Why I Write Fantasy: A Post About Possibilities, Magic, and He-Man

by John Howe

“Why did you pick that genre? Why fantasy?”

It is almost a strange question to me, like why do you breathe air. Though of course, sometimes I don’t breathe air — sometimes I hold my breath and swim deep into the seas of historical fiction or Gothic romance.

But I always resurface soon enough, always drawn back into worlds of magic, of epic struggles between reluctant heroes, and bold villains, of landscapes beyond belief — but not quite beyond imagination.

Buy why? And when did this begin?

The answer is that I grew up with no lack of fantastic worlds to delve into. As a young child, Mary Poppins, Dumbo, and Pinocchio were as oft repeated as The Music Man and The Sound of Music (note: I never said I was a normal child).

But I also can’t remember the first time I watched the original Star Wars trilogy (I know there’s a difference between sci-fi and fantasy, and some people consider Star Wars fantasy anyway — but for me, any speculative story is what I mean when I say fantasy).

There is no time, no moments or days, that precede me being in love with — and in awe of — Star Wars. The light saber battles, noble Jedi knights, and the terrible (and completely awesome) Lord Vader. And the funny robots. In a lot of ways, that perfect popcorn-bliss ball is something I still strive for in my own writing — and so do a lot of others.

But other stories existed early on for me right alongside that Perfect Trilogy. He-Man chiefly, as well as The Last Unicorn, and our Apple II computer’s pixel-licious version of Choose Your Own Adventure: The Cave of Time. Oh, and Robin Hood — both the Kevin Cosner and animated Disney fox versions. Equally.

And of course books: Fables and fairy tales, adventures and beautifully illustrated childrens’ books about the numerology of crows (12 is for joy tomorrow), the value of journeying East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and how, if you’re Barney Bipple, you should spend your magical dandelion wishes on practical things — like a talking dog and a new baby brother.

But, the counterpoint to all stories that have touched and changed me, past and present, is and has always been nature. I don’t believe I could write the fantasy I do without having grown up where I did.

I was born, literally, in the house I still live in down a mile-long dirt road in Oglethorpe County. I sleep about 30 feet from where I was born — I guess you could say I haven’t gone very far yet in life.

We lived on seven acres, five of which were wooded. My sister and I grew up illegally home-schooled outside the system by our mom, a former math teacher, and our dad, a nurse. It was a good, secluded, new agey upbringing — where magic crept in amongst the edges of the everyday. I was raised hearing that fairies played out in the garden, dancing under the leaves of Mom’s beloved flowers and herbs. Dad thanked the ‘wind spirits’ if — while on vacation — we had a good day sailing, and we learned that tiny triangles on crystals meant they had carried messages from ancient civilizations.

But we were encouraged to read, to grab an encyclopedia (back when all the knowledge of the world could be bound in 28 volumes) or the dictionary to answer any question, and yet — we were not guided, not told any things were real or not real. Everything was possible. And so I grew up — while non-religious — still placing Jesus and the Ark and the garden of Eden in the same realm of accepted reality as Bigfoot, aliens, unicorns, and New York City. All existed in a world large enough for every incredible thing to be true — if one sought it with enough dedication.

A teenage favorite of mine

For me, in writing, the fantastic has always been life as it is, but turned up to 11. Nature is an 11 by itself. I remember many a childhood play session outdoors (you have a lot of free time if you don’t go to school — I think our mom kind of quit our formal education after age nine). I would watch the ants hustle and climb their way to victorious feasts both large and small, and I would carefully flatten and decorate the sand under where faded goldfish bones were buried.

Ah yes, death (and birth) were an easy companion in the world of our little farm. I understood which bush the placenta that had accompanied me into this world was buried, as well as where a beloved dog I had been too young to remember yet knew the name of was buried. The dog’s grave was hollowed ground to me, buried beneath a gate long before I understood that as a metaphor. And my grandmother loved a story of us finding a dead rabbit and I swung on a swing all afternoon, holding the already stiff rabbit by a leg, swinging higher and higher, unconcerned and even indifferent to the chasm between his world and mine.

There was a magic, a perfection from the dawn of my memory until my 21st year, when my grandmother got sick and this sort of perfect pause ended and a slightly more real, more adult life settled in — though it’s still a world of magic, I must say.

But those early, unfettered years allowed for play, and for storytelling — I was the wild horse of the plains, then later I added people to my stories, continuing sci-fi TV shows’ story lines in the long wait from week-to-week. I loved how big the worlds could be, how strange the situations, how much was required of people as they journeyed onto other planets, or back in time, to discover the impossible and the unexpected.

As teenagers, my sister and I acted out impromptu ‘episodes’ of favorites The X-Files, Earth 2, and SeaQuest — the latter, on one evening, turning into a story of philosophy and almost religious revelation. Sadly no texts remain, only memories.

And now, of nature. Again. I have realized that nature is ‘ The center of my center, the heart of my heart.’ There is no question to which the answer is not found in the natural world. Just this summer I walked in an old growth forest in Western North Carolina, and wept in front of 300 year old popular trees, and if I doubted magic for one second in this world, all my doubts were swept away as I walked across a literal wooden floor made only from the living, woven roots of giants. We also saw the ghost of poet Joyce Kilmer, in the shape of an Appalachian Cottontail but that’s a story for another day.

from Our State Magazine

And so again, I circle back to the question — why fantasy? I love reality; I deeply admire a well-researched, true life story. The world has many beautiful dramas, and funny comedies. The common person is never commonplace. And yet…

J.R.R. Tolkien described the great city of Gondor in Lord of the Rings as “…not builded, but carved by giants out of the bones of the earth.” That is all I seek: great writing and the great bones beneath the reality of what we see and understand. A pattern and structure to explain why we are gifted with angels and poets and prophets at the exact moments in our lives when we need them most, and how we can find grace and meaning in a leaf or a rainbow or a Heron flying overhead on our mother’s dying day.

by Alan Lee

Another writer, Francois Rabelais, said, ‘I go to seek a great perhaps.’ I was raised on ‘perhaps-es’ — in a world where anything was possible and even likely, the world of Atlantis and the Moon landings, of dragons, both mythic and Komodo, a world free of bullies, but also lacking in new friends. A world of a thousand doors, a thousand magical experiences awaiting me only to discover how to turn the key.

The true reason I love to write those stories is that only fantasy can capture the magic I have experienced when discovering a pepper moth camouflaged against the forest floor, only sci-fi can envision worlds as grand as the order behind the universe in which we have been given, and only horror can return to the world the awe to which it is owed.

I only write of magic, because I have only seen magic — in all my days and in each of you — and I hope to leave a little bit of enchantment behind me before I pass under my final gate.

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What Will You Do in 2018?

loveprintstudio.blogspot.dk

Few people recognize the symbolic value of the blank slate, the clean page, more than writers. Whether looking at our characters, our projects, or the actual blank page in front of us, we know that possibility is a magic few recognize in all its potency.

The idea of  ‘New Year’s goals’ has acquired a cynical sheen in today’s society — many of us make them either in bad faith or we softly snicker at those who create such plans and count down the days until that donut is eaten, or that new project is abandoned.

It is easier to laugh at our human shortcomings than to embrace the profound weight of our enduring strengths. Because, as Spider-Man says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I love that responsibility. I love the power you and I have to create a 2018 for the ages. A year from now you can be in disbelief about how much you have accomplished, and so can I. The question then is: How much do you love the beauty you have been given?

We are storytellers, artists, wordsmiths and teachers, and within us lie worlds undiscovered and un-shared. Be like your heroes and write the words coursing through your soul, share the stories and lessons shining from their private and scared alters, and act in the manner of the glorious and the gladdened. Whether you create for yourself, the world, or a host of angels, this year take up the actions of your heart — and take them seriously.

 The next 365 days are yours. You may dance in them, adventure through them, cry at their indescribable beauties and at their searing sorrows. Be challenged by them, taught by them, confounded by them — but they are yours.

They respond to you, to your beck and call, to your intentions and your actions. Under hard work, they bloom. Sprinkled with inspiration, they sparkle. Blessed with your faith and fanaticism, they will turn the next year into a paradise, a wonderland of exhaustion and excitement, of hard work and amazing victories, of goals sought and revelations found. There is nothing trivial — no meat for the cynic — in the land you and I are envisioning.

We see the beauty that is but the reflection of the seeker.

Diply

The successes of this new year will be built with strength, for inspiration, by dedication. The victorious will be the passionate and purposeful. They will illumine the Earth, and set the stars to jealousy.

Their work will realign the cosmos. Their journeys will become legend. The statues built in their honor will tower for a hundred years.

They will be you and me. We will be the prototypes of a new renaissance.

And when you share your vision with the world, the every one of us will see the beauty of this existence a little clearer.

I can’t wait.

B. Lovely Events

Upward and onward,

Katherine Cerulean

2016: Let’s Be Honest

from fromupnorth.com

from fromupnorth.com

So, I really want to have a knock-down, drag-out with 2016 to figure out what happened, what went wrong, and how to make 2017 amazing. I know a lot of people who have had similarly adversarial relationships with this past year.

That said, when I get honest I sometimes depress people by talking about the highs and lows in vivid detail (I think I permanently scarred my sister when she read an unpublished piece about my relationship woes; I thought it was funny stuff).

So, since this is mostly about me and the challenges of this year, feel free to skip it and we’ll pick back up with something more positive next time. BUT I do feel like the lessons of 2016 have propelled me into the most important new phase in ten years (more on ‘Phase Two’ in my next post).

For those who choose to remain: Beware, for here be monsters.

from theberry.com

from
theberry.com

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

This year I completed my best novel ever, the first draft of which I finished on a beautiful spring day while sitting on a hilltop and feeling as one with nature and the universe, and marveling at my own abilities.

I also cried like three times on my birthday in November — and none of those times were from joy.

So that about sums up 2016.

What went wrong?

Well, this year just had some challenges (though I’m very lucky and blessed overall). In January someone going 40 rear-ended me at a stop light and totaled our car. I was fine and his insurance paid, but it was a lot of stress at the time. We had a rat in our house for the first time, which lead to a month-long odyssey to get rid of him (my respect for rats increased multi-fold).

Then our grandmother died. Her health had been failing for a while but it was my and my sister’s first big loss since our mother died twelve years ago.

I also picked some goals that were not perfect in retrospect. My goal to enter a 60 mile cycling ‘fun ride’ in May was both ambitious and not super-fun to achieve, and it didn’t help me from slipping from fit to fat as the year wore on.

I also planned to submit 500 queries to agents, or resumes to businesses and websites— all in an effort to make something happen this year. I probably submitted about 150, mostly to no effect.

So that’s the bad. Oh yeah, and I was waaayy excited about driving a European musician from north Alabama to New Orleans (dreams and romantic fantasies included) only to have the trip be canceled last minute (amazing, heartfelt, 7,500 word piece about that is in the works).  😉

Oh, and the election was a heartbreaker for me.

It’s not that so many bad things happened, it’s just that I really wanted big, good things to happen. I wanted to get an agent and sell my novel. I wanted to get in my best shape ever. I wanted to get a boyfriend. And get out of my retail job.

None of those things happened, and as they say, expectation is the root of misery. On the other hand, a lot of very good things happened in 2016. Sarah and I always have a best of the year list, and mine included —

Highlights of 2016

  1. Finishing ‘Society & Civility’. My best book yet, and the one I had to rewrite the most. I’m very proud.
  2. Finishing one television pilot, one screenplay, and ‘Triad’ first draft. My young adult, superhero novel ‘Triad’ had been brewing more a while, as had my renewed interest in writing for the screen.
  3. The whole stupid canceled trip to New Orleans. I got to hang out with my sister instead, and felt more than I had in a long time (it was bad feelings but those too are valuable for writers).
  4. Hearing Frank Turner live again. The closest thing I’ve found to a shot of pure inspiration.
  5. Eating at The National (the best restaurant in Athens, GA) for the first time.
  6. Some other good stuff.

But as a whole, the challenges seemed to overshadow the triumphs. So what did go wrong? And how can I right the ship in 2017 and ensure that I don’t end up crying on my 38th birthday?

from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

— 2017 Plans —

  1. Set goals you can achieve. 500 query letters just wasn’t very realistic for someone who can only write about one every thirty minutes (and it might not even be the best way to get an agent).
  2. Align your goals with your dreams. In the same way, being out of my retail job by the holidays pretty much meant I would just have had to go find a different retail job — not really my goal. And cycling 60 miles in one day proved something, but it didn’t mean I’m healthier now than last year.
  3. Get back on track quickly. The best times of last year were the weeks and months that my sister and I were on track, getting rid of clutter, eating right, and working on our writing and art goals. But the aforementioned hardships (car totaled, Grammy passing, trip falling through) led to extended periods of eating badly and not doing much toward our dreams. In hindsight, I would have pushed harder to get back on course sooner.
  4. Figure out what you really want. Part of my unhappiness was born of really wanting to move into a new phase of my life (another longtime retail worker just mentioned to me that, between the two of us, we have been there almost 25 years — woof). I keep saying that I’ll have time for a boyfriend — when I’m living the life of my dreams. I’ll have a nice house when… I’ll be fit when… I’ll travel when… And these things have became tied to me being a professional writer who lives off what I earn. Oh, and I’ve decided it’s cool not to have children as long as I can have a great career. So, as you can imagine, each year that hasn’t found me becoming a ‘professional writer’ has added my confusion. Hence the crying on my birthday. When will this ‘pay off’? Of course, I have a great, enjoyable life as is, but I do have desires unfulfilled. I think I need to date and travel and make the house nicer now — not just plan for someday when I have my dream job.
  5. Make a perfect life here and now. A lot of my plans for 2017 involve living my dream life in the present moment. I want to write a lot and on projects that I love and that excite me. Basically, I want to act like I’m already being paid to write what I love most, like millions of people are clamoring for my next creation. I want to live in a minimal, clean home full of beauty. And I want to eat and exercise like I’m already achieving everything else I desire. And maybe I’ll even add in the happy chaos of dating someone.
  6. Realize that ‘Madness isn’t for everyone’ — but it might be right for me. That’s a new tattoo I’m thinking about getting (and an E.M. Forster quote). Basically, to me it means that the hard work, nay insanity, of living your dream life isn’t for everyone. A dream is a pretty thing that doesn’t take up much space but a goal — a dream unleashed — is a wild, vibrant, life-changing — and altering — force. I think that 2016 really saw me bringing my dreams out into the open and I think that caused a lot of chaos in my heart and in my life. My fantasies about the trip revealed my romantic side that had been neglected, while submitting queries and resumes showed how much I want to join the ‘professional’ writing world. These aren’t bad things, but they are hard. Saying our lives, and ourselves, are not perfect is never easy. I understand now that it’s part of the process of changing up my life and I’m prepared to suffer a little on the road to living my dreams.
  7. Do less. One thing about these big, new, exciting dreams is that they take a lot of effort. I think I want next year to be about doing a few things really well, instead of a lot of things okay. I’ve always loved the idea of boarding schools, or retreats — going somewhere and just living for one purpose. I’d love to really focus in 2017, and say I could end up with several great writing projects done, and the nicer house than ever, and feeling in shape. I want to back off on other things — bigger travel or even a new job — and really work on getting some amazing writing done.
  8. Let go. This year I pulled back from my role in the Athens Writers Association a little and told my writer friends of my plans to travel more and eventually live in other places. It was hard. It felt like I was abandoning them and destroying what we’ve built together. But it’s not my future. I created the group I wanted, and love all the wonderful experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met. But now I feel drawn in new directions and would feel resentful if I felt like I had to stay and oversee the AWA forever. If it is meant to be in the long-term, the AWA will belong to others. In the same way, my sister and I had some amazing trips up to visit our grandparents on the lake and those times are changing too. I think the more wholeheartedly we can release the rhythms of the past that no longer serve us, the quicker we can change our lives for the better and embrace our destinies.87955017bc1fa5715cea2f755db2b36b
  9. Read the writing on the wall. Honestly, some of the pain of 2016 came really from not seeing reality very clearly. Now, I’m a huge fan of dreams and possibility but I probably should have been more aware — that the dream trip might not happen, the Republican candidate could win, and that a Jane Austin-inspired novel might be a challenging sell. Big goals are still good, but it helps to be open to things not always working out as expected.
  10. Just ride it out. Stuff happens. That’s just life. There’ll always be little issues and annoyances. And one of the more important things that happened last year, losing our grandmother, had been on the horizon for a while. Life is always going to have its share of challenges. Even a ‘perfect life’ with the dream job and house, would still have colds and oil changes and accidents. Some part of life is just handling what’s thrown at you with grace. And 2016 threw a few things at me. I’m still working on the grace part.
  11. Spend more time on what you love. Some of the best times in 2016 were doing fun things with my sister, and cycling through the beautiful countryside, and writing. Especially the writing. Even now, when I’m tired, a little bummed out, and just about done with 2016 (I wrote the first draft of this mid-December), I’m still happy to be writing. To have gotten up early to write, and to be planning all the great fiction I’ll create in the new year.
  12. Grow better instead of just growing old. In 2016 I learned that I’m now in the ‘middle-aged’ group. I still feel young but I do know that time is passing. And I’m thankful because I feel like I’m so much more improved now as a person than I was 10 or 15 years ago. I’m a better person, a better writer. And I think the important thing is to take even bigger steps next year to become the person I want to be and live a life I love — now and for years to come.
from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

from TheFunnyBeaver.Com

NOTE: Since I wrote this in late December, I’ve had a very exciting Christmas when my beloved sister Sarah gave me a replica of Thanduril’s sword.

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That character has always been special to me and this sword is a huge symbol to me. I’m ready to be worthy of wielding such a weapon, and it’s a reminder to be daring and ‘all-in’ in my writing and my life.

Sarah and I have made some awesome new habits in our life and when you do that, to quote Sarah’s 2017 mantra — ‘Everything changes.’ Next post I’ll get into what we are doing and how you too can make 2017 the best year yet.

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Moment: A Poem

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We, by nature, are creatures of want, creatures of need.  We need shelter, food, and even, I would argue, we need love.

Our wants of course, are endless.  From the noblest desire for world peace to the hope of people ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ our latest online pic, there is no limit to our wants.

‘More’ is one of our greatest wants. There’s nothing a small child loves more than a cookie — unless it’s TWO cookies. It is a natural desire, not necessarily born from selfishness or greed in my opinion, but in the best circumstances born from love.

We’ve enjoyed something so much, it’s bettered our life in ways un-imagined, and honestly we simply never want to do without it again.

When I find certain people — just a few times in my life, I want more. To paraphrase F.Scott Fitzerald, I want to do everything in the world with them.

But, in another way, just getting to meet someone IS the world. Time quite likely is an abstraction of our own making, and so I like to believe this meeting will continue and exist somewhere, forever.

I don’t have to be everywhere they are, involved in every conversation.  We were connected once — through a good conversation or a good laugh — and that moment will echo in a sacred glade where all the clocks have broken.

I probably think such things to lessen the pain of releasing friends and lovers into the world, to leave them to their wiles. I can only hope fate is kind, their loved ones steadfast, and that they sense, somewhere in their hearts, how very much they are loved.  Even if I only shared in a few minutes of their glory.

A few minutes.  For the ‘more’ crowd, that’s nothing, that’s pointless.  What’s an egg-timer-length conversation in a life? What’s one exchange, one joke? Surely that can’t change my life, or theirs?

And how can there be meaningful connection with someone who chooses not to be connected? Whether distance or work or love drives someone from your sphere — then they and you are nothing to each other and share nothing, right?

Not in my mind. A connection can only be the meeting of the eyes, a fleeting understanding between souls on a crowded street — lines running from infinity to infinity and only crossing once. On this day, in this moment.

In this moment.

If we always want more, and believe only quantity matters — if years and joint mortgages and fifty year friendships are the only measure of worth, of connection, of love — then we are doomed to always desire more. We simply cannot have everything, all the time, with everyone. And like the child wanting that extra cookie, we may discover that more is not better.  Would your life really have space for forty best friends, six dream jobs, or three soul mates?

Perhaps life instead, gives us moments. Best friends for a day. That summer we thought we would become fashion designers. A few bright fall days when we felt we’d met a soul mate.

As a human, I desperately want more of everything I love. More beautiful walks in nature. More gourmet meals with my sister. More times of looking into someone’s eyes and understanding exactly what their words cannot say. More moments with you.

But there’s someone out there who has taken their last walk, and eaten their last meal, and they still are blessed and gifted by all they have seen and done. Memories is a dead term, I prefer to dwell in moment.

I have experienced so much and so joyfully that I can never be sorry for the brevity when the berth has been so great. I speak of longing but I sing of gratitude.

The day we release ‘more’ ironically is the day we are given everything. Perfect satisfaction. Perfect experience. True friendship. True love.

Because when you don’t need to possess anything, the whole world belongs to you. The length of a connection is no more meaningful than length of a sunrise — you either experience it or you don’t. You’re best friends for the length of a laugh, lovers for the batting of an eye, family for the duration of a meal.

Still, we are human and we want. I do not require a lifelong ally, or a lifetime of friendship. All I desire now is a million more seconds of connection with you.

And yet, in this moment, I find everything I seek.

What’s Your ’10’ Career?

Just a couple of days ago I sat down to make a business plan while waiting in a Chinese restaurant for my takeout order to cook (tip: if you can’t figure out a surefire plan for your business in ten minutes, then why bother? 😉  The only thing I had time to do was make a list of 11 money-making ideas related to writing, and then rate each idea on a interest/excitement level of 1-10 (ten being screaming-at-the-ceiling-excited [so what, I scared a few patrons]).  I put down the numbers as fast as I could, with a minimum of thought.  The idea here was to get an almost subconscious feeling for how much I wanted to pursue these options.  That idea may sound touchy-feely, but I believe that what draws you in is also where you have your greatest potential.

from AhteesDesigns on Etsy

from AhteesDesigns on Etsy

As I wrote down the numbers, I was surprised — there were strong feelings, and no hesitancy, in my actions.  When I looked back at the list, the path — usually so muddied by my indifference as to HOW I earned a living writing — was suddenly crystal clear.

My List:

  • Novels: Self Published      — 3
  • Novels: Traditional            — 10
  • Screenplays                         — 9
  • Self Improvement Books   — 7
  • Articles                                 — 1
  • Teaching                              — 2
  • Teleplays                             — 1o
  • Greeting Cards                   — 1
  • Editing                                 — -1
  • Web Site Design                 — 3-5

The truth, however scary, was right before my eyes.  I might enjoy writing articles (like this one!) and teaching for free, but my soul blanched at the idea of doing that as a job.  The problem with this ‘revelation’ was that I already was making plans to push it this fall and write for Huffingtonpost, set up paid classes, etc. etc.  But my list said (since I already have a ‘day job’ that pays the bills) that I should only really be working on four things — novels, screenplays, teleplays, and self improvement books.

Woah.  That IS what I want to be doing, but is it also what I SHOULD be doing?  To answer that, I need to go back and introduce you to a book that absolutely changed my life.

from mariongundersonart.com

from mariongundersonart.com

What are your strengths?

The online Strengthfinder test (which you get a code to take when you buy a NEW copy of the book ‘Now, Discover Your Strengths), has 34 themes or ‘talents’ that a person can have, like Includer, Intellection, Input, Positivity,  or Responsibility (those are actually my themes).  You get your top five revealed and for me, it was a life changer.

Like never before, I was able to see my positive qualities laid out before me.  These talents are so integral to who I am and come so easily to me that I took them for granted. They are the traits that, when praised, make us say with a dismissive wave of the hand, ‘Oh, everyone thinks like that’, but other people are drawn in and in awe of your abilities.  And we ALL have talents, but often we can’t see them without help — we’re just too close to their source.

Talents like ‘Intellection’ (the ability to think deeply about things), when combined with knowledge (like how to build a story) and skills (hours upon hours spent writing) equals a strength (fiction writer).  It’s soul-level compulsion meeting a thing you love to learn about and do on a regular basis.

from Huffington Post

from
Huffington Post

How does this fit into your life (and mine)?  Well, I highly (HIGHLY) recommend buying the book, just in case it gives you a fraction of the joy it’s given me.  But for now, look at the list of talents and see if any jump out at you —

Now, any talent can help any job — ‘Self-Assurance’, say, is helpful everywhere.  But, when combined with your personality and passion — your talents can push you in certain directions.  If you look back at my list of money-making writing ideas, you’ll notice that teaching rated quite low.  I’ve done it from time to time, and even enjoyed parts of the experience, but it’s also nerve-wracking, exhausting, draining.  I love the results — happy students and a chance to think more about a topic (that ‘Intellection’ again) — but the idea of doing it all the time for money sounds tiring.  Also, none of my talents involve people except ‘Includer’, so a ‘Maximizer’ or ‘Developer’ might be more at home in a teaching setting.

On the other hand, take novel writing.  I’m as happy as a pig in slop.  Oh, the work is still hard, but I want to be doing it all the time.  And it makes sense when you look at my talents:

  • Includer — I love to look at the misunderstood, broken, forgotten characters and try to understand them and pull them into the story
  • Intellection — Thinkin’ about stuff 24/7/365
  • Input — Learning about Victorian England, old-fashion carriages, the experences of orphans, the periodic table –everything’s interesting!
  • Positivity — Novels take a long time, but faith that I can finish and finish well keeps me going
  • Responsibility — Doesn’t tie in exactly, but it helps me manage myself and get the work done (sometimes)

 

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Now, doing what you love and enjoy can sound like an overly simple answer.  But if you think about it, even now, at whatever job you’re doing, there are facets of your job that draw you in and others that repel you.  Try doing what you love a little more and the things you dislike less.  Seriously.  Stop doing the junk you hate and see if anyone notices.  I did this at my ‘day job’ and now our department has risen to be ranked in the top ten out of over 1,000 stores.  I didn’t do it alone, but I’m sure spending time on the things I was more passionate about helped.

The risk in not following your talents and passions is that you can work very hard and not really get ahead or have anything to show for it.  You can give your life away to the ‘supposed-to’s and only end up with the ‘oughta-haves’.

But if instead you make your own list, and write down — real quick — your own 1-10s, you may discover what you should be doing with your life.  And if you find a way to use your universe-given talents in service of your passion?  Well then, we should all get out of your way, because you might just be about to take off like a rocket.

from Etsy

from Etsy

And now, I’ve got to get back to that screenplay.  And that novel.  😉

The Inelegant Balance Between Being Right and Becoming Better

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Now, we all want to be right — to be smart, admired, to think for ourselves and not let anything sway our convictions.  But at a certain point does certainty inhibit progress?

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I’ve been asking myself this question a lot in 2015.  Firstly, as I move forward toward becoming a professional writer, I have started thinking more about what audiences want — and deserve.  A little background: I’ve been a follow-your-vision, write-only-what-interests-you, write-what-you-love-and-the-money-will-follow type for years and years now.  And as I started to discuss the idea of writing more toward the audience’s desires with other writers, I heard my own arguments returned to me again and again.

“I think you’ll be more successful if you just follow your heart.”

“It’s more interesting to just create what you like.”

“Doing what others tell you and chasing popular opinion is no way to live your life.”

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True.  True.  True.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that just being self-satisfied with ‘being me’ wasn’t — actually — helping me get better.  I wanted to take the confidence (and experience) of listening to my inner voice and pair it with something more — with the tumultuous seas of outside opinion.

Rarely has the universe responded so quickly as it did now. 😉  Within weeks of seriously starting to think about this issue, I was challenged with a huge question — Did I want to be right, or better?

I had sent my newest novel, the 1810s-set Society & Civility, out to several friends for feedback.  But this novel — you have to understand — it had become such a favorite with me.  Ever since I’d started it last fall, I had enjoyed its world and characters so much, reread it several times almost just for fun, and thought it was a huge step forward for me as a writer.  It was a lark, a love story — and the best thing I’d ever written.  SO.  When the reviews came in there was a lot of love (most rated it 7 to 8.6 out of 10) and a BIG problem.  Toward the end of my story it totally breaks with the whole Jane Austin genre.  I knew that might be a problem, which is why I’d sought feedback before completing any more drafts.  People didn’t understand or like ‘the twist’ (as it came to be called).

I held out hope that my sister (the last of my beta readers) would feel the same way as I did and ‘get it’ as it were.  Then the crushing blow came — she felt the exact same way as the other readers.  So my perfect novel wasn’t considered by others to be perfect at all — now what?

Found on coolartcanvas.com

Found on coolartcanvas.com

Well, here was the puzzle of pleasing the audience writ large: they loved the book except for the twist.  Did I hold fast and complete it as was — the way I loved it — or should I change it?  I knew I could just brush off the opinions of these smartest, kindest friends — all creators and lovers of this genre — and tell myself that *my* audience would totally get my choices — whenever and under whatever rock I’d find this mystery group.

But– but.  In my heart of hearts I knew these were my readers — and I’d let them down.  I could always have a copy of *my* edition, but now what?  Didn’t I want to challenge myself and make a story everyone could fall in love with?  Didn’t I want to become BETTER that I was?  The answer — after only thinking about quitting writing six times in one morning — was yes.

fatfreedom.net

fatfreedom.net

So far the rewrite is going well.

So when you come up against that question, that challenge — should I listen to others or go my own way? — I would ask yourself:

  1. WHO is giving you this feedback?  Are these people you respect, people you want to emulate, or people who have valuable experience?  There no point in following someone down a road you don’t want to travel anyway.  In the example above, I had every reason to admire these readers and believe that they would give good advice.  In a different example, a co-worker was recently applying for a job I’d previously held for two years and I offered to help them out and answer any questions they had.  They pretty well blew me off, believing they already knew ‘everything’ about the position.  I was someone with insight and a desire to help — and that could have been a powerful resource to help them if they’d been willing to listen.
  2. WHY are they telling you this?  Some people just like to complain, nitpick, or put others down and you should never be using these people to judge your work or your life.  But if you’ve asked someone for their advice, you should listen because you probably thought they had something valuable to say — you know, before they told you what you didn’t want to hear.  And if you are creating products you want people to buy, consume, or love — you need to listen double-hard.  Most likely, they are disappointed — and now they are trying to help you — maybe imperfectly, maybe in the human language of anger or frustration — but what they take the time to tell you are the words a hundred other customers may have walked away with still written in their hearts.
  3. Are YOU 100% happy with your results?  If the answer is yes, you’re done.  Stand firm.  Tell the rest to go to hell and hold true to your path.  Discover your fans and let them discover you.  But… if in your heart you know you could be better, then listen.  Acknowledge that you may be very good — you’re at least very smart and full of potential — but you not as good as you could be.  So learn a better way to jog, take a class to improve your painting skill, and be open to starting anew on that book.  If you see a gap, you owe it to yourself to bridge it and get better.  Even if the gap is just between the audience’s expectations and your design.
  4. Are you EXPERIENCED enough to weed out the noise?  This is high-level stuff, this balancing of being true to yourself and listening to others, and I want you to side 100% with your heart and intuition until you’re ready for this level 16 challenge.  Keep in mind that you always get to decide in the end — listening to others and getting feedback is nothing more than offering you more options to choose from.  And like I said, beware unsolicited advice, negative people, and anyone who truly doesn’t ‘get’ what you’re trying to do.  You really are trying to separate the wheat from the chaff here (okay, not really 🙂 — what you are looking for is that small bit of advice that interests you, challenges you, and makes you say ‘Damn it — they might be right’.
  5. Will this help you get BETTER?  In the end, it doesn’t matter if the critics are right or wrong if their advice hurts your progress.  Weird but so true.  With young writers, my secret feeling is ‘Yes, you are not there yet, but all you need is ten years of enthusiastic hard work.  Then you’ll be great.’  No one really wants to hear that, they want the shortcuts — but you can still bleed from those cuts.  Don’t wound yourself upon the opinions of others if you’re not ready.  I loved my first critique group but then came a time that I felt I must withdraw, and grow in secret like a mushroom, pushing out of the leaf litter and into the sun only when fully formed.  And now I’m ready to face the light.

I believe you can get 95% of the way to your goal under your own steam, keeping your secret counsel, and trusting your instincts.  But when it comes time to finese the final pieces, to push yourself further than you know how to go, you have to seek, to see beyond your own faith and fallacies, to press and push yourself ever upward — to become more than you are, more than you thought you could be.

To stop being good and to become truly great.

Found on llhdesignsblog.com

Found on llhdesignsblog.com

 

How to Tune Out the Noise

I recently led a class about ‘How to Reevaluate Your Life’.  Some readers will remember that I’ve talked about this topic a couple of times before and so I felt pretty confident.  I printed handouts, talked for over an hour, and thought I’d covered my bases pretty well.  Then — during the Q & A portion of the class — I got a question that threw me for a loop.

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Found on ritholtz.com

 

Jill Hartmann-Roberts — wonderful person, talented writer, and fellow Athens Writers Association founder, asked how I drowned out the ‘noise’ of other people and the world to live the life I wanted to live.  In essence, her question pinpointed a weak spot in my talk: I’d focused on how to realize if you wanted a different life, how to find goals that mattered to you, and how to pursue your goals.  But I hadn’t addressed:

  • How to deal with friends, family, and coworkers who continually ask for your help
  • What to say to people who belittle or challenge your goals
  • How to balance your idea of an ideal life with society’s definitions of success
  • How to say ‘no’ to extra work when you’re a nice person
  • Creating what you want even when others don’t like it
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Found on uniquelywomen.net

Of course Jill’s a super-nice person and didn’t ask her question in any way to challenge me.  But I was struck by what a good question it was.  I thought about it and answered as best I could (in the on-your-toes manner that talks necessitate).  But I thought that the answer also deserved a more complete response, because it’s really hard to live the life of your dreams and the life society has ordained for you at the same time.

This question is challenging for me because I kind of don’t give a fig about peoples expectations anymore.  But why and when did this happen?  I’m a sensitive soul (to quote The Lion King) and an unhappy customer at my retail job can almost reduce me to tears, so why don’t I feel the pull to follow your people expectations in my own life?

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To answer that question, let’s look at the sources of this ‘noise’ and how you can negate its impact on your life —

— Not So Fun Noise-Makers —

Well-Meaning ‘Correctors’

Whether parents, siblings, or friends, these people have life all figured out and want to point out the folly of your path.  Maybe they think you can only be happy married with kids, or by becoming an accountant, or by moving up the ladder at work.  At their best, they have found something that has brought them much joy and want you to experience it too (certainly many a yoga/health food/exercise fan has sought to convert others [I’m as guilty as anyone]).  At their worst, what they suggest has made them miserable but they still think you should follow their common wisdom.

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Consumertainment

Not exactly who we want to think is influencing us, but almost invariably ‘they’ are.  Who’s this ‘they’?  People who are paid to make us desire the latest car, the newest tech, and promise us the best night of our lives if we buy a certain beer or soft drink.  And even my beloved entertainment industry is little better, though I’d argue the sins committed there are more often from ignorance than cruelty (to paraphrase Anna Sewell).  There’s a great post about How The Karate Kid Ruined the Modern World.  Hollywood (and other pop culture) is about wish fulfillment, and fantasy.  I think back to how people wanted to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance and banter during the second World War — beauty and joy and escapism in a troubled time.  Fantasy has its place — but don’t let it ruin your real life.

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Braggarts

These people think they are better than you, or know someone better than you, and maybe just like to compare their favorite, most famous authors (artists, actors, etc) in history to you.  Even a ‘Ha ha, well it’s not Shakespeare!’ can hurt an author.  A lot of us may think ‘Hamlet’ is the greatest thing ever written in the English language and yet to be cut short, clamped down on — it stifles us and our potential.  And somebody will be the next Shakespeare.  And I will be the one and only Katherine Cerulean and being compared to people who are doing different things, with different aims, with more experiences, isn’t going to help me get there.

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The ‘Need’y

Oh, not the truly needy — the poor, uneducated, etc — by all means, take some time to give your energies or money to them.  Who I’m talking about is the ‘needers’ in your life.  If you have a job, and take care of your house/family, and are pursuing your dreams and goals — you are probably a hard-working and reliable individual.  And those are worth their weight in gold.  So you may find everyone — your church, your child’s school, neighbors, work friends, charities, interest groups you belong to — everyone may ask you for help.  What each person asks maybe be small, but it all adds up.  And if you say no, you may be called selfish.

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The Biz Experts

Whatever your dream is, there’s probably a business for it, and there are probably stars, CEOS, critics, trend-watchers, and more who will gladly expound on the ‘rules’ for succeeding.  And some of this can be very good advice.  But a lot of it is just what worked for them, combined with fear — business can often breed conservatism: do what worked before, and don’t try anything new.

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Second Guessers

This may be more internal noise than external.  You may find yourself wondering if your doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right field.  You might feel you should be doing more.  It can become stifling.  We have met the enemy and he is us.

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How Do We Tune Out the Noise?

It’s not always easy.  The people interrupting our flow are our friends, our family, even ourselves.  But if you want to do truly great things, we need to be able to concentrate and trust ourselves. So here’s how to deal with —

  • Well-Meaning ‘Correctors’  This is probably the hardest category because ‘correctors’ are often family members, and they have an out-sized influence over us.  The best defense I know is to remember is ‘they don’t know you as well as you do’.  You know if you can get in shape for that marathon, move to that new city, or ask that guy out.  At best they are guessing about your abilities and interest.  ONLY YOU KNOW.  It helps if you can (privately) find humor in their suggestions.  Keep in mind that they are probably trying to help you avoid pain, and that they may still see you as that little kid you once were.  In the end, they will be happy for you if you succeed on our own terms — otherwise they are people who you should have limited contact with in your life.  Period.

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    Found on onlybutaglimpse.tumblr.com

  • Consumertainment  Remember that the whole industry exists to sell you things (even if it’s only a movie ticket).  And the sellers have had decades to perfect their pitches.  Though you want to be inspired by people who are living their dream lives, look for reality first.  What are the best moments in your own life on a weekly or monthly basis?  Who have you met that seems happy and to be living the life of their dreams?  Reading articles and interviews can help you understand the day-to-day lives of famous people (though beware that a biography is also a product and may be filled with stories meant to sell it).  Recently, I started listening to the podcast Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin (it’s really good), and Alec said something that stuck with me.  He, while talking about Hollywood said something like, “There are things I like about it and things I hate about it.  I love my job, but it is a job.”  Some might say Alec is ungrateful; I think he was just honest.  No marriage, friendship, or career is perfect.  I love, love, LOVE writing — and yet it’s so much harder as a job than a lot of things I could have done.  It’s hard because I care.  It’s not just sipping lattes and daydreaming (for instance, right now I’m sipping a Starbucks dark roast not a latte).  So stop comparing your life to make believe — dragons and giant robots and the Entourage life are all products of Hollywood writers’ imaginations.  f6f93a195c6ea61fa9906ca2509e87a9
  • Braggarts Honestly, I have found that shutting them down or shutting them out is the only way to deal with this type.  If the comments under the ‘help you out’ category, then the first time I’d thank the person for their advice.  “Stephen King uses a lot less commas than you do.”  “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”  But that may only encourage the braggart to keep comparing your work to everyone (including themselves) who they think is better.  Then I would say something like, “Thanks, but I have my own style and am doing my own thing right now and I’m not really interested in comparing myself to anyone else.”  If the person still keeps putting you/your work down, you have to understand that YOU are not necessary for their monologue; they are looking to inflate themselves or their ego by putting others down.  They probably can’t help it, but they are never going to change.  Cut them out of your life or, if they work with you and you can’t, make it absolutely clear you don’t want their opinion.  “Hey, sorry to interrupt you, but I really don’t enjoy talking about my work with you or hearing about yours.  Can we talk about something else?  Like how much we both hate the (local sports rivals)?  I think we’ll find we have a LOT to agree about on that topic.”

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    Found on mediawebapps.com

  • The ‘Need’y Jack Canfield (in his book, The Success Principles) says to ‘Say no so your yeses have more impact.’  Tell others that you have made a commitment to your family/job/dreams/health and you are going to have to say no to their offer/request.  You can soften the blow by posing a counter-offer — “Sorry, I’ve made a commitment to improve my health by running in a marathon in November so I’m going to have to say no to chairing the school fall festival this year.  But I would be happy give my notes from last year to the person you choose and they can email me if they have a few questions.”  Also, realize that you will do a better job on the things you do say yes to if you have less on your plate.  Lastly, think about the fact that as a useful person you will be needed to ‘help out’ from now until the end of your life, but that the best way you can help out — I’d argue — is to become a totally realized, extraordinary human being.  Being amazing at your life will bring money, connections, and even time into your existence which you can use to improve the world.  But, as Scott Adams says, ‘You have to be selfish first.’

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    Quote by Connor Franta

  • The Biz Experts There a quote from Steve Jobs — “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”  I think that sums up a lot of my beliefs about experts — they don’t know what the great new thing is until they see it.  And I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t get a consensus about what works, or which paths often lead to success.  But if anyone says no one of your background, age, etc has made it, remember to add silently — ‘…yet.’  You could be the first, but there may already be tons of successes that other people don’t know about.  As you develop your talents and if you’re passionate, you will start to see these gaps — things you wish existed but haven’t seen yet.  And believe me, the world is hungering for you to fill those gaps, for something amazing and different and exciting.  I think the world needs some Katherine Cerulean and needs it right now so I spend my time trying to hone my vision, to improve myself, all while remembering that what makes me special is exactly the thing ‘expects’ would probably want me to change.

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    Found on spoken.ly

  • Second Guessers The best thing I’ve found for this problem is to think deeply about a issue/goal/etc — whether over a few weeks or a concentrated couple of days — and then make a detailed plan with a timeline.  I decided to go Paleo for 6 month to get to my ‘perfect shape’.  After I decided that, I didn’t have to think about it anymore.  I was paleo.  I’m not saying it was easy, but I didn’t wonder after three weeks if I should quit it and try a different diet — I had already thought this through and made a plan.  Short of any health problems, I simply wouldn’t even consider another course of action till I had given this one a chance.  A timed goal can work for anything — it says you don’t have to worry about something every day and yet are monitoring it.  “If I still hate my job this much in one month I’ll send out 20 resumes.”  “We’ll do six months of ‘date nights’ and then see a counselor if our relationship hasn’t improved.”  One screenwriter suggested that every six months you ask ‘Is this making me happy?’  He was talking about writing but that could work for anything — just remember to quiet the second guessers (even yourself) while a timed goal is going on — you got this in hand.

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    Found on babydickey.com

In the end, noise is all around us, and always will be.  What changed for me was when I realized a few years ago that everyone deals with these issues and feelings and challenges.  I could either continue as I had been and be shy, lonely, and questioning for the next 10, 20, 30 years or I could become the kind of person who inspires others by doing the thing and having the power.  I could feel the fear and do it anyway.  It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been so worth it.  And somewhere along the way I lost a lot of my fear of what people think.  I have no magic answer, but I do know one thing for sure: you are SO IMPORTANT and so special and you deserve to fight through the noise and never stop fighting and claim the unique throne that is held only for you.

The world may be full of noise but, in the end, only you can silence your roar.

And only you can give yourself the time, space, and confidence to show the world how special you are.  Go get’em.

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2015: 10 Things That Are Inspiring My Writing

Even though the year isn’t over yet, I’m so excited about the things that are exhilarating me and moving my writing forward that I just had to share them (note: no real spoilers here, just a few lines of non-revealing dialogue) —

#1 — Hannibal

Hopefully season three isn’t the end, but if it was — what an ending!  I can’t even count all the ways this series awes me and makes me jealous.  It is more beautifully shot and designed, more intellectual, and has more intimate relationships than almost any series I have even seen.  I did feel like they lingered on the beauty a tiny bit long in the beginning of the season but  once they picked up the pace they were incredible.  This is one of those shows that has changed me and will be with me forever.  I want to make things this rich, this thoughtful, this surprising.

Hannibal Lecter: Killing must feel good to God, too. He does it all the time, and are we not created in God’s image?

Will Graham: Depends on who you ask.

 

#2 — Mad Max: Fury Road

The trailers looked so exciting, so balls-to-the-wall, so over the top that finally seeing the feature-length film had to be a letdown.

ONE WOULD THINK.

Instead, Fury Road managed to not only hold onto that excitement and craziness for two solid hours but it also added in a great plot, strong characters, and the best female hero the genre had seen since Sarah Conner.  And finding out that — on Amazon.com — silver spray edible cake frosting is ‘often bought with Mad Max: Fury Road’ has restored my faith in humanity.

Nux: If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die historic on the fury road!

 

#3 — Nate Ruess / Grand Romantic

I’ve really enjoyed Fun.  Now their lead singer’s new album has become one of my favorites of the year.  He has this emotive, beautiful, lilting voice and it just screams ‘story’ to me.  ‘Brightside‘ especially makes me want to write another love story.

Cause there’s just something about you my love
Something in the way you comb your hair
And fall apart at the seams

 

#4 — Friday Night Lights / Season 3

Aww FNL.  I started this series last year and have been waiting about six months between seasons.  I got past season 2 (the truncated sophomoric stumble) and watched FNL regain its footing and rise again like an eagle (or a panther) in full glory in season 3.

I love, love, love these characters.  I don’t care about football.  I don’t care about teenagers’ love lives.  I don’t care about small town politics.  But I care about everyone, and every second, of Friday Night Lights.

Tami: I love that about you.

Coach Taylor: What? That I can’t make a decision to save my life?

Tami: No. That you make the decision with such a conscience. What other coach would think like that? I think it’s because you’re a teacher first. You–you are a molder of men. And I find that admirable, and I find that very sexy.

 

#5 — Daredevil

I’m only halfway through this one, and yet have been blown away again and again by the writing and the visuals.  The use of light — greens and yellows and neon words shattered among the darkness of an endless night turn the hero’s blindness and growing heroism into a physical landscape.  And the introduction of the Kingpin rates among the best, and most surprising, entrances by a villain in TV history.  I believe Netflix has not only met the quality standards set forth by the Marvel movies, but in many ways it has eclipsed them.

Ben Urich: There are no heroes, no villains. Just people with different agendas.

 

6# — Jim Kroft / Journeys #1 & #2

How Jim Kroft isn’t famous yet I cannot say, but I’m sure he’s on his way.  ‘Journeys’ 1 & 2 are beautiful, imaginative, heartbreaking, and hopeful.  ‘Break For the Light’ is a perfect anthem for reaching for your true desires, but ‘Beijing Morning‘ is the one that breaks my heart every time.

Days may come and the days may go
Sometimes the demon is taking hold
I want the courage to make these steps
To walk from error and regret

 

#7 — The Unusuals

“You should watch ‘The Unusuals’.”  I kept hearing some version of that from my sister, again and again, over the last few years.  She’d seen it when it first came on, while I sometimes avoid new shows till I know if they’ll last.  Terrible, I know.  Well, this show didn’t last beyond its first season but it doesn’t matter, in one season it created more memorable characters, moments, and stories than many shows do given a decade.  Come for Jeremy Renner, and stay for the dialogue — heartbreaking in one moment and gut-busting in the next.  My only regret is that I didn’t see it sooner.

Det. Shraeger: I swear, if you took all the time that men wasted thinking about the female breast throughout history, there’d only be enough time to read a magazine.

Det. Walsh: What, like Juggs or Maxim?

Det. Shraeger: Yeah, you’re adorable.

 

#8 — Far From the Madding Crowd

O-M-G.  I’m not usually someone who goes gushy for love stories.  I really enjoy them, but only the well-done ones.  So I’d been aware of this movie because I love that 1800s English setting but I wasn’t sure if it was for me.  Then my friend and fellow writer Jill Hartmann-Roberts saw it and suggested we go see it together. Wow!  What a story.

There’s just something about the moments here, seconds when the light hits two people who were going about their lives, unites them in a pure second of love or lust or hate — and then the world spins on but each’s life is changed, almost ruined, because of that profound pause.  All the actors are great here, and the scenery is SO beautiful.

Bathsheba Everdene: From now on you have a mistress, not a master. It is my intention to astonish you all.

 

#9 — Dragon Age Inquistion

Bioware’s ‘Dragon Age’ series is one of my favorite sagas in video games.  ‘Dragon Age 2’ may always have the edge because, for me, it was like living and making choices inside an HBO drama — the characters were that well-written.  And you never forget your first Fenris romance!

That said, DR3 lived up to the hype and then some, with an unbelievably open world and an even better combat system.  It was the grandeur of the journey though, that caught me up most.  I don’t spend a lot of time gaming, and it can be easy for me to play around in an open world and then lose interest (see every Bethesda title ever [still enjoyed them!]).  DR3 seemed made to stop that from happening.  It united the expansive world of ‘Dragon Age 1’ with the climatic plotting of DR2, making you and your character change and grow along the way (one can feel the beats of Joseph Campbell — ‘and here the hero crosses the threshold’).  Havor, my Qunari warrior, progressed from captive to hero to leader of men — and found himself a flirty mage named Dorian along the way.  Not a bad for a hero’s journey.

Solas: I am surprised you do not practice blood magic, Dorian. Is it not popular in Tevinter?
Dorian: While we’re sharing surprises, you’ve done a lot less dancing naked in the moonlight than expected.
Solas: Tevinter lore about elves remains accurate as always.
Dorian: I wanted to see you make flowers bloom with your song, just once.

 

#10 — Chappie

‘Chappie’ is ten pounds of crazy in a five pound bag but, for me, it works.  Is it a drama?  A comedy?  An action movie?  It’s all these and more.  At its heart is Sharlto Copley — amazing and visionary — as the lead character.  Chappie learns and grows throughout the movie and since much of his ‘childhood’ is spent with hoodlums, the movie is both an indictment of violence amid poverty and an example of the power of love and family even in the worst of situations.

And it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

And filled with great action.

The best way to put it is: it’s a Neill Blomkamp story and — for some of us — that’s an awesome thing.

 

And still to come —

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • 007’s Spectre
  • The Martian
  • Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs movie
  • Crimson Peak

. . . and more.

Even though there haven’t been a ton of things to inspire me this year, the ones that have are off the charts!  If you have a second, tell me one of your current inspirations.

After all, this list could always use a Part 2 . . .

Back — and Better Than Ever

Hi there.  Remember me?  Sorry for the long absence since my last post, but I hope once you hear what I’ve been up to,  you’ll approve.

Found on graphicdesignjunction.com

First  of all, I want to say thank you to each and every person who follows this blog.  When I started writing here, I was imaging you all — you wonderful, creative, and inspiring individuals who I’m honored to write to — but I had no idea how fast this would come together or what fun I would have.
And I feel like this is a big moment of change for a lot of us.  My life is changing more than it ever has and in wonderful ways (more on that in my next post), and I feel like our journey together is also beginning an exciting new phase . . . if you’re willing to continue adventuring with me that is, and I hope you are.  It’s going to be very exciting.

One reason I’ve been MIA recently is that I made you a present.  Oh, I know, I shouldn’t have.  But you guys are too awesome and I just want to share everything helpful I can with you.
So, without further ado, I present my 2013 self improvement book, How to Come Alive: A Guidebook to Living Your Dreams — now available as a FREE WEBSITE with fun links and awesome quote/pictures.
Cover by Sarah Cerulean madnessofart@gmail.com

Cover by Sarah Cerulean
madnessofart@gmail.com

My book will still be available on Amazon as a paperback or an ebook (and it’s a charmer), but I want everyone to be able to dig in, see how they like it, and share it without the awkwardness that comes from trying to turn a work of love into a dollar sign — and I do love you all and want to see you succeed beyond even your wildest dreams.  And if my book can help you in even a tiny way, then it will have succeeded in its purpose.
In a nutshell, How to Come Alive is the twenty-five ideas that have helped me most in living the life of my dreams.  Even though I have big goals I’m working on right now, I’m already tremendously happy in my life and it’s not just luck — it’s moving continuously toward those very things that make me feel most alive.
A word about consumerism: I love buying things from people and companies that I love and that do great work, and I do think it’s a shame if we start to believe that everything should be free.  That said, I hate the fearful, mercenary attitude that I see in some creative self promoters.  They are afraid they can’t make a living at this, so they get ‘tough-minded’, and you feel as if they are asking to turn out your pockets to pay for their coffee habit.  Nobody wins.

Found on laurenconrad.com

For myself, I reject the status quo.  I’ve worked hard on my craft for 16 years.  I love writing.  And you know what?  I’m going to be just fine.  In fact, I’m going to be awesome.  This is what I was put on Earth to do, and one day you’ll say you knew me when — and none of that awesome success is dependent on me tweeting ‘AVAIL ON AMAZON 99CENTS NOW!’, asking a few hundred nice strangers to buy my book, or trying to guilt people into helping me mainline caffeine.
What I want, much more than money, more even than to make this calling my vocation — what I want most is to share the magic, joy, beauty, and perfection of life with you.  This world is amazing, you are amazing, I am amazing.  So if you get a chance, visit my ‘Come Alive‘ site, look for something that moves you, and start living the life of your dreams.  Cause if I can do it, flippin’ believe you can do it.
I will ask one thing — if you enjoy what I do and know of someone else who might enjoy it, share it.  And I promise to keep sharing on this website the awesome, magical things I find that inspire me, and together, we’ll keep moving forward toward a future so bright it burns our eyes.
c294d8327373a5d576927c9c2be18fb1
Thanks again for making the first two years so enjoyable.  I look forward to many more.
Now go enjoy your present — inspirationlivingdreams.wordpress.com.

The Audacity of Fantasy; or Why I Still Fall in Love

I am in love again.  It’s only the fifth time in my life.  It is with a person I don’t really know, I only know of.  It’s not a celebrity (though no shame if you are — they’re probably someone who’s worked hard to achieve their dreams and entertain others) — he’s just someone I’ve talked to a little.

Pin by Florence and Joseph McGinn

My sister doesn’t like it when the fantasy part of my personality runs away with me — she’s afraid I’ll get hurt.  And true enough, I think I cried for two days (at least it felt that way) when the first guy I loved when I was 20 said he liked me as a friend.

But I am confused about how I feel about daydreams, fantasies, and the assorted imaginings that this guy I like will show up at my Best Buy one day, a beautiful smile upon his face.

Also, as a writer, imagining things is very important to me.  The difference between two characters having a conversation (in my head) and me imagining me talking to this guy is indescribably small. And love, true indescribable love, is a big part of my storytelling —

“Did love exist?  Love as Shepley saw it?  Yes, he knew it did.  He had experienced it, but he could not now remember if he had seen it in others in real life or only in dreams and novels.”

— A Caged Heart Still Beats

That’s probably the truest thing I’ve ever written that expresses my feelings on the subject.

But outside of books, I get the feeling that fantasies can be very harmful, and even become a substitute for working hard and going after your dreams.  Take the lottery: is it harmless fun to buy a ticket and for a dollar envision what you would do, where you would go, and how exciting it would be?  On the surface no, but I know people who have played for years then had to awaken to the reality that their real life wasn’t what they wanted, and it probably hadn’t been for a long time.

Found on hercampus.com

Also, I’m a big believer in action — the ability to make it so.  So if a fantasy ignites your dreams and causes you to make goals and move forward, that’s great.  And a lot of motivational leaders believe in the power of affirmations and envisioning yourself in the place, shape, job etc that you desire.

So dreams that become action = great.  And everyday five-minute-fantasies, where you and a friend tease about what you’d do on your yacht or how you’d choose between Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling are probably healthy ways to bond and joke in a fantasy context.

But — what about the gossamer dreams, the ones that seem real as life, the love stories that I believe in my heart of hearts could come true?  My dreams about work and jobs I think can happen, if I work hard enough.  But this lonely orphan of a dream about love, what to do with him?  Will, in time, he just be buried out back, next to his four brothers?

I still fall in love because I still believe in happy endings.  I need very little from my beloved, just them to continue rockin’ out the world with their awesomeness.  For them to be kind and thoughtful and amazing and give me space and hold me close.  I know these things are possible because I would offer these things.

So I’ll keep my fantasies, and keep falling in love.  But I’ll also keep working to make my life even more exciting than my dreams —

Found on coffeeinthemountains.tumblr.com