The Muse on Vacation

this is a photo of the oregon coast. it is not a photo of my novel.

I am currently on vacation. That’s right, this blog post is comin’ atcha straight from the SB – more popularly known as Sunset Beach, California.

I am having a great time on vacation. And when I get back, I’ll write up another blog post that will tell you all about it. It will undoubtedly be a fantastically interesting rundown on all the coffee I have consumed, and all the old friends I’ve caught up with. This post, however, is a quick shoutout to my Muse, whom I was smart enough to bring on vacation with me. It has come in very handy, since part of my objective for this trip was to work on a novel.

If you plan on writing a novel, might I suggest you  have your muse handy, too.

The first leg of my trip took me to Portland, Oregon, where I was in full-on tourist mode, so I didn’t have time to do any writing other than short journal entries on my phone. From Portland, I flew to Los Angeles, where I hung out with my dad for a few days. That was full-on family mode. It was good to see my Dad, his wife, and my step-sister Tanya and her insanely energetic toddler (she tried to tell me “he’s usually not like this” but we all know that toddlers are ALWAYS like that and she wasn’t fooling anyone). So I didn’t have time to do any writing there, either. And after attending a gentle yoga class with my Dad at the Y (during which I almost fell asleep three times – I think it was a little too gentle for me), I rolled on out of there in my free-to-me 2000 Ford Focus station wagon pimp-mobile and headed for the beach. Where I have done hardly anything except write.

I think the Muse likes the beach a lot. After three days of eating, sleeping, and more eating, watching “Bosch” on Amazon Video, and a little writing, I am now almost 9,000 words into this novel thing. My goal for the project is 70,000 words, which I probably won’t finish by next Tuesday – but I will have gotten a pretty good start on it by the time I leave this little slice of heaven and head back to my Dad’s (which is not a little slice of heaven but more like a little slice of vegan black-bean chocolate coffee cake) and then back to Tulsa (which is a slice of WTF am I doing here).

They say you are either a “planner” or a “pantser” when it comes to novel writing. A “planner” plans the whole damn thing out before starting – character sketches, chapter outline, research notes, marketing plan, Oscar speech for best screenplay, etc). While a “pantser” flies by the seat of their pants and makes everything up as they go along. I guess I’m somewhere in between because I have a half-assed plot outline and some almost-done character sketches. And one photo of Titus Welliver. Then I was like, “this planning stuff is BORING” and I just started writing.

I wonder how people actually get entire novels written. I wonder how they get agents. I also wonder how they can have faith that when they are done writing their novel, when they are done spending ALL THAT TIME creating their masterpiece, they don’t just end up with a big pile of word poop instead of a bestseller.

Some people do in fact end up with a big pile of word poop instead of a novel. I have read a few of those. But many people end up with a coherent, clever, emotionally-inspiring, thought-provoking story. Me? I am not so sure yet. My novel might be word poop.

But if I work really hard, and finish this thing, and it ends up with what seems to me to be a coherent plot, compelling characters and good dialogue… well, it will be word poop that I can be proud of. It will be my creation, my labor of love. It will be my very own story.

We all have a story to tell. Isn’t that great? We can tell it exactly how we want to, every time. And we can give it whatever happy, romantic, schlocky, feel-good, closure-inducing,  Emmy-award winning, Hallmark Channel ending we want. And that is the important part – the realization that we create our own story, and then the realization of that story.

A book deal would be pretty freakin’ great though.

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The Yoga of Experience – I Just Lost My Good Excuse

I often come up with snippets of ideas for stories. I’m not exactly sure how to categorize these stories though. I guess they are children’s stories? I mean, the protagonists are often mice or cats or other small furry creatures (with the occasional bird or turtle thrown in the mix). The plots are fairly straightforward. So maybe the best way to describe them might be “stories for children of all ages.” Yes, that sounds about right.

Usually, these stories write themselves. I start out with a little bit of an idea, and I sit down and write. And the story writes itself. When this happens, I know I’m onto something – that the story comes from somewhere else besides my brain. They are mine, but it’s like I’ve “written” them somewhere else and it’s just a matter of tuning in and downloading them through my fingertips and into my computer.

When a story is jagged or somehow irking me as I write it, or if I feel frustrated, I know that its time hasn’t quite come yet. I back off, leave it alone and try again another day until it’s ready to show up. It’s a really satisfying process. Sometimes when I go back and read the finished product, I’m surprised. In a good way.

Many times after I’ve written a story, I think, oh now this needs some illustrations! Yes, wouldn’t this be so much cuter or more fun or whatever if there were some cute little sketches that accompanied this story!

A few times I’ve tried to illustrate my own story (in 2014 and 2015 I released Christmas books that were stories accompanied by little sketches I drew), but usually when I try to do something “artsy” I get really frustrated and everything comes out looking like a potato with a bad hairpiece. It doesn’t work. Maybe I’m too critical of my own art. But whatever. I CAN’T DO IT. Nor do I want to, because it’s not my thing.

But I so often wish I had illustrations to go with my supacute stories. So a few times I’ve asked friends who are amazing artists (because I know a lot of them!) if they would be interested in illustrating one of my stories, they are all very nice and usually say yes. Hooray! Except.

Except they are very busy people and don’t have time to work on a small project like mine.

I don’t blame them at all! I get it. I really do. But I am still sad because my stories go un-illustrated. They are naked little stories.

After a while, I started saying this to myself: “I can’t find an illustrator to make my stories come to life so why bother writing any?”

And so I stopped writing stories. No more tales (or tails?) of below average intelligence partridges. No more spinning yarns about birds who teach their friends to knit. No more nail-biters about worms who save fancy dinner parties from being overrun by ants.

Until now.

As I grow up, grow older, and grow wiser, it finally hit me today. Screw the illustrations!

If I wait till everything has a drawing to go with it, I’ll be waiting a long time. I would rather share these stories without illustrations than to have them just sit as a bunch of 0s and 1s on Google Drive. I would like you to read them. And hopefully enjoy them.

You’d think I would have realized this before today. But I am a slow learner. A late bloomer. A conformist, apparently. OH GOD NO! NOT THAT!

Well, better late than never. It’s time to get them out into the world.

So I’ve started going back through some things that I’ve written. Some are finished, some are not. But I’m getting back to them – and there are more coming. About a cat with special sleuthing powers who travels all over the world flying his own plane. And another cat who lives on a farm on the Russian Steppes. And a bird who can’t decide what book to read next.

You’ll be able to draw your own illustrations to go with them.

This is an illustration by my amazing uncle, Jan Zaremba, which he did for my story “The Thunderstorm.” We published it in 2014 and it’s available here.

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Welcome To The Happy Friday Project!

happy friday project

And Thus Begins The Happy Friday Project.

I have a friend in Canada. Her name is Cynthia.

She is very cool.

She is a phenomenal artist, and an overall wonderful, positive person.

We’ve never met, but it feels like we have a lot in common – and over the last year, we’ve written countless long emails to each other to talk about creativity, self-employment, trying to make our dreams come true, and other “woo woo” topics.

Some sort of collaborative project has been floating around in our brains for a while, but we just never really could pin down what that would look like… until now.

Welcome to the Happy Friday Project!

The Happy Friday Project allows us to have a place from which we can spread a little, well, happiness! It’s also a way for us to help others create more joy in their lives.

I know this is a simplistic explanation, but as the project unfolds, you’ll see what I mean. I hope you’ll follow along with us on this new collaborative journey!

Where You Can Find Us

We are on Facebook

The Happy Friday Project Website

Email Newsletter: Coming Soon!

Cynthia’s Website

We hope you have a really Happy Friday!

happy friday project
original artwork by cynthia frenette!
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Why You Need A Blog

Why You Need A Blog – Sharing Your Awesomeness With The World

Most of us have something in our lives that we’re passionate about. Something that makes our eyes light up when we talk about it, and possibly start talking faster or waving our arms around wildly with excitement. OK maybe not this last one so much, but still – you know what I mean. You can tell when you’re talking to someone who is excited about something, and you yourself have felt this when you talk about your passion.

We like to talk about things that we know about, or that we’re interested in. This could be any number of things:

  • A hobby we’ve been enjoying for a long time (“I just cross stitched a pillow for my dog”)
  • A sport (“Why the Cowboys are totally going to win this year”)
  • Our love of travel (“I just got back from Indonesia and boy are my arms tired”)
  • Our work, or what we do for a living (“why you should totally buy a car from my inventory of 10,000 used Geo Trackers”)
  • Handy tips we want to share with others (“how to clean your oven like a boss!”)
  • Anything else you can think of, really!

Sometimes our hobbies can turn into small businesses, or side projects, or enough people ask for your vegan cupcake recipe that you might decide to put up a web site to share your expertise. Or, you might own and run a small business for your main gig, relying on the internet or social media to help drive traffic and bring in customers. If any of this sounds like a situation you’re in, guess what – you need a blog.

 

Are you SURE I need a blog? Why do I need a blog? What is a blog?

Well, you probably know what a blog is by now – but let me tell you why you absolutely need one.

Sharing information through blogging is a necessity – but it also can be a tremendous help to your online endeavors. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Writing a blog post about your business, or what you’re passionate about, lets you share your knowledge with everyone, everywhere
  • By sharing your knowledge and passion, you are positioning yourself as an expert in your field / hobby / area of specialization
  • If you are doing business online, or wanting to create a business out of your web site, having a blog needs to be part of your branding strategy

 

Share Your Knowledge

If you are passionate about a certain subject, you want to tell the world about it! And why not? You know a lot about your subject matter, and you want to share your expertise with others. Chances are, people are already coming to you with questions or problems – maybe you’re already known as the “go-to guy” for, say, how to pour the perfect espresso shot, or how, when and where to plant the perfect potato garden. If you share that knowledge through regular blogging, people will have a chance to be enlightened with your wisdom. And this will make them happy.

 

Share Your Knowledge… And Be The Expert

So let’s say you start blogging about all the great vegan cupcakes you are baking. You share photos of the double espresso mocha vegan cupcakes that you baked for Aunt Lillian’s 4th wedding.  You share the story of the near catastrophe you had when the cat almost started eating your vegan cupcake batter, and how the oven didn’t heat right but you saved the day by improvising, MacGyver style, and got the oven working again. And then you give the recipe for the espresso frosting, and maybe tell the story of how Aunt Lillian’s 4th wedding went down.

Alright – so this might be a pretty extreme blog post – but you get the idea! You didn’t just share a recipe. You told a story. In this case it was a funny story, and hopefully everything came out great in the end (we’ll see how Aunt Lillian’s 4th wedding turns out…)

You created an engaging story of how you mastered a situation, you shared information, and you captivated your readers.

All of this makes you an EXPERT. People look to you for knowledge and information, and they stay because you present it in an interesting way. This is blogging.

 

Create A Solid Branding Strategy

Adding a blog to your web site not only positions you as an expert in your subject matter, it also can and should be an integral part of your overall online strategy – and your branding. According to various web stats, blogs are considered the 5th most trusted source for accurate information. While it’s true that any yahoo can put up a blog and write whatever they want, the good, reliable and accurate sites rise to the top, and have a reputation of being a good place to go for trustworthy information.

But don’t just take my word for it! Here’s an interesting Hubspot article explaining more.

 

But I Don’t Like Writing! I’m Not A Good Writer! And Despite Your Suggestions, I Don’t Know What To Write About!

Yeah, I feel your pain. I mean, we all run into thoughts like that. Some people would rather get their teeth cleaned – including getting x-rays – than sit down to write a blog post. Maybe you’re scared that your grammar sucks (or maybe your grammar really does suck). Or you don’t have time to blog (this is a BIG one, especially if . These are all legitimate reasons not to blog! There, you heard me say it. You have been absolved from writing blog posts. But you have NOT been absolved from starting a blog.

It’s simple – I can write your blog posts for you.

why you need a blog

 

Blogging The Easy Way –  Hire A Partner

That’s right – you can hire someone to help you blog, or even create all your blog posts for you. Depending on how often you want to publish new content, and how long each post will be, hiring a writer to take care of your blogging can be a very reasonable expense. A writer will work with you to develop the right kind of content for your web site. They’ll use your knowledge and expertise, and create something beautiful and wonderful and it will be so awesome it will even smell good.

A writer will do the heavy lifting, and you sit back and reap the rewards! That sounds great to me! But I am a writer, so I’m kind of biased here.

 

In Part 2 of this article, we’ll look at why you need blogging from an SEO and Marketing standpoint.

 

If you have any questions about blogging, or would like to enquire about my blogging and writing services, contact me here. I’d love to hear from you!

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A Book About Partridges. And a Pear Tree.

The New 2015 Holiday Book is Now Available!

The holidays are upon us. And you know what that means.

Turkey. Stuffing. Pumpkin Pie. Christmas Trees. Holiday Decorations. Possibly a Holland Hall choir recital at an Episcopal Church. Last-minute gift buying. Colder Weather.
And Holiday Music. More specifically, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

You know what I’m talking about. The ubiquitous Five Golden Rings, those  shady French Hens, and the infamous Leaping Lords.

Well, have you ever wondered how those lyrics came to be? I have.
So I did some research* and delved into the meaning and origin of the first stanza of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Now this research** is available for you to peruse! I have added several illustrations, and bound it by hand into a beautiful, limited edition book.
Each book measures approximately 5.5” x 4.25” and is hand-bound. The front and back covers have fancy endpapers inside, too. It’s an 18-page historically accurate*** account of the first stanza of one of our most beloved holiday songs.
$12 + $2 shipping will get you your very own copy, a little extra (good) surprise in the mailing envelope, and my eternal thanks.

This book will make a great edition to anyone’s library! To order yours, contact me as soon as possible to reserve your copy, as quantities are extremely limited.
Thank you!

2015 holiday book

*actually this is a fictional account
**remember, this is actually fiction
***not really accurate

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