend, Loopy, and asked her to host a sleepover so I could just relax and not adult for the night. What commenced was awesome. I’ll share the process with you.

First: pour yourself some fucking Sangria. Nothing says adult-blanket-fort-building like Sangria…there are a lot of different recipes for this. Easiest route- and you’ll thank me later- go get some Mangria from the store (or any pre-prepared Sangria) and just add a shit-ton of fruit. I liked Loopy’s choice of Mangria because it was technically a girl’s night, so, the humor wasn’t lost on me.

Okay, building the fort: get a dude to help you. This shouldn’t turn into a feminism debate- I just like being bossy and it’s more fun to boss my friend Mario around.

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Your bottom layer is the most important because COMFORT. Foam mats work great- they aren’t as complicated as pulling a whole mattress out and they add a good amount of cushion so you won’t wake up feeling like Thor punched you in your kidney.

Also give your slave boy other tasks like hanging the higher fabrics and un-fucking the christmas lights that you just wadded into a ball and threw in storage:

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Pay him with Mexican food and cookies. Don’t be a dick.

Ambiance is also important. Fake candles, small lights, and LOTS of sheets to hang create a quaint environment. You can use all kinds of items to achieve your wanted level of fort awesomeness… tall furniture, PVC pipe, tacks, nails, whatever get to Home Depot and go nuts.

We stuck with using the ceiling vents, tacks, and furniture.

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Sure, it’s a little messy. Sorry, we were already drunk.

Now, you can start to relax in your fort and break out the food and activities. We classed up the joint with coloring books, Oreos, more wine, and Mexican food. Kudos to Loopy for ordering the adult coloring books. It’s also good to have some movie ideas. We were a little indecisive, but ended up with a playlist of Constantine (movie), Assault on Arkham, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

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And… of course… there’s your choice of apparel- WHICH IS IMPORTANT. It’s fun to put some effort into your PJs. We didn’t have a set theme- I went with Shakespeare and everyone else went DC.

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So, remember… you’re never too old for sleepovers and blanket forts. Make your own space- whether it’s for writing or watching movies with friends. Be creative!

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The Small Press Experience

book_cover_imagePeople ask me why I chose to go with a small press, and I honestly don’t have a straight answer. It was what was good for me. I wasn’t ready to commit to trying to find an agent- which is a full time job- and I wanted to at least see my book on Amazon.

The next few posts will be about publishing your own book with a small press or on your own. I’ll talk about my experience publishing with Luna Station as well as some important things to think about if you decide to self-publish… today, it’s all about my press.

If you look at my Press’ catalog you’ll notice I’m a bit of an odd girl out. Among poetry, science fiction and metaphysical exploration books… is Elegantly Wasted: a story about a cynical girl becoming a woman who kills people for a living in a family business. The reason for this is, I took a chance with a twitter acquaintance of mine who became a good friend. We took chances with each other. It worked out.

Has the entire journey been easy? No. Has it been a learning experience? Yes. And out of it all, I’ve gained a new family. That’s what small presses are- a family. Like… no joke- I was visiting New York and they invited me over, gave me a place to crash AND cooked for me. Among that visit was an adventure around the city with them that I’ll never forget. (Hashtag: Memories)

I don’t expect to be famous. I just want to make money writing. That’s the main dream. Small presses may or may not help you achieve that because their main job is editing, formatting and listing your book. It’s entirely up to each individual press how much marketing and time they put into it after that. These things can be discussed in your contract- so go over that carefully.

You will spend a lot (even most) of your time promoting yourself, looking for marketing ideas and going to book conventions if you can. It’s just the way it goes. How much time- is up to you and your publisher. Communication lines are key- so make sure you have no issues with talking to your editor and publisher.

 

About My Small Press:

Luna Station Press is run by two women; Jennifer and Tara. They are two of the most interesting women I’ve met to date and have taught me a lot about life- not just about the publishing process.

Jennifer started the press back in 2012 and my first book was one of the first books released. Jennifer has also pushed me to be a better writer- and I strongly believe that I’ve achieved at least that. You can always improve- so if your editor isn’t trying to help you improve while editing then you need a new one.

Tara is a newer addition to the press, but already a force to be reckoned with. While also putting out her own books of poetry, she is driven and her ideas are sharp.

Building a relationship with these women has been more gratifying than seeing my books published. It’s really a plus that it’s helping my career on top of everything else. So, choosing a small press can be both extremely gratifying and holy aggravating- like the rest of life. It’s time and work like anything else. The aggravating parts are few and far between- but they do happen because it’s like working with your friends. It’s a pro and a con in one, but the end product is that you learn, you grow and you have people there who believe in you.

Next week: Interview with Jenn and Tara

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NaNoWriMo Prep: Keeping Your Creativity Going All Month

supernatural_001National Novel Writing Month is no joke… it’s an endurance trial for any writer. It’s like running a marathon- not that I’d know what that’s like because fck running. No, really… it’s the same cycle every November. We’re excited, we’re prepared, we’re just positive those word counts will write themselves… lolz. Here, I’ll give you some tips to push through and keep on keeping on… with the help of Sam and Dean Winchester.

 

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This is the easiest part of the month: the starting gate. You’re ready, right? Got an solid plot outlined… or at least a few ideas in your head? Making the most out of this month doesn’t mean you need to have all your ducks in a row- in fact… sometimes it’s better not to. There is a fine middle ground between plotter and pantser where you will find a zen-like center. Don’t stress. This month isn’t about reaching your goal… it’s about fine tuning that great idea and giving it the push it needs. It’s great to be excited! Use that energy and be super pumped… just remember, you need energy for the next thirty days… and in those thirty days, you probably have to deal with your entire family for a weekend.

 

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There is a point in the first two weeks where you might be harboring and nurturing your great idea like baby Groot in his pot, yet the word counts aren’t really meeting your expectations. You might even already be experimenting the dreaded writer’s block. Everything’s shiny, Captain- not to fret… (sorry mixing my fandoms a lot for this one). To avoid or at least lighten this phase prepare yourself:

1. Music- it’s so very important. Maybe not while you’re writing… but certainly during those times when you’re struggling. Think about your characters and their theme songs, or create a soundtrack. For my current novel, and all published novels, I have a play list on Spotify. It’s really a writer’s dream. I pay the 14 bucks a month to not hear ads AND it’s got an app so you can listen to it anywhere. Seriously- I approve of everything Spotify. Make sure you put Heat of the Moment by Asia on that list… amiright?

2. Reading- take a break from your day and read something you enjoy. A new book, an old book or even a magazine article. Whatever you truly enjoy. I will break out my old Fear Street collection and just read a few of those (in an hour). The are super cheesy and tend to spark inspiration just based on their nostalgic awesomeness.

3. Ask a Friend- there’s no doubt you have a BFF who listens to your writing woes. This could be your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend… whomever you trust with your ideas and also inspires you. Let them know what you’re up to- explain NaNoWriMo (I’m sure you already have) and ask them if they’re willing to be your wing man. It’s amazing how much can get worked out when you just voice your plot problems to others. They don’t have to be writers… they just need to listen.

 

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I know that you get to a point where you’re entering your word counts on the NaNoWriMo website and you’re looking at that damn graph on your stats page. It’s not looking great… so you start to worry. Cut it out. No doubt, progress is progress. It doesn’t matter if your word count is 100 or 1,000 the point is you wrote something. If you didn’t write something to progress your novel’s word count- maybe you worked out some ideas about the plot, the characters or you found a great soup recipe on Pinterest… whatever it is… you progressed your day.

Now, if you’ve gone a couple weeks and you’ve only written a few thousand words then, yes, worry a little… I won’t sugar coat it. If your heart is set on finishing NaNoWriMo then you need to start pushing yourself here. Goals are made to be met, and you can set realistic ones for yourself. Personally, I can write a chapter a day if I’m feeling it. My chapters tend to be in the 2500 word range. This is a reasonable goal that pushes yourself. What’s the average word count per day to finish on time? 1667? That’s about 12k words a week. Then you know if you manage to hit 2500 two days out of the week you can lighten your load for whatever days are more stressful. Trust me, 800 word buffers are magic when it comes to week two and three.

 

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Here’s where shit can and will go wrong and your days can seem repetitive as hell. Relax… it’s fine. No one likes a stage four anything… that much is certain. It’s where you’re losing steam, and you want to give up. Don’t. I suggest at this stage you stop thinking about word count and just write. It’s hard to block that weird area of your brain out that just wants to count your words like Rainman… but try. If you’re less worried about your larger goal, and more worried about your character’s lives because you’re turning oddly psychotic at this point-  you’re golden. Now you’re ready to listen to Write Drunk by yours truly.

So suddenly, week three is here and you’re just like:

Yup. I get it. Around this final stretch is when you need to take breaks… or surround yourself by others at write-ins. Something needs to recharge your mental well being. Grab some wine, or coffee (don’t lace it with too much rum) and listen to a mellow and/or happy playlist: my favorite is Your Favorite Coffeehouse and Mood Booster.

You might notice how much of a music fan girl I am. I truly think it’s like that magic sugar you need for your writing caffeine. Don’t forget to dance.

As an alternative to music, try baking. No really. There’s nothing like picking some complex recipe that you’re positive you can make. It’ll definitely look like that picture on Pinterest, right? Then four hours later, your kitchen (and probably your face) is covered with powdered sugar, dry egg white and frosting that doesn’t even taste right. There may or may not be a burning smell emanating form the oven and you might be crying.. not that I speak from personal experience or anything, but there’s nothing quite like epic failing on billionaire cookie bars to remind you what a great writer you are… here, look at all the stuff I can’t make!

 

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I used to think… what kind of sadistic prick picked November to be National Novel Writing Month? Because right when I’m either feeling good about my count or feeling doomed to fail, Thanksgiving comes around. Not only do I have a large family- I have a highly broken up family that all wishes I could come visit. So I can potentially have like eight dinners in four different cities… clearly, I stopped doing this because it’s nuts and hating yourself and everyone around you is what Christmas is for.

Uh, anyway… this end stretch is where you start telling yourself that everything is fine… when it might not be fine. You have to take into account that your time is or might be taken up by outside factors… the last few days are really important for your well being. Because… well… at this point you know whether or not you’re going to win. If you are… fabulous. If you aren’t… don’t trick yourself into quitting. Tell your family about your novel, make it a conversation… tell them about your challenges and triumphs thus far. I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear it! If not- get new family members.

 

 

supernatural_007Congratulations, it’s now the end of November… and you feel like Sam Winchester when it was finally Wednesday… (FYI if you haven’t seen Season 3, Episode 11, you’re missing out). Oh wait… November hasn’t even started yet. It’s coming though… just like winter. And you will get through it. For better or worse.

I don’t need to tell you how many resources there are for your writing adventures… so many that it can get overwhelming. Don’t overwhelm yourself. At the end of the day, it’s about your and your novel. This is a month to bond with that novel… go through some major shit with that novel. And when the month is up, you’ll have made progress. That’s what NaNoWriMo is about: progress. It’s about pushing yourself to get something done. Whether that’s 10k words or 100k words (which would be nuts, don’t be that guy), you have move forward with your dream. Feels good… at the starting gate, at the finish line, and all the repetitive days in between.

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What are some of your November writing goals? Feel free to add me as a buddy H E R E.

 

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Book Research Road Trip

writing_wine_logo2Lately, I’ve been plotting out two new books (more on plotting in a later post). If my book isn’t going to be science fiction or fantasy, I want to set it somewhere I’ve been. I’ve never been one for creating “fake” towns- although it’s definitely a good option for some.

Much like Stephen King uses Maine, I have been wanting to use areas of Arizona- despite its bad reputation- there are actually some amazing people and places in the state… a state that is one of the most geographically diverse… there’s low desert, high pine forests and just about everything in between. There are small towns and large cities. I like choosing areas I can research easily- because you should ALWAYS research your setting. You’d think that would be a no-brainer.

So what do you need for a research road trip? Your camera, and a notepad… aside from your necessities like gas money, clothes and a place to stay.

Chances are, you don’t live in your setting. Maybe you did once… like me. I chose to venture to Flagstaff, AZ in the autumn, when and where, I want to set my next book. I went to high school in Flag… and my mother still lives there. But I wanted to refresh my memory. So, I started to plan out a trip. From Vegas to Flagstaff is 240 miles. I talked to my step-dad, who has lived there since 1974 (five years before I was born) and made sure he’d be around to answer questions.

Once I was there, I asked him to drive me around some of the older neighborhoods with really cool craftsman type houses. I had one in mind to write about so I made sure I snapped a few photos of it. Then, more driving around to take photos and notes. This was a three-day process… talking to restaurant owners, people, and just taking in the daily life. This is the fun part! Eat at a local favorite cafe, visit some popular boutiques, and talk to people. I know, strange concept! Enjoy the day life AND the night life.

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Flagstaff is what I call a big-small town. It’s not the ideal “Small Town” with its population of about 60,000 but it’s still very quaint, has a great artist community and lots of history. It’s also one of the most scenic and picturesque areas in Arizona. It’s has a few quirks that are good to know- like almost 40 trains pass through town each day… including Amtrak who will hold up traffic downtown for the duration of loading and unloading passengers.

If you don’t know small details like this… your story may fall flat- and not just to the people who KNOW the area. However, those of you who want to set your books in places far and away… there are still many resources and ways to get the overall feel- and no, I don’t mean go to Wikipedia. Find a friend who has been there- or has lived there. We don’t all have those expense accounts to travel… but the more in-depth your setting is- the more intriguing your book will be. Research can mean spending a bit of money to get that full effect… don’t be afraid to take that extra step and make the most out of your planning.

 

00winerWINE: Naked Grape Pinot Grigio

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